London has been absolute magic this week. Besides nearly perfect weather (we only had rain for 2 out of the 10 days!), there were a number of incredible cultural, fashion and art exhibits and shows happening. Many of which were free! VisitLondon.com was an amazing resource for helping plan our trip and discovering many of the below. If you’re headed to London anytime soon or there now, here’s what’s not to be missed!
Louis Vuitton Series 3 Exhibition (FREE) – Discover Nicolas Ghesquiere’s inspiration for his fourth ready-to-wear show as Artistic Director of women’s collections at Louis Vuitton. Enjoy two floors of Louis Vuitton amazingness, taking you through the craftsmanship and history of the brand. There are actual LV craftsmen on the floor making bags on the spot which you can interact with. One of my favorite parts was the room that shows iconic pieces throughout the century. Not only is the exhibit free, but you also walk out with a complementary poster and stickers! The exhibit is on display through October 18th.
Heart Beat installation at the Covent Gardens (FREE) – See the work of French artist, Charles Petillon for his first public art installation. Enjoy 100,000 giant white balloons spanning 54 meters of the 19th century Market Building, Covent Gardens. It’s spectacular and something out a fairytale.
Audrey Hepburn Portraits of an Icon Exhibit – Currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery through October 18th, enjoy the rare opportunity to see this fascinating photography exhibit of actress, humanitarian and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn (1920-1993). A beautiful display of seventy images capturing her humanitarian work, film stills, magazine covers and more from the lens of photographers Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Cecil Beaton, Terry O’Neill and Norman Parkinson. The exhibition is sold out online, but you can still obtain tickets at the door. Learn more at npg.org.uk/hepburn
McQueen at the Theatre Royal Haymarket – I didn’t know what to expect out of Alexander McQueen in play form. The complexity and brilliance of this designer was evident in every design he produced on the runway and his untimely death was so tragic and such a loss that it was interesting to see what this play would be about. Brilliantly performed by Stephen Wight as McQueen, the actor takes you into the mind of the designer and the struggle to walk the line between life and death, and his perfectionist, genius and eccentric tendencies. The scenes themselves are visually engaging and thought provoking with great costume and set design.
WHERE TO EAT:
If you’re going to the theatre or in the Soho district, dinner at Inamo St. James is a must. The specialty cocktails are superb and Asian fusion dishes spans influence from Japan, China, Thailand, and Korea. The seafood is fresh (everything melts in your mouth), and the Also the interactive tables were a favorite, not only can you order and see a preview directly on your plate, there are games that you can play with your dinner party – which is a refreshing change from people on their phones. Highly recommended for kids as well!
Sketch never disappoints. There are several beautiful rooms but the pink parlor dining room is my favorite. It takes you to different time and it’s beyond chic. The pod bathrooms are also not to be missed (if no other reason then the instagram photo). Visit for drink, meal or afternoon tea just be sure to make a reservation!
Hotel Chantelle – A piece of NY in London! The lower east side hot spot can now be found across the street from Selfridges in the Marylebone district. The trendy restaurant/nightlife spot features famed NYC street artist, Bradley Theodore’s work on its walls, including this Kate Moss portrait. The model was on location just days before we arrived. The only thing that could have made the experience better would have been Kate Moss herself. Beautiful people and a sexy scene with incredible drinks and very interesting culinary options, the cotton candy chicken is not to be missed! Open for brunch and dinner, with a late night food menu.
DON’T FORGET TO BOOK A FEW TOURS... London has an outstanding amount of tours. Everything from top London attractions and sites, day trips, visits to the royal grounds, to experiencing the making of Harry Potter are at your fingertips. VisitLondon.com has an excellent lists of recommendations of which we did two of the tours:
Tour Buckingham Palace – We’ve all seen Buckingham from the front (at least in photos) but who knew you could actually go inside! Enjoy a Royal Welcome and take a walk through history with the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace. The tour takes you through the state rooms and private collection, complete with an audio tour outlining each room and the valuables adorning them. Best part, the tour concludes out in the garden where you get the rare opportunity to see Buckingham from behind and walk through the gardens. The tour just closed for the season but will be back December 11, 2015.
Alternative London Street Art Tour + Workshop – From Banksy to Shepard Fairy, Ben Eims and Invader, you’ll see some of the top street artists from around the world while you circle East London. It quickly becomes apparent the fine line between vandalism and art, sparking interesting conversations around legality and public opinion. Convicted criminals to celebrated cultural icons blend together in a controversial movement.. In the case of Ben Eims he was just that until his art work ended up in the White House.
After the informative tour, you’ll head back to the Alternative London camp for a quick lesson on spray painting before making your own stencils, getting in on the fun and contributing to their outdoor mural space. Expect to also see Ben Wilson’s infamous chewing gum pieces, Cranio’s blue man and Stik’s stick man figure on this tour provided all of the new buildings and gentrification don’t stand in your way.
The View from the Shard – London’s highest view situated on floors 68, 60 and 72 of the Shard offering 360 views of the city and multiple bars. There’s no better way to spend a cloud-free day then on top of the Shard toasting the beautiful city. We went around sunset and between the memorable sky and the city lights, we could have not asked for a better experience. Especially since we almost left without seeing the bathrooms – which the attendant told us was not to be missed. It’s a “loo with a view” to say the least.
Both Uber and taxi’s can all be unpredictable if you’re taking them from the airport. Alternatively we booked with Blacklane who’s prices are fixed (you can view the cost once you insert your address). The drivers wait inside baggage claim for you to help with your bags. The vehicles are all new (we were in a Mercedes!) and the entire experience from start to finish is top notch. They are available in most cities (not just from the airport), and I highly recommend using them as they recently landed in the US! We received a promo code of 6S7TDL11 that gets anyone who books $10 USD/EURO/GBP off their first ride with them.
For more tours, activities and recommendations, head over to visitlondon.com and plan your perfect stay.