Why London is the Perfect European Launch Pad

Travel Advisor Alison Pantano in a brown dress in front of the water at sunset.
Curated By

Alison Pantano

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  • London

  • England

  • Luxury Travel

  • Boutique Travel

  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • History

  • Sightseeing

  • Shopping

pastel and bright colored houses and a bicycle leans on the wrought iron fence
Curator’s statement

Ah Londontown! Truly one of my favorite cities for so many reasons. Not only is London a melting pot full of rich history, culture and incredible food, but it is the perfect launch pad for a bigger Euro trip. Whenever I am heading across the pond I always stop in London for a few days and then head to my next destination. As a New Yorker there is something familiar about the bustling streets in London, but what makes London more magical is the juxtaposition of buildings, from The Tower of London which has been standing for over 1,000 years to The Gherkin which has only been around for 20 years. It’s worth the extra stop to add London to your itinerary and oftentimes flying on to your text European destination will be cheaper. Here are some of my suggestions from my many trips over the years.

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Where to stay in London

The Marylebone Hotel

Stylish hotel with chic rooms and suites offering views of the city.

The Savoy Hotel

Beloved London institution, just a stone’s throw from the River Thames, known for its exacting service, sumptuous interiors and rare treat indoor swimming pool.

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The Royal Horseguards Hotel

A grand, historical hotel located on the River Thames in Westminster a few minutes walk to the National Gallery and several famous attractions such as The Churchill War Rooms.

Travel Advisor Alison Pantano in a brown dress in front of the water at sunset.

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Places to eat & drink in London

a group of 3 women clink their wine glasses at a round table with a view of the city through the windows

I want to note that there are way too many amazing restaurants on my list in London. If you are planning to visit, reach out to me and I can share more!

Tehran Berlin (formerly The Drunken Butler) - This place is not to be missed and is certainly one of the coolest dining experiences I have had in London. They do not have a written menu, instead they offer an Iranian Tasting Menu with an option to add a wine pairing. This place is like eating in a friend's home with total access to the chef. 

Chutney Mary - This is some of the best Indian food I have had in London and the decor is sublime. Go with someone who likes to share because you will want to try as much as possible. 

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal - This is one of the more unique and celebrated dining experiences. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is one of the world’s most celebrated restaurants with two Michelin stars and past rankings on World’s 50 Best. Get the meat fruit, trust me.  

Lyle’s - Located in trendy Shoreditch, this spot has been ranked on the World's 50 Best as well. The menu changes daily and it’s quite an enjoyable experience.

Smoking Goat - Also located in Shoreditch, Smoking Goat has incredible Thai food that is worth the long wait times.

Paradise Soho - One of my newer discoveries in London. This place is not to be missed if you like Sri Lankin food.

Planque - Planque calls itself a 'wine drinkers’ clubhouse' and truly you will discover some incredible wines at this place. Located in East London in a trendy Haggerston warehouse, definitely add this to your list!

Pollen Street Social and City Social - These are both from Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton. Pollen Street offers an incredible tasting menu and City Social boasts incredible views of London.

Chiltern Firehouse - A palace to see and be seen in Marylebone. This is a celebrity favorite and the vibe and menu are incredible. 

Berners Tavern - A great hotel restaurant with a gorgeous interior. Order the steak and the mac and cheese.

The Princess of Shoreditch - You must get a Sunday Roast when in London, and this is one of my favorites.

Things to do in London

city street with double decker red bus and red phone booth during the day

Afternoon tea is a British tradition that you must experience when visiting. Some of my favorites include:

  • The Dorchester - If you want to feel like you are living in a Jane Austin novel, the decor here is worth checking out.

  • Fortnum and Mason - Famous for their teas internationally, this is a gorgeous spot for tea.

  • Sketch - This spot was made for the perfect Instagram. The decor is just as gorgeous as the preparation.

  • The Connaught - This spot is the quintessential afternoon tea served in Jean-Georges.

  • Harrods - One of the world's most famous department stores, are arguably one of the best tea experiences.

I am a history buff and love all of the historical attractions in London, but the below are my must-sees:

London is known for incredible markets, make sure to checkout:

  • Spitalfields - Located in East London you’ll find delicious food and vendors selling everything from old records to jewelry 

  • Portobello Market - Located in famous Notting Hill, a stroll throughout the market is a must for first-timers.

  • Borough Market - Some of the best food you’ll find in London. Truly, don’t miss this spot! 

  • Brick Lane Market - Located in Shoreditch you’ll score all kinds of vintage finds.

  • Columbia Road Flower Market - Only on Sundays, but certainly a lovely experience if you are in town on the right day - absolutely gorgeous flowers.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Bijoy Shah's guide, An Extravagant Weekend in London, England.

Travel Advisor Alison Pantano in a brown dress in front of the water at sunset.

Travel Advisor

Alison Pantano

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to London.