Beyond the Robin Hood clichés, modern-day Nottingham is a dynamic hub for arts and culture. Shaped by an industrial golden age of lace making, tobacco and bicycle manufacture, the city has been galvanised in recent years thanks to the arrival of a sleek new tram network, the angular Nottingham Contemporary gallery and the part-pedestrianisation of its artsy Hockley district.
Although a city in flux – with the bulldozed Broadmarsh Centre undergoing a major facelift – there’s plenty of personality and layers of history illuminating its compact city centre, including a Unesco-recognised literary heritage that counts Lord Byron, DH Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe among its heroes. A buoyant student population keep Nottingham’s nightlife among the country’s most relevant, while first-class retail, sports facilities and music venues give reason for return visits.
And while Nottingham still lacks five-star luxury when it comes to its hotels, there is a diverse choice of characterful crash-pads, ranging from the opulent to the alternative. Here are the best.
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Best for art lovers: Lace Market Hotel
Neighbourhood: Lace Market
Hitting the sweet spot between laid-back and elegant, the Lace Market Hotel takes its name from its location in the heart of Nottingham’s former industrial centre. Flanked by storied red-brick warehouses, it’s just a short walk to the Nottingham Contemporary. Each of its 42 rooms comes in a muted greyscale palette brought to life with splashes of colour and tactile throws, while superior suites have freestanding bathtubs with views over the rooftops. Artful photographs of bygone Nottingham add character to the common areas, while the Saint cocktail bar is an excellent spot in which to dissect the day’s discoveries.
Double rooms from £89
Best for a foodie break: Hart’s Hotel & Kitchen
Neighbourhood: The Park
Tim Hart is something of a fine-dining pioneer in the East Midlands, having founded the Michelin-starred Hambleton Hall in the late 1970s before following up with this elegant hotel and kitchen in 1997. Set on the old ramparts of Nottingham Castle above the upmarket Park Estate, this four-star hotel won Riba architecture awards for a design that opens up with stunning views over the city. With access to a leafy terrace, the garden suites are the most sought after of the 32 rooms, which – thanks to luxe touches like L’Occitane toiletries and mini cafetières – set the standard for hotels in the city. And the restaurant remains one of the city’s hottest tables, with menus shaped by local produce, including Hambleton Hall-supplied meat and bread.
Rooms from £139
Best for countryside charm: Langar Hall
Twenty minutes east of Nottingham, a glorious lime tree-lined driveway leads up to the impressive Langar Hall. This apricot-washed 19th-century manor features carp ponds and wild flower gardens in its grounds and 13 rooms a traditional country house style – think floral wallpapers and antique furnishings. An excellent restaurant is defined by local produce that includes homegrown vegetables, Langar lamb from the surrounding fields and, come game season, fresh catches from the Vale of Belvoir. A special mention goes to the Agnews chalet room, which – a short walk from the house through the gardens – lacks wi-fi, making it the perfect option for a digital detox.
Rooms from £125
Best for heritage hunters: St James
Neighbourhood: City centre
Sandwiched between Nottingham Castle and the austere concrete office blocks that line Maid Marian Way, the four-star St James Hotel cuts a surprisingly sophisticated dash on Nottingham’s hotel scene. Located at the heart of the so-called Castle Zone, it’s well-placed for getting acquainted with the city’s history, with Lord Byron’s former digs to the north and, to the south, Nottingham Castle and the UK’s self-proclaimed oldest pub, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. The hotel’s bold decor pairs a red and purple palette with patterned wallpapers, which – while not for the faint-hearted – sits on the sophisticated side of eclectic.
Rooms from £70
Best for the social scene: Mercure Nottingham
Occupying the site of what was Nottingham’s oldest hotel, the Mercure is at the heart of the city’s hippest district. With independent cinemas, record and vintage stores in all directions, not to mention an al fresco bar scene birthed by Hockley’s evening pedestrianisation, you might not find yourself hanging about too much. But with original features, including a striking oak staircase, sitting alongside neon artwork, bold prints and retro-modern design accessories, it packs plenty of quirky charm. It also offers several worthy hangouts of its own – including a gin bar set in a sandstone cave.
Rooms from £60
Best for old-world decadence: Colwick Hall Hotel
Two miles west of the city centre, this Grade II-listed pile on the River Trent dates back to 1776 and its manicured grounds make a leafy alternative to Nottingham’s urban sprawl. Best known as the ancestral home of Lord Byron, its heritage remains intact today with each of its 16 decadent rooms – complete with antique furniture and lavish textiles – named after poets and artists. Get outside and explore the gardens before booking into Byron’s Brasserie where, beneath black and white images of Romantic-era poets, you can select from locally sourced specials that might even impress its namesake poet.
Rooms from £89
Best for inner-city glamour: The Walton
Neighbourhood: The Park
A 10-minute walk from the city centre, this former hunting lodge straddles the boundary of Nottingham’s refined gas-lit Park estate and studentsville, with the latter’s influence visible through the bars and restaurants on the adjacent Derby Road. Original 19th-century features remain intact across 24 rooms that attract a diverse crowd that reflects its location. Its restaurant does a fine line in sharing boards, accompanied by a strong wine list courtesy of nearby Gauntleys Fine Wines – while its revamped sun terrace and bar is the perfect spot for people watching in the summer months.
Rooms from £125
Best for all-out maximalism: Mama’s Inn
Neighbourhood: Mapperley Park
Spread over two smart Victorian villas north of the city centre, this colourful boutique B&B launched in 2014, allowing owners Marina and David to indulge in their interior-design fantasies across 10 rooms themed by global cities. Spelled out via artwork and artefacts, rooms range from the romantic – Paris and St Petersburg come with four-poster beds and gilded cabinets – to the exotic, with the pair’s hands-on hospitality securing multiple awards for excellence from booking.com and TripAdvisor. The global theme continues in the Versace-inspired breakfast room, where an 18-strong brunch menu includes croque monsieur or shakshuka or even a Japanese tamagoyaki omelette.
Rooms from £60