Passported's Head of Product, Nicole, recently won (yes, won in an Instagram contest) a free round-trip to London from Virgin Atlantic and WeWork. So she hopped on a plane and jetted out to explore the city she used to know well and discover what's new and cool to do right now in London for the weekend.
I have a very specific memory of going to London for the first time as a kid. I was 10 years old peering over the makeup counter at Selfridges feeling very proper and grown-up . With customers and salespeople fluttering around me, I picked up a tube of clear mascara, inspected it carefully and brought it to the cashier to make the purchase. With a nod from my mom, I was handed back a small yellow Selfridges bag which I carried around like a trophy.
Since then I have been to London several times and even studied at UCL for a semester in college (many moons ago), so on this trip there was no reason to ride the London Eye, stare at Big Ben or visit the crown jewels. This a guide for grown-ups who want to experience the new culinary, art and fashion scene over a quick weekend in London. You can check out the whole whirlwind itinerary here and all my picks below — Selfridges included.
Classic: Four Seasons Park Lane
A well-appointed mainstay recently renovated with top-notch amenities across from Hyde Park. Perks include a Rolls-Royce at your disposal and a world-class spa with jaw-dropping views of the city.
Contemporary: The Metropolitan by Como
For the jet-set with an emphasis on well-being, this recently renovated stay is also on Hyde Park and walking distance to shops and restaurants. The decor is minimalist chic which makes it a calm oasis in the bustling city. Plus, Nobu restaurant in right inside the hotel.
Traditional: Milestone Hotel
This boutique hotel is like being transported to another era. While not the place for style-seekers, excellent service from a friendly and attentive staff abound all with quintessentially British charm. Classic afternoon tea is a must-try and its location across from Kensington Gardens makes it a great place for a potential run in with the Duchess herself.
Tea at the Ham Yard: For a modern take on afternoon tea, head to the Ham Yard for an eclectic mix of traditional cakes and more contemporary favorites like pulled pork sliders.
Tea at the Milestone: Cucumber sandwiches and scones with jam and clotted cream are the perfect way to experience the classic ritual of afternoon tea in a formidably British atmosphere. Kids can enjoy a special menu including milkshakes.
Nopi: Famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi's new joint for med food is ideal for a fun night out. Eat upstairs for a more polished experience or opt for a booking downstairs at a communal table overlooking the kitchen to see all the action.
Polpo: There may be a wait but it's worth it in the bar downstairs for these Italian small plates in a buzzy atmosphere in Soho.
Hoi Polloi: A vaguely Scandinavian vibe sets this restaurant apart at the Ace Hotel in East London's still hip Shoreditch.
Berners Tavern: Within the Edition Hotel, this glamorous spot has wall-to-ceiling salon-style artwork framed by crown molding that would make a royal blush. The food is excellent. I recommend getting there early for a cocktail in the lobby and then ordering the côte de bœuf for two.
Serpentine Galleries: An eclectic gallery showing contemporary art in Kensington Gardens, just a short walk from the Milestone Hotel.
Pace London: Housed in the Royal Academy of Art, Pace holds a special place in my heart because I used to work there, and shows top international contemporary artists.
Four Seasons Spa: On the top floor, this spa is exceptional with fantastic services and a vitality pool, sauna and steam room available to all guests, even without a booking.
Selfridges: Need we say more? Yes, department stores are international these days, but there is one new brand called Self-Portrait that has a section there, which is not as readily available yet in the States.
Liberty: Classic but cool at the top of Carnaby Street. Well worth a peek to escape the Oxford Street chaos and to check out their famed colorful prints.
Arsenal Football Club: While I'm not an avid sports fan here in America, going to an Arsenal match seemed like a fun cultural thing to do and it was! Getting tickets is a bit tricky because everyone is a season ticket holder, so ask your concierge (or us!) if you're interested. Also, there's no drinking in the stands, but there is a lot of singing, so read up on your cheering sections chant.
Want more? Check out Passported's London City Guide.