Look, London is expensive. You know it, we know it, and even if we didn't, every guidebook in the world knows it and will tell you so by page 5.
So if you're heading to the capital for a long stay, a budget hotel – or better still, a friend's spare room – is probably the way to go.
On the other hand, if you're staying for 1-2 nights, suddenly London's luxury hotel scene opens right up to you. There are few better cities in the world to have a short term blow out where the building you're staying in is as memorable as the city around it.
Here we round up the best London hotels for a short stay with your significant other. They range from the reasonable to the eye-watering, but they all have a special something to recommend them above the rest.
The one with an unbeatable location: ME London (main picture)
It's hard to imagine a slicker all-round package for a one-night weekend stay than the Foster & Partners-designed ME hotel in the old Marconi building at one end of the Aldwych opposite Waterloo Bridge. From the moment you arrive in the reception area which features an impressive 30 metre atrium, it's hard not to feel as if you have docked onto a luxury space station. The minimalist and monochrome rooms are cleverly kitted out and include various light settings which only add to the sci-fi feel. Upstairs is a very cool terrace which serves brunch during the day and becomes a destination bar by night.
The STK steak restaurant is glamorous and buzzy, while the in-house Italian is a little more laid-back. Oh, and did we mention the location that perfectly straddles East and West, and is within throwing distance of a post-checkout stroll along the Thames or shopping trip to Covent Garden. A booking you won't regret.
The one with the best views: Shangri-La
The real reason to pick the Shangri-La over any other luxury hotel in London is, of course, the breathtaking views. Located at the top of The Shard – the capital's tallest (and increasingly iconic) structure – the whole of the city is on display, whether you're eating, swimming or propped up on your bed. Watching the light change in the sky as London sleeps, wakes, works and plays is really something special. Luckily, the hotel and its staff do not rest on their laurels as a result of the Shangri-La's huge advantage – the rooms are immaculate, the European-Asian food and inventive cocktails superb (at TĪNG and GŎNG respectively) and the indoor pool at (almost) the very top is a small slice of heaven. Then even run regular Cultural Salon events too – the first was with designer Paul Smith, with many more exciting speakers planned for the year ahead.
The one with the private members club: The Hospital Club
The Hospital Club has been one of London's most welcoming and imaginatively ran private members clubs for year, providing the city's creative professionals with relaxing work spaces and an excellent calendar of art events and parties.
This year, they opened their door to non-members with fifteen hotel rooms that include full use of the club (all from the heart of Covent Garden). The best bit? The rooms are among the most delightful in the capital, full of quirky, interesting features and luxuriously finished with warm wood and stained glass.
The one with the hidden secrets: Batty Langleys
It's hard to know where to begin describing this boutique hotel in Shoreditch, so let us start by listing some things it is not: modern, sleek, minimalist, boring. Instead, it's a slightly bonkers, absolutely beautifully designed and fantastically original Downton Abbey-esque bolthole situated (somewhat incongruously) on the cusp of East London's trendiest quarters. Full of books, fireplaces and ornate touches, it bucks every contemporary trend for hotels and is all the better for it.
There is no restaurant at Batty Langleys (although a wonderfully cosy and well-stocked honesty bar is free to use and they will deliver an A+ bacon sandwich to your room for breakfast), meaning most of the focus has been put onto the rooms. They are uniformly stunning - lavishing appointed with cheeky and surprising design details (one has a toilet accessible via hidden door in the book case). It really is like stepping into another era, and yet the feel is fun, not stuffy. For an imaginative choice in a great part of town, look no further.
The beautiful one: 11 Cadogan Gardens
From the entrance onwards, it is clear that a visit to 11 Cadogan is a visit to one of London's most aesthetically pleasing boutique hotels. Inside the sumptuous drawing room, library and terrace only enhance this impression, as do the glorious staircases. Classically British in design, you'll fall for the place right away - and that's before you've even reached the stunning bedrooms - feeling for all the world like the head of an important Victorian townhouse.
Head downstairs into restaurant Tartufo, though, and suddenly you're transported to an elegant example of contemporary fine dining. Chef Manuel Oliveri has put together a menu of contemporary European cuisine that strikes the perfect balance between pristine presentation and full, robust flavours. If you're looking to explore Chelsea and Knightsbridge, you won't find a more relaxing and satisfying base than this.
The one with the park: The Wellesley
Before we step inside, let's take a moment to appreciate where The Wellesley is in London: Hyde Park Corner is basically its front lawn, with Buckingham Palace and all the jazz a stone's throw away (don't throw stones: the Queen gets upset).
Inside the ground floor of this compact Art Deco hotel – made out of beautiful 1920s townhouse – is both the fantastic Oval Restaurant, serving some of city's best fine Italian dining, the decadent Cigar Lounge (with a secluded humidor) and the Jazz Lounge where – you guessed it – soothing live jazz plays over the cocktails.
For such an intimate hotel, the spacious rooms come as a delightful surprise: even the most modest suites have ample room to relax, all the amenities you'd expect from a luxury hotel and are tastefully decorated. All in all: one of the very best options for a treat in the capital.
The one with the whisky: Athenaeum
This family-run 5-star hotel in Mayfair is as charming and perfectly located a spot as you could wish for, with one significant upperhand over most its rivals. 270 bottles decorate their specially appointed whisky bar, manned by an expert Sommerlier. Walk in an amateur, leave an expert in the greatest drink of them all, and what foods to pair it with.
The one with the history: The Savoy
The name alone conjures the height of British glamour, as it has more or less since the doors first opened in 1889 when it was London's first and only luxury hotel. Today, the rich history of The Savoy sits comfortably alongside first class modern service and facilities – the art deco of the famous American Bar is joined by the contemporary luxury of the Beaufort Bar, and a traditional roast – still one of the best in town – is available, besides the best in modern seafood at Kaspars. Decades on, The Savoy is still among the very best places to stay in town, and no where else can match it for basking in the sense of historic splendour, and thinking of the innumerable famous faces who have passed through it before you.
The one that wants you to go explore: Nadler Victoria
Staying at any of the other hotels on this list – particularly for a short stay – you're going to feel that familiar pressure to make the most of the facilities. The problem with that is you use up valuable time that could be spent exploring one of the best cities in the world. To solve this problem, the Nadler forgoes having its own spa / restuarant / gym and insteads set you up with access to equivalent outposts near its enviable location – dinner and a show, for example, at the excellent St James Theatre just next door.
The upshot for you? A beautifully equipped room a stones throw from Buckingham Palace, far lower rates than you'd normally pay for a hotel in the area and the chance to explore rather than stay in 'getting your money's worth'. It's a winning formula.
The one the royals love: The Ritz
The name of this hotel is so tied up in our idea of luxury and British history, it can be hard to believe it actually exists. That sense of unreality is only heightened by actually walking through the doors, where you enter another, far more refined world in which every corner of the building is lavishly appointed and the staff - understandably - ooze with pleasure at where they work. Not for nothing is the Ritz where the royal family prefer to stay: within seconds you feel like royalty, too.
The stunning dining areas - topped by the main restaurant which ranks among the grandest in London - serve peerless British fare, while our favourite spot is definitely The Rivoli, a small bar made up of conspiratorial hubs and corners where the cocktails hit the sweet spot (so often missed in London) between classic and inventive. The rooms are as you'd expect: huge and traditionally glamourous. The Ritz is in one of the best posts in London but really, there is very little chance you'll feel like leaving.
The one with the rooftop bar: Mondrian London At Sea Containers
The Morgan Group's latest opening is on the vast site of a former shipping company and the maritime theme is everywhere, from model ships to the impressive Tom Dixon-designed ground floor that curves like a ship's hull from the lobby right through to the downstairs riverside restaurant, Sea Containers, and bar, Dandelyan, which features a huge green marble bar running down its centre and is headed up by Ryan Chetiyawardana (also known as Mr Lyan), who has twice been crowned the UK's best barman.
On the top floor, another bar, The Rumpus Room (above), has incredible views across the river to the city and back towards the West End. All that's left to do is nurse your inevitable hangover in the impressively calming and dazzling white Agua Bathhouse & Spa downstairs. Twenty four hours very well spent.
The one with a neighbourhood feel: Thompson Belgraves
Anyone who's stayed in a Thompson Hotel in the US will understand they have a good thing going on. How to describe a Thompson hotel? Each pulls off a neighbourhood feel with a fairly distinct design and atmosphere, but with a few common threads that bring them together. In the wrong hands, details like Sixties carpets and ironic piped elevator music shouldn't work. But Thompson have an ability to pull off 'cool' without trying too hard. The rooms are hard to fault too, sleek, feature-heavy and making expert use of space.
The real pull of the Belgraves location is that it manages to be both super central but still quiet and relaxing. Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Mayfair are all walkable, making it perfect for a citybreak for Londoners as well as out of town visitors. Or you could just decide to never leave and make use of in-house restaurant Pont St and relaxed mezzanine bar. Far more sensible.
The one with the best prices: Hoxton Hotel, Holborn
Don't let the name confuse you – this is the recently opened Holborn offering from the people who brought you the buzzy, modern and good-value Hoxton Hotel that opened back in 2006. The ethos here is similar – packed downstairs lobby and bar, nicely decked out spaces with vintage details and furniture and small rooms which start as low as £70 a night, making it a brilliant base for a night bang in the centre of town.
For dinner, the downstairs grill Hubbard & Bell has the open and airy feel of a trendy American diner, serving up everything from prawns and fish, through chicken and ribs. If it can be grilled, it's on the menu, cooked up in the open kitchen, and makes for a perfect weekend brunch spot too. All said, this is no relaxing bolthole, but as a fun urban hotel with attitude it's hard to beat.