Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, red double-decker buses, and afternoon teas top our list on the…
“The Best of London”
London is one of the most popular cities to visit in the world. We’ve traveled here dozens of times and are still discovering more places to see. On our recent trip, we visited during July when England still required quarantine for anyone traveling from Amber List countries. We took the mandatory Day 2 & Day 8 test, as well as the early release Day 5 test. It was very expensive and cumbersome, but we followed protocol and wore masks, sanitized our rooms and washed hands to be safe. The upside is there weren’t as many tourists in London and hardly any lines. Sometimes we had art galleries and gardens all to ourselves. These requirements are ever changing, so click here to find out latest updates.
Any first time visitors to London will want to see the Tower of London, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.
Across from Big Ben is the London Eye observation wheel with 360 degree views of the entire city, and new skyscrapers. There are plenty of markets like Portobello or Covent Garden to pick up souvenirs. The parks – Hyde Park, Green Park and Kensington Gardens are the ideal place to take a long walk or go for a run. Theatre goers have a lineup of top musicals and plays to see.
Sharing our list of favorites things to do, places to stay and dine in London. Click here to look at photos from this trip on our Global Adventuress Instagram account.
When to visit? Any time of the year! In springtime, the gardens come to life at the annual Chelsea Flower Show, the world’s most prestigious flower and garden show. During the summer, you can visit the gardens at Buckingham Palace and tour the State Rooms. The Fall colors bring a romance to the city, and it’s one of our favorite times to visit the parks. We also loved visiting early in December when you can see the Christmas decorations lining the streets, stores, shops and hotels. You can feel the festive spirit and merriment that abounds during this time of year.
Where to Stay & Dine
11 Cadogan Gardens is a 5-star boutique hotel based in the heart of Chelsea and Knightsbridge in a quiet neighborhood. Hotel guests are fascinated by the myriad of hallways, staircases from what was formerly four Victorian town houses built by Lord Chelsea in the late 19th century.
General Manager Ian Richardson shared, “This property was a much-loved home away from home for traveling Victorian aristocrats and politicians of the era. Today, 11 Cadogan Gardens is a member of Relais & Chateaux and part of Iconic Luxury Hotels, a collection of England’s finest iconic hotels.”
There are high-end shops, restaurants, fashion boutiques, museums and art galleries nearby. Be sure to visit the Food Hall at Harrod’s and spend a couple hours at the V&A Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design or the Saatchi Gallery with contemporary art collections. Get tickets to hear the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at nearby Cadogan Hall. Stroll the Chelsea Physic Gardens, the third oldest botanical gardens in Britain.
We arrived by the Underground at Sloane’s Square Station, and walked down Pavilion Road, a beautiful mews street with a Chelsea village vibe, lined with artisan food shops, boutiques and cafes.
Rooms: There are 56 rooms, including 25 suites. We stayed in a spacious Junior Suite with elegant furniture and beautiful fabrics. Our suite had an entryway to a living area with a comfortable sofa and chairs, a desk and Hypnos king size bed with luxurious bedding. The marble bathroom included a separate shower and tub, towel heating racks and plush robes.
Dining: We had our breakfast in Hans’ Bar & Grill, open for all-day dining. The seasonal menu is rooted in British produce. Afternoon Tea is served in The Drawing Room. For cocktails, visit the intimate Chelsea Bar with its dramatic décor.
TIP! Guests have access to the Cadogan Gardens, opposite the hotel – be sure to enjoy!
The Milestone Hotel & Residences: Stay at this 5-star boutique hotel, an historic hotel with red and white brick facade, that is perfectly located opposite Kensington Palace & Gardens. This Grade-II listed Victorian building exudes old world charm with beautiful rich furnishings, exquisite original arts.
General Manager Andrew Pike shared a glimpse of the property’s history “The Milestone is a true London landmark. Known for our discrete nature, we are proud to be the neighbours of the British Royal Family, located just opposite Kensington Palace, with exceptional views across the Gardens to this most famous of homes. Our leafy surroundings are perfect for a picnic in the park and we are just a short stroll from the legendary Royal Albert Hall, as well as Notting Hill and Knightsbridge. We are so proud to be a part of the family-owned and run Red Carnation Hotel Collection, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and to have recently received a prestigious Forbes Five Star rating.”
Rooms & Suites: There are 43 deluxe guest rooms and 13 luxury suites. Each of the rooms and suites are unique in layout and design. We stayed in the Hermes Suite with framed antique Hermes scarves adorned with exquisite art deco decor. Our windows overlooked the Kensington Palace Gardens.
Dining: The hotel’s Cheneston’s Restaurant offers fine British dining with outstanding cuisine. Executive Chef Daniel Putz creates warming signature dishes inspired by founder, Beatrice Tollman, which are served alongside a range of delicious British options, such as Scottish salmon cured by H.Forman & Son, London’s oldest smokery and carved right at your table, and delicious daily roasts presented on a silver trolley.
Don’t Miss! Be sure and order signature cocktails in the cozy Stables Bar.
Hotel Café Royal: This is one of the finest hotels in London’s West End with contemporary luxury blended with architectural French heritage. Located between the West End and Soho, and not far from Mayfair, it was easy to walk to shops, cafes and London landmarks. Our concierge provided local insights and the service is impeccable at this property!
Rooms & Suites: There are a variety of rooms and suites to choose from. We stayed in the spacious Club Suite and had plenty of room for work space, entertaining and separate sleeping quarters. Our suite had beautifully detailed red and gold gildings that framed royal blue cameos depicting the changing faces of Napoleon throughout the ages.
These original features are a nod to Café Royal’s French heritage and set the scene for a golden Sienna marble dining table and sumptuous red seating. In contrast, the spacious bedroom is a calming space with rusticated Portland stone, to reflect the architecture of London’s Regent Street, which leads on to a stunning Carrara marble bathroom.
Dining: Cakes & Bubbles by Albert Adria and the Green Bar – take a break from the bustle of London streets, and sit back with a glass of Champagne and a parade of delicious sweet treats from award winning pastry chef Albert Adria. The breakfast, lunch and dinner menus offer a variety of options.
The Hari: A 5-star luxury boutique hotel, a stylish retreat in the heart of Belgravia, where guests feel like its their home away from home. We were greeted upon our arrival and instantly felt welcome. Francesca Lindberg notes, this property was “designed for those seeking comfort and understated elegance, The Hari is a sanctuary for modern travellers and connoisseurs of luxury.”
Centrally located in the areas of Chelsea, Kensington and Knightsbridge, Harrods is just moments away from The Hari’s Belgravia base. London’s leading attractions can also be found a short walk from the hotel, including Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, The Royal Albert Hall and more.
Suites & Rooms: There are a variety of rooms and suites to choose from. Our room looked out to a park and was quiet and cozy.
Dining: Il Pampero offers Italian cuisine for dinners and English breakfasts. Head Chef, Matteo D’Elia presents dishes with handmade pasta – be sure to order!
The Kensington Hotel: The stylish Kensington 5-star Hotel is located in South Kensington, one of London’s most charming neighborhoods. Located near The Royal Albert Hall, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Kensington Gardens and world-famous Harrods.
With open fires, high ceilings and heritage décor, the hotel’s elegant drawing rooms evoke a sense of Victorian grandeur and provide the perfect setting to read a good book or a tête-à-tête.
A member of the Doyle Collection, this luxurious retreat offers individually decorated guest rooms and suites.
Rooms & Suites: Guestrooms and suites reflect a delicate blend of period charm and modern comfort while the hotel’s signature suites take luxury to a new level. The Suites are decorated with regal splendor! Some suites the Brompton’s four-poster bed, free-standing Victorian roll-top bath and Waterford crystal chandelier, or the contemporary charm of The Knightsbridge’s circular day bed, marble bathroom with Jacuzzi and balcony overlooking the neighborhood’s wide boulevards, The Kensington’s signature suites offer supreme comfort and space. The two can be combined with a Luxury Studio Suite for the ultimate family retreat, while the hotel’s Studio Suites offer a luxury form of loft living.
Dining: Lunch, dinner and our quintessentially English ‘London Landmarks Afternoon Tea’ may be enjoyed in stylish Townhouse or signature cocktails in the warm surrounds of wood-cladded K Bar. Choose from the outdoor Veranda, Drawing Room, or K Bar at the hotel. Each space offers an elegant ambience.
What to Do
Ride the London Eye: We suggest riding the London Eye to get oriented to the city. We had spectacular views of London and could see the city in every direction.
Sip Afternoon Tea at The Ritz London: Experiencing Afternoon Tea at The Ritz London is on many people’s “life bucketlist” – it’s the quintessential British tradition. You can choose from a selection of 16 different types of loose leaf tea, savor finely cut sandwiches, and freshly baked scones with strawberry preserve and clotted Devonshire cream, along with tea cakes and pastries. Note: be mindful of the hotel’s dress code – this is a place you want to get dressed up!
Check out the art collections at Tate Modern, National Gallery, Royal Academy of Art, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. We visited the Tate Modern, where you find contemporary art and exhibitions, located on the south bank of the Thames. Tate first opened its doors to the public in 1897. Today it has four major sites and 70,000 artworks.
Buckingham Palace – State Rooms & Gardens Tour: A definite must on our top 10 things to do in London! Visit the Buckingham Palace and State Rooms, not usually open to the public, but open at various times throughout the year. On this tour, visitors get to see some of the greatest Royal treasures and the State Rooms that are used by The Queen and Royal Family to entertain guests on State, ceremonial and official occasions. Or choose the Gardens Tour where you can bring or buy a picnic lunch and enjoy the “backyard” gardens at the Palace.
Walk Green Park, Regents Park and Kensington Gardens. Go on a run through one of London’s nine royal parks – Hyde Park with 350 acres of gardens, 4,000 trees, a lake and trails.
Stroll the Queen’s Walk along the Thames.
Shop at Harrod’s, Selfridges, and Fortnum & Mason. Some of our favorite shopping streets? New Bond Street, Regent Street, South Molton Street, Kensington High Street and the Nottinghill area
Go to the Theater and see a play and/or musical.
Walk the narrow alleyways in Soho and shop at Covent Gardens.
Visit the Tower of London and London Bridge.
Private Tour of Kensington Palace: Reserve a private tour at Kensington Palace. Find out more, click here
Kew Gardens: Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and walk the trails, visit the glass green houses. These world-leading botanic gardens are a fantastic place for adults and children to learn about trees, plants, flowers and fungi.
Don’t Miss! Visit The Hive, a visual tribute to Britain’s honeybees, designed by UK based artist Wolfgang Buttress.
Where to Dine and Tea
Our “Top Eats” for our top 10 things to do in London:
The Ritz London for Afternoon Tea: Make a reservation to experience one of the most famous traditions in Great Britain – afternoon tea at The Ritz London. The sandwiches, scones, pastries, scones combined with superb service and opulent surroundings are everything you’ve ever dreamed of for an Afternoon Tea.
The Wolseley: The Wolseley is a café-restaurant located in Mayfair, on London’s iconic Piccadilly serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and weekend brunch.
Indigo: We dined at this Covent Gardens restaurant central to the theatre district. Courtesy of Executive Chef Dominic Teague, this healthy and delicious menu introduces the finest seasonal ingredients sourced from the British Isles (gluten and dairy-free). Our favorites included the beet salad and the traditional fish & chips on a bed of fresh peas.
HKK London: One of the most unique dining experiences we had was at HKK London on Worship Street in Eastern London. The new HKK boutique kitchen is where Executive Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee and his team showcases a diversity of Chinese cuisine. We were presented with an excellent “Duck & Champagne” menu with the chef’s signature dish – the Cherry wood roasted Peking duck with steamed black truffle mantou and imperial caviar. The grand finale was the champagne sorbet topped with cotton candy with flecks of gold.
Long Bar: If you’re looking for one of the hippest places to dine in London, step into The Sanderson Long Bar. You can sit in the famous Philippe Starck eye chairs lining the 80-feet of glowing onyx bar or get a table in the stylish side rooms and courtyard near the Long Bar. The cuisine is excellent and fantastic service.
How to Get Around?
We flew IcelandAir to London via Reykavik. It was a smooth flight and comfortable. The food was excellent – be sure to fly the Saga Premium Class (IcelandAir’s Business Class).
Get around London on the Tube (Underground) and the iconic red double decker buses to help get you around London.
We took the Tube a couple times, but traveled in style with these car services.
We highly recommend these car services:
The Executive Car Service provides excellent chauffeur services for 1 person up to many with their fleet of cars and buses. Second generation owner Julian van Marle of van Marle Limited greeted us at London Heathrow. Professional, punctual, and experienced drivers. For reservations, call #00442077351073
Car Rentals Service
Sixt offers car rentals throughout the UK, Europe, and many other countries. We wanted to enjoy the views and not worry about driving directions, so Sixt arranged for a private chauffeur, Tanzeel, to drive us to the Highclere Castle, Stonehenge and throughout the English countryside.
For reservations, visit: Sixt or email: email@example.com
Global Adventuress thanks those mentioned in this article for hosting us during our visits to London.
As always, we appreciate DK Travel for providing us with the Great Britain Eyewitness Travel Guide Book with 1,635 photographs, 135 detailed maps, and 159 illustrations to help us plan our trip, as well as the London Guidebook with 890 photos, 140 illustrations and a pull-out city map.
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