After a memorable Oktoberfest weekend in Munich, I took the early-morning bus to the Austrian city of Innsbruck. From there, I caught a quick British Airways Club Europe flight up to London, where I’d be spending the next week or so.
I studied abroad at University College London back in my university days, and even though I don’t live there anymore, London will always be one of my favourite cities in the world.
This trip, however, would be my first time in London when I had the opportunity to check out the city’s high-end hotel scene, so I knew my choice of hotel had to be a special one.
Of course, London has no shortage of luxury hotels, with a dazzling array of properties under the Marriott umbrella alone (where I could redeem my points for free nights), that were impressive in both opulence and historical significance.
In the end, I decided on the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, a Category 6 property that normally costs 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points a night. In keeping with London prices, the cash rates here are usually in the range of $400-500 a night.
The vast majority of Marriott’s high-end footprint in London falls into Category 7 or above, so I thought the “St. Pancras Ren”, as it’s affectionately known, was excellent value. Moreover, I also had a seven-night Category 6 hotel certificate to redeem, which would cover the exact duration of my stay.
And lastly, I did have some unfinished business with the St. Pancras Ren that I wished to settle. You see, back in 2012 when I was backpacking through Europe, a friend and I had been charmed by the hotel’s immaculate exterior and had wandered into the grandiose hallways of its Chambers Wing. Of course, we were unceremoniously booted out of there by hotel security, and now that I was returning to the hotel as a valued Marriott Titanium Elite member, it was time to witness the other side of the coin…
From Heathrow Airport, I hopped on the Piccadilly Line and settled in for the hour-long journey into Central London. As the name implies, the hotel is located near St. Pancras Railway Station, which acts as the terminal for the Eurostar as well as a handful of regional train routes, and is one of London’s most important transport hubs.
Unlike many of London’s other posh hotels, it’s not bang in the middle of central London (I believe that’s part of the reason it isn’t a Category 7 like the others), but its location perched on top of King’s Cross St. Pancras tube station means that you can still get to wherever you need to go with relative ease and convenience.
Indeed, coming out of the tube station exits on Pancras Road, you simply turn around and go up the steps, and the beautiful St. Pancras Renaissance comes into view.
No kidding, the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London is without a doubt one of the most architecturally stunning hotels I’ve ever stayed at.
The building itself previously served as part of St. Pancras Railway Station, and today continues to act as the station facade on the southern side.
Indeed, while the double-storey archway on the western side of the building acts as the entrance to the hotel, the archway on the eastern side provides access to the railway station itself.
Look at that entryway – don’t you just know it’s going to be an amazing stay?
The hotel’s lobby is an open-concept layout, featuring a central cafe and lobby lounge area with the check-in desks to the right-hand side. The hotel’s railway-inspired design was brought forth fully by the exposed brickwork and steel girders here in the lobby.
Upon checking in, I was informed that as a Platinum Premier Elite member (now known as Titanium Elite), I’d have access to the Chambers Club, the hotel’s exclusive club lounge where breakfast, afternoon tea, and pre-dinner canapés are served every day.
It’s important to note that the St. Pancras Renaissance treats the Chambers Club as a “private club lounge” specifically for its Chambers Wing guests, rather than a regular hotel lounge. This allowed the hotel to circumvent Marriott’s usual treatment of elites, and grant lounge access only to Titanium Elite members or above who aren’t staying in the Chambers Wing, and not to regular Platinum Elite members.
I know many Platinum Elite members would’ve been be (rightfully) put off by this policy, but apparently the lounge simply became far too crowded when Platinum members were allowed access back in the day. However, I now see on the hotel’s website that Platinum Elite members do get access, so perhaps this policy was changed recently.
The other matter I wanted to clarify upon check-in was the room upgrade. I was told I had already been upgraded to a “larger room” in the Barlow Wing, which is the hotel’s newer, more modern wing of guest rooms. However, the real spectacle here at the St. Pancras Renaissance is the Chambers Wing, which is a part of the old station building and houses the spectacular Chambers Suites that the hotel is famous for.
The St. Pancras Ren is known to be notoriously stingy when it comes to complimentary Chambers Suites upgrades, so I wasn’t at all surprised when I was informed that there weren’t any such suites available for my seven-night stay. The front desk manager promised to continue checking if there were available Chambers Suites, but I wasn’t holding my breath.
As we were finishing up the check-in formalities, the associate from the neighbouring desk leaned over and complimented me on the Oktoberfest feather hat that I was wearing. She didn’t have to do go out of her way to say that, so it put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.
I made my way down the Barlow Wing’s ground floor hallways to the elevators. The hotel’s hallways are lined with some interesting artwork, which at times can be a little eerie, especially given the long and storied history of the building. Jessica’s first instinct upon arriving at the hotel the next day was to ask if it might be haunted, and I’m sure she wasn’t the first one to have that thought.
I had been assigned Room 245 on the second floor of the Barlow Wing.
Upon entering, you make your way through a short hallway before arriving at the living quarters. The room is known as a “larger Barlow room”, and it lives up to the name, with the extremely high ceilings making the room feel far more spacious than it actually is.
Seriously, this must’ve been the highest ceilings I’ve ever seen in a hotel room, and it was a welcome departure from the standard 8-foot ceilings you’d usually find. The emptiness of the space above might’ve made the room feel a little sterile, but that was balanced out nicely by the plush carpet and the warm colour palette of the room.
The king bed was positioned against the back wall, opposite the television, desk, and cabinets. The artwork in the room consisted of two paintings that were almost entirely pitch-black, which was rather bizarre.
I thought the desk was quite cramped, with the coffee maker and television encroaching on the square footage of the workspace. On the plus side, I was pleased to see that there were universal and USB power outlets available in addition to the UK ones.
The minibar plays host to a comprehensive coffee and tea set, which I used on a regular basis. Meanwhile, the closet is home to a bathrobe, a set of slippers, and an umbrella – a key asset for any stay in London.
Over on the far side, there was a chaise longue and a small end table, situated in front of perhaps my favourite feature of the room: the Gothic windows overlooking St. Pancras Railway Station.
As far as hotel room views go, watching the Eurostar trains pull in and out of London is one of the more unique sights you can behold. As someone who loves to admire modern infrastructure, I found this view to be thoroughly enjoyable, and spent many mornings people-watching from the window over my morning coffee.
Of course, when you’re not sitting down to enjoy the view, you’ll want to draw the blinds to keep the crowds from peeping in!
Over to the bathroom, which is a pretty standard three-piece setup. The sink and mirror is positioned centrally, with the toilet to your left and a shower-tub combo to your right. One thing that annoyed me about the bathroom was that the door would constantly swing closed on its own, and the only way to keep it open was to jam some towels underneath.
The decor in the bathroom was nothing too stylish, but more of a polished and unassuming look. The shower had good water pressure, but the glass pane was poorly designed in my opinion, since it wasn’t nearly wide enough to prevent water from getting everywhere.
I also want to take this opportunity to mention the incredible bathrobes here at the St. Pancras Ren: stylishly embroidered with the hotel’s logo, these bathrobes were extraordinarily soft and comfortable.
I stay at hotels quite often, and only very rarely do I get the temptation to steal one of the hotel’s items and keep it for myself. Suffice to say that these bathrobes gave me some of the strongest “hotel kleptomania” I’ve ever experienced!
I had arrived at the hotel by noon, and got settled in to get some work done for the afternoon before heading out to dinner later that night with some friends. As I was working, a hotel associate came by to deliver my welcome gift: a beautiful and delicious dessert tray of chocolate cake, macaron, and strawberry mousse.
My friends arrived at 6pm, and we headed down to the Chambers Club to scope it out and enjoy some pre-dinner canapés.
The Chambers Club is a truly beautiful space, albeit very much an old-school establishment in terms of the design. There are two ways to access it: via a keycard-enabled door in the Booking Office restaurant, or via the grand staircase down from the Chambers Wing.
Ruby is the dominant colour, evoking the luxury, exclusivity, and – dare I say it – snobbery of the traditional British upper-class gentlemen’s clubs. I mean that in the best way possible of course, and the high-society charm of the Chambers Club is very much something to be embraced if you do have access to it!
If you’re entering the Chambers Club via the Booking Office entrance, you’ll first encounter the side table with a few grab-and-go sweets. Then, you’ll find the concierge desk, which is available to help hotel guests with itineraries, things to do in London, restaurant reservations, etc.
As you proceed further, you’ll find the kitchen and buffet area, as well as the seating area spread out throughout a hallway and a large room in the back.
Overall, it’s a rather intimate space, and can get quite crowded during breakfast, high tea, or the pre-dinner canapé service. If you’re a large party, you can call down to the Chambers Club and reserve a table if you’d like.
I particularly liked the booth-style seating, nestled underneath the grand staircase leading up to the Chambers Suites.
We found a small table in the corner to enjoy some canapés and wine, before heading into central London for dinner. The rotating evening selection is on the lighter side, and while it was appetizing, I wouldn’t recommend using it as a dinner substitute, especially given the wealth of dining options you have right at your fingertips in one of the world’s great cities.
Jessica and I also dropped by the Chambers Club in the afternoon on a few days for the high tea service. There’s a variety of sweet and savoury scones, desserts, and tea sandwiches available at the buffet.
You can help yourself to coffee, tea, or wine, but if the Chambers Club staff members see you they’ll offer to help you prepare your beverages as well.
Speaking of which, while I loved the ambience of the Chambers Club, I thought the service was something that could’ve been improved. Having a wait staff taking care of the guests is clearly a selling point of an exclusive private space like the Chambers Club, but the staff wasn’t very attentive or efficient in their service.
During each of the meal services, it’d often take upwards of five minutes to flag someone down and order our beverages, and after that it’d be another long while before they were served.
That was frustrating, because as much as I wanted to fully indulge in everything the Chambers Club had to offer, I could’ve easily gone up and fixed ourselves a few cups of black tea in a matter of seconds.
Now, in terms of breakfast, guests who have access to the Chambers Club can also elect to take breakfast in the Booking Office, the main restaurant. The Booking Office is located on the eastern side of the lobby, and can be accessed via the lobby or from within St. Pancras Railway Station itself.
There is a breakfast buffet served along the restaurant’s bar, mostly consisting of the items you’ll find in a traditional English breakfast: scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, baked beans, mushrooms, and grilled tomatoes. There’s also a variety of pastries, charcuterie, fruits, and juices, as well as a few rotating specialty items like pancakes.
In addition, you can also order items à la carte from the wait staff, including eggs any style, omelettes, or oatmeal with your choice of toppings.
Over the course of our seven days at the hotel, we probably took breakfast in the Booking Office on three of the days, in the Chambers Club on two of the days, and accidentally overslept and missed breakfast on the other two days.
Sadly, I didn’t manage to get photos of the breakfast spread in the Chambers Club, but it was more limited than that of the Booking Office, although it’s my understanding that you can still order the customized dishes from within the Chambers Club. Like many hotels around the world, you’d go for breakfast in the restaurant if you wanted more variety, whereas you’d choose breakfast in the lounge if you wanted the privacy and exclusivity.
As you can tell by now, the hotel is visually dazzling at pretty much every turn. The star attraction is the Chambers Wing, which is housed within the original Grade 1-listed Victorian railway station building. Even though I never managed to get upgraded to a suite here, I still took the time to wander through and admire its architectural splendour.
Guests who are staying in the Chambers Wing can take the elevators up to their rooms, but why would you ever do that when you can march up this incredible grand staircase instead?
Seriously, it’s hard not to feel like royalty as you amble up these stairs, and it’s one of the most ostentatious settings I’ve ever encountered in a hotel. Well worth an Instagram photo shoot or two, that’s for sure…
The grandeur doesn’t end there either, with the elegant hallways of the Chambers Wing reminding me vividly why my friend and I had decided to cheekily trespass into this hotel all those years ago.
If you take the time to explore, there’s quite a few “hidden” shortcuts and pathways throughout this historic building, such as this catwalk that spans the upper level of the lobby…
Eventually, you come upon another grand staircase, which leads you straight back down into the exclusive quarters of the Chambers Club.
In terms of the hotel’s other features, the spa, gym, and swimming pool are all located underground, accessible via the elevator banks in the Chambers Wing.
The gym is decently equipped, although there’s not much space available, so it can start to feel crowded with just a few occupants.
Meanwhile, the swimming pool is pretty small as well, and is more of a place to take a quick dip than to swim actual laps. There were lots of lounge chairs set up for people to relax by the pool, but given the cramped quarters and the underground location, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to spend much time down here.
Nevertheless, it’s my understanding that the entire wellness area down here was recently renovated, and is a huge improvement from what it looked like in the past.
Over by the Barlow Wing, there’s a nice outdoor patio that faces the British Library located next door, with some cool artwork on display. I didn’t see too many people spending time out here, and it seems to be used more as an event space than a place for actual hotel guests to relax.
Lastly, there’s also a small business centre in a little alcove by the Booking Office, where a computer workstation and printer is available to guests. I used this to print out our EasyJet tickets to Tallinn on the final night of our stay.
Perched on top of one of the busiest transport hubs in the world and housed within its stunning former booking offices, the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London is one of the most unique hotels where I’ve had the pleasure of being a guest.
My larger Barlow room served me very well, and although I was disappointed not to be upgraded to a Chambers Suite, I’m happy to leave that as something to try for next time. Meanwhile, the hotel’s Chambers Club exudes tranquility and exclusivity, and was a real highlight of my stay – my only minor complaint would be that the service flow could be improved to match the elegance of the physical surroundings.
Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed staying at the St. Pancras Renaissance for seven nights, and its distinctive character left a deep impression on me. Throw in its convenient location a few steps away from King’s Cross St. Pancras tube, plus the fact that it’s one of the better-value Category 6 Marriott properties in London, and I’d do everything I can to stay here again the next time I’m in town.