A trip to London may conjure two different and somewhat competing vacation fantasies: the first, a more royal-inspired vision, with fancy tea parties, shopping at Selfridges, and photos outside Kensington Palace, and the second somewhat grungier, filled with smokey Camden bars and vinyl shopping in Soho. Why not do both? For ELLE Escapes, we compiled some of our favorite spots for making the most of your trip across the pond. London’s calling—here’s where to eat, drink, stay, and shop when you answer.
Tiffany & Co.’s Vision & Virtuosity Exhibition
Tiffany & Co.’s yellow diamond necklace has been worn by Audrey Hepburn, Lady Gaga, and Beyoncé—and now, for a limited time, it will be displayed along with 400 other legendary Tiffany objects at a new exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. Tiffany and Co.’s Vision and Virtuosity exhibit runs June 10 through August 19, 2022.
There’s a reason London’s Hyde Park is always on the list of top spots to hit up. Particularly in the summer when the rain tends to lighten up, the 350-acre royal park is perfect for a picnic or a stroll with a to-go tea. If it’s good enough for Kate Middleton, it’s good enough for any tourist.
Pandora Dress Agency
If you get sick of shopping all of the fast fashion places in Mayfair, head to Pandora Dress Agency in Knightsbridge for “designer labels at a fraction of their original price.” A cursory perusal of their Instagram reveals Prada bags in spring’s prettiest pinks, and a pair of quilted Chanel clogs we would frankly die for.
Annie’s Ibiza is the perfect spot to hit up for a last-minute going-out dress that you’ll end up wearing again and again. The shop sells luxury clothing and accessories from new and emerging designers alongside vintage pieces.
The Colony Grill
Tucked inside the Beaumont Hotel in Mayfair, The Colony Grill hearkens back to the Art Deco era, serving up “transatlantic comfort food” like steaks and shellfish. It’s a carnivore’s paradise, but there’s something for everyone—including dessert lovers, who will be obsessed with the build-your-own sundae bar.
The highly Instagrammable pink café is about to dominate your feed all over again with its new monochromatic makeover—this time, a golden yellow sheen. While the traditional afternoon tea will remain on the menu, expect new West African additions inspired by the artists exhibited on the dining room walls.
When it comes to British restaurant culture, it doesn’t get more iconic than The Wolseley. Located on Piccadilly, the stately interiors date back to the 1920s when the building was a luxe car showroom for the now-defunct Wolseley Motors, and then a bank after that. More than just a lovely place to sit, it boasts an expansive breakfast menu, including the perfect stack of pancakes topped with berries.
Historically, London is not a city known for its food. Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi helped reestablish its culinary reputation by bringing his trademark roasted vegetables to a number of restaurants and delis, including the talked-about Rovi in the West End.
Housed in a literal fire station, the bar at the Chiltern Firehouse feels like if your plant-obsessed, cottagecore-vibe friend invited you over to her Williamsburg loft—but like, in a good way. The airy space boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, tons of greenery, and cozy floral couches perfect for tea or cocktails—your choice. If you want to continue the party, try schmoozing your way into the Ladder Shed bar in the back for after-hours revelry.
Mercato Metropolitano Mayfair
Built in a former church (with an altar, stained glass, and all), this sustainable community market offers stands with foods from all over the world, but the real draw is the Jim and Tonic gin bar, where gin distilled on-site is the base of every delicious cocktail you can think of.
The Dorchester Rooftop
When the weather is warm, the terrace at the Dorchester Hotel is the spot to be. With sweeping views of Hyde Park and seasonal cocktails with names like “Rainbow” and “Joyful,” it’s the perfect place to enjoy spring.
It’s not a wild night out in London if you don’t somehow, at some point, end up in Shoreditch, and Tonight Josephine is perfect for maximalists looking for an Instagrammable spot to end their night. The décor is very reminiscent of early-aughts club life, with lots of hot pink, neon signs and—of course—a photobooth.
When it comes to location, The Beaumont is unrivaled. Nestled on a quiet residential street in Mayfair, the five-star boutique hotel is steps from some of the best shopping in the area, including Selfridges (and Market Mercado, when you’re in the mood for a post-shopping gin and tonic). The recently remodeled hotel harkens back to the Art Deco era with a cozy bar, a delicious restaurant, and elegantly-appointed rooms with views overlooking Brown Hart Gardens.
The Cadogan was once the home of socialite Lillie Langtry, and the hotel marries that stylish history (Oscar Wilde also frequented the downstairs bar) with the artsy Chelsea neighborhood for an experience that makes you feel less like you’re staying in a hotel, and more like you’re living in a chic London apartment building. Guests have access to the private garden across the street, but our favorite amenity is the Sleep Concierge service, which comes with a pillow menu, scented pillow mist, and a “sleep-inducing meditative recording.”
Stepping into The Kensington feels like stepping into the life of the royal family. The cozy drawing room is bookended with fireplaces and plush couches, perfect for sipping tea and gossiping about the latest royal drama. The generously-sized rooms include bathrooms with heated floors, something guests will appreciate after a chilly walk in the nearby Kensington Palace gardens.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
The Mandarin Oriential Hyde Park was recently renovated by designer Joyce Wang, and the interiors are some of the most beautiful you’ll see at a hotel in London. With Art Deco finishings and thoughtful amenities like yoga mats and a GHD hair straightener, guests will feel right at home.