London may be an old soul, but she’s perpetually young at heart. Call her a mistress of reinvention, if you will. Need proof? Look to the new guard of modern hotels making waves in ever-evolving corners of the British capital. This contemporary côterie is catering to a new generation of forward-thinking travellers looking for affordable hedonism with sustainability at their heart.
Zen-seekers should point themselves towards Inhabit, in Paddington, north London. This wellness hotel promises nourishment for body, mind and soul. The menu was designed in collaboration with Yeotown, a famous health retreat in Devon, so expect plenty of plant-based and meat-free options as well as cold-pressed juices. There’s also a stress-banishing infrared sauna, a full calendar of yoga and meditation classes and restful Scandi-inspired rooms. A stay here is good for the planet, too – Inhabit has a Green Key certification for sustainable tourism practices.
A former prison barge was upcycled to create the Good Hotel in London Docklands, where philanthropy and hospitality go hand in hand. All profits from this community-spirited spot go towards social causes, so every night’s sleep in a Thames-spying bedroom, vegetarian meal in the restaurant or sustainable cocktail at the rooftop bar contributes to job training for the long-term unemployed in the local borough and education for disadvantaged children around the world.
The Hoxton Southwark brings the brand’s signature blend of cool co-working spaces, comfy corners and all-day dining to the South Bank. Concrete walls, exposed brick and Crittall-style windows nod to the neighbourhood’s industrial past, but bedrooms are warmed with pops of velvet, colourful curtains and upholstered headboards. Hang out over fried-chicken sandwiches at Albie or head upstairs to rooftop restaurant Seabird for oysters. You won’t need to venture far to find London’s best theatres, museums and markets – you’re practically rubbing shoulders with the Old Vic, Tate Modern and Borough Market.
Beige and boring are out; youthful exuberance and riotous colour are in at fun-loving and wallet-friendly stay Mama Shelter near Bethnal Green. There are hijinks to be had in every madcap corner, from the buzzing restaurant to the rooftop cocktail bar and the karaoke booths. But don’t worry – calm reigns upstairs in the get-away-from-it-all (and thoroughly soundproofed) bedrooms where you’ll find king-size beds, luxurious sheets and organic bath potions.
A sanctuary of calm in storied Whitechapel, Qbic has handmade mattresses for a great night’s sleep, proper coffee machines on every floor and a bountiful breakfast spread (with a build-your-own-waffle station to boot). There are Qubes to hire in their co-working space: private offices that guarantee privacy and productivity with comfortable chairs, extra monitors and healthy meals to keep energy levels high. When you need fresh air, borrow a recycled bike from the hotel’s fleet to explore East London on two wheels.
You’ll instantly feel like a London local at Leman Locke in Aldgate – their enormous studio apartments all have a kitchen, bedroom and living area so you’ll have all the flexibility of your own city pied-à-terre, but with the perks of an on-point hotel. When you’re not hanging out on your blush-pink modular sofa, grab a cold-pressed juice at Shaman or squeeze in a workout at the bijou fitness studio with machines, weights and weekly yoga classes.
A century on, the spirit of the Roaring Twenties is alive at Art-Deco hotspot the Ned, a bank-turned-hotel in the City of London. There’s a marble-clad spa and swimming pool in the basement and a rooftop members’ club with spectacular views of St Paul’s, but you can’t rival the atmosphere in the jaw-dropping ground-floor atrium. Here, you’ll find seven (count ’em) restaurants, a handful of handsome bars and live music turned all the way up – Gatsby would feel right at home.
It’s housed in architect Warren Platner’s hulking brutalist building, right on the South Bank, so the dramatic and light-filled interiors of Sea Containers might surprise you. The enormous copper hull that dominates the lobby is the brainchild of Brit designer Tom Dixon – an ode to the golden age of transatlantic travel. The ground floor is the prowling patch of Lyaness, a high-concept cocktail den from master bartender Mr Lyan (aka Ryan Chetiyawardana), and on the top floor you’ll find sultry, low-lit lounge the 12th Knot and its knock-’em-dead views of London’s cityscape.