London is a must go-to for many travellers looking for culture, history, activity and fine cuisine. But just where do you start? Pascale Barget offers her top choices.
23 October 2012
London is an international hub whose role as the Olympic host in 2012 has raised this historic city's stature greatly across the world.
It is a go-to for many travellers looking for culture, history, activity and fine cuisine. Aside from its plethora of iconic structures such as Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace and the world’s most frequented modern art gallery – The Tate Modern - the city also houses 40,000 listed buildings, 22 national museums and over 32,000 musical performances of which 17 per cent are free. Pascale Barget, founder of twentysomethinglondon.com, offers some of her favourite haunts.
MUST STAY: The Langham presents 5 star luxury accommodation in the heart of central London with rooms from £315 per night. More of a hidden gem is Durrants, a Georgian hotel in Marylebone run by the Miller family for nearly 100 years (from £230 per night) with another more modern alternative, The Mandeville Hotel (from £170 per night), just around the corner.
For budget travelers, Palmers Lodge Swiss Cottage is exceptionally reasonable given its location. The group of luxury hostels has one London location in Swiss Cottage and includes free continental breakfast and WiFi. The private double rooms are around £55 per night with sharing dorms as little as £20.
MUST EAT: Home to so many cultures London’s culinary experience is one of the most varied of any city. For foodies who don’t mind planning ahead The Ivy, in the heart of Covent Garden, is the stylish way to embark on a West-End night out. The Fat Duck, world-renowned three-starred Michelin restaurant, is another must if money is no object and reservations are organised three months in advance. Here a culinary experiment gets underway including the likes of Blumenthal’s infamous snail porridge.
That said, the city also offers many reasonable priced eateries. For a quick bite in central London try Flat Planet, The Scandinavian Kitchen and Kaffeine. Near the famous Abbey Road lies a superb deli/pizzeria Bruno’s Deli whose Focaccia bread arrives fresh each morning. The Arches is another quirky restaurant and wine bar in the area and Ekin, a no frills restaurant serving some of the best Turkish cuisine, only a few streets away.
MUST VISIT MUSEUM: London’s Tate Modern. The former power station houses not only some of the world’s best modern art but its location, situated on the Thames, allows for exceptional views of the city.
The Victoria & Albert Museum is a well worth visit with its beautiful café/restaurant a great place to have a bite to eat.
As well as touring all of London’s famous sites the city is also home to hundreds of independent art galleries. The FOLD Gallery in the heart of Clerkenwell is a perfect example. Contemporary art influenced by the impeccable taste of Kim Savage is freely open to the public.
Beach London is another go to for up-coming talent. This gallery, shop and café features affordable art from local artists and is situated on the lively Cheshire Street, East London.
MUST BUY: London is great for shopping with its mix of department stores including Liberty, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Harrods as well as independent retailers. There are many great finds such as Tique Booty, House of Vintage, Saloon 97 and Article spread across East and South London.
MUST SEE THE VIEW: The London Eye is one of London's most famous landmarks. Your 30-minute journey (from £21) in one of its transparent capsules gives a bird's eye view of the city.
Alternatively, London’s Emirates Air Line cable car service, the UK’s first urban cable car is a new and slightly cheaper way to see the city. One way traveling from the O2 to the ExCeL conference centre is £4.20 or £3.50 if paying with oyster card. That said, the journey time is 5 to 10 minutes.
MUST EXPLORE: London is known for its parks. St James Park, Regents Park and Hyde Park are perfect for their manicured lawns and beautiful gardens. Others like Hampstead Heath for example are a little more rough and rugged giving the feeling of trekking through a forest.
When the weather is not so bright wrapping up and exploring the city’s markets is another option. Portobello market in Notting Hill is home to some of the best vintage stalls, particularly on Fridays.
Both Brixton Village and Market Row are two great indoor markets home to great restaurants, shops and bars including Mama Lans, Seven at Brixton, Rosie’s Deli Café and Ms Cupcake.
MUST DRINK: Unique to London are the pubs. These are a great spot to grab a leisurely drink. The Holly Bush, Hampstead and The Windsor Castle, Notting Hill are two homely places perfect for the quintessential pub experience. Aside from the latter, swankier bars include Aqua London whose beautiful terraces overlook Regents Street, Montgomery Place and Lounge Bohemia.
GETTING THERE: You can get flights to London from almost anywhere in the world. Most flights will land in one of London's 5 main airports: City, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or Luton.