One of the biggest shocks I’ve had in going from being a London resident to a visitor is how tough it can be to find somewhere to stay in the city. The problem definitely isn’t a shortage of options – there are over 1000 hotels in central London, and that’s before you get to the B&Bs and rental apartments. So how do you go about narrowing it down and choosing somewhere? My tastes lie somewhere in the middle between dorm rooms and five-star luxury, but with sky-high prices in the capital even an average chain hotel can easily cost £200 a night. Is it possible to get a high-quality experience and central London location without a scary price tag? Recently I’ve been trying out some new budget-luxe hotel chains where a great bed and a few luxury touches in a central London neighbourhood can be yours for not much over £100 a night.
First up is my most recent discovery, The Nadler, with two branches in London – one in Soho and one in Kensington – as well as a hotel in Liverpool. They offer four-star rooms at a budget price by editing out all the hotel extras like bar, restaurant and gym, so the focus is on the most important part – the room. Prices are fully inclusive so you don’t get any surprises on check-out. There’s a wide choice of room types, from singles and compact ‘bijou’ twins and doubles right up to deluxe rooms sleeping four. The rooms all come with fast wifi, air con, cool artworks and Gilchrist & Soames toiletries.
One thing I loved is the mini kitchenette in each room, with microwave, sink, kettle, fridge and cutlery and crockery. So you can easily get your own breakfast or a takeway, or if you’re eating out the hotel has a list of local eateries with guest discounts. We stayed in a bijou double in Kensington, an easy five-minute walk from Earl’s Court Tube and close to the museums and a huge array of shops and restaurants. The rack rate for a bijou double is £129 but we paid £97 on a last-minute deal through the hotel’s website.
Another smart and central option are the Z Hotels. They brand themselves as ‘The Urbanite Stay’ and have ultra-central London locations, with hotels in Soho, Piccadilly and next to Victoria station. The rooms are compact but smartly designed with the focus on the essentials – quality beds, linen and powerful showers. There’s a choice between small double or larger queen rooms, with or without a window. Lowest prices range between £75 for an inside double and £100 for a queen room with window. All have glass-walled en-suite wet rooms with Thierry Mugler toiletries and come with 40″ HD TVs with free Sky and wifi access.
Rooms come with the bonus extra of a free cheese and wine buffet each evening. Each hotel has a Z Café and bar attached, offering a buffet breakfast each morning then a selection of baguettes and sharing platters later on. Z Hotels also have branches in Liverpool (which I got to try out after winning a night’s stay in a Twitter competition!) and Glasgow, with a new hotel in London’s Shoreditch opening in 2015.
Or if you don’t need the extras and just want a simple but smart room for the night, try the Tune Hotels. The chain originated in Asia, but now has four hotels in London – in Westminster, Liverpool Street, Paddington and King’s Cross, with a new one in Canary Wharf opening in 2015. I’ve stayed in a couple of their hotels and they make a great place to crash if you are out exploring London, with really convenient locations (if you’re travelling on an early Eurostar the King’s Cross hotel is less than five-minutes’ walk from St Pancras).
There’s a simple choice of rooms between doubles or twins (with accessible versions), with or without windows. They make the most of the space with the basics done well – the comfortable beds are made by the same company who supply five-star hotels. Rooms start from a super-low £55, but they use budget airline-style pricing so you pay extra for things like wifi, TV, a hairdryer and even toiletries and towels (though if you don’t want to bring your own they’ll only cost you £2). Outside London, there are also Tune Hotels in Edinburgh, Newcastle and many across Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.
So those are my top budget-luxe chains in London right now – have you stayed in any of them, or do you have another London favourite place to stay?
Note: all photos used here are courtesy of the hotels mentioned (as I forgot to take any myself), but I booked and paid for all stays myself.