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The Grosvenor: a grand railway hotel, reopened

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Almost 150 years ago, The Grosvenor Hotel was one of the world’s grandest railway hotels. Now, following a multi-million pound refurbishment, the hotel has re-opened to guests as the fifth luxury Guoman hotel in London.

Here, Guoman Hotels will tell us more about their grand railway hotel and the golden age of glamorous rail travel. Read on for more. And don’t forget to check our journey planner for cheap first class tickets before you next hop on board a train for a luxury break in the capital.

The Steam Age and the glamour of the rails

The 1800 and early 1900s are lovingly known as the ‘golden age’ of railway travel. During this time, railway tracks were laid in earnest, and travellers who had once been sceptical of the locomotive were won over by the glamour of steam engines like the Orient Express and The Royal Scotsman.

Many rail travellers were used to luxurious locomotives, where dinner and afternoon tea were served, using the finest crystal, silverware and bone china, in sumptuous, silk-clad dining carriages complete with chandeliers.

And these discerning rail travellers expected much the same luxury when they stepped off the platform, giving rise to the grand railway hotel.

The first hotel by a railway opened in 1837 (alongside Crewe station), while the first hotel actually in a terminal building opened in London Euston in 1839.

Fewer than thirty years later, and just one year after the completion of London’s Victoria Station, The Grosvenor Hotel was built, having been designed to be the grandest railway hotel yet.

The Grosvenor: one of London’s grandest railway hotels

When The Grosvenor first opened to guests in 1863, it was thought to be one of the most luxurious hotels ever built in London.

Adjoining (the then new) London Victoria Station, the hotel had been designed to accommodate guests to the capital, and to rival London’s gentlemen’s clubs as the most fashionable spot which to retire for an evening’s diversion, dining, smoking and card playing.

Boasting flocked wallpapers, marble pillars, gilded cornicing, crystal chandeliers, a grand panelled hallway and London’s first working elevator – or “lifting room” – The Grosvenor was a byword for the glamour and opulence associated with the rails; and guests to this luxurious railway hotel included aristocrats, royalty and much-lauded society darlings, notably, the famous aviatrix Beryl Markham.

A luxurious refurbishment: getting The Grosvenor back on track

Architect JT Knowles first unveiled his plans for The Grosvenor at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition for 1860 – where the hotel’s design even drew comparisons with the Pope’s palatial retreat at Avignon.

Knowles’s on the hotel was so well received and grand in design that it inspired a short-lived design movement, dubbed ‘the Grosvenor style.’

However, a lack of modernisation eventually caused the once grand hotel to fall into decline. And although it was modernised and reopened to guests, many felt that the hotel had lost its glamour and old fashioned charm, even though it remained a Grade II listed building.

More than 18 months ago, work began to restore The Grosvenor to the glamour of its hey-day. Original gold lead finishes were reinstated; marble pillars uncovered; an Oriental restaurant added, in honour of the fashion in the 1800 and 1900s for the Orient and the famous Orient Express; a champagne bar opened – in the sociable spirit of the hotel’s original smoking dens and lounges; and 9 new meeting rooms opened – all named after trains in a nod to the hotel’s past as a grand railway hotel.

The Grosvenor now:

The Grosvenor reopened to guests – and became the fifth luxury Guoman hotel in London – in January of this year.

And, while the hotel’s luxurious surrounds are expected to appeal to a wide range of visitors to London, it’s hoped that The Grosvenor will hold a special place in the hearts of railway fans.

Perfectly placed for train enthusiasts, the hotel is right next to London’s Victoria Station (overlooking the very swish Buckingham Palace Road), and is very close to Little Ben – a historic clock tower that was the favourite meeting spot of French guests arriving to London’s Victoria Station in the 1800s and early 1900s.

What’s more, the hotel is also close to Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and some of London’s royal parks, so it’s well placed for guests looking to visit other historic attractions within the capital too.

This post was written by Guoman Hotels. Find out more about The Grosvenor and Guoman’s other luxury London hotels at or on the Guoman blog.

And don’t forget to check our journey planner for cheap train tickets and cheap first class tickets before you next travel to London.

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