Just north of Soho, near bustling Oxford Street, sits central London’s hidden neighborhood: Fitzrovia. Home to louche, boho types in the late 19th century (the Pre-Raphaelites and Oscar Wilde lounged in its bars), Fitzrovia’s leafy streets are lined with Edwardian-era apartments, Neoclassical mansions, and onetime warehouses. It hasn’t always been so appealing: 30 years ago when my father, an artist, bought a printing works in a mews to convert into a studio, Fitzrovia had become a grubby, rundown area. Vendors sold cars from the streets, fashion companies used warehouses for wholesale showrooms, and the only landmark was the Transformers-like British Telecom Tower, looming over it all. But in recent years, it has undergone an astonishing, if discreet, revival. Tired of the over-gentrified East End, gallery owners eyed Fitzrovia for its cheap rents and soaring spaces. New restaurants, bars, and hotels soon followed. Madonna even bought a building just north of Oxford Street for Kabbalah’s British headquarters. Here, the places to visit now.
Though the area is mostly residential, there’s no shortage of great places to stay.
Decorated like a chintz-filled country house that Bertie Wooster might share with Anya Hindmarch, this shabby-chic 52-room hotel is filled with art curated by its co-owner, interior designer and collector Kit Kemp—from Roger Cecil abstracts to a contemporary mural by Alexander Hollweg. Like other Firmdale properties, it’s known for its Sunday night film club, which combines dinner with a screening in the downstairs theater, complete with comfy leather loungers. Doubles from $410.
The 380-room property (unveiled by the Prince of Wales in 1865 and a current royal favorite) has just undergone a $130 million renovation designed to restore some of its storied grandeur. Ceilings were raised, flat-screen TV’s were added in all rooms, and a 50-foot underground pool was built in a former vault. Afternoon tea, British-style, is served daily in the Palm Court restaurant. Try the tomato-and-cream-cheese sandwiches and the lemon posset cups. Doubles from $385.
Once a sleek furniture company headquarters, the Sanderson became a hotel in 2000 under the guidance of Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck. The team preserved much of its Midcentury charm while adding signature touches (note the Daliesque red-lip sofa in the lobby). Suka, the new Malaysian restaurant on site, was masterminded by New York’s Zak Pelaccio, and the 300-square-foot guest rooms feel surprisingly large, with offbeat flourishes like a Starck-designed rug riffing on Voltaire’s handwriting. The hotel’s best amenity, though, is a well-kept secret: the Japanese-style Courtyard Garden hidden in the center of the building like an urban oasis. It features a lounge with a wooden deck set amid restored 1960’s mosaics, rhododendrons, magnolias, and a man-made canal filled with white water lilies. Doubles from $350.