THE BEST LONDON AIRPORT HOTELS: WHERE TO STAY FOR HEATHROW, GATWICK, STANSTED AND LUTON

The joy of an early morning flight out of London – and the promise of a long day ahead to enjoy your final destination – is quickly shattered by the reality of a dash to the airport in the wee hours, often contending with public transport (if it’s even running at that time). Similar problems face travellers who arrive back late, having squeezed out every hour of a trip, only to find the post-holiday blues fly in to focus when facing the final leg of the journey home.

You can avoid all of this hassle with a stay at an airport hotel for Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City. Expect a leisurely pace before you reach the terminal – which is often around a five-minute walk away – and a chance to enjoy breakfast before you get through security. What’s more, the better airport-adjacent properties have gotten a lot more stylish, so you can expect a dash of flair to go along with the convenience.

These are the best airport hotels in London, according to Independent Travel’s experts.

Heathrow

Ibis Styles London Heathrow Airport

Distance from terminal: 15 minutes

Now this is a budget hotel that doesn’t scrimp on personality. Overlooking Heathrow on the busy Bath Road (which runs parallel to the airport), even the lobby of this Ibis bulges with kooky design touches, from hot-air-balloon lamps to wallpaper festooned with clouds. Upstairs, the wackiness continues, with minibars that resemble air stewards’ trollies and animal-themed prints in the bathrooms. Amenities are sound, with a restaurant serving up decent comfort food (think burgers, lasagnes and bangers and mash) and helpful additions like printers for boarding passes, departures screens and a long-stay car park (at a cost) if needed. The breakfast buffet is functional and included in the cost of your room, and after that, you can take the shuttle bus directly outside to Terminals 2–5, which should get you there in around 30 minutes (taxis take half the time but are costlier than the bus fare).

Sofitel London Heathrow

Distance from terminal: 5 minutes

Convenience is key at this Sofitel, the only on-site hotel at Heathrow Terminal 5. Looking a little like a series of greenhouses, buildings here are divided into a series of glass atriums, in which you’ll find the main accommodation blocks. Rooms are spacious (the bathrooms slightly less so) and you’ll have all you need for a comfy night’s sleep. Design-wise, the spa is soothing enough to calm any pre- or post-flight jitters. The lobby is replete with restful marble sculptures, Japanese potted trees and wood and stone panelling, and the main Belle Epoque restaurant (filled with velvet booths and heavy aubergine curtains) is genuinely lovely, serving up fine dishes – from express lunches to chef’s table experiences – to bleary-eyed business travellers. There’s also a champagne bar and fitness centre, and a sprawling breakfast buffet to fill-up with before your flight.

Hilton London Heathrow Airport

Distance from terminal: 6 minutes

If you’re flying out of Heathrow’s Terminal 4, the Hilton will put you in a great position. It’s an airy, calming sort of place – decked out in brown leather, soft greys and dark woods – with a huge glass-sided main atrium, frosted glass lifts, open plan restaurants and a criss-crossed network of overhead walkways providing plenty of light and space. Facilities are top-notch for an airport hotel, including a business centre for printing out last-minute paperwork, a pool, sauna, steam room, open-all-hours fitness centre and slick concierge services such as early morning newspapers, wake-up calls and transfers. Dining options are bountiful, including Chinese restaurant Zen Oriental (you’ll find it in the Michelin guide), Italian restaurant Aromi, and Oscar’s which serves up sandwiches and burgers. Breakfast is a continental buffet, with a juice station, cold cuts and a pancake station to boot.

Gatwick

Bloc Hotel

Distance from terminal: 4 minutes

You can’t get much closer to Gatwick’s South Terminal than Bloc Hotel, a converted office block which sits directly above the terminal building (just a quick hop from the departure lounge). Rooms here are small but tech-forward, based around the Japanese capsule-hotel concept, with bedside tablets allowing you to operate lights, electric blinds, air conditioning and even check-out, which makes speedy departures a given. Beyond that, facilities are sparse – there’s no restaurant or communal areas and room service is not available. There is a 24-hour front desk on the second floor but other than that, you won’t have to talk or interact with any other human beings, should jetlag or early mornings turn you into an antisocial grump. Bloc also puts you within easy access of the Gatwick Express, which runs to London Victoria, and the interconnecting monorail to the North Terminal is just a floor below.

Yotel

Distance from terminal: 5 minutes

The Yotel model revolves around "smart design" at "smart prices" in city centres (including central New York, Singapore and Amsterdam) and airport terminals. What this means in practice is small but ergonomic rooms, with beds that switch from upright sofas to flat double beds with a flick of a bedside switch. The futuristic Yotel Gatwick – bathed in a purple glow – is on the basement level of the South Terminal, and just a few minutes' walk to departures. Cabins are rented by the hour (although there's a four-hour minimum), and come with surprisingly generous shower cubicles, a table and chair that handily folds away and TVs in every room. Food and drinks (hot drinks are free) and available from the equally spacily-named Mission Control at the entrance.

Stansted

Hampton by Hilton London Stansted Airport

Distance from terminal: 7 minutes

This is another budget-friendly option that goes beyond just the basics. It’s a Hampton, which is Hilton’ more laid-back, mid-range brand, and delivers pops of yellow and green (especially in stools, chairs and cushions) against clean lines in the public areas, including the bar and restaurant; the occasional aviation-related motif ensures you don’t forget why you’re there. Inside the rooms, colour palettes are softer, contrasting with the dark wood edges, and while you won’t miss out on anything, you won’t find any extras: functionality is a clear the focus (there’s plenty of sockets to ensure your gadgets are fully charged pre- and post-flight). The beds are brilliantly comfortable, however, and blackout blind keep out any pesky light so you can sleep until your alarm. If you’re peckish, downstairs there is a casual restaurant serving some crowd-pleasers – curries, burgers and the like – at lunch and dinner; just be warned that service can be a tad slow. Come breakfast (which is included in every stay), help yourself to all the full English elements, waffles, cereal, hot drinks and sweet treats. There’s also a small fitness centre (open 24/7) and connecting rooms for those holidaying en masse. Reach the terminal via a short walk, most of which is covered).

Radisson Blu Hotel London

Distance from terminal: 5 minutes

Just a five-minute walk from Stansted airport’s main terminal, the Radisson Blu is well-equipped, well-located and home to a pretty spectacular wine bar featuring a tower of over 4,000 bottles (just don’t get too carried away and miss your boarding call). It’s not the most characterful hotel around, but comfy beds, black-out blinds and a banquet of a buffet breakfast mean it’s a failsafe choice for you pre or post-trip slumber (all 500 rooms come with tea and coffee making facilities, a safe and a minibar). There’s a fitness centre and spa on site (treatments include knot-busting massages and Murad face and body treatments), as well as two restaurants – British brasserie, Collage, and Station 169 for steaks and grilled fish. A series of sheltered walkways link the hotel to the terminal, meaning you won’t have to board a flight in soggy clothes if the heavens open either.

Luton

Luton Hoo

Distance from terminal: 10 minutes

Luton Hoo feels like a bit of a trick. It’s a gloriously stately country-estate hotel, yet it’s only 10 minutes by car from the frenetic Luton airport. You’ll feel like you’re in an episode of The Crown rolling up to its Grecian columns with your suitcase (this is, after all, where the Queen and Prince Phillip spent part of their honeymoon) and the regal vibes continue inside. The historic suites (named after their famous temporary residents, including Queen Mary and Winston Churchill) are cavernous, with giraffe-high ceilings, hefty mahogany furniture, plenty of red velvet and grand four poster beds with silk drapes. Otherwise, standard rooms are restful and well-equipped, with Molton Brown toiletries, tea and coffee making facilities and views of the sprawling grounds. Breakfast is – quite literally – fit for a queen, with smoked kippers, full English breakfasts and tasty eggs benedict served alongside continental croissants and juices. If you want to stretch your flight-weary legs, take a stroll around the Capability Brown-designed gardens and venture onto the secret rock garden. Or take a Luton Hoo cab to its spa and country club, around which resident peacocks waft.

London City

Aloft London Excel

Distance from terminal: 4 minutes

Aloft couldn’t be handier for City Airport – you’ll find it right next to the Excel exhibition centre and the Prince Regent DLR station, and within striking distance of Canary Wharf (you can simply cross the bridge and get to the airport on foot in about 20 minutes if you don’t want to wait for a taxi). Loft-inspired rooms are high-ceilinged, with vast windows offering views across east London and the buzzy Docklands and bathrooms with walk-in showers and Bliss Spa toiletries. There’s also plenty to do here if you prefer socialising to slumbering. The indoor pool comes with city views, sauna and steam room; the lively W XYZ bar has karaoke and music performances three times per month; and there’s fast Wi-Fi plus ‘grab & go’ food 24 hours a day (the Docksider restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner).

Contributions from Cathy Adams, Benjamin Parker and Lizzie Pook.

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2024-06-20T14:30:52Z dg43tfdfdgfd