Four luxurious London hotels for a tip-top break in the capital

Twinkling lights, cool shops, amazing shows – there’s so much to love in London at this time of year. The capital can, at first, seem a rough, gray place when the hours turn back, but it certainly begins to show a more cheerful face in the lead-up to Christmas, with festive parades in Mayfair storefronts, bustling markets popping up in Hyde Park and in Southbank, all sorts of Fun entertainment to revive cold winter evenings. It’s no wonder that for many locals, December shows the city at its best and brightest.

So, whether you’re looking for a retail treat in Knightsbridge or some West End sightseeing, here are the best places for a magical Christmas bash.

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

Knightsbridge

Best for: great food

A place of pride in the heart of Knightsbridge, right across from Harvey Nichols, this is the perfect place for Christmas shopping. Inside, the lobby of this towering Edwardian building is a sight in itself, all marble walls, gorgeous open fireplaces, an entire wall of deep purple and rust red hydrangeas and fitting doorways. The bedrooms are equally amazing. Our suite – a presidential suite – was huge with a huge living room, flat screen TV dominating one wall and a wall of windows overlooking Hyde Park on the other. There was a modern freestanding oval bathtub, the firm bed was big enough for four people, the minibar was a full closet – loose leaf tea, delicious chocolate fudge candy, every conceivable soul… Even the desk was filled with thoughtful touches like Tipp – For example, fresh rubber and staplers, plus a rack of curated novels by Julian Barnes and John le Carré.

We relaxed in the downstairs spa, with heated jacuzzi, large lengths pool (with fireplace) and well-equipped gym. The treatments are beautifully selected. We completed a ‘yin and yang’ questionnaire, then the masseuse customized Aromatherapy Associates oils according to our moods (we included lemongrass, cardamom and coriander). The highlight, however, is the two-Michelin-star diner by Heston Blumenthal. The dishes are woven in a historical sense (meat fruit, a chicken liver parfait wrapped in tangerine jelly and designed to look like mandarin oranges, is one of the most popular), and the service is impeccable (we, a party of three, had three waiters and bartenders looking after us). Ask for the table by the glass wall overlooking the kitchen – no sign of Heston, unfortunately, but watching the chefs at work is more like watching a beautifully synchronized orchestra than a busy Saturday night restaurant.

Stella likes: Watching spit-roasted pineapple topped with caramel rolls on the grill at dinner by Heston Blumenthal, and seeing the preparation of Tipsy Cake, one of the best desserts we’ve tasted.

out and about: No need to take a tube or taxi from here. On one side is Hyde Park, a great place for a morning run or a Boris’ bike. Horseback riding in the park (hydeparkstables.com) can also be booked. Knightsbridge has every designer store you could possibly want, plus popular department stores Harvey Nichols and Harrods, along with street favorites like Zara. Check the hotel’s website for a list of additional experiences, from a tour of London’s markets and food halls to a private tour of the British Museum (britishmuseum.org). V&A is also within walking distance – pick up the end Alice: The Curious and Curiouser exhibition running until December 31 (vam.ac.uk).

How do I do it: Room rates start from £892 per night. Special offer with the new Travel Again package starts from £520 per night; For more information, call 020 7325 2000 or visit mandarinoriental.com. Read the full expert review here

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