Valerie Wilson Travel

A Walk Through Raffles London

with Sarah Doyle

About Sarah

Sarah Doyle recently celebrated her one-year milestone as an Independent Travel Advisor with Valerie Wilson Travel. Having transitioned from the finance industry in 2005 to focus on raising a family with her husband Matt, Sarah dedicated herself to philanthropy within her community. Over the years, she served on various non-profit boards, chaired multiple fundraisers, and devoted time to mentoring at-risk teens.

As her two daughters entered high school, Sarah felt a renewed desire to re-enter the workforce. The world of travel advising beckoned, and Sarah was fortunate to have her fantastic VWT travel advisor, Sydney Pasternak, help her get a foot in the door. Embracing her new career, Sarah finds immense joy in the role and takes pride in being a part of the highly regarded Valerie Wilson Travel.

A Stately Arrival

After booking our family holiday in London for Thanksgiving, I learned at ILTM Americas that Raffles London would be open by the time we arrived. We stayed at the lovely Hotel Cafe Royal, which was incredible, and had the opportunity to tour Raffles. Jill O’Hare, the Director of Sales and Marketing, was our gracious guide.

Situated in Whitehall within the historic Old War Office, or OWO for short, this location is a dream come true for history enthusiasts, though it warmly welcomes all luxury travelers! Constructed in 1906 as the New War Office, the OWO served as the hub for army administration. Its historical significance peaked during World War II when it became Winston Churchill’s office – a pivotal place where he contributed to the Allies’ victory over Hitler.

Before entering this majestic Baroque-style building, crafted from Portland stone, the significance of the location is palpable. Directly across the street stand the Horse Guards, and the nearest neighbor is none other than the King himself. Upon stepping inside, I got the chills. The storied past – from Churchill to the birth of James Bond by Ian Fleming – all housed under the same roof is initially overwhelming. However, after a moment, you find yourself simply awestruck by the beauty of the interiors. Following a meticulous six-year restoration and an investment exceeding $1.5 billion, this 120-room hotel, including 39 suites, is nothing short of pristine.

Preserving the Past

The Grand Staircase, crafted from Piastraccia marble, unfolds before you, beckoning you to climb it. Overhead, a massive Murano glass chandelier hangs gracefully between the galleries. The second floor, once exclusively accessible to Churchill and his inner circle, now hosts five connecting Heritage Suites: Haldane, Raffles, Churchill, Granville, and Turret. These suites are truly among the most spectacular in existence. The Churchill Suite, complete with a replica of Churchill’s office, was occupied during the tour. However, we had the privilege of exploring the Christine Granville Suite, named after Churchill’s favorite female spy. It is expansive, majestic, and exudes a feminine charm.

The Granville Suite

Both the standard rooms and executive rooms captivate with their charm. Each room is unique, yet all embrace a modern aesthetic while paying homage to the historical significance of the space.

Standard Room

The corridors stretch long and vast, carrying echoes of history from World War II when messengers pedaled from one end to the other, swiftly conveying news.

Historic Spaces and Tastes

Then there are the common spaces. The lower floors house the expansive 27,000-square-foot Guerlain spa – no typo there. It features a gym, treatment rooms, a Guerlain shop, health food café, and a 65-foot indoor pool, creating a luxurious and zen-like atmosphere. A magnificent ballroom, capable of accommodating over 600 guests, graces the lower levels. And not to be overlooked, there are three bars and nine restaurants. Two that particularly captured my attention were Saison and the renowned Café Laperouse.

Saison, where breakfast is served all day, offers Mediterranean cuisine in a relaxed and elegant atmosphere, with a bright and airy space that invites one to either work or simply unwind over a cup of tea. On the other hand, Café Laperouse, situated in the courtyard behind the hotel within a modern metallic, geometric dome, is a portal to another time. The café is quintessentially Parisian and brings a sophisticated presence to the hotel.

Our journey reached a delightful climax with our first-ever afternoon tea experience in the Drawing Room. The extensive menu proved to be a rare delight for the entire family. Ava, my older daughter, and green tea connoisseur, found herself in ‘teavana.’ Jordanna, my younger daughter with a sweet tooth, left no treat unturned. The pianist, playing modern tunes with a twist befitting the room’s mood, added a delightful finishing touch.

Your Invitation to London’s History

Raffles London is a haven for those who have an affinity for the finer things in life. Beyond its allure for history lovers, this property extends a warm welcome to families, offering an endearing Whitehall treasure hunt followed by a delightful tea experience. While one could truly spend days enjoying the amenities within the property, the prime location of Raffles in central London’s Whitehall beckons further exploration. Nestled within walking distance of iconic landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, Westminster Abbey, and the meandering River Thames, Raffles positions itself as a more-than-ideal starting point for immersing yourself in the rich history and vibrant culture that London has to offer.

Ready to plan your own getaway?