AOL Travel reviews one of London's most iconic and historic hotels, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Written by: AOL Travel
St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Date published: 02/10/2012
4.5 / 5 stars
What's to love?
Wonderful architecture, fantastic location, luxury at its finest - all housed in one of London's most beloved historical buildings.
Tell me the story!
St Pancras was designed in the 1860s by renowned architect George Gilbert Scott. His vision of a palace-like structure was brought to life in 1868 when the station was opened as the main terminus for the Midlands. In 1873, the lavish and innovative Midland Grand hotel was opened on the site at cost of £438,000 (around £500 million today).
By the mid 1920s, competition in the capital was fierce and the hotel was beginning to become dated. The hotel struggled to compete and was forced to close in 1935. The building's chequered history since then included surviving three bombings in the Second World War before becoming the headquarters for British Rail for a period.
It was eventually put up for demolition in the 1960s, but was saved from this fate by becoming a Grade I listed building. British Rail continued to use it until the late 1980s, then laying derelict for the next 20 years. It was occasionally used for shooting films including Harry Potter and Batman and also The Spice Girls video for their first single Wannabe.
New hope came in the late Nineties, when St Pancras was chosen to serve as the main terminus for Eurostar. In 2002 Manhattan Loft Corporation won a contract to renovate the building which included a new hotel and luxury loft-apartments.
English Heritage and Marriot came on board together with hundreds of craftspeople and conservationists to work on the renovation project, ensuring no detail was missed. Restored to its former glory, the hotel reopened in May 2011 and the rest, they say is history...
The Midland Grand Hotel, Credit: Marriot
Tell me a secret!
An innovator of its age, the hotel pioneered the first lift in world (it was referred to back then as a "hydraulic ascending chamber"). It also fitted the first revolving door in Europe, the first ladies smoking room in Europe and even the first flushing hotel toilets.
St Pancras Renaissance certainly has the wow factor. From the moment you step through the doors, you feel you are transported back in time, while its modern twist makes it almost futuristic. Every area of the hotel has tells a story – even the spectacular lobby once served as the original hotels taxi rank.
The Lobby, Credit: Marriot
You'll be impressed by the staff – they're extremely passionate about the hotel and every one of them seems to have charming anecdotes about the building's history.
The place is perfect if you...
...really want to treat yourself. Guests can take tea in the lobby, drink cocktails in the Booking Office or relax in the luscious spa (equipped with sauna, steam, pool and gym), housed in the restored steam kitchen.
The Pool Area, Credit: Marriot
Best rooms in the house
The hotel is made up of 38 luxury suites in the 'old' hotel together with more than 200 bedrooms in the 'new' wing of the hotel. The rooms ooze contemporary-cool while paying respect to their grander origins. If you are lucky enough to stay in a suite, guests can enjoy views of the extensive St Pancras concourse (a must for train-spotters), exclusive use of the VIP staircase and Chambers Club Lounge (serving round-the-clock snacks & drinks).
The Chambers Suite, Credit: Marriot
Where to eat
There are two restaurants in the hotel – The Gilbert Scott, operated by Marcus Wareing and the less formal Booking Office Bar. We opted for the latter, where starters, mains and wine for two would set you back around £90. Be warned: it can be quite busy and service may be quite slow - so be prepared to wait.
The Booking Office, Credit: Marriot
Things to do, places to see...
You have London on your doorstep. But once you experience the hotel, you will not want to leave.
You can access St Pancras Station from the hotel. Perfect if you want to hop on the Eurostar to Paris after your stay.
Rooms start at £295 per person in a double room, excluding VAT. For the Royal Suite, prices go up to (wait for it) £10,000 per night.
The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, Euston Road, England NW1 2AR. Tel: +44-20-7841 3540 Web: www.marriott.com
London's unexplored attractions
Hotel review: St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London
This 17th-century building in Greenwich is one of London's real treasures, representing a turning point in English architecture. It was commissioned by the wife of James I, Anne of Denmark and was the first fully classical building to be built in England. It was completed in 1635 and the design was revolutionary at a time when even the best buildings were Tudor-influenced and constructed with red brick. Today it's a museum that houses a fine art collection. Don't miss the Tulip Stairs and the stunning Great Hall.
London's very own secret garden the Chelsea Physic Garden is a spot of beauty, relaxation and serenity in the centre of the city. It was founded in 1763 for the study of the medicinal qualities of plants and was one of the most significant centres of botany and plant exchange in the world throughout the 1700s. Here you'll find greenhouses, a Grade II listed rock garden and a statue of Sir Hans Sloane.
In 2010, The Old Vic opened a new performance space under Waterloo Station for productions, performances and installations. The Old Vic Tunnels are gritty yet magical and here you can see pop-up art, film screenings and theatre performances. The Screening Room is run entirely by volunteers, giving a voice to aspiring actors, set designers, costume makers and directors. Visit oldvictunnels.com to find out what's on now.
The first Duke of Wellington's magnificent home, famously known as Number 1 London, is one of London's most well-built mansions and is still owned by the Wellington family. Inside you can see the Duke's amazing art collection, plus a display of porcelain, silver and furniture showcased in stunning interiors. Be sure to get a close look at the art collection, which includes paintings by Valazquez, Rubens and Van Dyck. Visit english-heritage.org.uk.
In 1666, the Great Fire of London took out 87 parish churches and the old St Paul's Cathedral. 52 churches were rebuilt, including St Paul's and St Stephen Walbrook. The church of St Stephen Walbrook claims to have 'the most perfectly proportioned interior in the world' and is a serene place to visit. It has an awe-inspiring dome and the crypt was home to the first branch of the Samaritans, where a picture of founder Chad Varah and the telephone he used to take calls are housed.
Visit the world's oldest surviving grand music hall in East London, which opened in 1858. Over the years, it's survived two world wars and been a rag warehouse. Years of neglect have taken its toll on the building, yet its abandoned look is part of the attraction. Stop for a drink in The Mahogony Bar, which dates back to 1725. Visit wiltons.org.uk to find out what's on now.
Tennis fans will love learning about the traditions and triumphs at Wimbledon at this interesting museum. Here you can explore the sport's evolution from a garden party game to a multi-million dollar sport. There are Championship trophies, a cinema capturing the science of tennis, video footage of the most memorable tennis tournaments and a collection of memorabilia dating back to 1555.
The Foundling Museum is home to fine collections of eighteenth-century art, interiors and history. It's where you can see the Foundling Hospital Collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and photographs with works by the likes of Tracey Emin, William Hogarth and Francis Hayman. Until April 2012 there is the Quentin Blake - As large as life exhibition, which showcases work created by the famous illustrator for four hospitals in the UK and France.
As the oldest public park in London and one of the city's most important historic parks, 'Vicky Park' in the East End is a must-visit if you enjoy relaxing outdoors. The park is home to a Grade II listed drinking fountain, a lake and often hosts open-air music festivals. This summer, Victoria Park will be transformed for the 2012 Olympics to show the events live on huge screens, plus there'll be live music and cultural entertainment for all to enjoy.
If you're searching for a quirky museum to visit, look no further than The Fan Museum in Greenwich, which houses the world's finest collection of fans, with some dating back to the 18th century. The exhibitions change every four months and are presented in a 1721 house, providing a quaint and elegant setting. Be sure to stop for afternoon tea in the stunning Japanese-style Orangery that overlooks a pretty garden once you've checked out the collection of fans.