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Top 10 Most Expensive London Hotels: Are They Worth It?
Budget backpackers, business travellers and luxury seekers are all catered for in the UK capital, with something to suit all tastes, particularly with new London hotels springing up all the time. But average prices are perceived as high due to the consistent year-long demand and visitors often complain about the expense of a typical London hotel stay.
Never has this been more evident than in the build-up to the London Olympics, with Twitter awash with stories about London hotels supposedly profiteering from a shortage of hotel rooms (the real picture is rather more mixed, with some hotels doing well and others struggling to fill capacity).
So we thought it would be interesting to look at London's top 10 most expensive hotels while superimposing an investigation of their WiFi charges - information which several do their best to hide before you book, preferring to hijack guests who cannot live without this basic amenity.
In our view charging for WiFi is akin to charging for hot water or pillows and cannot ever be justified at the luxury end of the market when so many cheap and mid-price hotels (and even hostels) now include it for free.
Our source for listing the "most expensive hotels" is a recent survey from luxury-hotels.com which not surprisingly showed London dominating the top 20 most expensive hotels in the UK. The luxury hotel booking website conducted its survey between May and June, for the summer period from June to August this year (excluding the Olympic period).
It calculated the average rate charged by a wide range of luxury hotels across the UK for a standard double over this period, achieved by using hotels' own websites as well as leading booking websites.
The full list of the UK's 20 most expensive hotels can be seen at luxuryhotels.com, but here are London's top 10 most expensive hotels extrapolated from those results (though there are a few surprising omissions which we mention below, it does on the whole look sensible).
* WiFi data collected on 23rd July 2012 and deemed correct as of that date
The dirty little secret of expensive hotels and extra WiFi charges...
As you can see from the table, we carried out extra research to ascertain how much each hotel charges for wireless internet access. All the hotels from the list above with extra WiFi charges currently omit to mention this information on their websites as far as we could see, so we had to phone them up and ask. This is not exactly transparent behaviour.
In an age where wireless is considered a basic essential used by almost all rather than a discretionary luxury, these extra charges are surprising bordering on downright ridiculous. Regular readers will already know our thoughts on free hotel WiFi particularly as it concerns 4 and 5 star hotels (the whole rationale behind our recent free WiFi touchdown campaign when we visited 14 free WiFi London hotels in around a month).
While some of London's most upscale hotels, such as Maybourne Group's Claridge's, Connaught and Berkeley hotels do offer complimentary WiFi, others continue to charge shocking rates despite the massive premium guests are already paying in the room rate. This in our view shows them to be surprisingly out-of-touch with the needs of the modern luxury traveller.
We particularly dislike the "two tier" policy practised by a number of 5 star London hotels (including quite a few not listed above), where they claim that "basic" access is free, leaving it to their guests to try and figure out whether this will be sufficient - knowing full well they probably won't have the time and may well end up paying the "optional" charge.
Besides which, why should anything be "basic" in a 5 star hotel? It's hard to see how they can market themselves using terms like "luxury" or "home away from home" while inconveniencing guests in this way. It's a shame since many that do this are otherwise beautiful and well-run hotels.
One example of a top 10 expensive hotel from the above list which does understand the needs of today's connected travellers is The Lanesborough - which not only provides guests with free WiFi but also gives them use of a Sony VAIO laptop and even support through a tech-savvy butler.
A surprising omission from the "most expensive hotels" list is The Ritz - which also had the steepest WiFi charge in London last time we checked.
The absence of The Savoy (which does offer free WiFi) is genuinely surprising though and we might also have expected The Langham (another "two tier" WiFi charger as far as we know) to feature in the above list.
Maybe The Ritz and The Langham put their energies elsewhere since both do feature in our top 10 London hotel afternoon teas. We are big fans of The Langham in particular with its amazing history and great service.
The internet policy of the otherwise excellent Firmdale properties listed above (Soho Hotel and Covent Garden Hotel) is particularly disappointing because they are stunning avant-garde properties with a dynamic clientele and superb amenities and service. We would expect them to "get it".
What do you get for your money at London's most expensive hotels?
Aside from WiFi grumbles, the high room rates charged by these hotels are often justified by the service, accommodation and extras on offer. People book into expensive hotels because they want uncompromising luxury - but above all it's about service and a much over-used term -"the experience".
Topping the expensive hotels list, for example, is the Dorchester Collection's intimate 45 Park Lane boutique hotel. For that £545 average room rate, guests get interiors designed by renowned New York architect Thierry Despont, fine dining courtesy of Wolfgang Puck at Cut (his first restaurant in Europe), access to the hotel's well-equipped fitness studio and other little perks. The hotel's bar also gets good write-ups.
A close second on the list, the Lanesborough boasts sumptuous rooms, 24 hour butler service and an interactive in-room entertainment system with access to a wide range of music and movies on demand. When our bloggers have inspected this hotel, we've been struck by how discreetly this technology is hidden "under the hood" and been impressed by the philosophy of visionary MD Geoffrey Gelardi whereby guests are not "nickled and dimed" once they have paid the basic room rate.
Are luxury locations and service worth paying a premium for?
Close to Harrods is the newly-opened Bulgari Hotel, which has an exquisite setting and the high levels of service you'd expect with its lofty price tag, as well as little extras like personal shoppers, help with unpacking and more.
Also in exclusive Knightsbridge, the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park offers great views out over the park and not one but two world-class restaurants - Daniel Bouloud's Bar Boulud and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. So it's clear why many luxury lovers choose to stay there.
Occupying positions five, six and eight respectively, Maybourne's Connaught, Berkeley and Claridge's hotels each offer a style, service and sophistication that will often make you say "wow". All take great pride in their concierge services in particular and aim to tick every box for guest indulgence and satisfaction with their top-flight restaurants and bars.
The other hotels above - The Dorchester, Soho Hotel and Covent Garden Hotel - despite their silly WiFi charges, all offer luxury and service in spades in highly-desirable locations. We're big fans of Refuel Bar at the Soho Hotel which we consider one of London's top 10 hotel bars, not just for drinks but also service, nestled away in a quiet mews street in the heart of Soho.
Are London's most expensive hotels also the city's "best" hotels?
45 Park Lane and Bulgari are relatively new and yet to stand the test of time. Several of the others though are timeless "icons" of the London hotel scene and have a formidable reputation to protect, which in itself ensures they'll move heaven and earth to rectify any glitches in your stay.
But are there other 4 and 5 star London hotels below this top pricing tier available with equivalent service and amenities for a lower price?
An initial shortlist worth keeping as a reference is provided by ReviewPro, which has aggregated findings across all the world's online travel and guest review sites to rank London's best hotels by guest satisfaction:
Table: The Top 10 Hotels in London in July 2012
Source: ReviewPro London hotel rankings
[Hotels marked with * above offer unrestricted free WiFi we believe]
It's interesting to see zero correlation between the "most expensive" list and the ReviewPro "most satisfied guests" list, even though the latter almost exclusively contains 4 and 5 star hotels (with 3 of the top 4 managed by family-owned boutique collection Red Carnation Hotels).
So it's clear the London's top 10 most expensive hotels are not considered by guest reviews (aggregated by ReviewPro across dozens of websites) as the best hotels. The ReviewPro data for London is based on 318,431 guest reviews so you'd assume it carries quite a bit of weight.
And the management of some of the "most expensive" hotels may wish to note that all the top 5 hotels in the ReviewPro shortlist offer free WiFi to their guests, despite often charging lower room rates than The Dorchester, The Mandarin Oriental, 45 Park Lane, The Soho Hotel and The Covent Garden Hotel (as well as a host of other 5 star London hotels).
You can draw your own conclusions, but for us true luxury would always include free WiFi as part of the deal. And if you're trying to locate free WiFi hotels then do check out our very own Squidoo lens of free WiFi London hotels or the great global free WiFi resource from Hotel Chatter.
Photo credits: 45 Park Lane, Wayda Dreamscape, London Hotels Insight blogger Timea, The Lanesborough, Langham Hotel, Mandarin Oriental London, Hotel 41.
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