The Waldorf Hilton, London: a continuation of “Cathay & British Airways First Class, Philippines and Macau, a Presidential Suite, and the Fat Duck Restaurant”

Last November, after my stay at the Prince de Galles in Paris, I decided that I would always endeavor to pick a hotel in a major European city that had an executive lounge.

Now, the Euro has been falling relative to the dollar in recent weeks (oh, those profligate Greeks, Portugese, and Spaniards, you make the Italians look fiscally responsible!). But Europe is just really hard on my wallet, and a lounge there yields especially good value — for my morning coffee, for breakfast, for access to water. I’ll never ‘get’ Europeans who don’t drink water and no I’m not willing to chug multiple bottles of marked-up Evian over lunch every day.

So I decided to burn some Hilton points for London, and as a Diamond I had heard that the executive lounge at the Waldorf Hotel was perfectly reasonable.

For such a short stay – only two nights – in London, I was also pretty location-sensitive and the Waldorf fit the bill.

In the future if I were going to be having lunch at the Fat Duck the day after arriving in London, I’d probably just grab a hotel at Heathrow for the first night — since Bray is on the wrong side of the airport relative to Central London — and then change hotels. But I did both nights at the Waldorf.

I wasn’t impressed with the place relative to other hotels I’ve stayed in, or stayed in on this trip. But it fit the bill for a major European city where I could use points and save cash.

It’s the archetypical ‘once-nice’ property that lives on the past glory of its reputation. It’s clearly a four rather than five-star hotel. An aging physical plant, and it’s way too much a Hilton to be truly nice. Just as the stylized “Hilton Breakfast” brochures in the room felt out of place on Cebu in the Philippines, they felt out of place for an ostensibly luxury European hotel. The generic sunrise graphic just seems to smash any sense of place, making it seem as though I could be at any generic Hilton Garden Inn in the middle of flyover country in the U.S.

Had I been in the US I would have felt like I was in a tiny room, but I clearly received an upgrade as a Diamond in this older European property. There was an entryway before reaching the bedroom, the bedroom wasn’t tiny, and it had two closets as well:

There was a hallway between the bedroom and the bathroom that housed a desk:

The bathroom was small but functional.

.. though it wasn’t especially well designed. The glass shield didn’t do a good job keeping water off the floor in the bathroom. It also made the shower/tub combo feel especially narrow. A curved shower rod and curtain would go a long way in this tub to let one stretch out. Further the showerhead was immobile which meant I had to be directly underneath it, between the wall and the glass, and couldn’t stretch out behind the end of the glass. That said, given the shower design this was an important feature rather than flaw — otherwise even more water would get onto the floor. And the most annoying feature? The bubbling up of the bottom of the tub, I felt like I sas surfing in the shower as the floor popped beneath my feet. Then there was the loud noise from the pipes when flushing the toilet…

I never visited the lounge in the evening so can’t speak to their canapé offerings. But the space is nice enough, and breakfast fairly abundant with both hot and cold offerings.

The one thing the lounge especially lacked from my perspective was bottles of non-carbonated water that I might take with me. The hotel did provide one big bottle in the room each day, but my biggest need besides breakfast and coffee out of a lounge is access to water. But fortunately there was a market across the street where I could pick up as many bottles as I wished perfectly inexpensively.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Empty glass plus tap (faucet) = drinking water. Empty bottle plus tap = drinking water to go.

  2. the tap water in the UK is fine… better than lots of USA stuff

    that shower glass thingie is common in the UK… Their bathrooms are really just a collection of issues like the lack of mixing vaulves in faucets (the 2 faucets one hot one cold so common in UK sinks, or the squat shower/tubs in older bathrooms)…

  3. Your review us making me rethink my planned award stay at this hotel in June. Are there better Hilton choices in London?

  4. In France it’s quite common to ask for a “carafe d’eau”, a pitcher of tap water, with a meal, although I realize it’s less common in other European countries where you’re obliged to buy bottled water. It won’t have ice cubes like in the States though…

  5. I’ve never had problems asking for water in Britain, as long as I pronounced it the British way 🙂

    @joseph: some older buildings in the UK have a duplicate system of pipes — the original lead piping for non-drinking water, and a newer system expressly for drinking water. You should ask about drinking water safety in any building built in the 1970s or before.

  6. Josh, if location is important, then only the Waldorf Hilton and the Trafalgar are in that area. Both are fine hotels, Trafalgar doesn’t have a lounge but has a great breakfast that Diamonds (and maybe Golds, don’t know) get access to. I’d personally suggest keeping your stay.

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