City Guide: London


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The second in our new City Guide series, this travel guide to London features the most pertinent information about the area. Use the menu below to jump among sections for suggestions on where to stay, insider tips, restaurant recommendations and more.


  London City Overview

London remains one of the world’s most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities, despite the calamities that have recently befallen the financial world, on which its economy is heavily reliant. Although London is a place of pageantry and tradition, it is also a fashion capital and a major center for contemporary art.

The quality and variety of the city’s restaurants is astonishing, with recent years having seen a robust revival of authentic British cuisine.

  London Travel Tips

When to visit, tastemaker tips and what to do in London.

Kensington Palace Sunken Gardens
Kensington Palace Sunken Gardens - ©

When to Visit London

The British capital is at its best from mid-April, when the parks and squares burst into bloom, until early July and the conclusion of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. We also love the lead-up to Christmas, when the city is ablaze with lights and great department stores such as Harrods are thronged with shoppers. Despite the rain and the dark afternoons, for the first three weeks of December, London is in a festive mood.

Tastemaker Tips

Want to experience London like an insider? Follow these tips from notable individuals in the travel, design, food, fashion and hospitality industry.

Andrew Harper, Editor in Chief of The Hideaway Report, Andrew Harper Travel

Andrew HarperA quarter of a century ago, London had few high-rise buildings and St. Paul’s Cathedral was a dominant presence on the city’s skyline, as it had been since the beginning of the 18th century. In the past 20 years, however, London’s financial district and certain sections of the South Bank have sprouted dozens of glass-and-steel towers. The latest addition is Renzo Piano’s The Shard, a 1,004-foot skyscraper overlooking London Bridge. Currently the tallest building in the European Union, The Shard contains a Shangri-La hotel, plus a viewing gallery and open-air observation deck on the 72nd floor, at a height of 802 feet.

Christine Hodder, General Manager, The Stafford London Preferred

[A perfect day in London consists of] a spa treatment and leisurely lunch spent reading the papers and magazines, followed by a walk in Richmond Park and theatre.

John Andrews, Head Concierge, The Goring

For me, when it comes down to music, London is synonymous with the Proms. But we have it all, from classical to rock and everything in between. London is spoilt for choice when it comes to music events. To name but a few of the best: Hyde Park Concerts (pop/rock), the Proms (classical), o2 (pop/rock) and Ronnie Scott’s (jazz/blues).

  Hotels: Where to Stay in London

The Goring - Deluxe King Room
The Goring - Deluxe King Room - © Richard Booth

London can boast an unusually large number of fine smaller hotels, many of which offer refined comfort, high levels of personal service and exceptionally welcoming atmospheres. Some are to be found in the townhouses that line the city’s idyllic garden squares. Tim and Kit Kemp’s Firmdale group has contributed enormously to the capital’s hotel scene, and all of its eight properties have merits. When obliged to choose, our vote goes to Covent Garden Hotel, duly listed below.

View all Harper-recommended hotels in London, including Andrew Harper's favorite "Grand Luxury Hotels" in the area.

  Restaurants: Where to Eat in London

The Hix Mayfair
The Hix Mayfair - © Adrian Houston

Although the London restaurant scene is remarkably international — scarcely a country is unrepresented — the revival of authentic British cuisine continues, most conspicuously at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park restaurant. There, avant-garde chef Heston Blumenthal — who made his three-star reputation at The Fat Duck in Bray, a village on the Thames west of London — presents traditional British recipes inspired by meticulous historical research. Dinner now boasts two Michelin stars.

5 Traditional British Restaurants

Green's Restaurant and Oyster Bar London

Conveniently located in St. James’s, this traditional English seafood house is just the place to sample indigenous pleasures such as Loch Ryan oysters, smoked Scottish salmon, Dorset crab, and grilled Dover sole with Hollandaise sauce. It has a nice selection of wines by the glass. Closed Sundays.

Hix London

Chef Mark Hix’s place in Soho is perfect for a pre- or post-theater meal. The kitchen works exclusively with British-sourced produce, as seen in dishes such as house-smoked salmon with Corrigan’s soda bread, followed by grilled lemon sole with Hollandaise, or hanger steak with baked bone marrow.

"Although the London restaurant scene is remarkably international, the revival of authentic British cuisine continues."

J. Sheekey London

It is always a pleasure to feast on a first-rate catch of the day at this Victorian-style seafood house in Covent Garden (which also makes it ideal for pre- or post-theater dining), with its softly lit, wood-paneled décor. Look for English classics such as potted shrimp, and fish pie.

St. John Bar & Restaurant London

Off the beaten track near the Smithfield meat market in East London, chef Fergus Henderson’s restaurant serves sustaining traditional English food. You might start with the roasted marrow bones and parsley salad, a house classic; then try one of the superb variations of beef — or maybe the skate or sole. Don’t miss the currant-filled Eccles cake or the treacle tart for dessert. Closed Sunday dinner.

Scott's London

A legendary seafood restaurant since 1851, this was a particular favorite of 007 creator Ian Fleming and allegedly is the place where he discovered that martinis were better “shaken, not stirred.” A 10-foot-long display of crustacea includes a wonderful selection of oysters. The smoked fish is marvelous, and for main courses, watch for delicious dishes such as smoked haddock with Colcannon potatoes, poached egg and mustard; or slip soles with seaweed butter and cockles.

View all Harper-recommended restaurants in London, including Mr. Harper's picks for casual London restaurants and those boasting International cuisine.

  Things to See: Sightseeing in London

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace - ©

Don't overlook these iconic sightseeing attractions while visiting London.

  Things to Do: Shopping, Arts & Culture in London

Inside of Daunt Books
Inside of Daunt Books

Things to do while in London, including favorite shops and museums, as told by editor-in-chief, Andrew Harper.


One of my favorite London shops is Floris, a bespoke perfume store and an invaluable source of gifts for women. Sometimes, I also indulge in the "No. 89" aftershave, the preferred fragrance of James Bond.

Daunt Books

London’s independent bookshops have found life difficult in the age of Amazon. Fortunately, many remain in business, though doubtless with their profit margins reduced. Among my favorites is Daunt Books, which contains the finest selection of travel literature I have ever encountered.


One of the world’s best martinis is served at DUKES Bar in DUKES Hotel. With the ritual care of a Zen tea master, Alessandro Palazzi creates a perfect dry cocktail adorned with a graceful curl of lemon zest.

The Proms

The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts — universally known as “The Proms” — are an eight-week summer season of classical music. More than 100 events were planned in 2015, a majority being staged in the Royal Albert Hall. Up to 1,400 tickets are sold each evening. At any season of the year, London stages chamber music recitals in a number of more intimate venues. One of our favorites is the Wigmore Hall, located just 15 minutes’ walk from either Claridge’s or The Connaught. Our other favorite setting for chamber music is St. John’s Smith Square, close to the Houses of Parliament.

Tate Modern

London’s art scene was revolutionized by the opening of Tate Modern in 2000, housed within the vast former Bankside Power Station. After a visit, I like to take the 15-minute trip along the Thames aboard the Tate Boat to Tate Britain, London’s principal collection of British art, which contains major works by Turner, Constable and Gainsborough, as well as those by contemporary masters such as Henry Moore and Francis Bacon.

  Top Experiences in London

The Great Court at the British Museum
The Great Court at the British Museum - © Dan Breckwoldt/
Hotel Endsleigh - West Country, England
Hotel Endsleigh - West Country, England

Discover the best destinations around London with recommendations for where to stay, dine and what to see from our team of well-traveled editors.

Stay tuned for more from our City Guide series, detailing what to do, eat, see and where to stay in Andrew Harper's favorite cities around the world.

Want our full travel guide to Great Britain? Purchase a copy in the Harper shop.

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By Hideaway Report Staff

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