What to do in London
Whichever Chic Retreat you choose to stay in, you can’t go wrong with taking a river boat down the Thames and ticking some of the major sights off your list in one go: Big Ben and Westminster, the London Eye, the Shard and the Tower of London. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral are also must-see landmarks. Stretch your legs with a stroll around Regents Park and have a browse in the boutiques on Primrose Hill (from here, you can grab a coffee or a bite to eat at one of the restaurants on Regents Park Road; family-run Lemonia, a Greek restaurant is particularly good). Slightly further out of town, Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common are also green spaces worth exploring.
No trip to London is complete without experiencing at least one of its weekly markets. Foodies will love Borough Market, near London Bridge which is held every Saturday. It gets busiest at lunchtime when there are snaking queues for stalls selling delicious freshly cooked dishes such as venison burgers, paella and chorizo rolls. It’s a great place to pick up everything from cheese to brownies and vegetables. In the East, there’s Columbia Road’s bustling Sunday morning flower market (bunches of blooms start being discounted at around 1pm) where stalls line the street and there are quirky independent boutiques, from paper-cut artist Rob Ryan’s Ryantown to the Nelly Duff art gallery specialising in graphic and street art, to look in. If you want antiques, you should head to Portobello Road on Saturdays; for cutting edge cool fashion designers Spitalfields Market, just round the corner from Brick Lane is best.
London is packed with cultural offerings and there are always new exhibitions to see. Somerset House, the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A Museum all have an eclectic, changing programme and the annual Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy is usually excellent. The big date on the art calendar though is the Frieze art fair in October when artists, galleries and dealers het in from around the world. Music venues range from small, intimate jazz clubs (the most famous of which is Ronnie Scott’s) to superstar gigs at the O2 arena in Greenwich and festivals such as the popular Proms in the Park, held every summer in Hyde Park.
When it comes to watching films, avoid the big cinema chains and book tickets at the Electric in Notting Hill (the nearest of our boutique hotels is Montagu Place), the Olympic Studios in Barnes (a former recording studio turned cinema, cafe and dining room) which has reclining seats and an old-fashioned sweet shop, or the Aubin Cinema, in the basement of the Aubin & Wills clothes shop on fashionable Redchurch street in Shoreditch. It’s also worth noting that the BFI London Film festival takes place every October when you can buy tickets to talks and see special screenings of films months before they are officially released.
Sports fans won’t be disappointed either. Lord’s Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood hosts the international Ashes; rugby followers congregate at Twickenham Stadium; Wimbledon tennis ground sees tennis stars battle it out to win the annual championships and the capital is full of football clubs that inspire fierce loyalty in their fans, from Chelsea F.C in the West to Arsenal in the North. You can go bowling at All Star Lanes (there are outposts in Brick Lane, Holborn and Bayswater) and watch the skilful skateboarders jumping the ramps on the South Bank with the backdrop of the river Thames and the bridges of London behind them.