Boutique hotel chain citizenM hinted at world domination when we reviewed their first—and currently only—Stateside location in Times Square, New York City a few years ago; and they’re getting closer to their goal with every opening (peek their map of target cities here; NYC is finally getting its second—on Bowery and Delancey—by 2018). While their Taipei outpost is still nearing completion, the ambitious brand surprisingly opened not one but two locations within London in the later half of last year. That’s not including their original hotel.
“I would say that London is a key target city for citizenM, after the success of our first location in Bankside it has always been our strategy to open multiple hotels in the city,” Chief Marketing Officer Robin Chadha tells CH. “That is the main reason, to be honest the timing just happened to coincide of both.” And to those wishing to travel to one of the most expensive cities in the world, this is very good news. The never boring citizenM is targeting money-conscious millennials and business travelers who appreciate good design (and luxury sheets).
Each can be found at an ideal location within the city center (the original site just behind the Tate, and the new locations next to prime travel areas Tower of London and Shoreditch), a different jumping off point for a choose-your-own-adventure week. Beyond the modular rooms, ultra-modern designer furniture, contemporary art collections and vibrant energy that citizenM has become known for (we recommend checking out our Times Square review for a complete rundown of room amenities and experience), below runs through what you can expect from each of the two new locations.
citizenM Tower of London
This is the new flagship location and it’s a 370-room stunner. It’s extremely large, and the cherry on top is the top-floor two-story bar with panoramic views of the city—you could finish your skyline tour of London’s most recognizable buildings in less than one craft cocktail. (The Shoreditch location only has a lobby bar.) Throughout the property are contemporary works from Julian Opie, Toilet Paper, assume vivid astro focus, Mario Testino and more—not to mention a Warhol and kinetic light sculptures from Amsterdam-based Studio Drift. They pair well with the Vitra furniture (and a few Eames chairs), nooks and crannies, and tons of bookshelves throughout the common space; there’s plenty of space and high ceilings to feel motivated to get a bit of work done before you dash off.
On the first floor beside the super-easy self-check-in screens is also a stocked corner of local drinks and snacks that steer toward healthy and artisanal. There’s no better satisfying feeling when arriving at a new place than seeing rows of brands you don’t recognize—all UK-based. There’s a Tenzing natural energy drink (green tea, green coffee, guarana, Himalayan rock minerals, lemon juice, beet sugar); Seed & Bean Company’s Cornish sea salt chocolate bars; Primal Pantry’s raw vegan paleo bars; Taking the Pea’s crunchy pea snacks; Kingsdown’s bubbly juice made from handpicked British rhubarb—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you need more sustenance, the canteen is open 24 hours—a heavenly answer to guests looking for after-hours food in London after 1AM that isn’t a shawarma wrap.
This location’s biggest selling point is its location. From Heathrow airport, we took the Underground, transferring once to arrive at Tower Hill Station. The hotel’s entrance is just a few steps from the tube station. Tower Bridge—one of the most recognizable bridges in the world, and surely the most fairytale-like—is less than a 10-minute walk and is especially serene at night when the tourists are asleep (those seeking quiet should also walk around the nearby St Katharine’s Docks). When day breaks, you’re in one of the most central areas of London so no matter what you seek, the travel time won’t be too excruciating. We took advantage of the hotel’s proximity to the Thames by making sure we walked along the river’s Southbank when headed back to the room; theaters, galleries, restaurants, pubs galore, not to mention stunning views of London’s architecture.
Though much smaller than Tower of London, the 216-room citizenM Shoreditch also has a tough-to-beat East London location—posted just across the street from music venue Village Underground (always worth a look at who’s performing that night, as the bookings are pretty diverse) and in the heart of the city’s creative district. It joins boutique hotel competitors like the Ace Hotel and The Hoxton (and geographically, is actually sandwiched right between them).
Inside this locale, the furniture and lighting fixtures are familiar but the trimmings have been switched up: a more musically-inspired decor, as well as completely different artwork from Alex da Corte, assume vivid astro focus, a ceiling mural designed by local artist Emily Forgot and more.
And while we expected the canteenM to be stocked with the same local brands mentioned above at the Tower of London location—we found completely different local drinks and snacks, which we took as a sign of carefully thought out planning. But this is one place where you shouldn’t eat in, unless it’s 5AM, as some of London’s best restaurants, street food stalls, cafés and markets are waiting outside. The choices are overwhelming to say the least, and there’s something for even the most pickiest and on-a-budget traveler.
Overall, the lack of a separate rooftop bar and the smaller common areas at this Shoreditch location make it less conducive to staying in. Especially here, there are many rewards for those who meander. Walking through Old Spitalfields Market and Columbia Road Flower Market (more claustrophobic than expected), shopping at Goodhood, browsing rare and collectible books at The Society Club (which also doubles as a bar), sipping a pint at the very grungy The Old Blue Last; you can make Shoreditch what you want it to be.
There are rates as low as $120 on some upcoming nights, and they climb up to $242 during peak summer travel. The rooms at Shoreditch are about $10-20 less than the rooms at Tower of London. Bargain hunters: simply signing up with an email address will save you an additional 10% off.
Images courtesy of citizenM