London at Park Lane
We asked George Murray, Concierge Manager at Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane, to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions he could find—not just his own, but also those of local connoisseurs, including some he works with every day at the Hotel. With its bustling nightlife, rich cultural offerings and upscale shopping districts, London is a vibrant, global destination.
London is full of incomparable museums and galleries. Spanning 2 million years of human history, the collection at The British Museum is composed of cultural artefacts and antiquities from all over the world, including the historic Rosetta Stone. Home to 11,000 portraits, the National Portrait Gallery holds the most extensive portrait collection in the world. The creativity of more than 3,000 years comes to life in diverse, interactive displays and exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where the best of art and design are showcased. For insight into London life throughout the ages, the Museum of London, which overlooks the remains of the Roman city wall, is a must.
London is famous for its green spaces and parks. The lovely landscaped Kensington Gardens are perfect for a quiet stroll, a picnic or a Frisbee toss, as is Hyde Park, with its sprawling meadows and the Serpentine lake. While in Hyde Park, head to Primrose Hill to take in some of the best views of the city. Visitors can also explore London by boat courtesy of City Cruises; on this hop-on, hop-off Thames river trip, you can choose where to stop and explore some of London’s most famous sites, from the Tower of London to the quaint streets of Greenwich. Or book a tour of London’s major attractions with an expert and entertaining Blue Badge guide, who can provide private tours tailored to your special interests.
The Views From the Top
The London Eye, London’s giant Ferris wheel, offers one of the best—and most leisurely—views of the city as it travels to a height of 135 metres (443 feet) during its 30-minute “flight.” The Emirates Air Line is the U.K.’s first urban aerial tramway, carrying up to 2,500 passengers an hour across the Thames at heights reaching 90 metres (300 feet). Built to connect Greenwich with London’s Royal Docks across the river, the cable car offers dramatic views of the O2 Arena, the Thames Barrier, Canary Wharf and other East London sights throughout the four- to five-minute trip. While The View from The Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe, offers extensive vistas well beyond central London, some of the most iconic views can be enjoyed free from Waterloo Bridge. From here, you can see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Gherkin, Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers and the South Bank’s Royal Festival Hall and London Eye.
London’s status as an international fashion capital makes it a shopper’s paradise. Look to Bond Street for well-established international and British luxury brands, including Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Chanel. Nearby Dover Street is not only home to Dover Street Market, a multilevel fashion store created by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, but also to several cutting-edge brands such as Acne, Mcq by Alexander McQueen and Christian Louboutin’s men’s shop. For one-of-a-kind accessories steeped in British tradition, visit Asprey. The luxury brand dates back to 1781 and offers a range of gifts, jewellery, watches, leather goods and fine silver.
Thomas Goode, located on South Audley Street, has been turning out custom-made china and objets d’art for royals and heads of state since 1827. Its china museum, one of London’s best-kept secrets, is worth a detour. In luxury-laced Mayfair, buy fine art on Cork Street and exquisite leather goods and diamond jewellery on Conduit and Albemarle streets, or shop trendy, up-and-coming designers in one of several Browns boutiques on South Molton Street. Department stores like Liberty, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and, of course, Harrods offer one-stop luxury shopping, while Savile Row’s legendary tailors make the greatest bespoke menswear in the world.
Tea With the Bard
What could be more British than afternoon tea? How about tea with Shakespeare? The Tea and Tour package at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in Bankside includes a tour of this authentic reconstruction of Shakespeare’s theatre while expert storytellers bring the space to life. An adjacent exhibition illuminates the theatre’s reconstruction process and the world of Shakespeare with interactive displays showcasing period dress and customs. The tour concludes with a traditional afternoon tea at the elegant Swan Bar and Chophouse, where sandwiches, cakes, and scones with jam and cream are accompanied by endless amounts of lovely tea and views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the River Thames.
Dine Out London
In Mayfair, one of the city’s top dining districts, haute cuisine reigns supreme. Le Gavroche and Hibiscus feature extensive fine dining menus. Despite its Russian name, the recently opened Novikov Restaurant and Bar serves Asian and Italian cuisine. At Pollen Street Social, you can try adventurous tapas at the bar, enjoy a perfectly aged steak or tuck into world-class cuisine, all under the same roof. London’s ethnic eateries are also multi-award winners. Kai Mayfair serves Michelin-starred Chinese food, and at The Cinnamon Club in Westminster, chef Vivek Singh creates unusual, deconstructed Indian food. A hidden gem amid London’s vast dining scene is Princess Victoria, a former-gin-palace-turned-gastropub that serves classic British favourites in a comfortable and lively atmosphere. Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane is home to Amaranto Restaurant, where Executive Chef Adriano Cavagnini prepares authentic Italian cuisine updated with flavours and ingredients from around the world. The restaurant’s wine list includes more than 250 fine wines to please any palate.
The city’s vibrant energy thrives long after the sun goes down. While you are a Hotel guest, enjoy Rose, a multilevel late-night venue offering music, dancing and city views from its rooftop bar. Or grab a nightcap at Milk and Honey, a speakeasy-inspired spot that specializes in jazz music and perfectly poured cocktails. Make sure to ask the Concierge staff to make arrangements for you at these private membership clubs.
Countless theatre productions provide night-time entertainment in the West End and at the National Theatre on the South Bank. Summer visitors can sample an eclectic range of classical music performed for the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, one of the most atmospheric concert halls in the country. For an alternative evening of entertainment, dip into the spookier side of London with a haunted walking tour. These spine-chilling walks will take you deep into the city’s ghostliest corners.
The Hyde Park Awakening treatment at the Hotel’s Spa is a head-to-toe escape from stress. Developed by The Organic Pharmacy, the treatment begins with an aromatherapy foot soak. Organic bamboo and calendula scrub away toxins during a full-body exfoliation treatment, while a deep back and neck massage eases tension. Afterwards, spend some quiet time relaxing while you enjoy sweeping city views from the Hotel’s rooftop lounge.
To experience London like a local, bike or walk the city’s canals. Hundreds of miles of scenic canal paths offer recreational cyclists or strolling pedestrians a unique view of the city. Start at the serene and beautiful Regent’s Park and complete your journey in the bustle of the Camden Lock. If you’d prefer to stay closer to the West End, stroll through Green Park to St James’s Park for one of the best views of Buckingham Palace; then, like a true Londoner, settle into one of the striped canvas deck chairs set out in the park. Available for a small fee, a relaxing moment in these chairs is ideal for a bit of people-watching. Next, experience an authentic English breakfast at The Wolseley, located in a former car showroom and bank building on Piccadilly. Or try an Omelette Arnold Bennett with smoked haddock at The Fountain Restaurant in Fortnum and Mason. Don’t leave without visiting the store’s food halls, where you can buy honey harvested from hives on their own central London roof.