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The Baileys Hotel: Memorable Character in London

Sometimes it’s best not to do a huge amount of research when booking a hotel. Of course, one must always ensure the hotel is in a convenient neighborhood and offer the basic amenities one requires for comfort, but sometimes it’s fun to really discover the hotel upon arrival.

I did exactly that with The Bailey’s Hotel in London. I knew that it was right across the street from the Gloucester Road tube station, and convenient to the Natural History Museum, and that it was a historic hotel, but aside from that, I went in virtually blind.

There are a lot of historic hotels in London, but few, if any, are more historic than The Baileys. It’s one of the oldest hotels in the city—if not the oldest—really the first incarnation of the modern hotel. Prior to that period, the aristocracy lodged overnight in their London homes, with relatives, or at gentlemen’s clubs to which they belonged, and everyone else lodged in inns or rooming houses, which offered little to recommend their preservation.

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Opened first as a hotel in 1876, it beats by decades some of London’s more famous luxury hotels like the Ritz and the Savoy, which opened closer to the turn of the century. It was particularly popular with visitors from the United States, who praised the property’s modern conveniences including elevators and a large number of rooms with private baths.

Today, the hotel is conveniently located for travelers wishing to explore South Kensington and the cluster of museums, all built by Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert. In fact, the area is so plum with Albert’s construction projects the neighborhood was at the time popularly called “Albertopolis.”

Taking residence across several neighboring buildings in addition to the original hotel building, the hotel comprises a surprisingly large complement of rooms and suites, as the original hotel gradually expanded to take up residence in a number of adjacent buildings. The Baileys precedes the era of the grand hotel lobby, and the intimate lobby, which is contained almost entirely within the footprint of the original, feels like the great hall of a private home.

Sharp-eyed visitors will notice a lifelike black and white stuffed cat appearing to nap underneath the entryway table supporting a great display of fresh flowers. This is a replica of Simon, a cat who famously served in the Royal Navy and was awarded the Dickin Medal (also known as the “Animal Victoria Cross”) for service during the Yangtze Incident, the only cat to have been awarded the honor.

Guest rooms are designed to evoke the era of the hotel’s founding, with touches to make the rooms seem like guest rooms in the founder’s home. Vintage teacups, postcards, and a framed photo of James Bailey, the hotel’s namesake, adorn shelves. Modern conveniences also abound, like coffee and tea facilities (with Biscoff cookies!) and safes—all standard as the hotel is part of Millennium Hotels.

The hotel has two restaurants on-site: an Italian restaurant called Olives, which turns out heaping plates of antipasti and faithful pastas and grilled seafood in addition to a generous English breakfast buffet in the mornings. Bombay Brasserie specializes in Indian food, with a fine assortment of dishes from various regional cuisines equally split between meats, seafood, and vegetarian dishes.

After a busy morning of exploring museums or shopping (high fashion temples Harvey Nichols and Harrods are two tube stops away in Knightsbridge) fans of the British staple afternoon tea won’t be disappointed with a stop back to Olives for their version, which can be taken with or without champagne, and includes the standard array of finger sandwiches, decadent scones (ask whether the cream or jam goes on first—Britons have long engaged in lively debate on the subject) and a selection of teas both utterly traditional and house-special, including a vanilla-forward, refreshed take on Earl Grey.

The Takeaway

Visitors to The Bailey’s will delight in a historic hotel that’s equal parts British quirk and global comfort, with strong nods to the country’s distinct brand of quiet-but-pleasant hospitality and a fantastically ideal location for easy London adventures.

The Math

I’ve seen rates as low as £123 per night plus tax for off-peak winter weekends.

Instagrammable Moment

Views of the lobby and afternoon tea are pretty spectacular for Insta-snaps.

Loyalty Program

MyMillennium, recently relaunched by Millennium Hotels, allows guests to double their points after ten nights and redeem for rewards like upgrades or on-property dining credits.

Good To Know

Instant coffee is often standard in European hotel rooms, so finicky coffee-drinkers may prefer to stash a couple of packets of their favorite instant coffee in their carryon.

Guests who prefer to make a grand lobby entrance or burn off the afternoon tea can take the hotel’s grand staircase instead of the lifts.

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Accommodations were furnished by Millennium Hotels in preparation for this story.

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