Hugo' and friends' trip to London April 2011
Boundary Rooftop, England
London E2 7DD, England
Artesian Bar, England
Tel: 44 207 636 1000
Named for the 360-foot-deep well beneath the floor, this glam bar opened in January 2007. Interiors star David Collins (who perfected his art on the Blue Bar and Claridge's) transformed the very blah bar of this former, very blah, Hilton into a 21st-century mini-Versailles with textured leather, mirrors, stately chandeliers, and enormous windows. The cocktails are based on what must surely be the best rum library in the land. Nondrinkers can play too: The bar is open all day for morning coffee, afternoon tea, and any in-between meal you can invent.
Markets are a vibrant part of shopping in London, and have been since medieval times. If you can handle the rough-and-tumble crowds, you'll find bargains, original clothes, and jewelry from young designers, vintage pieces, housewares, organic food, and much more. The weekend tends to be the best time to visit, when the number of stalls swells considerably. There are far too many to mention or visit in one trip, but the following five are a good bet.
Spitalfields: The neighborhood's high quota of artistic residents is reflected in its covered market, best known for organic food, vintage and new clothing by young designers, crafts, and knickknacks. There's a fashion market on Thursday (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
Tube: Shoreditch, Liverpool Street, or Aldgate East
Sunday UpMarket: Nearby to Spitalfields, in the Old Truman Brewery just off Brick Lane, vendors sell arty gifts, vintage and new clothing, and jewelry, with some vintage pieces thrown in for good measure. There's also a wide range of ethnic food stalls (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
Tube: Shoreditch, Liverpool Street, or Aldgate East
Portobello Road Market: Vendors sell everything from antiques and vintage records to new clothes and organic produce from the 2,000 stalls at this Notting Hill mainstay. The busiest, but best, day is Saturday (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
Tube: Notting Hill Gate or Ladbroke Grove
Camden Lock Market: Actually a number of separate indoor and outdoor bazaars lining Regent's Canal, Camden Lock Market has become increasingly touristy in recent years. Even so, it's worth a visit for the frenetic atmosphere, if not the crafts, antiques, and club gear (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
Tube: Camden Town or Chalk Farm Road
Greenwich: There's been a market in this south London suburb since the 1700s. Today, the main courtyard hosts a covered market for new arts and crafts, as well as food stalls on weekends. (Visit on a Thursday or Friday for antiques.) Another antiques market is located next door to the Greenwich cinema, and a flea market across from the Ibis Hotel sells records, furniture, clothing, and textiles. (Times vary, approximately 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.)
Tube/DLR: Cutty Sark
Harvey Nichols, England
Tel: 44 207 235 5000
The No. 1 fashion store, with the No. 1 cosmetics floor, Harvey Nic's is practically a cult. All the established, and many emerging, designerswomen's and men'sare represented in eight flawlessly edited floors. A sampling of labels includes Dries Van Noten, Luella, Derek Lam, Matthew Williamson, Marni, Melissa Odabash, Pringle, Proenza Schouler, Roland Mouret, Thakoon, and Zac Posenplus a Jimmy Choo boutique. Fifth Floor, the perennially trendy bar-café-restaurant, was an early entry in the destination-restaurant-in-a-shop craze. There's also a Wagamama noodle bar in the basement.
See + Do
Westminster Abbey, England
London SW1P 3PA, England
Tel: 44 207 222 5152
Westminster Abbey, the huge Gothic church beside the Houses of Parliament, has been the setting for every coronation since 1066, as well as a burial site for monarchs, aristocrats, writers (Charles Dickens), musicians (Henry Purcell), generals, politicians, scientists (Charles Darwin), and pretty much anyone who it was felt deserved the honor. The lines are extremely long in summer for a shuffle past Poets' Corner, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Coronation Throne—although the mystical Stone of Scone (renamed the Stone of Destiny) that underpinned it for nine centuries is now back in Edinburgh where it belongs. The lines have probably been swollen by Da Vinci Code fanatics, in which the abbey has a cameo—though a starring role in the film was turned down when the powers that be decided that it was "wayward and inappropriate."
Open daily Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 9:30–3:45; Wed 9:30–7; Sat 9:30–1:45; Sun worship only; times are subject to change, see website.
See + Do
Tower of London, England
London EC3N 4AB , England
Tel: 44 870 756 6060
How can you not see the Bloody Tower? Founded by William the Conqueror in 1066, this huge fortified palace-jail-treasury-arsenal is the source of some of the most-famous tourist photo ops in all of England. View the Crown Jewels—so costly they're officially beyond price and therefore uninsured—the Tudor prisoners' graffiti in the Beauchamp Tower, and the site of royal beheadings. Gawk at the fashion-forward Yeoman Warders, or Beefeaters, in their black-and-scarlet 14th-century livery, and at the ravens, without whose continuous presence, so Charles II was told, the Tower and the Kingdom would crumble.
Mar–Oct: Tues–Sat 9–6:, Sun–Mon 10–6; Nov–Feb: Tues–Sat 9–5, Sun–Mon 10–5.
See + Do
Tate Britain, England
London SW1P 4RG, England
Tel: 44 20 7887 8888
Tate Britain might not get the same attention as its glitzy little sister, Tate Modern, but to miss it would be a mistake. Built in 1897, Tate Britain displays British art from 1500 to the current day and also shows the oft-controversial annual Turner Prize. The permanent galleries house the likes of Constable and Gainsborough, Hogarth, Reynolds, and Stubbs. In the adjoining Clore Gallery, visitors can see the largest single display of Turner paintings in the world. This prestigious institution also holds some moderns, such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, and Antony Gormley. Temporary shows celebrate major British artists of the past and the present, such as Henry Moore and Chris Ofili. In short, this is where you'll find the world's greatest collection of British art. Visit Tate Modern in the morning and then ride the Tate boat here in the afternoon. (It also stops at the London Eye and provides a spectacular view of the Houses of Parliament from the river.)—Giovanna Dunmall
Open daily 10 am to 5:50 pm (until 10 pm the first Friday of each month).
See + Do
Its fortunes as London's nightlife neighborhood have waxed and waned repeatedly over recent years, but you always seem to end up in Soho for one reason or another, mainly due to the great and plentiful restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops (Carnaby Street remains popular, despite the tourist hordes). Bordered by Oxford Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Regent Street, and Charing Cross Road, Soho is home to London's Chinatown, a much-reduced red-light district (it peaked during the 1970s), and thriving gay bars and businesses centered around Old Compton Street. It's also home to the British film industry—production facilities are concentrated here—and the twin anchors of literary-media–luvvies life: the Groucho Club (45 Dean St., W1; 44-207-439-4685 ; www.thegrouchoclub.com) and Soho House (45 Greek St, W1; 44-207-734-5188; www.sohohouse.com). Both are strictly members-only—but wangle an invite if you can.
See + Do
Notting Hill, 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
National Gallery, England
London WC2N 5DN, England
Tel: 44 207 747 2885
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.
See + Do
London Eye, England
London SE1 7PB, England
Tel: 44 870 500 0600
The 443-foot-high London Eye, designed by husband-and-wife architects David Marks and Julia Barfield, is the largest observation wheel in the world. Perched on the banks of the Thames, more or less opposite the Houses of Parliament, it has become a capital-L Landmark since it appeared for the millennium festivities. The real point, of course, is the view from inside the 32 glass capsules, which, on a clear day, extends 25 miles and is quite spectacular.
Open daily May, June, and September 10 am to 9 pm, July and August 10 am to 9:30 pm, October through April 10 am to 8 pm
See + Do
London Duck Tours, England
London SE1 7NJ, England
Tel: 44 207 928 3132
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).
See + Do
Houses of Parliament, England
London SW1A 0AA, England
Tel: 44 207 219 4272
The mother of all parliaments, the Palace of Westminster comprises Big Ben (which is the bell, not the tower) as well as the chambers of both Houses, Commons and Lords. The Gothic Revival building you see today, built between 1840 and 1888 on the site of the original 11th-century palace, was designed to blend in with nearby Westminster Abbey. During the early-August to late-September summer recess, you get to roam through it all (and skip the line with an advance tour reservation by calling 44-870-906-3773 or through the website). When parliament is in session, visitors can stand on line outside the St. Stephen's entrance to view debates in either house from the public galleries.
August: Mon, Tues, Fri, Sat 9:15–4:30; Wed–Thurs 1:15–4:30; Sep–Oct: Mon, Fri, Sat 9:15–4:30; Tues–Thurs 1:15–4:30.
See + Do
Greenwich is a bustling little market town in its own right, colored by bucketfuls of maritime history. Most importantly, it's where time begins. No, seriously, it does: At the top of a hill in Greenwich Park, a brass line marks longitude 0 degrees, the starting point of every time zone in the world—better known as GMT (Greenwich Mean, or Meridian, Time). The Royal Greenwich Observatory is up there, too, and for the effort of walking up a gentle hill, you'll be rewarded with excellent views. Down below are architectural gems: Georgian houses, the National Maritime Museum—designed by Inigo Jones, it displays Admiral Nelson's coat from Trafalgar, complete with the fatal bullet hole in the left shoulder (44-20-8858-4422; www.nmm.ac.uk)—as well as the stunning University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The Cutty Sark, the last clipper ship to be built (dating back to 1869), has rested in a dry dock in Greenwich since 1954 and is currently being restored. Until it's completed in Spring 2010, you can only view the ship from the nearby souvenir shop; see the website for more details (44-20-8858-2698; www.cuttysark.org.uk). Nearby is the glazed cupola entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs under the Thames. Alternatively, in keeping with Greenwich's nautical roots, catch a boat back up the river to central London.
See + Do
The only truly new neighborhood in London is Canary Wharf, a complex of offices and shopping malls centered around the city's tallest building, César Pelli's One Canada Square. There are few clues that this used to be a blighted area, part of the Isle of Dogs (a peninsula and former dockyards)—Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket was filmed here after the demolition, before the building began. Take the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf station (a modern cathedral-like structure designed by Sir Norman Foster), and wander down to the river. Get a good view of this futuristic neighborhood as you leave aboard the elevated monorail, the Docklands Light Rail, which winds its way between the buildings back to central London (www.tfl.gov.uk/dlr).
See + Do
Covent Garden, England
The area where a fruit-and-vegetable wholesale market once stood—and where Eliza Doolittle met Henry Higgins—is now one of the most touristy parts of London. Even so, the Piazza and adjacent Jubilee Market are not unpleasant at all with their array of upper-end high-street stores and market stalls that now sell crafts and clothes instead of cabbages and roses. South of the Piazza is where you find most of the West End theaters; while the Royal Opera House, which was expanded in 1999, is to the north (Bow Street, Covent Garden, WC2, 44-207-304-4000, www.royaloperahouse.org.uk). Plus, the little area around Endell and Monmouth streets and "Seven Dials" (look for the sundial monument just south of Shaftesbury Avenue) is great for hip clothes shops.
See + Do
Buckingham Palace, England
Tel: 44 207 766 7300
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
British Museum, England
London WC1B 3DG, England
Tel: 44 207 323 8299
One of the single greatest museums in the world, the British Museum houses collections that date from the prehistoric to the modern—in sum, the works of mankind. The Egyptian rooms are famous for their mummies and the eventual key to deciphering hieroglyphics, the Rosetta Stone. Then there are the controversial Elgin Marbles, stolen from the Parthenon, and countless other Greek and Roman antiquities. The leathery, ancient Lindow Man, preserved for centuries in a Cheshire bog after having been ritually slaughtered, and the treasures from the seventh-century Sutton Hoo royal burial grounds are also here. If you only have a few minutes to spare, trot in to see the 2000 addition—Sir Norman Foster's spectacular two-acre interior Great Court with its glass-grid roof. The museum is free, though special exhibitions are not.
Sat–Wed 10–5:30, Thurs–Fri 10–8:30.
The Main House, England
Tel: 44 207 221 9691
Thanks to posh ex-nightclub owner Caroline Main, you too can be a Notting Hill bohemian. Her stucco Victorian house within spitting distance of Portobello Road makes the ideal home away from home for London visitors, though with just four rooms, you may never get in. Should you luck out, you'll have the run of a wood-floored, white-walled flat with the kind of graceful proportions, big sash windows, and leafy views that pushed this once-funky area out of the reach of mere millionaires years ago. Ms. Main has perfect taste, hence the Portobello-provenance framed mirrors, deep-buttoned leather chesterfields, slipcovered chaises longues, mahogany secretaries, and wrought iron candelabra. There are TVs with DVD players, phones with voice mail, plus WiFi, and morning coffee or tea is delivered to your room. What else could you need?
Grosvenor House, England
London W1K7TN, England
Tel: 44 207 499 6363
Tel: 44 20 7244 2255