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London Invasion

London Invasion

By
Trip Plan Tags: 
arts + culture,
city,
design + architecture,
educational,
luxury,
romantic,
shopping
Destinations: 
England,
Europe,
London

Delta Air Lines offers the most destinations worldwide, and London is no exception. Delta offers three nonstop flights a day from Atlanta as well as three nonstop flights from New York’s JFK directly to London’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports. In addition, Delta also offers a daily nonstop flight from Cincinnati to Gatwick. With these choices, Delta makes traveling to London easy and convenient.

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See + Do

Buckingham Palace, England

London SW1A 1AA, England
Tel: 44 207 766 7300
Website: www.royal.gov.uk/TheRoyalResidences/BuckinghamPalace/BuckinghamPalace.aspx

The queen's London pied-à-terre is not the most beautiful of palaces, but it's big. Most of the year, all you can do is peer through the iron railings at the guards in busbies—those silly two-foot-tall black fur hats—and check the flagpole to see whether Brenda, as Private Eye calls her, is at home (the standard only flies when she's in residence). But from late July to September, even commoners can enter those gates. The Throne Room, Picture Gallery, Ballroom, and 16 other state rooms are open, as is (a bit of) the south side of the unbelievably huge palace gardens. The Royal Mews, with working stables and display of fancy state vehicles, is just around the corner and also worthy of a visit, as is the Queen's Gallery.

See + Do

National Gallery, England

Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 5DN, England
Tel: 44 207 747 2885
Website: www.nationalgallery.org.uk

Up there with your Louvres and Uffizis, this huge gallery takes you through the history of Western European painting from 1250 to 1900. Botticelli, Leonardo, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Turner, Ingres, Van Gogh…they're all here. An excellent computer system at the museum lets you research and locate points of interest, and even print out a personal tour before a visit. The museum is free, apart from special exhibitions in the Sainsbury Wing. Next door is the National Portrait Gallery, a rewarding, relatively intimate tour through portraiture (iconic, royal, obscure, even criminal) in all media featuring Brits of all ages (St. Martin's Place, 44-207-306-0055, www.npg.org.uk).

Thurs–Tues 10–6; Wed 10–9; free admission.

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See + Do

St. Paul's Cathedral, England

St. Paul's Churchyard, The City
London EC4M 8AD , England
Tel: 44 207 236 4128
Website: www.stpauls.co.uk

Sir Christopher Wren's No. 1 work is this, the cathedral church of the Diocese of London. With its green dome, St. Paul's is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks. It's actually this site's fourth cathedral, built between 1675 and 1710, after its predecessor was destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire of London. Nowadays a visit to the church, taking in the Crypt, Ambulatory, and everyone's favorite, the Whispering Gallery, is easily combined with a trip to one of London's newer essential sights, the Tate Modern—the way isn't well signed, but it's very near nevertheless. Exit St. Paul's Tube station, cross the redeveloped Paternoster Square next door, drop in on the cathedral (St. Dunstan's Chapel on the north side is always open for praying, and free of charge), then head across the Millennium Bridge to the south bank.

Mon–Sat 8:30–4.

See + Do

Notting Hill, England

London, England

Once the byword for bohemian, Notting Hill is simply posh and aspirational now. It encompasses Portobello Road and its famous market—whose northern extremities past the Westway to Golborne Road still retain vestiges of seediness—but Westbourne Park Road and Lonsdale Road are as much the centers of gravity these days, with expensive, desirable designer wares behind every vitrine and superbly dressed moms wheeling infants. Lining the confusingly curvy streetlets are massive stucco wedding cake-style Edwardian and Victorians, many with private communal gardens secreted behind. North of Westbourne Park Road, smaller brick terraced houses predominate. The weekend market is still worth a visit—better for bargains on Friday mornings—and the huge Notting Hill Carnival that takes place on the Bank Holiday at the end of August is a phenomenon where the entire neighborhood momentarily reverts to the Jamaican-bohemian enclave it was 30 years ago.

See + Do

Kensington Palace, England

Kensington Gardens
London W8 4PX , England
Tel: 44 870 751 5170
Website: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/

Members of the cult of Diana need to come here to view where the People's Princess lived (more or less—her quarters are not open to the public), and to see one of her gowns, along with royal outfits through the ages, in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection. The palace itself, which predated Buck House as the royal abode, is worth a look as well—the rolling exhibitions are always imaginative (from Mario Testino's portraits of Diana to live actors and musicians recreating the lives of previous royal inhabitants), and it lacks the interminable lines for the brief August opening of the current Queen's house. The King's Apartments, with its Old Masters (including Tintorettos and Van Dycks) and a lot of booty from the Stuart-Hanoverian periods, are highlights. Afterward, take tea in the lovely Orangery, and should you be trailing kids, take them to the adjacent Princess Diana Memorial Playground—a forest of wooden climbing apparatuses.

Open daily Mar–Oct: 10–6; Nov–Feb: 10–5.

See + Do

London Duck Tours, England

55 York Road, Southbank
London SE1 7NJ, England
Tel: 44 207 928 3132
Website: www.londonducktours.co.uk

You could take a double-decker–bus tour; you could hop on a tourist boat at Charing Cross Pier; or you could combine land and water in an amphibious DUKWS, a 30-seat craft built for the World War II D-Day landings, refitted with an environmentally friendly 10.6-gallon diesel engine, safety equipment, and a screaming duck-yellow paint job. It starts out on wheels, driving from Waterloo by the London Eye around Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, St. James's, and Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and so on, to Vauxhall. There, the duck bus dives dramatically into the Thames and, now a duck boat, continues the tour by water. The whole affair takes 75 minutes, includes commentary, and ends up at the Florence Nightingale Museum(44-207-620-0374 www.florence-nightingale.co.uk).

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See + Do

Clerkenwell and Finsbury, England

London, England

The medieval Knights of St. John gave way—over a few centuries—to the new denizens of the hot restaurants and bars of St. John Street: designers and architects, stylists and photographers, and so forth, as far as the eye can see. Apart from Wapping and some other dockside areas, this is the only part of the city where factory and warehouse loft conversions abound, giving it all a distinct modern vibe. Groovy shops merge into Smithfield, the meat market, and hence to what used to be called, not un-snobbishly, the East End. The latter is now better known as the hipster hangouts of Hoxton and Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Whitechapel, and Bethnal Green.

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Eating

Tom Aikens, England

43 Elystan Street
London SW3, England
Tel: 44 207 584 2003
Website: www.tomaikens.co.uk

This sleek Anouska Hempel–designed restaurant in Chelsea is the stage for the talents of Tom Aikens, who after difficult times (his restaurant company succumbed to the credit crunch in 2008) has nevertheless managed to uphold this restaurant's reputation as one of the United Kingdom's most serious gastronomic destinations. The posh but relaxed 60-seat interior has round tables dramatically draped in black and overlaid with raw white Irish linen; matching napkins and beautiful glass and chinaware complete the look. The effect is grown-up—not sedate—chic. On the menu, expect innovative French-informed cooking that stops short of being wacky and experimental. Standout examples include cured venison with pickled beets, quince, and venison carpaccio, and red mullet with pistachio risotto. If you can't decide, order the tasting menu, which runs to eight courses. A bonus: the excellent sommelier.—Updated by Giovanna Dunmall

Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 2:30 pm and 6:45 to 11:00 pm, Saturdays 6:45 to 11:00pm.

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Eating

River Cafe, England

Thames Wharf, Rainville Road
Hammersmith, W6, Tube: Hammersmith
London, England
Tel: 44 207 386 4200
Website: www.rivercafe.co.uk

What could be more blissful than a meal on the terrace of this perpetually booked, much-imitated Italian-style gastro-temple opened in 1987 by the late Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers? If the climate proves too chilly, the floor-to-ceiling windows in this former warehouse in the Hammersmith hinterland (designed by the firm of Ruth's husband, Richard Rogers) provide lovely views over gardens to the Thames. A crowd of heavy hitters and famous faces inconspicuously feast on the Tuscan bread salad or pasta or grilled meat or grilled fish or any other simple, perfect dish from the perpetually evolving menu. Of course, for not much more than the price of lunch here, you could fly to Tuscany and eat the real thing in situ. The best time to go is at lunch on a fine day.

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Eating

E&O, England

14 Blenheim Crescent
Notting Hill, W11, Tube: Notting Hill Gate, Ladbroke Grove
London, England
Tel: 44 207 229 5454
Website: www.eando.co.uk

This very popular (and deservedly so) pan-Asian-via-Sydney restaurant and bar in Notting Hill pulls in local Trustafarians and media types, as well as hip gastro-tourists come to see what all the fuss is about. The bar in front is open all day for non-diners. The restaurant serves dim sum, sashimi rolls, maki rolls, tempura, curries, and the signature chilli-salt squid, soft-shell crab, and black cod in a sweet miso sauce. Must book.

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Eating

Borough Market, England

8 Southwark Street
London SE1 1TL, England
Tel: 44 207 7407 1002
Website: www.boroughmarket.org.uk

A favorite of many a celebrity chef, the award-winning Borough Market is the ultimate foodie destination. Specialist traders come from throughout the United Kingdom and further afield to set up shop in buildings that date back to 1851 (the Art Deco entrance was added in 1932). You're invited to move from stall to stall and sample what's on offer, but for the best experience, visit on Thursdays, when the market's less crowded and you can chat with booth owners (the market is closed Sunday through Wednesday). Highlights include the traditional savory pies from Bristol bakery Pieminister, the luscious seafood curry at Furness Fish, the Ogleshield cheese sandwich at Bill Oglethorpe's cart (Gourmet's Ruth Reichl called it the "Platonic ideal" of cheese sandwiches—definitely no argument here after tasting one), sausages and meats from Sillfield Farm in Cumbria, and local artisanal cheeses at Neal's Yard Dairy. Sampling can quickly add up to a meal here, but if it merely whets your appetite, there are plenty of restaurants and bars in and around the market, including Roast, an upscale option housed in the former Floral Market (Stoney St.; 44-207-940-1300), and Fish!, a glass-and-steel pavilion that perfectly complements the surrounding market's wrought-iron work (Cathedral St.; 44-207-407-3803).

Open Thursdays 11 am to 5 pm, Fridays noon to 6 pm, and Saturdays 8 am to 5 pm.

Shop

Matches, England

60–64 Ledbury Road
Notting Hill, W11, Tube: Notting Hill Gate
London, England
Tel: 44 207 221 0255
Website: www.matchesfashion.com

If you're keen to spend top dollar on high-end labels, then this stylish boutique, frequented by the likes of Kate Moss and Sienna Miller, provides a chilled atmosphere and an equally chilled glass of wine as you browse potential purchases. Upstairs, there's a large selection of womenswear and accessories from Chloé, Lanvin, Diane von Furstenberg, and Prada. Newcomers for 2007 include Grenson's handmade leather shoes for men and Zagliani handbags for the ladies. Downstairs, you'll find a fine selection of casual and formal menswear, from jeans (John Varvatos, Edun, Prps, Prada, Nudie, Rag & Bone, and Acne), retro Penguin polos, and Hvana cashmere tees to Miu Miu jackets, Prada suits, and Gucci shirts and ties. The younger and lighter of pocket should totter across the street to Matches SPY, which sells a diffusion of the main lines aimed at youthful women.

Shop

Selfridges, England

400 Oxford Street
W1, Tube: Bond Street
London, England
Tel: 44 870 8377 377
Website: www.selfridges.com

A big, big store that's well worth braving jam-packed Oxford Street for, Selfridges' late–20th-century reinvention as a fashion destination was total, and lasting. Its slew of departments includes home furnishings, books, toys, and electronic gizmos. And places to eat and drink (19 to date) serve everything from an £90 (about $175) sandwich of Wagyu beef, foie gras, and black truffle to a coffee on the run. But clothes and accessories are first and foremost on shoppers' wish lists. Bill Amberg, Cacharel, Christian Louboutin, Citizens of Humanity, Damaris (the lingerie department is especially good), Hussein Chalayan, Paul Smith, Veronique Branquinho, and Viktor & Rolf are a sampling of the names—for men and women. The men's department was renovated and expanded in May 2007, and carries a number of exclusive lines, such as Vivienne Westwood swimwear. The David Adjaye–designed Superbrand department—entered through a seductive blood-red corridor on the second floor—caters to shoppers hungry for high-end labels such as Chloé, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Marni, and more. Cheap, chic Ms Selfridge, on the ground floor, cherry-picks from every youth-centric brand out there.

Nightlife

Bar at the Dorchester, England

Park Lane
London, England
Tel: 44 207 629 8888
Website: www.thedorchester.com/restaurants_bars/dorchester_bar.html

The Dorchester's frumpy old bar is unrecognizable in its fabulous new plumage—all lacquered mahogany and mirrors, with purple velvet banquettes backed by insane six-foot-tall red glass spikes. The giant drinks list is cocktail nirvana, from the Fancy Drinks (concoctions spiked with a little something extra) to the three-drink Flights (different styles of classic cocktails to compare and contrast). Beware, though: Some of the wackiest glassware in town could give a nervous drinker stage fright. A frozen martini for instance, may arrive in a classic martini glass…classic, that is, apart from its two-foot-long stem; a mulito (a mojito made with the Colombian fruit lulo) in an Argentinean maté cup made from a gourd, with a silver straw. For well-to-do types dressed up for a night on the town, it's a great stage; though for the young crowd, not so much.

$400 or more
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Hotel

Four Seasons Hotel London, England

Hamilton Place
London, England
Tel: 44 20 7499 0888, Fax: 44 20 7493 1895
Website: www.fourseasons.com/london/index.html

$200-$299
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Hotel

Base2Stay, England

25 Courtfield Gardens
London, England
Tel: 44 20 7244 2255
Website: base2stay.com

$400 or more
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Hotel

The Goring, England

Beeston Place
London SW1W 0JW, England
Tel: 44 207 396 9000
Email: reservations@goringhotel.co.uk
Website: www.goringhotel.co.uk/

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.