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The best of Thames: With markets, shops and sights galore, there's no rest for the wicked in London

Tower Bridge in London, England, on a bright sunny day under gorgeous sky with clouds.
Tower Bridge in London, England, on a bright sunny day under gorgeous sky with clouds.
People walking in Brick Lane on a busy sunny Sunday
Daytime aerial view of City of London skyline
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

London is without doubt the capital of cool. Past, present and future, the city has it all on show in bucketloads on every corner.

Every taste, budget and interest is catered for in the city which is teeming with history, tradition, grandeur and culture. It's museums are second to none, it's architecture is awe-inspiring and the culinary, art, music and fashion scenes would rival that of any great city in the world.

It's the kind of place you could spot royalty - the real deal or showbiz kind - walking down the high street and somewhere you could never tire of shopping or people watching.

The streets of London can transport you back centuries. It is wall-to-wall charm with leafy parks, grand palaces and a rich history brimming with iconic emblems - Tower Bridge, black cabs, the Houses of Parliament - even the Tube has its attributes.

It's a place you could easily immerse yourself in fascinating history, retracing the steps of kings and queens, or indeed murderers and criminals such as Jack the Ripper or the Kray twins.

It's a city of rich diversity - one of the reasons I was there was to celebrate Europeans who call it home. I was in town to host a 'We Are All Londonders' Brexit panel discussion at London City Hall at the invitation of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and therefore wanted to be located nearby.

A hop and a skip from Southwark is the super stylish four-star luxury Clayton Hotel City of London in Drum Street. Ideally situated in London's financial hub, literally across the street from the tube station, it is mere minutes away from landmarks such as The Gherkin, Tower Bridge, Old Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane.

Deluxe double room
Deluxe double room

The hotel has a trendy, relaxed vibe inspired by the Victorian textile warehouses. There's no doubt every detail has been perused over to create a contemporary modern feel.

Reception has a stylish feel and a perfect mix of old and new. Iron pipes adorn the wall, complementing dark wood panelling, alongside separate signs asking people to 'take', 'it', 'slow'. There is quirkiness at every turn. An old-style typewriter attached to the wall here, an ode to a Pearly Queen there. Even without going outside the doors of the hotel, you'd find enough in this building to hold your interest for a time.

The hotel has 212 luxury bedrooms, including junior and master suites, offering unrivalled panoramic views of the London skyline. Executive bedrooms are chic, grand and uber-stylish and with a lot more space than what you would expect from a city hotel room, have the feel of a spacious apartment. A huge bathroom with a mammoth shower was a delight.

Clayton Hotel City of London
Clayton Hotel City of London

A living area with a large sofa, TV, mini-bar, tea and coffee making facilities and a spectacular view over the rooftops of London was an exquisite place to chill out at the end of a day's sightseeing. And the bedroom, with its huge comfy bed was the perfect place to sink into after navigating London's busy streets.

Even in the bedrooms - which in other hotels tend to be bland carbon copies of one another - there was something quirky to behold at every turn. From the art on the walls, the leather strapped headboard on the bed, the industrial style bedside lamps to the dark and brooding wallpaper.

If ever there was a place that would ease you into London style, this is it. Even the hotel corridors, usually dark places devoid of any character are dressed to impress, the very door numbers are retro mechanical-style lights.

Leona stops for a picture with the Thames as the backdrop
Leona stops for a picture with the Thames as the backdrop

The hotel's restaurant was just as stylish. It used the finest locally- sourced produce and drew inspiration from the surrounding east London area to create fresh dishes.

The restaurant mirrored the vibe in the rest of the hotel - swish and cool. It served everything from the finest chicken and steak dishes to good old East End 'Bangers and Mash' which sat alongside other traditional British favourites.

The bar was the perfect mix of the style and warmth residents have by now become accustomed to at this Clayton. A fine time was had sampling a selection of cocktails available, all purely for research purposes you understand, with the bar's version of Tom Collins winning the top prize for the best one.

The Grill at Clayton City of London Hotel The Grill
The Grill at Clayton City of London Hotel The Grill

Breakfast at the hotel was superb. Branded the 'Vitality Breakfast' it included carefully crafted traditional full English dishes with a variety of healthy, nutritious and delicious options, and provided the perfect fuel for a busy day.

And there is nothing like a cup of coffee from the Red Bean Roastery at the end of a hard day's sightseeing to relax, savour, unwind and watch the world go by in the street outside.

All of London's breathtaking tourist attractions are within easy reach of the hotel. Tower Bridge is a walk away and the hotel is literally steps away from the Aldgate East Tube Station with easy access to the District/Hammersmith and City Lines which take you to wherever you want to go quickly and easily.

For those not content with the effort of just walking the streets of London, the hotel has a 24-hour air-conditioned gym featuring state-of-the-art equipment, a free weights area, resistance equipment, cardiovascular machines and a dedicated area for stretching and has complimentary towels and bottled water also available.

London is a spectacular place and if you can, pick a room on the top floors, where you can take in the timeless markets and eclectic shops which sit in the shadow of the city's skyscrapers. Our room had stunning views across the London rooftops, which provided a breathtaking night time scene.

Autumn and winter are a lovely time to visit London, after the suffocating heat of summer has gone, the turning leaves transform the parks into a blaze of colour and the mist on the Thames provides a stunning backdrop for the city.

The Forbidden Forest at Warner Bros Studio Tour London
The Forbidden Forest at Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Time and time again London is voted one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has a rich fabric of history, tradition and culture and visitor attractions. Everything from the Victoria and Albert Museum to the Warner Bros Studio Tour London, allowing visitors to delve into the magic of Harry Potter, draws over 16 million visitors every year to the city.

It's a capital that has everything and the Clayton City of London is right in the beating heart of it with all. It puts the capital of cool right at your feet and the city's modern and trendy beat right into your heart.

Travel Factfile

  • To book Clayton Hotel City of London, call 0203 6872777 or email res.cityoflondon@claytonhotels.com
  • For more information visit claytonhotelcityoflondon.com
  • Sunday Life reader offer: Book your stay with and receive 20% off the hotel's best available rates. Promo code "BELF2019"

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