I recently had the chance to stay at the Kimpton Charlotte Square hotel in Edinburgh for a family staycation over the Christmas period. As a local resident, I don’t often have the opportunity to try out the city’s hotels, and this is something I was keen to put right.
Edinburgh has a few high-end options to choose from, and it was difficult to decide between them. In terms of price, the Kimpton is most comparable to the Sheraton Grand and the InterContinental Edinburgh The George. Ultimately, we chose the Kimpton for its unique boutique aesthetic, which provided a refreshing change from the typical look and feel of a chain hotel brand.
We booked a ‘2 Twin Beds Essential’ room for two nights, which came to £538. This is fairly steep for this room type, but was due to the fact that I’d booked through Amex Travel, which commands a premium over other travel booking sites.
I’d opted to do this since I had £200 in Amex travel credit, which was awarded as part of a recent offer for new Amex Platinum cardholders. This brought the total cost down to £338, and provided some generous benefits, including a room upgrade and £90 in hotel credit.
Kimpton Charlotte Square is located in the heart of Edinburgh, within the city’s historic New Town neighbourhood. The hotel is situated next to George Street and just around the corner from Princes Street, offering easy access to some of the best bars, restaurants, and shopping in the city.
Despite its central location, the hotel is tucked away from the high-traffic tourist areas, giving it a more local and authentic feel. The Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle are just a 20 minute walk away, making the hotel an ideal base for those looking to explore the city’s top attractions.
The exterior of the hotel, made up of seven interconnected Georgian townhouses, subtly blends into the surrounding area. It’s charming but understated, and easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.
Upon entering the hotel however, the luxury and sophistication are immediately apparent. We were greeted by an attentive doorman who helped with our luggage and guided us to the check-in desk. The receptionist recognised that I had booked with Amex Travel and provided a document outlining the benefits.
We’d hoped to get a rundown of the dining options, but we didn’t get much information on this, even after asking about the available restaurants. This was a bit disappointing considering that much lesser hotels are able to get this aspect right. The receptionist also wasn’t able to make a reservation on our behalf, and didn’t inform us that one of the two restaurants was closed until the end of January. Fortunately, she did remember to inform us about the complimentary drinks available during social hour at the BABA Bar from 5pm-6pm — which was appreciated — but then sent us in the wrong direction for our room.
Despite the misdirection taking us on a labyrinthine trek through the endless corridors, and the other frustrations during check-in, we were quickly won over by the rest of the hotel, which is designed to celebrate the golden age of travel. The numerous beautifully designed spaces, including a salon, map room, and library, are each filled with unique character and attention to detail through curated art, books, and miscellanea. As described on the hotel’s website, the atmosphere at the Kimpton Charlotte Square is indeed “sumptuous but not stuffy,” providing a luxurious yet relaxed experience for guests. The icing on the cake — or pie, in this case — was the delicious warm mince pies, mulled wine, and fruit-infused water available in the reception area.
Opinions on our upgraded ‘2 Twin Beds Premium’ room were very positive, with the look and feel being very much to my taste. The blend of modern and rustic means a space that feels contemporary, without feeling devoid of personality, and the high-quality appointments make the space feel suitably luxurious. It’s a design that’s very much befitting of the city, without being cliche. The upgrade from ‘Essential’ to ‘Premium’ didn’t mean massive differences, but it did get us a larger space as well as a comfy sofa and a round dining table, which came in handy for Christmas board games.
The studded brown leather sofa was my favourite feature, and isn’t something I’ve come across in many hotel rooms over the years. Other details impressed, like the easel TV stand, the campaign chest of bedside drawers, and the plush high-backed armchair. Smaller details like the eclectic assortment of artwork above the bed, and the the vintage bedside mushroom lamps added a touch of personality. And this isn’t a case of design over function; there’s plenty of sockets in sensible locations, beside reading lamps, and effective A/C that doesn’t disturb sleep. Our room overlooked the glass roof of the garden room below; exterior rooms will likely have better views.
In terms of amenities, there’s perhaps some items missing that you might ordinarily expect. For example, there’s no coffee machine in the room — although there is the option of drip brew coffee, as paper filters are provided. Also, while there is a box of snacks, the minibar isn’t stocked unless requested. Oddly, one item which is provided, is a yoga mat. The good news is that there’a very long list of other amenities that can be provided by reception, including those I’ve highlighted.
Spa and fitness centre
The hotel features various health and fitness facilities which are open to both hotel guests and membership holders including a gym, spa treatments, and even a “Sound Wellness Room”. I’m much too skeptical for that sort of thing, but I did take advantage of the pool during my stay.
Located on the lower ground floor, the pool area features a sauna, steam room, and rainfall shower. While the rest of the hotel is decorated to a high standard, the pool facilities are not as extravagant. The pool is on the chillier side, but it’s just about big enough to keep warm by getting some laps in.
One oddity is that there is no space allocated for loungers, and the only seating available is a few benches to place your belongings. On a more positive note, the sauna and steam room are both pleasant, and the changing facilities are clean and tidy with large lockers for storing your belongings.
Although I didn’t use the gym facilities, I did take a look around to see what’s what. The fitness centre is spread across multiple rooms and features modern equipment in the “Cardio Zone,” including treadmills, elliptical trainers, stair climbers, rowing machines, and Peloton bikes. The main “Fitness Suite” has a range of weight training equipment that is well organised, despite the compact space. Additionally, there is a separate workout studio located downstairs.
The hotel’s main restaurant, Aizle, was closed during our stay for their winter break. This was unfortunate, as the six-course tasting menu looks intriguing, and the indoor garden space within which it is hosted, is a lovely space. Nevertheless, we visited the other restaurant, BABA, on our second night.
Before our meal, we visited the BABA Bar for social hour, where we were served complimentary soft drinks, beers and wines. After this we headed next door to the Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, and we were seated in the map room. While this is my favourite room in the hotel, it did highlight how out of place this restaurant feels in the hotel as a whole. Admittedly, Mediterranean has never been my favourite cuisine anyway, but even putting that aside, I can’t help but think a more predictable local cuisine would satisfy more guests.
That said, on the menu, there was a range of snacks, mezze, grilled dishes and sides. The server recommended we order about 3 plates each, so this gave us an opportunity to sample many of the menu items. I was impressed by the creativity of the dishes and the diversity of flavours, but I had — perhaps optimistically — hoped there would be a Christmas twist to the menu. This was strictly authentic however, albeit with some Scottish flavours.
Our meal came to £125, including desserts and drinks which was no doubt good value considering the quantity of food we received. Service was a mixed bag, with friendly waiters, but some items mistakenly sent to our table, and others not received at all.
Until Aizle reopens, breakfast is also being served at BABA. It has most of what you’d expect from a buffet selection — except for the unforgivable omission of hash browns. In addition to cooked items, there was also pastries, smoked salmon and mackerel, cheeses, and cold cut meats, cereal, and fruits. Good scrambled eggs are the mark of a good breakfast; I’m pleased to report that these eggs are up to par. Specific dishes, such as eggs Benedict, are available to order for an added charge.
Overall, our stay at the Kimpton Charlotte Square exceeded my expectations. The central location, charming building, and sophisticated interior of the hotel made it an ideal choice for our staycation. While the service was somewhat inconsistent, and the dining options weren’t always to my personal taste, these shortcomings weren’t enough to detract from my overall impression of the hotel.
As a 4-star hotel, it punches above its weight. The odd thing would spring to mind like “that’s disappointing that there’s no chocolates as part of turn down service”, before I had to remind myself that I wasn’t in fact staying in a 5-star hotel. That’s a compliment, by the way, and once you’ve reminded yourself of that fact, you realise how impressive a product this is.