London's iconic Savoy Hotel greets its first guests this Sunday following a nearly three-year renovation. The $350 million top-to-bottom restoration took months longer than originally planned, but that's what happens when you stage what the hotel calls "the most ambitious restoration in British history." And from the pictures I've seen, it looks like it was worth the wait.
For most of its existence, the 268-room hotel has been marked by two aesthetics: the Edwardian themes of the original 1889 design and the Art Deco style introduced in the late 1920s and '30s. That won't change with the refurbishment. Edwardian touches are evident in the lobby and public spaces; Art Deco is the keynote decor in the sleek entrance, the River restaurant, and a new addition to the hotel: the Beaufort Bar. This magnificent space features gold-leaf-covered walls, dramatic lighting, and a Champagne Bar on the stage where George Gershwin performed the British debut of "Rhapsody in Blue" in 1925.
Guest rooms are designed in either Edwardian style (silk wall coverings, Murano glass chandeliers) or Art Deco (cool gray fabrics, maple wood highlights). Take your choice.
The reopening marks the return of one of the world's legendary hotels. Created in 1889 by Richard D'Oyly Carte, the impresario whose light opera company staged the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, the Savoy's pedigree is unrivaled. D'Oyly Carte had the foresight to hire César Ritz as manager and, as the Savoy's first chef, the immortal Auguste Escoffier. Among the many hospitality firsts attributed to the hotel: en suite bathrooms, 24-hour room service, music to accompany dinner, and air conditioning.
Past guests run the gamut from Claude Monet to Bob Dylan, Charlie Chaplin to Marilyn Monroe, Tom Mix (he rode his horse into the dining room) to General Dwight Eisenhower. Let's see if the "new" Savoy lives up to its reputation.
Rates at the hotel begin at $550.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.