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Intro | Arriving and Getting Around | Lodging | Eating| Shopping | Museums | Entertainment | Tea| Travel Store

Introduction

Once again I would like to extend a warm welcome to GoingEuro.com. I have included travel guides that I use and an assortment of other books about London, along with restaurants, accommodations and shops that I am partial to; in addition to, web sites I found useful or just interesting. I have also assembled a diverse assortment of information including from getting into central London from the airport to wheree to go for some really great cheese. Feel free to email any comments you might have about the site. Your input will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for stopping by GoingEuro London.

My first experience with London was through films and books, so I had a certain image of London in my mind. I was 26 years old when I made my first trip across the pond. I was not disappointed. To this day,  I still have a vivid recollection of my taxi ride from Victoria Station to my hotel on the Strand. Every visit, I find something new and exciting I haven’t seen or done before. When I am leaving for the airport, I am always saddened until I am on the plane coming home, planning my next trip and thinking about all the fun things and wonderful sights I have yet to see and do. I hope your trips (notice the plural) are as memorable as mine have been. I would like to thank you in advance if you purchase any books or other products through GoingEuro.com. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Arriving and Getting Around London

Using public transportation to get from the airport into central London is the cheapest and probably the quickest way. From Heathrow there is direct rail service into Paddington Station via the  Heathrow Express; the trip takes approximately 20 minutes and trains during the day run frequently. From Gatewick there is direct rail service into Victoria Station via the  Gatewick Express; the trip takes approximately 35 or 40 minutes. When I am leaving for the airport to come home and using public transportation, I like to allow plenty of time in case of train delays. For more information including train times and fares click on the respective links. Getting around London, The London Underground (affectionately called the Tube) is in all likelihood is the quickest way (especially during rush hour) to get from A to B given the large number of cars and the layout of London’s streets. The subway system is extensive and despite problems in recent years including service delays it’s still the best way to get around the city. On the weekend, I have noticed there tends to be service interruptions due to maintenance and upgrades to the system. Nothing to worry about, but definitely something to keep in mind. The red double-decker buses offer a great way to see the city; however, during rush hour they are not the quickest way to get around the city even though London does have dedicated bus lines. For information on the bus system visit Transport For London. On the site there is a Travel Journey, which I found extremely useful when planning my daily itinerary. Definitely take at least one ride on a double-decker (on top in the front is the best place to sit) because it is a great way to see the city. The Oyster Card is a great value for those who are planning on using the buses or the tube frequently. If you are planning on staying in London for 7 days consider getting the 7-Day Travel Card for Zones 1 & 2. Unlimited travel within those zones for a set price. Can be used on the tube and on buses as well. You can put the travel card on the Oyster Card for quick and easy access going through the turnstile. All you do is touch the Oyster Card on the yellow pad at select turnstiles. Given the cost of a single fare and the number of times I used the tube for getting around, I definitely saved money with the travel card. I purchased my card at a little newspaper shop in my hotel, but you can  purchase it online before leaving or at one of the automated machines in the tube stations. For more information on the Oyster Card and Travelcard go to  The London Transport.

When I arrive, I stop by a newsstand to purchase a copy of magazine, TimeOut London. It’s a great source for information on theater, film, concerts, art exhibitions and so on. You can also visit their web site to find out what’s happening. Two features I particularly like are “In London this week” and “Search what’s on in London”, the latter enables you to search by venue or type of event. Or you can subscribe to their weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox. Another feature that is useful is the “London Cycling Guide”. London like any other large city has a large number of cars, taxis and buses on the streets, so if I decide to tootle around on a bicycle I want to make sure I know all the ins and outs (pros and cons) to cycling in London. Another online source for information on current art exhibitions, concerts, theater productions is The Official Web site for London.

I have an iPod Touch. If I need directions, before going out and while connected via Wifi to Internet, I select Maps and download the map/directions i.e. to the restaurant that I am going to for dinner. To be able to access maps and make changes in real time definitely has its advantages, but it also can be expensive because of roaming charges. In addition, dotted around London there are quite a few places such a cafes that offer free WiFi. So if I really need to access the Internet I can usually find a place to pop into that has WiFi. You can find a list of hotspots at Londist, which includes a map and TimeOut London. I have been looking for an App that is an off-line  map of London with street search capability. I want to be able to locate a specific street by typing in the name. However, I haven’t been able to locate such App. So in the meantime I still take along my trusty spiral bound London A-Z Street Atlas. Call me old fashioned and sentimental. And you never know when the Internet might go down and sometimes it’s just easier and more convenient to get out a book and look something up. Even though lately I seem to become addicted to search for Apps on Itunes. I found one called London Museums that looks like it will be useful on my next trip. I also downloaded another App called London Tube, so I am able access information about London’s subway system on my iPod Touch.  

If you are planning on combining your trip to London with a trip to Paris and plan on traveling to Paris via the Eurostar (the trip usually takes a little under 3 hours), a company here in the US called Vacations by Plaza offers discounted tickets for US and Canadian citizens. I was in London this past New Years, decided to pop over to Paris for a long weekend to see an exhibition. I booked my ticket (at a really good price) through this company. I picked up the ticket at the Eurostar ticket office at St. Pancras, a beautiful restored Victorian building. In addition to having a obsession with Art Deco and Modern architecture, I also love Victorian architecture. My flight back to the US was on a Wednesday, so I decided to come back to London on Tuesday morning. I wanted a day to rest up before my flight home. I suppose I could have come back on Wednesday (I had a late afternoon flight), but traveling for an entire day would be too tiring. I am glad I combined my trip to London with a little excursion to Paris. The Eurostar is comfortable and quick, traveling between Paris and London is not a problem.     

For guided walking tours, Original London Walks offer a nice selection of walking tours; from Shakespeare’s London (the Bankside) to The Inns of Court (Legal & Illegal) to Sherlock Holmes (221b Baker Street) to Jack the Ripper. Check out the web site for more information. There is even a walking tour that focuses on Oscar Wilde, which takes places on Saturdays. Conducted by Alan Titchard, who is the researcher for the Oscar Wilde Society. He dresses the part to perfection including a green carnation.  London Bicycle Tour Company offers guided tours on bicycles. Check out their web site, they offered a variety of tours. You can also hire a bicycle for a day. They are located on the South Bank (Gabriel’s Wharf) between the Oxo Tower and the National Theatre. Another bicycle rental company is Go Pedal. They will drop off and pick up the bicycle(s).

The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations is one of the best places on the Internet for information on films shot on location in London.  There is an interactive map. You click on the dot and up pops a window with fascinating trivia on the location including what film was shot there. Ever since I was a boy, I have had a love for and fascination with London, so whenever a see an film that takes place in London, I always wonder where the film was shot. I was thrilled when I happened upon this web site a year or so ago and even more excited to discover, Movie London, a book on films shot in London . On my last trip, I took it with me. It was fun to see and  visit places that up until that point I had only seen in films. I even had a drink in the pub that was used in the film, Victim with Dirk Bogarde. Well organized and probably the foremost book out there that covers this topic so thoroughly.

The London Pass is a great value! Access to 50 popular tourist attractions around London for one price. Available in 1, 2, 3 or 6 day passes. You can also combine the benefits of the Travelcard with the London Pass for unlimited travel on London’s public transportation system (valid for zones 1-6). Click on the link for additional information including Special Offers & Discounts offered with The London Pass.

London Parks & Garden Trust - one weekend a year many of London’s private garden squares and residential gardens are open to the general public. For ticket information and a list of the gardens go to Open Garden Squares Weekend. Speaking of gardens, Kew Gardens is definitely worth a visit. Even in winter there is something to see in gardens and hothouses . Click on the link for information including what’s in bloom, directions, which entrance (there are 4 entrances) to use, which depends on how you arrive. You can print off a copy of “Day Planner” that includes a map of the grounds. On the web site they advise allowing 3 to 4 hours for a visit to allow time to see everything. So if you are combining this trip with a visit to Hampton Court it’s best to arrive at 9:30 a.m. when the gardens open. Two ways to get to Kew Gardens are by The Tube or by boat (service starts in April). Going by boat is fun; however, the trip does take longer. Right across the river from Kew Gardens is Syon Park (the London home of the Dukes of Northumberland). In the 18th century Capability Brown was engaged to landscape the grounds and Robert Adam was employed to redesign the house. The Great Conservatory (built in 1830) is spectacular, as are the grounds and interior of the house. Syon Park is only about 1.8 miles from Kew, within easy walking distance. Leave via the main gate and cross Kew Bridge, turn left on the A315 and walk about another 1.3 miles and turn left on Brent Lea. In Andrew Duncan’s Walking London there is a delightful walk from Syon Park to Horace Walpole’s Gothic extravaganza, Strawberry Hill. South of Syon Park is another splendid garden at Hampton CourtThames River Boats offers services to both Kew and Hampton Court from Westminster Pier or from Kew Gardens to Hampton Court. You can also walk from Kew Gardens to Hampton Court along the Thames Path, but it’s a long walk - something like 8 miles. For more detailed information about the walk click here. When I visited to Kew, I took the Tube (District Line to Kew Gardens Zone 3). I got on the line at Westminster and from there it took about - 1/2 hour to get to Kew Gardens Station. Once there I entered via the Victoria Gate. After my visit I hopped on the boat, Thames River Boats to Hampton Court. The trip took about a 1 1/2 hours, but it was a pleasant sunny day, and I enjoyed my cruise on the river a lot. Though getting back to London I decided to take a train (South West Trains) into Waterloo. The trip took between 30 to 40 minutes. It was a full day, and I wanted to get back London as quickly as possible to rest up before going out to dinner. Be sure to check the train times to see how often they run and whether or not the trains is direct or if you have to switch trains. This way you can coordinate your visit better. Hampton Court is also accessible via South West Trains from Waterloo Station. It takes approximately 35 minutes to get to Hampton Court from Waterloo Station. For additional information including directions to Hampton Court click on the link.         

Professionals and nonprofessionals alike who have an interest in architecture should check out The New London Architecture gallery on Store Street (west of Russell Square). Another venue for architectural exhibitions is the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) HQ on Portland Place. The Victoria and Albert Museum has a permanent gallery showcasing objects such as models, drawings..... from the collection of the RIBA. For those interested in Art Deco buildings there is an itinerary for a walking tour of some of London’s Art Deco treasures at A Traveller’s Guide to London. Open House London (takes place in September) is an annual event that gives the general public an opportunity to see over 600 buildings, some of which are normally closed to the general public. An unique opportunity.

One of the great things about London (at least for me) is the incredible assortment of pubs and of course the variety of different types of beer and ale available. An excellent online resource is Pubs.com - a fun and informative web site. Not only will you learn about the history of the pubs, but you will also learn about “real ale”. There is a “Quick Pub Search” feature. You can search a pub by location, name or postal code. The current economic climate, a change in drinking habits and a ban on smoking all have had an adverse effect on pubs across the UK. Tragic because they are such an integral part of English history and culture. Every time I am in England I try to visit as many pubs as possible. I simply love the decor especially Victorian and the general atmosphere of pubs. I have developed quite an appreciation for British beer.

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Lodging

The Bloomsbury area makes an excellent home base and because of the proximity to The British Library, The British Museum and numerous bookshops, there is a wonderfully bookish atmosphere filled with literary history. Major rail stations such as Kings Cross, St. Pancras (includes the Eurostar station for service to Europe) and Euston are nearby along with several stops of the Tube.

I have included two hotels because London is an expensive city especially when factoring in the exchange rate. The Harlingford Hotel is a little more expensive than The Crescent. The web sites have photos and other information. Another option to save money is to book your hotel when you book your flight. British Air offers a selection of hotels in different parts of London and in a number of  price brackets. Virgin Atlantic also offers the same service, but the hotels they list tend to start off a little higher than the ones offered through British Air. There are web sites that offer discounts on select hotels, one such site is www.london-discount-hotel.com and another web site Lastminute.com.

Crescent Hotel, 49-50 Cartwright Gardens, Bloomsbury. Friendly service with basic rooms. Be sure to get an in suite bathroom. English Breakfast included in the price of the room.

Harlingford Hotel, 61-63 Cartwright Gardens, Bloomsbury. Tele: 44(0)20 7387.  Recently went through a refurbishment. Nice decor.  Moderately priced.

Another moderately priced hotel or I should say a private hotel with excellent personal service for a reasonable price is (appropriately enough) called The Main House. The hotel is located in the Notting Hill area. Check out their web site for more information.

For a more upscale accommodation try the Sherlock Holmes Hotel in Marylebone. I adore Marylebone High Street. Getting back to the hotel. It is what they call a boutique hotel. Totally renovated a few years ago. The hotel offers special weekend packages. For more information including rates click on the link. Or try the really cool The Rookery located near the Old Bailey, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Bank of England. The rooms are out of this world as are the prices, but if you wallet can take it - go for it. The place is simply fabulous. You might be able to get a reduced room rate through www.laterooms.com. Click on the link and type in the name of the hotel.

Staying a week or more is might be a good idea to look into renting an apartment. I find it convenient to have a kitchen especially in the mornings. One such company that specializes in short-term apartments rentals is Holiday Serviced Apartments.

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Restaurants

For most of the restaurants, I did not include opening and closing times because hours change and restaurants are sometimes closed for the holidays and for other reasons, so it is best to contact the restaurant directly to find out their hours while you are in London. I will be honest London is an expensive city, more so for Americans because of the exchange rate. It can be difficult to find reasonable priced places to eat in. Two of the my most expensive meals I have had in London were at Bibendum and the River Cafe. And back in the mid 1990’s, once I ate at The Ivy (purely by accident). It was my first trip to London. I  had just seen The Mousetrap at St. Martins Theater, which is nearby. As I was walking away from the theater, I saw the restaurant. It was late and I was hungry. I had no idea what kind of restaurant it was at the time. I was just happy I got a table. But to make a long story short, I normally look for moderately priced restaurants. And some people might say my “moderately priced” restaurants are a little on the high side. That is possible because one of my vices or pleasures (depending on how you look at it) is good food. And this is London. Even McDonalds is somewhat expensive given the type of food when you factor in the exchange rate. Every now and then I do go to a really expensive restaurant because it’s either a special occasion or a friend highly recommends a restaurant. One of those, the food is die for. A culinary organism and so fourth. One way I found to cut back on expenses is to focus on eating in nice restaurants for dinner and have a light or inexpensive lunch. Or if I have an expensive lunch, I will have an inexpensive dinner. One guide that I like to use is Harden’s London Restaurants. Available through Amazon.uk. I find both the  reviews and pricing pretty accurate. I trust the reviews. I also check out the menus (if posted outside) to see the prices and the dishes available.  Still at the end of the day, I am on vacation.  I am here to have a fun time, so I try not to worry about the prices too much, at least not to the point of ruining my vacation. However, I freely admit I am more selective than I am at home and  look for value for my money.

I noticed an article in the FT Weekend about a Venetian style bacari, Polpo 41 Beak Street (between Carnaby and Marshall Streets) that recently opened in Soho. You can either sit at the bar or eat at one of the  table. The place sounds fabulous and reasonable priced. I did a search on the Internet and found favorable reviews along with the average cost per person is between 25 - 34 Pounds. Brick walls and casual setting in a building dating back to the 18th century. On one of the sites it said the Venetian painter Canaletto lived in the in building while he was living in London. Fascinating history and the food sounds delicious. A little of Venice in the heart of London. I can’t wait till my next trip to London to sample the food.  

Andrew Edmunds, 46 Lexington Street, Soho W1 Tele: 020 7437 5708. Great ambiance - casual and cozy. Modern European cuisine. Moderately priced. Nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus. Casual and cozy. Reservations are advisable.

Aperitivo, 41 Beak Street, Soho W1 Tele: 020 7287 2057. Cuisine: Italian - tapas style dishes. Nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus. Reservations advisable. Fun and casual. Closed Sundays. The menu is posted on their web site along with an online reservation form.

Balans, 60 Old Compton Street, Soho W1 Tele: 020 7439 2183. Cuisine: Modern European. Open late with a diverse menu. Food is good, service is fine. Reasonably priced. When I am in London, I stop if for dinner at least once. Down the street at 34 is Balan’s Cafe more casual atmosphere and a smaller menu if you are in the mood for something quick and simple.

Baltic, 74 Blackfriars Road, South Bank Tele: 020 7928 1111. Nearest tube station: Southwark. Cuisine: Central European - Polish. Dishes with creative twist. Moderately priced given the great food. Fun place (great Vodkas), fabulous space (use to be a coach-builders workshop back in the 1800’s). Nearby are the Old Vic and Young Vic Theaters, close enough for a pre-theater early dinner, which they offer for a fixed price. For more information click on the link.

Barrafina, 54 Firth Street, Soho Tele: 020 7813 8016. Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road. Terrific Spanish (Barcelona region) tapas bar, open till 11:00pm Monday - Saturday. Closed Sunday. Quite reasonable, great food and friendly service. Instead of tables and chairs you sit at a communal counter vintage 1950’s decor. Does not accept reservation, but worth the wait.  

Bibendum, Michelin House (below is a photo), 81 Fulham Road, London SW3 Tele: 020 7581 5817. Nearest tube station: South Kensington. If you are in the mood for oysters then head over to the Oystar bar on the ground floor of this fabulous Art Nouveau building. Upstairs their is an upscale restaurant. Expensive, but the food and setting are worth it. Great place to go if you are in the mood to treat yourself.

Brasserie St. Quentin, 243 Brompton Road, Kensington SW3 Tele: 020 7589 8005. Nearest tube station: Knightsbridge. Cuisine: French. Down the street from the V&A. French. Moderate - Expensive, but you can’t beat the beautiful setting and reliable service. For lunch they offer a two or  three course meal for a fixed price, which is quite reasonable. They also offer a pre-theatre pre fixed dinner as well. The menu is posted on the web site along with an online reservation form.

Chor Bizarre, 16 Albemarle St (off Piccadilly), Mayfair W1 Tele: 020 7629 9802. Nearest tube: Cuisine: Indian. Kitschy decor. Great dishes and reasonably priced. Reservations a must. Closed Sunday lunch.

Golden Hind, 73 Marylebone Lane W1 Tele: 020 7486 3644. Nearest tube station: Bond Street. No frills establishment, but one of the best places in London for fish n chips. Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday. Another great place to go if you are in the mood for really good fish n chips at great prices is Fryer’s Delight, 19 Theobald’s Road Holborn WC1 Tele: 0871 075 2446.

La Barca, 80-81 Lower Marsh SE1 7AB Tele: 020 7928 2226. Nearest tub station: Waterloo. Moderately priced Italian restaurant near the Old Vic. Very popular with theatrical people who perform at the nearby National Theatre and Old Vic. The walls are lined with autographed photos of actors, directors and so fourth who have eaten here. I had dinner with David Suchet who is famous for playing Hercule Poirot. Or I should say I had dinner under a signed photograph of David Suchet. Open late for those seeing a performance at the Old Vic and plan on dining after the performance.

Le Deuxieme, 65a Long Acre WC2. Tele: 020 7379 0033. Nearest tube station: Covent Garden. Creative modern French European dishes. Changing menu and a great wine list. Offers a fixed pre-theater menu. Moderate  Expensive. Menu is posted on their web site

Ottolenghi, 287 Upper Street, Islington Tele: 020 7288 1454. Nearest tube station: Angel. Cuisine: Mediterranean. Simple, yet creative dishes using fresh ingredients. Moderately priced. Right across the street from the Almeida Theatre. Monday through Saturday they serve dinner until 11:00 p.m. Originally I found out about this restaurant from a friend who recommended, Ottolenghi The Cookbook. I tried several recipes and really enjoyed the dishes, so since I was seeing a production at the Almeida Theatre, I decided to give the restaurant a try. I was not disappointed. I extremely happy with the food and service. I definitely am going to go back. I do suggest reserving a table for dinner.    

Pizza Express, 29 Wardour Street, Soho W1 Tele: 020 7431 822. Pizza and pasta chain. The food is quite good and relatively inexpensive. The location near the Haymarket Theatre Royal and the one up from Covent Garden are open late. Sometimes after seeing a play I will stop in for a light dinner.  

Portrait, National Portrait Gallery 3rd Floor, 2 St. Martin’s Place Tele: 020 7312 2490. Great view over the rooftop of The National Gallery towards Big Ben. Modern British cuisine. Moderate - Expensive. Offers a good deal during lunch, 2 or 3 course meal with Belini for 24.95 and 29.95 Pounds respectively. I thought the food was good and the service was okay given how busy the restaurant was. I do think given how popular the restaurant is they could employ a few more people to provide less of a hurried service. Reservations advisable.

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) at 66 Portland Place (a little ways up from the BBC and Langham Hotel). Built in 1930’s with a beautiful art deco feel (inside and out). You can grab a quick bit to eat in the cafe or for a more substantial lunch there is a more upscale restaurant overlooking Portland Place. For more information on the building, the cafe and restaurant including menus and contact information for reservations click here. If you are planning on visiting on Saturday be sure to check before going because sometimes the cafe and restaurant are closed on Saturdays for special events. I have eaten in the restaurant and found the food and service quite good. Not too terribly expensive, two courses for 16.95 Pounds and three courses for 20.95 Pounds plus wine and coffee. Like I said the setting is wonderful as is the food and service so it’s worth it. That evening I had a simple, light and inexpensive dinner. I find in the end it all balances out and fits into my budget. I allocate “x” amount per day for food. If I spend more on lunch, I spent less on dinner and vice versa.

River Cafe, Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd., Hammersmith Tele: 020 7386 4200. Nearest tube station: Hammersmith (about a 10 or 15 minute walk from the tube station). Great rustic Italian dishes. Expensive, but worth every penny. Always fresh ingredients and the service - impeccable. I love the decor. Reminded me (at least from the outside) of a cafeteria. 

Pubs:

Black Friar (below is a photo of the pub, to the right over the entrance there is a large statue of a friar), 174 Queen Victoria Street, Blackfriars Tele: 020 7236 5474. Nearest tube station: Blackfriars. Saved from demolition in the 1960’s this Art Nouveau gem is one of London’s loveliest pubs. The carvings and mosaics inside are just lovely along with real ale and tasty pub food, make this is one of my favorite pubs.

Bloomsbury Tavern, 236 Shaftestbury Ave, at the intersection of New Oxford Street (a little south of the British Museum), Bloomsbury Tele: 020 7379 9811. Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road. Closed Sundays. A beautiful and fine example of a Victorian pub, built in 1895. A friendly, comfy pub with good food and a excellent selection of real ales from Shepherd Neame.     

Friend at Hand, 4 Herbrand Street, Bloomsbury Tele: 020 7837 5524. Nearest tube: Russell Square. Traditional pub. Behind the Russell Square Hotel and right around the corner from the Russell Square Tube station. I stumbled upon this pub by accident. I checked into my hotel that is located on Russell Square and started walking to the tube station and as I passed by it looked like a nice place to stop for lunch. They serve real ale and pretty good pub food at a reasonable price.  I have been back a couple of time since.

Jerusalem Tavern, 55 Britton Street, Clerkenwell Tele: 020 7490 4281. Nearest tube station: Farringdon. Quaint little pub that was once a clock makers shop in the 18th century, so as you can imagine there is a lot charm. Owned by an independent brewer based in Suffolk. They serve a nice selection of real ales and lunch from 12 to 3. Nearby there are two sites of interest, they are the Museum of the Order of St. John (currently closed for renovation until 2010) and Charterhouse, founded in the 14th century as a Carthusian monastery. Much altered over the years due to the dissolution of monasteries under Henry the 8th and bombing during the Second World War, but they still have a chapel dating back to the 14th century and a library dating back to the 17th century. Open for guided tours and they host concerts from time to time. For a schedule of upcoming concerts click here. For information on tours, which need to be pre-booked click here. Less than 1/2 mile away from the Barbican, so you can pop in for a pre-concert drink if you are attending a concert. The Barbican is home to the London Symphony Orchestra.

The Lamb, 94 Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury Tele: 020 7405 0713. Nearest tube station: Russell Square. Dating back to 1729 this pub has been beautifully restored. The staff are friendly, serves good ale and pub food at reasonable prices. A little off the beaten path, but well worth the it. Plus one of the joys of London is just walking and exploring little nooks and crannies.

Lamb & Flag, 33 Rose Street (off of Garrick Street), Covent Garden Tele: 020 7497 9504. Nearest tube station: Covent Garden. An authentic pub that serves real ale and good pub food at reasonable prices. The poet John Dryden was stabbed to death in the passageway beside the pub in 1679.

Williams Tavern, 1 Groveland Court (off Bow Lane), City of London Tele: 020 7248 5750. Nearest tube station: Mansion House. Down a passage way and oozing atmosphere. Started out as a hotel back in 1740. Today they serve superb beer along with a nice selection of reasonably priced food. Located between St. Pauls and Mansion House. One of the best and most charming pubs in the area.

Seven Stars, 53 Carey Street, Holborn Tele: 020 7242 8521. Nearest tube station: Holborn. Over 400 years old, the building survived the Great Fire of 1666 and the bombing during the Second World War. Friendly staff, good  selection of real ales and a step up from the traditional pub food. For more information go to www.pubs.com. Small and cozy with an open fire during the colder months. And there is even a resident adorable cat named Tom Paine. South of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, not far from Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Viaduct Tavern, 126 Newgate Street, London Tele: 020 7600 1863. Nearest tube station: St. Pauls. A charming, well preserved Victorian pub built around 1869 that serves great beer and food. Right across from the Old Bailey and close to St. Pauls. Closed on Saturday and Sunday.

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Museums and Art Exhibitions

The Tate, Victoria & Albert, The British Museum (below is a photo of the interior glass enclosed courtyard) and The National Gallery all have newsletters they send out via e-mail that will keep you informed with what is going on such as temporary exhibits.

These days you never know how popular an exhibit is going to be. For example, the popular El Greco exhibit a few years back. So if I am planning on seeing an exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts or the National Gallery, I  like to purchase my ticket in advance online because I want to make sure I see the exhibit and also to make sure it is not sold out on the day I want to go. The tickets to exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts have a time entry on them to limit how many visitors are seeing the exhibit at any given time.

The Victoria & Albert Museum is quite large with a diverse collection of decorative arts (furniture, textiles, ceramics, paintings, jewelry etc.) that spans continents and cultures. In addition to, temporary exhibitions. The museum is free; the temporary exhibitions are not. So it’s best to focus on one area or one part of the museum during each visit. If you don’t you will be overwhelmed by the shear size of the museum. You can download and print off a map of the museum. From time to time certain galleries are closed, so if you are going to see something in particular be sure to check before visiting. After exploring The V&A I sometimes have a sandwich in the Gamble Room. One of the three refreshment rooms designed and decorated by the leading artists of the Arts and Craft Movement including William Morris, Edward Burnes-Jones & Sir Edward Poynter. Of course depending on the time of the day is can be crowded so I try to avoid the noon time rush.

The Victoria and Albert and The National Gallery go without saying. The Tate Britain for its collection of Turners.  The Tate Modern, even if modern art is not your cup of tea, just to see the building itself. A most ingenious idea to take a disused power station and convert it into a museum because the space is ideal for displaying art especially some large scale modern art. The following are a few other museums that are my personal favorites.

The Courtauld Institute is part of  Somerset House (below is a photo of the courtyard during the Christmas holiday). The collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings is one of the best collections in London. The collection occupies the beautiful space The Royal Academy of Arts used before their move to Burlington House. On occasion there are temporary exhibitions held here, so be sure to check out their web site for more information.  If the weather permits head to the rear of Somerset House for lunch on the terrace overlooking the Thames. The Hermitage Rooms are also located in Somerset House. You will find a rotating exhibition of works of art from the permanent collection of the The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Dennis Severs’ House is more of a theatrical experience than just simply a house museum. In these 10 rooms Severs created little vignettes of how life might have been for the fictional Jervis family, who lived here between 1724 and 1914. Through the use of period furniture, candles, everyday personal items and even smells you are transported back in time. Sadly Dennis Severs passed away in 1999, but his delightful and wonderful creation lives on for us to enjoy. During the Christmas holidays it is especially magical with the holiday decorations, minced pies, mulled wine and candlelight evenings.      

The Dulwich Picture Gallery was the first public art gallery in Britain and one of the few buildings designed by Sir John Soane still standing. Originally established in the early 1800’s, the collection is small, yet still impressive with works by Gainsborough, Reynold and Rembrandt. There is a superb Saint Sebastian by Guido Reni and for those of you like myself love all things Venetian there is a Canaletto. One thing to note there are two ways to get to the Dulwich. One way is from the Tower Bridge train station, stopping at North Dulwich and walking through the village of Dulwich (about a 10 minute walk) to the gallery. The other way is from Victoria station, stopping at West Dulwich. Now if I am in London for 5 or more days I opt for the 7 day Oyster travel card, which covers zones 1 and 2. Most of the main attractions in London are located within these zones. Now North Dulwich is located in zone 2, but West Dulwich is located in zone 3. The first time I went to Dulwich I did not know this and after my visit I headed to the West Dulwich station because I wanted to go into Victoria because there was something I wanted to see in that part of London. It wasn’t a problem, I just paid the one way fair (something like 2.60 Pounds) into Victoria station. Just something to remember when planning your visit. However, I do recommend going to North Dulwich because you will be able to walk through the quaint village of Dulwich.   

Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street is not a museum per se, but the gorgeous over the top interior warrants a visit. The building was constructed in the 1920’s out of Portland stone is pure art deco and without doubt quite impressive. Below is a photo of the building. Call 020 7831 9811 to inquire about guided tours. You will need to book ahead of time. Another art deco gem is the HQ for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) at 66 Portland Place (a little ways up from the BBC and Langham Hotel). The building is open to the general public. They host architectural exhibitions and have a wonderful cafe where you can grab a quick bit to eat along with a more upscale restaurant in a marvelous deco setting overlooking Portland Place. For more information on the building and the cafe and restaurant including menus or contact information for reservations go to http://www.architecture.com/TheRIBA/RIBAVenues/Hospitality.aspx. If you are planning on visiting on Saturday be sure to check before going because sometimes the cafe and restaurant are closed on Saturdays for special events. I have eaten in the restaurant and found the food and service quite good. Not terribly expensive, two courses for 16.95 Pounds and three courses for 20.95 Pounds plus wine and coffee. Like I said the setting is wonderful as is the food and service so it’s worth it. What I do if I a somewhat fancy lunch I just simply have a lighter, inexpensive dinner and I find in the end it all balances out and fits into my budget. 

Leighton House Museum was the home and studio of the renowned Victorian painter and President of the Royal Academy, Lord Fredrick Leighton. Hidden behind the rather plain brick facade is one of the most beautiful rooms in London, the Arab Hall. Decorated with antique tiles from the Middle East, Leighton had collected on his travels along with tiles designed by one the leading artists of the Victorian area, William de Morgan. There interior is spectacular. A few years ago a scene from the the television adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, Cards on the Table with David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, was shot in the Arab Hall.

After visiting Leighton House you might want to wonder around Holland Park, which is nearby. When you exit the house, make a left on Holland Park Road. When you come to Melbury Road, make another left and then a right on Park Close, which will take you to Holland Park. In the summer, Opera and concerts are staged on the front terrace of Holland House. For more information go to Opera Holland Park. After exploring the park, walk east to Holland Walk and turn south. When the weather is fine (Spring, Summer or Fall) this is most agreeable stroll that will take you back to Kensington High Street.

If you have the time, when you come to Kensington High Street, make a left and continue  until you come The Roof Gardens (on the south side of Kensington High Street)- constructed in 1930’s (recently restored) on top of the old Derry & Toms Department store, now a Marks & Spencers. There are three gardens - Spanish Garden, Tudor Garden and English Woodland (yes, I kid you not, 6 stories above Kensington High Street). Complete with a stream, 70 full size trees and flamingoes. The view is spectacular. It’s hard to believe you are standing on top of a building. Be sure to phone ahead to find out if  the gardens are open. On occasion the gardens are closed for private events. The entrance is on Derry Street. After visiting The Roof Gardens, when exiting make a right on Derry Street and continue to walk until you come to Kensington Square, one of those delightful leafy squares London is known for. Developed in 1685, many famous and notable people have lived here over the years including William Thackeray and Edward Burnes-Jones.

As you walk back along Derry Street (on the right side) to Kensington High Street you will pass a real Art Deco gem with some beautiful carvings on the facade that was once Barkers Department store, now a Wholefoods market. Across the street from Wholefoods on the north side of Kensignton High Street you will see the majestic spire of  St. Mary Abbots - the parish church of Kensington, on the corner of Church Street and Kensington High Street. The present building dates from 1872, designed by George Gilbert Scott, the man who was responsible for Midland Grand Hotel (St. Pancras). One of the loveliest neo-Gothic churches in London with some striking stained glass windows. Also of interest is the church’s Guild Bell Ringers, who perform on Sundays. For more information click on the link. If you are feeling a little peckish, Patisserie Valerie 27 Kensington Church Street is right up the street. When you exit the church make a left and walk along Vicarage Street until you come to Kensignton Church Street.  

A few streets off Kensington High Street (north side), on the way to The Roof Gardens from Leighton House, past Earl’s Court Road and between Phillmore and Argyll Road on Stafford Terrace is the Linley Sambourne House - built in the 1870’s for Edward Linley Sambourner, a Victorian cartoonist who worked for Punch magazine. The house and  furnishing have been preserved, probably the best and perhaps only intact interior of an upper middle class Victorian household. On the weekend the guided tours (usually last about 1 1/2 hours) are conducted by an actor in Victorian costume. Tours must be booked in advance. You will find contact information on their web site. You might recognize the house from the film, A Room With a View, it was Daniel Day-Lewis’s home.  

Not far from St. Mary Abbots is The Orangery Restaurant at Kensington Palace, the perfect place to stop for afternoon tea after exploring the sights in Kensington. I am not sure you can see all the sights I have mnetioned in a day, but I  highly recommend seeing them at some point.

The National Portrait Gallery has recently undergone a major renovation and now boasts a restaurant on the top floor with a fabulous view of London.

The Wallace Collection (Hertford House) has a first-rate collection of paintings (the Canalettos and paintings of Venice by Francesco Guardi are my personal favorites), decorative items and 18th century French furniture. There is also a fine collection of armor and ancient weapons, which will interest children while parents can appreciate the paintings, furntiure and so fourth. Usually I like to spend the morning exploring the museum, afterwards have lunch in the museum’s cafe Bagatelle in the Sculpture Garden.

The Sir John Soane Museum (below is a photo of the outside of the building) is a unique and fascinating house museum. Admission is free except for the Saturday morning guided tour, which costs 5 Pounds and definitely worth considering because the large library of architectural books, drawings and models is included in the tour. Normally this room is not open to the general public except during these special guided tours. For more information visit the museum’s web site. One time home and office of the talented Neoclassical architect Sir John Soane, who in the 1830’s obtained an Act of Parliament to ensure his museum survived after his death for future generations of art enthusiasts and professional architects alike to use and enjoy. One of the  stipulations was nothing was to be altered after his death. What you see today, the collection of antiquities (including an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus), paintings (Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress series) and decorative objects along with the furniture, is the result of a lifetime of collecting. The collection provides a glimpse into the mind of 19th century architect and collector. The building alone is worth a visit. Soane incorporated skylights, colored glass and mirrors into the design of the house(s) to maximize the amount of natural light, create a warm atmosphere and to make rooms appear larger. He was a genius when it came to manipulating space and the perception of spaces. Originally he started off owning number 12 Lincoln’s Inns Field, eventually he acquired number 13 and 14 Lincoln’s Inns Fields as well. Over the years Soane remodeled and rebuilt the houses to house his growing collection. One of my favorite parts of the museum is the suite of rooms: the Monk’s Parlor, Monk’s cell and the ruined Gothic monastery located in basement. Soane even invented a fictional monk called Padre Giovanni who occupied the rooms. Perhaps this is where Dennis Severs got his idea for the fictional Jervis family. The first Tuesday of each month the museum is open between 6:00pm - 9:00pm and aglow with candles creating a magically ambiance. I still have a vivid memory of my evening visit. It was a dark and raining night (I am not joking) late September, which made made my visit even more special because it created the perfect mood for candlelight and I believe the foul weather kept a lot of people away because I did not have to wait in a long line. It is also a good idea to go at least once in the daytime, so you can have a really good look around and are able to  see individual pieces in the collection. You can log onto the museum’s web site and download a audio tour for use on your iPod or MP3 player. Stephen Fry does the introduction on the Classical Tour (there are two tours) and the museum’s director Tim Knox conducts the tour through this fascinating building and eclectic collection. There is also a guidebook available in the bookshop that goes into more detail about the collection. From time to time the museum hosts temporary exhibitions. If you enjoyed your visit to the museum you might want to check out Sir John’s country villa Pitshanger Manor in Ealing, West London. For more information including hours of operation and directions click here.

The William Morris Gallery explores the prolific career of William Morris, the champion of the Arts and Craft Movement. A true Victorian renaissance man this collection pays homage to one of the most gifted artists from the Victorian era. In 2003 The National Trust purchased Red House in Bexleyheath (southeast of London). Philip Webb designed the house for his good friend William Morris in 1859.  The house is open to the public from March through December. For information including hours of operation and booking information click here. For more information on William Morris visit the William Morris Society’s web site.

Of course there are many more fascinating museums in London. I have only just scratched the service by selecting a few of my person favorites. An excellent guide that specifically focuses on museums in London is the Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.

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Entertainment

Tickets for Madame Tussauds (a popular attraction) can be purchased online. Select a date and time from a calendar that shows what’s available and you are guaranteed admission up to 30 minutes from the  selected time. Saves time waiting in the general admission line, which can be quite long.

The Society of London Theatre web site has has an up-to-date information on current productions along with other interesting theater related information, including a map of all the theaters in central London at . I find it helpful to have an overview of all the theaters in relation to other attractions, especially  when deciding on what restaurant to go to before or after seeing a production. The site also features an Interactive map of London. They also publish an electronic newsletter to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane offers backstage tours conducted by real actors. Through dramatic reenactments you learn about the history of the theatre. A fun way to spend an hour. The actors put a lot into it, so you will not be bored. I had a great time. For more information click on the link.

A non-for profit organization that sells discounted tickets is TKTS located in Leicester Square (Clock tower Building). The tickets are sold on a first come, first served basis and only on the day of the performance. I prefer to buy tickets in advance because I stand a better chance of sitting where I want to sit and also to ensure I get a ticket, especially for shows that are popular. I am only in London for a limited time. If money is an issue, I prefer to see less rather than take a chance on not seeing a production that I had my heart set on seeing. If you get to London and see something you would like to see, it is definitely worth it to see if you can get a discounted ticket. As they say, a penny saved is a penny earned. 

The following are a few of the venues for concerts and plays in London. I have included a link to their respective web sites where you can find out what’s playing or purchase tickets online (if this option is available):

Donmar Warehouse Theatre is considered off-West End theatre, so they tend to stage more adventurous and/or experimental productions that you normally don’t find in the mainstream West End. The original theater is located in a converted warehouse off of Seven Dials near Covent Garden. In recent years they have mounted productions in other theaters throughout the West End. Personally, this one of my favorite production companies. I have yet to see a production that I did not like or at the very least found interesting.  

The English National Opera performs operas in English.

The Globe Theatre (a replica of the original) performs not only works by William Shakespeare, but usually includes one or two plays by other playwrights during the season (usually from April - October). The center area called the “pit” is open to sky, which is why probably why they do not have performances in the winter.

One of the world’s best orchestras, the London Symphony performs at the Barbican, a multipurpose performing arts center.

National Film Theatre is located in South Bank and shows retrospectives from time to time along with a mix of new and classic films from around the world.

The Royal Court Theatre in Chelsea originally opened in 1871 with Gilbert’s (as in Gilbert & Sullivan) Randall’s Thumb. Since 1956 (renovated in 2000) it is the home of the English Stage Company. Not only do they showcase up and coming playwrights from the UK, but playwrights from all over the world as well. They are not afraid of putting on new plays, which can make for some interesting and quite enjoyable productions.

The Royal National Theatre complex has three theaters: The Olivier, The Lyttleton and The Cottesloe.

The Royal Opera performs at the beautiful Royal Opera House Covent Garden (completed renovated a few years ago) along with the Royal  Ballet. Operas tend to be more expensive than ballets. I do think it is nice to see at least one production in this venerable opera house in one’s lifetime so if opera is out of your budget or just “not your cup of tea” perhaps a ballet. During intermission I just love to have a glass of champagne (yes it’s terribly expensive, but well worth it) and sashay around the Floral Hall. A truly magically evening.

Royal Shakespeare Company performs at a number of different venues around the city. No one does better Shakespeare than the Brits. I don’t know why, but I really prefer British actors over American actors. I just think the words sounds better when spoken by a Brit.

The Royal Albert Hall hosts everything from Brahm’s The Messiah to rock bands and of course the world famous “Proms”. I once attended a performance of The Messiah here on Good Friday and have never forgotten the performance.

Wigmore Hall one of the best concert halls in London for chamber music. The hall is intimate, elegant and the acoustics excellent. Perfect for recitals, quartets and so fourth.

St-Martins-in-the-Fields hosts free lunch time concerts. After spending the morning on your feet touring the nearby National Gallery of Art, it makes for a pleasant respite to sit down and listen to a performance in this lovely space. There are also concerts held in the evening as well.  

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Shopping

For the bibliophiles, John Sandoe Book Ltd in Chelsea is the quintessential London bookstore - warm, intimate, books scattered about the place with a friendly and knowledgeable staff. I found this gem while exploring Chelsea with the Time Out Book of London Walks Volume 2. The bookshop is mentioned in the walk, Behind the facade, by Sue Arnold. I would also like to add, I found a great fish n chips shop, Fryer’s Delight, in the same book while on another walk, Old Holborn, by Robert Elms. I found both walks fun and enjoyable. At the end of each walk there is an Eating & Drinking section. For rare and antiquarian books, prints and so on head to Cecil Court (a pedestrianized street between Charing Cross Road and St. Martin’s Lane, south of the Leicester Square tube station). It is filled with wonderful little shops. You feel like you have stepped back in time 100 years. One shop in particular that I like is Tindley and Chapman at number 41. They specialize in books on architecture and 20th century first editions. Another one of my favorite bookshops in Daunts on Marylebone High Street. The Edwardian interior is simply lovely. For travel related books there is Stanfords 12-14 Long Acre (near Convent Garden).

London and the umbrella go hand in hand. How can one think of the one without thinking of the other. The perfect place to go if you are in the market for an umbrella is James Smith & Sons, 53 New Oxford Street (just down the street from one of my favorite pubs, The Bloomsbury Tavern), here you will find an excellent assortment of umbrellas and impeccable service. I have been quite satisfied with the umbrella I purchased there. One thing to note, I had a rude awakening when I got to the airport to come home. I was flying out of Heathrow, going threw security and they told me umbrellas are no longer allowed on flights. Something about how they (umbrellas that is) can be used a lethal weapons. Needless to say I did not argue (I was tempted to say - in an exceedingly sarcastic tone - if it was okay to take my fountain pen on the plane since it had a sharp point, but I thought otherwise). I rushed back to the check-in counter and checked my umbrella and prayed it would not be damaged in transit since it was not packed in a cardboard box. Fortunately, the umbrella arrived back home in one piece without any being damaged. I understand the need for security, but I cannot understand how an 3 foot umbrella that does not even have a sharp point at the end could be used as a weapon. And it is a very light umbrella (part of why I bought it) so it’s not likely you could use it to bash someone over the head with. Anyway, my point is if you purchase an umbrella it might be wise to either have it shipped home or put it in your check-in luggage to protect it during the flight.

London is noted for the variety and numerous markets doted around the city. Portobello Road Market is probably the most well known market that sells everything you could possibly imagine. There is nothing more enjoyable to stroll around on lovely Saturday under blue skies with a cool breeze blowing. Even if I don’t buy anything, I enjoy just looking, listening and experiencing the energy and excitement. Another favorite market of mine and one that specializes in antiques and bric-à-brac is the Bermondsey Market in South London. Perhaps not as well known as Portobello Road Market, but just as interesting nonetheless. Open on Fridays from early in the morning (around 5 - 6 am) till early afternoon. One time I found a beautiful and unique set of tea spoons for a really great price. At the same time, a friend of mine picked up an assortment of exquisite tea cups. You can always find something nice at a reasonable price to bring home as a memento. I find markets in general fun, to browse and think about the history of the items for sale. And of course once you find something to haggle over the price. Remember the rule of thumb with markets - the earlier the better. Even though a part of me thinks this is futile because of the dealers who seem to get the best deals before anyone else. I usually take the tube to London Bridge, when leaving the station I use the south exit, making a left on St. Thomas Street. I walk until I reach Bermondsey Street and make a right on Bermondsey Street, which runs runs into Bermondsey Square where the market is held. It is about a 20 minute walk. You can also take the tube to Elephant & Castle then take the number 1 bus or the number 188 bus. The market is east of the tube station. I would also like to mention the Spitalfields Market, it’s hard to believe not so long ago this covered market from 1887 was threatened with demolition. Fortunately, it was saved and today you can spend a Sunday wondering around the different vendors and shops. For more information click on the link. Nearby is the Dennis Sever’s House, a wonderful house museum or to quote Mr. Severs “a theatrical experience”.

For those who are renting an apartment, and plan on doing some cooking Northcote Road is one of the best places to go for food. A little out of the way in Clapham, but well worth the trek. For more more information including directions click on the link above. A vanishing bred and one of the few streets left in London where the stores are still individually owned. Along this street you will find an excellent butcher, Dove and Son, a superb cheese shop, Hamish Johnston, a great wine shop, Philglas & Swiggot (I just love the name) along with other shops including a bakery and shops that sell nonfood items, so even if you are not planning on cooking and are not in the market for fresh meat or poultry (even though you can always pick up some cheese and wine for a picnic) you might find a nice gift to take home for yourself or for a friend. Nearby are Clapham Common and Wadsworth Common.  Another good place to go for food is The Borough Market, a foodie’s paradise, close to London Bridge and housed under Victorian iron arches. Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest days, Thursday tends to be less crowded. You can always pick up some teas, preserves or oils to bring home and they do hand out free samples to keep you going until lunch or afternoon tea.    

One other shop I would like mention and a rather fun shop at that is Davenports Magic Shop, Charing Cross Underground Arcade (off the Strand, across the street from Charing Cross Train Station). Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated with magic. I was pleasantly surprised one day when I was just walking around and stumbled upon this shop, which brought back fond memories from my childhood when trying to learn coin and card tricks, not very successfully I might add, but I had fun nonetheless.

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Afternoon Tea

“London and afternoon tea are synonymous. A trip to London would not be complete without treating oneself to at least one afternoon tea.”

Claridges is quintessential Art Deco and the perfect setting to indulge in one of the life’s true luxuries - afternoon tea. From the tea cups to the furniture to the decorative details of the hotel,  everything exudes the elegance of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The sandwiches were divine,  the pastries scrumptious and the tea heavenly. All of which you enjoy to the accompaniment of live music. Reservations are essential. The service is friendly, professional and impeccable. For a more cozy and archetypal English setting try the Red Room at The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair. They do a splendid afternoon tea. The sofas and chairs are deep, overstuffed and so comfortable you may never want to leave. The ambiance is relaxed, ideal for whiling away a hour or two sipping tea and munching on sandwiches and indulging in clotted cream and scones. The service is exceptional and friendly (very important) as are the tea, sandwiches, scones and pastries, which you select from a desert trolley. You have your pick of an excellent assortment of pastries and deserts. Brown’s Hotel is another excellent place to go for afternoon tea. I must confess I prefer the old Brown’s Hotel before the “extensive renovation and refurbishment” in 2004.  Now as we all know time marches on and all that, but I am always afraid when I see the words “extensive renovations”. I did a brief walk through on my last trip and sadly the Library Room with its fireplace and bookish atmosphere is no more and has been drastically altered. The fireplace is still there, but the bookish ambiance is gone. The eclectic mix of English furniture and chintz in the Drawing Room has been replaced with a more harmonious  mix of furniture. Don’t get me wrong the Drawing Room is still elegant and quite lovely, but the old “Drawing Room” was right out of a novel by Agatha Christie and for me that was one of the reasons why I liked having tea here. Of course, despite the changes I can still recommend Brown’s for afternoon tea. As with Claridges reservations are a  must. You can make reservations through the websites of the respective hotels.  

Sometimes after doing a little shopping at Liberty, I would stop in the Art Bar Cafe on the 2nd floor for some refreshment. Shopping always makes me hungry and depressed at the same time so I need sustenance after running about the place and consolation after spending money especially after factoring in the exchange  rate. The setting is pleasant, the food and tea quite good and the cost reasonable. Fortnum and Mason’s ( one of favorite places to go for jams, biscuits, tea and other delicious goodies) offers an elegant afternoon tea in the St. James Room. They now ship directly to the United States. So check their web site for your favorite tea. Recently, I have been enjoying their Royal blend in the morning with my breakfast.

Perhaps the most opulent setting in London to have afternoon tea is The Palm Court at The Ritz. And the dress code reinforces this as one of the most elegant and most expensive - if not “the” most elegant and “the” expensive places to go for afternoon tea in London. Formal dress is required in public areas, which means coats and ties for the gents - no sneakers or jeans. There are five sittings everyday and reservations (at least six weeks in advance - according to the website) are necessary. I must admit having afternoon tea at the Ritz is like having tea at Versailles. The place is simply gorgeous and over the top Louis XVI. In other words, definitely warrants at least one visit. For more information including the menu and to make reservations via the webiste click on the link. A calendar will pop up to let you see what dates and times are available and so on.   

Down from The Savoy on the Strand and right across from the Royal Courts of Justice is the delightful Twinings of London.  Along with a shop that sells teas (the Earl Grey is my favorite) and other tea paraphernalia there is a wonderful little museum on tea that is quite fascinating.

The Tea Council, a UK organization that publishes annually  the informative AA Guide Book to Britain’s Best Afternoon Tea, which can be purchase either directly from the website or from the online bookseller AmazonUK.

For a list of books on afternoon tea and tea in general click here. I would also like to mention two suppliers of tea in the United States, they are Upton Tea Imports and Harney & Sons

 

National Gallery of Art
Picadilly Circus