As one of the world's most dynamic cities, London is always on. Get your culture fix in world-class museums like the Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert, stroll its parks, and shop in historic department stores. Plus, the British food scene has come a long way from jokes about greasy fish 'n chips and soggy peas, and its chefs regularly earn Michelin stars. And, of course, the city is abuzz with Harry and Meghan wedding fever. Here are the top things to do in London on your next trip across the pond. Cheers!
The Tate Modern, housed in a former power station, has contemporary works from the likes of Francis Bacon and Roy Lichtenstein, while the Rosetta Stone is one of the treasures at the British Museum. The Victoria and Albert, with an amazing collection of decorative arts, recently debuted its new modern wing. And finally, you can marvel at the jaw-dropping bling, better known as the Crown Jewels, in the Tower of London.
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London's shopping scene is the bomb, so be prepared to spend a few pounds. Hit luxury department stores like Harrods (don't miss a visit to its famous Food Hall) and Harvey Nichols. Burberry, Stella McCartney, and other designer names can be found along Bond Street (Meghan will no doubt be spending lots of time on this world-famous shopping street), while Oxford Street (home of and Marks & Spencer department stores) has every type of shop at every price range.
Berners Tavern is the restaurant within the London EDITION hotel, and it's helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton, who serves modern British fare like roasted Cornish cod and grass-fed Scottish steak. There's great people-watching in this ornately designed space with soaring ceilings, gilt-framed art, leather banquettes, and a stunning backlit bar. It's open all day, but midday rocks a power lunch scene.
If you haven't yet taken a spin on the London Eye, you're definitely missing out — the views of the River Thames and its many landmarks are remarkable. You can also snap a few selfies in front of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, tour Westminster Abbey (stop by Poets' Corner, where Chaucer and Lord Byron are buried), and watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. When you need a break, head to Hyde Park — or the nearest pub!
Located in a historic building in Soho, The London Edition, is part of Ian Schrager's stable of hip hotels around the world. Rooms feature walnut wood-paneled walls, king-sized beds, and faux-fur throw rugs. The lobby bar, with soaring ceilings and a stone fireplace, is a fun spot to grab a drink and play a game of snooker on a custom-made table before heading out for the evening.
Across from Buckingham Palace, the family-owned Goring is where Kate Middleton stayed with her family the night before her fairytale wedding to Prince William. The classic hotel, which opened in 1910, is a favorite of lords and ladies and other blue bloods who appreciate the elegant, antique-filled rooms, "veddy proper" afternoon tea service, and the private flower-filled garden.
Cecconi's is located within the glitzy Ned, a joint venture between high-end hospitality groups Soho House and Sydell Group (who did New York's NoMad Hotel). Housed in the former Midland bank building, the grand banking floor has been transformed into a mini restaurant row with Cecconi's, serving Northern Italian cuisine, leading the way. There's also Millie's Lounge, for classic British fare with a modern twist.
The Shangri-La, At The Shard London is located within the 1,016-foot-tall Renzo Piano-designed Shard, London's tallest building, so you can expect the views to be pretty awesome from the room's floor-to-ceiling windows. Have a drink at the hotel's Gong, a swanky Asian-inspired cocktail lounge on the 52nd floor, which has sweeping London skyline views.
This legendary seafood restaurant in Mayfair caters to the posh set, who dine amid the elegant decor of burgundy leather banquettes and artwork from Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, and other Young British Artists lining the walls. Shellfish bisque, Dublin bay prawns, miso-blackened salmon, and lobster thermidor are a few of the menu highlights. Pressed for time? Dine at the decadent Champagne and oyster bar.
What would a visit to London be without downing a few pints in a historic pub? Charles Dickens frequented Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, with a warren-like maze of nooks and crannies, while Ye Olde Mitre is a charming, hard-to-find tavern rumored to be 500 years old. If you prefer martinis, stop by Dukes Bar — it's said that James Bond creator Ian Fleming drank many a martini here, and yes, he ordered them "shaken not stirred."
While London has enough gourmet restaurants to keep foodies happy, one of the city's most iconic dishes is your basic fish and chips — fried battered cod or haddock fillets served with french fries. Feel free to embellish with tartar sauce, lemon, and salt and vinegar. One of the classic spots is Poppie's, with several branches, including the original shop in the East End.
For a unique perspective of London and all of its famous landmarks, take a cruise along the Thames River with City Cruises, which offers sightseeing trips every 40 minutes. If the weather cooperates, sit on the upper deck and keep the camera ready for all the big attractions, including Big Ben, the London Eye, and Tower Bridge. Ticket types include single passes and hop-on, hop-off.
If you're a fan of jazz, you've come to the right city. London has plenty of top-tier venues to hear world-class jazz musicians, as well as exciting up and comers, but the best known is Ronnie Scott's, a basement club opened by British saxophonist Ronnie Scott in 1959. Some of the performers who have graced the stage have included Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis, and Cassandra Wilson.
London is famed for its architecture and historic buildings, but you may not realize that it also has plenty of green space to unwind in whenever you need a break from the concrete jungle and the Tube!
One such place is Hyde Park, which boasts grassy lawns, 4,000 trees, and beautiful springtime flowers. It's home to the Serpentine, a man-made lake where you can rent a paddleboat, and the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain.
If you've seen Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman in an Oscar-winning performance as Winston Churchill during World War II, you were no doubt intrigued by the war rooms, a subterranean bunker that served as his base of operations.
Located under the Treasury Building in the heart of Westminster, you can tour this secret underground space, which is now part of England's Imperial War Museum. Afterward, have a drink in the nearby St. Ermin's, a historic hotel that Churchill frequented.
If you've always been intrigued by Jack the Ripper, sign up for a Jack the Ripper tour, which visits the scenes of the grisly murders of Whitechapel prostitutes that began in 1888. The 45-minute tour from London Walks takes place each evening at 7:30 from the Tower Hill Tube stop. Your guide will take you to the murder sites, as well as explain who the central suspects are, leaving you to decide for yourself who you think the serial murderer really was!
Paxton & Whitfield is the oldest cheesemonger in London. It got its start in 1742 when Stephen Cullum set up a cheese stall in Aldwych market. It later moved to a brick-and-mortar shop on affluent Jermyn Street, and partners Harry Paxton and Charles Whitfield came on board. The shop, which provides cheese to Prince Charles, brims with wheels of every type of cheese imaginable, including English cheeses like Stilton blue and Dorset goat.
The West End is London's version of New York's Times Square, and it makes for a great night out (there are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area as well). You'll find some of Broadway's top musicals, including The Book of Mormon and Hamilton, as well as new shows, such as Quiz, a play by James Graham at the Noel Coward Theatre, and Tina: The Musical (about Tina Turner) at the Aldwych Theatre, both opening this spring.
If you're a fan of gin, you need to get yourself to The Distillery, a gin-themed, three-room hotel near Notting Hill. Learn about the spirit and have a tasting in the basement distillery, then head to the Resting Room bar where you can sip a gimlet or martini, both made with the distillery's own Portobello Road gin. When you're ready to call it a night, simply head upstairs to your room and sleep it off.
Curious to see where Harry and Meghan will tie the knot? Then catch a train from London's Paddington Station for the one-hour trip to Windsor. The main attraction is Windsor Castle, the world's oldest and largest occupied castle in the world (and one of Queen Elizabeth II's official residences). Take a tour to see the decorated State Apartments and the gorgeous Gothic-style St. George's Chapel where the prince and his American amour will wed.