When’s the best time of year to visit London? Anytime! Summer is warm and there are plenty of parks and markets worth exploring. Autumn is mild — as the mercury goes down, the holiday decorations go up. Although Winter has the coolest temps, it’s not uncomfortably cold and the post-holiday weeks are a great time to shop sales. Spring can be a mix of sun and rain, but there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor pursuits to pick from.
My past articles included London’s Top Ten, Twenty-two Top Shops, and 18 Favorite Places to Eat. After a recent trip with my son, I am inclined to add to my never-ending London to-do list. Planning a trip over the pond? Put a few of these items on your itinerary:
Exhibition Road: Home to numerous cultural institutions, this South Kensington “Museum Mile” includes Royal Albert Hall, Natural History Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Our favorite? The Science Museum – on display are 5,000 years of innovation; it’s STEM on steroids! Check out tech treasures like the Apollo 10 Command Module and the Enigma Machine. Visit the IMAX Theatre, hands-on Wonderlab, and a well-stocked book/gift shop.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: Although a reconstruction of the Elizabethan era theatre, it’s very true to the original. Located Bankside (near the Tate), tours include access to the underground Exhibition Space. Plan ahead and book tickets for outdoor performances in the Globe and inside the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
Borough Market: This 1000-year old food market features endless stalls of fresh produce, fish & seafood, confectionery, cured meats, oils & vinegars, spices & preserves, and a multitude of bars and restaurants. After filling your shopping bag (and your stomach), take a leisurely walk over the London Bridge.
Greenwich: This borough of London, located on the southside of the Thames, is well known for its maritime history. Visit the Cutty Sark (the restored 10th-century ship), the National Maritime Museum, and the Old Royal Naval College (home to one of the greatest baroque ceilings in Britain). The Royal Observatory overlooks Greenwich Park, and is the site of the famed Prime Meridian Line, which marks Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and divides the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.
The Royal Institution (Ri): Founded in 1799 with the aim of introducing new technologies and connecting people to the world of science, Ri houses the Faraday Museum (in honor of the British scientist and his discoveries in the fields of electromagnetism). This petite, lower level exhibition celebrating the achievements of Ri members (many of them Nobel Prize winners), packs a powerful punch, especially for science lovers like my kids.
Small Car, Big City: If you love classic cars, the iconic ’60’s movie “The Italian Job,” or just want to see the city from a unique perspective, book one of these bespoke Mini Cooper tours. Two-hour to full day themed tours include Hidden Gems, Street Art, Beatles, Harry Potter, or Landmarks of London. Your adorable vehicle (and driver!) will meet you right at your hotel’s doorstep.
Twining’s: The oldest tea shop in London, this 300-year old flagship features premium teas from ‘round the world. It’s also one of the city’s narrowest shops – only twelve feet wide! Sample the flavors at the Loose Tea Bar or sign up for a Masterclass. There’s also freshly ground coffee for java addicts.
Maille Boutique London: At the entrance to Piccadilly Arcade, inside this corner store, lies rows and rows of France’s finest condiments. Pick from mustards, vinegars, chutneys, cornichons (those cute, miniature flavor-packed pickles) and more. Did I mention there are free samples?
Sainsbury Supermarket: No matter where we travel, we always wind up in a supermarket. It’s a great place to pick up affordably priced souvenirs and stock up on favorite local delicacies. The condiment aisle is my favorite of course: we grab bottles of Belazu vinegar (it has a distinct thickness and texture) and delicious mango and plum chutneys and can’t leave without Cadbury Milk Chocolates (they’re sooo much creamier than the U.S. version!) Just remember, put all liquids in checked luggage, not your carry on!
Afternoon Tea at the Dorchester: Served in The Promenade, the hotel’s lobby restaurant, this proverbial English tradition is worth the splurge. Sink into plush couches surrounded by gilded marble columns and lush potted plants, and indulge in a delightful meal of tea, champagne, and the savoriest finger sandwiches — smoked salmon, egg, chicken, prawn and cucumber. Next comes warm scones with glistening strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream and finish off with a tiered platter of cakes and tartlets. (And, unlike the Ritz’s Tea, no jackets required.)
Momo: Entering this West End restaurant is like stepping into a Moroccan Souk with its lush fabrics and decor. The menu is a North African/Mediterranean mashup: couscous, lamb tagine with pears and plums, and fresh mint tea.
Sakagura: Located in Mayfair, this Japanese Restaurant has an amazing Sake Bar. Try one of their Sake cocktails — my favorite, their Mojito with fresh mint and pomegranate. The restaurant is just steps off Regent Street on pedestrian-friendly Heddon Street, also home to the Ice Bar.
Yautcha: A member of the Hakkasan Restaurant Group, this contemporary dim sum house in Soho features a modern interpretation of a traditional Chinese Tea House with the busy vibe of a Hong Kong eatery. Dishes are designed to share.
Padella: This affordably priced, pocket sized Italian cafe with an even smaller menu has THE best homemade pasta. It’s situated just on the perimeter of Borough Market. Try to get a seat at the bar to see the chefs in action as they whip up your order, pronto! No reservations but arrive before they open to keep the wait at a minimum.
Da Corradi: This long-standing, old-school Italian bistro tucked into Mayfair’s Shephard Market, has generous portions, friendly and efficient service, and cozy seating — it hit the spot, especially on a cool and rainy afternoon.
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