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March 30, 2010

4 Unique London Hotels

Marcus Peel

Four small hotels in London’s once-gritty eastern reaches have become stylish reflections of the neighborhood’s artistic personality.

For several years now, East London has had a scruffy appeal, known as the kind of place where contemporary art collectors could get their hands dirty among the local artists’ studios. But there hasn’t been much to recommend a visit to—let alone an overnight stay in—this most eclectic part of town, where curry houses butt up against flea markets in neighborhoods like Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Clerkenwell, Hackney, and Spitalfields. Exceptions were the old Great Eastern Hotel (now the Hyatt-owned Andaz Liverpool Street), the loft-style Zetter in Clerkenwell, and the atmospheric rabbit warren of The Rookery, just around the corner from Smithfield meat market. But now a new generation of hotels has arrived, and the East End has come of age, offering some of the most original—and more gently priced—small stays in the capital. The experience at each won’t be conventionally glamorous, but it will be rich, textured, and intense, and it will invite those who said they’d never leave Mayfair to make some unexpected discoveries.