London is one of those cities you will keep going back to. And for us New Englanders now is the time to go back (or check it out for your first time!); with fast flight options, an affordable pound and culture galore, now is the time to head across the pond! Here is my guide to a weekend in London’s lovely West End.
When to Go
It is a well kept secret amongst the savvy that winter is a great time to head to Europe, the UK in particular. The crowds are small, the flights are cheap and in London you may actually have some “nice” weather. Most us us think of London as being rainy all the time, but in January or February you could be lucky, like we were, and catch the town in a sunny dry spell! We were there for 3 days and only experienced London fog for a few hours on our last day there!
How to Plan
London is one of those immortally great cities, which means that you could take a thousand trips there and never repeat an activity. This is good and bad, on the one hand you are guaranteed to have an exciting time, but on the other, it can make planning a bit overwhelming. My solution to this problem is picking a neighborhood or section of the city to stick to and go for depth not breath—you can always come back! Since I was travelling to London for a girl’s weekend with my sister, we decided to check out the always en vogue West End. We set some goals and stuck to them, we wanted a boutique hotel, fine dining and entertainment. And since we would be around stylish surroundings, we decided to head to Bella Sante Spa on Newbury Street before we left to make sure we were in tip top shape and treated ourselves to a Dazzle Dry manicure. Dazzle Dry is amazing; it goes on like regular polish (even air drying in 5 minutes!) and stays on like gel!
Where to Stay
The West End is full of fabulous accommodations and we chose Flemings. Located just inside Mayfair, Flemings is a stylish, recently renovated hotel that offers personalized service to each of its guests. We were impressed by the juxtaposition of the modern décor in such a classic townhome style hotel—tres chic! It was just the perfect combination of old world whimsy and 21st century conveniences.
I will get into this further below, but their on property restaurant Ormer Mayfair is worth the choice all it all on its own. The Michelin starred chef, Shaun Rankin, offers up world class dishes every night that are both innovative and delicious.
What to Do
The first thing on my list whenever I’m in London is a proper afternoon tea. And this time around we tried the “Guiltless” Afternoon Tea at the Intercontinental London Park Lane. It was truly all the indulgence without any of the guilt. Each canapé was just as delicious as its traditional counterpart. I also have to mention that the tea sommelier chose the perfect parings for each section of the experience.
After tea time, we needed to get ready for an evening out so we headed over to the cutest little salon we have ever been to, Alkhemy Hairdressing, where we got that London look for our night out on the town.
From there it was time to hit the town! First stop was the Corinthia for their apertivo hour. This meant Italian cocktails and canapés. I was happy to return to a Corinthia because I stayed in their Budapest outpost and absolutely loved it!
The London Corinthia did not disappoint; I will definitely be back!
As the night went on, we travelled deeper into the West End to Café de Paris for one of their famous cabaret shows. As soon as you walk in you feel like you have gone back in time to another era! SO much fun, 2 thumbs up!
And to end the night on a high note we checked out Mahiki, a well-known royal hang out. Unfortunately, there were no sightings.
Princesses for a Day
Like I mentioned above, a trip to London can be whatever you want it to be. But for any American heading to the UK, it’s hard not to get caught up in the fab life London’s royals live, so we decided we wanted to see what all the fuss was about and treated ourselves to a little tea and tiaras at the House of Garrard. Honestly, I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves. How amazing are they?
Garrard once held the position as official royal jeweler and still holds a royal warrant. Each exquisite piece is even more breathtaking in person and it’s not hard to see why Garrard remains one of the top luxury brands around the world.
London Food Guide
Just like the city itself, the food scene in London is extremely international. Here is my Mayfair/West End foodie guide:
Tapas—A Peruvian tapas restaurant, Coya, located right down the street from Flemings, is a great place for a tasty, satisfying meal. Each dish has a certain level of flair necessary for successful tapas, you need to be left wanting more. And Coya definitely delivers. Must sees are the: ceviches and the fried gambas.
Classics—Gavin at the Athenaeum Hotel, is the spot for refined, updated French inspired British classics. Having dining there for lunch, I can say that the atmosphere on a Sunday afternoon is electric—the same metropolitan vibe you feel at a New York brunch hotspot, just fantastic! And each dish was clearly prepared by Michelin rated chefs. You can see the level of ingredients and the care with which they were prepared, everything you would expect from a top notch hotel restaurant. Pro tip: don’t skip the salads, they were surprisingly amazing, especially their play on a house salad—the Athenaeum Green Salad.
Fine Dining—Ormer Mayfair at Flemings manages to create an intimate and inviting atmosphere within the hotel. And with dishes like “Jersey Lobster Ravioli”, it will be hard to convince you to venture past the front door! From the impressive wine list, to the impeccable service to the delectable dishes, Ormer hits all the right notes. I am always impressed by a stylish hotel that also takes its dining options seriously, so Ormer pushes Flemings over the top for me, making it a must see. We will 100% be back!
Luxe Night Out—We wanted to end our trip on an especially high note, which meant trekking down to the world famous Savoy to dine at Kaspar’s. The Savoy is a legend all on its own, regardless of the on-property dining options. And yet, we were so happy with the food that we barely ooo’d and awe’d at the Savoy surroundings and instead could not stop gushing about our meals! So if you are looking for some top notch seafood in the West End, Kaspar’s has got you covered.
How to Get There
From Boston, London is a short flight. There are several direct options, but my current pick is Norwegian Air. With consistently the lowest priced flights and reasonable upgrade fees, Norwegian is your best bet to hop across the pond quickly and efficiently. And like I mentioned above, winter is a great time to travel to Europe because many airlines like Norwegian lower their fares due to the lower demand, so for a traveler concerned about value, now is the time to head to London for a weekend in the West End!