The hotel is hard to miss due to its sheer size and presence right above the St Pancras international train terminal in King's Cross.
There isn't much to do in the immediate surroundings of the hotel, but being at King's Cross, means it is easy to get pretty much anywhere via the tube to other areas of more interest.
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- Point of interest
The hotel is actually two hotels in one, with the original part of the building having been converted into 37 Chamber suites and the modern extension, Barlow House, named after the engineer, William Barlow, with 208 rooms. The two buildings are linked via the lobby area, but only Chambers guests are allowed into the original building, which is the more exclusive of the two.
A Chamber suite is best for a truly authentic experience of 1800s Britain, however, the new quarters are also a good choice for guests who prefer a more modern style.
The hotel has been beautifully restored to its former glory, including the rooms. The Chambers Suites, located in the original building, are split into four categories: rooms with butler service, rooms with lounge access, one and two bedroom suites and last but not least, the Presidential suite. These extremely spacious suites all feature high ceilings, fireplaces and lavish furnishings but also all the expected mod-cons expected of a five-star hotel, like a flat-screen television, Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, a safe and tea and coffee facilities. All bathroom products are of the REN brand.
The rooms in Barlow House are a lot more conventional of a present-day style, with neutral colours and the same amenities as in the Chambers.
The hotel's 19th century charm is everywhere and will have you gasping in awe at several intervals. From the main entrance, the lobby, which used to be where the horse-drawn carriages would drive up and drop off some of Britain's most affluent guests. In those times, the hotel had its own train line, which has since been expanded.
We especially loved the fact that the hotel is really built within St Pancras station, and at some points throughout the hotel, there are great views of the platforms in the Eurostar terminal. It is this contrast between Foster's domes glass and aluminium clad structure and the 1865 station originally designed by William Barlowe that we fell for. Everywhere you look there is something to catch you eye - from the animated lobby to the quieter corridors of the original building, a lively train station atmosphere still reigns.
Other notable facilities recalling its original Victorian era, is a barber shop and private club. Also painstakingly restored is the 'Ladies' Smoking Room', one of the first places where it was authorised for women to smoke in public, and the beautiful forecourt.
The hotel has three main outlets. The Booking Office, otherwise the old ticketing office, is at platform level and can actually be accessed via the train station. It is a beautiful and warm place to come at any time of the day for breakfast, lunch or dinner. For a quick coffee or meeting, there is the lobby café, the Hansom Lounge, but our favourite that comes highly recommended is the Gilbert Scott Bar and Restaurant run by renowned chef, Marcus Wareing (who has been awarded a Michelin star for his restaurant at The Berkley). Set in the original part of the hotel and accessible from the street side, the British brasserie has all the charm of a hotel of this age and calibre despite staying fairly casual and fuss free. The prices are also very reasonable with a set menu from £19 or a main course for under £20. The hotel also has 24-hour room service.
- The spa is housed in what used to be the hotel kitchens. Its brick archways and restored original tiling gives it charm on par with the rest of the hotel. There are six treatment rooms (including one for couples) and the spa uses the French-Moroccan brand, Cinq Mondes (the Renaissance spa is one of two hotel spas in the country to use the brand). The spa also has an indoor swimming pool open to in-house guests.
The history behind the hotel is what makes it so special. Originally built in 1865, along with St Pancras train station, the hotel opened in 1873 as The Midland Grand Hotel, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and was the second most expensive hotel in London after The Langham. Avant-garde, it was the first hotel to have electric lights, elevators, flushing loos and rotating doors, but following the hotel's success, the owners became complacent, and by the 1930s, the hotel fell into disrepair. The hotel remained empty from 1980 until it was taken over in 1992 by the Manhattan Loft Corporation. The renovation lasted almost 10 years until the hotel reopened in May 2011.
The grand hotel showcases restored gold-leaf ceilings, ornate wall murals and the spectacular grand staircase, which was widely revered as the most majestic in England with windows measuring over 50 feet and crowned by an elaborate vaulted ceiling, has been featured in many films and music videos most notably Batman and the Spice Girls' video for their debut single Wannabe.
The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is part of the international hotel group, Marriott.