London is both a modern and historic city. It is also one of the top tourist destinations in the world, so it's hard to believe that it wasn't always so. But, hotels in the capital only started springing up around the beginning of the nineteenth century. Before that, visitors would rent a house or stay in their Gentleman's clubs or a boarding house.
Historic hotel in London — Photo courtesy of Andy Roberts
When the hotel boom started, and the age of steam brought more travelers through London, big was indeed beautiful. But, as waves of recession have crashed upon London's shores, small and bijoux is how a lot of travelers now like it. Even today, the big hotels have to find a unique selling point like a funky new bar or carefully planned environmental touches to bring in the punters.
According to the Olympic Bid documents, London has more than 1 million hotel rooms at the present time, but that won't stop people from panicking about running out of space as the visitors start to descend. The Olympics is what has fueled the capital's current hotel building boom, with many more hotels springing up in the east of the city around the Olympic site.
London from the Shard — Photo courtesy of Andy Roberts
As international hotel standards go, London has some of the smallest grand hotels, often with under 500 rooms. Some of the biggest, oldest and best known hotels have recently gone through a makeover including the Savoy and the Waldorf. They might be big and well-established, but their niche new bars (the St Martin's Lane hotel bar is complete with gold tooth stools) and beautifully-designed decor allow them to compete with the smaller townhouse-style hotels. The smaller hotels spread through the nineties and early noughties and have become popular with visitors after a certain je ne sais quoi.
St Martin's Lane Hotel, London — Photo courtesy of Jenn
For Harry Potter fans, the newly furbished St Pancras hotel at King's Cross allows you to stay in luxury right near the magical platform above the station of the same name. Or, seek out cool, niche bed and breakfasts where you get a more personal experience.