Consider this your ultimate weekend city guide to London, packed with recommendations on the best restaurants, hotels and places to visit.
Oh London, how we love you. This vibrant, beautiful, hectic melting pot has everything we could have ever wish for.
From romantic French restaurants, raucous bottomless brunches and tasty Italian restaurants to country walks, whimsical hidden reading spots and cosy pubs. When it comes to planning the best things to do in London, the list could go on forever.
Picking the best hotels in London is an overwhelming task too, thanks to how many gorgeous places there are to stay. On our list you can expect to see a mix of British institutions next to lesser known hipster hang outs, from The Charlotte Street Hotel which sits parallel to Oxford Street to the Henrietta Hotel, which is barely visible to those who wander past it every day.
Whether you live in London yourself or you’re visiting for the weekend, we’ve gathered our experiences and expertise to pick out the best places to go, stay, do, drink and eat. Just how we’d recommend our favourite local brunch spot or the fanciest bar around to a friend passing through, we’ve picked places in North, East, South and West that represent some of the city’s hidden gems.
So this city guide is like a love letter to the city we call home. From the polished mews of Chelsea to the gritty streets of Dalston, we love London and everything that makes it the vibrant, beautiful, hectic melting pot it is.
We hope our London weekend city break guide treats you well and you grow to love the city as much as we do, and pass on these recommendations to your friends - we don’t even mind if you pass them off as your own.
Best hotels in London
There are several reasons any discerning traveler should put staying at Soho House at the top of their list when staying in a new city (the brand has abodes in most European capitals). Sticklers for detail and purveyors of the ‘in’ aesthetic, the design team ensure every inch of every house is not only a joy to look at, but its surroundings are so overwhelmingly on-point you feel cooler by association.
Although the group has several locations around London, the newest (and therefore most essential to visit) is on Redchurch Street, seconds away from the first Shoreditch space.
Much smaller and more boutique than its East London sibling, Redchurch has a small but beautiful lobby, filled with velvet furnishings and amber lighting. With unique artwork hanging on the walls and several spots to slouch around in, it even makes for a pleasing place to have a cocktail before heading out for the evening.
Take a ride upstairs (in a padded, periwinkle blue velvet-lined lift no less) and you’ll find that the bedrooms have special touches like tonal decor, fabric wall panels, vintage style lamps and of course, a signature Soho house bathroom filled with all the Cowshed products a girl could wish for.
Redchurch Townhouse is solely a hotel, so you won’t find any members-only lounge spaces but there is a must-visit public restaurant downstairs, Cecconi’s, which serves up authentic Italian cuisine and killer cocktails.
The Joy of Plants X Leman Locke
Self-described as a “hipster aparthotel” in east London (of course), Leman Locke is a minimalist dream full of simple cotton and wooden materials in Instagram-able blush pink and grey tones. But it’s the arrival of the hotel’s collaboration with thejoyofplants.co.uk that’s really got the Stylist team interested.
For the partnership, three of the hotel’s suites have been transformed into indoor jungles, overrun with plants and trees, to simulate different moods. It’s based on “biophilic design” – the idea that humans are intrinsically attracted to and influenced by nature, and aims to offer an immersive forest bathing experience.
One room is the romantce suite, features a botanical canopy over the bed, sounds and visuals of the natural botanical world that “excite the senses” and an exclusive love-boosting cocktail. The productivity suite is perfect for weary travellers, filled with Boston ferns, peace lilies and snake plants to remove toxins and energise guests. The suite also features ‘soundwave therapy’ designed to sharpen focus and stimulate creativity, and in place of a standard hotel mini bar you’ll find a plant-based fuel station, including a CBD oil shot. The third suite is for Tranquillity, full of tropical plants that create an oasis of calm. The room is finished off with a dedicated plant meditation space and a clean sleep zone.
The collaboration is only ope until 10 November, so you’ll have to act fast if you want to experience this luxury forest bathing.
The latest London offering from Experimental Group (the très chic gang behind the Experimental Cocktail Club and some of Paris’s hippest hangouts), the Henrietta Hotel is essentially why Instagram was made.
In a tiny townhouse on Covent Garden’s Henrietta street, this boutique hotel has just 18 rooms and a laid-back attitude. You can choose between a ‘grand’ or ‘room’, but either way your new abode’s colour palette will revolve around a pastel spectrum.
Our favourite is the Henrietta, with dark navy walls that look delicious against a pink velvet sofa that sits nonchalantly in the corner of the room, everything in this room feels statement - especially the huge Art Deco headboard. The real show stopper though? Well, it has to be the millennial pink bathroom which comes complete with gold foil adorned doorway and white fluffy robes annotated with the hotel’s cute logo.
The hotel also has a bistro, which you’ll find just downstairs. Perfect for an evening bite to eat, this venue is all about the ambiance, with an amber glow emitting from every table and jazzy tunes tinkling softly in the background.
The Charlotte Street Hotel
The iconic pastel green facade and matching old fashioned lampposts are enough reason to visit this central London spot. After 19 years on Fitzrovia’s Charlotte Street, The Charlotte Street Hotel has become somewhat of an institution. Nestled between Oxford Street and Goodge Street, it’s super central (and accessible for celebrities) while also being out of sight.
Once inside, the hotel’s style feels more avant-garde than its exterior. You’ll find an eclectic mix of art works accompanied by unusual sculptures in the lobby, while the bedrooms are a mish-mash of vivid colours and patterns.
The overall look is one that feels unique, curated and utterly boutique with a nod to the worlds of art and textiles. A standout feature in one of the Deluxe Junior Suites for example, is a giant, scalloped headboard printed with exuberant flowers, complimented by the beautiful, fabric crafted walls.
As you would expect from a luxury five star hotel the bathrooms are gorgeous, with most have walk in showers and monochrome granite walls, floors and baths. TVs are also generous in size and viewing options - the only mod con you’re missing is a tea and coffee station so call up for some hot water and teabags if you’re feeling like you can’t go without.
We couldn’t quite have this list without a hotel that’s caused a pretty big stir among Londoners in the last few years.
Unlike anything the City has seen before, The Ned opened its doors in 2016 like a adult playground with a monstrous mix of nine restaurants, two bars, a private members area, rooftop, pool, spa, hammam and hotel rooms.
Housed in the only building we could imagine carrying off an operation like this, the grade II listed former bank is utterly majestic, with green marble pillars and statement check flooring greeting you as you walk in, a re-purposed vault and a central bandstand hoisted above the crowds to host live entertainment.
And upstairs the bedrooms have been created with the same magic. The vibe feels slightly gentleman’s boudoir-come-1920s dressing room, with lush touches and vintage influences, but with all the modern luxuries you could want of course. Room sizes vary from a simple Crash Pad to a selection of overtly decadent suites, some of which come with four poster beds, a terrace or even a kitchen and living space.
Staying at the hotel also gives you temporary access to The Ned’s members only spaces, like the rooftop restaurant and pool and the underground cocktail bar in a vault, which are well worth a visit too.
Ace Hotel Shoreditch
Ace Hotel Shoreditch is like Mecca for hipsters. Downstairs in the lobby you’ll find a cool-as-they-come lounge area and bar, with comfy sofas where the trendiest kids in east London drape themselves. Between the photo booth, expert mixologists and monochrome cafe, this place is like Instagram heaven. And don’t even get us started on the forest of plants at the entrance (a definite photo opportunity).
Upstairs, though, is a peaceful escape from the fun downstairs which is known to go on until the early hours at a weekend. The paired-back rooms have a masculine feel using only neutral colours and zero frills. The bathroom, with its white floor-to-ceiling tiling, is the epitome of utility-chic and comes complete with Rudy’s hair and body products, which we love. While the minibar is very well stocked.
If pomp and fuss aren’t your thing, this is the place to be and who can argue with such a killer location?
Best restaurants in London
Oh, to be the kind of person who eats at Morito on the regular. The Hackney Road restaurant is the definition of coolest kid on the block. Think almost New York in design and style, but pared back enough to look at home in Hackney.
The staff manage to balance their hipster aesthetic with charming people skills, making them particularly efficient at their jobs. And this, along with a mouth-watering menu, makes ordering all too easy.
We advise starting with a cocktail. Negroni fans get stuck into the baharat negroni (gin, Campari, la copa vermouth rosso, Baharat) and white negroni (la copa bianco, suze, gin, cardamom). Or, if martinis are your thing, then the PX espresso martini with pedro ximenez sherry has a real kick, as does the spicy quindilla martini.
We also recommend ordering a mix of dishes to share, but make sure you include the charcoal grilled lamb chops, fried aubergines with date molasses and feta and the patatas bravas. If you have a sweet tooth you can’t miss out on the chocolate and olive oil mouse with hazelnuts and crispy filo and fresh strawberries with custard. Yum.
From the moment you sit down, it’s clear that Jikoni, the pink-hued Asian slash Middle Eastern slash African neighbourhood restaurant in Mayfair, is an independent. From the carefully selected table wear in an array of pastels, to the unique art on the walls, to the handmade chocolates ready to picked up on your way out, this place is all about the little touches.
It’s also, though, all about the way each and every dish on the menu feels like it took a lifetime to create. Take the roasted scallop for example, with avocado, yuzu and crisp seaweed, which is the softest thing you’ll ever bite into and is served on a mermaid-esque shell.
Or the ridiculously succulent chicken skewers, smothered in peanut sauce. These kinds of dishes will keep you coming back and back, especially the dessert menu, which features a banana come sticky toffee pudding cake with malted ice cream (that has the consistency of clotted cream).
With a gorgeous ambiance, lust-worthy interiors and one of the best menus in London, you’d think Jikoni couldn’t get any better – but wait for it, it’s also founded and owned by a woman. Hurrah!
Born in Kenya and to Indian parents, Ravinder Bhogal is not only delightful and clearly a pro at running a restaurant, but an award-winning food writer, presenter and cook. Jikoni may be her first restaurant, but we doubt it will be her last.
Foodies, take note: this Henrietta Street eatery is rather a big deal for those who consider themselves in the know about gourmet grub. Stylishly slick, you’ll find that everything at this Henrietta Street haunt has been designed with consideration, from what’s on your plate to what adorns the walls.
Pale grey tonal walls and plenty of lighting elongate the restaurant, while block colours and structured lines create a sophisticated feel. Hero furniture pieces like blush pink velvet chairs and monochrome tiled flooring had us hooked as soon as we walked in the door, cementing Frenchie as one of the coolest restaurants in Covent Garden, and beyond.
If you’re not familiar with the story behind the restaurant’s name, the owner Greg Marchand who originally hails from Brittany in France, worked with Jamie Oliver at his restaurant Fifteen, where the naked chef gave his protégé the nickname Frenchie. And it’s stuck ever since.
Marchand is known back in France for a string of Parisian venues and well regarded for his experimental, quality menus. Thankfully, his Covent Garden venture is no different. The five course taster menu includes mouth-watering dishes like duck foie gras cranberries, mulled wine and ginger bread and Cornbury Park venison, quince and smoked celery root.
Bob Bob Ricard
Anyone who’s anyone has been to Bob Bob Ricard, the infamous soho restaurant with “press for champagne” buttons at every table.
If you haven’t seen them on social media you’ll have heard of them via urban bar legend, and we’re sure, have been dying to try them out ever since.
Unless you’re Mariah Carey (or at least live like we imagine she does), this is a special occasion kinda place. The service is impeccable, your coat taken at the door and as previously mentioned, a member of the wait staff with you at the simple press of a button.
The menu is all about decadence, which follows suit from the gold drenched surroundings. We’re talking rich pork belly, lobster mac and cheese, truffle french fries and caviar. Oh, and vodka shots served at a precise minus 18 degrees.
Obviously having a glass of champagne is a must, there are four different kinds on the menu and we recommend asking your waiter which works best with your meal.
Stepping inside this restaurant-slash-bar-slash-tea-parlour is like falling down the rabbit hole. Push aside a thick velvet curtain and you’ll see the outline of a hopscotch on the floor (feel free to practise your playground skills), neon signs interspersed with avant-garde artworks on the walls and utterly over-the-top décor and furniture. And this is nothing compared to the completely millennial pink room where a unique afternoon tea is served.
Whether you’re stopping by for a casual drink with friends in the upstairs Parlour, wish to enjoy lunch is the foliage-covered Glade Room or simply want to try out the much talked about egg toilets, Sketch is a sight to behold and always bubbling with atmosphere.
With all the divine rustic-ness of a Parisian wooden-floored apartment and the whimsy of a Normandy chateau, Blanchette East is the cool girl’s choice of French restaurant.
From the stylishly distressed wallpaper, almost peeling from the walls, to the suspended plants (and not forgetting the luscious nude mural that takes center stage behind the marble bar), the restaurant’s aesthetic is to die for.
It is the second restaurant from brothers Maxime, Malik and Yannis Alary, who have named their venture after their mum (which we love) and say that their style is inspired by the Parisian Belle Époque era combined with the distinctive urban feel of Shoreditch. The menu reflects their heritage, with Southern French and North African influences in a mix of sharing plates that includes dishes like moules marinière with smoked bacon and white wine cream.
The restaurant has also recently revamped its brunch menu, so, if a daytime date is on the agenda, try the light, fluffy buttermilk pancakes or two cacklebean free range eggs on toasted sourdough. It will go down a treat.
Best brunch spots in London
Tucked away down Bermondsey Street in South East London, among the charming hotchpotch of boutiques and delis, lies Village East – a New York style brassiere.
With cool industrial furnishings and a brimming brunch menu, it’s the perfect place to stop for waffles (they’re malted) after a visit to the nearby White Cube gallery. Discuss your cultural musings over one of their delicious cocktails or a coffee, and soak up the pleasantly bustling atmosphere, as the lovely staff give you their best recommendations.
Bourne and Hollingsworth
Between the House of Hackney furniture, suspended succulents and plant-covered conservatory, it’s hard to find a prettier place to enjoy brunch.
If your taste buds are craving something savoury we recommend nibbling on the courgette fritters or English breakfast, but make sure you finish on the pancakes studded with hazelnuts and caramelised bananas.
Zobler’s is an authentic New York style eatery inspired by the Big Apple. As well as the gorgeous interiors which feature a mix of deep crimson leather seats and vintage lamps, there’s a carefully curated menu that’s full of delicious comfort food, so good you’ll be struggling to narrow down your choice.
Of course, many of the ingredients reference the New York theme, so you’ll find plenty of bagels (for which Zobler’s is famous for, so definitely worth trying), a pastrami latkes benny, and an all out hot dog, known as the 37 Essex Street.
German Gymnaisum has been dubbed the most beautiful restaurant in the world, and it’s easy to see why. The original features of this Grade 2 listed building are beautifully enhanced, with an arced double ceiling and statement black and gold twin staircases that cascade through the centre of the restaurant. There’s even a set of millennial pink leather chairs.
And as the name suggests, the food offers a German twist, with bratwurst sausages and sauerkraut affording their own section on the menu.
Pick two courses from the experimental weekend brunch offering for £28, and add another £15 for unlimited bubbles over two hours.
Take your brunch to an iconic level and head to grand restaurant, The Wolseley. Among the dramatic pillars and monochrome flooring, the attentive staff serve up some delicious pancakes and brunch classics every morning until 11.30am.
This is the ideal spot to experience some of London’s most famed haunts, being just down the road from The Ritz and Buckingham Palace.
Best things to do in London
Hire a rowing boat in Hyde Park
There’s nothing like being out of the Serpentine on a sunny day, basking in the rays and feeling as close to nature as you feasibly can in London.
From April until October, those who have got their sea legs sorted can hire either a rowing boat or a pedal boat to go out on the water and reenact The Notebook, no Ryan Gosling required (we reckon your best friend is more than up to the job).
Choose between an hour (£10) or half an hour (£12) and take a bottle of something fizzy out there with you to keep you entertained.
Columbia Road Flower Market
Every Sunday morning, Columbia Road’s flower market sees rows and rows of colourful stalls appear, each with a bundle of blooms to choose from. Work your way down the street and shop to your heart’s content. Fair warning, though: it can get very busy here, so we suggest going either early in the morning (it’s open from the wee hours) or around 2pm when the bargains come out.
Even without the flower market, this little road is ridiculously cute, lined with tiny boutiques selling everything from antiques and handmade rugs to quirky footwear and art prints.
If you get peckish swing into Lilly Vanilli’s bakery which sells cakes and sweet treats that look almost too good to eat, or if you’re in the mood for a drink we recommend cosy pub The Royal Oak.
For a real Londoner’s day out, we have the perfect route for you, and it involves taking stock of the glorious sights from Primrose Hill.
Starting at Regent’s Park tube station, walk through the park using the central pathway (although we would recommend a diversion to the rose gardens if you are so inclined) and enjoy one of the city’s most beautiful green spaces. You should notice a Benugo cafe half way through your walk, so grab a hot drink to amble along with.
By the time you reach the zoo you’ll be at the edge of the park, and from there cross the road and enter the park opposite which surrounds the infamous Primrose Hill. Pack some snacks beforehand and climb to the top of the hill, with no peaking at the view until you reach the summit.
Once you’ve had your fill of the skyline, make your way down the left hand side of the hill and walk along Regent’s Park Road, a delightful street littered with pastel houses, cafes and boutiques. Stop by Greenberry or Odette’s for lunch and be sure to check out the florist, The Fitzroy’s Flower Collection.
A short walk from St Paul’s Cathedral, nestled among the somewhat soulless patch of London that lies in the shadow of Bank, is a leafy dream hoisted high into the sky.
The Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden and sits on the 35th level of the famous enlarged glass dome of 20 Fenchurch Street, where it boasts 360’ views of the city’s skyline. Laid out across three levels, it’s free for visitors to look around the main garden: all you have to do is book a time slot online in advance (way, way, waaaay in advance though, as it gets booked up very quickly), and you will be given an hour to walk around and take some snaps.
Not only is the contrast of a tropical garden and an all glass surrounding mesmerising, it makes for a very cool place to take some me-time and read a book, sketch or simply look out at the view.
If you want to take your experience to the next level, though, you can book into either the Darwin Brasserie restaurant which serves up some rather high class nosh in a really beautiful surrounding, at the highest point of the garden with the best view. There’s also two bars scattered on the different levels, where you can park yourself up for a drink.
Any trip to London should see you attempt to visit as many of the city’s culture spots as possible, which names like the V&A, British Museum and Natural History Museum riding very high on the must-see list. But if you’re looking for somewhere that’s slightly off the beaten tourist track, the Barbican’s brutalist architecture and intriguing home within a warren of inner city housing makes for a fascinating and enlightening day out.
Although it’s described as a performing arts centre (and the biggest of its kind in Europe at that) the Barbican is actually a medley of cinema, exhibition space, library, restaurant, shop, conservatory and host of theater performances.
Book onto a high profile exhibition, see a big new release or indie flick and definitely visit the glass-roofed, leafy sanctuary which features tropical plants and trees, birdlife and exotic fish. It’s only open on select Sundays so check before you go, but the cacti room has got your next profile picture written all over it.
Images: Benjamin Davies / Instgaram / Venues