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One of the most important choices to make is what style of hotel you're comfortable with. Like New York, London has seen an explosion in the number of designer "boutique" hotels in recent years offering a contemporary alternative to the old-style luxury hotels. Just as in New York, former Studio 54 owner Ian Schrager is one of the forces behind this trend. As ever, though, if your pocketbook is bulging, London belongs to you.
Room rates are for standard rooms with a double occupancy. If the price shown is a solitary figure, this means that the rate is the "published" rate and does not fluctuate by season. It's worth pointing out that most hotels offer special midweek and weekend rates that often include breakfast.
There are many famous luxurious hotels in London, but The Dorchester (Park Lane; +44-20-7629-8888; from ?460) is our top choice, combining sumptuous accommodations with top-notch service that is personable and efficient, but never chummy or snotty. A well-equipped gym and spa, two excellent restaurants (where most people wear suits, but you'll be warmly received in your shirtsleeves), terrific bathrooms, and a Park Lane location put it at the top of our list. The Lanesborough (Hyde Park Corner; +44-20-7259-5599; from ?475) offers discreet accommodations in the manner of a grand private residence. (The breathtaking building was built as the St. George Hospital.) With masculine Regency decor, the elegant furnishings in the 95 rooms and suites conceal high-tech conveniences like CD players and VCRs.
The Savoy (The Strand; +44-20-7836-4343 or 800-257-7544,; ; from ?349) is a distinctive 202-room hotel with a West End location, right in the middle of everything. The decor is Art Deco elegant, with luxurious rooms and a very proper, formal staff. Ask for the newer rooms overlooking Parliament and the Thames. The Soho Hotel (4 Richmond Mews; +44-207-559-3000; from ?295) is smack-dab in the middle of Soho, the gayest part of London's West End. The hotel boasts beautifully appointed rooms, a well-equipped gym, screening rooms and a head-spinningly attractive crowd. Soho itself offers bars, pubs, restaurants and caf?s galore. But you may not want to eat anywhere but the hotel. Indulge in a meal at Refuel, which offers upscale takes on British comfort food in a sleek setting (formerly a car park!), but be sure to sample the refreshing, exotic drinks.
Just around the corner from the Ritz, The May Fair Stratton St.; +44-20-7629-7777; from ?200), the destination for Hollywood's elite in the 60s, offers classic elegance, luxe drama and the utmost in high tech amenities. Reborn in 2004, after a ?75 refit, The May Fair has regained its pole position among London's luxe addresses. This palace of contemporary chic, favored by Cher, Gloria Estefan, Christina Aguilera and countless more decorative divas and divos, has 406 rooms, all of which feature thrilling design. Gargantuan Bang and Olufsen screens sit in-room, with smaller screens over many tubs. IPod docks await in suites. Molton Brown and Gilchrist and Soames toiletries sit in large, light bathrooms. Conceived to titillate all five senses, those who really want to have a night to remember should snap up one of the Signature Suites. Twenty-four hour butler service is on hand for suite guests. Walls feature dyed fur and faux fur panels. Bathrooms boast rain showers with settings ranging from "Light London Mist" to "Torrential Rain." Many have marble freestanding baths. Opt for the 2,100 square foot, blue-hued Azure Suite (Christina and Gloria did!), with its cool limestone and lavish gold leaf. It even offers a cinema screen room and a private lift. The Penthouse, with its timber-decked terrace overlooking London as far as the London Eye, contains a 65" plasma TV, two 42" screens and a marble sarcophagus bath so heavy that it had to be installed by crane. Hedge fund brokers, investment bankers and local celebrities, including the dashing Jude Law, sample award-winning mojitos in The Mayfair Bar. Palm Beach Casino seats 500-600, and its restaurant provides an excellent late-night food destination until 3a.m. The hotel also features a 24-hour business center, an excellent gym, and should you need to book it, a 201-seater super high-tech cinema. The sumptuous spa, most popular with men, offers Pevonia products, the enticing Cleopatra Mud Bath for two and solid, heated marble hammam beds and private showers in each treatment room.
If money is no object, you could do worse than a stay in one of London's newest hotels, One Aldwych (One Aldwych; +44-20-7300-1000; from ?390). Located in the heart of theater-land and just south of Covent Garden, One Aldwych bills itself as "a contemporary luxury hotel." The 105 rooms and suites boast feather and down duvets with Italian linen sheets, power showers, bathroom TVs, fresh fruit and flowers daily, a state-of-the-art gym, swimming pool with underwater music, sauna and steam rooms. Inside, all is light and airy, with a cool but relaxed atmosphere. Or you could eat at one of the hotel's two restaurants -- the Axis or Indigo with so-so food, but a great view overhanging the lobby, comfortable armchairs and friendly service.
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