Landmark London hotel to reopen

A security guard is seen on the entrance to the road that leads to the Savoy Hotel in central London on Friday. The landmark on the River Thames has been closed for three years because of a massive renovation that went over budget, but it reopens Sunday with completely renovated rooms, suites, public areas, courtyard and gardens.
A security guard is seen on the entrance to the road that leads to the Savoy Hotel in central London on Friday. The landmark on the River Thames has been closed for three years because of a massive renovation that went over budget, but it reopens Sunday with completely renovated rooms, suites, public areas, courtyard and gardens. Lefteris Pitarakis / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The suave Savoy Hotel is back.

The landmark on the Strand near the River Thames has been closed for three years because of a massive renovation that went way over budget, but it reopens Sunday with completely renovated rooms, suites, public areas, courtyard and gardens.

Designers have tried to keep elements of the hotel's distinctive Edwardian and art deco stylings while bringing everything up to date, and the owners have added an eight-room royal suite with an astronomical price tag of 10,000 pounds (nearly $16,000) per night.

The goal is to attract heads of state, wealthy Persian Gulf businessmen, and the very top stars of the entertainment world — the hotel has, after all, hosted the Beatles, Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe in the past.

Spokesman Brett Perkins said the public response to the reopening has been strong because so many people have emotional ties to the Savoy, one of the British capital's best known hotels.

"Everyone has a Savoy story," he said. "They were brought here as a child for tea, or their parents got married here, things like that. We are fully booked the first two nights and restaurant reservations are very strong."

The three-year project, with about 1,000 workers and craftsmen involved, ended up costing 220 million pounds, more than twice the initial 100 million pounds that had been planned.

"It wasn't until the guests left that we pulled down the walls and discovered the true state of the building," Perkins said. "Some things hadn't been touched for 120 years. We stripped it and put in new wiring, new plumbing, a new sprinkler system, a lot of behind-the-scenes things that a guest won't necessarily see, and the essential services that a five-star hotel requires."

Virtually the entire hotel — opened in 1889 — has been refurbished. Room rates will start at about 350 pounds ($560).

With its prime location and posh restaurants, including the popular Savoy Grill, the hotel has been closely interwoven with British history. Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a frequent visitor, and Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana attended gala Savoy events.

Singer Bob Dylan also stayed at the hotel during the early phases of his long career and filmed one of the earliest music videos in an alley next to the hotel.

The Savoy has a tie to the fine arts — French impressionist Claude Monet painted from its balconies, and American painter Whistler also produced works at the hotel — and it has maintained a "writer in residence" program that periodically gives literary figures free lodging for a few months.

Author Michael Morpurgo, known for "War Horse" and dozens of other works, was the last writer-in-residence before the renovation. He said Friday he is looking forward to seeing the hotel open again.

"It was part of the heart of London that was closed for three years," he said. "London without the Savoy is not London. It's an iconic hotel, part of history. All of these people from all over the world have stayed there, whether they're artists or writers or actors, and it's filled with their ghosts and memories. It's an extraordinary place."