These four city hotels are the perfect place to relax with a mulled wine after a busy Christmas day
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Knights Bridge, London
Best for … pretending to be an A-lister for a day
ONEAfter a recent top-to-bottom renovation, this legendary Knightsbridge hotel has taken on a new, vibrant incarnation. Think of bold art, fabrics in expressive hues and cool light against a noble backdrop of large columns and curved marble floors. Our bedroom had GHD hair straighteners, a cocktail bar with first class gins and a heated toilet seat with automatic cleaning function for the Derrière. The view of Hyde Park isn’t too shabby either. And by the time you step outside (and have exchanged courtesies with the bouncers) you’ll find that you’ve hit shopping heaven.
Stella loves: Martinis after shopping in the hotel’s cool, sexy Mandarin Bar.
On the go: The best department stores and shopping streets in London are on your doorstep. In fact, at Harvey Nichols, you can practically window shop from the hotel lobby. A few minutes’ walk along Brompton Road brings you to Harrods (with lots of shops along the way). The boutiques of Sloane Street are also just a two-minute walk away. Walk the full length of Designer Street and at the end of King’s Road you will find the ultimate Peter Jones department store (once a Princess Margaret’s favorite – and somewhere the Duchess of Cambridge has been spotted more than once). Do we have to say more?
Rooms from £ 740 per night, B&B; Call 020 7235 2000 or visit mandarinoriental.com/london
Read the full expert review: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
• An expert guide to London
The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath
Best for … Georgian size
The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa is located in Bath’s sprawling Royal Crescent, the popular street designed by the architect John Wood. It’s the grandest and quietest hotel in town with no passing traffic and no view of the historic city. We chose the deluxe suite with a four-poster bed, an elegant living room and a view of the front lawn. After a morning swim in the hotel’s 12-meter indoor pool, which is beautifully warm, head to the stores but return in time for pain relief with a revitalizing full-body massage at the spa – the Elemental Herbology Fire Zest Bath & Body Oil that uses we will smell lovely. Dinner at the Dower House restaurant is a must – don’t miss the beautifully presented tasting menu. The cheesecake with raspberries and white chocolate was a delight. (Note: The spa and pool are currently open, but please check the hotel website for the latest hotel details before you travel.)
Stella loves: The opulent decor – classic busts, chandeliers and a staircase that is suitable for every lord and lady. And the huge Christmas tree, decorated with a velvet ribbon, is an unforgettable sight.
On the Go: Aside from shopping, no weekend visit to Bath is complete without a trip to the famous Roman Baths – just a 15-minute walk from the hotel (they are now open again, but check website before you travel and before you travel) to book tickets; romanbaths.co.uk). The Bath Christmas Market was canceled this year, but there are plenty of stores – from Jo Malone, Anthropologie, Whistles, and White Stuff, to independent boutiques and craft stores. Head to French chocolatier Maison Georges Larnicol for gorgeous, edible stocking fillers. Stock up on coffee at the Boston Tea Party, a small chain of coffee shops – the Kingsmead Square branch has outdoor tables and is great for people-watching (bostonteaparty.co.uk).
Rooms from £ 330 per night, B&B; Call 01225 823333 or visit royalcrescent.co.uk
Read the full expert review: The Royal Crescent Hotel
• An Knowledgeable Guide to Bath
Best for … relaxed luxury
Boarding this retired lighthouse ship (which is now permanently moored) is like traveling back in time to a time of maritime glamor. A £ 5 million renovation turned it into a luxurious “boat” with an Art Deco style bar, beautiful green-tiled bathrooms and gold surfaces. The 23 cabins, each named after a lighthouse that Fingal serviced in her previous life, feel like the accommodations of a luxurious transatlantic liner and are equipped with tartan lambswool throws as well as headboards that are embossed with nautical maps of the respective lighthouse Hut is named after) sits in the sea.
Stella Loves: Noble Isle’s divine smelling toiletries (all full size); They are cruelty free, vegan friendly and made in the UK. They’re the cherry on top of the passed out bathrooms.
On the go: There are plenty of independent restaurants in the Leith area that are worth disembarking – not least The Kitchin, the Michelin-starred restaurant owned by Chef Tom Kitchin (thekitchin.com), a 10-minute walk away Walk away. (The smoked North Sea halibut is a must.) Try toast with brunch (toastleith.co.uk) and those with a sweet tooth can satisfy their cravings at Mimi’s Bakehouse (mimisbakehouse.com). When it comes to pubs and bars, the choice is yours: the barologist (thebarologist.co.uk) is one of the most popular. And there’s also the center of Edinburgh, with plenty of shops and attractions, a 20-minute drive away. (Note: Covid-19’s restrictions and restaurant policies are changing rapidly, so call ahead to check it’s open and reserve a table in advance.)
Cabins from £ 200 per night, B&B, based on two parts; fingal.co.uk
Read the full expert review: Fingal
• An Expert Guide to Edinburgh
University Arms, Cambridge
Best for … interior inspiration
If you are looking for a leisurely winter break but want more action than a rural dump then this is the place. The grand Edwardian building was redesigned in 2018 by interior designer Martin Brudnizki and it feels like stepping into an expensive design magazine set, albeit a cozy one. The bedrooms are comfortable and lavish, while the bathrooms have eye-catching black and white tiles. Our rooms were equipped with a large bathtub with a view over a huge green Parker’s piece. Parker’s Tavern Brasserie serves delicious British dishes (like rustic casseroles and warming soups) and afternoon tea is a must.
Stella loves: The imposing entrance hall – really great.
On the go: The Kettle’s Yard art gallery is worth a visit – it has works by Miro, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. (Tickets are free but need to be booked in advance; kettlesyard.co.uk.) Try the Old Bicycle Shop for lunch or brunch (oldbicycleshop.com) and Midsummer House, an upscale restaurant in a beautiful Victorian mansion, for a romantic dinner (midsummerhouse.co.uk). As for Christmas shopping, the city is your oyster. Aside from all the staples – including The White Company, Mango, Topshop, Russell & Bromley, and Rigby & Peller – there are plenty of great independent stores, including Lilac Rose for cheering fashion purchases. And of course you can’t go to Cambridge without spending an hour or two on a boat.
Rooms from £ 159 per night; universityarms.com
Expert rating: The University Arms
The Covid-19 rules are changing fast. So be sure to check the latest local lockout rules and hotel policies (including restrictions on spas and restaurants) prior to travel
Published by: Laura Powell. Reviews by: Naomi Greenaway, Sarah Royce Greensill, Anna Clarke and Bethan Holt