Christmas in the Capital

Kensington Hotel
Kensington Hotel
Are you dreaming of a cold Christmas? Let’s be honest, there is no better place to be during the most wonderful time of the year than the UK, a country full of full of festive opportunities. From Christmas markets and shopping, to ice skating rinks, cold winter walks, crisp mornings with bright blue skies, hot toddies and roaring fires, there are lots of magical things to do at Christmas in England, especially in London. From impressive displays, West End shows and Winter Wonderland, the city’s lights seem to shine brighter at this enchanting time of the year and we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else!
 
Whether you prefer to spend this special time shopping the streets of London or cuddled up in the countryside, here are our top tips on where to hang your head before Santa’s big arrival.
 
Known as one of London’s most affluent and exclusive neighbourhoods, the area of Kensington has been popular for decades. Having been home to the monarchy at Kensington Palace since 1689 and crowned the official ‘royal borough’ since 1901, the stunning south side of Hyde Park shows off beautiful avenues, garden squares, quaint colourful streets and one off boutiques, a haven for shoppers and foodies alike. In the heart of the district yet off the beaten track, the beautiful Kensington Hotel, a property operated by The Doyle Collection is perfectly positioned to enjoy the best that London has to offer this Christmas, with all of the festive joys on its doorstep. It is also just a short stroll away from three of London’s top museums – The Victoria and Albert, Natural History and Science Museum and is very close to the Royal Albert Hall. Knightsbridge, with Harrods, Harvey Nics and Kensington Gardens are within easy reach and South Kensington Tube is just around the corner giving you easy access to the rest of the city.
Kensington Hotel
Kensington Hotel
The heritage of the hotel adds to the Christmas charm, with roaring fires found in most rooms, rugs draping large sofas, heavy warm-coloured curtains keeping out the cold and heart-felt hospitality making this little haven really feel like a home away from home. Style is taken incredibly seriously and everything from handpicked furniture to the light installations have been selected by either Chairman Bernie Gallagher, The Doyle Collection’s in-house design team or Alexander Waterworth, from the east London-based design collective. The fresh new look of the hotel’s Drawing Room has made it a favourite daytime hangout for its well-heeled west London neighbours, providing the perfect spot for morning coffee or an elegant Afternoon Tea. Even though it is considered a townhouse, the hotel is incredibly spacious with even the smallest rooms feeling larger than life.
 
The Kensington is home to 126 rooms and 24 suites, each of which have been individually designed with elegant fabrics and custom furnishings to complement the hotel’s period architecture. For ultimate refined London luxury, book The Brompton Suite or The Knightsbridge Suite – some of London’s most beautiful accommodations, or if this isn’t enough, the two can be combined to create the hotel’s signature – The Kensington Suite. This transforms into an incredible 2,000 sq. ft, three bedroom space with two separate living rooms and striking floor-to-ceiling windows, antique furnishings, original artworks and spectacular 1930s Murano and Waterford Crystal chandeliers – the ultimate Christmas present to yourself.  The Studio Suites are also spectacular, with old-worldly four-poster beds and gorgeous marble bathrooms – the accents of gold and blue also added to our festive cheer.
 
The hotel’s public spaces effortlessly flow, adding to the home-away-from-home vibe. This includes the hotel’s restaurant, Town House, which is made up of interconnected drawing rooms, bursting with natural light on the ground floor, complete with stylish décor, hand-picked furnishings, open fireplaces and intimate porticos overlooking Kensington’s tree-lined avenues. The kitchen is supervised by Executive Chef Steve Gibbs, who trained under the great British chefs Jason Atherton and Mark Hix. His lunch and dinner menus focus on fresh, seasonal, locally-sourced modern English cuisine with an accent on healthy options, including superfood salads, gluten-free Afternoon Tea and freshly made juices courtesy of The Juicery. Travelling from the Middle East, we really appreciated the traditional English food on offer, from great cuts of meat, juicy roast potatoes and apple crumble, the team really did warm our bellies from morning through night. The Afternoon Tea is spectacular and we love how all intolerances or allergies are catered for, however big or small they may be. The atmosphere is casual but the staff most definitely are not – they are on the ball, knowledgeable and attentive, turning a good evening into a great one.
Kensington Hotel
Kensington Hotel
Next door is K Bar, the hotel’s watering hole. Eluding the air of a gentlemen’s club, the bar showcases oak-panelled walls and inviting sofas upholstered in racing green and royal blue. Offering a wonderful step-back-in-time feel, this is your time to chill – take advantage of the comfy space and sink back into one of the dark-purple couches whilst you await a quirky concoction from one of the award-winning mixologists.
 
Fitness fans will also find pleasure in the hotel’s fully equipped gym or those that prefer to work off the mince pies in the great outdoors can take advantage of the 242 acres of nearby Hyde Park. The hotel also offers guests their own Kensington blue Pashley vintage bikes as an alternative to explore the locality, with the option of a picnic prepared by the culinary team. For after dark, guests can party with the locals at one of west London’s exclusive private members clubs, Albert’s, with exclusive access for hotel guests.
 
After a long day of shopping, skating or eating – whatever your personal pleasures may be – the hotel offers the ultimate way to kick back and relax. With a wide range of massages and beauty treatments delivered by Viva Therapies’ and using Temple Spa products, you can enjoy a treatment in the privacy of your own room, available from 8am to midnight daily.
 
Additionally, The Kensington has announced their new family package: ‘Suite Nannies’, available to book from 21st December, inspired by the release of the new Mary Poppins Returns film starring Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep. Guests can book a stay in one of the hotel’s top suites to guarantee a city-break to remember for the whole family. The package includes their very own ‘Mary Poppins’ style nanny from the renowned Imperial Nannies agency for 12 hours per day, as well as local excursions, games and tasty treats. The Imperial Nannies package includes three nights in either The Kensington (from £7,500) or The Knightsbridge and The Brompton Suites (from £5,500), an Imperial Nanny for 12 hours per day, excursions for the children, one afternoon tea for four and one bottle of Perrier Jouet’s Belle Epoque Blanc De Blancs champagne with small plates at K Bar. The package is available to book between December 21st – March 2019. Nannies can be further tailored to suit each family’s requirements at an additional cost.
Kensington Hotel
Kensington Hotel
If a city stay isn’t quite your cup of tea, then an escape to the countryside might be just what the doctor ordered. Having reopened its doors on 1st August 2018, the gorgeous University Arms in Cambridge has quickly reasserted itself as a landmark hotel in the historic city, overlooking the famous Parker’s Piece. The hotel first opened in 1834 and, after a two year and £80m transformation, is now home to 192 beautiful and ‘playfully’ designed rooms and suites.
 
It was originally built as a coaching inn to provide a resting point for travellers before the development of railway network in Britain. A few years later in 1848, in the shadows of the hotel the defining rules of football were invented by locals playing on Parker’s Piece. The hotel has always been innovative and was the first hotel in city to have electricity, lavatories on each floor, while in 1904 the owner made the risky decision to convert the stable yard into a garage due to the increasing popularity of the motorcar.
 
The rooms and suites are definitely one of the biggest draws to staying at University Arms. Each room is painted in specially mixed shades of Cambridge blue, complete with private libraries, retro desks, white tiled bathrooms and old-school art and posters hung from the wall. Whilst the rooms are quaint and cosy, each suite is complete with private library curated by Heywood Hill, helping to retain a classically Cambridge feel and many on the top floor have access to private balconies or roof terraces overlooking Parker’s Piece, with bathrooms located inside the original domed turrets. The Hawking Suite is the largest, with a series of windows allowing lots of light.
 
The classic Edwardian design with a modern twist is found throughout – a vision that was pioneered by the legendary classical architect, John Simpson and interior designer of the moment, Martin Brudnizki. With John in charge of overseeing the replacement of the building’s 1960s and ‘70s extensions and restoring the hotel’s façade to its former glory (in-keeping with Cambridge’s better-known architectural heritage), Martin Brudnizki was in-charge of bringing the interiors back to life. In fact, University Arms is the first complete hotel project in the UK that Martin Brudnizki has worked on. He has been mindful to create an environment reminiscent of school days past, lazy afternoons spent on the banks of the River Cam and the raucous revelry of students. Martin, with the help of Hayward Hill, also spearheaded The Library and has been responsible for filling it with a brilliant collection of books. We loved the lobby, which wowed us from the get go and the public bathrooms, where there are readings from Wind in the Willows.
 
The hotel also boasts a destination restaurant, bar, event space, underground valet car park and gym. When we are not relaxing in the comfort of our rooms, the Parker’s Tavern, by Chef Tristan Welch, is where you will find us – especially on a cold winter’s day. Inspired by the communal dining halls synonymous with Cambridge Colleges, this typically English tavern serves locally sourced, seasonal food, with every dish designed to be a whimsical re-imagining of a British classic, sourced from field, fen and England’s seas. Alongside the 110-cover restaurant, Parker’s Tavern is also home to a 61-cover bar which leads into the hotel’s beautiful library, where you can sample a ‘Historical Cambridge Afternoon Tea’. With Christmas on the horizon, prepare for helpings of turkey with all the trimmings, warm mince pies and mulled wine. Continental breakfast is also included with every stay – think a la carte options and delicious serve yourself treats.
 
If the above isn’t quite quintessentially British enough for you, the hotel offers bicycles to all their guests, providing a great way to see the city.