Stuart Forster reports on his stay at Amba Hotel Charing Cross Hotel in London.
The Amba Hotel Charing Cross is arguably the most central of all London’s many hotels.
As the name of this 4-star luxury hotel suggests, it stands at Charing Cross. It’s barely a two-minute stroll from Trafalgar Square and, at most, ten minutes walk from Leicester Square and Covent Garden. If you’re planning on sightseeing in London or a weekend with a visit to a West End theatre then this hotel provides you with a well-located base.
Once I’d checked into my Executive Double Room, one of 83 recently refurbished bedrooms in the Buckingham Wing, I made use of the free wi-fi to get onto the internet and undertake some research about the area’s history.
The original Charing Cross was the point zero from which measurements of London’s distances were made. The cross was one of twelve memorials erected in the 1290s on the orders of England’s King Edward I. The landmarks stood between Lincoln and London in honour of his late wife, Eleanor of Castile.
A hotel at London’s point zero
Eleanor’s Cross stood at the place we today know as Trafalgar Square but, in 1675, was replaced with an equestrian statue of King Charles I. Turn left out of the hotel and you’ll see the statue about 100 metres away, on the roundabout opposite Nelson’s Column.
Why then, you might be wondering, is this area named Charring Cross rather than Eleanor’s Cross? It’s because the cross was near a turning in the course of the river Thames, known as a ‘cierring’ in the English spoken during the Middle Ages.
In 1865 – the year that the Amba Hotel Charing Cross first opened its doors – a new version of Eleanor’s Cross was erected a short distance from the site of the original. The ornately carved 21 metre (70 ft) high stone landmark resembles a spire and stands just a few paces from the main entrance to the hotel and Charing Cross Railway Station.
A pedant may well argue that, strictly speaking, Eleanor’s Cross no longer marks the true centre of London. But you could easily amble along to the statue of King Charles in the time it takes to convince anyone otherwise
All told, I found the Amba Hotel Charing Cross a good place to stay and this wasn’t purely down to its location.
Accommodation in the hotel
My room was one of 239 in the hotel and from its window I could see the London Eye. My bedroom was well soundproofed and the decor classic contemporary. To me, the ultimate test of a hotel’s quality is whether or not I get a good night’s sleep and wake refreshed the next day. In that respect the king-sized Hypnos bed, Egyptian cotton sheets and quiet air-conditioning combined to give me precisely what I wanted.
The desk within my room enabled me to crack on effectively with a couple of hours work. I then sat on the sofa to review paperwork while drinking a cup of coffee, which I made using the facilities within the room rather than calling for one from the 24-hour room service.
Before heading out for dinner at Covent Garden I decided to take a look around the hotel’s facilities.
Business within the Terrace Bar, overlooking the Strand and the National Gallery, was just starting to pick up. It’s a popular spot for afternoon teas but at the time I popped in people were ordering British and international dishes ahead of going to the theatre.
Visiting Eleanor’s Cocktail Bar
Eleanor’s Cocktail Bar, named after King Edward’s Spanish wife, has a good ambiance. Red seating, flickering candles and mirrors behind the bar helped create a welcoming, sensuous atmosphere.
I then walked past the grand sweep of the carpeted Victorian staircase that guests here have been walking up for almost 150 years. The high-ceilinged corridors of the original side of the hotel, a Grade II listed building, gave me a sense of its Victorian heritage.
I took the lift down into the basement to check out the 24-hour gym, which has cardiovascular and weight equipment. If I’d been staying for longer maybe I’d have made use of them. Perhaps I say that too often when visiting hotels?
On leaving the hotel the top hat wearing concierge gave me a cheery greeting and asked if he could help at all. The hotel is located next to Charing Cross railway and Underground stations. There’s also a taxi rank in front of the hotel, so getting around could hardly be easier.
Checking out took barely a minute and I was already on the Strand. What a way to start a day in London!
To find out more about the hotel (The Strand, London, WC2N 5HX, tel. +44 (0) 845 305 8312), including room rates and offers, plus full details of facilities, see the Amba Hotel Charing Cross website. The Charing Cross property is one of three Amba hotels in London.
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