Lifestyle

London's gold-medal hotels

After the Olympic flame departs, these London hotels will still be podium-worthy.

The multi-billion-pound construction boom leading up to London’s 2012 Olympic Games wasn’t solely about stadiums. The city’s haute hoteliers have also put the finishing touches on some exciting new properties. And of course, these four hot spots will still be there long after the flame departs.


 

1. Me by Meliá ($950+)
336-337 The Strand

If you’re Spain’s rapidly expanding Meliá chain of hotels and you’re looking to transform a former theatre in the Strand neighbourhood into a 157-room oasis of cool, you could do worse than tap Sir Norman Foster’s design firm (Wembley Stadium, London City Hall) to do the job. Achingly modern (the building is essentially one big triangle) Me by Meliá eschews stuffy concierges for what it calls “aura managers,” a blend of tour director, confidant, secretary, DJ and stylist. Translation: they’re the ones who can secure a great table at the rooftop bar overlooking the Thames, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.

Top tip: The two-storey Suite ME includes a glass cupola that provides 360- degree views of the city—for $5,500 a night.

2. Bulgari Hotel London ($1,580+)
163-173 Knightsbridge

Joining other luxury brands like Versace, Moschino and Armani, the Italian jeweller Bulgari recently opened an 85-room hotel in exclusive Knightsbridge. In keeping with the brand’s history as silversmiths, the unifying design theme incorporates the precious metal into the drapery, chandeliers and one very shiny, very dramatic curved staircase. The rooms, with their travel trunk–shaped mini-bars, are meant to evoke the golden age of nautical travel. Meanwhile, the two-storey spa and fitness complex features the things you might expect (ice showers, Turkish baths) and one you might not: a vast 25-metre swimming pool built from sandblasted Vicenza stone and lined with green and gold-leaf glass tiles.

Top tip: If you can afford it, shell out for a suite ($2,360). The smallest is over 1,800 square feet and comes with a butler and a view of Hyde Park.

3. Apex Temple Court Hotel ($320+)
1-2 Serjeants Inn, Fleet Street

Nestled in a quiet courtyard in a historic area of the city, this newly opened 184-room property, the third in London from the family-owned Apex chain, is decidedly high-tech: rooms come with Bose SoundDocks, free Wi-Fi and a media hub that will allow you to plug anything from an iPad to and Xbox into the 3-D television. However, due to the building’s landmark status (it was an inn for visiting barristers in the 18th century) there are no signs or flags allowed on the exterior; instead a bright green elephant sculpture marks the entrance to the hotel.

Top tip: Request a high floor—south facing—for the best views of the city.

4. Belgraves ($480+)
20 Chesham Place

It took a group of American hoteliers to bring a bit of Cool Britannia to the very proper Belgravia neighbourhood. The New York–based Thompson hotel group has transformed a once staid and average Sheraton into one of the capital’s hippest hotels, packing the lobby with the requisite design books and a gallery’s worth of original art. From his eponymous ground-floor restaurant, celebrity chef Mark Hix turns out modern versions of traditional British dishes like Dorset blue lobster salad, mutton and parsnip shepherd’s pie and, of course, roast beef. All 85 rooms feature marble bathrooms, top-shelf Penhaligon’s amenities and iPod docking stations.

Top tip: The outdoor cigar patio, with its retractable roof, grey campaign chairs and ivy-covered walls is one of the most romantic spots in the hotel.