London's iconic sights span across the city map — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
It's no secret that London offers dazzling sights at any time of year–the refined and revered constantly rubbing up against the cutting-edge and boundary-nudging. Yet how does one please all the senses in this fast-paced, awe-inspiring town?
London's Chinatown brings brilliant bursts of color to its streets — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
Like any travel destination, it doesn't take long to get immersed in London's swirling tapestry - to adapt to the city's lilting cadences and to march along with its unique rhythms. We've gathered a list (just a jumping-off point, really) of ways this wondrous city might be seen, heard, tasted, smelled and felt - ensuring that you truly savor this town in all its enticing glory.
London's architecture expertly juxtaposes the new against the old — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
"Sight" seems an easy one to tackle, thanks to London's bounty of grand, must-see destinations like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, juxtaposed against an increasing number of contemporary wonders like the Gherkin, Shard and London Eye.
Two suited businessmen overheard chatting it up on their morning commute perfectly summed up the abundance of cranes and new builds throughout the city: "London just doesn't stop reinventing itself, does it?"
Savor the arts-centric vibe in this creative hub — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
While new architecture continues to rise within the city's ever-evolving skyline, some consistencies remain - roofs lined with charming, old-fashioned chimney stacks, corners dotted with distinctive "Underground" signs, and streets peppered with iconic fire engine red: double-decker buses and those antiquated telephone booths.
Double-decker buses prove a great (and colorful!) way to get around town — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
To take in some of the city's traditional and off-the-beaten-path sights, consider saving time and money by investing in a London Pass, a one-, two-, three- or six- day ticket to 60+ top attractions, ranging from Westminster Abbey and the ZSL Zoo to the Tower of London and Wimbledon (a much-recommended stop on your tour).
The passes grant priority access straight to the front of the queue, and come with a free guidebook which includes additional deals. If you're staying in London any length of time, this bundle means big savings.
Touring Wimbledon proves a hidden London-area highlight — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
If you're seeking central accommodations - or simply a stunning, hip venue in which to dine - we suggest you chug on over to a dazzling urban refuge, the Great Northern Hotel, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel.
Built in 1854 by Lewis Cubitt, who also designed King’s Cross station, this ornate Victorian landmark retains its original grandeur while having been exquisitely refreshed in modern, whimsical and still sophisticated ways.
The upscale yet approachable boutique hotel, which celebrates the glamour of railway travel's heyday, is directly next to King's Cross station and opposite St. Pancras International's Eurostar terminal. Since it sits on top of seven Tube lines and just 25 meters from a Eurostar hub affords guests easy access to destinations like Paris, Brussels and even the French Alps.
Other nearby attractions include the British Library, British Museum and a lovely public square that becomes an outdoor theater during warmer months (for viewing Wimbledon on massive screens, for example).
Great Northern Hotel sits at the hub of exciting London action — Photo courtesy of Andy Stagg/Great Northern Hotel
The Great Northern finds its home in a curved, brick building (its shape a tribute to the Thames River) with high ceilings and sweeping corridors.
Three different types of rooms (of 91 total) exist on five upper floors, all contemporary in style, efficient in layout and meticulously soundproofed with heavy-duty window panes that block out the city buzz below.
Clever designs range from more spacious options with claw-foot bathtubs to the creatively cozy, compact "couchettes."
All rooms feature a light, crisp palette, exposure to natural light, thoughtful amenities (like HD TVs and in-room espresso machines), playful surprises, plus bespoke design touches like bedside tables that resemble a woman's vanity from the 1950s.
The best news of all? Each floor has a communal pantry (open 24/7) filled with complimentary cakes, teas, coffee, newspapers and books.
While on the property, be sure to pop into the Snug Bar or the buzzing GNH Bar, where highlights range from the Belle Epoque-style mirrored ceiling and crystal chandeliers to tasty cocktails with names like “Mr. Cubbit,” “Release the Breaks,” “Mind the Gap” and “Paparazzi."
The GNH Bar features a Belle Epoque-style mirrored ceiling and crystal chandeliers — Photo courtesy of John Carey/Great Northern Hotel
For a meal you won’t soon forget, head up to acclaimed second-floor restaurant Plum + Spilt Milk, where Michelin-star Chef Mark Sargeant (a Gordon Ramsay protégé) and his talented team prepare simple, traditional British fare with sensational, modern twists (like everything in this hotel).
The theatrical space features dark cornflower blue walls, mellow, club-like music, oval mirrors, sleek rounded leather booths that curve around tables made of cracked black lava, an open kitchen and amazing details like fluted glasses imported from New Jersey and 150 hand-blown glass lamps that dangle dramatically from the ceiling.
To begin, try gems like the scallops with roasted cauliflower and beet dip, smoked in the Inca oven where meats are also smoked.
All the mains “wow,” but especially the pistachio-crusted halibut with kale pesto and artichokes, complemented by fresh veg sides like cabbage and roasted squash.
For dessert, indulge in the rice pudding, iced peanut and salted-caramel mousse or sticky pear and ginger cake, topped with clotted cream.
Plum + Spilt Milk's a la carte menu sufficiently "wows" — Photo courtesy of John Carey/Great Northern Hotel
Colorful markets around London abound, whether you're shopping for fashion, furniture, flowers (in which case, you should follow your nose to Columbia Road on a Sunday) or, of course, food.
There are options for every palate at Borough Market, a thriving, Thursday-through-Saturday bazaar that remains one of the most popular for good reason.
This market proves a veritable feast for the senses–a bustling hub of all things delicious and aromatic.
Relish the smells and tastes of Borough Market — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
Get off at the London Bridge Tube stop, and find vendors selling delicacies - from delightful prawn wraps and flavorful bratwursts to massive wheels of cheese and steaming vats of paella.
Head to the Exotic Meat Company for tastes of ostrich, kangaroo, zebra, horse or crocodile, or transport yourself to the streets of Argentina with Portena's delicious empanadas, washed down with a cold Quilmes beer.
For dessert, indulge in goodies from brownies to Nutella-filled donuts; to sate your thirst, sip a fresh juice or smoothie, coffee or tea, or get in a celebratory mood with a peach-flavored Prosecco spritzer, a mug of cider or a jug of local beer.
Borough Market vendors fill the air with enticing aromas — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
If kooky is your thing, head to Alcoholic Architecture–a pop-up right beside Borough Market–and get fully immersed in a “breathable cocktail.” Through the end of January, revelers of the bizarre can reserve an hour-long time slot online at this alternative drinking experience located on the site of an ancient monastery.
Once there, simply slip on a poncho, purchase a cocktail or beer at the bar and enter a small enclosed area in which vaporized gin and tonics get pumped into the room. Although 40 minutes is said to equal the consumption of one drink, the fog-like atmosphere and ambient neon lights just might accelerate that buzz.
Whether it’s the power of suggestion or the alcohol-laced vapor, you’ll likely leave feeling ever-so-slightly light-headed, smiley and chuckling about a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t soon forget.
Alcoholic Architecture encourages patrons to "breathe responsibly" — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
Remove yourself from the downtown bustle with an excursion to lovely Richmond, a waterside town located about 10 miles southwest of Central London on a meander of the River Thames. The village-like destination (easily accessible by Tube) features Royal Parks, green space galore and historic houses as well as modern-day galleries, restaurants and bustling pubs.
Wander the riverfront–often dotted with festive banners, street musicians and sunny-day ice cream trucks–by foot, bike or boat. Savor the fresh air, slow pace and perhaps a chorus of chatty ducks or enthused rugby fans.
Simply spend a couple leisurely hours people-watching as you relish some afternoon tea and cake, or arrive in the evening to catch a live show at Richmond Theatre.
Richmond is a delightful town in which to wile away the afternoon — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
As you may have noticed, sating one's appetite is not a hard task here; it's just a matter of narrowing down the choices.
At lunchtime, consider heading to Scandinavian Cafe, a charming, wee spot placed just around the corner from the BBC HQ (where the gift store window overlooks a fascinating, newsy circus below). Delightfully removed from the Oxford Street buzz, this calming cafe proves the perfect spot for satisfying smorgasbord and latte cravings.
Pick and choose between creative, fresh salads and dreamy open-faced sandwiches that feature toppings like salmon, prawns, egg salad, Swedish meatballs, beets and matured Danish cheese with onion compote.
Scandinavian Kitchen offers up warm hospitality and delicious fare — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
After hours of sightseeing and wandering on foot, unwind in the subterranean haven of Gordon's Wine Bar–established in 1890 and thought to be London's oldest wine bar. (There's a reason certain places make all the recommendation lists.)
Cozy up in the candlelit, cave-like atmosphere and enjoy award-winning wines, plus sherries and ports served from the barrel, as train vibrations rumble under your feet.
To totally change up the vibe, enjoy dinner afterwards in nearby Lupita, a bright and cheery space where lively beats pump overhead and dynamic Mexican flavors impress.
These days, pints and pies come in all shapes and forms, casual and posh — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
Alternatively, find tranquility in West End neighborhoods like Chiswick, a welcoming zone with a relaxed pace, charming local businesses and sidewalks that stream with stroller-pushing ex-pats and scooter-riding tots.
Enjoy sweet pastries and endearing hospitality at Nikki's Bakery, savory pies at The Roebuck and posh, modern Euro fare at Charlotte's W4; on Wednesdays at Brew, enjoy a movie with your Turkish-influenced meal.
Get an adrenaline rush while touring Tower Bridge — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
Feel your heartbeat accelerate and your adrenaline rush as you cross the glass floor of the iconic Tower Bridge. Sense the city whizzing beneath your feet as you soak in a new, elevated perspective of London.
While up there, also enjoy a fascinating exhibit that showcases photographs of bridges around the globe. (Seeking more adventure? Get your urban climb on with Up at the O2.)
This tropical pop-up brightened up the riverside scene in 2015 — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
Just below Tower Bridge, cruise the river's edge and look for rotating "pop-ups" (something this city seems to fully embrace!) that range from "Winter Dream" to last year's "London Riviera," a colorful, immersive, Miami-meets-French Riviera experience that featured food and drink plus lounge chairs and palm trees that all contributed to a spirited, tropical vibe.
The palette of London dazzles in any season — Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting
No matter how you choose to soak up this memorable city, we sincerely hope you find an adventure that's fantastically flavorful in every way.