London has very few skyscrapers, and all of them are office buildings. By far, the best long-distance view available to the public is from the top of the London Eye, at 443 feet the fourth tallest structure in London. On a clear day, you can see Windsor Castle, 25 miles away, from the top. But London has other kinds of scenic and historic views. A handful of hotels enjoy the best of them.
Parliament and Big Ben
The Marriott County Hall Hotel wins hands down for the best view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Located on the Thames side of the former County Hall (a Premier Inn occupies the side without the view), this five-star hotel has a virtually unobstructed view of these London landmarks. The hotel is also close enough for guests to open a window and listen to the familiar sound of Big Ben striking the hour. Westminster Bridge may interfere with the view from some of the lower-level rooms.
View From Richmond Hill
The view from Richmond Hill was the first landscape ever to be protected by an Act of Parliament. Painted by Reynolds and Turner, written about by Wordsworth and Scott, the view from high above a bend in the River Thames is considered by many to be the best view in London. Two four-star Richmond hotels occupy privileged positions at the top of the hill with most -- but not all -- of their rooms overlooking it. The Richmond Gate Hotel is a 68-room boutique in a pristine, white Georgian building. The larger Richmond Hill Hotel has 149 rooms in an early 18th-century, Grade II-listed building. Both hotels share access to a health club, pool and spa.
Not everyone may know its name, but it would be hard to find anyone who didn't instantly recognize Tower Bridge as a London landmark. Guests at the huge Tower Hotel can open their curtains and look out at it, as well as St. Katherine's Dock and a bit of William the Conqueror's Tower of London. This 801-room, four-star hotel promotes itself as a conference venue, able to host events for up to 600 participants. The spectacular view is one of the hotel's main attractions -- and possibly a main distraction as well.
Bird's-Eye London Views
Two London hotels thrust into the sky above London high enough to offer guests a bird's-eye view. Neither is as tall as the London Eye, but both have little nearby competition to block their extensive views. The London Holiday Inn Kensington Forum, with its 27-story tower, offers views over London in all directions from the west side of the city. At 900 rooms, it is one of Europe's biggest hotels. The London Hilton Park Lane, near Hyde Park Corner, is 28 stories tall with a restaurant on the top floor. Guests have long-distance views as well as bird's-eye views of Buckingham Palace and four royal parks.
- london eye at sunset image by Adam Edwards from Fotolia.com