Malmaison Hotel, Reading
Formerly the Great Western Hotel, this Grade II listed building was designed by none other than Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was GWR’s chief engineer at the time. Built in 1844 to provide a stopping off point for passengers travelling on the newly constructed London to Bristol Great Western Mail Line, it attracted some very distinguished guests, including Sir Winston Churchill.
In the 1960s it tragically suffered the fate of so many great railway hotels – being gutted by fire – but its elegant white exterior was largely undamaged, and it’s now thought to be the oldest surviving railway hotel in the world.
After the fire it was used as offices until 2007, when the Malmaison Group swept in to rescue it and restore it to its former glory, in their own inimitable style of course. Amid the typical Mal funky, contemporary and stylised interiors there are less-than-subtle nods to the building’s railway heritage – rooms modelled on and named after famous trains, including the Orient Express, railway memorabilia in the public spaces and even working train sets in some of the rooms!
It’s a luxurious, fun and tasteful restoration that brings this railway hotel bang up to date while still retaining a strong sense of its history.
Location: Right across the road from Reading Station and just a couple of minutes from the city centre restaurants and nightlife.
Prices: Doubles from £79
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