Is one of London's most legendary hotels all it's cracked up to be?
When it comes to luxury hotels, it doesn’t get much more iconic than the Dorchester in London.
The property — located on the edge of Hyde Park, just a quick walk from Buckingham Palace — first opened its doors in 1931, and has pretty much had a revolving door of celebrities since.
Queen Elizabeth (then, still a princess) attended an event at the hotel the night before her engagement to Prince Philip was announced in 1947. A few months later, Prince Philip had his bachelor party in one of their suites. Elizabeth Taylor stayed at the hotel with all seven of her husbands, and she launched her White Diamonds perfume in the ballroom. The Beatles held a press junket in the ballroom, too.
Royals like Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Princess Margaret have all visited the hotel on multiple occasions. You get the picture: Their clientele is packed with stars.
And though I am not a star, I recently had the chance to sleep like one during a two-night stay at the Dorchester. My expectations, I can’t lie, were high. Typically, when I travel, I’m sleeping in a budget-friendly AirBnB or on a friend’s couch. The Dorchester was a world away from that.
And I soon realized that it would live up to any and all expectations. I was struck by the hotel’s opulence from the minute I walked in the door: The lobby is covered in fresh flowers, with a scent that makes it seem like you just stepped into a greenhouse.
It opens up into a promenade, where guests can have breakfast and afternoon tea during the day. I tried the latter, and it was epic — filled with buttery scones and endless cups of tea. The promenade is lined with entrances to other rooms and restaurants on the sides: China Tang, the Cantonese-inspired bar and restaurant where visitors are most likely to spot a celeb on a Monday night; the Dorchester’s Grill, which reopened in 2014 and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner; and Alain Ducasse, a restaurant with three Michelin stars.
Travelers can explore the promenade and all the hotel’s restaurants whether they’re staying there or not.
Guests, however, can eventually head upstairs, where the hallways on each floor are decorated in a different bright print. I stayed on the fifth floor, which was in pink. And if you notice a distinct smell wafting down each floor of the Dorchester, it’s no mistake: Each has its own scent. Sadly, the smells are not for sale in any form.
A room at the Dorchester
The standard rooms are spacious and elegant. There are king-size beds, bathrooms covered in marble, and complimentary cheese delivered at night. There are even luxury pajamas in the closet (though you’ll find an added charge on your final bill if you take them!). During my two night stay, I slept so well that when I woke up the next morning, I had a brief moment of panic — where was I? What was this dark room and why was I in this giant, extremely comfortable bed? It didn’t take too long to come to my senses.
The hotel’s suites — which I didn’t stay in, but I did get a peek inside! — are on another level. There are 15, including the Royal Suite, which is so top-secret you won’t find photos of it online, and the Harlequin Suite, which was Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite.
Each suite has watercolor paintings and drawings hanging on the walls with something very special in common: They’re all by none other than Prince Charles.
As for my own stay at the hotel? To be honest, I didn’t want it to end. And can you blame me? The decadent afternoon tea, the hotel room that outsized my N.Y.C. apartment, the delicious breakfast that you can order straight to your door in the morning, and some of London’s best-known landmarks right outside the front door. A stay at the Dorchester deserves a spot on anyone’s bucket list.