London weather. Dreary. Foggy. Depressing.
When I looked outside the window of my mega-Airbus minutes after touching down in Heathrow, I could see where this city got its reputation.
Lucky for me, I love gloomy and overcast weather. The more fog, the better. And as my plane taxied over a tarmac damp from a mid-morning drizzle, it was like I was coming home even though I’d never been.
I stopped for a night in London during my trans-Atlantic jaunt to Stockholm. Award flights were readily available to Heathrow, and I figured Ryanair could take me anywhere in Europe without breaking the bank.
Since this would be a quick stop-over, the Hilton London Paddington seemed like a fine choice. Located conveniently adjacent to the Paddington rail station, the hotel was just 20 minutes and £22 away by the Heathrow Express. It also didn’t hurt that this hotel had rates way cheaper than surrounding London properties, with rooms starting at £101/night (~$150 including taxes) as part of the on-going Hilton HHonors summer sale.
I hopped off the train and wandered for a bit before being directed to the Hilton’s entrance at the end of the station. The rain was coming down hard by this point, so I was happy to not have to leave the station to check-in.
Since I arrived around noon, the front desk was packed with guests checking out for the day. But I remembered that the executive lounge was located on ground floor of the hotel, so I figured I’d try checking-in there.
Upon approaching the executive lounge desk, I was greeted somewhat stiffly by an employee named “TRAINEE,” if the badge on her jacket was any indication. She welcomed me with a death stare and a rather ominous “We haf been expecting you, Meester Kim” in a thick Eastern European accent. I shifted my feet uncomfortably, wondering if the safety of the large crowd by the main desk might have been the wiser choice – better to deter the KGB agents that could be hiding behind the fixtures, I thought.
Thankfully, our check-in interaction was otherwise uneventful and efficient. I’d been upgraded to a “preferred” double room on a higher floor, a modest one-category upgrade from the cheapest room I’d booked the day before. The executive lounge was open daily from 6:30am to 11pm, with breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening happy hour served daily.
The undercover Russian spy made no mention of Diamond elite status or late check-out (a common theme throughout my Hilton stays in Europe, I’d later discover). But this didn’t matter to me, since I was off to the airport again the next day. Plus, I was more than content to be able to check-in a few hours early after a long red-eye flight.
My room was on the sixth floor, the highest floor of the hotel separate from the newly renovated “GWR Tower.” Though this hotel has been a Hilton for a while, the property’s maintained its legacy as the station hotel serving passengers on the Great Western Railway during the heyday of train travel. Both the executive lounge and newer rooms sport the “GWR” branding accordingly.
In case you’re curious, it seems like complimentary upgrades from the older part of the property to the GWR Tower are far and few between. You’re probably better off booking directly into the tower if you’d prefer more recently refreshed accommodations.
This separate room arrangement makes for an expansive floor plan, and the hallway was a bit of a maze as I navigated to my room in the building adjacent to the elevators.
The rooms of the older half of the Hilton London Paddington can best be described as “quaint,” with the relatively tight quarters visually expanded by a small set of steps leading from the entrance to the main living area.
Since my room faced the outside, it afforded modest views of the surrounding area. I’m not sure if it’s because I was on the sixth floor, but noise from train, street, or foot traffic was never a problem.
Besides the complimentary carbonated water on the nightstand (I’m not sure if it’s free for everyone or just HHonors guests), the minibar offered a standard array of beverages, snacks, and a cute little Paddington bear.
Only standard UK outlets are available in the room, but the hotel will loan you an international adapter for a £5 deposit.
The bathroom was more spartan in its simplicity, with harsh flourescent lights illuminating every corner of the sparsely decorated space.
What’s more to say? Bed, desk, sitting area, with just enough space in between. Quiet and clean. Plastic laundry bag for dirty clothes. Good water pressure and a firm mattress. The Hilton London Paddington hits all the basic necessities in the most unpretentious way possible.
Let’s move on.
The hotel has a gym on the second floor, right above reception. Unfortunately it’s your run-of-the-mill hotel gym, squeezed into an airless, windowless room next to the laundry facilities.
Guests also have access to a business lounge on the same floor, with complimentary computer and printer use. I used one of the computers to print my boarding pass before heading to the airport, taking care to avoid whatever absurd boarding pass printing fee European low-cost carriers are charging these days.
As I mentioned before, the executive lounge is located on the ground floor of the hotel. You can access the room if you’re staying in an “executive-level” room or if you’re a Diamond guest. Gold guests are apparently only granted access when staying in a suite. You can also pay £25 to get into the lounge, even if you’re not a hotel guest. This is presumably for travelers passing through Paddington station, though I can’t see why anyone would want to pay real money for this.
I didn’t spend too much time there, but I imagine it’s a nice place to grab a quick drink before heading on your way.
I also imagine you’d have a nice view of the rail station after all this construction is over.
When I dropped in after getting settled in, the lounge had a few cakes and pastries set-up for afternoon tea.
And when I returned, happy hour was in full swing, with a decent selection of beer, wine, and spirits accompanying a typical if uninspiring assortment of bar snacks.
I passed on the liquor and bagel bites to crash just after 9pm. I was running on a few hours of sleep in coach, and I was completely exhausted.
But jet lag is a bitch. I woke up just four hours later, still exhausted but unable to fall back asleep. I was also starving. I guess skipping dinner wasn’t a good idea after all.
I tossed and turned for a bit, before accepting my sleepless fate. I switched on the desk light to flip through the in-room dining menu, only to discover, to much dismay, that all service ended at 10pm.
For what it’s worth, when I called down to ask about nearby late night dining options, I was informed that the hotel did offer 24-hour dining service, though the menu in the room gave no indication of that whatsoever.
Figuring it for the best (who wants to spend $25 on a microwaved burger anyways?), I decided to venture out on the mean streets of Paddington to sample what local cuisine might be on offer in the wee hours of a weekday morning.
It’s reassuring to know that when you wake up hungry in some foreign city at 2 in the morning, corporate America has got your back. If you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, know that the Burger King across the street from the hotel is open until 2am daily.
After a few restless hours, it was already time for breakfast. I wasn’t that hungry, but I figured I’d beat the crowd and headed down shortly after the lounge opened at 6:30am.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a generous breakfast with American (British?) hot options as well as your standard European cold-cuts. The bread selection alone was nothing to scoff at, and I helped myself to a few slices of rye and thick-cut bacon.
It turns out a few ounces of bacon grease was all I needed to induce slumber, and I went back upstairs to snooze until check-out time at noon.
At the end of the day, the Hilton London Paddington is great for what it is – a decent transit hotel that offers reasonably comfortable accommodations with easy access to Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station.
It’s worth noting that getting to the city center isn’t exactly the most convenient. The closest Underground station on the Central Line (Lancaster Gate) is a 10-15 minute walk away. The Paddington Underground station was under construction at the time of my stay, but it looks like you’d need to make at least one transfer to get on the Central Line even after construction is complete.
I should also mention that I snagged the room for just over £100, which is significantly less than what the rates typically are for this property.
I’m not sure if I’d be willing to pay significantly more than that for this hotel, as it’s certainly a ways off from some of the more luxurious options in the city (both literally and figuratively). But if you also happen to find a great deal and just need a quick place to rest before heading else where, I think you’ll enjoy a perfectly adequate stay at the Hilton at London’s Paddington station.
More posts from this trip report series:
Introduction: Race to finish in Stockholm
Review: Wingtips Lounge New York JFK
Review: Hilton London Paddington
10 things to know before flying RyanAir
Review: Escape Lounge London Stansted
Review: Malmö Aviation + Menzies Business Lounges Gothenburg
Review: Hotel Quality Globe Stockholm
Review: Hilton Stockholm Slussen
Review: Menzies Business Lounge Stockholm, Terminal 5