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 Langham, The 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 Frenchie, Kitty 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!