This London weekend itinerary is good for those who’ve been to the city before and want to explore it at a more leisurely pace that involves a mix of culture and good, casual restaurants. Picturesque neighborhood Marylebone will be your home base, and you’ll venture into Soho, Fitzrovia, City of London and South London. There’s no rushing from back-to-back appointments to make it to a show or see something before closing time. Stroll about, walk into some interesting boutiques that catch your eye, see an exhibit if you have time and, if not, don’t sweat it, and leave plenty of time to eat the best food.
Where to stay:
The Marylebone Hotel
47 Welbeck St, London W1G 8DN, United Kingdom // +44 20 7486 6600
When a neighborhood is described as the “West Village” of somewhere, you know that it’s the place to be. Marylebone with its charming shops and restaurants earns this distinction for London. You can imagine actress Keira Knightley grabbing coffee with friends somewhere nearby, and the chic department store Selfridges (Gucci! Chanel! Rick Owens!) is just around the corner. Once you need a break from all the shopping, you can decamp at The Marylebone Hotel, a stylish boutique hotel tucked away on a quiet street corner in the neighborhood. You can live like one of the trendy locals for a day by enjoying one of the fresh juices at The Juicery, taking a boutique fitness class at the gym Third Space or enjoying a delicious, healthy breakfast at the hotel’s 108 Brasserie restaurant.
What to Do:
Newport Street Gallery
Newport Street, London SE11 6AJ, United Kingdom // +44 20 3141 9320
Damien Hirst, the famous contemporary artist known for his formaldehyde sharks and bejeweled skulls, exhibits his own personal art collection at Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall, south London. The space was designed by architect Caruso St. John and won the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2016 for its impressive construction. You can be sure that the art displayed will reflect the shocking and controversial nature of Hirst’s own style, and best of all, it is free to the public. On a recent visit in August, Ashley Bickerton, a key player in the East Village art scene in the 1980s, was featured in the exhibit “Ornamental Hysteria.”
Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG, United Kingdom // +44 20 7887 8888
After the shock value of the art at Newport Street Gallery, you might appreciate the more classic presentations at the Tate Britain, which exhibits British art from the 1500s to the present day. It’s within walking distance from Newport Street Gallery and is also free to the public. One of the highlights of the museum is its extensive collection of Joseph Mallord William Turner’s landscape works. Although the more interesting modern art is housed at the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain has its own small collection of provocative works from the recent decades.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL, UK // +44 20 7942 2000
If you’re interested in decorative arts and design, then immerse yourself in The Victoria and Albert Museum, which boasts the world’s largest museum of such pieces. The museum reminds me a lot of The Met in New York, where different wings showcase objects and artifacts from different countries and time periods, as well as traditional fine art paintings. The South Asian and Middle Eastern rooms are particularly memorable. Fashion devotees will appreciate the V&A’s dedicated exhibits to modern designers, like the current exhibit featuring Balenciaga.
Where to eat / drink:
16 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP, UK // +44 20 7378 542355
The Barbary is a must-do on any foodie’s London itinerary. The menu features flavors and cuisines from the Barbary Coast, which includes countries along the North African coast all the way down to Israel. The food will be quite unlike anything you’ll ever get in the States, and every dish you order will be amazing. Highlights include the jerusalem bagel, any of the dips and the renowned grilled pata negra pork neck. The Barbary only accepts walk-ins, so come early to avoid a wait. For a more in-depth review and pictures, click here.
49 Frith St, Soho, London W1D 4SG, UK
The options for excellent South Asian food in London are unparalleled, and the latest hot spot is a Sri Lankan restaurant called Hoppers. The ambiance is hip and casual, in which vintage Tamil movie posters and warm orange hues set the mood for the spicy, mouth watering dishes that will follow. The house specialty is the namesake hopper, a rice flour and coconut milk pancake that is used to sop up the sauces of the fragrant and often fiery “kari” meats on the menu. For a more in-depth review and pictures, click here.
St. John Bread and Wine
94-96 Commercial St, London E1 6LZ, UK // +44 20 3301 8069
The Blind Pig
58 Poland St, London W1F 7NR, UK // +44 20 7993 3251
If you’re into artisanal cocktails in a dark, speakeasy like setting, then make a reservation at The Blind Pig, the hidden bar that occupies the top floor of the popular restaurant Social Eating House. The cocktail menu consists of fanciful illustrations and descriptions that sound like something out of Alice in Wonderland, and oftentimes the end result doesn’t taste anything like how the menu described. But you’ll be in good hands, considering how the bar won “Best International Restaurant Bar” at the prestigious global Spirited Awards competition.