SAVE ON LONDON VACATIONS

London

London has never been a dull town—we had a pretty good theater scene in the Elizabethan era, and then there was the Swinging Sixties. Now, though, things are almost getting out of hand. From the spruced-up wharves along the riverfront to the hipster haunts of Shoreditch, this ancient city is undergoing a frenzy of revival and reinvention. History and tradition are still going strong, of course, but there is also a sense that a new chapter is being written. You only need to take a look at the skyline to grasp how profound the changes are—the high-concept towers springing up everywhere you look are part of a transformation unseen since the days of Christopher Wren. Meanwhile, visitors can take their pick among London’s ever-expanding array of restaurants, bars, shops and hotels. Here, an abridged guide to the best of what the city has to offer.  

Words by Sonya Barber


North London

The epicenter of North London’s shopping and drinking scene has long been Camden Town. The area’s sprawling markets sell everything from edgy fashion to quirky trinkets, while the local pubs have counted the likes of Amy Winehouse and The Pogues among their regulars. The cool factor has subsided a little, but Camden still has plenty of life left in it. Angel, in Islington, is another counter-cultural hotspot that has smartened up—though Upper Street still has the indie Almeida Theatre, along with the wonderful Camden Passage, a narrow strip of vintage shops, eateries and stalls. Then there’s King’s Cross, whose attractions range from the restaurants and bars in the Gothic St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel to those in the newly restored industrial complex Coal Drops Yard. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

South London

Historically, South London has been uncharted territory for those looking for something to do, but in recent decades, formerly drab neighborhoods like Peckham, Tooting and Brixton have changed all that. Brixton’s markets are still a rich source of cellphone repair kiosks and butcher shops, but there are more and more spots selling art, fashion and fabulous food—wander the arcades near the Tube station for the best of these. Peckham (a.k.a. the “new Shoreditch”) is packed with exciting restaurants like Aside (modern British) and kudu (South African), along with bars like Brick Brewery (craft beer) and El Segundo (cocktails). Tooting, home to some of the city’s best Asian restaurants, is now being touted as London’s Next Big Thing—though, despite the fashionable brunch spots and breweries popping up, this one is still a work in progress. (Photo credit: Getty Images)  

East London

The rise and rise of London’s East End is familiar to those who live here. Starting at the Docklands and extending up through Hackney, Dalston and Shoreditch, this formerly blighted area is now home to the city’s hottest bars, clubs, galleries, hotels, restaurants and retailers. Shoreditch in particular seems to open a hip new venue every week—in part to cater to the monied whiz-kids at the nearby Silicon Roundabout. Planning a visit here can be overwhelming, but Brick Lane is a good place to start. A strip of squat brick buildings, the street has long been the hub of London’s Bangladeshi community. Today, its array of fantastic curry houses has been joined by scores of hip boutiques, restaurants, galleries and bars. Highlights include the Old Truman Brewery, a lively complex that includes the underground Vintage Market, which offers some of the best clothes shopping in town. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

West London

There hasn’t been much need for a revival in a part of town containing the King’s Road, birthplace of the punk movement and now a shopping and dining mecca, and Soho, the old red-light district that has also become super hip. Figure in the theaters of the West End, the museums of South Kensington and the Royal Parks—St. James’s, Green and Hyde—and you have an area custom-built for tourism. There are, though, plenty of new additions among the old hotspots. The area around Portobello Road—the city’s most famous street market—is buzzing with trendy bars and restaurants. The new Battersea Power Station complex will up the ante on that neighborhood’s lively food-and-drink scene. Under-the-radar Marylebone, meanwhile, is home to a growing number of top-notch restaurants, including the Chiltern Firehouse. And if none of that suits you, you can always go and visit the Queen. (Photo credit: Getty Images)


Fine Dining

Chiltern Firehouse

44 20 7073 7676, 1 Chiltern St, Marylebone, London W1U 7PA, UK

If you like a side of celebrity with your supper, this storied Marylebone restaurant (and hotel), located in a former fire station, will satisfy your appetite. Wonder-chef Nuno Mendes’ contemporary American-inspired menu has drawn the cream of British society since Chiltern opened in 2013, and these people have become an attraction in their own right. To brush shoulders with the A-listers, head to the smoking area, which is far easier to access than the Ladder Shed VIP bar.

chilternfirehouse.com

Cornerstone

3 Prince Edward Road, Hackney Wick, E9 5LX

Post-industrial Hackney Wick might not be associated with fine dining, but Cornerstone is changing that. Cornish chef Tom Brown’s menu of modern, seafood-based small plates— served in an informal, stylish warehouse setting—is seasonal, simple and delicious. Pickled, raw, smoked or cured, seafood is the star here. If it’s on the menu, be sure to order the potted shrimp crumpet.

cornerstonehackney.com

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

44 20 7201 3833, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA, UK

If you want a meal that’s decadent, fun, theatrical and full of surprises, food magician Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is the place to be. The Michelin-starred chef has created some legendary dishes based on traditional British gastronomy, including the “meat fruit”: chicken liver parfait disguised as a mandarin orange.

dinnerbyheston.co.uk

Hélène Darroze at The Connaught

44 20 3147 7200, Carlos Pl, Mayfair, London W1K 2AL, UK

Not only is the dining room of the iconic Connaught hotel a beautiful spot for lunch or dinner, but the food is a treat for all the senses. Hélène Darroze—said to be the inspiration for Colette in Pixar’s Ratatouille—has created athoughtful, French-inspired menu, always using seasonal ingredients. While dishes like pigeon with foie gras, wild mushroom, turnip and Manuka honey have earned the restaurant two Michelin stars, the atmosphere is far from stuffy. 

the-connaught.co.uk

Global Cuisine: Neighborhood Favorites

Dalston: Mangal 2

44 20 7254 7888, 4 Stoke Newington Rd, Hackney Downs, London N16 8BH, UK

There are lots of great Turkish restaurants in Dalston, but the most legendary has to be Mangal 2. Every night, the place is packed with locals chowing down on tasty cold and hot mezze, including meats cooked on the open grill at the back. Keep your eyes open for its most famous regulars, artists Gilbert & George, who dine there nightly, and always at the same table.

mangal2.com

Holloway: Xi’an Impression

44 20 3441 0191, 117 Benwell Rd, London N7 7BW, UK

Anyone who has been to an Arsenal soccer match at the Emirates Stadium will have seen the line of diners waiting to get into this tiny Chinese canteen. They’re all here for the brilliant Shan Xi street food, including pot sticker dumplings, burgers and—the star player—big bowls of spicy hand-pulled noodles. (Photo credit: Stan Lee)

xianimpression.co.uk

Peckham: The Begging Bowl

44 20 7635 2627, 168 Bellenden Rd, London SE15 4BW, UK

Peckham residents are lucky enough to have some of London’s best Thai food on their doorstep. The Begging Bowl, with a short menu of dishes that are unfailingly fresh, inventive and tastebud tingling, has justly become so popular that it’s recently crowdfunded to expand the restaurant with a new kitchen and bar.  

thebeggingbowl.co.uk

Piccadilly: Ikoyi

+442035834660, 1 St James's Market, St. James'

London doesn’t have many West African restaurants, but Michelin-starred Ikoyi is giving us a taste of what we’re missing. The eatery specializes in modern interpretations of Jollof—a popular regional rice dish—using ingredients such as grains of Selim, wild black tiger prawns and scotch bonnet chilies. The food is innovative and exciting and the drinks, designed with the guys behind Three Sheets Bar, are the perfect pairing.

Ot ikoyilondon.com

Global Cuisine: Worth the Wait

Bao

44 20 3019 2200, 53 Lexington Street, London W1F 9AS, UK

Since this small Taiwanese spot opened in Soho in 2015, there’s been a queue of people outside in all weathers. They’re here primarily for the bao: fluffy steamed pillows plumped with deliciousness. Order at least one of each, as you can (and will) devour them in seconds. If you can’t face the wait, they take bookings at the newer Fitzrovia branch, and there’s a Borough Market outpost due soon—but nothing quite matches the original.

 

baolondon.com

Dishoom

44 20 7420 9320, 12 Upper Saint Martin's Lane, London WC2H 9FB, UK

There are now five Dishoom restaurants in London, and there’s still always a massive line at each—once you’ve tried their Bombay street food, you’ll understand why. Buttery black dhal, plump naans and flavorful biryanis are served by friendly staff in gorgeous surroundings. If you want to beat the queue, book for breakfast, when they serve their legendary bacon naan rolls.

dishoom.com

The Barbary

16 Neal's Yard, Seven Dials, London WC2H 9DP, UK

Tucked away in Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden you’ll find one of the best restaurants in town. From the people behind cult Israeli spot The Palomar, the eatery draws on the ingredients, recipes and techniques of Africa’s Barbary Coast, with a few Israeli influences thrown in. There are only 24 cozy bar seats on offer, but trust us: It’s worth the wait.

thebarbary.co.uk

Classic British Food

St. John

44 20 7251 0848, 26 St John Street, London EC1M 4AY, UK

You won’t find a more British dining spot than St. John. Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver took over an old bacon smokehouse near Smithfield meat market in 1994 to bring their vision of nose-to-tail eating to the world. Today, they continue to revive classic British recipes, often using lesser-used cuts like trotters, bone marrow and pigs’ ears, all cooked perfectly. There are always a few things on the ever-changing menu for vegetarians, too.

stjohnrestaurant.com

E Pellicci

44 20 7739 4873, 332 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 0AG, UK

This Art Deco eatery might sound Italian, and they do have classic pasta dishes on the menu, but the bulk of the fare here—full-English breakfasts, steak pies, builder’s tea—is as British as it gets. The café has been run by the Pellicci family since 1900, who shout across the space like you’re having breakfast in their home. It’s friendly, bustling and brilliant.

epellicci.co.uk

Hawksmoor

44 20 7420 9390, 11 Langley Street, London WC2H 9JG, UK

Nowhere in London celebrates steak quite like Hawksmoor. Now with five distinct branches across the city, this exemplary British steakhouse and cocktail bar takes everything it does to the next level: as you’d expect, the meat is divine, but so too are the sides (the Spitalfields menu boasts 15 different options) and desserts. Plus the service is always flawless.

thehawksmoor.com


Traditional Pubs

Churchill Arms 

44 20 7727 4242, 119 Kensington Church St, Kensington, London W8 7LN, UK

The first thing you’ll notice about this West London institution is the array of colorful foliage that covers the exterior year-round. Once inside, it’s time to marvel at the madcap clutter of memorabilia (this is not a place for minimalists) before settling down to the great selection of real ale and Thai food on offer.

churchillarmskensington.co.uk

Prince George 

44 20 7254 6060, 40 Parkholme Rd, London E8 3AG, UK

This traditional Victorian pub, tucked away on a back street in Dalston, is the kind of place you’ll wish was your local. Older regulars mingle with Hackney hipsters at the indoor tables and in the sunny beer garden. But the real star here is the food: chef Troy Cundy cooks up well-above-average pub grub, including one of the best Sunday roasts around. 

theprincegeorgepub.co.uk

Coach & Horses

+442074375920, 29 Greek St, Soho

If you want to get a taste of old-school Soho, head to the Coach & Horses. In the summer, local characters spill out of the Grade-II-listed pub onto the bustling streets. Inside feels like a real London boozer—soggy beer mats, pickled eggs and plenty of banter—plus, more unusually, a vegetarian restaurant upstairs. Head down on a Wednesday or Saturday evening to catch a singalong at the piano. (Photo credit: Alamy)

coachsoho.co.uk

Cocktail bars

Three Sheets

44 7718 137193, 510 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AE, UK

You could easily walk past this little Dalston cocktail bar, but you’d be missing out (it was recently named the best bar in the UK at the Class Bar Awards). Brothers Noel and Max Venning have been quietly serving imaginative and tasty drinks (along with a selection of cheese and charcuterie) since 2016. You can also head to Bar Three in Spitalfields to try more of their mixology magic.

bar-three.com

Trailer Happiness

44 20 7041 9833, 177 Portobello Road, London W11 2DY, UK

If rum is your tipple of choice, you won’t find a sweeter spot than Trailer Happiness. This award-winning basement tiki bar on Portobello Road has kitsch décor and a friendly atmosphere. The bartenders know their stuff, so just ask if you’re feeling baffled by the lengthy cocktail list—there’s plenty more here than mojitos and piña coladas.

trailerh.com

Fitz’s Bar

44 20 7520 1807, Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 5BE, UK

There’s a lot going on in the newly revamped Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel in Russell Square: fabulous seafood at Neptune, coffee at Burr & Co and the most glamorous drinking destination in Bloomsbury: Fitz’s Bar. Push through the heavy velvet curtain and you’ll find a plush cocktail den serving up creative drinks inspired by Bloomsbury characters past and present, plus luxurious bar snacks.

 

fitzs.co.uk

Nine Lives

44 20 7407 8226, 8 Holyrood St, London SE1 2EL, UK

This stylish bar, located in a Victorian basement near the river, serves great cocktails set to a killer soundtrack. The owners are committed to the principle of sustainability—everything from the sound system to the interiors and uniforms are reclaimed. Tom Soden—the man behind the popular Lion & Lamb and Gunmaker bars—oversees a drinks list that is imaginative without being over-the-top. And while staff members are often dauntingly fashionable, the service is friendly and familiar.  

ninelivesbar.com

Bars With a View

Radio

44 20 7395 3440, 336-337 Strand, London WC2R 1HA, UK

Venture up to the 10th floor of ME London on the Strand and you’ll discover one of the key central London rooftop bars. Radio boasts impressive 360-degree views of the river and the London skyline, and is the perfect spot to splash out on an early evening sundowner. Note: It’s very popular and can get busy, so go at off times or be prepared to queue.

 

radiorooftop.com

Frank’s Cafe

Bold Tendencies, 7th-10th Floor Multi Storey Car Park, 95A Rye Ln, London SE15 4ST, United Kingdom

You know it’s summer when Frank’s Cafe opens atop a multi-story carpark in Peckham. This rooftop bar and restaurant is part of Bold Tendencies gallery, so drinkers share epic city views with various works of art. Campari is the specialty here, but there’s plenty more on offer drinks-wise and a nice little menu of snacks and more substantial dishes.

 

boldtendencies.com

Sushisamba

44 20 3640 7330, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY, UK

If altitude is what you’re after, there aren’t many higher drinking spots than Sushisamba. The restaurant and bar on the 39th floor of Heron Tower is a prime destination if you want something a bit different: cocktails include ingredients such as lychee juice and Kaffir lime leaves, and the bar snacks give a taste of the restaurant’s Japanese-Brazilian-Peruvian fusion menu.

sushisamba.com

Wine Bars

Noble Rot

44 20 7242 8963, 51 Lamb's Conduit St, London WC1N 3NB, UK

You’d expect the people behind Noble Rot wine magazine to know a thing or two about plonk, but their bricks-and-mortar outpost proves it. Walking into the bar’s unassuming interior feels like stumbling on a well-kept secret. Bag a table at the front and take your pick from a list featuring everything from a tasty £4 glass to a bottle costing three figures. Chances are you’ll want to stay for dinner at the restaurant at the back, too.

noblerot.co.uk

Sager + Wilde

44 20 8127 7330, 193 Hackney Rd, London E2 8JL, UK

This sleek Hackney wine bar is the perfect atmospheric date spot. There’s a revolving list of unusual and interesting wines by the bottle and glass, including a section dedicated to “skins”—orange wines. The staff are on hand to help you navigate the menu and, once you’ve picked your tipple, make sure to order one of their legendary toasties.

sagerandwilde.com

The 10 Cases 

44 20 7836 6801, 16 Endell St, London WC2H 9BD, UK

It can be hard to find a place in central London that feels like a local wine bar, but 10 Cases fits that brief. The cute bistro got its name from the idea that they only ordered a maximum of 10 cases of wine at a time to keep the list seasonal and exciting. Book a table at the Bistrot a Vin for dinner, then head next door to the Cave a Vin for more than 300 wines to take away and a monthly changing selection of wines by the glass.

10cases.co.uk

Les 110 De Taillevent 

44 20 3141 6016, 16 Cavendish Square, Marylebone, London W1G 9DD, UK

The head chef at this sleek French-inspired bistro, Ross Bryans, recently launched a new menu with wines paired by sommelier Christopher Lecoufle. The restaurant boasts London’s largest wine list by the glass, with 110 serves and 1,500 bottles, each of which can be paired with dishes like Highland venison and Cornish halibut—or taken alone at the simple but stylish bar.

les-110-taillevent-london.com

Drink & Play

Bounce

44 20 3657 6525, 241 Old St, Hoxton, London EC1V 9EY, UK

It’s paddles at the ready at Europe’s largest “social ping-pong club,” now with two massive table tennis halls in Old Street and Farringdon. Bounce is the ideal place to bond with colleagues, impress a date or take someone you don’t want to talk to. There’s also a great selection of cocktails and food to fuel your game.

bouncepingpong.com

Swingers

044 020 3846 32, 8 Brown's Buildings, London EC3A 8AL

Flex your competitive side with a game of crazy golf at Swingers. The branch in the City is based on a 1920s golf club in the English countryside, whereas the Oxford Circus outpost is inspired by the faded glamour of the English Riviera. Each venue has two (pretty damn difficult) crazy golf courses, cocktail bars and lots of tasty street food.

swingersldn.com

Flight Club

044 0203 019 30, 2a Worship Street London EC2A 2AH

There are plenty of places in London where you can play a cheeky game of darts, but not many where you can sip espresso martinis, order pizza and deploy the latest in dart-tracking technology. With whizzy features including instant scoring, Flight Club’s two locations are suitable for complete newbies and experienced pros alike.

flightclubdarts.com

Dabbers Social Bingo

44 20 3176 3139, 18 - 22 Houndsditch, London EC3A 7DB, UK

While most people think of bingo as a game for grannies, this Liverpool Street club has other ideas. Part saucy cabaret, part interactive free-for-all, Dabbers features cross-dressing hosts, psychedelic dancing girls and communal tables where young people mark their cards, sip on cocktails and dine on menu items like Cumberland sausage balls and pumpkin and spinach falafel. Your granny would have hated it.

dabbers.bingo


Traditional Hotels

The Connaught

+44 20 7499 707, Carlos Pl, Mayfair

“Your wish is our command,” The Connaught prmises, and they mean it. For over 200 years, this Mayfair institution has been treating guests to the full five-star treatment: Anything from a personal butler to chauffeured sightseeing trips can be arranged. Although the hotel is steeped in history, it has plenty of mod cons, including Japanese smart toilets, award-winning cocktails and Michelin-starred food from chef Hélène Darroze.

the-connaught.co.uk

The Savoy

+44 20 7836 434, Strand

There aren’t many places in London with a history quite as rich as The Savoy. This is the place where Vivien Leigh met Laurence Olivier, Monet painted the Thames and Winston Churchill took his Cabinet for lunch. After a £100 million refurbishment in 2010, the Edwardian Neoclassical and Art Deco building has all the trappings of a 21st century super-luxe hotel, including a swanky new room for their famous afternoon tea, a state-of-the-art gym and a new-look Beaufort Bar. The American Bar (Britain’s oldest surviving cocktail bar) remains unchanged.

thesavoylondon.com

Claridge’s

+44 20 7629 886, Brook St, Mayfair,

You won’t find a more elegant place to rest your head than Claridge’s. Since the 1850s, the Mayfair hotel has been attracting the great and good, from Queen Victoria to Hollywood A-listers. They flock here for the Art Deco interior, luxurious suites, chic bars and impeccable service. New restaurant Davies & Brook is set to open Summer 2019.

claridges.co.uk

Boutique Hotels

Ham Yard

+44 20 3642 200, 1 Ham Yard, Soho

Tucked in a calm courtyard in the center of Soho, Ham Yard is full of surprises. From the outset, you’ll notice the décor—British designer Kit Kemp has created a colorful, eclectic wonderland, with antiques, patterned wallpaper and bold works of art playfully clashing throughout. There’s also a secret rooftop bar, a bowling alley, theater, spa and shopping complex, in case Soho isn’t enough life for you.

firmdalehotels.com

Blakes

+442073706701, 33 Roland Gardens, Kensington

On an intriguing row of charcoal townhouses on a quiet Kensington street, you’ll find Anouska Hempel’s den of maximalist interiors. Filled with lavish furnishings, exotic antiques and an air of decadent debauchery, it’s not surprising that it’s a favorite of the fashion world. The decoration for each room is inspired by a different country from Hempel’s travels, and the chic ground-floor restaurant is the perfect spot for a romantic triste.

blakeshotels.com

The pilgrim

+44 20 7667 600, 25 London St, Paddington

Located on a bustling street in Paddington, The Pilgrim would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. Beyond the hotel’s discreet sign, there’s a coffee bar instead of a reception desk—the check-in malarkey is done online. The décor is simple and stylish; each room has cast iron radiators, parquet flooring and a mock-institutional bathroom. The Lounge serves a selection of dishes from chef Sara Lewis, from breakfast classics to late-night snacks.

thepilgrm.com

Design Hotels

Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard

+442072348000, 31 St Thomas St

For all the elegant comfort at the Shangri-La, the most important design features aren’t meant to be seen. Situated from floor 34 to 52 in the Renzo Piano’s dramatic skyscraper, the 202 rooms have floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows and binoculars to help you make the most of them. Soak up the sights by taking a dip in the infinity pool and having a drink at cocktail and champagne bar Gong, the highest bar in Western Europe.

shangri-la.com

Town Hall Hotel

+442078710460, 8 Patriot Square

Based in a former (you guessed it) Town Hall, this Edwardian building has been turned into one of the East End’s classiest hotels. Many of the beautiful original details remain, including the old wood-paneled council chamber, and the modern extension has been thoughtfully integrated. Rooms are kitted out with mid-century furniture, there’s a pool and gym in the basement and the cute Corner Room restaurant boasts some of the best food in the area.
 

townhallhotel.com

Sea Containers London

+442037471000, 20 Upper Ground, South Bank

This South Bank hotel isn’t made of ship containers, but rather occupies a former shipping container office. Since opening as the Mondrian in 2014 (it was only recently rebranded), the hotel has been a firm favorite among design enthusiasts: Its interior, designed by Tom Dixon, contains features like a dramatic copper hull in the reception and a slick modern-retro feel overall. The river views are spectacular, as are the food and drink offerings—Dandelyan (now Lyaness) has been voted the best bar in the world. There’s also another rooftop bar, a Curzon cinema and a tranquil spa in the basement.

seacontainerslondon.com

Hipster Hotels

Ace Hotel

020 7613 9800, 100 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JQ, UK

You won’t find a hipper hotel than the Ace. The London outpost of the American chain is a standby for East London creatives: The Hoi Polloi restaurant looks like the world’s trendiest school canteen, while the rooms have a kind of rarefied college-dorm feel to them—all have a record player, a selection of vinyl and a guitar. There’s also a music venue, Miranda, which always has something worth checking out.

acehotel.com

Hoxton Holborn

+442076613000, 199-206 High Holborn

This central London offshoot of the Shoreditch original has turned Holborn into a hot destination, thanks to its welcoming vibe, cool lounge and bar, hot eateries (Hubbard & Bell restaurant and a branch of Chicken Shop), fashionable interiors and event series. The 174 rooms are decorated with wallpaper designed by local illustrators, and everyone gets a complimentary breakfast bag.

thehoxton.com

London Edition

+442077810000, 10 Berners St, Fitzrovia

Pictures of hotel legend Ian Shrager’s Fitzrovia venture don’t do justice to its grandeur. The entrance hall has marble pillars, lofty rococo ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and statement artworks, while the rooms are equally decadent, with wood-paneled walls, faux fur throws and plush rugs. But what pulls in the fashionable set is the fabulous Berners Tavern restaurant, with food from Jason Atherton, and the cozy Punch Room bar.

editionhotels.com


Art Galleries

Tate Modern

Bankside, London SE1 9TG

Opened in 2000 in the old Bankside Power Station, the Tate Modern’s architecture alone is worth a visit. The new Switch House addition is a treat to explore, and the immense Turbine Hall never fails to inspire. You’ll also find one of the best collections of modern and contemporary art in the world—from surrealist paintings to postmodern installations—with excellent free permanent galleries and blockbuster temporary exhibitions.

tate.org.uk

Saatchi Gallery

Duke of York's HQ, King's Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 4RY, UK

Advertising mogul Charles Saatchi has such a large collection of contemporary art, he opened a gallery to show it off. After moving around the city, the museum has settled in Chelsea and continues to showcase work by up-and-coming British talent and lesser-known international artists. Based around Saatchi’s personal tastes, the art here can tend toward the eccentric and even inscrutable at times, but that’s half the fun. (Photo credit: Matthew Booth)

saatchigallery.com

The Photographers’ Gallery

16-18 Ramillies St, Soho, London W1F 7LW, UK

Duck off Oxford Street into Soho and you’ll find this brilliant gallery in an old redbrick warehouse. Established in 1971 as the UK’s first public gallery dedicated to photography, it continues to highlight the work of fresh talent and photographic heavyweights. The basement bookshop is worth a look and the café is a welcome oasis of calm in the surrounding shopping maelstrom.

thephotographersgallery.org.uk

Museums

V&A Museum

+442079422000, Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge

Exhibition Road is home to some of London’s finest museums, but they don’t come any more splendid that V&A. The world’s largest repository of decorative arts and design has a collection of 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years, with seven floors dedicated to sculpture, costume, paintings, books, ceramics, jewelry, glass, textiles and furniture. There’s also an exciting program of temporary exhibitions and an excellent museum shop that’s well worth a browse.

vam.ac.uk

Sir John Soane’s Museum

13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP, UK

Just behind Holborn station is the former home of John Soane. The neo-classical architect and obsessive collector demolished and rebuilt three houses on Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a residence that eventually became a museum. Today, the house remains largely untouched, so you can experience the marvelous clutter of objects—from an Egyptian sarcophagus to medieval stained glass to Soane’s architectural drawings—arranged exactly as he intended. 

soane.org

Museum of Brands

111-117 Lancaster Rd, London W11 1QT, UK

A half century ago, “supermarket archaeologist” Robert Opie started hoarding soap packets, candy wrappers, soda bottles and cigarette ads, a collection that could have led to a lonely life with the curtains drawn, but instead culminated in the Museum of Brands, a warren of thousands of everyday objects that not only span a century or more of consumerism, but tap into our individual experiences in a surprisingly moving way. This may not be the most valuable collection in London, but it’s one of the most compelling. 

museumofbrands.com

Live Venues

EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney)

11-17 Stoke Newington Road, N16 8BH

Lucky old Dalston has a new multi-arts venue from the people behind Village Underground in Shoreditch. They’ve taken over a derelict Art Deco cinema, which lay disused for 40 years, and turned it into a huge atmospheric concert hall and event space, alongside a contemporary new restaurant EartH Kitchen and a massive basement club and music venue.

earthackney.co.uk

Royal Festival Hall

Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, Lambeth

This venue in the Southbank Centre is one of the best places to see a concert in London. You won’t find any moshing here—instead, the 2,700-capacity auditorium is a spot to catch classical, folk, rock, jazz, poetry and everything in between. It also hosts Meltdown, an annual festival curated by musical legends like Patti Smith, David Byrne and Nile Rogers. Be sure to check out the nearby Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room for gigs too. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

southbankcentre.co.uk

O2 Academy Brixton

211 Stockwell Rd, Brixton

If you want to rock out, try the Academy. Set in the 1920s-era Astoria Cinema (first screening: Al Jolson’s The Singing Fool), the venue opened as a club in 1983 and has since hosted some of the world’s most iconic bands, including The Smiths, Madonna, Bob Dylan and the Sex Pistols. As one of the biggest non-arena venues in London, it continues to attract great acts every night of the week. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

academymusicgroup.com

Theaters

National Theatre

+442074523000, Upper Ground, Lambeth

An eye-catching Brutalist building on the South Bank houses one of the most accomplished theaters in the world. With three auditoriums, up to 25 new productions a year and a parade of famous actors passing through, it’s no wonder that tickets sell out faster than you can say Bill Shakespeare. Productions often move into the West End and go on international tours. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

nationaltheatre.org.uk

The Royal Court

+442075655000, Sloane Square, Chelsea

If you want to see cutting edge work, check out the line-up at this Sloane Square theater. Since the 1950s, the Royal Court has been showcasing the work of emerging playwrights in its two auditoriums, producing plays that are now considered to be classics. The current artistic director knows her stuff, so trust her and take a punt on seeing something totally new. (Photo credit: Helen Murray)

royalcourttheatre.com

The Old Vic

+448448717628, The Cut, Lambeth

This 1,000-seat theater near Waterloo has seen some big things since opening in 1818: It survived World War II bombing raids, was the first home of the National Theatre led by Laurence Olivier and, between 2004 and 2015, had the now-notorious Kevin Spacey as its Artistic Director. Today, with Brit Matthew Warchus at the helm, it remains one of the best theaters in London, with surprisingly affordable ticket options.

oldvictheatre.com

Fashion Boutiques

Dover Street Market

+442075180680, 18-22 Haymarket

The revolving installations at this concept store from Rei Kawakubo, founder of Japanese label Comme des Garçons, are so sensational that it can often feel more like a trip to an avant-garde gallery than a shop. You’ll find clothes and accessories from the cream of the fashion crop, as well as a lovely tea room from Rose Bakery on the top floor—or just come in to look at the store and the fine young things who frequent it.

london.doverstreetmarket.com

Goodhood

+442077293600, 151 Curtain Rd

If you want to mingle with East London creatives, this Shoreditch lifestyle store is the place to go. The store boasts a carefully-curated selection of women’s and men’s streetwear, accessories, jewelry, beauty products and homeware, along with exclusive collaborations with brands and designers, so sign up to their mailing list to be the first to know when these drop.

goodhoodstore.com

Alex Eagle Studio

+442075890588, 6-10 Lexington St, Soho

This bright, spacious and chic lifestyle boutique on a quiet Soho street is a haven of beautiful things. Alex Eagle has hand-picked the luxurious selection of art, furniture, books, jewelry and high-end women’s wear, which includes pieces from her own collection and those from hot new designers.

alexeagle.co.uk

Bookshops

Daunt Books

+442072242295, 84 Marylebone High St, Marylebone

This beautiful Edwardian shop on Marylebone High Street has oak galleries, a vintage skylight and a huge selection of travel books. Daunt arranges its books geographically, with a helpful staff on hand to help you find what you’re looking for, along with tables and chairs for those who might take a little longer to decide.

dauntbooks.co.uk

Foyles

+442074375660, 107 Charing Cross Rd, Soho

Despite being a major player in the bookshop world (and being owned by Waterstones), Foyles still has the vibe of an independent. Since opening the first branch in 1904, it has been famed for its selection and was once named the world's largest bookshop in terms of shelf length (30 miles) and number of titles on display. There are four branches in London but the Charing Cross Road flagship is the best, with four floors containing 200,000 titles. (Photo credit: Alamy)
 

foyles.co.uk

Word on the Water

+447976886982, Regent's Canal Towpath, Kings Cross

Bobbing on the canal by Granary Square in King’s Cross, you’ll find this little gem of a bookshop on a 1920s Dutch barge. Sure, it might not have every title you’re looking for, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in well-priced books, readings, talks and the occasional jazz show. There’s also a wood-burning stove and a friendly dog.

Markets

Maltby Street Market

+442073948061, 41 Maltby St

Skip the crowds at Borough Market and head a bit further into Borough to where the real foodies are. Each weekend, this small stretch of railway arches comes alive with gourmet street food stalls and archways full of delicious grub from toasted cheese sandwiches and fresh gyoza to dangerously good brownies. The area is also full of small breweries, so once you’ve lined your stomach, go on a tour of their tasting rooms. (Photo credit: Alamy)

maltby.st

Portobello Road

306 Portobello Rd

You can find pretty much anything on this famous Notting Hill market: antiques, flowers, fresh produce, clothes, street food, fabrics and much more. Part local staple and part tourist attraction, a sunny stroll along the length of the market is always a joy. If antiques and vintage clothes are what you’re after, there’s also a smaller market on Friday where you can arm wrestle fashionistas and collectors for rare finds. (Photo credit: Alamy)

portobelloroad.co.uk

Broadway Market

Broadway Market

A Saturday in East London wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Broadway Market. You’ll discover local jams, handmade toiletries and candles, vintage clothes, books, kids clothes and a world more. Stylish locals pick up their organic produce here, stopping for coffee and snacks from the many street food stalls, before finding a sunny spot in nearby London Fields or along the canal. (Photo: Getty Images)

broadwaymarket.co.uk