Opposite the old home of my second favorite royal (you’re welcome, ma’am), The Mitre hotel overlooks the River Thames and Hampton Court. As soon as you enter the Grade II-listed property, you’re swept into the history of the place. Cozy fireplaces, sweeping staircases and warm royal hues abound. It was originally built in 1665 to house the overflow of guests from Hampton Court, and there are reportedly secret tunnels that lead directly to the palace.
Each of the 36 guest rooms has a relevant historic nomenclature such as Catherine Parr, Elizabeth I and the appropriately named top suite — King Henry VIII. The rooms are individually designed and, as with Henry’s wives, no two are alike. Each is thoughtfully decorated with its own distinct charm — think artwork created by local artists, handpicked books and eccentric wallpaper prints.
Much of the building’s original features have been retained, so be prepared to explore the higgledy-piggledy corridors, crooked stairs and atmospherically creaky floorboards. There are plenty of cozy corners where you can curl up and read a book — the Minstrel Library has an honor bar, deep armchairs and an eclectic mix of tomes. The Snug area is adorned with hand-painted de Gournay wallpaper and, come evening, it is where you’ll find a mobile cocktail bar for a nightcap to take to your room.
Chef Ronnie Kimbugwe is a larger-than-life character who bounds around the hotel with seemingly endless energy. In the kitchen he and his team whip up classic British cuisine with a historic twist. There are two restaurants on site, Coppernose and 1665 Riverside Brasserie.
Enjoy a traditional English breakfast overlooking the Thames in Coppernose, and head to 1665 for a dinner of squid dished up in old-school tankards, suckling pig (King Henry would approve) and apple crumble served with honey from Hampton Court. In the summer months, chef Ronnie fires up the alfresco barbecue on the terrace; in winter, kids are given marshmallows to toast over the fire. The hotel really makes the most of its riverside location — a pop-up bar is set up right on the banks of the Thames, and The Orangery serves afternoon tea.
Obviously a visit to The Mitre wouldn’t be complete without a hop, skip and a jump across the road to Hampton Court Palace. Explore the Great Hall and its tapestries, learn about the introduction of chocolate to the court of King William III in the Chocolate Kitchen, or just mosey around the exhibits. Throughout the year the palace plays host to a series of events such as food festivals, flower shows and Christmas markets.
The gardens are beautiful no matter what time of year you visit — get lost in the maze, smell the roses in the aptly named Rose Garden, or take the kids to play in the Magic Garden. Hotel staff can organize tickets, and make sure you ask them to pack a picnic hamper for you to enjoy while you’re there.