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The 5* Intercontinental Park Lane is one of IHG’s flagship hotels. It now costs 60,000 IHG Points per night and cash rates are rarely below £250-£300 – but does it measure up to it’s reputation? Before Christmas I stayed there twice, for two nights each time, so feel I can offer a decent appraisal.
For a first time visitor to London the location is extremely good. You are just a few minutes walk away from Buckingham Palace and a simple 20-30 minute stroll straight down Piccadilly to the West End. Parks surround the hotel on two sides, and there are multiple tube stops within 10 minutes walk. You can easily be anywhere you’re likely to want to be in London within 30 minutes, door to door, between walking and the tube.
If you’ve been to London a few times before you’ll probably have your own preferences about location as there’s so much variety in London – personally I prefer being nearer Westminster or further East – but for someone new to London, it’s tough to beat.
The first thing you notice as you arrive is that it’s quite an ugly building from the outside (behind the horses!).
It’s also strangely difficult to get across the road to the hotel if you’re coming from the direction the photo was taken from (Green Park/ Buckingham Palace/Victoria).
All of which is to say, you might not necessarily be hugely well disposed to the hotel by the time you get to the door. For what it’s worth, access is much easier from Hyde Park Corner or Green Park tube stations, rather than walking up from Victoria.
When you enter the hotel, the lobby is smart and fairly modern, but it’s also quite small considering the size of the hotel, and doesn’t exactly scream luxury or design. I quite like the understatement, but I can understand why others might want something with a bit more of a ‘wow factor’ at this price range.
The front-desk staff and everyone else I saw working in and around the lobby area were great. With 387 rooms and 60 suites, it’s a big, busy place for a luxury hotel, with demanding guests from all corners of the world – but service always hit that golden mean of polished yet personal. The member of staff who checked me in saw me walking past reception the next day and greeted me by name before asking how my stay was. It’s a small thing, but they must check in dozens of people each day so to remember a guest’s name is impressive. That level of service is genuinely 5* – it’s not an easy thing to achieve and deserves recognition.
Sadly, other aspects of the service weren’t always so great, as I’ll come back to later.
The public areas areas have a comfortable, ‘traditional British’ feel to them and are quite plush.
The same sort of style carries on into the rooms – luxurious, but not striking or hugely ostentatious. Some would say the decor is timeless in an old-school, conservative way, but others may just see it as a bit old fashioned – it really depends what sort of style you like.
For my first stay I was in a ‘Classic’ room which is the lowest category. The beds and pillows are extremely comfortable.
At only 18 square metres, I was a bit concerned the room might feel a bit tight (even by London standards), but it actually wasn’t a problem at all. The layout is simple and intuitive, so the room ‘flows’ quite well, despite the limited space. The bigger issue is that none the Classic rooms have exterior views (“tranquil courtyard location” is how IHG describe it!). London has so many fantastic, iconic views, and it’s a shame not to be able to see any of them.
All rooms have a Bose sound system, which is great when you’re getting ready to head out.
The bathroom is perfectly decent, without being anything special.
The only thing I can really recall is that it has a bath/shower combo and the bath is surprisingly narrow, which makes standing under the shower a bit tricky. Not ideal for a 5* hotel.
The shower does at least have a rain head as well as a normal one though and the water pressure was good.
The shampoo/shower gel etc are all the usual Intercontinental ‘Agraria’ brand. The towels are splendid and there are robes in the wardrobe.
I think there must have been a bit of a mix-up with my reservation on this stay because I received a welcome amenity, even though I didn’t have elite status with IHG at the time. It wasn’t anything hugely exciting (water, apples, shortbread), but the shortbread actually came in handy because, inexplicably, there are no biscuits with the tea/coffee.
It’s a minor thing, but with the rates as high as they are, and the whole image of the hotel being ‘elegant, traditional British’, a couple of biscuits to enjoy with your tea doesn’t seem too much to ask!
On my second stay I had a ‘Superior’ room, which usually costs £20-£30 more than ‘Classic’ rooms. The difference is that ‘Superior’ rooms are bigger and have an outside view.
There’s a little marble entrance area when you come in.
Again, the beds are absolutely superb.
There is a useful desk area, and a few classic novels on the shelf by the TV if you fancy a read – Bram Stoker, Jane Austen, Brontë sisters, that sort of thing.
My rate included breakfast for a couple of the nights and I chose to pay the £5.00 tray charge to enjoy it in bed. It’s a truly great room service breakfast – every element was excellent! My friends who were staying at the same time said the breakfast in the restaurant was fantastic too.
Service wasn’t ideal though. The member of staff who delivered it was well intentioned but had clearly been taught to do the job in a very specific way, rather than using their judgement as to what the guest might actually want. Slowly listing and pointing to literally everything on the table (“These are the eggs…this is the orange juice…etc etc etc), isn’t good service when I’m doing everything possible, short of being rude, to make it known that I would like to be left to get on with eating it!
Again, it’s a minor thing – but the room rate that night was £400.00+ and breakfast was £30.00, so it’s only fair to make a comparison with the very best hotels in London. I didn’t really mind at all because I was staying for free using a Best Rate Guarantee and a Free Night Certificate (earned during one of IHG’s promotions), but if I was paying that sort of money I would expect everything to be spot on.
I didn’t check out the gym or spa, but the pictures look good.
There’s no swimming pool, which isn’t ideal – but pools are pretty rare at any of the hotels in central london.
At the risk of contradicting the vast majority of opinion on Tripadvisor, I went to the ‘Arch Bar’ a couple of times and wasn’t very impressed. The space itself is ok, but no better than that. It lacked atmosphere, and when you compare it to some of the genuinely brilliant and beautiful hotel bars (let alone other hostelries!) that London has to offer, it’s not even in the same league.
Compare and contrast:
Arch Bar at the Intercontinental Park Lane
Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood Hotel
Beaufort Bar at the Savoy Hotel
It didn’t help that the bar staff were slow and disinterested – a complete contrast to the service from the front-desk.
Theo Randall’s restaurant on the other hand is supposed to be absolutely fantastic, but I haven’t had the pleasure of eating there yet!
The Intercontinental Park Lane is a very good hotel, and an excellent way to use any Free Night Certificates you might have.
It’s a pretty good use of 60,000 IHG Points too as an occasional treat – although if you’re not swimming in Points, it’s worth pointing out that 60,000 could get you 3 nights at the (surprisingly good) Holiday Inn Wembley instead.
Is it worth £250-£400+ though?
I’m afraid, as much as I like it, the answer has to be no. There are a lot of very good hotels in London, and some absolutely extraordinary ones too. You can almost always book somewhere like the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge or the Crowne Plaza City for considerably less than the Intercontinental, and it’s just not special enough to justify the difference.
There are times when the Intercontinental Park Lane is even more expensive than incredible places like the Rosewood or the Savoy that I’ve already mentioned, or even the brilliant Milestone Hotel – and that just doesn’t make sense.
If you’ve got the cash to spend £300+ per night on hotels and want to stay somewhere special, my advice is to make sure you stay somewhere special and not just somewhere very good!