It is wonderful to be able to embrace history in such a luxury. What is so special about this hotel, London Marriott Hotel County Hall is its unique location. Not only is it opposite the iconic Big Ben, but you also hear its bells booming and reverberating every fifteen minutes. It is so soothing and reassuring.

Located on the South Bank, I had a front-row seat of the River Thames, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Bridge. On this very bridge, the poet Wordsworth composed the lines: “Dull would he be of soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty.”

Waterloo railway station is very close, and I could walk straight to the London Eye and Sea Life London Aquarium. This hotel occupies London’s former County Hall, which was opened by King George V in 1922, as the headquarters of the local government in London.

On the outside, the architecture is an Edwardian Baroque building; it is made from Portland stone and seems timeless. The hotel has a sweeping façade and is vast, occupying six floors. Down a discrete but grand entrance, I came inside to an attractive, broad lobby with a warm and welcoming massive original marble fireplace. Here and throughout, the rich wooden features blend perfectly with various contemporary soft furnishings, and a small florist keeps all the rooms full of fresh blooms.

Lonch Lobby at London Marriott County HallThe curved corridors have arched roofs, and they are punctuated attractively with marble consul tables and potted plants in elegant niches. With seven miles of these corridors within the building, you might think you were in a maze, but everything is perfectly signposted, and the main public rooms are close to each other. Cleverly they are arranged to incorporate different angles of the River Thames over which the hotel is proudly positioned. It is so mesmerizing like a show forever being enacted with boats of all shapes and sizes going in both directions about their daily business.

Charles Cocktail at Gillray's London Marriott Hotel County Hall
Charles Cocktail at Gillray’s 

An impressive circular, glitzy, and jazzy bar unites everyone centrally. All are held beneath the signature artisan chandelier, the gilded brass, and within its contemporary fold, the very high-backed mustard Chesterfield armchairs. The bar leads straight through its strong Doric columns and along the parquet flooring to Gillray’s Steakhouse and Bar. It features wood-paneled walls with marble tables and plenty of daylight to look out. The specialty here is steak though vegetarians have a healthy choice. It is wonderfully spacious, reasonably priced, and the helpings are generous.

The Library at London Marriott County HallNearby is The Library, which has a totally different feel. It is where politicians came to study. It is staged at both ends by well-built fireplaces and is a long gallery full of encased books. Above are marble busts of English political dignitaries. It is so authentic and steeped in its previous incarnation. Here guests enjoy the Traditional British Afternoon Tea, and I had a delicious served breakfast; it was so spoiling not to queue up behind others at buffet tables for once.

Lonch Suite at London Marriott County HallUpstairs, things are more modern, with orange circles on the carpets and a Penguin book pattern by each floor’s lifts.

London Marriott County Hall bedroomThere are 206 rooms, 12 suites, and 7 spectacular balcony suites (with rates starting at $474 per room per night). My suite was extremely comfortable, with successful sound insulation, preventing me from hearing the tourists walking along the riverside below. Mine was carpeted in muted grey and white, offset by burnt-orange armchairs and colorful framed artwork. The view over the river Thames to Big Ben was fabulous. My bathroom had stylish maps of London as wallpaper. On the black-and-white tiled floor was a deep bath and a Toto toilet, and there was lots of counter space to display the Molton and Brown toiletries.

The Library's Royal Afternoon Tea_ London Marriott Hotel County HallThe M Club Lounge on the 5th floor has all-day snacks, soft drinks, and canapes in the evenings. The state-of-the-art fitness center and access to the twenty-five-meter palm-lined indoor pool, saunas, and treatments are also on this floor. The Club Lounge is an example of the ‘hotel within a hotel’ concept, where those wanting to be more exclusive can work or unwind in luxury. All the meeting rooms are designed out of the original 1922 offices. There is even an expertly guided complimentary two-hour walking tour of Royal and Political London, which is fabulous. The hotel felt contemporary throughout, fresh, and newly decorated. And what a view, as Wordsworth put it so beautifully, “the river glideth at his own sweet will.”