Back On Track at London's St Pancras

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Courtesy St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London

Play station St. Pancras is now a five-star pleasure palace

When the Midland Grand opened in 1873 above London's St. Pancras train station, it instantly became a Victorian landmark. But by 1935 the building had stopped functioning as a hotel, becoming the offices for various railway companies, and by 1985 it had become derelict, abandoned to looters and bats.

The only creatures swooping on the building now, however, are A-listers and well-heeled travelers. Refurbished and rechristened the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, the imposing structure reopens this month as a 245-room property. During the course of a six-year, $240 million renovation, painters and craftsmen restored its gilded ceilings, ornate wall murals and soaring grand staircase, which was once heralded as England's most majestic.

Despite modern touches like an underground swimming pool and spa, Old World elegance reigns. The sweeping lobby — made by enclosing an old taxi rank — melds a glass ceiling with red brick walls and elaborate ironwork, while the dark-paneled bar and restaurant (the former train-ticketing office) boasts corniced ceilings. There, as in the suites, where ceilings soar to 5.5 m, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the neo-Gothic grandeur. No wonder bats took to this place.

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