London's not short of a hotel or two, but sometimes the local Premier Inn just won't cut it. Introducing London's best themed hotels, ideal for staying overnight on birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. The quirky rooms, themed restaurants and bars and stylised decor will make it a night to remember.
Tube themed hotel: Ibis Styles Gloucester Road
The London Underground themed hotel chugged into our lives and hearts in 2019, and we've been thinking about it ever since. Step out of bed onto your very own carpeted tube platform, complete with 'Mind the gap' lettering. Freshen up for the day in a shower lined with replica station tiles, before chilling out in your moquette armchair.
Ready to head out? Follow the tube-style coloured lines along the carpeted corridors back to reception, where the bar area is lined with further tube memorabilia, including posters, photos and books.
We went to have a look around the three-star crash pad when it first opened:
Ibis Styles Gloucester Road, 110 Cromwell Road, SW7 4ES.
Lion themed sleepovers: London Zoo's Overnight Lodges
Fancy having a sleepover at London Zoo? The small group of overnight lodges are located right next to the lion enclosure — close enough for you to see them settling down for bed, not close enough to keep you awake all night.
They're not the biggest hotel rooms in the world, but still feel pretty luxurious — and you'll be so busy befriending animals that you won't spend much time there. The whole experience includes three tours of the zoo when it's closed to the public, at sunset, in the dark, and in the early morning, offering a chance to see the crepuscular residents at their liveliest. Dinner and breakfast are also included.
We spent the night there when they first opened in 2016.
ZSL London Zoo Lodges, Outer Circle, Regent's Park, NW1 4RY.
Magic themed hotel: Wizard Chamber at the Georgian House Hotel
The five-star Georgian House Hotel first came to our attention when it launched a wizard themed afternoon tea in summer 2019. Imagine our joy when we learned that you can book wizard themed hotel rooms upstairs to sleep off all those smoking cocktails.
The Wizard Chamber (the hotel intentionally avoids any reference to a certain young wizard, for copyright reasons) is hidden away behind a concealed bookcase door, and the decor resembles a gothic castle, complete with flickering candlelight and stained glass windows. Cauldrons and four poster beds are included, naturally — ideal if you're visiting London for a wizard-themed weekend, or have young sorcerers in tow. It's handily located right round the corner from Victoria station, too (although perhaps King's Cross would be more fitting).
Georgian House Hotel, 35-29 St George's Drive, SW1V 4DG.
Police themed hotel: The Great Scotland Yard Hotel
'Ello, 'ello, what have we here then? A cop-shop where you might actually be pleased to spend a night, that's what.
As of late 2019, former Met Police HQ Great Scotland Yard has been a luxury five-star hotel, with ample nods to the building's criminal past. The main bar, The 40 Elephants, is named after a gang of women thieves from Elephants and Castle in the late-19th to mid-20th century. The sculptures are created by current prisoners, and knuckle-duster chocolates are provided.
Great Scotland Yard, 3-5 Great Scotland Yard, SW1A 2HN.
Hard Rock Hotel, Marble Arch
Nothing says 'rock 'n' roll' like a multinational chain, so lay your head at London's Hard Rock Hotel. Decades after London's first Hard Rock Cafe opened on Piccadilly, 2019 spawned two offspring — a second diner on Piccadilly Circus, and the UK's first Hard Rock Hotel, located at Marble Arch.
Taking over the Cumberland Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel follows the company's template of sprinkling celebrity memorabilia among glitzy surroundings, including items which belonged to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly. If that gets you inspired, borrow a Fender guitar to strum in your room. A restaurant and two bars can be found in the hotel, and you're right on Oxford Street for... well, pretty much anything else you might need.
Hard Rock Hotel London, Great Cumberland Place, Marylebone, W1H 7DL
Royal themed hotel: Rubens at the Palace
If you're not a fan of red and gold, Rubens at the Palace is not the place for you. Taking inspiration from its regal neighbours, the five-star hotel plays up to its royal theme, hard — unsurprising, when many of the rooms overlook the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace.
The rooms themselves have plenty of luxurious touches that wouldn't look out of place in royal sleeping quarters — think four poster beds, velvet headboards and fancy chandeliers. For an extra splash of decadence, book a Royal Themed King Room, the decor of each one in honour of a different British monarch.
With two restaurants, a lounge and three bars, dining like a king isn't a problem here. The English Grill, Curry Room and New York Bar are where you'll find all that red and gold opulence, while afternoon tea is served overlooking the Royal Mews.
And if there's a royal wedding or baby on the horizon, you can guarantee they're going all out to celebrate here.
The Rubens at The Palace, 39 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1W 0PS.
Art themed hotel: The Exhibitionist Hotel, Kensington
When we heard the name of this hotel, it could've gone one of two ways. Thankfully, all curtains are kept firmly at the appropriate times, and the title refers to exhibitions of the arty kind.
There's always an art show on at the boutique hotel, and each of the 37 rooms and suites has been stylishly designed, with original artworks all over the place. That's not to say design has been prioritised to the detriment of luxury — book one of the Splash Suites to watch your TV from your own private jacuzzi.
The Exhibitionist Hotel, 8-10 Queensberry Place, South Kensington, SW7 2EA.
Jailhouse themed hotel: Courthouse Hotel, Soho and Shoreditch
The clue's in the name at Carnaby's five-star Courthouse Hotel, located in a Grade-II listed former Magistrates Court. With the likes of John Lennon, Oscar Wilde, Christine Keeler and Mick Jagger having defended their cases here, you'd think it'd be easy to get caught up in the building's naughty past. A drink or two at a private bar table inside the former prison cells should set you back on the straight and narrow. It's worth having dinner at the hotel's Silk restaurant during you stay — it's the former courtroom, and the food and architecture are equally worth experiencing.
Prison themed hostel: Clink 78, King's Cross
If prison chic is your thing, but The Courthouse Hotel (above) is out of your budget, try slumming it at Clink 78. The King's Cross youth hostel is also in a former courthouse, with The Clash among those to have been on trial here (hence live music venue ClashBar in the basement). Now, beds and bunks have been installed in the former cells, with "original prison/police custody features". The prison cell rooms sleep one or two people, but larger rooms and mixed dorms are available elsewhere in the building.
Clink78, 78 King's Cross Road, WC1X 9QG. Further venues on Gray's Inn Road and in Amsterdam, but fewer prison vibes.
Antiques themed hotel: The Rookery, Clerkenwell
The Rookery is basically what everyone from other countries thinks everyone in England's house looks like, all leather armchairs, dark wood cabinets and leatherbound books. It's by the team behind the better-known Hazlitt's but they've really gone to town with their love of antiques here, buying up genuinely historic furniture to fill up the wonky warren of rooms. Antiques isn't strictly a 'theme' of the cosy bolthole, but if you're into that sort of thing, you'll find plenty to ogle.
The Rookery Hotel, 12 Peter's Lane, Farringdon, EC1M 6DS.
Latin-American themed hotel: Church Street Hotel, Camberwell
Here's something a little unexpected for the streets of Camberwell — a Latin-American themed boutique hotel. full of colour and kitsch.
The rooms are spread across three townhouse buildings, and although it's not as central as some of the other venues of this list, it makes up for it in charm. Prints, sculptures, colonial style furniture and hand painted Mexican tiles have been used to make each room unique. Stock up on complimentary teas and coffees at the old Cuban themed Havana Lounge, or make yourself a drink at the honesty bar.
Church Street Hotel, 29-33 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR.
Sunborn London Yacht Hotel
Does 'floating' count as a theme? We're having it, if only to highlight the sheer luxury of the four-star Sunborn London Yacht Hotel (phrases such as 'superyacht' and 'members club rate' float nonchalantly around the hotel's website, but don't let that put you off).
Moored up at Royal Victoria Dock close to ExCel London, the sizeable ship boats 132 rooms and four suites — and they're not small rooms either. A spa, bar and restaurant are also on board, and you can even arrive via the cable car, a 10 minute walk away (unless you private chauffeur's driving you, of course).
Like what you see but need the sunshine? There's a sister ship moored up in Gibraltar.
Sunborn London, Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1AA.