Soho House, rainbow-colored cake, Barry's Bootcamp and more things you won't want to miss should you find yourself in London.
Where to Stay
When it comes to London’s top hotels, there are two directions in which you can go: classic luxury or modern boutique.
On the modern end, there are the Philippe Starck-designed St Martins Lane and Sanderson. Soho Hotel is another option (though the location isn’t the fanciest, it’s a favorite of stars ranging from Naomi Campbell to Ben Stiller), Metropolitan by COMO, (located near Hyde Park and home to Nobu), Belgraves (from the Thompson Hotels group; every room is outfitted with modern works from the likes of Mario Testino and Juergen Teller), Bulgari Hotel (which boasts a 75-foot onyx, oak, Vicenza stone and Italian glass mosaic indoor pool), and the newly opened Ace Hotel Shoreditch from the same team behind the Ace in Manhattan.
Where to Stay
Also worth singling out is ME London, which boasts an STK and a rooftop bar (ME is a chain known as the W Hotel of Spain), and Ian Schrager’s latest project, EDITION London.
Bridging the gap between old and new is Café Royal. Located between Soho and Mayfair, the hotel is housed in a 19th-century exterior, outfitted in Louis XVI furnishings and finished with modern amenities. Classic luxury can be found at The Dorchester, a legendary hotel opened in the 30s and located on Park Lane (it’s home to Alain Ducasse, China Tang and a highly regarded afternoon tea), The Ritz and Claridge's, which has suites designed by the likes of Diane von Furstenberg.
Where to Eat
You can’t leave London without at least one proper high tea. It’s a quintessential English experience and the most well-known spots for it are at The Ritz, The Dorchester and at Claridge’s. For a more out-of-the-box experience, the Sanderson offers an Alice in Wonderland-themed high tea (think napkins wrapped with riddles). For classic English fare, head to Golden Union, while by day the best offerings can be found in Knightsbridge, especially within Harrods. Hix in Soho is ever-popular and diners sit amidst works by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin (the lively spot also has a basement bar, Mark’s Bar).
Where to Eat
Cut by Wolfgang Puck, Philip Howard's The Square, Alain Ducasse, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Hakkasan (the staff is outfitted in Hussein Chalayan), Sushi Samba, 34, Balthazar, Social Eating House, Brasserie Chavot (a very fashion-heavy crowd), and the newly opened STK London are also all notable finds. For dessert, stop by Red Gingham Bakery, famed for its rainbow cake, fudge, macarons, doughnuts and cookies.
What to Do
London Eye, the tallest ferris wheel in Europe, is a great way to take in the city. Equally noted for its views is the Tower of London, a medieval castle which today is brimming with costumed actors and various exhibits (it’s home to the Crown Jewels). Buckingham Palace (home of the Queen and the Changing of the Guards), Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's Cathedral are also all popular destinations.
London is also big on theater (head to the Globe Theatre, National Theater or the West End). Museum-wise, the most well-known are the Tate Modern, Somerset House, the Saatchi Gallery, the Museum of London, the Tate Britain, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Jewish Museum.
Where to Shop
One of London’s most well-known shopping strips is Oxford Street, which offers a mix of budget-friendly stores likes Topshop along with countless designer boutiques and department stores, including the famed Selfridges. Regent Street, which crosses Oxford Street at Oxford Circus similarly boasts a mix of affordable (think Mango) and pricey – namely the famed Liberty department store, which is located at Carnaby Street. Carnaby is also where you’ll find more niche stores and vintage shops. If purely high-end is what you’re after, however, head to Bond Street, which is parallel to Regent Street, and home to countless top luxury brand name stores (think Chanel) and popular designer boutiques like Dover Street Market.
Where to Shop
Over in West London, Notting Hill has a myriad of boutiques, many of which are UK-based like yoga brand Sweaty Betty, Wolf & Badger, which carries clothing and accessories from a wide range of up-and-coming designers, Orlebar Brown, which stocks tailored swimsuits from photographer Adam Brown and Matches one of the best boutiques for a curated selection of designer fashions. This is also where you’ll find Portobello Market every Sunday, which is known for its selection of vintage clothing, antiques and produce. Lastly, Southwest London is where you’ll want to go to shop at the world famous upmarket department store Harrods. Located in Knightsbridge, which is home to countless noted shops including Philip Treacy, the man behind the hats favored by Victoria Beckham, Kate Middleton, and countless royals, it’s also where you’ll find Sloane Street another popular, contemporary-priced shopping area and King’s Road, which houses a slew of well-known contemporary European brands like Sandro.
Where to Stay in Shape
About a year ago, both Equinox and Barry's Bootcamp opened in London and just recently there have been more boutique studios emerging, including an already very popular cycling studio called Psycle. Tracy Anderson also offers private sessions and there's a Flywheel location inside Shoreditch House (one of Soho House's London outposts). I may be biased because it's the workout I do in NYC, but Barry's Bootcamp is pretty hard to beat for anyone looking for something that is both "fun" and time effective. I took classes taught by Anya, Alex, Faisal and Shane and they were all fantastic.
Where to Go Out
Make friends with locals because members-only clubs are very popular in the UK. Soho House has multiple London locations, all of which are reliable bets; Little House Mayfair is great by day (especially if it's warm and you're seated next to the open windows), as is the original location, which is located in Soho and has two outdoor spaces. By night, Electric House, which is adjacent to the oldest cinema in London, is very popular. Also worth singling out is Shoreditch House, which is located in East London and has a very popular rooftop pool.
Loulou, another member’s only club located in Mayfair, is also a popular option. Prince Harry and Rihanna are fans of the Rose Club, a diminutive spots located in the heart of Mayfair, while Radio, located on the rooftop of the ME London Hotel, 2&8 Club and Le Baron London all consistently generate buzz.
If it’s a truly British after-dark experience you’re after, however, head to Dukes bar. Legend has it that it’s where Sir Ian Fleming coined the catchphrase “shaken, not stirred” for his James Bond flicks.