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ESPA Life spa at The Corinthia Hotel in London.


Fame factor: Since opening in February, W London has set out to transform touristy Leicester Square into the city's coolest address. From its translucent exterior that changes colour according to the time of day, to the jet-black reception area that's festooned with sparkling disco balls, it has a club-like look and feel. At 5:30 p.m. on Friday, the lobby lounge is teeming with cocktail-swilling revellers gearing up to rock and roll until the wee hours at Wyld, the resident nightclub that has hosted parties for the likes of Helena Bonham-Carter, Colin Firth and Kate Moss. The fun-loving ambience extends to the guest floors. Near-pitch-black corridors lead to bedrooms with mirrored walls, silver curtains, padded leather closets and a mini-bar that comes with a martini shaker and an emergency ice pack.

Share the elevator with: Image-obsessed media executives and pretty young things who like to party all night and sleep all day.

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Neighbourhood: Right in Leicester Square, a stroll from the racy shops and clubs of Soho, this isn't the most elegant or peaceful enclave in London, but it boasts plenty of distraction.

Food/Service: Meals are served virtually around the clock at Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Asian-fusion Spice Market restaurant or in the lobby lounge, which serves everything from pasta to afternoon tea. Depending on how busy things get, the service ranges from overly attentive to downright surly.

Final word: If you want to be in the thick of the action and don't mind being woken to the strains of Jimi Hendrix filtering through your room at 4 a.m., then this is the ideal crash pad.

10 Wardour St.; 44-207-758-1000;; from $421 (£269).


Fame factor: Housed in an impressive Victorian-era building that was the Ministry of Defence during the First World War, the Corinthia is fast becoming one of the city's most-talked-about grand hotels. Nothing is done in half measures: The lobby lounge gleams under a domed atrium that's outfitted with a spectacular chandelier made from 1,001 Baccarat crystal baubles. A group of British artists was commissioned to create the hotel's art collection, including an intriguing bronzed etching of the Thames River that runs the length of the reception desk. The first-ever Harrods hotel shop and a four-storey ESPA spa (the brand's flagship) are slated to open in coming weeks. And of the 294 suites on offer, the 5,000-square-foot Royal Suite (that has its own gym, spa room, facial-recognition security system and 180-degree terrace views) is billed as the most spacious hotel room in London. It also may be the most expensive at $23,510 (£15,000) a night.

Share the elevator with: Diplomats and oil tycoons who value plush modern amenities and five-star service.

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Neighbourhood: Close to 10 Downing St., Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey, many of London's historic sights are within walking distance.

Food/Service: The hotel's two restaurants feature scene-stealing decor and celebrity chef-designed menus. The Northall serves locally sourced British fare, while Massimo Restaurant & Oyster Bar (named after famed Italian head chef Massimo Riccioli) specializes in fish and seafood, and has a shiny bar that makes an ideal pre-dinner perch.

Final word: The 21st-century version of classic luxury, the Corinthia is for those who like their hotels to live as largely as they do.

Whitehall Place; 44-20-7930-8181;; from $705 (£450).


Fame factor: Recently reopened after a two-year renovation, the world's longest-serving Four Seasons has been transformed into the most inviting address on Park Lane. This wasn't a cursory spit and polish. The Four Seasons London was literally gutted and revamped by interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon. Rooms were rebuilt larger, brighter and more contemporary in style without sacrificing their residential feel. One floor is suites-only and houses apartment-like family-friendly accommodation, including the Garden Suite that has a 646-square-foot terrace overlooking Hyde Park, a dining room and butler's pantry. Amaranto, a multiroomed restaurant/bar/lounge with an eat-what-you-want-where-you-want policy, has turned the main level into a gathering place for posh Londoners and guests alike. And on the newly constructed 10th floor, a glass-enclosed spa and wellness facility is a striking urban oasis where you can run on the treadmill while gazing out at the London skyline, or follow up an energy balancing hot-stone massage with a soak in a sky-lit vitality pool.

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Share the elevator with: Sophisticated globetrotters who consider London a home away from home, rather than a place to tick off their bucket list.

Neighbourhood: Framed by Hyde Park, Knightsbridge and Mayfair, the city's enviable green space, posh boutiques and best restaurants are literally at your doorstep.

Food/Service: Have an off-menu burger in the formal dining room or afternoon tea at 6 p.m. in the wine bar. There is no limit to what you can eat or where at Amaranto. Expert sommeliers are also on hand to advise on wine pairings. Navigating the nearly 250 vintages on offer - most available by the glass - may otherwise be daunting.

Final word: Laid-back elegance, down-to-earth service and all the comforts of a luxurious city retreat without the stuffiness of most Park Lane hotels.

Hamilton Place, Park Lane; 44-20-7499-0888;; from $776 (£495).


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Fame factor: Trevor Gulliver and Fergus Henderson - the restaurateurs who brought their "nose-to-tail" eating philosophy to London's East End almost two decades ago - have broadened the St. John empire to include "table-to-bed" hospitality. Featuring the duo's signature no-holds barred British cuisine (think veal tongue, tripe and gizzards), the epicentre of the 15-room boutique hotel is its ground-floor restaurant. Sleeping quarters are minimalist, but without cutting corners. The design is a no-frills combination of whitewashed wooden walls, lime-green rubber floors, a sleek bathtub/shower outfitted with Penhaligon's toiletries (it also sits right in the bedroom, so don't expect any privacy when bathing), and a comfy king-size bed draped in crisp, white sheets.

Share the elevator with: Foodies who for the past 17 years have made the trek to St. John Restaurant, Gulliver/Henderson's famed East End eatery.

Neighbourhood: On the edge of Chinatown, surrounded by all-you-can eat buffets, the hotel is giving epicureans a reason to spend an evening in an otherwise tacky part of town.

Food/Service: Vegetarians had best stay away. Seasonal menus feature St. John specialties like devilled kidneys on toast, blood pudding, snails and bacon, and pressed pig's head. Cheery young front desk staff are eager to please and happy to deliver tea to your room, or run out and buy your favourite magazine.

Final word: Bring your appetite and a toothbrush. This isn't the type of hotel you'd spend a week in, but it is worth an overnight snooze after a hearty meal.

1 Leicester St.; 44-203-301-8069;; from $313 (£200).

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