London is a haven of variety and infectious abundant energy. The people are one thing; the place is another. The charming Georgian buildings, modern architecture and magnificent skyline bridge an almost poetic gap between history and the future. Centuries of immigration have molded this city into what it is today: an enticing, diverse metropolis. And with that it brings gentrification and trends. The food scene, for example, is arguably one of best in the world. London is a true rarity — watch us explore.
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Oscar Wilde: “The man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world”.
Iconic + Eclectic London Spots
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew: Situated in West London, it’s one of the world’s most important and most beautiful botanical gardens. The 132ha large domain boasts a collection of about fifty thousand different plant species as well as many impressive buildings such as the Palm House and the ten-story Pagoda. An idyllic sanctuary away from the bustling streets of London.
Borough Market: Londoners and their food markets. Borough Market is one of the oldest marketplaces in town and has been mentioned as far back as the 11th century. Today the market is full of variety and contrast: food lovers meet tourists, old school butchers sell their meat in their own neighbourhood to the latest experimental vegan kitchens. If you want to avoid the big flock come for a visit from Monday to Wednesday.
Sketch: This quirky townhouse has been transformed into a myriad of dining delights, comprising three restaurants, two bars and a café. It’s worth wandering around and exploring the premises, as each room is more breathtaking than the next. The colourful Gallery boasts a mix of impressive retro patterns and vintage furniture—the brains behind this room, none other than Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed. Afternoon tea is the best choice and can be taken at the cozy Parlour or at the Glade, which has the flair of a fairytale forest. Don’t forget to go to the loo. An unforgettable ‘Kubrick meets Alien’ bathroom experience.
Duck & Waffle: Daniel Doherty is the King of the Pans in the UK’s highest restaurant. Duck & Waffle is located atop the 230m tall skyscraper The Heron Tower in the City. The adventure begins with the glass elevator soaring up in 24 seconds to the 40th floor. The bar and restaurants architecture by award-winning interior design firm CetraRuddy is stunning, but it can’t beat the view through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Best time to come: for the affordable Late Night Menu or the solid English Breakfast.
Area focus: Shoreditch
Bond Street is too conservative and Soho too commercial? Take a stroll on Redchurch Street where you’ll find the full variety of the East End behind graffitied Georgian façades—from kitsch sofa cinemas like The Aubin to fashionable brands like Aesop or APC.
The East London hipster needs functional products without all the fuss. Labour and Wait offers a whole range of vintage items that were built to last and defined by simplicity: from aluminum pencil sharpeners and cardboard clipboards to folding pocket knives and leather tool cases.
Two minutes down the street you will find Hostem: a boutique that provides you with the latest Antwerp designs and a varied collection from Ann Demeulemeester to Yang Li. In the neighborhood, the niche perfumery Etat Libre d’Orange offers rare and vintage fragrances. And when your appetite surfaces or you’re feeling the need for a caffeine spike, then head here:
The Clove Club: Nested in a 19th-century town hall in Shoreditch, this bar and restaurant will surprise you with fragrances and flavours. Whether you choose their classic menu or their vegetarian option, The Clove Club’s five-course menu impeccably explores British ingredients and cuisine. Food is the main focus of this Michelin restaurant and it’s easy to see the creativity pouring out from the kitchen for you to enjoy. To ensure you get a table, book ahead. Or wander in last-minute and grab a seat in the bar area—the menu is slightly different, but the chefs stay the same (pictured above).
The Grind: The hippest barrister on the block is Grind. Available in four trendy outlets across the city — Shoreditch, Soho, London Bridge, and Holborn — they can be found serving suitably moreish coffee blends, and the chunkiest slab of avocado on toast in all of London. The Shoreditch branch, situated by the bustling roundabout of Old Street Station, transforms into a perfect cocktail asylum at night – espresso martini, anyone? I thought so.
Music Shopping with an expert: Caius Parson
Since humble beginnings in 2006, Caius has gained some phenomenal success through his label Young Turks. Signing the likes of the xx, SBTRKT and FKA Twigs, it’s safe to say he knows the best spots for record diggin’ and vibey dance floors.
- How did you end up doing what you’re doing? I was going to a lot of shows, parties and raves. I loved it and I loved being around artists. I wanted to play a part in all of it. The usual thing for teenagers is to put on a club night. So I went to a venue, searched for some bands and made a flyer. And after that I met bands, managers and labels. From there it all happened.
- If you were to give general advise to somebody that is in London for 38 hours, what would you say? Take one area and stick to it. Find a part and get to know it. It can take a couple of hours to cross town — it’s just not worth it. You could come just to certain parts of Hackney for 38 hours and see incredible contemporary art, hear music, eat great food, walk to a part and visit markets. You can do that exact thing in Central, North, South or East London. So I would choose one part and stay in it!
- And when it comes to shopping, where do you go? This is where London is prohibitively expensive… for music, Phonica is absolutely brilliant. If you are interested in dance 12-inches they are so on top of it, and on weekends and in the evenings it has the feel of a creative hub. Rough Trade West and East are both incredible experiences. Try and get recommendations from Nigel, Chris, Sean at the West or Phil at the East. They are classic London record stores. I enjoy also going into a black market for more classic British dance music. Kristina on Kingsland is new and very exciting. There are also three or four new record stores in Shoreditch and Dalston that are also really great.
Clothes-wise, Dover Street Market is like a museum really. It is as much about walking around it and observing it all, the huge selection of contemporary rare clothes, the incredible salespeople and even the customers — that’s the best bit for me. But, I mean, London is so expensive for consumer goods like that, that I would just say save your money for clothes and dancing, and go to the free museums.
Tales from The tube by Bob Mazzer
Dim Sum and Dancing:
Ace sleeps: This hotel is not set in Shoreditch by chance; the urban style and lively service of the Hotel blend in with the atmosphere of the galleries, theatres and trendy stores. Whether you come to your room to find a guitar or a collection of vinyl, the arty touches will always be there to welcome you. Their shared working stations mean communal spaces are teeming with creatives, working, holding meetings and networking—the buzzing atmosphere is sure to inspire. Grab a delicious cocktail at the bar or stake out a seat at the ground floor brasserie, Hoi Polloi, to recharge your creative juices. The Ace Hotel has become a hub for designers, music producers and artists alike, guaranteeing guests an eclectic experience.
Words: Paris Bielby + 38 Hours | Cover image: Matt Pike
Image credits in order: Duck & Waffle, Margus D, Kew Gardens and Labour & Wait; The Grind, Young Turks, then Rough Trade, Kristina Records and Phonica Sound; Tales of the Tube by Bob Mazzer and The Ace hotel.