If you're visiting London and fancy yourself a stylish traveler with an eye for design, consider this guide your first stop. Even though we recommend seeing the Buckingham Palace and the London Eye, the city is home to so many under-the-radar destinations that deserve a visit as well. From the world's coolest boutiques to a cutting-edge gallery scene, rich history, and hip eateries, there are endless cultural excursions in store for you. You just need an insider guide so you know where to find them.
And if you're headed to the posh British metropolis sometime soon, lucky you—fashion week is just around the corner. We promise that visiting London will be a life-changing experience regardless of the weather forecast. Who needs a surplus of sunshine when you can have incredibly efficient public transportation, street style on tap, and design inspiration abound? So now that you're all stoked and packed for Heathrow, read through our chic must-see spots to get the most out of your visit.
Stay in Stylish Hotels
The hardest part about finding a hotel to stay in while you're visiting London is choosing between all the great options. We've managed to narrow it down a little. For a classic, luxurious stay in London, we suggest the Mandarin Hotel in Knightsbridge. If you prefer smaller-scale boutique hotels but want that same luxury vibe, try Blakes Hotel in Chelsea. Or if you'd prefer something a little more hip, check out Dean Street Townhouse or Ham Yard Hotel, both of which are in Soho. And some of our favorite spots for design and people-watching are Shoreditch House, The Hoxton, and Ace Hotel.
Visit Cool Eateries and Hip Haunts
London is a foodie mecca, so leave room for brunch, afternoon tea and crumpets, dinner, and dessert. Start your day with a flat white and the best baked goods of your life at Caravan. For an equally delicious brunch, book a reservation at Granger & Co. at its Clerkenwell or Notting Hill location. Get ready for some serious dining room décor inspiration.
If you want a cheaper (but by no means lighter) lunch, go to Brick Lane Beigel Bake. LEON is another good option. It's known as the tastiest fast-food chain that's also healthy. (Pro tip: There's also a location in Heathrow Airport Terminal 3.) For afternoon tea, you can't miss Sketch. The team room can usually accommodate you in one of its smaller dining rooms (each is decorated with a distinctly charming personality), so you can't go wrong. But we suggest reserving a seating ahead of time to enjoy the gallery room, which you may recognize from one of our favorite London It girl's Instagram feed. It also offers bottomless scones, which can be dangerous if you're a scone fiend like we are. And its vanilla tea is literally life-changing (speaking from personal experience here). Aside from the sweets, the walls are adorned with witty, poignant artwork by David Shrigley, which will also change your life.
If you're looking for a great place to spend happy hour after strolling by the River Thames, we highly recommend Gordon's Wine Bar. It dates all the way back to 1890, making it London's oldest wine bar. It's intimate, romantic, and nostalgic (and the cellar is slightly creepy in all the right ways). For dinner and décor, our favorite spots are Andina for Peruvian, Pizza East, Dishoom and Amaya for sophisticated Indian, and Wilton's for a classic British vibe.
Shop the It-Girl Airport Items:
Shop at the Chicest Stores
Start on Oxford with Selfridges department store, and then peak into Brown's on Bond for a seriously well-curated selection of designer goods. Next, go gawk at all the gorgeous scarves in Liberty, which is in a gorgeous space. While you're in the area, you can't miss Dover Street Market for cutting-edge clothing and a gallery-like layout. Bop directly across the street to Peter Harrington Rare Books and prepare to have your mind blown. Feel free to send us a signed first edition of Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf as a souvenir (it's only about £90,000, after all).
If you're further west, we suggest checking out Harvey Nichols; it's far easier to navigate than the neighboring Harrods (though that's worth a visit if you've never been). And we'd be doing you a disservice if we didn't remind you to check out Shu Uemura's makeup nook on the cosmetics floor. Notting Hill is also amazing for vintage—we particularly love One of a Kind and Merchant Archive. And while you're west, go to Moda Operandi and Matches Fashion's brick-and-mortar stores (you'll have to schedule an appointment for the former). Head to Shoreditch and Hackney for edgy shopping along Brick Lane. Rokit is cool beyond belief for vintage. Our favorite boutiques are Áime, LN-CC, House of Hackney, Monologue, and Hostem.
Check Out Cool Cultural Excursions
London is known for its awesome farmers markets. If you're by London Bridge, you should definitely make a pit stop at Borough Market. The Brick Lane farmers market is also a good one, but it's only on Sundays, so plan accordingly. When it comes to art, you should definitely visit Pace Gallery Tate Modern (I serendipitously stumbled in on the same day it held a secret Christopher Kane fashion show, so you may get lucky, too).
Hands down the coolest museum in London is Denis Severs' House in Spitalfields. It's an immersive hybrid between a history museum, theater performance, and artistic display that captures the essence of daily life in 18th-century London. The website describes is as a "game [in which] you interrupt a family… who, though they can still sometimes be heard, seem always to be just out of sight. As you journey off into a silent search through the ten rooms, each lit by fire and candlelight, you receive a number of stimulations to your senses." It's the closest thing to time traveling you'll ever experience. You'll need to see it to believe it.
If you weren't planning on visiting London before, have we convinced you? Let us know what you're most excited to see in the comments below (and please bring us with you)!