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London city guide: Where to stay and what to do
One of the best city break destinations in the world, London has an abundance to offer by way of culture, gastronomy, retail therapy and more. Now that hotels are re-opening on May 17, it's time to get back to exploring so we've put together a handy guide to help you make the most of your time in the big smoke.
Where to stay in London
Being one of the central hubs of the world, London is well equipped when it comes to hotels, from the super-luxurious to the quaint, quintessentially British bolt holes. We've rounded up our favourites that will guarantee a great stay in the city.
Arrive at this grand Edwardian hotel in Dickensian Holborn in central London (he wrote Great Expectations while living in the area) in style and safety – if you are a member of Knightsbridge Circle concierge service, your personal manager will arrange an immaculate Mercedes S400 to collect you from dock, airport or doorstep and whisk you off the busy streets and through the wrought iron gates of the central carriageway entrance to the sanctuary of the inner courtyard. Your manager, who will be there to greet you, will have already checked you in and made any reservations you require, so you can have more time enjoying the champagne drawer in the bar in your 85-square-metre Grand Premier Suite, treatments in the Sense spa, or dinner downstairs in the Holborn Dining Room.
Before dinner, descend the Renaissance-style grand marble staircase to the Scottish-themed Macallan Manor House bar, just off the peaceful courtyard – it has heated seats, meaning you can meet a friend whatever the weather for a warming whiskey-based cocktail in comfort. Despite the Scottish theme (staff are in tartan) plenty of other drinks are available, and we recommend the Domaine Vaurouz chablis – accompanied by (what else?) a rare breed pork and white pudding Scotch egg.
The Stafford Hotel
For a quintessentially British stay, there is nowhere like The Stafford in London. Steeped in history and frequented by everyone from the Royal Family to Winston Churchill and a number of super famous faces in between. It's not surprising to see why this hidden gem is a popular spot, tucked away behind the clamour of Piccadilly with private suites that are like private apartments, fully equipped with fireplaces and grand bathrooms.
If stately grandeur is what you seek, the Stafford will give you an authentic taste of British culture, especially if you dine in the Game Bird and enjoy the Wellington dish of the day- a signature of theirs. Follow this with a dose of American culture by visiting the famous American bar for tasty cocktails beneath the fraternity memorabilia.
Shangri-La at The Shard
Take your travel to new heights by booking a suite at the opulent Shangri-La in London. Located in one of London's great landmarks, The Shard. Accessed via a private lift, you'll have sweeping views overlooking the Thames, with a skyline that stretches for miles from a comfortable and luxurious suite with floor-to-ceiling windows.
While you're here, a sunrise (or sunset) swim in Europe's highest infinity pool is a must, particularly if the sky is clear as there are not many times you'll be able to swim with such a fantastic backdrop. You're spoilt for choice when it comes to dining options, we'd recommend sundowners at Gong bar or dinner at Ting, a hot-spot for wedding proposals and special events.
Located on the historic Park Lane, The Dorchester is an age-old institution that's become equally as revered for its hotel suites as it's famous afternoon tea. Just a stone's throw from Hyde Park, where walks around the Serpentine will help clear your head, and a five-minute walk from the lavish streets of Mayfair should you be so inclined to go shopping.
The suites here will win you over with the opulent Italian marble bathrooms, plush beds and tall, dressed windows. Be sure to carve out time in the quaint tea rooms for jam and scones.
The Marylebone is perfectly located for visitors wanting easy access to London’s best attractions without finding themselves completely enveloped in the hustle and bustle. This hotel, sandwiched between the Victorian mansion blocks and manicured gardens of Marylebone, offers a quiet place to rest one's head that’s still within walking distance of the city's best restaurants, museums and shopping streets. Eclectic art-deco interiors throughout the restaurant, bar and bedrooms imbue the establishment with a stylish air, and an ultra-attentive concierge and staff will make you feel right at home.
Guests will enjoy views over the skyline from their well-appointed, modern suites, and will find a gym, swimming pool and restaurant at their disposal. Take your dinner at 108 Brasserie and finish off the night with a tipple at the ever-so elegant bar.
The Best Bars and Restaurants in London
Afternoon tea and Sunday lunch- two things the Brits do so well and essential to have on your agenda when visiting. There is a buzzing nightlife and a gastronomical scene in the city that draws people back time and time again. In addition to the suggestions below, read our roundup of the best afternoon tea and the best restaurants in London.
Dukes Bar is a must for every James Bond fan as it's the home of the original "shaken, not stirred" martini, which was also recreated in the recent Hollywood hit, A Simple Favour. We'd go as far as to say it would be criminal not to have one here...
Galvin at Windows
For an experiential dining experience that offers the best views over West London, Galvin at Windows knows how to put on a fantastic meal to compete with the skyline. Situated on the 28th floor of the London Hilton on Park Lane, views overlook the famous Hyde Park and some of London's oldest architecture.
With Marc Hardiman at the helm, the signature dish of marbled duck liver is exemplary, not to mention the Portland crab and Anjou pigeon. Each dish alone is reason to make this restaurant a necessary stop when in London.
Hide quickly made a reputation for itself as one of London's more iconic restaurants with its grand wooden staircase and views of Green Park.
Ollie Dabbous' iconic nest egg and the truffled scrambled eggs (if you go for breakfast) have made waves on social media, drawing people in from all over. If you're there for dinner, be sure to save room for the gargantuan cheese trolley and definitely opt for the wine pairing.
Famed for its exceptional brunch offering, The Wolseley’s distinguished dining room offers classic, British grandeur. Nestled between the Ritz, Fortnum & Mason and a two-minute walk from Green Park, it's a great stop-over should you be sightseeing or shopping nearby.
The restaurant serves probably the best Eggs Benedict in town- pair it with a decadent hot drink such as an Affogato (espresso poured over vanilla ice cream) or a Mozart (coffee with hazelnut liqueur, hot chocolate, crème chantilly and almond flakes).
A sister restaurant to Asian fine dining instituion Hakkasan, Yauatcha specialises in creating delectable Cantonese Dim Sum with creative, modern twists. Expect to eat your fill of flavoursome dumplings and delicate, artfully crafted pasteries.
Menu highlights include the truffle-infused seafood dumplings and steamed buns filled with soft shell crab. Save space for dessert too; with macaroons and mooncakes to satisfy your sweet tooth.
What to do in London
There are few cities in the world that have such a longstanding history and as many age-old landmarks in one place, like London. As one of the last countries with a royal family, the royal households are hot tourist spots - you can't miss out on the classic pictures with the guards - but can you make them smile? The usual tour of Buckingham Palace, Pall Mall, London Bridge and the Tower of London should be on everyone's to-do list and if you’ve got children in tow, then be sure to book the London Dungeons.
If you’re missing the water, take a private limo cruise down the Thames, or enjoy a picnic in Hyde Park and take some boats out on the Serpentine. Casual lunch at the renowned Borough Market before enjoying a stroll along the Southbank or drinks at London's Sky Garden.
Sometimes a good dose of culture is just the tonic. For this, explore the West End or book a play at Shakespeare's Globe theatre. Additionally, The Tate Modern and the Saatchi Gallery will whet your appetite with phenomenal artworks from around the world.