I first started going to London when I was twenty-four years old, when I would hop between there and Paris for modeling jobs. Ever since, I’ve returned for trunk shows, parties, visits with friends and family vacations. I love how rich the city is with history, the architecture, the magnificent lush gardens, the art, the music scene, the clubs and the food. Mostly I love the people. The British sense of humor and playfulness, and the seriousness with which they take their friendships. You see it everywhere, in their style, films, theater, music, literature and art. The abundant parks and gardens in London are some of the most beautiful in the world, and give the otherwise bustling metropolis a unique leafy calm. What with all the city has to offer, it's easy not to mind the gray weather (personally I find it romantic), and even so, when the sun does come out, it's truly glorious. Here's a list of my personal favorite places, new and old. I hope you’ll be able to enjoy some of them on your next visit to London!
*Just click on the underlined links for info on each place below.
The bar at the Chiltern Firehouse
The Beaumont - Recently renovated and beautifully done 5-star hotel in Mayfair with a passionate cult following.
Blakes - Lovely little boutique hotel with luxurious amenities, located in a quiet, leafy corner of Kensington and Chelsea. [Ed. note: temporarily closed].
Chiltern Firehouse - Andre Balazs’ gorgeous 5-star hotel in Marylebone.
Claridge’s - Iconic 5-star hotel in Mayfair with fabulous art deco architecture, very luxurious.
The Connaught - Another fabulous 5-star hotel in Mayfair, the Connaught has a slightly more contemporary feel, elegant and relaxed.
Home House - Private members club in Marylebone which also functions as a hotel for outside guests. Grand and eccentric.
The Nomad - Always a reliable choice, the hotel is located in the heart of Covent Garden, and has a stunning, huge Victorian glass conservatory dining room.
Soho House - There are a number of locations all around the city, but I like the original location at 40 Greek Street and the Kettner's location best.
Daylesford Organic - Perfect spot to grab a bite on the go, all their produce is organic, seasonal, and delivered daily from the Cotswolds.
Brat - Incredible Basque-influenced rustic Spanish hotspot in Shoreditch with an open wood fire grill and emphasis on seafood. From the team behind Thai-focused Kiln and The Smoking Goat (which I also highly recommend!).
Spring - Located in Somerset House, Skye Gyngell’s seasonal, daily changing a la carte menu is elegant and to the point.
Sally Clarke’s - One of the UK’s most celebrated chef’s, Sally Clarke’s restaurant and bakery on Kensington Church street is the stuff of local legend.
Layla - Lovely cafe and bakery in Ladbroke Grove with beautiful house-made pastries and artisanal breads.
Lyle’s - Housed in Shoreditch’s original Lipton factory, Lyle’s serves incredibly fresh modern British fare in a rustic, light-filled setting.
The Wolseley - Classic for a reason, the all-day Mayfair café-restaurant has a beautiful art deco interior and elegant, old-school vibe.
The River Café - No list would be complete without it. The late Rose Gray’s iconic riverside destination is forever fresh.
Rochelle Canteen - Classic British cooking with a focus on super high quality seasonal produce.
Sumi - Fantastic sushi in Notting Hill with a relaxed but elegant vibe.
Gymkhana - Insanely delicious Michelin-starred contemporary Indian cuisine.
St. John’s - A London institution, Fergus Henderson’s groundbreaking restaurant is driven by his signature ‘snout-to-tail’ philosophy.
Ottolenghi - Everything from Ottolenghi gets me in the mood to cook. I love stopping here for their salads or a quick bite on the go.
Sweetings - Wonderful old school fish and oyster bar, centrally located. Highly recommend ordering the smoked eel and turbot!
Casa Cruz - Sexy, intimate restaurant in Notting Hill with an Argentine-influenced menu and a beautiful leafy terrace.
Caviar Kaspia - Everyone's favorite caviar and vodka boîte in Paris is coming to London soon!
Secret Sandwich Shop - Super tasty sandwiches, great for grabbing a bite on the run.
Coya - Extremely delicious Peruvian food in the heart of Mayfair.
Wiltons - Iconic seafood restaurant, they’ve been open since 1742, and with good reason!
The Cow - My all-time favorite pub, I’ve been coming here for years. Classic.
Chiltern Firehouse - Swank, intimate bar with great cocktails. It’s always a fun time here.
Noble Rot - Fantastic wine bar with a relaxed, low key vibe and delicious small plates.
Duke’s - A classic spot, home to the original 007 martini (though what I really recommend is having the incredible Alessandro Palazzi make you a Vesper table-side).
Loulou's and 5 Hertford - Fantastic, super fun nightclub with the most beautiful sliced agate bar inside private member’s club 5 Hertford Street. Great for dinner too.
Bellamy’s - Very London old school brasserie and bar in Mayfair, named for the club in Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy of novels.
Brawn - Lovely place for drinks with an airy, cheerful dining room, great wine list and menu of small, shareable plates.
Harry’s Bar - Private members club in Mayfair with iconic, fabulous old school bar and Italian restaurant.
P. Franco - Wonderful natural wine bar and restaurant industry hotspot from the team behind Peg, Bright, and Noble Fine Liquor.
The French House - Fantastic pub with a groovy, relaxed vibe and historic past.
Ronnie Scott’s - Legendary jazz club in Soho basement with late night bar, eponymously named for the late great saxophonist.
Maison Estelle - One to watch! Private club in Mayfair with beautiful interior design.
Havelock Tavern - Excellent gastropub, one of London’s first. Great place to spend a leisurely afternoon.
LayLow - Super fun restaurant, club, and music venue designed by Bella Freud, housed in a former bordello on Golborne Road.
Cha Cha x Sister Jane - Very cool space on Golborne Road which doubles as a showroom and has dancing, great latin inspired food and live music.
Books For Cooks - One of my favorite independent bookstores in the world, Books for Cooks is a destination for any cookbook lover or recipe junkie. Located in Notting Hill, the store is jam-packed with miles on miles of cookbooks and food-related writing. I love their own cookbooks as well and have collected them for years.
Liberty - A London institution and home of the famous floral print, the luxury department store on Regent Street continues to champion young and emerging British artists and designers.
Harrods - Iconic luxury department store, its legendary food hall is a feast for the senses.
reference.point - Super cool bookstore, library, and bar right near the Courtauld. They have a permanent archive of rare books and printed ephemera focused on radical post-war art, architecture, design, fashion and culture. A lovely place to spend the afternoon.
Portobello Road - Located in Notting Hill, Portobello Road has some of the best independent boutiques in London. The daily outdoor market is known worldwide for its antiques and vintage finds.
Dover Street Market - The original Mayfair location of Rei Kawakubo’s brilliant multi-brand fashion retailer, with a great café attached.
Borough Market - A must-stop for any foodie, the centrally-located market is an outdoor gathering of food stalls and specialty culinary vendors with over 1,000 years of history. Open seven days a week, it’s like a cross between a food festival and a farmer’s market.
Columbia Road Flower Market - Insanely beautiful open-air flower market held every Sunday from 8 am - 2 pm in Bethnal Green.
Neal's Yard Dairy- Legendary cheesemonger in Convent Garden known for both their house-made cheeses and selection of territorial cheeses. I recommend trying everything on offer, especially the Yorkshire chutney.
The Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall - London’s most iconic music and performance hall, the venue has played host to everyone from Eric Clapton to Winston Churchill.
Anything playing at The Old Vic or the National - For the best theater in London (and some might say the world)!
The Young Vic - Offshoot sister theater of the Old Vic, known for nurturing exciting young and emerging talent.
Electric Cinema - Groovy movie theater in Notting Hill with huge, comfortable chairs, good food, and an always interesting program.
A couple of Henry Moore's at The Tate Britain
The Tate Britain - Celebrating British art from the 15th century up to the present day, the Tate Britain has the largest collection of UK-made art in the world. I’m obsessed with their collection of Henry Moore sculptures.
The Victoria and Albert Museum - One of my very favorite museums, the V&A has some of the most extensive collections of decorative arts, applied arts, and design in the world. Their costume collection is unbelievable—a major highlight! One of my favorite shows of all time was the David Bowie retrospective in 2013.
The Tate Modern - Home to the UK’s national collection of international modern and contemporary art, the Tate Modern is a must-stop for any art lover.
The National Gallery - I always make a point of stopping here, and this time I was lucky enough to catch the incredible Raphael exhibition. Centrally located in Trafalgar Square, the museum has an incredible collection of paintings dating from the early Renaissance up to the end of the 19th century.
The Courtauld - The much-loved gallery of the eminent Courtauld Institute, they have an insane collection of masterpieces ranging from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.
The Serpentine - Fabulous contemporary art gallery in Kensington Gardens. The new Zaha Hadid-designed Sackler Gallery just across the lake is well worth the visit as well.
The Soane - An extremely special, eccentric little museum, there’s nowhere quite like it. The home of neoclassical architect Sir John Soane, the museum is an overstuffed jewel-box devoted to Soane’s passion for art and Classical architecture.
The Wallace Collection - The collection of Sir Richard Wallace and the Marquesses of Hertford in their former townhome, where you can find Fragonard’s incredible, iconic painting, The Swing.
The British Museum - Enormous museum of human history and iconic public institution. The mummies in the Egyptian section are a must-see!
Primrose Hill - As in the William Blake inscription, I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill. For some of the best views in London.
Hampstead Heath - An ancient wild park of woodlands, meadows, and ponds, great for long, ambling walks or having a picnic.
Kew Gardens - An absolute can’t miss, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is both research and education institute. Housing the world’s largest and most diverse collection of botanical and mycological specimens, the wild botanic garden stretches across 500 acres of woodland, with incredible Victorian architecture all throughout.
Kensington Gardens - Beautiful gardens and home to two incredible sites: the inimitable Serpentine Gallery, where the adjacent lake feels straight out a painting, and of course, Kensington Palace.
Holland Park - Gorgeous park in Kensington with a number of formal and Japanese gardens, roving peacocks, right near the V&A.
Hyde Park - One of the things I love most about London is the abundance of green space. Hyde Park takes up a significant part of the central city, and in certain areas it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of a major metropolis.
Corporate Black Cabs - Fantastic car service, the easiest and most convenient way to get around the city (when you’re not walking or taking the tube). Ask for David, my favorite, who has been driving me and my friends for years!
This is a recent edit, but please know there is so much more to London, and it is always ever-changing! There's so much for children to see and do, it would take a whole separate guide to cover. Of course, there are infinite ways to discover London—it’s great to get out there and explore for yourself! In putting together this guide, I drew on my own experiences, as well as on the latest recommendations of friends. A massive thank you to Emilien Crespo, Amelie Alexandre, Ian Trueger, Alison Ross Green, and Tim Schifter for all of their insider tips. Also helpful was Travel + Leisure Magazine and The New York Times.