Oh the Places We Go!

City Guide To

Britain’s capital is actually a collection of villages—some of which date back to the Dark Ages—that have over time transformed into an international hub of commerce, dining, trend-setting, and (most of all) living life to the extreme. Each neighborhood is rich in history and has its own vibe, from touristy Trafalgar Square to the painfully cool Shoreditch. Chelsea, Notting Hill, Kensington, Clapham, Hoxton, Marylebone…there are too many neighborhoods for me to count in this town of nearly 8 million. Even residents don’t know every corner (except the cabbies, who study for two years to learn The Knowledge), so don’t kill yourself trying to see everything. London is constantly reinventing itself —from gastropubs to dizzying street style, this dynamic city is always on the move to uncover the new and the cool. Our best advice is to let your feet lead you where they may; getting lost is the best way to discover London’s best secrets.


There is a mind-boggling list of luxury hotels to choose from in London and almost everyone I know has their personal preference. The perennial classics such as Brown’s, The Berkeley, Claridges, The LanghamThe Ritz  and newly revitalized Belmond Cadogan (review coming soon!) are all perfectly wonderful choices. Plentiful are the luxurious boutique hotels such as the Sanderson, The Halkin, Dean Street Townhouse,  and any one of the excellent hotels of the Firmdale Hotel group . And then there is the flurry of new hotel openings and reopening in the last two years – each better than the next – such as the Rosewood, The Goring, The Beaumont, Shangri-La at The Shard, The London EDITION and Ham Yard Hotel. How’s a girl to choose? We’ve pared it down for you with some of our favorites – check the map and reviews below to get started.


Just 15 years ago, it was difficult to find any exciting food options in London. Now, London’s food scene is vibrant and varied, taking advantage of its location where so many cultures merge. The options may seem endless but we’ve put our favorites on the map for you to help narrow it down. . If hot and trendy is what you are looking for then we advise you to book ahead for the likes of just-opened FrenchieKitty Fisher, Nopi, Chiltern Firehouse or Berner’s Tavern (yes, still to the last two). Tried and true classics, you ask? Look no further than the new and improved Ivy, Cecconis, The Ledbury, Geales (for oysters), Zetter Townhouse, Hakkasan, La Petite Maison and The Wolseley (best for breakfast).  If you are just seeking a place to nosh in between shopping or for brunch on a Sunday afternoon, we suggest checking out 202,  Daylesford Organic or Electric Brasserie (good with the kids) in Notting Hill, Aubaine or Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea or Gymkhana in Mayfair  – all good for some serious people-watching. Lastly, tapas-style seems to be all the craze – check out The Palomar (Israeli), Bao (Taiwanese), Barrafina (Spanish), Bocca di Lupo or Polpo (Italian).


We head to Liberty’s of London and Topshop (for the girls) – a block away from each other in Soho – along with Kings Road and environs in Chelsea each time we land in London. For a curated selection of women’s fashion (very British) Dover Street Market across from Brown’s hotel in Mayfair is always a sure bet for something unique. Browsing the shops of Notting Hill (especially on a Saturday when the flea market is open) and neighboring Westbourne Grove is always good for picking up something fun. For serious couture, well there is no better than heading to Bond Street and its environs in the chic Mayfair neighborhood.


Touristy, yes but you can’t go to London without at least once seeing the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, seeing the Crown jewels at the Tower of London, riding the London Eye ferris wheel or visiting jaw-dropping Westminster Abbey.  The Tate and Victoria & Albert Museum are always a must for the newest exhibits. When we are without the kids, we love to just walk and get lost a bit in the neighborhoods of Chelsea, Soho, Covent Garden or Notting Hill. Check out our recent posts ‘Autumn in London’ and ‘A Family Affair’ for more tips and suggestions!

Map It

Ham Yard Hotel

Just over a year old, the Ham Yard in Soho is still one of the hottest places to stay in town and you could not ask for a more central address. An Inviato-favorite!

Address: 1 Ham Yard, Soho
The Connaught

A favorite of many, this Mayfair hotel has the feel of a grand hotel but is in fact more boutique (with a modern-British design) than other of the 'grand' hotels

Address: Carlos Pl, London W1K 2AL
Brown's Hotel

You can never go wrong in a Rocco Forte hotel in our eyes. If you are looking for a supremely comfortable and stylish 5-star hotel possessing an unmistakeable British appeal in a central Mayfair location, this is your place.

Address: 33 Albemarle Street
St. James Hotel and Club

This discreet and chic boutique hotel tucked away on a quiet street off of Piccadilly in Mayfair was once the private home of Bond creator, Ian Fleming

Address: 7-8 Park Place
The Goring

105 year old Family-owned Edwardian style hotel in Belgravia, The Goring re-opened its doors this March after a major renovation. Very British (the Middletons like to stay here) and across from Buckingham Palace, convenient if you have an appointment with the Queen - otherwise bring binoculars. Worth just to check out its huge private garden and lawn where you can play croquet in summer months!

Address: Beeston Place
Dean Street Townhouse

Discreet 39-room luxury boutique hotel in a beautiful Georgian townhouse in Soho.

Address: 69-71 Dean Street

A popular lunch spot serving Italian small-plate dishes of meatballs, pizzettes and pastas - all delicious. They have a few locations throughout the city, but we like the one in Soho the best - right around the corner from the Hamyard Hotel.

Address: 41 Bleak Street
Black Lock

Carnivores, rejoice. This casual, tiny but hip spot underground serves some of the best steak (or chops as the Brits call it) and all its droppings in London. Hard not to drool just passing by.

Address: 24 Great Windmill Street
The Palomar

Consistently on the list of all my London friends favorite restaurants, this teeny (40 seats) Jerusalem-tapas style restaurant in Soho is always packed. Best bet to get in is to arrive at 6 pm, leave your name and number and you will likely get seated by 7 p.m. when the pre-theater crowd departs. Great vibe, friendly staff and delicious dishes that are meant to be shared. The kitchen bar is where all the action is.

Address: 34 Rupert Street

Authentic spanish tapas style restaurant. No reservations - walk in only!

Address: 54 Frith Street
Bocca di Lupo

Many food reviewers claim this to be the best Italian food in London right now. The more vibrant chefs-counter is the best place to sit in this tiny restaurant where plates are meant to be shared. A bit too quiet for us on a Sunday night but there were lines out the door on other nights. A few doors down from the Hamyard Hotel, this has become a Soho favorite.

Address: 12 Archer Street

All-day Ottolenghi brasserie serving Mediterranean, middle east and Asian fare. Great pre-theater choice due to location but book way ahead as very popular right now.

Address: 21-22 Warwick Street
Chiltern Firehouse

The Chiltern was the hottest ticket to get in 2014 and it is still hot as ever. Everyone who goes loves this people-watching spot at the ex-firehouse now designer hotel of the same name in Marleybone

Address: 1 Chiltern Street
Hummingbird Bakery

You won't be able to miss the long line outdoors at this tiny American-style bakery serving cupcakes, cakes and brownies. Grab one to go and head to Electric Cinema next door to catch a film.

Address: 133 Portobello Road

This Nicole Farhi eatery is always packed for Sunday brunch. A great place to rest your weary feet after shopping the flea market of Portobello or window shopping the boutiques of Westbourne Grove and do some serious people-watching.

Address: 202 Westbourne Grove

There are several outposts of the Aubaine cafes in London, but I like this Chelsea location best that is a few blocks away from the V&A museum. Super people-watching spot for Sunday brunch

Address: 260 Brompton Road
Daylesford Organic

Next to 202, this gourmet eatery is fabulous for lunch or just a pick up of organic items. Check downstairs for gourmet kitchen gadgets and books.

Address: 208 Westbourne Grove
Tom's Kitchen

Modern British brasserie in a townhouse in Chelsea serving up classic comfort. Solid choice for breakfast before or lunch after a visit to the V&A museum nearby.

Address: 27 Cale Street

Stylish Italian restaurant in Mayfair behind the Royal Academy with a vibrant scene. Never not had an amazing meal here.

Address: 5A Burlington Gardens

Craving Chinese food? Go to this Michelin-starred modern (Christian Liagre designed it) restaurant. Hard to find something appealing for kids so better as an adult -only option.

Address: 17 Bruton Street
Burger and Lobster

Located on the 5th floor of Harvey Nichols department store (there is a separate elevator entrance), this American-style diner serving -- yep, lobster and burgers - is always a hit with the kids after shopping at the department store or neighboring Harrod's

Address: 109-125 Knightsbridge
Berner's Tavern

In the London EDITION hotel, Berners is still a hot spot for drinks and/or dinner. Interiors are absolutely stunning!

Address: 10 Berners Street
The Wolseley

A great Viennese cafe/institution on Piccadilly with beautiful interiors. Nice for a diversion from your hotel breakfast but book ahead as it is popular for locals and tourists alike for breakfast.

Address: 160 Piccadilly
The Ivy

Move over, Chiltern Firehouse, this celeb-favorite haunt in Covent Garden reopened in June for its 100 birthday and is on the top of the list for hard to snag tables. Good chance to get a sighting of Jude Law or Hugh Grant. A good pre-theater choice too.

Address: 1-5 West Street
The Ledbury

2-Michelin star rated classic but modern French restaurant in Notting Hill. Best to leave the kids at home for this one.

Address: 127 Ledbury Road
Kitty Fisher

Named after an 18th century courtesan, this is a casual but very tiny restaurant serving rustic British meets Spanish (?) fare cooked on an open grill. Also one of the hottest, most talked about and hardest restaurant to get into right now (try a walk in).

Address: 10 Shepherd Market

Craving oysters? While J. Sheekey, Scott's and Wright Brothers are the usual go-to spots, we love this simple family-friendly restaurant in Notting Hill for its fresh seafood, especially the fish and chips.

Address: 2 Farmer Street

Opened in 2013, this Covent Garden popular brasserie offers the same gorgeous interiors and menu as its NY counterpart. Ideally situated across the street from 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' at the Royal Drury Lane theater, this is an obvious pre-theater choice with the kids. Last time we were here, we sat next to Jude Law ('is that one of the Beatles?' asks my unimpressed 9-year old daughter).

Electric Diner

Next to the Electric Cinema, this atmospheric diner is a great place to grab lunch (terrific menu for kids) while exploring Notting Hill or the Portobello Market.

Address: 191 Portobello Road

Opening February 2, this Paris offshoot (and one of the hardest places to get a table) is finally coming to London - sure to be the place to go...

Address: 16 Henrietta Street
Liberty of London

Our favorite department store is housed in a Tudor revival building off of Regent Street. Very navitable with a well-edited selection of fashion, home goods and fabrics, this store has a very British feel. The 3rd floor, which houses all their different fabrics, wallpapers and haberdashery, is always fun to check out

Address: Regent Street
Neal's Yard Dairy

Bar none, the best place to pick up some gourmet cheeses and a crusty loaf of bread for a picnic lunch. In the Covent Garden neighborhood.

Address: 4 Monmouth Street
Dover Street Market

This multi-level fashion store for cutting edge British fashions is conveniently located next door to the Brown's hotel (the back entrance, that is). Get your fashion fix here.

Address: 17-18 Dover Street

We go here for 2 things - the incredible food halls and the Toy Kingdom on the 3rd floor. 6 different toy zones spread across 26,000 square feet, it is much more civil, atmospheric and interesting with unique toys than Hamleys on Regent (which we always find hectic, over-crowded and over-priced).

Address: 87-135 Brompton Road

While I find this flagship store frenzied and confusing to navigate, teens love it and therefore it is a must-stop during any London trip. 3 floors of affordable and fun fashion, take plenty of Advil before you go.

Address: Oxford Circus
Electric Cinema

One of the oldest and most beautiful cinemas in the U.K., located in the heart of Notting Hill. Worth a detour to catch a movie screening (book ahead!) and indulge yourself in the comfortable leather chairs, cashmere throws with a glass of wine. Now this is a way to see a film!

Address: 191 Portobello Road
Buckingham Palace

What would a trip to London be without a viewing of the Changing of the Guard? Performed daily at 11:30 am, this ceremony is always crowded so hoist your kids on your shoulders to get a good view. There really is nothing like it anywhere in the world.

Address: Buckingham Palace
Victoria & Albert Museum

I always love to come here and check out the current exhibits along with the largest collection of four centuries of fashion in the world.

Address: Cromwell Road
Chelsea Farmers Market

This permanent marketplace off of Kings Road in Chelsea has a mix of chalet style shops and open-air restaurants, ideal for lunch post-shopping when the weather cooperates. Stop at the Chelsea Gardener garden shop (think Marders meets Mecox Gardens) for a visual feast for the eyes.

Address: 125 Sydney Street
Tate Modern

Actually comprises four gallery of Modern art, the Tate is 1500 to current. Always something to see at the constantly changing exhibitions.

Address: Tate Modern
Borough Market

One of the best food markets I've been to. Near the London Bridge, this historic food market features 100 stalls, each more stunning and appetizing than the next. Go hungry and just taste, test, taste.

Address: 8 Southwark Street
The London Eye

Everyone must go on the Eye just once. Rather than endure the long waits or confine yourself to a specific time or day, opt for the Flexi Fast Track online package which you can use anytime during a 7 day period and gain 'fast track' entry. So worth it.

Address: London Eye
Royal Drury Lane Theater

Where you can find Charlie. And The Chocolate Factory. A very entertaining musical that we all enjoyed! Go to Balthazar across the street for a pre-theater dinner (maybe you will get lucky and see Jude Law like we did) - but book early as it is often impossible to get a reservation. You can book online 60 days in advance.

Address: Catherine Street, Convent Garden
BB Bakery Bus Tour

Run by the BB Bakery Tea Salon in Covent Garden, this vintage double decker bus takes you on a 90-minute sightseeing tour of London while enjoying tea and pastries! We had a ball doing this with our children and friends. Great for the younger tots!

Tower of London

Don't miss this 900 year old attraction which houses the Crown Jewels, the Royal Armouries and the Bloody Tower. Get a photo with a Beefeater while you are at it. Do on your own or pass the lines with a guide.

Address: Tower of London

Did We Miss Your Favorite Restaurant, Boutique or Activity In This Destination? Let us know!

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