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 journey across the pond. London’s calling—here’s where to eat, drink, stay, and shop when you answer.
What to See
In 2000, Swedish supergroup ABBA famously turned down $1 billion to get back together. Now, thanks to the advent of technology, you can see them reunited…sort of. ABBA Voyage is a first-of-its-kind live show featuring members Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad performing digitally with a live 10-piece band at their own eponymous ABBA Arena at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. This is quite literally an experience like no other.
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.
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.
Where to Eat
The Tea Lounge at The Biltmore Mayfair
If you’re seeking the traditional Afternoon Tea experience, The Biltmore Mayfair’s very own Tea Lounge is your best bet. With a menu designed by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton, there’s everything from tea sandwiches to scones and sweets (tarts, sponge cake…you name it). Spring for the option that comes with a glass of champagne for an extra 15 pounds. You deserve it.
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.
The Grill at The Dorchester
Your culinary experience isn’t complete without a Sunday Roast. For that and a whole lot more, try The Grill at The Dorchester, a landmark restaurant that first opened its doors in 1931. Expect modern takes on classic fare—including but not limited to a carving trolley. (We’re salivating too.)
Where to Drink
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.
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 photo booth.
Where to Stay
The Londoner is a tranquil haven on the corner of the city’s iconic Leicester Square–a pedestrian hub filled with all the entertainment and shopping you can dream of. Needless to say, at the end of a long day, you’ll want a peaceful place to rest. We suggest you get cozy in one of the hotel’s loft-inspired rooms and grab a bite at Whitcomb’s, one of six bars and eateries at The Londoner. The French Mediterranean cuisine and world-class wine list do not disappoint. Bonus for the foodies: The Londoner isn’t too far from The MAINE Mayfair (reserve a table on the terrace, you won’t regret it!) and high-end Italian spot Sparrow Italia.
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 cocktail). The hotel harkens back to a different era with a cozy bar, a delicious restaurant, and elegantly-appointed rooms with views overlooking Brown Hart Gardens.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
The Mandarin Oriential Hyde Park was given a refresh 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.
Jessica Roy is the Site Director of ELLE.com. Previously, she worked as the News Editor of TheCut.com. She likes baking, running and Instagrams of your dog.
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