London is one of those uber-cool cities that you just have to experience at least once in your life, if not several times. We simply adore the place: the culture, the fashion, the architecture. It’s all fab.
After 20 years, we went back for a vacation in April of this year. Why such a long time in between visits? Because it’s super-expensive! (Pretty much everything costs double for us Canadians…eek!) So we saved up our pennies, booked our flights (on sale via Air Canada) and traveled across the pond.
Some would say that April may not be the best time to visit, so the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers,” but we had dream weather: warm temperatures with sunshine every single day.
London has a ton to offer visitors and we wish we could share with you all that we saw and did, but we can’t. We can; however, share with you five cool things to do in London.
What was once an oil-fired power station, nestled on the banks of the River Thames, is now and has been since 1994, a spectacular home to some of the world’s finest modern and contemporary works of art, such as Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Rothko, and our fave, Dalí. One of the most popular attractions for locals and out-of-towners to visit, every year the Tate Modern welcomes millions of culture seekers, and has had an astounding 40 million guests over the past 14 years.
We spent a good two hours wandering from floor to floor, checking out each of the amazing exhibits, then finished our visit with a well-deserved cool beverage and snack from the Tate café.
What you may not know about galleries and museums in London is that you don’t have to pay an admission fee (though donations are graciously accepted), except to view special exhibits. We highly recommend that you take full advantage of this remarkable gift and visit as many galleries and museums as you can!
When in London, one must shop; and where else than at the world renowned Liberty London. This beautiful historic, boutique department store is located in the heart of London on Regent Street and boasts of luxurious brands for the savvy and sophisticated shopper.
Since 1875, the iconic Tudor building has been serving customers with a great selection of products – from beauty products and gifts to high fashion items and homeware – everything a Brit could want, and more! Famous for their spectacular Liberty prints, a perfect souvenir to remind you of London might be a stunning silk scarf, but it will set you back at least £95. Our current fave is the Red Liberty London Peacock Garden Silk Scarf (£110) – though sadly, we had to just give it a stroke and then wave buh-bye. Maybe next time.
We LOVE to eat, and made sure that we ate our way around this fabulous city. Now, you may have heard that British food is bland, boring, even tasteless. Well, we heartily disagree! And the restaurant that you need to make a beeline for is the Holborn Dining Room, situated in the Rosewood London Hotel.
We seriously couldn’t get enough of this brasserie-style restaurant that serves up delicious British dishes made with seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients, and ate here several times over our vacation.
Holborn’s melt-in-your-mouth roast beef with light and fluffy Yorkshire pudding is a dish that we urge you to order! For afters, you must try their housemade Bakewell tart – it’s sooo good. Both items will have you singing the praises of British cuisine!
Treat yourself one evening to a top-notch cocktail at the uber-glamorous Beaufort Bar, located at the notable Savoy hotel. This is not your average bar, oh no, this is the ultimate libation experience.
Surrounded by beautiful people and the sounds of the nightly live entertainment, we chose to order one of the popular Character Cocktails, served in era-specific vintage glassware and garnished tableside. Inspired by the famous Savoy guest, Ernest Hemingway and his time in Cuba, the Never Ending Story (£30) is the Beaufort Bar’s take on a Daiquiri. Served in a retro glass is a delicious combo of Bacardi 1909, dark Crème de Cacao, lime juice, caster sugar and barrel-aged Absinthe. What makes this beverage truly unique is the way that it is served: resting on a copy of Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea and presented with a lit cigar (it’s actually a cinnamon stick!) in an ashtray. Very cool.
While in London, we decided to stay in four different hotels. Our logic behind this was that we wanted to experience different pockets of the enormous city. Some of our hotel choices were better than others – though we enjoyed all of the areas we were in. The one hotel that we regret not staying longer at is the award-winning Halkin by COMO. (There are currently 11 luxury properties within the COMO Hotels and Resorts portfolio, two being in London.)
Nestled in the chic and ultra-posh Belgravia neighborhood, the Halkin by COMO is the ultimate haven for travellers. Perfectly situated just minutes from the Hyde Park tube station, it’s easy to hop on a train and get anywhere in London quickly. We also loved that Buckingham Palace was a mere 10-minute walk away – you can’t visit London without stopping by Buck P to say hi to Queenie – and that shopping at Knightsbridge was also a stone’s throw away.
The boutique property offers 41 first-class guest rooms and suites that are beautifully designed and offer a plethora of in-room amenities. We almost found it hard to find the door to our room: As you walk along the visually-striking, curved corridors of corrugated-wood panelling, the doors are discreetly positioned and blend in beautifully.
We appreciated the room décor that consisted of soothing pale cream and taupe fabrics that enveloped the dreamy bed and seating area, complemented by rich woods used for the flooring and walls. We didn’t want to leave our room, but, we were in London, and it would have been a bit off to hide away in our room for the entire duration of our stay. Right?
Definitely make a reservation to dine at the Michelin-starred Ametsa with Arzak Instruction that is stationed in the hotel and serves divine contemporary, Basque cuisine. You won’t be disappointed! (Check out the ceiling – it’s adorned with thousands of spice-filled test tubes. Stunning.)