The Dorchester

A hotel of many colors

"All the rooms are so different here," said the gentleman next to me at breakfast, "it's quite maddening. I have yet to find some sort of unity." He was right in one sense: No two of the 248 rooms in The Dorchester Y are identical. There are nine categories of rooms, four different designs, and six color schemes. It's a mind-boggling choice—so much so that the hotel offers to give guests a tour at the end of their first visit so they know their preference the second time around. Here's what you need to know.

The Park View
The most luxurious rooms with a view of Hyde Park are the Dorchester Suites ($1,613), of which there are two on each floor (6-7 and 17-18 series). In order to see over the trees lining the park, get a room above the sixth floor. (If you can sacrifice the view, the rooms on floors one through six have a cozy window seat.)

Best Value View
On most floors the deluxe rooms ($503) are tucked in between suites, so you can end up with quite a spectacular view at far lower rates than if you were in the room next door. For example, there's the Garden King (725) with its bright, large bathroom and memorable views of Big Ben, the Eye of London, and Canary Wharf.

To Sleep Like a Queen
If you want a fourposter bed covered in Gainsborough fabrics, then it's one of the nine-series deluxe doubles ($503). Those above the sixth floor have a view of the park, but 309 had an impressive mahogany desk and a walk-in closet.

Pure Nostalgia
The Dorchester Suite (506-507) has a beautifully painted wooden border under the ceiling and restored furniture from the 1930s. The six Art Deco Junior Suites ($675) evoke that same era with pale-cream colors and period Deco furniture. Those on higher floors have an excellent view. One caveat: The bathrooms, with walls done completely in black marble and without natural light, can feel rather small.

Candid Admission
Ninety-nine percent of the bathrooms in The Dorchester have natural light, and the hotel will openly tell you what the exceptions are: Other than the Junior Suites, the only bathrooms without natural light are 708 and 716.

En Français
The spacious 10-11 series, or Park Suites (1,537 square feet), are designed in French Regency style with silk-covered walls. The rooms on floors one through six have large French windows, a lovely balcony, and a Jacuzzi in the oversized bathroom. Floors seven and eight have the view over Hyde Park and to Knightsbridge. Room to get: 811, for its exquisite tapestries in the sitting room and unique dark-wood paneling.

History Buff
During World War II Eisenhower made rooms 104-105 ($1,163), a Front Suite, his London base. The rooms, which to this day bear his name, are rather dark and somber, but you can sleep in the very same bed as Ike did. The wall on the balcony between the suite and the adjoining room was erected by Winston Churchill to give Eisenhower more privacy.

Behind the Scenes
Completed in 1953, rooms 735-736, a two-bedroom suite ($2,889) on the seventh floor, is exceptionally dramatic, and understandably so, for it was conceived by famous stage designer Oliver Messel. The bookcase with the fake spines opens up into a bar; a painted tree grows in the center of the mirror; the walls are adorned with original costume sketches; the gold-colored toilet seat is shaped like a gigantic leaf; and even the television is encased in painted wood to make it look like a tiny stage. The living room is one of the largest in any London hotel. $443-$2,889. Park Lane; 800-727-9820; 44-207-629-8888; fax 44-207-495-7351.