Bloomsbury is a hive of musky bookshops, prestigious universities and distinguished, centuries-old buildings, and the cultured character of this leafy neighbourhood oozes out of its many excellent hotels. Culture Trip has rounded up the top places to stay in London’s literary and intellectual capital.
You might recognise this neighbourhood’s name from Bloomsbury Publishing, the only company to have given JK Rowling’s Harry Potter the time of day; or the Bloomsbury Set, a crew of influential 20th-century British intellectuals. Or you might have spotted the name in the biographies of Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Vladimir Lenin, Mahatma Gandhi, Bob Marley or Ricky Gervais, who all lived here. Bloomsbury also boasts some excellent hotels in its assortment of genteel Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian properties – this is Culture Trip’s pick of the bunch.
Life-size statues of four British queens welcome guests to this five-star hotel fit for a king. Built as the Hotel Russell in 1898, this grand old dame feels like a palace from the moment you step into the lobby, clad with marble on the walls and mosaics on the floor. Occupying an entire block overlooking Russell Square, this gorgeous property became the Kimpton Fitzroy London in October 2018, adding chic contemporary interiors by local designers Kit Miles and Tara Bernerd & Partners to its 334 rooms.
One of interior designer Kit Kemp’s ever-growing collection of Firmdale Hotels, Charlotte Street draws its inspiration from the Bloomsbury Set – a group of intellectuals including Virginia Woolf, EM Forster and John Maynard Keynes who called this neighbourhood home in the 20th century. That means artworks by Woolf’s sister Vanessa Bell hanging on the walls, cuddly armchairs in the drawing room and library, a 67-seat cinema screening nightly films plus all the elegant boutique furnishings you’d expect from a designer with Kemp’s reputation throughout the 52 rooms and suites. Expect prices to match.
If there’s a more Instagrammable hotel in London, please tag us. This red-brick townhouse sitting on Newman Street between Goodge Street and Tottenham Court Road offers little clue to the urban oasis hiding behind its doors, with three storeys of jasmine and passion flowers trickling down upon the wooden shack-style Jurema Bar and the adjoining glasshouse apothecary. Everything about the Mandrake is excessive – priceless Salvador Dali paintings, ethnobotanical cocktails in the Waeska Bar, plus rainforest showers and hot tubs under retractable roofs in the 34 lavish rooms, suites and penthouse.
Rooms at the California are decidedly reasonable by London standards. But unlike many of the capital’s dingy cut-price stays, this budget hotel has all the style of an expensive boutique. The 60 spacious rooms feature bespoke floating beds, vibrant wallpaper and hardwood floors, while the speakeasy Megaro Bar and the steampunk-inspired Minimix wouldn’t look out of place at a hotel with triple the price tag. The location on the doorstep of King’s Cross railway station is another big plus.
Bordered by Russell Square to the north, Bloomsbury Square Garden to the south and a serene private garden to the east, it’s not hard to spot the inspiration behind the name of Montague on the Gardens. A quaint Georgian townhouse that counts the British Museum as a neighbour, this four-star property seamlessly suits its bookish and oh-so-British Bloomsbury surroundings. The 100 rooms are furnished with refined, traditional decor – the ideal complement to afternoon tea overlooking the gardens, a glass of brandy on the Cigar Terrace or a modern meal at the Blue Door Bistro.
The Harrison is best known for being one of the top gastropubs in the Bloomsbury area, but the hotel upstairs is also worth raising a glass to. The four rooms – three doubles and one triple – aren’t fancy, but they’re clean, spacious and well-priced. The hotel is also just a stroll from King’s Cross. The pub itself is the star of the show, with a range of independent brews on tap, live music in the basement most nights and a mouthwatering menu of home-made meals, including a legendary Sunday roast.
This red-brick building was constructed in 1928 before being hauled into the new millennium by acclaimed Swedish architect Martin Brudnizki, but the Bloomsbury lost none of its jazz-era charm in the upgrade. We’re talking bold patterned wallpapers, ostentatious chandeliers and Art Deco touches sprinkled throughout the 153 rooms. Only steps from the British Museum on one side and Tottenham Court Road station on the other, the Bloomsbury’s over-the-top Coral Room – a marble bar straight out of the Roaring ’20s – shimmers from breakfast at dawn until cocktails at dusk.
Sitting on bustling Gower Street just north of the British Museum, the Academy stitches together five Georgian Grade II-listed townhouses dating back to 1776 into one of London’s most sophisticated boutique hotels. It has been renovated by YTL Hotels to become a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, and New York studio Champalimaud Design has peppered the property with nods to the Bloomsbury Set, especially the Woolf and Forster novels found in the cosy library.
Strictly speaking, the Generator isn’t a hotel, but it would be remiss to omit the pre-eminent hostel in London – and perhaps the whole of Europe – from this list of places to stay Bloomsbury. The Russell Square area gave us the first instalment in Generator’s continent-wide empire way back in 1995, and an industrial-chic fit-out and colourful dorms have updated the property since then. The 214 rooms include an array of single and twin private options, and there’s a café-bar offering cheap food and drink as well as parties into the wee hours.
Another masterpiece of the ornate thé au lait (‘tea with milk’) terracotta architecture that’s so common around these parts of London, this Radisson puts a very contemporary twist on this stately old structure. While the rooms themselves are conservative, modern design infuses the common areas, from the eye-catching installation of pages from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway in the lobby to the striking red and black motif running through the Steak & Lobster restaurant. Sandwiched between the British Museum and the West End theatre district, the hotel also offers reasonable rates for the area.