London is a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year whether visiting for business or pleasure, but the crisp autumn skies and foggy mornings during the cooler months make it all the more appealing for those who prefer to discover the UK’s capital on foot. Foodies, shoppers and culture vultures can soak up the atmosphere, savour the flavours, take in the art galleries and dig deep into their pockets for that must-have designer piece, latest handbag or luxury facial.
Like all capital cities there are plenty of hotels to choose from from larger luxury hotels, design hotels, townhouse hotels and smaller boutique hotels. Which one you choose really comes down to the event or the occasion and whether you are travelling on your own, as a couple or with children. If travelling for business you may prefer a larger luxury hotel with a more corporate feel and business services but the smaller boutique hotels in London have a more personal atmosphere and ensure personal service, a must if you enjoy luxury on a smaller scale.
Some people know the area of London they want to be in and base their choice of hotel on location, whilst others feel more confident staying in a ‘big name’ even if it does cost a bit more. There is no getting away from the fact that London is an expensive city, especially in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, but some hotels in London are cheaper at the weekend than during the week (contrary to country house hotels), so if you plan ahead your stay needn’t break the bank.
This December we headed west to Notting Hill. For romance, privacy and personal service in one of the trendiest parts of town head to The Portobello Hotel in the heart of Notting Hill. With only 22 rooms it is the best townhouse hotel in town and probably one of the most romantic hotels in London. If travelling as a family then book the Gorgeous Room 13 with its vast four poster bed and Room 11 directly opposite which can be made up as twins. Breakfast room service is available but we prefer to head down to the sitting room, breathe in the real smell of Christmas, and enjoy the complimentary continental breakfast which includes fresh flakey croissants and organic fruits and yoghurts. Cooked breakfast is also available to order. If you are after something a little more healthy or gluten-free then Clean and Lean Cafe is a short walk away on Westbourne Grove and serves fresh smoothies, healthy pancakes and other goodies that feed the heart and soul. If you have the time you could also try out one of their exceptional Yoga classes. For a fine, but not too pompous, dining experience try The Ledbury, in Ledbury Road where Chef Brett Graham showcases his innovative cooking complemented with fine wines.
Meander around Portobello Road and its market. Cutting across the Portobello Road is Westbourne Grove and its many shops including Jigsaw, Brissi, Loft, Joseph and Daylesford. Chocolate lovers should head to Melt and pick up some of the sea salt bars or freshly made passion fruit caramels, before heading to the very girlie and utterly fabulous The Cross Shop, in Clarendon Cross, full of all things sparkly, handmade toys and gorgeous cashmere finds. Nip across the road to Summerill and Bishop a pretty kitchen shop which sells some of the best linen table cloths in the world in some of the most delightful colours.
Fun for all the family can be found in Hyde Park between November and January at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Hyde Park is a leisurely 35 minute walk from Notting Hill via Kensington Church Street which is full of antique shops and other little boutiques. Winter Wonderland is a winter feast of ice-skating, a magical ice kingdom, the Nutcracker on ice, Santa Land, Christmas markets and over 100 rides and games. Not just for children this feast for the eyes is great fun with something for the young and the old. Ice Mountain is a seemingly innocent ride, covered in a thin sheet of ‘ice’ it lulls you into thinking it is a gentle ride experience – far from it, it is fearful, fast & furious and leaves your heart racing!
Just around the corner from Hyde Park is some of London’s best shopping streets and hotels, perfect for Christmas shopping and where you can really soak up the festive feel and cheerful atmosphere. Of course Knightsbridge is the ideal year-round shopping destination. If you want to be near Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Sloane Street then stay in the lap of luxury at art-deco hotel The Levin hidden away in Basil Street just a hop and skip from all of the above and probably the best located luxury hotel in south west London and is also home to The Metro a charming little bistro. Small, personal and perfectly formed a stay at The Levin is like no other in London: fall asleep on hand-stitched Savoir Beds and luxurious Egyptian cotton, enjoy the in-room Champagne mini bar and bathe in a marble bathroom with under floor heating. Next door and sister hotel to The Levin is luxury hotel The Capital which serves a traditional afternoon tea in their charming tea room. Their festive sandwiches include homemade matcha bread, unique and delicious! The Capital Hotel is one of the few London hotels to have maintained its traditional English roots and values and the British owner still lives in the building. Charming and energetic daughter Kate, has taken on the role of the GM and has recently become the new Chairwoman of Pride of Britain hotels.
A minute’s walk from The Levin and The Capital is Pavilion Road that leads away from Sloane Square near Peter Jones, parallel to Sloane Street. It is home to Kate Spade, J Crew, soon-to-open Bread Ahead at Borough Market which sells the best doughnuts ever, London Cheesemongers and other delightful shops.
The Levin – Rates from: £300 per night including breakfast
The Portobello Hotel – Rates from: £180 per night including breakfast