London Travel Guide: The Best Things to Do, See, Eat, and More
While London may be known today for new restaurants, trendy stores, and contemporary galleries, it's worth visiting some of the city's oldest and most traditional spots too. From a restaurant so authentic that it served as a film set for Downton Abbey to a hotel where Claude Monet painted his famous scenes of the Thames River and a bar with martinis so good that they inspired Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, these are some classic spots on London that you won't want to miss.
Where To Stay
It doesn't get more classic than the oldest luxury hotel in London. First opened in 1889, the building still retains much of its late 19th-century charm (the interior of one of the elevators still looks exactly as it did when it was first installed over a hundred years ago), and guests can stay in rooms decorated in either Edwardian or Art Deco styles. Claude Monet painted views of the Thames from his room at the Savoy, and Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway were also frequent guests at the hotel.
Where To Eat
Established in 1798, Rules is the oldest restaurant in London still in its original location. The menu is filled with traditional British fare, including game, roasts from the restaurant's own farm, pies, and puddings.
34 is a classic steakhouse in Mayfair, and although it hasn't been around for as long as some of the other restaurants on this list, it's quickly become a neighborhood staple.
Stepping into Simpsons is like stepping back in time—waiters still wheel around silver carts of roast beef and lamb—and Beef Wellington, Winston Churchill's meal of choice at the restaurant, still features prominently on the menu. Downtown Abbey was even filmed in the wood-paneled dining
The Wolseley only opened a decade ago, but it has quickly become a London staple. Inspired by European cafes, its menu is filled with British, French, and Austrian classics, along with salads and sandwiches perfect for a light lunch.
Where To Drink
The Beaufort Bar
THE BEAUFORT BAR
Hidden in the back of The Savoy, the Beaufort Bar is painted black with touches of gold. Each evening, musicians perform on the piano and the cocktail list includes drinks inspired by some of the hotel's most famous guests.
THE SHIP TAVERN
First founded in 1549 (though it only moved to its current location in the 1920's), the Ship Tavern is a classic wood-paneled pub located just a short walk from Covent Garden. Its upstairs dining room serves some great classics too.
Famous for its martinis, the bar takes the art of making one very seriously. A bartender brings a cart to your table, where he fills a frosted glass with the gin or vodka of your choice and tops the drink with a twist of lemon flown in from Italy.
If you can find a friend who is a member (this will be hard, because only 1,000 people have been granted access to this exclusive club), there isn't a better place in London to drink. The legendary club is genteel, quiet, and has counted the Queen Mother, David Cameron, and Victoria Beckham among its past visitors.
It doesn't get more classic than the Grenadier, which is located on a tiny street in Belgravia. Even though it is frequented by celebrities and members of the royal family, the interior doesn't look like it has changed in decades...or even centuries. Get a pint or a pie.
Where To Shop
JAMES SMITH & SON UMBRELLAS
James Smith & Son has been selling umbrellas since 1830. Its versions are
FORTNUM & MASON
The store gets its fair share of tourists but there is still no better place to stock up on British classics like tea, jam, and biscuits. If you have an especially large suitcase, don't forget to pick up one of their famous picnic baskets.
One of London's oldest estate jewelers, Hancock's sells a selection of vintage jewelry from the past few centuries by designers including Cartier, Paul Flato, and the legendary British jeweler Andrew Grima. Plus, its location in Burlington Arcade makes for more shopping very nearby.
Housed inside a Tudor-style building, this department store sells much more than its famous floral prints. Its floors are now filled with new pieces by contemporary designers, enduring classics, and interesting statement pieces.
It may be enormous and imposing compared to the quaint layout of Liberty London, but a trip to Selfridge's is still worth it to peruse the store's unparalleled selection of clothing and accessories.
What To Do
The Wallace Collection
THE NATIONAL GALLERY
The National Gallery houses some of the most important paintings in the history of art, including Jan Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding Portrait and Leonardo da Vinci's Virgin of the Rocks.
THE WALLACE COLLECTION
Housed in the former mansion of the Marquesses of Hertford, the Wallace Collection contains hundreds of important paintings, sculptures, and works of decorative art- including a huge collection of arms and armor.
THE SOANE MUSEUM
Tucked in a small square off of High Holborn, the Soane Museum was the former home of the architect Sir John Soane, who lead a circle of English artists and intellects at the beginning of the 19th century. His house is a labyrinth of small rooms filled with his collections of ancient antiquities and British art.
The former home of the Dukes of Wellington, Aspley house still contains the family's collections of fine and decorative arts, including gifts that the Duke of Wellington received after he won the Battle of Waterloo.
The church is quite touristy, but a trip over is worth it to see the tombs of the monarchs, including the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I. Don't miss the Lady Chapel, which is located in the back of the Abbey.
*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors