In an era obsessed with shiny and new, this famed hotel reminds guests why storied stairways, timeless traditions and the brilliance of bygone days always get better with age. With a story as grand as its name, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London mixes the perfect blend of historic charm and modern amenities while training its sights on something even bigger.
The property’s legendary story began over a century ago when it first opened its doors as The Midland Grand in 1873.
It all started with a train station, in fact. The thriving Midland Railway decided to build a line into the city rather than share tracks with other companies. The district of St. Pancras was the chosen destination for the new station, creating a need for a lavish new hotel to go with it. Famed architect George Gilbert Scott was selected to design the masterpiece, bringing to life a building still considered today as one of the finest representations of Gothic Revival in Britain. From lavish gold leaf finishes and ornate stenciled wallpapers to 18-foot-high decorated ceilings and neo-classical murals, the hotel unapologetically embodied the royalty and luxury London is still known for today. While every corner had custom character to leave guests in awe, the most iconic detail of all was arguably the grand staircase. Exuding High Victorian, neo-Gothic elegance, the double staircase finished in wrought iron balusters snaked up three stories to a vaulted ceiling painted with stars and the Seven Virtues against a viridian sky.
Opulent décor was only part of the extravagance this hotel radiated. The technological advances for its time – “hydraulic ascending chambers” (similar to today’s lifts/elevators) that transported guests from floor to floor, the ability to simply press a button to summon service, and flushing toilets in common quarters – allowed the hotel to stand out from other London accommodations while setting new benchmarks in the hospitality industry.
But as time went on and numerous hotels opened in the early 20th century, there was one novelty the property could not compete with: private guest bathrooms. While the hotel was originally considered unique for having shared communal bathrooms, the trend of en-suite bathrooms soon became the norm at surrounding properties. Due to the thickness of the hotel’s floors, installing the proper plumbing for individual restroom facilities was impossible. Add that to the overwhelming maintenance costs of the hotel and … closure in 1935 was inevitable.
In the following 76 years, the building survived multiple office tenants, three bombings in World War II and numerous plans to be demolished. Even when it was completely abandoned in 1985, the building was still grabbing attention as it served as the backdrop for several film, music and TV shoots including scenes from “Batman,” “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” “Shirley Valentine,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, and the music video for the Spice Girls’ first hit, “Wannabe.”
Optimism arose in the mid-1990s when St. Pancras Station was chosen to become the new terminus for the cross-channel Eurostar, thus inspiring a rebuild of the historic hotel. After several years of anticipation, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London debuted in 2011. While updated for today’s modern traveler, the interior stays loyal to the building’s historic heart with restored cathedral-inspired ceilings, romantic wallpapers, murals and, of course, the iconic staircase.
When not getting lost in the lavish details or taking in views of the train station from their Chambers Suites, current guests of the hotel can often be found sipping and savoring at The Booking Office Bar & Restaurant while reminiscing in the romance of a bygone era. The hotel’s signature restaurant is popular among King’s Cross visitors and locals alike and is best known for its Victorian-inspired cocktails, modern English cuisine, occasional live music and always impressive crowd (hence why reservations are highly encouraged). For a more relaxing scene to unwind in, travelers are invited to savor the stress-free serenity of the St. Pancras Spa, then make their way through brick archways beneath the hotel and into a Victorian-tiled indoor pool.
When it’s time to get a move on, travelers will appreciate being just steps from the famous St. Pancras Station, where they can hop on the Eurostar and ride on to the next chapter of their story.
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