In the last decade, London has emerged as a vibrant, multicultural food city as good as any other in Europe. Combine that with affordable nonstop flights, easy public transit, and a crop of hip new hotels, and you’ve got the makings of the perfect long-weekend destination. Here's our ultimate weekend travel guide to London--beyond Big Ben.
Drop off your bags at just opened The Ned, a joint effort from Soho House and Sydell Group (The Nomad, The Line). Sprawling and centrally located, the hotel has comfortable rooms bedecked in vintage decor, nine restaurants, a nail salon, and boutique fitness amenities (including an on-site spin studio). Fuel up a few blocks away at Taylor St Baristas, one of the few non-Starbucks coffee shops in London that pours cold brew, then stroll along the Thames to Somerset House, a splendid Neoclassical cultural center. Inside, The Courtauld Gallery showcases a tidy collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by painters like Monet, van Gogh, and Degas. Hop the Tube to Fortnum & Mason, a Piccadilly department store that’s been around since 1707; reserve in advance for the legendary Afternoon Tea, which, with a procession of savory and sweet bites, will effectively count as lunch. Spend the evening in Newington Green, first for a drink at Yield N16, a hybrid wine shop and bar, then for a late dinner at Perilla, where a young Noma alumnus is attempting to redefine the conventions of fine dining with a curious and satisfying £38 tasting menu.
London is a wonderfully walkable city, so get ready for a day of exploring on-foot. Kick things off on a healthy note with a green juice and an acai bowl at Malibu Kitchen, the casual, California-inspired cafe on the ground floor of The Ned. Get your fill of history at the Churchill War Rooms, a serpentine subterranean complex that Winston Churchill used as a secret bunker during World War II, then post up for lunch at Nopi, Israeli chef Yottam Ottolenghi’s seasonal Soho restaurant. Be sure to sit downstairs at the communal table, where you can witness the kitchen in action and share a bunch of vegetable-focused dishes; the burrata (a sprightly preparation with blood orange, coriander seeds, and lavender honey) and the roasted eggplant are both Ottolenghi specialties. From here, stroll up to Regent’s Park, 395 acres of greenery promising ample opportunity to get lost; wander through Queen Mary’s Gardens, home to 12,000 roses, and the Avenue Gardens, which is filled with row after row of prim manicured plantings and fountains. Boomerang back down toward the river and window-shop on High Street in Marylebone—The Conran Shop, which closed in NYC a few years ago, has an outpost here, as does L.K. Bennett, whose nude pumps sky-rocketed to international fame after Kate Middleton wore them. End the day at Pachamama, an unbeat Peruvian joint serving up pork belly chicharrones, sea bass ceviche, beef short rib with aji pepper, and more than a dozen house Pisco cocktails.
Book it to Shoreditch, London’s answer to Williamsburg, to beat the brunch crowds. Being first in line when Dishoom opens has its perks; you won’t have to wait for two hours, you’ll be able to snag a table by the windows, and you’ll get a head start on the unlimited chai tea, a milky cult favorite that the modern Indian restaurant concocts in-house. Pillowy naan—each made by hand and to order—is slathered with chili tomato jam and folded with eggs, sausage, and bacon; or, go all-in with the Big Bombay, which comes with akuri (spicy scrambled eggs), bacon, pork sausages, baked beans, and grilled vegetables. After you’ve had your fill, amble toward the Columbia Road Flower Market; on Sundays, flower vendors line the street to peddle peonies the size of softballs, fresh herbs, potted plants, and more. You probably can’t fit a fistful of ranunculus in your carry-on, but you’ll head to the airport armed with some gorgeous photos guaranteed to inspire wanderlust on Instagram.
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