The Royal Horseguards Hotel is a five-star luxury hotel close to Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, and London's Theatreland. The Embankment location means some rooms look out towards the River Thames and have amazing views directly opposite the London Eye and South Bank.
The late Victorian building was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, whose architectural legacy in London includes the Romanesque style Natural History Museum.
Seen from the other side of The Thames, many think the hotel looks like a fairytale French château. The neo-Gothic Renaissance Revival style looks even more stunning in the evening when the hotel is gently illuminated.
This impressive building was built in 1884 and is Grade II listed (which means it has special architectural significance and must be preserved).
The hotel is beautiful both outside and inside and is often used as a filming location. It has featured in several films, such as The Constant Gardener, Bond films Octopussy and Skyfall, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2), and TV programs Mr Selfridge and Downton Abbey.
The building began life in 1884 as the National Liberal Club, close to the heart of Westminster politics and the Houses of Parliament. Indeed the foundation stone in the cellars was laid by Sir William Gladstone, one of five Club members who went on to serve as Prime Minister.
From 1909, until his death in 1923, Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming was the first Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6. The offices were based on the eighth floor and there is an English Heritage blue plaque on the outside of the building. He was known as 'C' due to his habit of initialing papers he had read, and he always used green ink – something MI6 still does today.
During WWII most of the building was taken over by Government departments; the fifth floor was used by the Russian Embassy, the sixth floor by the American Embassy and the seventh floor by the Air Training Corps. It's said that Winston Churchill and others used secret tunnels within the building through the cellar in One Whitehall Place (next door), now the hotel's event space.
London's Metropolitan Police had its headquarters next door until the 1960s and its telephone number was Whitehall 1212. This historical link is commemorated in the name of the hotel's British cuisine restaurant: One Twenty One Two.
The building became a hotel in 1971 and expanded in 1985. Guoman Hotels acquired the hotel in 2008 and completed a multi-million-pound major refurbishment to make it their flagship hotel in London. It has been rated as 5 star since 2009.
The hotel is the perfect blend of old and new, celebrating a rich history yet in tune with today. An immaculate heritage building with up-to-date technology, all bedrooms have Egyptian cotton bed linen and a 32-inch satellite plasma TV. There's also complimentary wifi, iPod docking stations with surround sound, and waterproof LCD TVs in all bathrooms.
The luxurious bathrooms also all have underfloor heating too.
This is a large hotel with 282 bedrooms, including signature suites, many with magnificent views over the Thames.
As well as the One Twenty One Two Restaurant, there's the Equus late night bar and afternoon tea in the Lounge. Plus, the secluded outdoor terrace is a hidden gem – perfect for summer alfresco dining or evening cocktails. And you could work it all off in the private gym on the eighth floor.
The Royal Horseguards is considered a family-friendly hotel so I wanted to put this to the test. I went to stay for a night with my nine-year-old daughter during a school holiday so we could also try the Royal Horseguards Mini Afternoon Tea.
We stayed in an Executive River View room on the seventh floor which meant our views across The Thames were outstanding.
The bed was enormous and incredibly comfortable which meant even though you can hear some traffic noise from the busy Embankment, and trains at Charing Cross station, we both slept really well. I mention the sounds so you know how close the hotel is to London background noise but nothing was obtrusive enough to disturb us.
We stayed at the end of a busy school holiday week so I needed some rest and this really did the trick. Our room had two leather armchairs where I sat and read magazines and a large desk area where I did a bit of work. There are electrical outlets by the desk and armchairs but not at the bedside.
The room's lighting is controlled on panels by the door or by the bed to create mood lighting or choose bedside lamps only.
The hotel knew I was bringing a child so there was a teddy bear waiting on the bed and child-friendly toiletries too. For younger visitors, they can provide high chairs, cots and more.
I loved the separate shower area and the deep bath, along with the Elemis toiletries. I had a long soak in a bubble bath in the evening and watched TV (yes, a TV by the bath), then had an invigorating shower in the morning under a huge rainfall showerhead.
We enjoyed the buffet breakfast as there is a much wider choice than normally found even in nice hotels: three milk options for cereal and the fresh fruit salad included fruit I'd never tried before. We'd finished eating before I noticed another room with even more buffet options.
Whether staying for business or pleasure the Royal Horseguards is an excellent hotel. The high standards mean every guest is made to feel like a VIP. I'll be talking about this wonderful stay for a long time. Definitely recommended.
Address: The Royal Horseguards, 2 Whitehall Court, Whitehall, London SW1A 2EJ
Tel: 0871 376 9033
Official Website: www.theroyalhorseguards.com
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