Cheerio! I just returned from an incredible trip to Europe where my wife and I spent most of our time sailing down the Danube on a Viking Christmas market river cruise (full story to come). But our first and last nights were spent in London at the charming Milestone Hotel, which was sensational. Here’s how that part of the trip played out—as well as ten reasons to stay at The Milestone yourself.
Toronto-London on British Airways
Natalie and I flew from Toronto to London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on a British Airways 777-200. The flight was like a dream; we not only got upgraded to Club World but also landed almost an hour early thanks to the strong tailwinds.
To get into the city, we jumped on the Heathrow Express, which departs right from the airport and takes you to Paddington Station. The trains run every 15 minutes and take 20 minutes from T5 (15 minutes from the other terminals). You can buy your tickets in the airport for £34 ($55) roundtrip or in advance from VisitBritainShop.com.
A much cheaper alternative is to just to take the Tube (Piccadilly Line) right from the airport to the city, which takes 50 minutes and costs £5 ($8). Here’s the link to Visit London’s Heathrow Airport transportation page and a link to a Tube map. TIP: If your hotel is near the Piccadilly Line, I would just take the tube since it’s not only cheaper but also will mean you’ll only have to schlep your bag once, instead of transferring when you get to Paddington Station.
10 reasons to stay at The Milestone Hotel
From the High Street Kensington tube station (Circle and District Lines), it’s about an eight-minute walk to The Milestone Hotel. The Milestone is the signature property of Red Carnation Hotels and it’s adjacent to Kensington Gardens. The Milestone is traditionally English with 45 guest rooms, 12 luxurious suites and six apartments with service that is prompt—and I mean instantaneous. By the time I hung up the phone after requesting something, there was a gentle tap at my door. No wonder the hotel was awarded Best Service Winner by Condé Nast in their 2013 Awards for Excellence. The hotel has a long list of other accolades, as well, including being voted number four in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards in their Top City Hotels in Europe category.
Here are my 10 reasons to stay at The Milestone Hotel:
1. It has an English feel
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the chain business hotels when I’m working but nothing makes you feel like you’re out of the country more than staying at a boutique hotel that has the charm of an old English guest house. The Milestone fits that bill. Even if you aren’t staying at The Milestone, you should at least walk into the lobby and take a right into their library. The room feels like it’s out of the movies with a lit fireplace and this time of year, a Christmas tree.
It’s adjacent to Kensington Gardens (where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge reside), so you know the place is special. The Milestone is less than a 10-minute walk to the closest tube station, there’s a historic pub two blocks away and there are also all kinds of stores like Marks & Spencer, Gap and Whole Foods nearby. You can even walk to Harrods, which takes about 20 minutes.
3. Friendly service
You’ll notice the friendly, impeccable service from the moment you arrive. They have a traditional doorman helping you with your bags and opening the door. You’ll also no doubt come across some South African accents, as roughly half of the staff members are from the country. FYI: Red Carnation Hotels is a South African-owned company.
4. Hot chocolate on arrival
How many hotels offer you hot chocolate on arrival? None that I know of. My wife substituted hers for tea but not me.
5. Remote control is in a plastic bag
These days, everyone is worried about germs and it’s no secret that the dirtiest thing in a hotel room is the TV remote. The Milestone has come up with a clever defense by putting them in fitted plastic bags. Brilliant.
6. All the rooms are designed differently
You really have to love a hotel where all the rooms are designed differently. We stayed in two different rooms—one was a corner suite and the other was a regular room. Both were comfortable and designed beautifully.
7. View of the park
Obviously, not all rooms have a view of Kensington Gardens, but our first room did and boy was it nice. Surprisingly, London in mid-December felt and looked more like mid-October. It was 55 degrees (F) and there were leaves still on the trees.
8. Free Wi-Fi
Don’t you hate when you spend a lot of money for a hotel room and then they have the gall to charge you for Wi-Fi? Not at The Milestone. The front desk will give you a code good for three devices and if you have more devices, you can simply ask for another code.
The Milestone’s bathrooms are stocked with expensive British Penhaligon’s toiletries that are so luxurious I had to bring the leftovers home.
10. Dual electrical outlets
This was the one trip I forgot my travel adaptor so I was so happy to see that The Milestone had dual electrical outlets.
With a comfortable British air, great location and impeccable service (the hotel also offers free shoeshines so don’t forget to get one—the information is in the room closet), there’s not much not to like about staying at The Milestone—except for possibly the room rates, which begin at £300 ($491) a night.
The Milestone Hotel and Apartments, 1 Kensington Court; Tel.: +44 (0) 20 7917 1000.
In my opinion, London is the best place in the world for theatre. The theatres are all historic and amazing. Going to the theatre is also my favorite London pastime so I almost always try to catch a show when I’m in town. This trip, our friends over at Visit Britain (did you know they sell tickets to shows?) offered us tickets to see Mamma Mia!, which was playing at The Novello Theatre on Aldwych (it’s close to Covent Gardens). The iconic show been playing there since 1999 and features all of ABBA’s unmistakable karaoke sing-along hits including Dancing Queen. It was my first time seeing it and a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it for anyone coming off of a long flight because all of the loud music makes it almost impossible to fall asleep.
Half-price theatre tickets
Good to know: If you don’t have your heart set on one particular show and don’t care about sitting in prime-time seats, then go down to Leicester Square on the day you want to see a show. You can definitely find inexpensive tickets here, though keep in mind that not every show is available and your view might be obstructed, depending on the seats. Many shops sell tickets, though none is more popular than TKTS (the same company doing the same thing in Times Square). One time I went and visited a bunch of the booths to possibly buy some tickets but they only had seats left for three plays. But when I was there a couple years ago, I scored third-row-center seats for £23.50 to see the play 39 Steps. I also just read this story in the Tube so I looked it up online: ‘Mamma Mia! Top London show tickets are slashed to £10 over the festive season and into the New Year.
Note: We were guests of The Milestone and Visit Britain took care of our Heathrow Express and theater tickets.