American Bar at the Savoy
- Cocktail Bar
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.”
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.
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.
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.
1. An “out of hours” private tour of The Houses of Parliament. Look out for distinctive tiles by Pugin. (From $630; contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.