5 uber-awesome urban hotels

Tired of large, faceless chain hotels when you visit a city or town? Sometimes it can feel as if every metropolis is identical, with the same dreary décor, mediocre meals and stand-offish service. Even if you’re just visiting somewhere overnight – perhaps for business – you should make sure your hotel is what you’re after – so that you feel refreshed and full of the joys of spring after your stay.
The Good Hotel Guide includes many characterful alternatives. We’ve picked five awesome hotels in five of the UK’s most popular cities to visit.

1. London

So many hotels, so much choice. Any visitor to London can be faced with bemusement as to where to stay and what to expect in the capital.

We recommend Hazlitt’s to give you an authentic taste of luxurious London – a highly individual quirky hotel, in a group of historic Soho buildings. It’s filled with old architectural features, old furniture, old books and paintings. Guests ring a bell to enter; inside, ‘the welcome is warm’. Elaborately furnished bedrooms have original panelled walls, silk curtains and a period bathroom. Guests have use of a sitting room and a library with an honesty bar; a simple breakfast has fruit salad, pastries and rolls.

This hotel is also in a convenient location for theatres and restaurants and within comfortable walking distance of the British Museum.

Hazlitt’s, 6 Frith Street, London W1D 3JA. www.hazlittshotel.com

2. Bath

We bet when Jane Austen’s characters came to visit this beautiful city they would have wanted a hotel with a warm welcome and bespoke attention. Any visitor to the charming city will be spoilt by the choices of what to do – lovely countryside, gorgeous architecture and great shops. And the choice of hotels could leave a visitor scratching their head too.

We recommend The Queensberry. This is a central, but quiet boutique hotel which is very pretty – it occupies four 18th-century town houses close to the Circus and within easy walking distance of the main attractions. Great personal service – the helpful staff will even park your car.  The bedrooms’ decor is modern in style, contrasting with their Georgian proportions. Breakfast has a good buffet and good, freshly cooked hot dishes.

And when you’re tired of seeing the sights of Bath, relax at the rear of the hotel where there are four linked courtyard gardens.

The Queensberry, 4-7 Russell Street, Bath BA1 2QF. www.thequeensberry.co.uk

3. Nottingham

Robin Hood’s band of merry men camped out in Sherwood Forest, but that’s not going to work these days. Nottingham is a vibrant city with lots going on day and night. There’s a wide range of accommodation, but for a luxury stay where you feel like a home from home, try Hart’s Hotel.

Owned by Tim Hart, this modern, purpose-built hotel has a great position overlooking the city. Close to the castle, and a short stroll from the centre, it has a secluded garden and courtyard. The bedrooms are small but well equipped, with a work area, flat-screen TV with DVD player, and fresh milk in the fridge; garden rooms have French doors leading to a terrace with outdoor seating. Dine on breakfast, informal meals, afternoon tea or order something from the 24-hour room service if you get peckish at any time of the day or night!

Hart’s Hotel, Standard Hill, Park Row, Nottingham NG1 6GN. www.hartsnottingham.co.uk

4. Oxford

Even if you were clever enough to study at Oxford University you might get a little bit confused when you try to book a hotel in the city with its “dreaming spires”. You want to make sure you’re booked right in the centre, near to the colleges, the lovely restaurants and the boutique shops so that you can experience the quintessential Englishness of Oxford.

We recommend Old Bank, a conversion of three old stone buildings, which is located in a fabulous position – on the High Street opposite All Souls College. Inside the hotel you can admire the owner’s extensive art collection which is on display throughout: there are large canvases in the bar/brasserie, Quod. Food here is abundant and breakfast has an extensive choice of cooked options and a small buffet. A real bonus is the hotel’s car park – parking in Oxford is notoriously expensive.

Old Bank, 92–94 High Street, Oxford OX1 4BJ. www.oldbank-hotel.co.uk

5. York

The grand old Duke of York could march into York and find enough hotels for all his 10,000 men – but not all of them would leave them feeling ready to march up to the top of the hill the next day. Steer away from chain hotels – we recommend the sumptuous Middlethorpe Hall and Spa for an energising and refreshing stay in the beautiful city.

In beautiful gardens with a splendid walk to the river, this graceful William and Mary country mansion is on the outskirts of York – but only a mile and a half from the centre. Owned by the National Trust, it is managed by Lionel Chatard. Stylish without being staid, the public rooms have original antiques, elegant furnishings, gilded mirrors, and paintings. The service is discreet. The best bedrooms, in the main house, have a sitting room and gas coal fire. For true relaxation, book yourself a couple of treatments in the spa or take a dip in the indoor swimming pool.

Middlethorpe Hall & Spa, Bishopthorpe Road, York YO23 2GB. www.middlethorpe.com

Remember when travelling to any city, research always pays off and a one-night business stopover came become a night to remember for the rest of your life. Happy travelling!

Fanatical about travelling and grammar, Kathryn Hearn loves to write about holidaying, hotels and hot spots to see. A former BBC journalist, she is now associate editor of the Good Hotel Guide,  the leading independent guide to hotels in Great Britain and Ireland. It is written for the reader seeking impartial advice on finding a good place to stay – hotels cannot buy their entry as they do in most rival guides.