The UK’s capital is a magnificent blend of the historic and the contemporary, with a burgeoning cultural scene that makes it one of the most vibrant cities in the world

London is a culturally diverse capital that’s full of life. From the cool design talent to the world-renowned chefs who reside here, it is constantly evolving with new shops, shows and buzzy supper spots. Add to the mix the instantly recognisable, historic sights and it is one of the most exciting and memorable cities in the world.

Retail therapy

Shoe heaven at The Shop at Bluebird For designer fashion and jewellery, head to Sloane Street: all the big names are here, from Chanel to Prada, Graff to Gucci. If you want everything under one roof, Harrods on Knightsbridge has got it covered, from fine foods to fashion and fragrance. Fashionistas should also make a stop in Harvey Nichols and take a wander down to The Shop at Bluebird on the King’s Road, which stocks 120 designers including Isabel Marant, Sonia Rykiel and Zac Posen. Take some refreshment or browse the boutiques – Joseph, Myla, Kate Kuba, Liz Earle – in the pedestrian haven of Duke of York Square. Venture up to Notting Hill to visit the indefinable emporium Couverture & The Garbstore that presents home accessories and womenswear collections alongside vintage finds. If you’re in town at the weekend you can’t beat Notting Hill’s famous Portobello Market on Saturdays for one-offs by up-and-coming designers, or try Spitalfields in east London on Sundays.

Spectacular sights

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham PalaceBuckingham Palace is one of London’s most famous landmarks, so time your visit to see the changing of the guard, which takes place every other day. Big Ben and Westminster and the Tower of London are all equally unmissable. Take a tour with a Yeoman Warder and hear tales of treachery and torture in the Tower. Nearby, close to the River Thames, is St Paul’s Cathedral, with its iconic dome. Take a riverboat upstream from St Katherine’s Pier to a contemporary icon, the London Eye, which offers magnificent views. Pre-book your place in one of the glass pods to avoid the queues.
Where to eat Tuck into pimientos de Padrón and a glass of tempranillo at Barrafina, a buzzy tapas bar in Soho

Culture vulture

The Turbine Hall at Tate Modern Make a point of seeing something from the innovative programme at The Old Vic or from the acclaimed Donmar Warehouse whose reach now extends into the West End. Fans of modern dance will be in their element at Sadler’s Wells in Islington, while for ballet and opera it has to be the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The Barbican is a brilliant all-rounder offering exhibitions, concerts and films. When it comes to art and museums, the big hitters include Tate Modern  and Tate Britain, the British Museum and the National Gallery. Among the less obvious but worth a visit are the relaunched Saatchi Gallery and the Wellcome Collection of quirky exhibits from the world of medicine.  

Out and about

One of the many deer in Richmond Park London’s eight Royal Parks have something for everyone. From the open-air theatre and secret rose gardens in Regent’s Park to pedalos on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, or cycling round Richmond Park spotting herds of Red and Fallow deer, each park has its own identity. Alternatively, take a Sunday stroll on wild Hampstead Heath in the north or take the Xstrata walkway through the treetops in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the south-west. Those with green fingers should head to London locals’ favourite Sunday flower market on Columbia Road. For sporting action, the coming months present plenty of options from rugby at Twickenham, to tennis at Wimbledon and cricket at Lord’s.
Where to be pampered The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, London couldn’t be more relaxing: arrive in time before your treatment to enjoy the Heat and Water facilities

Super spa quality

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental $ Park, London The perfect wind-down after a hard day shopping or hard night partying, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental couldn’t be more relaxing. Arrive with time before your treatment to make the most of the soothing Heat and Water facilities, including a Zen Colour Therapy Relaxation Area and Amethyst Crystal Steam Room. The Spa has eight treatment rooms and an extensive menu of innovative and restorative treatments, entirely dedicated to your own wellbeing.

All in good taste

Map of London Foodies will be in heaven with the choice of London restaurants serving dishes from around the world, from faultless French at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon to brilliant Japanese at Alan Yau’s latest, Sake No Hana. The River Cafe is legendary for hearty Italian fare, or tuck into pimientos de Padrón and a glass of tempranillo at the counter at Barrafina, a buzzy tapas bar in Soho. Finally, for something fishy, try the stars’ West End favourite J Sheekey which has opened a 30-seater oyster bar adjacent to the main restaurant; or head east to celebrated chef Mark Hix's eponymous Hix Oyster & Chop House near Smithfield meat market.


Paint the town

Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental $ Park, London Mingle with the fashion crowd in Hoxton Square and Old Street; Brazilian bar Favela Chic is particularly popular for its cool cocktails and eclectic music. Heading west, Kate Moss’s favourite club, Punk, in Soho, attracts a notoriously hip crowd. For something different, go bowling at All Star Lanes in Bloomsbury or head for Soho’s Lucky Voice karaoke: book a private pod and sing your heart out. Film lovers should not miss The Electric in Notting Hill, a 1920s cinema where you can sit on large sofas and drink champagne. For laughs, catch the midnight show at The Comedy Store in Soho followed by a nightcap in the chic Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London.
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