Some elite London hotels can be a bit stuffy.
Yes, they’re luxurious, perfectly-appointed and staffed by dedicated professionals. They serve elite cuisine and offer all encompassing service most hotels wouldn’t even imagine providing. However, all of that refinement and traditional British precision comes with a price – and I don’t mean the considerable room rate. The ambiance can be overly stiff and formal. While never rude or inconsiderate in any way, a stay in these top shelf hotels can leave your feeling a little cold.
The ability to fend off that stuffiness is why I so enjoyed my stay at London’s Athenaeum Hotel. Across the street from Green Park and a short walk from that so-named London Underground stop, the Athenaeum is easy walking distance from Knightsbridge, Piccadilly and Mayfair. Standing shoulder to shoulder with other elite hotels in its modernized building, the Athenaeum manages a friendly, personalized warmth with its spot-on, professional service.
The hotel’s location is ideal for Central London. If you like to stroll, you’re 20 minutes from Parliament Square and Whitehall. Less than a half hour’s walk can take you to Covent Garden or West End theaters. Everything from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace is in easy reach. Anything farther out in the great city can be found via the Tube stop just a couple minutes away.
Upon arriving at the Athenaeum, I was greeted by the traditional uniformed doorman. But, I was greeted with a big smile and a less tight-lipped welcome than I might’ve received at a hotel down the busy street.
Once inside, check-in was a breeze. I was then given a friendly, all-inclusive tour by the hotel’s Cora Lindgren – an energetic Canadian who seemed to enjoy her job and her surroundings.
The Athenaeum includes a warmly lit lounge and a Whiskey Bar boasting rare brands from around the world. All the bottles are available for a little sampling before you choose your brand of the night. The hotel’s tea service won Best Afternoon Tea in London (according to the Tea Guild).
A small, but well-equipped and professionally-staffed spa is open into the evening hours with massage services available throughout the day. The Fitness Center is accessible anytime with a guest room key.
The guest suites are very modern and large enough to feel spacious without wasting needless square feet on needless flourishes. I enjoyed a view of the lush and green confines of Green Park
As you might expect, the beds are excellent, and the suites include all of the expected amenities – including a well-stocked minibar.
As a special behind the scenes look, Lindgren spirited me up to the Athenaeum’s penthouse area – a series of connecting rooms that be joined into one massive suite for the hotel’s more prominent guests. Lindgren let slip the name Kardashian while showing off the penthouse, but I’m not sure how the hotel survived Kim and her entourage.
Throughout my stay, every single face that greeted me from amongst the Athenaeum’s staff was amiable and upbeat. Yes, they were professional. They were formal and appropriate. They were attentive. Still, I came away from many of them with the genuine sense any of them would be happy grabbing a friendly drink with any one of the hotel’s guests after a shift.
The Athenaeum is a special place because it mixes everything an elite hotel must have with the warm attitude many of them can’t manage.