This London Hot Spot Was Once a Legendary Courthouse — and Now It's One of the Best New Hotels in the World
During the Bow Street Magistrates' Court's 125 years of operation in Covent Garden, it saw the likes of writer Oscar Wilde and the Kray twins, two of the most notorious London gangsters of the 1960s, take the stand. Legendary suffragettes went to trial there, as did a Nazi propagandist. Even designer Vivienne Westwood once spent a night behind its bars after a protest. When it shuttered in 2006, it was touted in the British press as a "living monument" and one of England's most famous courthouses. And even then, rumors were swirling that it was meant to become a hotel.
On May 25, 2021, after years of changing hands and stalled plans followed by a global pandemic, it did indeed (finally) open as a hotel — and NoMad London was worth the wait. The proof? When Travel + Leisure's It List 2022, naming the top new hotels in the world, went live this week, it ranked NoMad London among the cream of the new hotel crop.
The hotel successfully translates the brand's sophisticated-casual New York style across the pond as NoMad's first property outside the U.S. Designed by Roman and Williams, there are nods to the synergy between New York City and London: a cheeky pub, Side Hustle, serves British and American spirits alongside Mexican fare in the court's former police station, and the Library blends books and artwork representing both cities — particularly their shared love for theater, as those enjoying a coffee, tea, or cocktail on its red velvet furniture will find themselves sitting just across the street from the Royal Opera House.
The main NoMad Restaurant is inside a three-story atrium — the site of the former police station courtyard — now modeled after an Edwardian greenhouse. Executive chef Ashley Abodeely, whose work has touched every NoMad property, has masterminded a menu centered around a wood-burning grill and farm-fresh, U.K.-sourced ingredients.
Common Decency, NoMad's first-ever lounge, where East London cocktail bar meets West End nightclub, has yet to open but already promises to draw locals and visitors alike once completed. The private VIP booths out back feel like an insider's secret, nestled in Victorian-era coal holes once used to heat the building that now house elegant furniture with elaborate golden artwork gracing the walls and low ceilings.
For private dining and events, including weddings, the former heart-of-the-action Magistrates' Courtroom is now an ethereal ballroom with two dining rooms, a bar, and its own entrance.
The 91 rooms vary in size, layout, and design, with suites offering separate sitting rooms, and some of them, clawfoot bathtubs. Blush, rose gold, and velvet touches throughout soften the stately courthouse architecture, and the Royal Opera Suite boasts views over its namesake landmark.
For history buffs, the smallest room category may be the coolest: Down a light green hallway, what was once the women's jail wing is now a hall of guest rooms (two cells make a room), with the original tilework and cell doors still intact.
A visit will leave the curious guest yearning to know more — and the Bow Street Police Museum is just the place to satisfy that craving. The museum delves into the history of the police station and courthouse and the stories of the colorful characters and criminals who passed through, as told by the officers who served there long before a world-class hospitality team was passed the baton.
Nina Ruggiero is Travel + Leisure's digital editorial director. A New Yorker living in Los Angeles, she's happiest on a beach, a cobblestone street, or in a hotel bathtub with a view. Find her on Instagram @ninamarienyc.