Published on Thursday, July 12, 2018

Check into the Tower and leave on a high

Lisa James checked into the The Tower Hotel London and is blown away by the views.

First impressions: The airy and cool, marbled lobby was a welcome relief from the scorching London sunshine. We headed to reception, passing the friendly concierge who was happily sharing his knowledge with a guest. The huge, sweeping staircase, took centre stage, while, dotted around, we spotted plenty of comfy seating. Check in was smooth and within a couple of minutes we were in the lift heading for the fifth floor.


Location: St Katharine's Way, London E1. The four-star Guoman-owned Tower Hotel is a large property on the north bank of the Thames right next to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. It's an eight-minute stroll from Tower Hill underground station (30 minutes on the DLR from London City Airport) and a couple of minutes further from Fenchurch Street overground.

But it was too hot to take the Tube, so we hopped on a river boat at Embankment and enjoyed a very leisurely sail past the Tate, the Oxo Tower, St Paul's Cathedral and other iconic sights. Disembarkation is at St Katherine's pier, just a 30-second walk from the hotel lobby.

Bedrooms: On opening the door to our executive room, we barely noticed the calm, neutral décor, huge double bed and flat-screen Freeview TV because we were eager to check out the view. Our room looked out over Tower Bridge and across the river and we spent five minutes just watching the boats on the Thames, people milling across the bridge, spotting iconic red buses and landmarks such as City Hall and Butler's Wharf.

The room had separate coffee and working desks, ironing board, safe, decent-sized clothes storage and a nice bathroom.

The hotel has over 800 bedrooms, including accessible rooms and suites. Executive rooms have bathrooms and slippers, Nespresso coffee machines, access to Club Lounge with private check-in, complimentary breakfast on weekdays and refreshments all day.

Accessible double rooms have wheelchair access, with wet-room showers, pull-cord alarms and accessible car parking at the front of the hotel. There are also suites with a kitchen and living room.

The bed was comfy and spacious. Despite the fact my wriggly seven-year-old and her soft toys took up most of the room, I still got a very decent night's sleep.

Wining and dining: We considered ordering room service, where we could have tucked into salmon or London Pride-battered cod and chips.

Another option is the Brasserie, which is good for casual business lunches and al fresco dining overlooking the river during the summer, serving a good choice from the meat and fish grill plus burgers and seafood linguine Nero, among other pasta dishes. An early dinner menu at the Brasserie costs £20 per person for two courses.

Instead, we made the most of the early evening sunshine and had a drink at the Lawn — the hotel's laid-back, rustic, outdoor venue, right under Tower Bridge — before investigating other eating options at St Katherine's Dock, directly behind the hotel.

Breakfast is served until 11am and, although the hotel suggests arriving early at weekends, it wasn't overcrowded when we went down at about 10.15am. It's a self-service continental and cooked breakfast — guests queue at the omelette station and the staff serve tea and coffee at your table. It's all perfectly well presented, it tastes good and there's plenty of it.

On the ground floor, there's a coffee bar. Had my room-mate been 11 years older, the Xi Bar, overlooking the Thames, would have been the perfect place for a cocktail.

Facilities: Guests who prefer a running machine to pounding the Thames-side path directly outside the hotel can use the fitness centre. There's free wi-fi throughout, which is quick and reliable. For business get-togethers, there are 20 meetings spaces.  

The hotel is licensed for civil weddings, with a choice of rooms. On the evening we stayed, there was a huge Indian wedding party. My daughter - spellbound by all the beautiful saris - persuaded me to let her peep through the door of the beautifully decorated Tower Suite to see what was going on. The Tower Suite has its own private entrance, with capacity for up to 500 guests.

Family-friendly: There weren't many youngsters about, but it was perfect for my seven-year-old, who loved watching the canoes, barges and boats on the river; shrieking with joy when Tower Bridge opened up. She also had plenty to choose from on the menu.

The Tower Hotel's vicinity — right next to the Tower of London and within really easy access to many city landmarks — makes it a good family option. A double room was perfect for us, but there are also family rooms that sleep three.

Highs: Definitely the unbeatable views — and the location. It's a really lovely spot to watch the hustle and bustle, whether in the room, on the terrace or on the outdoor Lawn bar.  It was nice to stay somewhere a little different from the typically touristy West End.

Lows: No-one will shoot me for saying the 1970s exterior of this hotel isn't as attractive as many of the buildings along the river, but it's not that bad. And anyway, once you're inside, the view is one of the most amazing in London, so who cares? For early-to-bedders who are likely to get irritated by the loud music coming from the Saturday night Thames party cruises a room at the back might be better — and it's cheaper.

Verdict: It didn't just tick all the boxes, it surpassed my expectations in every way. I'd have been equally as happy if I was staying here on business, a romantic getaway or a weekend with friends. So often, hotel descriptions prove a let down, but no-one could argue with this property's website, which boasts: "No other hotel brings you closer to some of the country's best-loved landmarks."

Standard sleeper doubles start at £187 per night; doubles with Tower views cost from £223 per night. Breakfast is extra. Guests can save 30% off best available rates and get complimentary breakfast in the hotel's summer sale until midnight, August 31 2018.  


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