London, England is known for its dreary skies, pubs, the royals and dry humour. However, it is so much more than that. Every time I go, it never fails to strike me as vibrant, aesthetically pleasing with its old but neat buildings, seemingly at the fore front of certain trends, and full of super delicious food options (that last one is an attribute only recently injected into the city within the past couple of decades).
I hopped into the city for a very brief, but jam packed 2 and half days, to galavant with one of my best friends Kellee and her friend Liana. As we discussed plans prior to, on what’s app, I was exhausted just thinking of our itinerary, but once we got rolling IRL, I had no problem running on little sleep – because London is exciting, and entertaining, and makes you want to go, go, go.
We stayed in an Airbnb just off Oxford street, which would be considered a pretty touristy area, however, touristy doesn’t really have the same cheese ball effect is does in North American cities. Conveniently located nearby were Carnaby street, a bunch of local coffee shops and a pretty good spin studio.
Oxford street has a ton of good shops, but it should be noted, to get the full London treatment in all its glory, look no further than the high end department store Selfridge’s. The beauty and absolute impeccable shiny-ness (I know that’s not a word but it’s the right thing to say in this instance) is jaw dropping. Literally, I think my jaw was dropped the entire time I walked around, from floor to floor. The definition “eye-candy” must have been invented here. I guess what I’m saying is, even if you don’t intend to drop big bucks, please, make a visit to Selfridges regardless, simply for the awe-inspiring experience. It is consumerism at its best and just so, so beautiful. (They also have a spa within, called Cowhide Spa, which is also in and of itself a real winner – I had a top 5 facial there).
On the complete other end of the spectrum, Gordon’s Wine Bar is your go-to for the coolest, darkest, oldest, most dingy bar serving of course, wine. There is a portion of the bar that is literally a low cave, tall enough to just stand, and only lit by candles. You feel like you are stepping back in time, and there are framed articles from the first half of the 20th century to really solidify that. The wine list is decent, but it’s the fact that you feel you’ve stepped in a time machine, and are playing a character in the Titanic, or Lord of the Rings…or any film taking place when the THING TO DO was sit in a dark hole and drink, that is the real draw.
For eating during the day, you really can’t go wrong with a stroll through Borough Market. It is a cornucopia of foods and drinks from around the world, and like most (or maybe all!) of London, it is oozing with character and charm. We had duck sandwiches, chicken curry, fresh pressed orange juice and walked away with fresh turkish delights and the best roasted red pepper olive oil combo I’ve ever tasted. We left so many ultra worthy gems on the table because we were so full. You could go here every day, and be utterly satisfied with a different dish or snack each time.
For that special dinner that is often a highlight of anyone’s trip to a big city, a sexy and super tasty option is Hakkasan. There are 12 locations worldwide and it holds a Michelin star. It’s the kind of place where it’s best to share multiple platters of modern Cantonese cuisine. The vibe is legit sensual so it makes for good times whether you are on a date, or simply catching up with your girlfriends, or business partners over a martini or bottle of wine.
When you need a break from all this eating and drinking, make your way to the National Gallery. It is one of the most famous, most asset-filled galleries in all of the world, and it’s free! You will see so many iconic pieces of art in one go, you can’t go wrong with an hour, or two, or an entire day spent at this iconic establisment.
Lastly, to truly complete a London experience, one must indulge in the theatre culture. There are SO many options, so many plays, so many theatres. We chose to see Come From Away at the Pheonix theatre and it turned out to be up there in my all time favourite theatre experiences.
A few other note worthy tidbits: Shoreditch is one of the hippest neighbourhoods EVER ; Yalla Yalla was a cute spot for some casual sit down Lebanese fare ; Natural History Museum: I have never been but as I drove out of town en route to the airport, we passed it and it looked very grand and majestic.