Now’s never a better time to visit London. Completely re-open and with no travel restrictions for US travelers, the majestic city’s myriad of world-class museums, afternoon teas, shows, shopping, and luxury hotels from which to be based await. Follow Upscale Living’s rules for the most indulgent time in London, and beyond, with our detailed guide.
Snag the Hottest Tickets in Town
West End aside, London’s hot for immersive and unique experiences. Punchdrunk’s been wowing audiences for over 20 years with epic storytelling inside sensory worlds where viewers roam free. The Burnt City is currently on, its largest-scale show to date and more theatrical adventures are to come. Travelers should check Fever before landing; the event masters host exciting pop-up shows and experiences, including the Stranger Things experience and Operation Black Door, plus seasonal specials, candlelight concerts, and games. For something more risqué, Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike Live at the Hippodrome blends music, comedy, dance, and of course, striptease, for a wild night out. Suitable for friends and couples alike. Finally, for live games, try either The Crystal Maze Live Experience, based on the popular 90s TV show complete with high-production sets, your own gamemaster, and an eye-popping finale involving satin jackets and lots of faux cash; or Tomb Raider: The Live Experience, bringing to life Lara Croft’s world, on a globe-trotting journey involving relic collecting through a jungle, on the back of a truck, or on a zipline, accompanied by talented actors. Without giving too much away, it’s the ultimate British superhero mission.
Save Room for Afternoon Tea
For a royal afternoon tea experience, look no further than The Ritz London. The historic hotel is like stepping into a palace, and its former ballroom’s nothing short of spectacular. Expect fine-cut sandwiches, freshly baked scones with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry preserves, and cakes that are a work of art. There are 18 types of loose-leaf tea to accompany—we recommend The Ritz Royal English, and upgrading with a glass of Réserve Ritz bubbles. A smart dress code applies and lives piano soundtracks tea. Equally beloved, The Lanesborough offers an exquisite service over Hyde Park Corner under a domed glass roof and a chandelier-dotted dining room. What makes their afternoon tea extra special is that it’s seasonally themed, meaning always a reason to return. Recently exclusively Bridgerton-themed, from mid-November, Executive Pastry Chef Salvatore Mungiovino will jingle it all the way in the most festive fashion. Tip: try their Chocolate Brownie Black tea if feeling adventurous, then have a cocktail at The Library Bar across the museum-esqe hall.
Multitask like a Londoner
When time’s of the essence, multitask. On Brigit’s Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tours you’ll nosh on afternoon tea whilst enjoying the sights like Big Ben on a vintage double-decker Routemaster bus. Departures run daily, lasting 90 minutes. Gin or a Peppa Pig family version of the tour is available. To switch out sweet, Bustronome offers a tour over decadent lunch or dinner. You’ll board a sleek black glass-covered double-decker, and enjoy a multiple-course meal whilst taking in famed landmark views. Note: the chef is on-board, so everything is freshly prepared. A full audio guide is also provided via futuristic devices and the service is like that of a Michelin-starred restaurant (with well-placed lighting and cutlery holders). Finally, Supperclub Tube cooks up a six-course Latin-American-inspired meal on a 1967 Victora Line tube carriage. You’ll go on a food ‘tube’ journey from Mexico to Patagonia, and with up to 35 guests, it’s an intimate setting that promises to leave you with brilliant memories upon exiting the carriage doors. Try joining the communal table if you want to mingle over wine, and ask the friendly team to snap all your photos.
Dine Upscale Daily
Get dressed up and snag a table at Berner’s Tavern within The London EDITION, known for stunning interiors of taupe walls covered with a Trunk Archive curated series of photographs. Be seated on plush furnishings, waited on by impeccably dressed staff, and dine on perfect grass-fed Scottish steaks (end with Flaming Alaska for a show). Berner’s Tavern is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t miss drinks at the zinc-topped bar illuminated by an amber-backed display, nor their Orin Swift wine-tasting series and special events. For something low-key yet elegant, Mariage Frères Covent Garden is a gem offering respite from shopping boutiques. Their tea salon, within a stunning Georgian townhouse, serves afternoon tea either in the daylit gallery or the white Himalaya room surrounded by antique tea canisters and art prints. You’ll easily pass hours that you stay around for tea-infused dinner with menu items like the Roasted Chicken with Yuzu Indigo Tea, and the accompanying inventive cocktails are essential (some are served in glass teapots). When you’re done, wander the museum on the second floor, and purchase a box of Mariage Frères tea from their extensive collection to take home.
Make Time For Wellness
Starting inside, pack in nutrition at the world’s most famous all-avocado restaurant, The Avocado Show. Not only is their “pretty healthy food” delicious, but it’s also visually appealing and made from sustainable avocados. Superfood options include mango poke bowls and teriyaki tempeh, best accompanied by avocado fries. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner this is a must for wellness fueling. When ready to be pampered, head to the busiest part of town: Piccadilly Circus. As if by time wrap, you’ll descend down Akasha Holistic Wellbeing London, an underground sanctuary spanning 1,200sqm within Hotel Cafe Royal. It draws on the four elements in a space that encompasses a gym, fitness studios, pools, sauna and steam rooms, treatment rooms, and lounges, and is open to members, hotel guests, and those with a day pass. Start with a yoga class, treat yourself to scrub or massage in one of their nine treatment rooms, then relax on the loungers with herbal tea. It’s hard to believe such serene moments can be enjoyed as London life swirls above.
Shop For Souvenirs
These two London department stores are always in style. Start with Fortnum & Mason. Founded in 1707, with close ties with the Royal household, the Piccadilly flagship oozes discovery the moment it comes into view. Take in the always-alluring window displays, then browse floor after floor of tea, chocolate, fragrances, homeware, stationery, and even grocery and wine (including luxury hampers). Opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 2012, the salon on their fourth floor serves daily afternoon tea, with hand-crafted teapots, live piano music, and elegant floral displays. Since Fortnum & Mason made the Scotch Egg famous, the High Tea menu is recommended for a taste of the celebrated boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, a very British tradition. Next, spend an entire day at Selfridges. Voted Best Department Store on multiple occasions, it offers a wonderful shopping experience whether it’s fashion, beauty, tech, or hampers you’re after, and they do it with sustainability at the core (pledged by the Project Earth initiative launched in 2020). Besides retail therapy, activities here are extensive. The Oxford Street icon has all your luxury services like concierge, beauty, and styling, plus the trendiest in city eats. On level 4 alone, there’s the acclaimed Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung (famous for their Xian Long Bao); a Pizza Pilgrims Pizzeria & Bar, EL&N Café for coffee and cake, and Bubble Magik. Elsewhere, highlights include The Fount Bar (a ground-floor champagne stop between bag-browsing), the sexy Brasserie of Light Restaurant & Bar, and Alto by San Carlo up on the rooftop. No need to leave the store to dine when scrumptious selections are right here. Selfridges also has its own cinema and seasonal events to look out for. Finally, of all city museum shops, the London Transport Museum is ideal for souvenirs. You’ll explore the heritage of London, its historic transport system, and the stories of people who use it. The displays are fascinating, and so too is the museum shop where you’ll find everything from posters and books, to toys and homeware, themed to the recognizable transport system.
Hit the Beach
Seaside town, Brighton, is 47 miles south, meaning that despite the concrete, Londoners can reach sunny sand shores within an hour. Brighton Beach House on Maderia drive is perfect for the discerning traveler. The first UK Soho House by the sea is spread across two floors including a Club Space, a banana-shaped pool designed by David Shrigley, a trendy Italian restaurant, Cecconi’s, and an outdoor terrace with retro sunloungers. All with unparallel views of the sea and the famed Brighton Palace Pier. Think of this as your British Hampton’s retreat. In celebration of the town’s fabulous queer community, the house boasts an art collection comprising work by both established and emerging local creatives, including profound LBGTQIA+ artists and much more. When you’re done, hop back on the train to one of the houses in London and do cocktails in the original Greek Street house’s vibrant courtyard or catch up over candlelight in the dining rooms; then rest your heads at Dean Street Townhouse (where bedrooms are exclusive to members). Staying in Brighton for a while? Let Viator, the top global experiences marketplace, entertain you. Awesome Brighton (and beyond) experiences available to book include walking tours, drag shows, and food and drink sessions.
Where to Stay in the City: One Aldwych
There are numerous reasons One Aldwych is our favorite capital city stay of the moment. The independently run hotel in the heart of Covent Garden is unbeatable for location: within a 10-minute walk of over 20 popular West End theatres and amidst all town’s top restaurants, bars, and attractions. It occupies one of the most important Edwardian buildings in London and carries a unique newspaper heritage. The 400-strong collection of contemporary art and sculpture blends perfectly with its historical architecture. Rooms and suites are all beautifully renovated yet retain the hotel’s old-world charm. Think art nouveau curves, soft peach tones, and stylish flair. You’ll enter chic boudoirs with British fashion literature on shelves, a complimentary curated mini bar, and be wired up to the latest tech ranging from Loewe UHD smart TVs to multi-port charging stations. Bathrooms are a spa destination in their own right thanks to deep soaking tubs, Mitchell and Peach pamper products, and custom One Aldwych robes. After sleeping on a cloud, explore the hotel’s amenities. Perhaps with a dip in their 18m chlorine-free pool, a meal at Chef Dominic Teague’s Indigo, or attending to business with a meeting at the Lobby Bar. A five-star stay, with service that exceeds all expectations.
Where to Stay for an Escape: Coworth Park
Set in picturesque Berkshire countryside, Coworth Park is the premier escape from city lights and feels a world away despite being situated a 20-minute drive from London Heathrow. Each hideaway is oh-so-cozy; nests that celebrate country house charm but with modern amenities facilitating a perfect stay. Take, for example, the bathroom, where a freestanding copper bathtub sits on heated marble flooring, caddied with Mitchell and Peach bubble liquid. Or the lounge, where select suites house a grand fireplace so you can snuggle up with Nespresso coffee while streaming a movie on the large flat-screen television. The space is textured with linen wallpaper, bespoke rugs, and predominately British-made furnishings and art for a warm and regal escape. Of the 70 guest bedrooms, 30 suites and rooms are located in the main Mansion House, where you’re treated to vistas across the gardens and parkland (and nighttime stargazing) through romantic Georgian windows. Expect a personalized service: each room is unique, and every guest experience is tailored. Animal lovers may saddle up and hack across the property on horseback (this is in fact, the only UK hotel that has its own polo fields). Spa addicts will be impressed with Coworth’s award-winning spa amenities, where a warming Germaine de Capuccini Mediterranean Candle Massage is sure to soothe even the chilliest of weather. And as for foodies, make room for acclaimed cuisine. There’s The Barn, for relaxed rustic dining adjacent to the stables and cottage, serving seasonal British fare. The Drawing Room overlooks the terraced garden, for al fresco all-day dining, including, of course, afternoon tea. And best of all, Woven by Adam Smith, where guests feast on a multi-course seasonal menu consisting of Britain’s finest produce. Each dish tells a story, coming together to write a culinary experience that can only be described as phenomenal, especially when paired with a glass of vintage wine. Coworth Park is a triumph.