This London Hotel Takes Inspiration From the Glamorous Days of Transatlantic Travel — Here's a Sneak Peak Inside

Sea Containers is a somewhat splashy hotel for travelers who are drawn to the River Thames (and the views that come with it).

Exterior view of Sea Containers Hotel of the Thames

Niall Clutton/Courtesy of Sea Containers Hotel

As we near the end of 2022, it’s safe to say that London has returned to, if not surpassed, pre-pandemic tourism numbers. Tack on a strong dollar against the pound, and the number of Americans eager to get across the pond has only grown. (The United Kingdom was also named Travel + Leisure’s destination of the year for 2023.) While the sprawling metropolis has dozens of neighborhoods and hundreds of hotels to choose from, with Mayfair, Shoreditch, and Covent Garden all vying for attention, there’s a unique stay in the South Bank that's worth considering: Sea Containers London.

Originally designed by American architect named Warren Platner, this building once housed the office headquarters for a sea containers company that went under (pun intended). In recent years, it has found better luck as a trendy maritime hotel meant to resemble a glamorous transatlantic cruise from the 1920s, albeit with modern appeals like a full-service spa, rooftop bar, and sustainability program that's committed to reducing carbon emissions by 66% by 2030. 

Then, there’s the location. Guests can walk along the River Thames in one direction to get to the Tate Modern and Borough Market, and in the other direction to reach the London Eye and Westminster Bridge. You’ll also snag fabulous views of St. Paul’s Cathedral from many areas of the hotel sending constant reminders: You are in London.

River Rooms and Suites View at the Sea Containers Hotel

Niall Clutton/Courtesy of Sea Containers Hotel

Entering the Sea Containers lobby will transport you another world. A London designer named Tom Dixon, along with Universal Design Studio, renovated the interiors, adding bold pop art like the enormous blue knot sculpture, as well as a front desk tucked inside a curved copper wall that's meant to look like a ship’s hull. 

Interior of the lobby at the Sea Containers Hotel

James McDonald/Courtesy of Sea Containers Hotel

Interior of the all day restaraunt at the Sea Containers Hotel

James McDonald/Courtesy of Sea Containers Hotel

The copper wall leads to a long hallway with a marquee board where you can keep an eye out for the staff’s daily quote. On the far end of the hotel is a relaxed but stylish all-day restaurant serving American and British fare using fresh, seasonal ingredients. The menu is designed to be shared, with small and large plates such as burgers and flatbreads, and more inventive items like chicken mousse with pickled mushrooms and halibut with razor clam broth. Snag a seat on a pale yellow banquette or request an outdoor table and watch the passersby walking along the River Thames. 

Interior of the Lyaness lounge at the Sea Containers Hotel

James McDonald/Courtesy of Sea Containers Hotel

Next to the restaurant lies an upscale lounge called Lyaness, helmed by an award-winning bartender known as Mr. Lyan, which also overlooks the Thames. The interiors incorporate brass fixtures and varying shades of soft blue in the lampshades, painted walls, and plush seating that contrast a green marble bar. This is where talented bartenders whip up inventive cocktails, though you can always opt for the nonalcoholic afternoon tea menu. 

To get to the 359 stylish rooms, suites, and apartments, take a ride in the elevators featuring colorful life-size figures. Standard rooms come with bespoke furnishings (again from Tom Dixon), dimmable lights, free Wi-Fi, minibars, and marble bathrooms with rain showers and Malin + Goetz bath products. Upgrade to a range of categories for more space and views, like the Riverview Balcony suite with floor-to-ceiling windows and a private balcony overlooking London, or the Superior Patio room with a generous outdoor dining area covered in ivy. 

Interior of the screen room at the Sea Containers Hotel

Niall Clutton/Courtesy of Sea Containers Hotel

Interior of a standard guest bedroom at the Sea Containers Hotel

Ed Reeve/Courtesy of Sea Containers Hotel

If you need a wellness boost, pay a visit to the subterranean spa, called Agua, which features a range of signature holistic treatments. There are 14 treatment rooms decorated in soothing neutral tones along with meditation beds, plus a dedicated chill-out zone with interesting art pieces to observe while hydrating. There’s also a state-of-the-art gym, open 24/7, so you can keep up your workout routine, though it’s hard to beat a morning jog along the river just outside the hotel.

Interior view of the Agua Spa at Sea Containers Hotel

Niall Clutton/Courtesy of Sea Containers Hotel

After dark, head to the rooftop bar called the 12th Knot, with jewel tones and hanging orbs made from tiny white lights. The open-plan layout boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor terrace, so you’ll get panoramic views of London’s skyline no matter what the weather is doing. Come during the week for a more relaxed vibe, or join a buzzy mix of locals and travelers on weekend evenings when DJs spin tunes. 

Nighttime view from the 12th Knot rooftop bar at Sea Containers Hotel

Niall Clutton/Courtesy of Sea Containers Hotel

Of course, you can always find solace in the hotel’s cushy den, ideal for sipping a glass of wine and reading one of London's daily newspapers. The property also has a 56-seat screening room that features new releases. Kids are welcome at the theater, or you can inquire about babysitting services at the concierge desk.

Though it’s not suited for traditionalists, Sea Containers is a fun and lively hotel option in the up-and-coming South Bank district, with contemporary style, full-service amenities, and iconic views. At the very least, stop by for a refreshment on your leisurely walk along the River Thames.

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