A Local's Guide to Lovely Cultural London
Arts & Culture
London, England was one of my previous homes, when I used to lead communications for the Four Seasons UK Collection there, so I understand the market intricately. I enjoyed exploring as often as possible, in and around the city and I share these tips often. There are so many wonderful neighborhoods to explore, as you literally walk through history in one of the world's most fascinating and cultural cities.
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Where to stay In London
The Connaught Hotel
Renowned luxury hotel in Mayfair from 1897 with serene rooms.
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Sumptuous stay with one of the most beautiful bars in London — a hotel that’s hard to leave.
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A storied 19th-century building drawing inspiration from its history and location in Covent Garden, as well as exploring the artistic and cultural connection between London and New York.
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Things to do In London
Given the sheer multitude of places to explore, it's best to break down highlights by area to make the most of it.
Buckingham Palace & Kensington Palace, Tower of London, London Eye, Big Ben & Palace of Westminster, if this is your first time. You could certainly opt for a Hop-on Hop-Off bus tour for an overview while you get your bearings.
Movies & Books Tourism
There are many tours available for everything from Harry Potter to Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper and outside the city for Jane Austen, Shakespeare and so many more historic writers. Search tours online.
Museums & Galleries
There are so, so many, but the big ones are: Victoria & Albert Museum, National History Museum, The Royal Academy of Arts, Tate Modern, British Museum, National Gallery, Design Museum, Museum of London, National Maritime Museum, Horniman Museum and Gardens, Sir John Soane’s Museum and so many more, including gems just outside the city.
Music & Theatre
The West End obviously, it’s legendary, just like New York’s Broadway, or catch a classic at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Also, there are many lovely luxury movie theaters in the city that offer food and cocktails too, like the wonderful Everyman Cinema chain. There are also so many beautiful places to hear music, big and small, but a favorite is certainly Royal Albert Hall.
The lights on Bond Street and Oxford/Piccadilly are fun for popular shops, and famous department stores like Liberty London, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason are here. But the shops through Knightsbridge are luxury, too. Harrods is there, where you can duck down the side streets and head over to Kings Road and the colorful buildings of Kensington and Chelsea. But the markets and street fairs are always the most fun for clothes, antiques, art and food — Portobello Market, Camden Market, Borough Market, Brick Lane Market, Brixton Village and Market Row, Broadway Market, Columbia Road Flower Market, Covent Garden Market, Greenwich Market and Maltby Street Market. Obviously, if you are a big antique fan like myself, you will be in heaven with the many stores and collectives around the city, along with pop-up markets.
The great outdoors
The many parks and gardens of the city are delightful as it is a very green city: Hyde Park, St. James Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent's Park, Victoria Park, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park - Also, the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a huge event, Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park rose garden in beautiful when it blooms in and the Columbia Road Flower Market in east London is one of my favorites.
The great train system from London, makes day trips a breeze, or even small group tours with companies like Rabbie’s. Visit Cornwall, Dorset, Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Cambridge, Brighton, Rye, Whitstable, Margate, Stratford-upon-Avon and a lot of beautiful spaces in the country like Hampshire. Head further North to Scotland ( Edinburgh is a favorite), over to Wales (Swansea or Cardiff) or the trusty Eurostar to Paris.
Places to eat & drink In London
London has a lively food scene, with cuisines from around the world, so there are endless choices. Here are a few staples I recommend.
Lunch & Dinner
Chet's in Shepherd's Bush
Petersham Nurseries in Covent Garden
Cafe Cecilia in Hackney
Incredible Indian restaurants
Sunday Roast at a cozy neighborhood pub
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Bijoy Shah’s guide, To-do & To-eat: A Lively London Respite.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to London.