Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square
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Continue your retail therapy on Regent Street, built for the eventual King George IV as one of the first shopping streets in the world. Follow this curved beaux arts thoroughfare and wander into the Apple Store, or practice your veddy best British accent in front of BBC headquarters at Broadcasting House on the same street. If you’re in town around Christmas, expect to be dazzled by the stunning overhead display of lights.
Escape the crowds by checking into the Hyatt Regency London, better known as the Churchill. This is where impeccable British service meets five-star luxury — and where you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to savor afternoon tea at the Montagu restaurant. The very friendly lady at the hotel’s Theatre Desk might even give you a show poster for free — if you ask nicely. We did.
The Churchill is located in the heart of Portman Village, an eclectic mix of salons, designer boutiques, pubs and trendy restaurants. Friendly advice: Fuel up for the day at La Masseria, an Italian deli and patisserie that also supplies some of London’s top chefs and restaurants.
La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar & Kitchen on James Street
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Don’t leave Portman Village without hoisting a pint at a cozy and vibrant pub called the Portman (ask for a British ale, and the barkeep will become a fast friend). Traditional pub fare is available on the main floor, while the upstairs restaurant offers a stylish selection of changing dishes, including pumpkin gnocchi, pheasant and partridge.
A short stroll away is St. Christopher’s Place, the West End’s hidden gem — literally. Tucked away down an alley between Bond Street and Selfridges, this urban oasis is easily overlooked. Here you’ll find a relaxing-yet-cosmopolitan atmosphere and a wealth of al fresco dining and boutique shopping. Try the tapas at La Tasca or pop into Jigsaw, where the duchess of Cambridge worked as a buyer when she was known simply as Kate Middleton.
Before venturing much farther, buy a London Pass. This card will get you into more than 55 popular attractions (St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, etc.) without having to wait in the regular admission line. You’ll start saving money by the time you visit your third attraction. Available online (www.londonpass.com
) or at a London pickup location.
London is a superb walking city, but exploring on foot takes time. Big Bus Tours offers open-top sightseeing tours, and you can hop on and off at your leisure. Touristy? You bet. But it’s a savvy way to get around a very big city and see most of the major attractions (complete with live guides or personal recorded commentary). Your feet will thank you.