Why London Should Be On Your Radar This Eid Holiday

11 min read
Photographed by John Athimaritis for Raffles London At The OWO

Amid its glistening skyscrapers, fancy restaurants and eclectic shopping scene, London’s luxury hotel boom is finally happening. Here’s exactly where to check in for 2024 and beyond

There’s no denying that London has always held a special place in our hearts. Whether it’s spending an afternoon perusing designer boutiques on Bond Street, picking up a luxurious silk scarf from Liberty, celebrity-spotting at Chiltern Firehouse or dining out at one of its 74 Michelin-starred restaurants, the British capital has long been one of our top picks for a stylish European jaunt.

London also happens to be home to some of the world’s most renowned historic hotels, with royal residences and iconic landmarks lurking around almost every corner. It’s got the Savoy, for example, which, as much a part of London as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, opened way back in 1889 among plenty of fanfare thanks to the innovative installation of electric lights and lifts. Then there’s Brown’s Hotel which has been entertaining the world’s finest since 1837 (it was here that Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call and The Jungle Book was written), The Ritz London which is probably best known for its afternoon tea served from 11.30am to 7.30pm daily, and The Dorchester which opened in 1931 on Park Lane and over the decades has played host to a string of well-known faces including Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor who often holed up in the penthouse, to name a few.

The Peninsula London

Hoping to join this illustrious line-up, last September the GBP1.1 billion Peninsula London near Hyde Park Corner officially opened its doors at precisely 8.08am — a time chosen as auspicious by a feng shui master — 30 years after the Hong Kong- based hotel chain first began looking for the perfect London location. And it was worth the wait. Guests who have been checking into the Peninsula’s rooms, priced from GBP1,300 (Dhs6,000) per night, have been quick to rave about its shiny new grandeur which boasts all the hallmarks of one of the world’s most iconic hotel brands, including pristine service, all-encompassing tech, Rolls-Royces ready to whisk guests to Harrods and Harvey Nichols just a few hundred yards away, plus 190 rooms designed by American Peter Marino complete with dark woods, creamy soft furnishings and marble bathrooms.

As it would happen, the Peninsula’s opening was just the start of London’s new luxury hotel boom. Hot on its heels, after an eight-year development funded by the billionaire Hinduja brothers, the GBP1.5 billion (Dhs7 billion) Raffles London at The OWO also recently opened at the vast Old War Office building, with guests now able to stay in rooms once used by former British secretaries of states including Sir Winston Churchill, John Profumo and David Lloyd George. We’ve also seen the opening of 1 Hotel Mayfair — the first European property for the nature-inspired brand that is a masterclass in sophisticated sustainability. This nine-storey hotel sits just across the road from The Ritz and The Wolseley, complete with 1,300 plants including 200 local and regional species, a stylish café which acts as a co-working space by day and vibrant bar by night, an elegant, low- lit cocktail bar and one of the city’s most talked about new restaurants, Dovetale. So far, so fancy.

1 Hotel Mayfair

For those who prefer the charm and character of a boutique hotel, London’s new launches most certainly don’t disappoint on that front either. Take At Sloane in Chelsea, managed by the company behind Hotel Costes (otherwise known as ‘hottest hotel in Paris’ which has entertained celebrity guests including Bella Hadid, Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio). The original building, built by architect Edwin Thomas Hall at 1 Sloane Gardens back in 1889, has been extensively renovated over the last six years to offer 30 chic rooms and suites, an all- day French restaurant inspired by Thomas Jeckyll and James McNeill Whistler’s 19th- century masterpiece The Peacock Room, plus a downstairs speakeasy serving up expertly-crafted cocktails just a stone’s throw away from the famous King’s Road and its local boutiques and art galleries.

Meanwhile, in the West End, famed interior designer Martin Brudnizki has just unveiled his first London property. Broadwick Soho is inspired by the “gritty glamour” of the eclectic London neighbourhood, while the BoTree in Marylebone — a mere hundred metres from the buzzing crowds of Oxford Circus — is touted as the first property from eco-conscious Place III Hotels, which has two more London properties in its pipeline. Not only is it already drawing in guests with its promise of ‘conscious luxury’, personalised service and gorgeously-designed rooms, it is also home to the first-ever UK branch of famed Italian restaurant Lavo, a favourite of the Kardashian-Jenner clan helmed by Italian head chef Stefano Lorenzini, who serves up the likes of decadent wagyu meatballs with whipped ricotta and lemon tagliatelle topped with heaps of kaluga caviar.

Lavo at The BoTree

As if that wasn’t enough to get the travel juices flowing, this wave of new five-star hotels is just the start of London’s gold rush of luxury launches that will see thousands of high-end new rooms opening over the next two years — at least 13 more are scheduled to open by 2025, many from world-renowned operators that have never before had sites in the capital, while others are getting huge refurbishments. In fact, according to a new survey by Deloitte, the UK capital has been named the most attractive European city for hotel investment for 2024, taking the top spot from the previous front-runner Amsterdam. Perhaps most exciting to come is Six Senses at the former art deco department store Whiteleys in Queensway which is getting ready to open this summer. And not content with just its swanky Knightsbridge outpost, a second Mandarin Oriental in Hanover Square is slated for spring 2024, promising a far more boutique affair with just 50 rooms and suites.

Alongside its flurry of new luxury hotels, the British capital continues to earn its reputation as a city that never sleeps, with plenty of exciting new restaurants, events and exhibitions setting up shop this year. We’re particularly excited about Naomi, an upcoming exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum that will celebrate the life and career of one of the original ‘90s supermodels, Naomi Campbell (it will run from 22 June 2024 until 6 April 2025). Meanwhile, Sarah Jessica Parker will make her West End debut opposite husband Matthew Broderick at the Savoy Theatre in a revival of Neil Simon’s 1968 comedy Plaza Suite. As the old saying goes, “a (wo)man who is tired of London is tired of life,” and if the city has its way, it will be a very long time until we find anything to grow tired of. That’s just the way we like it.

Where To Stay: Raffles London At The OWO

Photographed by John Athimaritis for Raffles London at the OWO

The second you step through the grand doors and are greeted by a smartly-dressed doorman at Raffles London at The OWO, it’s clear you’re in for a truly lavish stay. Perfectly positioned in the heart of Whitehall, overlooking Royal Horse Guards and just moments away from Buckingham Palace and St James’s Park, it’s safe to say the late Thierry Despont, who sadly died last August, as well as interior designer Shalina Hinduja have injected a sophisticated touch of utmost luxury into the storied Old War Office building without losing any sense of its history, endeavour and intrigue.

The celebrated history of London’s finest new five-star hotel is indeed fascinating — we highly recommend organising a tour of the property with the historical concierge Emiel Danneels who clearly knows his stuff. Yet the abundance of luxury facilities for guests is what really makes Raffles the city’s finest new stay. As to be expected, fine dining takes pride of place, and there are no fewer than nine restaurants plus three bars for guests to choose from including all-day dining restaurant Saison, Mauro Colagreco from the eponymous chef whose Menton restaurant Le Mirazur has three Michelin stars, and Café Lapérhouse, a quintessentially Parisian hangout already popular with the style set. Also be sure to check out the achingly cool speakeasy Spy Bar hidden in the hotel’s basement — open only to hotel guests, expert mixologists whip up a mean drink exactly the way James Bond enjoys it.

Photographed by John Athimaritis for Raffles London at the OWO

For some pristine pampering, head down to the 2,500 square metre, four-floor Goddard Littlefair-designed Guerlain spa — a hub of calm home to nine treatment rooms and three spacious VIP rooms with private bathtubs. Try the 60 minute Imperial Relaxing Massage (ask for Miranda) before retiring to the Pillar Wellbeing Centre which houses an imposing 20-metre pool, thermal vitality pool, sauna, steam room, experience showers and plenty of places to relax.

Then you have the rooms which, both sophisticated and spacious, range from around Dhs5,000 per night for entry-level accommodation to up to over Dhs100,000 per night for the top suites. Guests really looking to push the boat out should stay in one of the hotel’s five Heritage Suites set in the building’s magnificent former offices and conference rooms including The Granville Suite which comes complete with antique fireplaces and an incredible gold bath. While it may well be pricey, overnighting here will command you some serious bragging rights, and for very good reason. Book now

Where To Eat: Clap London

Any foodie worth their salt will have eaten at DIFC’s most stylish haunt, Clap. Among Dubai’s finest restaurants, its impeccable omakase-style dining and buzzy cocktail bar regularly draw in a steady stream of chic clientele. It’s no surprise that its new London outpost is already making waves across the pond, having opened its doors just last month in the capital’s fancy Knightsbridge neighbourhood just a stone’s throw away from Harrods.

Hot on the heels of other Middle East import GAIA, Clap is a sprawling three- level 900 square metre space sitting in a refurbished tube station, with diners able to enjoy the same exquisite omakase experience (i.e. you leave it up to the chef) they can back home. Its buzzy late-night vibes make it a great shout for a weekend, with a menu of all our favourite staples courtesy of Chef Renald Epie including nigiri, sashimi and sushi plus bigger mains like baby back pork ribs, pistachio crusted baby chicken and an epic black cod miso with sweet citrus sauce. All that washed down with imaginative drinks whipped up by an impressive bar team and enjoyed under dim lighting with a high-energy atmosphere? Don’t mind if we do. Book now

A Little Further Afield…

While London may be home to the most luxury hotels per square metre in the country, you’d be remiss not to escape the capital’s hustle and bustle on your next trip across the pond. These bucolic sanctuaries promise all the modern expectations for a delightfully rural respite.

Cowley Manor Experimental

Nestled in the midst of the picturesque British Cotswolds, Cowley Manor Experimental in Oxfordshire is the brainchild of the Parisian-born Experimental Group, which also has uber-stylish haunts in Ibiza, Verbier, Venice and London. Alongside lauded interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon, the group has turned this sprawling country house into an Alice in Wonderland-inspired abode where local chef Dominic Hargreaves heads up the excellent restaurant. A dreamy place to relax and recharge, a highlight has to be the C-Side Spa home to both an indoor and outdoor pool, steam room, sauna and four spa rooms with a short menu of treatments using the British-made Monu skincare brand. Book now

The Newt

Number 37 on the World’s 50 Best Hotels list, The Newt in Somerset is one of the most in-demand country escapes in the UK, with rooms booked out months in advance. Interiors are contemporary British withworking fireplaces and panelling, with rustic furniture, lighting and art in its 23 rooms. Further suites are located in the Clock House, Stable Yard and Farmyard buildings, as well as the new Gate Lodge cottage. There’s also plenty to keep guests entertained on-site including a spa, three restaurants, treetop walks, wild swimming spots, willow basket weaving and old stone walling courses. Book now

The Tawny

At The Tawny in Staffordshire, guests can choose between shepherd’s huts, lodges and boathouses scattered over 70 acres of glorious landscaped gardens and flower- filled woodlands dotted with ruins and lakes, where rabbits, badgers and the occasional deer come to play. Relax in rustic tin hot tubs, take a dip in the heated outdoor pool, enjoy a spa treatment inside a cute cottage and indulge in quintessentially seasonal English cuisine at its on-site restaurant — you’ll struggle to leave once it comes time to check out. Book now

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  • Words by Naomi Chadderton