London

Overview

London seduces with its ability to meld the past, the present, and the quirky. Just look to the architecture for proof: The Tower of London, The Houses of Parliament, and The V&A salute a history that is steeped in royalty, heritage, and tradition while its jagged, futuristic skyline—from the Shard and The ‘Cheesegrater’ to The ‘Walkie-Talkie'—not only helps to put a crackle in the air, but also signal London’s newfound skyscraper status. Indeed, this forward-thinking global metropolis is known for incubating many groundbreaking trends, culled from its unique mix of residents, customs, and ideas. Michelin-starred restaurants offering exotic cuisines, and, in some cases, the fruits of British viticulture, plus the smorgasbord of stalls that occupy gourmet markets from Borough to Broadway, offer a snapshot of what’s happening gastronomically. London’s also an essential player in art, technology, fashion, as home to established brands like Burberry as well as emerging talent like Erdem. But here’s the thing, there’s an awful lot to see and never enough time. With central London so often in daytime gridlock—caused in part by the building of Crossrail due to open in late 2018—hopping on the tube is often the fastest and easiest way of getting around. So travel like a Londoner when you’re here: Wear your walking shoes, carry an umbrella, and keep your Oystercard “topped up.”

Best Time to Go

September, when locals hope for an “Indian Summer” (sun and no rain), London Fashion Week is in full swing, and theaters, galleries, and museums stage new season blockbuster events.

Airport Info

London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, has five terminals with T5 offering the swankiest shops and restaurants (T4 is a close second). Though only 15 miles from Central London, the 15-minute long Heathrow Express to Paddington station is the speediest option during rush hour.

Getting Around

There’s Uber, of course, or London black cabs, renowned for their knowledge of the city, but with traffic as bad as it is, public transport is the most efficient ways to move about the city. And it’s easy. We suggest buying a day pass or better still, an Oyster Card for a longer stay. It is all you need to use buses, the Overground, or any of the 11 color-coded Underground, or "tube," lines.

Can’t Leave Without

1. An “out of hours” private tour of The Houses of Parliament. Look out for distinctive tiles by Pugin. (From $630; contact visitparliament@parliament.uk)

2. Leighton House Museum, former home of the Victorian artist Fredric Lord Leighton boasts art and the opulent Arab Hall with its golden dome and intricate mosaics. (12 Holland Park Rd.; leightonhouse.co.uk)

3. Egyptian Avenue, in Highgate Cemetery, is central to London’s high Victorian architecture. Elaborate tombstones include Karl Marx, Malcolm McLaren of Sex Pistols fame, and George Elliot, who wrote Middlemarch.

Deserves the Hype

With six restaurants and bars, the luxe Shangri-La hotel, plus panoramic views from floors 68, 69, and 72 makes London’s tallest building, The Shard, pure magic. (32 London Bridge St.; the-shard.com)

Local Dish to Try

Sunday roast is a quintessential British tradition made up of all-day meal of roasted meat, hearty root vegetables, and fixings like Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, and gravy. The version at the Bull & Last has consistently been voted London's best. (168 Highgate Rd.; 44-20/7267-3641; thebullandlast.co.uk)

Local Drink to Sip

No one should leave London without sitting down to afternoon tea. The Berkeley hosts a fun, contemporary twist on the tradition. Dubbed Prêt-à-Portea, the festive occasion serves sweet treats inspired by high fashion: Think a chocolate cake with raspberry ganache a la a Prada handbag, or Manolo Blahnik–shaped vanilla biscuits with red icing polka dots. (Wilton Pl.; 44-20/723; 5-6000; the-berkeley.co.uk)

 

Seasonal Highlights

WINTER: Ice skate at night against the illuminated backdrop of Somerset House. From November to January the vast courtyard of this grand 18th-century public building is temporarily transformed. In addition to the festive ice rink, there’s a Fortnum & Mason lodge here offering après-skate and Spring restaurant for an elegant lunch or dinner.

SPRING: The Chelsea Flower Show in May is the most famous flower show in the world. Staged by the Royal Horticultural Society, colorful blooms are displayed in extraordinary ways in the Great Pavillion. Outdoors, gardens have been dreamt-up by designers whose aim is to inspire.

SUMMER: The open admission Summer Exhibition show at the Royal Academy dates back to 1769, runs for three months, and is the largest contemporary art exhibition in the world. Of the 1,000 or so works up for sale the choice is broad, ranging from Allen Jones to Tim Noble and Sue Webster.

FALL: Art galleries from Shanghai, Berlin, New York, and Los Angeles are all to be found at Frieze. This stylish international contemporary art fair, first established in London with a second showing in New York, takes place in Regents Park every October. Come for the art and private tours, stay for the people watching.

Quick Tips

Car Service to Know

Browns Chauffeur Service
44-20/8589-9993

Extended Stay

Foxtons

Same-Day Dry Cleaning

Valentino Dry Cleaners
44-20/7240-5879

Tailor to Know

Ajay Mirpuri, Raj Mirpuri
44-20/7907-9110

Hair Stylist to Book

Peter Lux
44-7/9664-77549

Personal Shopper

Wayne Kaplan, Harrods
44-207-893-8000

Personal Shopper

Rachel Fanconi
44-77/7847-3923

Best Spa

ESPA Life at Corinthia Hotel
44-20/7321-3050

Best Hotel Gym

The Savoy Hotel London
44-20/7836-4343

Gym with Week Pass

Virgin Active Mayfair
44-20/7659-4350
Hotels

Claridge’s

Claridge’s is known for its Mayfair address, peerless service, and 130-year-old afternoon tea service.
Mayfair
FH&R

The Connaught

Quiet luxury radiates from The Connaught, with its quality service and onsite amenities.
Mayfair
FH&R

Rosewood

Rosewood brings high Regency style to the business center of Holburn.
Holburn
FH&R

Shangri-La at the Shard

Occupying floors 34 through 52 of Renzo Piano’s iconic skyscraper, the Shangri-La offers breathtaking views of London.
Southwark
FH&R

The Savoy

Access to the theater and views of the Thames are the reasons to book.
Covent Garden
FH&R

The Beaumont

The Beaumont is a proper English hotel: clubby, masculine, restrained, and classy to its core.
Mayfair
FH&R

The Lanesborough

After a total overhaul by the late Alberto Pinto, the regal hotel reopened in 2015 with unabashedly opulent interiors.
Mayfair
FH&R

Ham Yard Hotel

This Soho property from designer-hotelier Kit Kemp is London’s most whimsical, upbeat stay.
Soho

Corinthia Hotel London

Located in a Victorian building near Trafalgar Square, the Corinthia Hotel London is favored for its unpretentious, consistent service.
Trafalgar Square
FH&R

45 Park Lane

This boutique property, located near sister property the Dorchester, offers an intimate, contemporary stay.
Mayfair
FH&R
Restaurants

Barrafina

Seats at the bar put the chefs on display as they turn out mind-blowing tapas.
Soho
Spanish Tapas Bar

Nopi

At Nopi, the team serves up many of Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi's signature dishes in a bi-level space.
Soho
Modern Middle Eastern Cuisine

Gymkhana

The latest modern Indian restaurant from chef-owner Karam Sethi is quality Hindi home cooking dressed in an elegant, upscale setting.
Mayfair
Modern Indian

J. Sheekey

It’s rumored that Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond books over oysters at this charming haunt.
Covent Garden
Fish + Seafood

Spring

Chef Skye Gyngell’s Spring is a seasonal, veggie-focused affair set in a light, airy space.
Charing Cross
Modern British

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

At his spot at the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, Blumenthal creatively reimagines dishes from Britain’s past.
Hyde Park
Fine Dining

Kitty Fisher's

East London's post-hipster Kitty Fisher's offers 21st-century gastronomy for grown-ups.
Mayfair
Modern British

Bellanger

This all-day Alsatian brasserie, decked with a touch of Belle Époque style, was created by the same team behind The Wolseley.
Inslington
French Brasserie

Le Gavroche

This fine-dining establishment from the Roux family has staked its claim on the world culinary map ever since it opened in 1967.
Mayfair
French

The Clove Club

This ingredients-forward restaurant from chef and co-owner Isaac McHale summarizes London’s current culinary zeitgeist with a series of excellent tasting menus.
Shoreditch
New British
Bars + Lounges

American Bar at the Savoy

No visit to London is complete without a drink at the Savoy's American Bar, one of the city’s oldest cocktail bars and the birthplace of many a classic drink.
Strand
Cocktail Bar

69 Colebrooke Row

Also known as the Bar with No Name, 69 Colebrooke Row is part alchemist's laboratory and part bar.
Islington
Cocktail Bar

Artesian at the Langham

The Langham hotel’s opulent bar has been voted “World’s Best Bar” four times running, and it’s not hard to see why.
Marylebone
Cocktail Bar

Nightjar

Speakeasy-style bars with menu glossaries, experimental ingredients, and secret doors are everywhere, but Nightjar is the real deal.
Hoxton
Speakeasy

Dukes

This timeless bar at Dukes Hotel is said to have inspired Ian Fleming to pen the most famous James Bond line of all time.
St. James
Cocktail Bar

The Connaught Bar

Housed inside the luxury Mayfair village hotel of the same name, the Connaught Bar took home the “World’s Best Bar” award at 2016’s Tales of the Cocktail festival.
Mayfair
Cocktail Bar

Les Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels

Like its Paris and New York City counterparts, this wine bar offers a wide array of niche and hard-to-find wines available by both the glass and bottle.
Covent Garden
Wine Bar

Craft Beer Co.

Since the opening of their first pub in July 2011, Craft Beer Co. has expanded to become a mini-empire of seven locations around London.
Clerkenwell
Craft Beer Bar

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar

This dark and intimate bar in the basement of steak restaurant Hawksmoor is home to some of London’s best bartenders and their inventive creations.
Spitalfields
Cocktail Bar

Purl

This sprawling, basement-level bar does intriguing, complex, “multi-sensory” drinks.
Marylebone
Cocktail Bar
Shopping

Dover Street Market

The endlessly inspiring multilevel emporium is home to a number of individually designed spaces, each dedicated to a specific and very covetable designer. 
St. James
Men’s + Women’s Clothing

The New Craftsman

A contemporary collection of practical and handsome goods made and crafted by the finest artisans in the British Isles.
Mayfair
Home + Design

Found & Vision

A quaint, vintage boutique at the end of Portobello Road, Found & Vision draws a crowd as elite as its designer fashions.
Notting Hill
Vintage Clothing

Liberty

A British mainstay for all things luxury, Liberty is London’s one-stop shop for designer fashion, beauty, decor, and more.
West End
Department Store

Alex Eagle

This constantly evolving space fulfills every lifestyle need through a unique selection of clothing, ceramics, books, and photography. 
Soho
Concept Store

Mallett Antiques

Shopping here is like perusing a museum-quality exhibition of 18th-century and Regency period antiques you can actually take home.
Mayfair
Antiques

Aram

Midcentury masters meet contemporary heavyweights in this impressive gallery space from pioneering dealer Zeev Aram.
Covent Garden
Furniture + Design

Mint

A shop verging on gallery, Mint showcases unique, high-end works by a coterie of emerging talents from around the world.
Brompton Design District
Furniture + Design

Hedonism

Hedonism is the shop for those serious about fine wines and spirits.
Mayfair
Wine Shop

Debonnaire

The exceedingly discreet Debonnaire is an exotic trove of rarefied women’s clothing and accessories, sourced from around the world. 
Chelsea
Women’s Clothing + Accessories
Things To Do

Broadway Market

The borough of Hackney has become synonymous with a foodie scene, homegrown brands, and the hipster set.
Hackney
Street Market

Shakespeare’s Globe

See open-air productions, candle-lit performances, and private tours at this authentic oak-and-thatch replica of an Elizabethan theater.
Bankside
Theater + Private Tour

Side Story

These bespoke tours and experiences led by expert London insiders avoid clichéd tourist traps.
Various Locations
Custom Tours

Tower of London, Crown Jewels

Gain access to the regal Crown Jewels—without the crowds.
Tower Hamlets
Private Museum Tour

Sir John Soane’s Museum

This extensive Georgian house, choke full of gorgeous furniture, architecture, and design, pays homage to the legendary Grand Tour.
Lincoln's Inn Fields
Private Tour

Chelsea Physic Garden

Dating back to 1673, this world-renowned home to botany offers intriguing walks, talks, and workshops led by local and visiting experts.
Chelsea
Botanical Garden

Victoria & Albert Museum

The world’s greatest collection of decorative arts spans the globe and cuts across millennia.
Knightsbridge
Decorative Arts + Design Museum

Tate Modern

Britain's major contemporary art museum got even better with the addition of a ten-story extension, opened June 2016.
Bankside
Contemporary Art Museum

Newport Street Gallery

Situated in a cultural backwater parallel to a raised train track, this two-story private gallery is an architectural feat in itself.
Vauxhall
Contemporary Art Gallery

Royal Opera House

Home to the Royal Ballet, culture here is of the highest caliber. 
Covent Garden
Performances + Private Tour