As far as cosmopolitan creature comforts are concerned, it’s hard to top London, a luxurious city home to royal traditions and cutting-edge trends. For savvy travelers, this means your itinerary should be composed of both dependable classics and unexpected surprises, a combination that offers up the perfect snapshot of London’s best-kept traditions—and best-kept secrets.
ENRICH: No visit to London is complete without hitting its “touristy” historic sites like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London, but the city also has some of the world’s premier arts institutions, including the British Museum, which boasts a massive collection of Assyrian sculptures. Theater is also huge here, as London’s celebrated West End productions rival those on Broadway. Specifically, 2019 welcomes hits Dear Evan Hansen and Waitress (starring Katharine McPhee). Editor’s tip: Embrace being at tourist and “hop on” one of the double-decker bus sightseeing tours. You’ll be able to hit all of the major spots and get a comprehensive overview of the city. Be sure to book tickets ahead of time for anywhere you will want to “hop off” to see.
PLAY: Historic pubs are worth the visit for their Old World ambiance and jovial personalities. The Grenadier, for example, has been a beloved pub for 200 years and has lured in royalty of every kind. Contemporary drinking dens feature craft cocktails and stylish surrounds. Our top pick? The rooftop bar Radio at ME London, where every beverage comes with unbeatable views of the London skyline and fantastic opportunities for people-watching the city’s most stylish residents. Speaking of style, for some heavy-duty retail therapy, the Burberry, Vivienne Westwood and Victoria Beckham flagships are musts, as is hours scouring the racks of—followed by afternoon tea at—famed department store Harrods.
UNWIND: With 17 treatment rooms spread over four floors, ESPA Life at Corinthia is more like a wellness emporium than just a spa. With an amphitheater sauna, a steam room, an ice fountain, a vitality pool and experience showers, there’s plenty to do before you even get to your treatment. COMO Shambhala is better for specialized services that are thoroughly transformative, like the Perricone MD Nutrient Facial, which uses cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil to hydrate the skin. At the impressive spa at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, you’ll want to try the hourlong Indulgence Hammam Ritual, which includes a mud masque, a body scrub, a massage and more while you luxuriate on a fine marble table.
STAY + TASTE: For an ultra-modern experience, it’s hard to compete with ME London, the trendy flagship property of the ME by Meliá group. Set in the heart of London’s Theatreland, the 157-room hotel was designed around a magnificent nine-story pyramid-shaped atrium, which starts at the bottom-floor lobby and extends through to the rooftop bar Radio. ME London is also home to STK, which offers its famed American steakhouse menu in an edgy, upbeat atmosphere. Editor’s tip: Come hungry and order the Feasting Board for Two to share.
For more traditional, yet equally impressive accommodations, set your sights on The May Fair Hotel in London’s upscale Mayfair district. The property itself has a rich history dating back to the 1920s, though it has been fully restored to live up to its five-star rating. Its restaurant, May Fair Kitchen, showcases the best of Spanish Italian cuisine with some signature dishes from sister restaurants Monmouth Kitchen (Peruvian) and Leicester Square Kitchen (Mexican). An extensive breakfast buffet is offered every morning.
For a more intimate experience, book a room at 11 Cadogan Gardens, a boutique luxury hotel in the heart of Chelsea. The interiors of the Victorian-era property, which was built in the late 19th century by Lord Chelsea, reflect an unmistakable opulence inspired by the artists, writers and statesmen who once stepped through its doors. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, it’s worth a visit to its quaint restaurant, Hans’ Bar & Grill, which opened in June 2018 and offers a seasonal menu curated by acclaimed chef Adam England. Taking inspiration from its namesake, Hans Sloane (credited for bringing cocoa to the UK), the restaurant offers a delectable menu of chocolate desserts and signature hot chocolate drinks.