What do Jack Nicholson, Frank Sinatra, Sir Winston Churchill and the Queen of England all have in common? They have belonged to one of London’s best members' clubs.
London is silly with exclusive members' clubs, each with their own crowd, creed and a social cachet, so applying for the one that suits your interests and social status will guarantee the hefty membership fee is worth it, while giving you access to some of the most interesting events and people in the world.
South Kensington Club
The South Kensington club differs from other popular members' clubs in London because the focus of the organization is not about socializing, business or politics. The mandate of the club is to focus on health, wellness and growth, through nourishment of the mind, body and soul.
This creed has given way to one of the most enriching spa sanctuaries in the country, complete with authentic Russian steam baths and an extensive wellness menu. Members also have access to a sky-lit gym, and science-backed fitness programs and trainers.
With nourishment as a core principle, the club has a tea room with sommelier and a Mediterranean Restaurant that creates custom meals for every diet and lifestyle. The Club also hosts speaker events, a series of renowned in-house travel experts, and even has their own private barber where you can get the best haircut in the country.
The biggest difference between The South Kensington Club and other of London’s best members' clubs is that you do not require to be vouched for by a current member. The philosophy here is: it's not whom you know, it is who you are.
Housed in the former home of Sir Francis Bacon, membership will cost you between £2250-3500 per year, in addition to a £1000 enrollment fee.
The Arts Club
The Arts Club was founded in 1863. If you are looking for a group dedicated to a luxury lifestyle, The Arts Club may just be the club for you; their recent renovation included new cashmere walls. Also with the renovation came the introduction of new hotel rooms and suites that are argued to be some of the most beautiful suites in the city.
As the name suggests, The Arts Club has always been geared towards London’s artistic elite. Notable members include Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, and Claude Monet. More recent guests and members have belonged to the royal family, including His Royal Highness Prince Philip, and Prince Harry, making it one of the most elite of London’s best members' clubs.
The £2000 yearly membership fee and £2000 joining fee will give you access to exclusive art events including screenings, exhibitions, performances, lectures and panel discussions. Members also have access to private dining options and excellent bar service.
To join you must be over 30 years old, know a member who can vouch for you in the application process, demonstrate an interest in the arts as either a supporter or an artist, and be interested and interesting.
The Hospital Club, Covent Garden
The Hospital Club opened in its 60,000 sq ft, seven-story building in 2004. Again, as one of London’s best members' clubs, it hosts the who’s who of the creative industry. The definition of ‘creative’ includes dedicated supporters of the creative industry as well. In fact, Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, helped found the Hospital Club.
The £850 yearly membership fee and the £250 joining fee make this exclusive members' club one of the most affordable in London, but that does not mean the organization is not serious about its’ exclusivity. To join you must be in the creative industries, and you have to be nominated by an existing member.
If you do happen to win a nomination, you must actively pursue the club’s motto: Create, Connect, Collaborate. The Hospital Club makes this easy by providing a private cinema and screening room that hosts about 60 film screenings a month, a television studio, a music studio, and an art gallery that hosts over 40 events, exhibitions, gatherings and live performances a month.
The Reform Club
If you are looking for a club more intellectually focused, The Reform Club is a notable exception to London’s more frivolous members' clubs. The Reform Club was opened in 1836 to gather important political thinkers of the era. It has remained an intellectual sanctuary for those involved in current affairs, economics, military intelligence, science and technology, literature, arts, and media.
Members have access to a 75,000 book private library, private speaking tours, arts events, garden parties, panels, and an impressive private wine cellar. Notable members are Joseph Chamberlain, Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Palmerston, and H.G. Wells.
As an institution serious about scholarship, their membership process is inherently exclusive. Two existing members must propose all candidates, and then they must be elected by the Club’s General Committee. Your photo and profile are then added to a book where other members can voice their concerns about your membership. The entire process of election can take more than four months and will cost you a £1500 yearly subscription and a one time £1500 entrance fee – but to join one of London’s best members' clubs it may just be worth it.
With members like Frank Sinatra, The Prince of Wales, Richard Nixon, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Nicholson, Elizabeth Taylor, The Rolling Stones and other members of the royal family, Annabel’s is one of the most respected exclusive members' clubs in the world. It is even rumored to be the only London members' club that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has visited.
For those looking to climb social ranks, Annabel’s is a great place to be seen. They encourage a relaxing social atmosphere, rather than one focused on business and networking. As one of London’s best members' clubs they take business, socializing and privacy very seriously; they do not allow laptops, mobile devices or cameras on premise.
Annabel’s is known for incredible entertainment, including private fashion shows, monthly mixers, gallery exhibits, live music and comedy, and exclusive parties. They also boast an in-house humidor, and fine dining and beverage options. The only way to get on Annabel’s member’s list is to get a spot on their waiting list as soon as possible.
London’s private member clubs have something to offer everyone, from the creative to the politically focused, to the social connoisseur. However, make no mistake: London’s most elite private clubs are about much more than just money, they are about who you are, and what you bring to the table.