The best boutique hotels in London for a snug and stylish stay

Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell - one of the best boutique hotels in London
The reinvention of boutique hotels in London, around about 18 years ago, could probably be credited to The Zetter hotel group

Boutique hotels in London are the opposite of just ‘somewhere to get your head down’. They offer an added layer of charm many of the larger chain properties miss out on. Often independent or part of a smaller hotel group, they have intimate spaces with masses of attention to detail. Or at least the best ones do. We’re talking artful interiors, classic cocktail bars, buzzy restaurants and inventive breakfasts.

When it comes to small hotels in London, of course, you are spoiled for choice (and there's something to suit every budget). Whether it’s an oyster happy hour with a rooftop view, art installations that reflect a building’s past, or hip chef residencies that float your boat, we have recommendations spanning Central London (and the popular West End) to Notting Hill and Hackney. Here’s our pick of the best boutique hotels in London – all that's left to do is for you to choose and book.

How we review

Every hotel in this curated list has been visited by one of our expert reviewers, who are usually hosted on a complimentary basis. They stay for a minimum of one night, test at least one meal and trial other experiences that the hotel might have to offer.

For a central London boutique hotel, the design versus price ratio is wonderfully favourable at Lime Tree Hotel, with rooms in low season starting at £125 a night and interiors looking as cool and fresh as any Firmdale property. With funky wallpaper, cool greys and pastel pinks, they are brilliantly inviting, although all 25 are fairly small given the layout of Georgian townhouses (which can be forgiven when one might get change out of £150 for this location). Dinner is a recent addition to The Buttery, its own restaurant, but the breakfast spread is the real highlight with everything from a simple bacon butty to grilled mushroom and creamy stracciatella on toasted sourdough.

On elegant Sloane Street, right opposite leafy, Grade II-listed Cadogan Place Gardens, the Beaverbrook Town House makes its London debut (it's a sibling to country house hotel Beaverbrook in Surrey) with richly decorated interiors recalling the Art Deco aesthetic of the Twenties and Thirties. It offers 14 theatre-themed suites and a contemporary Japanese restaurant and bar. Beds are four-poster or half-tester and draped in rich velvets with colourful cushions. Oak floors are topped with sea grass carpets and bespoke rugs courtesy of Nicola Harding. Velvet is the textile of choice, giving sofas a luxe softness and neatly trimming the heavy curtains.

When it comes to boutique hotels, East London is full of characterful options that place style, design and personality at the heart of everything they do. This particular spot is an interior-lover’s (or Instagram snapper's) paradise in which every detail has been carefully thought through. The 17 rooms are all individually decorated after a different designer or design movement of the 20th century (from Bauhaus to Young British Designers, via Scandinavian, Le Corbusier, Eames and more). But when it comes down to it, it's really a 'wow' rooftop with rooms. The outdoor space is so popular that even in winter people huddle under blankets while in summer, of course, it is prime rooftop real estate, with soaring City views. Guests’ ability to bypass the queues snaking down the road is a massive bonus.

One of the loveliest boutique hotels in Soho London, this kooky period enclave is formerly the home of the author William Hazlitt and it's like tumbling into the upper class Victorian era – all strokeable red velvet and rich, polished mahogany with dainty tea sets. Named after people who frequented the houses in Hazlitt’s day, the rooms are (as you tend to expect in a boutique property such as this) all individually furnished, with free-standing bathtubs and decorated with antiques, busts and prints. Anything considered 'modern' is nicely concealed (like the television hidden within a gilt-framed mirror) or even the loo, concealed within a Jacobean seat.

The reinvention of boutique hotels in London, around about 18 years ago, could probably be credited to this forward-thinking hotel group. Stylistic details (like not having a reception for example, you just enter into a weird and wonderful 'front room') were then copied around town and the slightly zany interiors (a full-on Victoriana theme) were loved by the industry. There's a great – albeit fictional – backstory too, that the Georgian townhouse was owned by a 19th-century, party-mad great aunt named Wilhelmina, hence the whimsical décor and the emphasis on the cocktail bar where the drinks look as if they have been made from ingredients from an apothecary. The nettle gimlet is really good: mirabeau gin, nettle cordial and lemon.

The history-led Georgian stylings of Batty Langley’s (along with its sister hotels The Rookery in Clerkenwell, below, and Hazlitt’s in Soho, above), feels almost radical in a time when many hotels are converging in a centre ground of muted colours and low-slung furniture. That's what makes it one of the best boutique hotels in London; it's a tad wacky, unashamedly eccentric (much like its namesake, Bartholomew ‘Batty’ Langley, an 18th-century architect) and heaps of fun (the Kitty Fisher suite is named after a famous courtesan). Although the over-the-top furnishings and dramatic colours are certainly not understated, the hotel has a serenity about it and you’ll scarcely notice other guests.

Tucked away down a tiny alleyway off St James’s Park, you'll find Dukes standing proud, its signature Great Britain flag waving gently above the doorway, and sash windows framed by pruned trees. Reassuringly old fashioned, the hotel dates from 1908 and heritage is key to its success; oil paintings line the walls of the lobby and in the bar and the original wood panelled lift (with bench for the weary) is great fun. However, it is always tweaking its offerings, cleverly nudging the hotel into a fresh era with each update, its GBR restaurant being a fine example. Once perhaps slightly stuffy, it's now an approachable all-day brasserie with monkfish scampi, chestnut-mushroom risotto and choice of steaks.

Although the name 'Rookery' in this instance is taken from Smithfield's heritage as a dejected slum, it also refers to a cluster of nests high up in a tree, and this warren of cosy rooms (particularly the two-storey penthouse suite hidden in the rafters) feels very similar; a welcoming hideaway far from the packed streets of The City. There's no restaurant, just in-room service which adds to the 'holed-up' vibe. You'll find open fires and carved-oak four-poster beds rubbing up against dark-wood walls, thick red-silk drapes and gold-leaf-gilded oil paintings. It's not trying to be anything too 'cool' or 'trendy', it's a refreshingly authentic bolthole with a good value price to boot.

Small London boutique hotels often have limited, if any, outdoor space, but this family-run spot (it has been in the same family for over a century) has a delightful private garden, surrounded by flower borders and shrubbery, with a bright green striped lawn on which croquet is played in the summer months. But it's not just this that makes it so special; it may be bijou, but its sense of occasion is undeniably grand – perhaps it's to do with its location sitting opposite Buckingham Palace. It means that whatever the event, a negroni in the Cocktail Bar and dinner in the Michelin-starred restaurant is always sufficiently atmospheric.

London was the original destination for this tiny group of independent hotels. There are just 10 bedrooms here, each with its own charm. Vintage furniture, distressed leather, and exposed brickwork are the makings of shabby-chic interiors – but note that the ‘shabby’ here has been carefully curated for a wonderfully stylish retro vibe. Step into your room and a Roberts Radio will be playing – one of its signature 'Artist Residence' stamps. Smart locals pop into the café for a speedy morning coffee whilst Pimlico office workers stop by for ice-cold glasses of Whispering Angel under the red-and-white striped awnings in the late afternoon. The breakfast is sensational, the buttermilk pancake stack being the hero dish.

Named after the founder of the Notting Hill Carnival, Rhaune Laslett, who was (of course) known for his fun, creativity and community spirit, this is one of the finest boutique hotels London has to offer. Although it is modern and supremely fresh (for example the art is by Londoners, from Barbara Hulanicki of BIBA fame to artist-novelist Harland Miller) it also purposefully made decisions like keeping normal wall light switches (no swish iPad controls) and allowing guests to actually open their windows... Simple choices that cleverly give it a down to earth feel. Bathrooms are particularly joyful, featuring subway tiles, Belgravia fittings, full-size REN toiletries and black-and-white-tiled floors.

Small hotels in London don't come much classier than the Cadogan Hotel, which has long been a fixture of Sloane Street, home to many generations of London's upper class. Maybe because it lent on its solid reputation for so many years, it certainly needed a bit of an update – so it was fortunate that a sensitive brand such as Belmond came along to breathe new life into the grande dame (with a reportedly £28m refurb in 2019). The restaurant still very much remains the beating heart of the operation though; the lively LaLee is a buzzy, busy return to Chelsea’s glory days with a wine list the size of a small novel.

A brilliant example of a boutique hotel sensitively updating a building but also restoring and celebrating its history too. Housed in a fire station dating from 1887, the original façade was restored, the former ladder shed now the guest lobby and the engine house holding the restaurant, with bedrooms above. In between holds the horseshoe-shaped bar and a courtyard for outdoor seating. It's compact, but it works. And because it's quite small and intimate, it's obviously pretty exclusive too. The institution still draws in celebrities years after its hyped up launch (Lily Allen was spotted on our most recent visit).

Frequently asked questions

What makes a hotel a boutique hotel?

Essentially a boutique hotel tends to be classified as a property with less than 100 rooms (at Telegraph Travel, we like to look at a boutique hotel in the UK as ideally having less than 70 rooms). However, it's not just the number of rooms that needs to be taken into account, these hotels normally have a strong, unique design and are big on personality. They are often independently owned, or, if owned by a group they only operate a handful of properties meaning that attention to detail and the guest experience is high. 

Which boutique hotels in London are good for families?

Generally speaking, most boutique hotels in London will welcome families, but in our list we would recommend the Belmond Cadogan and The Goring.

Which of the best London boutique hotels have rooftops?

Boundary London has a fabulous rooftop, perfect for alfresco summer cocktails with a view.

Contributions by Emma Beaumont, Sophie Campbell, Fiona Duncan, Lizzie Frainier, Simon Horsford, Charlotte Johnstone, Hugh Morris & Penny Walker