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How to City Like a Brit

Although I’ve been to London a plethora of times, I usually spend my days there sightseeing – and while it’s lovely, I decided this last summer trip would be spent as my British friends do . You see, London is a hybrid between New York and Paris and combines great food from all cuisines, comfortable hotels, chic beauty spots, sophisticated bars and an abundance of culture and history, but I have it always underestimated, which is why it was precisely the right time for a change.

Originally, I had a vision of what those 10 days could be like: drinking tea with mini sandwiches or flavored scones, visiting local restaurants, etc. But, it was so much more than that, thanks to recommendations from my buddies across the pond.

As I already knew my way around the city, I felt ready for an authentic British adventure. During my stay, I spent my time in the West End of London, an area generally known for its theater productions and tourist attractions. It is made up of Mayfair, Marylebone, Fitzrovia, Soho, Covent Garden, etc. However, instead of doing London as I have done in the past – with visits to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, The London Eye and Borough Market – I chose to experience the city as Londoners do. While there’s nothing wrong with seeing the city in a “touristy” way, this guide is for those looking to broaden their horizons a bit on their next visit.

Mike Kemp/In pictures/Getty Images

Beauty

After leaving the long flight from New York, the only thing on my mind was to heal my skin as soon as possible. With working hands on celebrities like Sienna Miller, Phoebe Dynevor and Nicola Coughlan, it’s no surprise that Jasmina Vico is London’s most sought-after facialist. She uses a high-tech, holistic approach that’s said to work wonders on all skin types, so it only makes sense that booking an appointment with her is as coveted as London’s trendiest restaurants. Unfortunately, when I visited, I couldn’t make an appointment because she was so booked. However, it’s at the top of my list when I return.

Another great place for facials and skincare? The 111 Skin Clinic at 111 Harley Street in Marylebone. The London-based brand, which was founded by board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Yannis Alexandrides, is loved by celebrities like Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston and Lady Gaga, which is why their facials and treatments are everything. also popular. I managed to get a last minute cancellation at 111Skin and spent a blissful hour working the witchcraft on my skin.

Although I had just had my color done in New York, friends from all over London raved and raved about Stil Salon for covet-worthy cuts and colors. The award-winning lounge has locations in both Notting Hill and Chelsea and is decorated with super cool Scandinavian design.

food drink

London is a mix of every cuisine you can imagine. And, while you can’t go wrong with most choices, my friends pointed me to a few tried-and-true places. Dishoom, an Indian restaurant near Carnaby Street, is popular for its classic Bombay dishes, while Frenchie in Covent Gardens is known for its French-inspired international cuisine. Kingly Court is also a great choice for something less formal with a variety of dining options for everyone. The multi-level food court is tucked away on Carnaby Street and offers great brunches with types of cuisine ranging from Peruvian to Greek and everything in between. Personally, I’ve been to Carnaby Street many, many times and never knew the place existed until my friend in London suggested we meet there.

If you’re looking for a fun, low-key activity for a group of friends, head to Swingers, a spot close to Selfridges. The indoor golf, multitude of dining options and great drinks are the reasons why Londoners choose to go there. However, if you want a solo evening filled with delicious pasta, Pastaio in Carnaby is never a bad choice. Every dough is handmade, the focaccia is as fluffy as it gets, and the drinks are fun and delicious. For an experience that will make you want to put on your evening dress, try drinks at the Theater Royal on Drury Lane, which is a hidden bar located in London’s oldest theatre.

Although I mainly stayed in the West End, other places of interest include Borough Market which has a variety of delicious food stalls and shops during the day. Favorites include Padella, a fresh pasta restaurant, Bread Ahead, a delicious bakery with mouth-watering donuts, and fish!, a place with fantastic fish and chips. However, at night, Parrillan, a delicious Spanish spot opens and always has great food. Friends also recommended Meraki, a restaurant with amazing Greek cuisine in Fitzrovia, Taqueria, a Mexican hotspot in Notting Hill, and Mazi, a restaurant serving a modern take on Greek cuisine (also in Notting Hill).

Purchases

A visit to London is not complete without a trip to Selfridges, Harrods or Liberty. All of the famous department stores have a vast assortment of clothing, shoes, home goods, etc., which surpasses that of any department store in the United States. Harrods and Selfridges offer an assortment of local and global designers. Typically, both will carry similar markings – although you can also snag hard-to-find designer pieces in each. Liberty, on the other hand, has a smaller assortment filled with more local designers. You’ll see a mix of Londoners and tourists in the shops as the selection is *just* excellent. Warning: you’ll likely walk away with new parts in hand, so take care and pack accordingly.

Carnaby Street is touristy, yes, but it’s a great place to spend an afternoon strolling. The little shops, great restaurants, and proximity to where I was staying made it a place I frequented when I wanted to people watch and hang out. Plus, Fortnum and Masons, London’s famous food store, is just a short walk away and offers a fabulous selection of British treats that will make great memories for your family back home.

Another must-have according to my London friends? Vintage purchases. Annie’s Ibiza, Nordic Poetry, One of A Kind Archive and Modes and More all came highly recommended. You’ll find everything from unique pieces to tons of hidden gem finds. In my opinion, you really can’t go wrong.

Accommodation

Similar to New York, staycations are a thing in London. Hotels highly recommended by my friends included the Biltmore Mayfair, a luxury accommodation in Mayfair that is within walking distance of many popular sites, The Edition Hotel, an elegant luxury hotel in Maryleborne, and the Rosewood London, an elegant hotel sophisticated in Covent Garden with plenty of British charm. Each is located in different areas while still offering the chic British experience that still manages to feel like home – even if you’re staying in a five-star luxury hotel.

Culture

No trip to London is complete without a visit to one of the West End’s famous theaters – and it’s a popular tourist activity among Britons. This trip, I went to see Pi’s life, but you really can’t go wrong with a show in the West End. Shows are played almost every day, making it easy to fit them into your schedule.

Truth be told: I’ve never had an afternoon tea experience in my travels to London. I’ve had tea, eaten scones and sat in cute cafes, but never really gone for afternoon tea in London. When the experience came highly recommended by friends, I immediately added it to my itinerary. There are places all over London for afternoon tea, however, my friends recommended the Rose Lounge at Sofitel St. James. It was relatively affordable and gave me the opportunity to try some spectacular teas while munching on the most delicious sweet and savory treats.

There’s no shortage of museums in London either, so all my rainy days included visits to new and old favourites, which you can never go wrong with. Some of them included the National Gallery, the Design Museum, the Tate Modern and the National History Museum.