London Lovelies: Historic London Hotels

By Rona Berg / September 29, 2017
London Hotel

These uniquely distinctive historic hotels offer a diverse range of relaxing experiences. 

Home Away from Home

The Draycott sits on a quiet residential street in London’s Chelsea, three blocks from King’s Road and Sloane Square. It’s a great location, in one of the city’s loveliest neighborhoods. The hotel itself is quintessentially English, a cozy townhouse converted by Mantis, a South African hotel group with a strong environmental commitment, into a boutique hotel that makes you feel like you’re staying in someone’s home.

There is something very 19th century about The Draycott. From 4 to 5 p.m., guests trickle into the Drawing Room on the ground floor for complimentary tea and biscuits. (A full-on afternoon tea is available, at additional cost, with crustless sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, macarons, fruit tarts, Victoria sponge and other cakes.) The room looks out onto a broad landscaped lawn, with the backs of brick townhouses across the way.

Back to the 19th century part: as with drawing room society back in the day, you’ll find yourself striking up conversations with fellow guests before you head out to the city, and upon your return. The Drawing Room is a gathering spot for those who want to chat, read a newspaper, sit by a cozy fire, or, from 6 to 7 p.m., enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne.

The Draycott does not have a restaurant, but there is 24-hour room service and a chef who prepares a full breakfast (with organic eggs), served in the breakfast room downstairs. The dinner menu favors English classics like bangers and mash, fish and chips, homemade steak with ale pie, along with lighter fare, and it red-flags potential allergens—nuts, gluten, milk—in certain dishes.

And something else is unexpected: The hotel is a member of the Green Tourism for London Scheme, the first independently audited green accreditation for the tourism industry in London, with over 150 measures of sustainable tourism practices. Businesses are rated based on the number of measures they have put into place, and The Draycott, depending on the year, ranks from silver to gold. Walking maps to local attractions (Buckingham Palace, Harrods, National Gallery, Portobello Road) are available, and the hotel has calculated distances, time, calories burned, and CO2 saved by walking instead of driving.

The hotel is filled with books, and guests are encouraged to leave behind their gently thumbed volumes, which are then sold on zapper.co.uk, with all proceeds donated to the Equal People Charity. It’s a great inducement to curl up on the couch with a good book and a nice cup of tea. draycotthotel.com

Time Travel

The iconic Savoy Hotel is quite a charmer. Set in London’s West End, just steps from the heart of the theater district, the hotel has a true theatrical pedigree. Opened in 1889 by theatrical impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte, who opened the Savoy Theater, it was the first luxury hotel in Britain, modeled after great luxury hotels that Carte admired in
the U.S.

At the famous Savoy Grill and the American Bar—once “gentlemen’s clubs”—you can find an astounding array of 1920s-style Golden Age cocktails along with the modern, American jazz and a feeling of being enveloped by history. And the Beaufort Bar, tucked away in the back of the hotel, is a knockout, where you may have seen couples enjoying live music, dressed in white tie and tiara. Women’s empowerment note: The Savoy is also the first hotel where it was considered respectable for women to dine in public.

In 1910, Winston Churchill founded The Other Club here, a supper club where rival members of Parliament park their politics at the door and eat/drink in a convivial atmosphere. Not only is it still going strong, but Parliamentarians from all sides of the aisle still gather here, in the Pinafore Room, to discuss everything but politics!

Many of the hotel’s light, airy rooms offer panoramic views of the Thames River, which was painted by Monet and Whistler at the hotel. It is an easy walk across the Waterloo Bridge, along the banks of the Thames, to the Tate Modern. Arriving back to the hotel afterward to take afternoon tea in the Thames Foyer is a joyous experience, and the dome provides natural light that not only illuminates the spacious room beautifully, it saves electricity. The spa—bundled with the gym, and known as the Beauty and Fitness Centre—is a small jewel, a private retreat with steam and sauna, a large pool and a well-curated menu of essential oil-based treatments. fairmont.com/savoy

English Glamour

Though a bit petite in size, in spirit, The Dorchester looms large. One of London’s grande dame hotels, it is elegant and altogether captivating, and will steal your heart, if you let it. The lobby is a place to see and be seen, where you can take afternoon tea, enjoy cocktails (and live music) or dine at the Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse, China Tang, The Grill (for modern British cuisine) or The Promenade. For those who need to move after all that wining and dining, the hotel offers a jogging map through nearby Hyde Park, with one-, two- and three-mile routes available.

Downstairs in The Dorchester Spa, The Spatisserie beckons behind a light, gauzy curtain. A small but opulent spot, it is the perfect place to enjoy a light lunch, afternoon tea or glass of champagne with your spa buddy. The Spa, with nine treatment rooms, a mani/pedi suite and an uber-stylish Relaxation Room, features exquisite Aromatherapy Associates and Kerstin Florian treatments that will leave you feeling weightless, with an imaginary veil of well-being lightly grazing your shoulders, and a lightness expanding inside your head. That, and another glass of champagne. dorchestercollection.com


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Rona Berg

Rona Berg

Editor-In-Chief at Organic Spa Magazine
Editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Media, longtime journalist and best-selling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1000 Quick Fixes (Workman Publishing), Rona Berg is the former Editorial Director of ELLE and Deputy Style Editor for the New York Times Magazine. She has been cited as an industry expert by Huffington Post, Fox News and New York Magazine and contributed to and been quoted in dozens of publications. Berg co-chairs the Personal Care Committee of the non-profit Green Spa Network, is a Charter Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the globe.
Rona Berg