Have you ever driven into London on the M4 and then into the city centre by crossing the Hammersmith flyover? Before I moved to London, I did this loads of times, and every time that I did I looked at the enormous Novotel hotel and thought, "That looks pretty posh." I was therefore quite intrigued when I eventually flew into town and found myself with a reservation at the aforementioned Novotel.
Part of the French company, Accor, Novotel now has over 370 hotels and resorts across the world. There are 22 Novotel hotels in the UK, but coverage is far greater in France and other parts of Europe. The chain has outlets all over the world - the Novotel brand is perhaps one of the most widely recognised names globally with hotels in most major countries. The chain continues to expand and they are popular with both business and personal travellers.
The Hammersmith Novotel is one of the most easily recognisable landmarks of West London. Towering up above the Hammersmith flyover, the hotel is well placed for visitors using London as a stop off point, or for tourists who wish to take in the sights. The hotel is conveniently located between Heathrow airport (about 9 miles away) and the West End - Hammersmith tube station is about five minutes' walk from the hotel and is serviced by three Underground lines. The Piccadilly line provides a direct link with Heathrow airport, whilst the Hammersmith line links directly to a number of the major National Rail stations (Paddington, Euston, King's Cross, and Liverpool Street). Alternatively you can reach the hotel directly from Victoria station, via the District Line. The hotel is also within five minutes' walking distance of Hammersmith bus station, with buses across all major routes in London - many of which run all night.
The hotel is easy to reach by car, with M3, M4 and M25 junctions all close by. Parking is available to guests, but you do have to pay for the privilege.
The hotel provides a good base for visitors who don't mind travelling to get to all the local attractions, but it is worth remembering that the hotel itself is not within walking distance of any major attractions. If you want somewhere right in the heart of all the action, then the Hammersmith Novotel is not for you. A taxi ride to Oxford Street will set you back about £15, for example.
The Hammersmith Novotel is by far the largest hotel in which I have ever stayed. The hotel has just over 620 guestrooms, occupies eight floors and has one of the largest convention centres in Europe. The hotel is very badly laid out. You should expect to wander round with a puzzled expression on your face when you first arrive. Although the entrances are at ground level, the main reception desk is actually located on the first floor. If you arrive late in the day, the ground floor is eerily quiet and empty and there is no immediate indication that you need to go upstairs. More irritating is the lack of staircases; if you don't like lifts, then you'd be better off staying somewhere else. In such a busy hotel, waiting for a lift is obviously a frequent occurrence, but if you try and find a staircase to save time, you'll be out of luck. I did find one cold, dirty stairwell that was the fire exit, but this just seemed to take me into the kitchens, so I quickly legged it back upstairs and waited for a lift.
Given that the hotel is so large, whole floors are dedicated as smoking or non-smoking areas, with enormous expanses of corridors and symmetrically patterned carpets that give the illusion that the corridor goes on forever. Most areas of the hotel are also eerily quiet and you can easily get lost.
The size of the reception area is in keeping with the rest of the building, and is a bright busy place, unlike the floors above. The reception desk is manned 24 hours, with up to eight receptionists at peak times. Checking in is a quick and easy process although, I can seldom understand a word the guys behind the desk are saying to me, and just smile and nod politely. Apart from the reception desk, the first floor also contains the main lounge bar, restaurant and guest shop. There is a second, livelier bar located away from the reception desk, with pool tables, Sky Sports and loud music.
Most of the staff members are generally pleasant and helpful, but I would say that they are less welcoming than you might expect. Everyone seems very busy and pressurised and you might be surprised to find that almost all the staff were French. The company seems to have a slightly biased recruitment policy.
Checking out is a painful exercise, simply because so many guests are checking out at the same time. There is an Express Checkout facility, but I always prefer to check my bill before I leave. I've been incorrectly charged for things like breakfast, so it's certainly worth checking. If you can leave the hotel later, and avoid the rush of businessmen, you will save yourself a lot of time.
The guestrooms are reasonably impressive. The décor is relatively simple, with slightly tired looking furniture and fittings that have been kept as clean and respectable as natural usage will allow. The rooms are quite large, with a big double bed and a three-seat sofa, (which come as standard in all rooms apparently). All of the rooms are air-conditioned.
The rooms have large colour televisions with satellite television channels and optional pay per view movies. A nice touch is the availability of a Sony Playstation although you have to pay for each game that you play. All the rooms have their own telephones, with sockets for laptop connections and good sized desk for working, if required. There is a well-stocked mini-bar in the rooms but at £1.50 for a can of Coke, I'd keep the door shut if I were you. Tea and coffee facilities are provided as standard with vending machines of mineral water on every floor.
The bathrooms are relatively compact, but have a better-sized bath than most hotels that I have experienced. A complimentary set of toiletries is provided as well as plenty of towels although they are on the slightly small size.
The restaurant offers a relatively uninspiring range of dishes and I've always opted to eat out. Breakfast in the morning is of a good standard although expensive at £12.50. The hotel also offers room service, although the overnight range leaves a lot to be desired. The only food that is served overnight is a choice of three salads obviously in light of the fact that they don't want to pay for kitchen staff overnight. To make matters worse, each of the salads costs £17.95! My advice for all London hotels applies here - eat out. The food will be better, and will be much cheaper.
This is one of those hotels that advertise a standard rate (in this case £145) but rates vary wildly according to when you stay.
For instance, if you book online, you can secure a weekend stay for as little as £60, with midweek rates of around £90. The hotel also offers seasonal deals, with bed and breakfast for two people for £89. Corporate discounts are also available.
My advice, if you're considering a visit, it to check out the web site for deals, or contact the central reservations number. The web site can be found at www.novotel.com and is a well managed site, containing loads of information.
The hotel has always disappointed me as I always expected something rather more impressive than you get. The rooms are satisfactory, as are the facilities and general service, but there is nothing very memorable about this hotel. For a hotel with up to 600 guests, the Novotel exhibits very little flair or innovation. I would be happy to pay £60 - £70, because that rate is quite cheap for London. I would rather choke than pay £145 - the hotel simply isn't up to that standard.
Recommended (with discount)
Not Recommended (at full price)
Location: walking distance from Broadway Shopping Centre and Hammersmith Apollo, within close proximity of Shepherd's Bush Empire and Earl's Court Exhibition Centre / Location: walking distance from Broadway Shopping Centre and Hammersmith Apollo, within close proximity of Shepherd's Bush Empire and Earl's Court Exhibition Centre / Number and type of rooms: 630 air-conditioned rooms featuring minibars. Satellite programming provides entertainment, and wired and wireless Internet access is available for a surcharge. Conveniences include safes and desks, as well as direct-dial phones with voice mail / Rec, Spa, Premium Amenities: a fitness facility or take in the view from a rooftop terrace. Additional amenities include wireless Internet access (surcharge), babysitting/childcare (surcharge), and gift shops/newsstands / Dining: Enjoy a satisfying meal at a restaurant serving guests of Novotel London West. Quench your thirst with your favorite drink at a bar/lounge / Business, Other Amenities: business center, currency exchange, and express check-in. Event facilities at this hotel consist of banquet facilities and a meeting/conference room. Limited parking (subject to charges) is available onsite.