On July 4, 2012, acclaimed hotel group citizenM opens the doors to its first hotel in London – just in time for the Olympics. The new 192-room citizenM hotel is located in Bankside, London’s most exciting new business and cultural district, minutes from the Tate Modern Museum, the Globe Theatre and the Millennium Bridge.
This new property takes what guests love about the brand – high end design, trailblazing technology, innovation, a certain ease and flexibility – and improves it with subtle tweaks that even better suit what modern travellers want and need. The hotel group’s award winning concept has now arrived in the UK’s capital and officially stepped up its game. “Coming to London is a hugely exciting step for a young hotel group,” says citizenM COO Michael Levie. “This city is one of the main stages of the hospitality world but we’re ready for it.”
Since the first citizenM hotel opened in Amsterdam in 2008, the company’s guiding philosophy has been “affordable luxury for the people”. This mantra is as strong as ever in London. Room rates are 99 to 199GBP – an outrageously low price range considering the exorbitant prices of hotel rooms in this metropolis. With this, citizenM not only fills a niche in London, it also sets the standard for what a hotel can do in the world’s major cities.
Arriving in London, guests will be surprised when they see how much more refined the brand’s look and feel has become. Alongside architectural firm concrete, citizenM has infused the hotel’s aesthetics with new sophistication, and what used to be a playground for design enthusiasts has evolved into a stage for endless inspiration. The ground floor, with its open-plan lobby, is “styled to look like the living rooms of a very well-travelled person,” according to CMO Robin Chadha. Every detail is thought through in delineated spaces that now mix elegance with the old exuberance, all in cooperation with furniture design giant Vitra.
Also new is the group’s sharp focus on contemporary art (the hotel is, after all, just south of the Tate Modern), with a text piece rightfully claiming “Another World Is Possible” by Turner prize-nominated artist Mark Titchner mounted on the exterior facade, as well as interior works by Gavin Turk, Mario Testino, a video by Belgian artist Hans ob de Beeck and a jaw-dropping floor to ceiling mural by the hyper trendy artist collective Assume Vivid Astro Focus (AVAF). The Titchner and AVAF works are absolutely original, having been commissioned by citizenM specifically for this hotel and its guests. There’s even “art” to take away: citizenM has launched a new service in partnership with acclaimed Amsterdam bookstore MENDO, friends of citizenM since the very beginning: Guests literally walk into a big black book (the shape of the display) and buy their favourite photography, architecture, fashion, and travel books to take with them or have sent to their home addresses.
Another highlight on the ground floor is the self-serve canteenM, which beckons to the hungry and thirsty. It was designed to feel like a home kitchen arranged around a red wooden coffee bar, along with an adjacent bakery-style open kitchen with fare that shifts from delicious baked goods in the morning to light lunch and simple dinners and cocktails later in the day. Guests can grab a variety of food and drinks, then work at one of the four Macs near the kitchen or hang out at a marble-topped table in the cafe. All of this is situated around a dramatic new interior space. The lively hotel is built around an atrium whose tranquil atmosphere offers an urban oasis for guests and visitors; birch trees add a flash of green, hanging lanterns offer soft and magical light, and AVAF’s 35-meter mural, with its eye-popping shapes, frames the space. A wooden deck extends into this peaceful outdoor space from the first floor.
Leaving the ground floor behind, a striking spiral staircase connects to a series of seven meeting rooms arranged around the courtyard on the first floor. Here “business nomads” can meet in groups of 2 to 24 people for meetings or workshops. Further upstairs, the already super-efficient and functional guest rooms now have an expanded vanity, more room to hang clothing, a small refrigerator and enlarged in-room work surface. A big favourite in previous citizenM hotels, the Mood Pad (a tricked-out universal remote control) has been replaced with something even cooler: a bespoke touch-screen tablet that allows guests to, again, control absolutely everything in the room (television, free movies, window blinds, temperature, ambient lighting, wake-up alarm themes) but also gives them access to the internet and their favourite social media channels, like Facebook or Twitter.
citizenM Bankside clearly has plenty of novelties to brag about. But the group’s best highlights, the ones that took the frustration out of travel in the first place, are the same as they always were: There’s that citizenM independence in that guests check themselves in and out via lobby terminals. There’s transparency with absolutely no hidden costs, free wi-fi, free movies on demand and Skype-based phone rates from the rooms. And real comfort where it matters: the bed is still a heavenly two by two meters, towels are still deliciously fluffy, linens crisp and smooth, and so much more.