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While most European cities can present a dizzying array of choices when it comes to lodging, London can be downright bewildering. Many travelers sort their choices according to budget. Others go for location. Then, there are those seeking a more intimate or authentic experience, such as smaller boutique properties or even short-term rentals.
I have grown to appreciate the virtues of the smaller, boutique hotel experience, especially in Europe, and London offers some of the best boutique hotels anywhere. Of course, such gems take a bit more work to find — but they are well worth the effort.
One boutique property I recently had the pleasure of visiting is Draycott Hotel, located on a quiet, leafy block in the Cadogan Gardens neighborhood of Chelsea. With a great location, Edwardian charm and a low-key atmosphere, the Draycott offers a superb place to call home after a day spent in the bustle of London.
At first glance, the Draycott looks much like the brick Edwardian row houses that adjoin it. And that’s the point. Being part of the Mantis family of international boutique hotels, the Draycott offers English elegance and refinement without pretension.
With 35 rooms in a lovingly restored Edwardian red-brick building, the Draycott feels more like an intimate English guesthouse than a hotel. Traditions such as tea and biscuits in the afternoon go hand in hand with surprises that range from champagne at 6 p.m. to cocoa and biscuits later in the evening. Guests are invited to mingle in the relaxing Edwardian common room or enjoy some quiet time in the reading room and library.
Guestrooms range from the 960-square-foot Draycott Suite that includes a full kitchen and two bathrooms, perfect for families or groups, to a cozy single for the solo traveler. All are uniquely decorated in theatrical themes honoring icons of the London stage.
Mine was the Ralph Richardson Room. Like his contemporaries, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier, Richardson was a fixture of the London stage in the mid-20th century. Mementos of Richardson’s career in stage and screen were thoughtfully placed throughout the room.
But, it was the room itself that was the star of the show. Elegant furnishings made it feel more like an Edwardian-era parlor than a hotel room. The upholstered chairs and a sofa that were arranged in front of a gas fireplace practically demanded that guests curl up with a favorite book.
This is London, however, and the city will no doubt lure you from the Draycott’s comforts. For walkers, Draycott Hotel is ground zero for exploring the city by foot or bike rental. Walk 10 minutes in any direction and find one of London’s many attractions.
If it’s shopping you’re after, Harrods is approximately a 15-minute walk. Buckingham Palace is about a 25-minute walk, while Westminster Abbey takes about 35 minutes by foot.
Of course, the hotel’s highly attentive staff is always ready to help guests with alternate modes of transportation. They can arrange taxis and offer advice on London’s Underground and city bus service. Whether it’s guidance on theater tickets or directions, the staff takes the time to assist visitors in getting the most out of their visit.
Indeed, if London’s calling, the Draycott will help you answer.