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Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

With history, comfort, luxury, service and fine dining, the Langham London is not just a pretty face: It provides a peaceful oasis to get away from the crowds of London.


While still glamorous, The Langham strives to maintain its contemporary reputation as it was in 1865, when it started life as Europe's grandest hotel. Back then it was famed for new-fangled innovations such as hydraulic lifts. Its roll-call of guests have included the writer Mark Twain, an exiled Napoleon III, the playwright Oscar Wilde and prime minister Winston Churchill.

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

LTD had the opportunity to sit down with manager Susann Gruenberg and head concierge, Rashid Ali to discuss how The Langham Hotel would meet our goals of inspiring meaningful and healthy travel. What we learned allowed us to understand the history of this Grand Dame of Hotels, the local area, and how the staff impressed us as having a great relationship. Managers and colleagues speak to each other in a respectful, positive style that makes guest feel welcome. Service is unstuffy and staff take pride in the hotel.  

Susann was clearly proud of the emphasis placed on sustainability at the hotel.  We learned later that The Langham London was awarded the 2019 Cateys Award for Sustainable Hotel of the Year, awarded to recognize the hotel that has taken the most innovative steps to neutralize its impact on the environment. The hotel is monitored by, an accreditation body that monitors and reports on its sustainability performance.  We discussed some of the specifics of the sustainability with the manager and an amazing example is the use of the "ORCA" to reduce volume of waste from the hotel.  ORCA designs, manufactures and installs the leading technology in the food waste recycling industry. ORCA uses mostly air, along with water and microbiology to turn food waste into an environmentally safe liquid that goes down the drain and is disposed of using the existing sanitary sewer infrastructure.

She was also proud of the charity work emphasized by The Langham London.  Their annual community program enables employees to get involved in various volunteering and fundraising activities within the local community, with the main focus on supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and KIDS charity for disabled and disadvantaged children and young people. Employees are required to donate at least 1 hour per year to charity work of their choice or as supported by the hotel.

We spoke at length with Rashid about fitness opportunities in the area.  Of course as a luxury hotel, patrons are able to arrange specific outings as needed before arrival.  Examples of what might be asked for include, golf outings, tennis lessons or fly fishing, but many travelers are hoping to simply continue their fitness routines or training schedules even while traveling - running, yoga, cycling, swimming etc.  The concierge team was outstanding in providing us with information about fitness opportunities near the hotel such which we will detail in the Fitness section below.   The concierge team was amazing during our stay and we were delighted to spend time with Rashid!

1. Location

For visiting the London, there can't be a better location. Of course getting to London from Heathrow is one of the easier places to navigate, and you have many options depending on what is important to you:  comfort, ease, security, price or peace of mind.  We chose car service with Simply Airports which was easy and economical.  The immediate neighborhood, although only two blocks from Oxford and Regent Streets, is peaceful and calm, and it is hard to believe you are still in Central London!  

The Langham is located in the West End, meaning that you are ideally situated to catch a show while in London. You’ll also be close to some of the best shops in the country, as well as some of the best restaurants in the country. If you’re a culture lover, you can visit nearby museums and art galleries like the British Museum or the Wallace Collection, and if you fancy exploring some tourist destinations, Madame Tussauds and Buckingham Palace are within easy reach.  The Victoria & Albert museum is a couple of miles away but allows for a healthy walk through Hyde Park to get there.

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

2. Check-in

We were greeted as at the door immediately and our luggage was swept away to meet us in our room after check in.  At the front desk we were greeted as booking through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) program immediately and were provided early check in our room was not available until 12 PM which is what FHR provides and in the meantime, the staff escorted us to the hotel lounge and served us coffee and snacks on the house. The staff was extremely polite, explaining the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts amenities, hotel amenities and walked us to our room.

Nespresso, tea and water are available in the lobby 24 hours a day, which is a nice treat after a long day of touring in London!

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

Rx Tip:

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3. Rooms

The room was large by European standards and decorated tastefully to reflect the beautiful area of London in which it is located. For example, bookshelves in the room contain information about the history of the hotel, the chef providing fine dining and other amenities at the hotel (we will discuss below!). The room fit the high standards of this historic hotel, with an orchid in the window which overlooked the London skyline, daily complimentary fruit, chocolates, cakes and cookies, desk, chairs and high ceilings.  We were upgraded to a larger king room providing us with more than ample space for our luggage and belongings.

Sufficient amenities in the room are provided including:
  • Nespresso maker
  • Tea kettle
  • Complimentary shoe shine
  • Robes
  • Slippers
  • Bottled water
  • Turndown service
  • Daily fresh fruit
  • Complimentary welcome chocolates, cookies and cake
  • Streaming capability on the large screen television and when our apple device did not work sufficiently the staff immediately brought an Apple TV to our room to use for the remainder of our stay!
  • Air-conditioning that works!  Sometimes this is hard to find in Europe.
The bed was extremely comfortable with crisp ironed sheets and down pillows.

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

The view from the window was upon the London Skyline toward the River Thames.

4. Bathroom

The bathroom was lovely. Immediately noticeable is the large soaking tub and separate commode and shower. A large sink with more than enough amenities, such as loofah, combs, shaving and dental kits, etc are provided.  Products are unique to the Langham London, by Chuan Spa, located on site. Twice daily housekeeping service assures that you will have whatever you need should you wish.  Water pressure levels were perfect, something that we always enjoy when traveling for many reasons, the most common being that you can shower and bathe in a timely fashion when trying to get out and about! A towel warmer is provided over the tub and is nice in the cooler winter months!

5. Fitness

Unfortunately for the first two days of our stay, the fitness area, spa and pool were under renovation.  A temporary fitness area was set up in a meeting room in the hotel.  But since we stayed for several days, we could experience the fitness room, spa and pool.  The fitness area was previous part of a bank that was purchased to expand the Langham London a number of years earlier.  This part of the hotel is called the "Regent Wing".  Interesting fact, the pool used to be the bank vault!  The indoor pool is 16m in length and would suffice if your fitness routine involves swimming. If you need a longer lap pool for your fitness routine, the concierge can send you to a local center that has a full length swimming pool (See Below). There is a fitness room on site with sufficient machines and weights to meet the needs of most travelers, such as treadmills, bikes ellipticals, TRX, kettle bells, weights, etc.  Cool towels, chilled melon slices, headphones, water and dry towels are provided.  The size of the fitness room is just a bit too small and if it there are many persons wanting to work out, it may be crowded.  The most we saw at one time in the fitness room was 6 persons, which was fine.  Our recommendations when we met with the staff was considering Peloton bikes because the fitness bikes are dated and these are a trend that we see at more hotels all of the time.

For more casual bicycling, the hotel provides the complimentary use of bicycles which would be great for touring the local area and parks nearby such as Regents Park.

Fitness opportunities that are located nearby and with which The Langham London has a relationship include:

  • Viva Therapy Personal Trainers
  • BXR -- a sleek, upscale members-only boxing gym offering classes, fitness equipment and a juice lounge
  • Psycle -- a unique boutique fitness studio
  • Pure Gym -- a classic gym with a huge range of equipment
  • Marshall Street Leisure Centre which offers a 95-station gym, exercise studio and classes, hot yoga studio, 30.5m swimming pool, spa treatments and more.

For the runners like us, many long runs can be done nearby in Regent's Park, Hyde Park or along the Thames, just to name a few places.  We enjoyed Hyde Park for our long run, running by Kensington Palace, the Princess Diana Memorial fountain and other landmarks.

Retreat to the Chuan spa for treatments at the Langham London.  If you get chilled or tired during your tours of London,  dry sauna and steam rooms are present in each locker room. Wellness and beauty treatments are also available in-suite for optimal comfort and privacy.

6. Dining

The Langham London Hotel shines with its dining options.  Re-opened on Valentine's Day 2018 the newest concept restaurant on site is Roux at the Landau, a restaurant by Michel Roux Jr.  Roux has an informal-fine dining vibe and a refreshed design that gains a funky central dining counter and loses the white tablecloths. Roux has been awarded multiple Certificates of Excellence from TripAdvisor.

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

The dazzling Palm Court is famed as the place where the tradition of afternoon tea was born over 150 years ago, an indulgence that lives on today.  Buffet breakfast as included with a FHR reservation, is provided daily in the Palm Court where a great selection of hot items, fruit, meats, cheeses, vegetables, grains, yogurts, breads, juices and much more are provided.  Items may be ordered off the menu as well, and enjoy your morning coffee or tea served in Wedgewood china!  We enjoyed a late breakfast here every morning and were delighted to be greeted by name by the maitre'd every morning.  An easy but nice touch at the buffet are the options of cold or hot plates.

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

RxTIP: Besides afternoon tea and breakfast, evening dinner may be enjoyed at the Palm Court or experience live Jazz in Palm Court every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

Artesian is the lounge at the hotel, but is more than just a lounge.  Guests their time in Artesian, named after the original 360ft-deep well under the hotel, and winner of the coveted ‘World’s Best Bar’ accolade, creating classic and innovative cocktails.

Even the ice is special - produced using the very latest technology, Artesian's ice is purer, colder and with a higher density, making it last longer and your cocktails cooler.

Artesian’s lunch menu is creative and elevates the bar food and drinks out of the ordinary and into the gourmet. In the evening guests can have tapas to enjoy as a meal or snack.

The Wigmore, a new modern British Tavern, is a former banking hall.  Located on Regent Street, but accessible though the Regent wing of The Langham, the Wigmore serves classic pub snacks that have been elevated to a new level such as: Masala spiced scotch egg, dahl relish and Stovetop cheese "toastie" presented to the table with a cast iron bacon press.  It was spectacular!  The Wigmore has received the 2019 Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor and is ranked among the top 15 Pubs in London.

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

Of course, room service is available and we recommend considering your included FHR breakfast or hotel credit to be used in this way for special occasions.

We didn't partake in gluten free options, but when we discussed dining with the manager, we specifically asked about this concern of many travelers.  Gluten free options are always available upon request and the staff will always ask if you have any food allergies when serving.

Not necessarily "dining" but definitely related to food is a new concept and the only cooking class available at a London Hotel: Sauce by The Langham.  This cookery school is a fun and creative way to learn new cooking skills or build on what you already know. Find inspiration in ‘Building Block’ classes or ‘Masterclasses’. Both are taught by a team of expert chefs from The Langham who will share trade secrets in an informal and informative way.

7. History

With over 150 years of meaningful history, this is a great hotel for history buffs like us! We heard some references to the history of the hotel from friends with whom we visited in London but Brian at the Conciege desk provided us with so much more!  He even brought his own books to the hotel and left them in our room to find out more about the history of The Langham London and the surrounding area!

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

The most tangible history of the hotel for us is its contribution to the war effort in WWII.  It is hard to express how devastating the war was to England and we personally feel grateful to our British "cousins" for the tenacity of the English people to resist Nazi aggression.

What about The Langham during WWII?  

The Langham London was, at the time of its construction in the 1865, one of the most modern hotels in the world and was the choice of some illustrious guests. As a luxury hotel, however, it struggled financially in the economic depression of the 1930s and its owners considered selling it as a potential home for the BBC when they outgrew their facilities at Savoy Hill. As it happened, the purpose-built Broadcasting House was constructed across the road and the hotel became inextricably linked with the BBC for the next fifty years. During World War II The Langham's constant use as an additional broadcast and support facility, and its proximity to Broadcasting House made it vulnerable to attack. On 16 September 1940, Broadcasting House came under intense fire from Luftwaffe raiders who destroyed a large section of the hotel’s west wing after it was hit by multiple bombs.

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

The BBC's wartime staff used to broadcast from the roof of The Langham, in particular the US correspondent Edward Murrow.  JB Priestley was also a regular guest in this period - in order to be close to Broadcasting House for his frequent late-night transmissions of Britain Speaks to North America. General De Gaulle also stayed for periods at The Langham, when recording his famous broadcasts to occupied France. The whole building was purchased by the BBC in 1965 - the Palm Court was used as the reference library, and it became well-known for its staff restaurant, bar and refreshment rooms. It was rumored that there are tunnels still yet to be found between The BBC and The Langham used by staff and patrons (for professional and nefarious reasons???) The BBC sold the site in 1986 and it is once again a luxury hotel.

8.  Our list of recommended restaurants while you stay that are located outside of the hotel

  • Chiltern Firehouse -- contemporary, ingredient-focused cooking, with an underlying American accent by Michelin-starred chef Nuno Mendes
  • NOPI -- Middle Eastern and Asian-inspired sharing plates at Ottolenghi's all-day brasserie with many vegetarian options
  • Caldesi in Marylebone -- A truly authentic and intimate Italian dining experience with large portions
  • The Ivy Asia St Paul's -- menus feature a unique blend of flavors and ingredients taking inspiration from a number of Asian cuisines with a sweeping view of St Paul's Cathedral
  • Chutney Mary -- Stylish Chutney Mary is one of London's best Indian restaurants and has amazing service
  • The Wolseley -- Combining British heritage with European grandeur, The Wolseley is an historic all-day café-restaurant on London's iconic Piccadilly where we enjoyed dinner with a friend

The Langham London Hotel is Not Just a Pretty Face in London's West End

Bottom Line:

Renowned for its impeccable service provided a relaxed and friendly staff, The Langham London was Europe’s first “Grand Hotel” and continues to reign from the London's West End. The hotel is located near Regent Street, one of the city’s premier locations and shopping districts. For 150 years, the legendary hotel has enchanted royalty, dignitaries, and celebrities with its 380 elegantly appointed rooms and suites that evoke a welcoming, residential ambience. The hotel also offers world-class dining and wellness facilities, and is famed as the place where the tradition of afternoon tea was born.

You will find meaning in the genuine atmosphere provided by the staff, their contribution to local charities and commitment to sustainability.  The history of the hotel and the sacrifices that the building itself made during one of the greatest challenges modern London has faced make for a moving experience when staying.

Fitness in London isn't difficult when staying at The Langham, and if you don't find enough healthy opportunities at the hotel or nearby parks, the concierge can address your needs through the relationships they have with local facilities.

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