Between the elimination of COVID travel restrictions and a close exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and British pound right now, many Americans are traveling to the United Kingdom in droves this year. London, especially, is a prime choice for travelers visiting for both business and pleasure as “bleisure” travel moves from pandemic trend to being incorporated into the new normal.
Located within The Shard, a now-iconic (and once divisive) skyscraper on south side of the river Thames and the tallest building in the United Kingdom at 309.6 meters (1,015.7 feet) high, the Shangri-La London has found itself at the crux of a number of pandemic travel trends, from staycations to digital nomads, and it is in a prime spot to serve both tourists and business travelers being near the financial center of London as well as some of the city’s most famous sites, including the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern, and Borough Market.
Shangri-La London was able to remain open for most of the pandemic, outside of mandatory lockdown periods, especially catering to domestic tourists and staycationers in 2020 and 2021. And while London did start to see a rebound in tourism this year (airport meltdowns, aside), the demographics around who is visiting changed dramatically this year, especially as Asia is only slowly reopening to coming and going now. At the same time, Shangri-La London’s management says it has been welcoming an increasing number of American tourists over the last several months.
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has more than 100 luxury hotels and resorts with more than 40,000 rooms across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and Australia since launching out of Singapore in 1971. The hospitality giant is now based in Hong Kong. First opened in 2014, the London location was Shangri-La’s first property in the United Kingdom, occupying the 34th to 52nd floors of Renzo Piano’s iconic high-rise.
While each individual Shangri-La location is designed to weave in local touches and customs, the hotel group does strive to maintain a signature theme across all of its locations so that repeat guests develop a sense of home on each stay. This includes a signature scent of lotus and jasmine in the lobbies as well as signature music in the lobby and on the commercial playing on the guest room TV upon arrival.
Lottie Fisher, assistant director of marketing and communications at Shangri-La London, says it’s a matter of what the hotel group can champion at each location, between both the brand’s heritage and the culture local to the respective hotel or resort. And the results are subtle, without being overpowering or kitschy.
And given its location to The City, London’s financial center, it’s a prime spot for business travelers. The hotel also hosts a number of corporate events on its Sky Terrace on the 34th floor with a magnificent view overlooking the Thames. Local office workers make up most of the customer base for Bar 31, the hotel’s all-day café and bar on the ground floor, just outside London Bridge Station. The casual dining spot serves pastries, pizza, cocktails, and more, and during the coming holiday season, the bar will be setting up chalet-style seating on the outdoor terrace, where guests can imbibe hot chocolate or mulled wine.
Shangri-La actually got in at the ground level, both literally and figuratively, as the hotel group went to the Shard’s developers while the now-iconic glass structure was already being constructed. That made it easier for the hotel group to build out more than 200 guest suites (each with a panoramic view—no interior “courtyard-view” rooms here), an infinity pool, a fitness center, and three dining venues (and their massive kitchens) with more freedom.
Along with Bar 31, the hotel has two onsite restaurants in the upper levels. TĪNG, on the 35th floor, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the best reason to visit is for afternoon tea. The restaurant has an extensive menu of teas from both England and across Asia, including blends proprietary to Shangri-La. Guests shouldn’t skip out on the sandwiches and pastries—with vegan and vegetarian alternatives available. Servers heighten the experience with a special table-side experience, starting with a white chocolate replica of The Shard, on top of a platter filled with dry ice. When the server pours hot water over the ice, it creates a magical effect as clouds spread throughout the table.
Shangri-La also has a signature restaurant, Shang Palace, a fine dining establishment specializing in Cantonese cuisine, which is at most Shangri-La hotels. The Paris site, notably, is the only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in France. Open since 2011, Shang Palace at the Shangri-La Paris was Europe’s first outpost and has kept its Michelin star since 2012. While London does not have a Shang Palace, it does have GŎNG, a Japanese restaurant on the 52nd floor, with a very original and eclectic cocktail menu and a dinner menu that includes a variety of sushi, gyoza, and tempura.
Room rates vary throughout the year. Going into the winter season, rates start at approximately $929 (£700) per night based on two people sharing a Premier Shard Room on a room-only basis.
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