Cocktails & Culture: 3 Days in London

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Advisor - Nadia Bess
Curated By

Nadia Bess

  • England

  • London

  • Arts & Culture

  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • International Travel

  • Cocktails

  • High Tea

  • Local Cuisine

British flags hanging with cars on street next to tall buildings
Curator’s statement

London is one of my favorite cities! Between the numerous gourmet restaurants, friendly locals and gorgeous decor, I am never sad to pop into London again. London is a city you are likely to visit more than once as it is a common international layover in many flight routes. After you’ve visited all the main attractions, why not experience some of the lesser-known gems in London by taking a cocktail tour of the city? This will allow you to experience London as the locals do — with a drink in hand.

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Day 1: Sky Lounge, Borough Market, Sky Garden & Crazy Golf

Railing and glass windows overlooking tall pointed building on a cloudy day

After you arrive, transfer to your hotel and get settled in. Booking through Fora will offer you early check-in (subject to availability). Once you are refreshed, head to the City of London neighborhood to get your cocktail tour started! 

Sky Lounge

Kick off your time in London with a cocktail with epic views. The Shard, an iconic glass structure in London, hosts the Shangri-La hotel within its structure. This hotel has a great cocktail spot on Level 34 known as the Sky Lounge, which has some of the best views in London. This spot  features many Veuve Clicquot cocktails and also hosts a luxurious Sunday brunch. It also offers food options if you are starving after your flight. Don’t miss out on the savory buttermilk and parmesan doughnuts. 

Borough Market

Once you are ready to eat, head to Borough Market for a delicious selection of food! This permanent farmer's market offers food directly from farmers and traders, both fresh to take home and prepared in cafes and for snacking. There are numerous options, with everything from fish to cheese to meze to bao available, so pick what sounds good to you. Ready for a cocktail? Stop into Bedales of Borough for traditional cocktails or partake in a wine tasting. Note that the market closes at 5 PM or earlier each day. 

Sky Garden

After you’ve eaten, walk across the London Bridge and get in an elevator. In addition to offering the city’s highest garden on Level 35 and a weather-permitting outdoor terrace, this spot boasts amazing views of the city and numerous restaurants and bars. Grab a cocktail at one of the three bars: Sky Pod, City Garden or Fenchurch Terrace (make sure to reserve your spot in advance) for a delicious cocktail. Try to time your visit for sunset or the live music offerings! 

Swingers Crazy Golf - City

This isn’t the miniature golf you played as a child! Crazy Golf is eclectically decorated with each hole and course offering different skill levels designed to get you competing with your golf companions. Even better: this spot has excellent cocktails! Their cocktail menu is extensive and they also offer rotating cocktails of the month and frozen cocktails for when you are feeling festive. Timed tickets are offered two months in advance, so book ahead of time for best availability.

Day 2: Explore the City & Enjoy High Tea

Cocktails & Culture: 3 Days in London - Day 2: Explore the City & Enjoy High Tea

Aire Ancient Baths London (Covent Garden) 

After breakfast, head to Aire Ancient Baths for a truly blissful morning. In a candlelit historic building, soak your worries and aches away in their numerous water-based experiences, including hot baths, cold baths, salt baths, jet baths and steam baths. Next, head to the wine bath experience, allowing you to soak in the antioxidant properties of winegrapes in a private bath before receiving a full body massage using grapeseed oil. Consider adding on sparkling wine and truffles to enjoy while you are in the bath! Reserve in advance. 

Wagamama (Covent Garden)

After you are done relaxing at the spa, you’ll likely be hungry for lunch! Wagama serves fantastic Japanese-inspired cuisine such as ramen, curry, teppanyaki, donburi and kokoro bowls. Don’t skip their small plates, like the miso corn, which are all delicious. For drinks, consider one of their fantastic mocktails, such as the cherry blossom lemonade, or imbibe in a cocktail like a lychee collins. 

Beaufort Bar

Inside The Savoy, this bar drips in luxury with gold accents throughout and beautifully presented cocktails. The bar has many elegant cocktails but what really sets it apart is its extensive champagne and sparkling wine collection. Oysters, caviar, pizza and small bites are available to complement the cocktails. 

Cutter & Squidge (Soho)

Wind your way leisurely past many more wine bars, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, and Leicester Square before ending up at Cutter & Squidge in Soho. After perusing the beautiful cakes and treats upstairs (and maybe indulging in a few), head downstairs to The Potion Room. While there are many afternoon tea services in London, this one is very unique (and fun). You’ll don cloaks and sit in school desks while your professor teaches you what spells to use to create magical, tea-themed cocktails while snacking on classic afternoon tea sandwiches and cuisine. On your way out, pop into Lina Stores Soho Delicatessen next door to pick up some gourmet snacks for your next flight or food gifts to bring home. 

Fortnum & Mason (Mayfair)

Fortnum & Mason, which was established in the 1700s, has been around for centuries but has maintained its popularity. Browse the multiple levels (don’t miss the gorgeous historic spiral staircase) for excellent gourmet gifts, from cookies to tea to chocolate to pantry essentials. They also have all the fresh food essentials in case you will be headed out on a picnic, in addition to their own brand of spirits, wine and bottled cocktails. Afterwards, head downstairs to have dinner and a garden themed cocktail at FIELD. The lush and airy setting is like a temporary escape to the tropics. The food menu is local produce-driven and changes with the season but offers delicious options for vegetarians and carnivores alike. 

Connaught Bar (Mayfair)

This bar, which recently won the distinction of number one bar in the world in 2021, should not be missed! Order a martini to see something special; a cart will be wheeled out to you to make the martini with fanfare in front of you. Consider a cocktail in the “Masterpieces” section for a truly show stopping cocktail. No matter which cocktail you order, every single one is beautifully presented photo-ready. 

If you still have energy after your busy day, consider stopping at one or both of the below excellent cocktail bars on your way back to your hotel: 

Artesian: This bar, inside the Langham, boasts over 50 types of rum in its selection leading to a selection of tropical weather that can allow you to escape to the islands when the typically dreary London weather gets you down. The special Duality menu offers cocktails that take ingredients with similar flavors and offers two different cocktails to showcase how the same ingredients can be used in different ways. 

Mr Fogg's House of Botanicals: With a ceiling dripping in flowers and cocktails inspired by botanicals, this spot instantly reminds me of spring. The tipsy tea service is what this location is known for, which is a play on traditional London high tea but with tea cocktails as “spirited tea”. Make sure to follow the spiral staircase up the tree trunk to see the floral treehouse they created! Some cocktails can only be ordered in the treehouse. Small bites and sharing boards are also available if you are hungry. Reserve in advance.

Day 3: Shoreditch & Spitalfields Market

Colorful artwork on the side of a building on a cloudy day

Dishoom Shoreditch

Dishoom is one of the most popular restaurants in London and there are several locations throughout the city. This airy location is a great spot for lunch (be prepared to potentially wait to be seated or reserve in advance). This cafe serves Bombay cuisine via small plates, perfect for sharing lots of dishes to really taste the menu, as well as fantastic unique cocktails, with flavors you likely haven’t experienced before like chai, turmeric, or cardamom! This spot also has fantastic mocktails made with non-alcoholic spirits if you want to take a break from alcohol. 

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium 

This lovely spot fosters rescue cats, socializing them with guests and the resident cats until they are ready to be adopted into their furever homes. Visit the Alice In Wonderland themed cat playhouse to meet the cats and watch them climb, cuddle and play. Care for a meowgarita? How about an es-purr-esso martini? After you meet the cats, stop into the cafe for a cat-themed cocktail. Entry is timed; make sure to reserve in advance. 

Spitalfields Market

Pop into the market to see all the independent vendors selling everything from fashion to art to decor to food products! Once you are done exploring the market, pop into Players Social in the market. Check the website in advance to see what vendors will be there on a particular day. This bar has a large terrace and lots of game areas that can be reserved in advance. Try your hand at shuffleboard, ping-pong and foosball while you sip on cocktails. Definitely try the rhubarb spritz and on’t sleep on the sourdough pizzas — they are delicious! Games are free from 10 AM - 1 PM if you’d prefer to start at this spot with breakfast and a bloody mary. Live music is available in the evenings, Thursday - Saturday. 

Ballie Ballerson

This spot will have you laughing and feeling like a kid the entire time you are there. This adults-only bar has two ball pits (don’t worry — they have a special cleaning machine that cleans and sanitizes around 18,000 balls per hour). If you can tear yourself away from playing in the ball pits, they have fun cocktails themed around childhood nostalgia, with ingredients like Skittles, bubblegum and popsicles. Remember to wear secure shoes! Entry is timed; make sure to reserve in advance. 

Tayler + Elementary 

This spot, just opened in 2019, made the World’s Best 50 Bars list in 2021. It consists of two concepts. Elementary is the casual all day option, with simple but delicious cocktails on a rotating menu served without excessive fanfare. Tayler is the more upscale concept, with obscure ingredients coming together in produce-driven modern cocktails. Walk-in only/no reservations. 

Oriole Bar (Farringdon)

On your way back to your hotel, stop at this spot for a delicious nightcap. Don’t let the nondescript entrance in a dark alley at Old Smithfield Market fool you. This underground bar is charmingly decorated and makes some of the best cocktails in London, in addition to offering live music and rare spirits. The cocktail menu is twenty pages long and is divided by geographic region (mocktails are also available). Ask your server for help selecting the perfect cocktail as there are many options. A full dinner menu is also available. Reserve 90 days in advance.

Need to Know

For more travel inspo, check out my guide to the UAE: Luxury, Food and Culture in the United Arab Emirates.

Advisor - Nadia Bess

Travel Advisor

Nadia Bess

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