The exterior of luxury hotel Claridge's in London. (Courtesy Photo)
As more of China’s aspiring jet setters seek out high-end experiences rather than single-minded shopping sprees, London has become a hotspot for travelers interested in soaking up the history, exclusivity, and amenities of the city’s century-plus-year-old five-star hotels.
Like their newer counterpart The Corinthia, London heritage hotels the Connaught and Claridge’s prove that true luxury is alive and well in the city’s hospitality industry, providing well-heeled travelers a sanctuary in stately Mayfair. Also like the Corinthia, the Connaught and Claridge’s are seeing a steady increase in Chinese guests, who have moved far beyond the tour buses and guided tours and have learned to pamper themselves when in London.
Opening its doors in 1897, the Connaught (Carlos Place, Mayfair) embodies classic English hospitality, with 121 well-appointed rooms, two restaurants, and warm and welcoming interiors a world apart from the chaotic crowds on Oxford Street or throngs of tourists in Covent Garden. Blending contemporary style and modern conveniences (among them Europe’s first Aman Spa and an impressive business center) with traditional perks like butler service, the Connaught is gaining popularity among China’s ultra-wealthy tourist-shopper contingent—given its auspicious location right in the heart of the Mount Street shopping area.
A sitting room in the Connaught. (Courtesy Photo)
Nearby boutiques include Chinese favorites such as Balenciaga, Moynat, Lanvin, and Marc Jacobs, as well as recent entrants to the China market, among them Pringle of Scotland and Bremont. Although Chinese guests are far outnumbered by their European, American, and Middle Eastern counterparts at the Connaught, the hotel’s unmatched privacy and discretion, impeccable service, and ideal location mean it’s only a matter of time before the most sophisticated Chinese travelers make the discovery.
Travelers looking for a slightly more contemporary five-star experience—slightly nearer to the luxury shopping mecca that is New Bond Street—regularly make their way to the Connaught’s sister hotel, Claridge’s (49 Brook Street, Mayfair). Opened in 1898 and long a refuge for royalty and aristocracy alike, Claridge’s boasts an Art Deco flair and Old World appointments unlike any other to be found in London, with idiosyncrasies like a manned elevator counterbalanced by what is arguably the city’s best and most popular afternoon tea service. (Which, as we’ve seen elsewhere in the world, is a top draw among Chinese travelers.)
With its low-key approach to the China market, Claridge’s lets its reputation grow organically among seasoned travelers, which is happening to a greater degree as more Chinese international students—and their parents—head to the city. The hotel’s afternoon tea service remains a strong draw for Chinese bloggers, media (the hotel hosted Vogue China editor Angelina Cheung on a press tour last fall), students, and part-time London residents, perhaps enticed by the hotel’s Chinese-language website and Weibo.
Vogue China Editor-in-Chief Angelica Cheung at Claridge's in London. (Weibo/Angelica Cheung)
However, the Connaught and Claridge’s are not the only ones playing the five-star game in posh Mayfair. The aptly named May Fair on Stratton Street injects a measure of chic sexiness into the neighborhood. Originally opened in 1927, the May Fair’s 404 rooms and 12 suites share space with one of London’s best spas, a casino, and the popular May Fair Kitchen. Coming off of a complete revamp and relaunch, the May Fair Kitchen boasts a new menu that’s strong on heritage, with oysters supplied by the century-old local fishmonger James Knight of Mayfair, and chops from Alden’s of Oxfordshire. Minutes away from luxury shopping on Old Bond Street and Regent Street, The May Fair is becoming a sought-after destination for China’s most discerning business travelers, globetrotting socialites, and London-based travel bloggers.
A room at the May Fair Hotel in London. (Courtesy Photo)
Address: Carlos Place, Mayfair, London, W1K 2AL
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7499 7070
Address: Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 8860
Address: Stratton Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 8LT
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7769 8200