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London's Best Hotels for $150 or Less

In a city where budget lodgings can be spartan, here are places for a stylish stay

September 22, 2002|CAROLYN McGUIRE

LONDON — I was on a mission: Find at least 15 good-quality London hotels where two can stay for $150 or less a night, including breakfast and the dreaded 17.5% tax. In 10 days, I found 20 worthy candidates that met my bang-for-the-buck challenge.

With the pound worth about $1.56, that meant no hotel could cost more than 96 pounds. And the room had to meet my standards: a private bath, good bedding and lighting, clean surroundings with some charm and style, a friendly staff and a reasonably convenient location. An Underground (Tube) station had to be within walking distance--with as few stops and line changes as possible to make it easy to reach popular tourist sites, restaurants and shops.

I visited about 50 hotels, saw dozens of rooms and stayed at four places in four neighborhoods. My research was a mere blip on the hotel radar screen, considering there are 1,233 hotels in the city and 161,235 beds, according to the London Tourist Board. Before the trip I spent hours looking at dozens of Web sites that specialize in budget hotels. I also looked through numerous guidebooks.

Being familiar with London from past visits, I steered clear of upscale neighborhoods such as Mayfair and St. James's, which are home to expensive hotels.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 24, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 10 inches; 370 words Type of Material: Correction
London hotels--In "London's Best Hotels for $150 or Less" in the Sept. 22 Travel section, a caption incorrectly identified the Cranley Hotel on Bina Gardens as the Cranley Gardens Hotel.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 29, 2002 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 5 Features Desk 3 inches; 118 words Type of Material: Correction
London Hotels--In "London's Best Hotels for $150 or Less" in the Sept. 22 Travel section, a caption incorrectly identified the Cranley Hotel on Bina Gardens as the Cranley Gardens Hotel.

Which brings us to my 20. Though they call themselves hotels, they're mainly bed-and-breakfasts because breakfast (continental or English) is included in the rate. Most places are small and do not have elevators (staff usually will help carry luggage to rooms) or air-conditioning, features that are tough to find in this price category. All rates have been converted at 1 pound to $1.54, the exchange rate as of the Travel section's press time Tuesday, and rounded off to the nearest dollar. All but one of the hotels accept credit cards.

Here's a neighborhood-by-neighborhood look at my finds:

Bloomsbury

This area, known for literature, art and learning, is home to the British Museum, which houses the Elgin marbles, reliefs from the Parthenon in Athens and the Great Court, which was recently built around the former British Library's Reading Room building. (George Bernard Shaw and Karl Marx liked to use it, and part of it is still used for research.) Not far from the museum is the British Library (96 Euston Road), where visitors can see the Magna Carta and a copy of a Gutenberg Bible.

Bloomsbury's literary roots were made famous by the Bloomsbury Group of writers (Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey, among others) and artists (Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant) who lived in the area and were active from the early 1900s to about the 1930s.

*

Harlingford Hotel

This 43-room hotel, located at Marchmont and Cartwright Gardens, has been in the family of proprietor Andrew Davies for three generations.

The hotel, made up of three early 19th century townhouses, has recently been renovated and looks terrific. Especially eye-catching is the sophisticated lounge, with modern sofas and chairs in purple. The large windows that overlook Cartwright Gardens have draperies in purple and white. A gas fireplace with a large portrait hanging above is a focal point.

No. 11, in the back of the hotel, has a canopy bed that takes up almost the entire room. No. 18 has twin beds and faces the garden.

All rooms have non-satellite TV, direct-dial phones, computer outlets, coffee-and tea-making gear and hair dryers. Most have showers only. Some front rooms have double-glazed windows.

English breakfast is served in a room opposite the lounge, which faces the gardens, to which guests can get a key.

No air-conditioning (fans are available); no elevator for the five floors.

Harlingford Hotel, 61-63 Cartwright Gardens; 011-44-20-7387-1551, fax 011-44-20-7387-4616, www.harlingfordhotel.com. Tube: Russell Square, Euston.

Rates: single, $112; double and twin, $140; triple, $156; quad, $168.

*

Jenkins Hotel

This hotel moved to the top of my list when I found the resident black Labrador retrievers sitting at the entrance on its Web site.

Down the street from the Harlingford, the hotel is more English cozy in character. Botanical prints hang in the hallway, where windows are dressed in blue and white draperies; a blue rug with white accents covers the stairway.

Floral curtains and antique-style furniture are used throughout the 13-room hotel, co-owned for 16 years by Felicity Langley-Hunt and Sam Bellingham. A few years ago the 18th century hotel was featured in an episode of the TV series "Agatha Christie's Poirot."

There is no lounge or lobby (guests get keys to come and go), but the kitchen, with a huge pine table, serves as a reception area. There's also no elevator, which means that if you're staying on the top floor (their fourth, our fifth), there are 51 steps from the entrance. But staff will help with your luggage.

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