Even if you haven’t stayed in one of its sumptuous suites, you’ll almost certainly have heard of The Savoy, the iconic, five-star hotel overlooking the River Thames in London. Britain’s first deluxe hotel welcomed its first guests in 1889 and quickly became a magnet for the social elite – and its attraction remains strong.
Situated on the Strand, close to cultural delights, designer shopping and fine dining, The Savoy is synonymous with luxury, privilege and pleasure. In the nineteenth century, the hotel’s neighbours were the Lords, Ladies and other titled nobles whose mansions lined the famous thoroughfare. A stone’s throw from The Savoy is its namesake, the glorious Savoy Theatre, which has been entertaining audiences since 1881 and was the home of the renowned D’Oyly Carte Opera Company for many years.
Traditional Service and Modern Comforts
Having built the theatre to showcase his productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas, the successful impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte decided that London needed a first-class hotel nearby, where discerning theatregoers could enjoy stylish accommodation. D’Oyly Carte’s vision was inspired partly by the historic, grand hotels of continental Europe and partly by the forward-looking hotels he’d stayed in while touring the US with his opera company. As a result, The Savoy combines traditional service with the spirit of innovation.
When D’Oyly Carte’s magnificent venue opened, it was the only hotel in the country lit by electricity. Only at The Savoy could guests enjoy en-suite bathrooms or order room service. The hotel preferred ‘ascending rooms’ (what we call lifts or elevators) to stairs. Its Thames Foyer restaurant became the birthplace of the dinner dance, and the American Bar introduced guests to another novelty: pre-dinner cocktails.
What’s more, The Savoy’s legendary manager, the Swiss hotelier César Ritz, transformed the experience of dining out in Britain by bringing world-class cuisine to the hotel.
Naturally, D’Oyly Carte gave his creation a theatrical flourish. He commissioned Collinson & Locke, the interior designers who’d decorated his theatre, to enliven areas of the hotel where guests gathered with ornate moulding and gilding. Chandeliers, marble, extravagant floral displays and live music added to the ambience.
Enhancing the Hotel with Art Deco Elegance
The impresario’s son, Rupert D’Oyly Carte, took over The Savoy in 1901 and helped to secure its position as one of the world’s finest hotels. He enlarged the building and ensured it reflected early 20th-century trends. If you’ve ever visited Rupert D’Oyly Carte’s Art Deco estate near beautiful Dartmouth, you’ll know he had excellent taste. During his tenure, the hotel was enhanced with Art Deco features, most notably the gleaming Savoy sign by architect Sir Howard Robertson.
The first half of the 20th century represented a golden age for travel and hospitality; an age shaped in no small part by The Savoy, which continues to set the standard for luxury hotels.
‘Exceptional service is at the heart of everything we do,’ emphasise The Savoy’s employees.
Walk in the Footsteps of the Rich and Famous
You can arrive in style by booking the chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Phantom, which features the distinctive number plate S8 VOY. Doormen in top hats will be on hand to greet you. If you treat yourself to a suite – the Royal Suite is the jewel in the crown, boasting a private bar and wood-panelled bathroom – your very own butler will assist you.
It’s thrilling to walk in the footsteps of the many famous guests. At The Savoy, Monet painted river views; the Queen enjoyed nights out in her youth; Fred Astaire danced on the roof; Laurence Olivier met his future wife, Vivien Leigh; The Beatles came to visit Bob Dylan.
The hotel is now owned by a member of the Saudi Royal Family, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, one of the world’s richest people. Thanks to the £220 million makeover he oversaw between 2007 and 2010, The Savoy looks set to reign supreme for many years to come.
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