The Royal Baby Princess Charlotte has popped onto the London scene with great flair and celebration. But we hate to say it, she isn't the first to do so. London itself has been undergoing a re-birthing of cool of late.
The LifeStyle Channel's Travel Expert Rose Jacobs has hand picked the latest hot spots you simply can't miss on a trip to the city of ceremony.
London does high end extremely well. But what’s new on the shopping scene is the emergence of backstreet markets with a niche, and in many cases, loads of personality to boot.
1. Colonial Road Flower Markets
The Colonial Road Flower Markets are as colourful in language from the market stall owners as they are from the flowers! Accusing each other of highway robbery, flying insults, arguing over customers and general gutter talk are all to be found in abundance as you stroll casually past rows and rows of floral, herbal and creeping greenery. Not to be missed!
2. Borough Markets
Still on the market trawl, jump back on the tube and take yourself to the Borough Markets, where you’ll find every display of food and specialty stalls under the English sun. Keep an eye out for the bread-maker called Justin who creates the most evil custard filled doughnuts with chunks of honeycomb. He is world-renowned and baked the bread for Wills and Kate’s Royal Wedding.
3. Carnaby Street
Carnaby Street should be your first stop for fabulous wears. Unlike the brands and large departments to be found elsewhere through London, this is the precinct for unusual and one-of-a-kind concept stores. Dr. Martens makes bespoke boots here, the only place in the world to do so. Pop up record store Deal Real is still attracting live performances by some of the world’s best up and coming musicians (Amy Winehouse got her start there). And The Kooples is a label fast emerging as a fashion-forward must-have for any one with a hint of style.
4. Blenheim Palace
When Aussies head abroad we don’t like to stick to the beaten tourist trail. The wanderers in us come out and we aren’t afraid to go walk about. Around 90 minutes west of London is a castle and estate by the name of Blenheim Palace. It’s not just awesome because of the insane views, gardens, sprawling sandstone and sculptures, but it tells a pretty good yarn. It happens to be the birthplace of Winston Churchill. A tour of the palace these days will give you access to the room he was born in, along with the ponds, lakes, lawns, historically preserved rooms from the war days and to top it all off, the champagne bar. It’s also a fantastic way to view the English countryside for a day away from the big smoke.
5. The Victoria and Albert Museum of London
After a stroll through the Kensington Palace and Hyde Park, The Victoria and Albert Museum of London is only a short stroll further. Never short of a spectacular exhibition, the current happens to be Savage Beauty, a tribute to the late, great Alexander McQueen. Well worth the line up! On until 2nd August.
There’s a reason why they call it the Heathrow Injection. But it has nothing to do with Heathrow. You simply can’t refuse the gastronomical delights coming out of Central London at the moment. Shared plates are in. Counter-seating is big. International cuisine is all the rage. And when Trip Advisor says there are currently 17,883 restaurants in London, I can understand your panic. Don’t stress, I’ve found six of the best.
6. 10 Greek Street
As it sounds, a small, intimate dining experience that feels like someone’s home, not a restaurant. The waiters are so laid back they’re almost vertical. The food however, is on a serious level of flavour. Try the quails eggs.
7. Duck and Rice
Brand new on the dining scene. The bar downstairs mixes a mean gin and tonic with fresh berries, while the dining upstairs boasts modern Asian delights that explode with flavour. There may be a line- up, but that’s because it’s that good.
Again, small is big. This place has long established itself as the dining destination of choice for any Londoner in the know. Totally unassuming, with mouthwatering Italian dishes based on traditional recipes and served with an equally warm smile. It’s like grandma’s house on a Sunday. Only better.
9. The Social Eating House
It’s not often you’ll find yourself paying $50 AU for macaroni and cheese. But when it’s topped with fresh truffle and served in a setting like this, you’ll throw the budget out the window. Save up for a quality eve here. And don’t forget to book.
10. Fernandez and Wells
The best of everything Europe has to offer, on one long wooden bench, without a kitchen. That’s right, fresh charcuterie, a pot of homemade soup of the day, fresh warm bread, specially-sourced olives from the best regions of Spain and Italy… you get my drift. Every mouth full has a 'wow' factor.
If you’re into modern Chinese then this is one of the best in the world. Michelin starred, without the price tags. Dumplings that make you want to cry. And macaroons for dessert that make you want to sing!
With spring on the horizon, Londoners are excited, to say the least. So much so that many of them are flocking to the latest craze of rooftop bars, thrusting open their doors, despite the fact that the temperature is still hovering dangerously around Australia’s winter temps. But with so many incredible establishments on offer, you’re not going to miss out, for the sake of a little chill. Rug up and get up to where the action’s at.
12. Radio Rooftop Bar
It has its name for a good reason. From here, the BBC programming first broadcast from 1922 and it’s where the transmission aerials once stood. Today, you’ll more likely find yourself standing alongside flamingos, fruit trees and fish in a stream, all ten floors up.
13. White Lyan
Fanatical about detail, this place uses no ice, no perishables and no brands. Each cocktail is with love and with hand crafted attention to detail such as this, you can imagine how an evening here would tap into your soul.
Although this is a Michelin starred restaurant, you can come in for a drink at the bar and you’d be mad to pass up a famous Hakkasan Rose Petal Martini. Legally they aren’t allowed to serve more than two per person. You don’t need to ask why.
15. The Tap
It’s not all about booze. Especially the morning after a night out in London! If it’s a good coffee you’re after then you’ll find it at the café with a bicycle stuck to the shop front and a bunch of Aussie and NZ staff working the machines. You’ll be back every morning.
And now that you’ve breathed that sigh of relief that it's finally possible to find a decent cup of coffee in the UK, prepare to blow your mind with the next level of cool on the coffee scene – and yes, London is ahead of Australia when it comes to this. Cold Brew Coffee. It’s as it sounds, coffee brewed in cold water, not hot and the flavour is fantastic. Leading the charge in London is a brand called Minor Figures and the best part, they’re headed to Oz.
Not that you’re going to be spending much time in your hotel room during your stay in London, but when you’ve travelled so far to get there, and will be running around like a headless chook every day (and night) then you’re going to want a fantastic nights’ sleep!
16. The Soho Hotel
Let’s start at the top! If the budget can stretch, then look no further than The Soho Hotel. It’s so chic it has its own cinema rooms downstairs and in any one week you’ll see the likes of One Direction and John Snow (from Game of Thrones) strolling through the lobby.
17. The Ham Yard Hotel
The Ham Yard Hotel has recently launched around the corner and is also taking cool to a new level. It’s an art and design den and even has its own bowling alley. The best part though is that the bar and restaurant are some of the most happening destinations in London so you won’t have to walk far for a fabulous night out!
18. The Hoxton Holborn
Generally a fantastic place to hang out. A New York style lobby entrance and cleverly designed rooms. This is also a destination for one of the best breakfasts in town. Its also quite friendly on the purse strings. For a little adventure, check out the Hoxton Shoreditch which is also an exciting hub of activity… but that’s another story.
Take a look at our Destination Guide to London
Rose Jacobs visited London as a guest of HelloWorld and was flown by Qantas.