Travel tips: what to see and do while staying in London
Luxury hotel group, The Doyle Collection has three London hotels within striking distance of the city’s most famous sights. And their weekend curators will make sure your stay comes with a wealth of local insights and tips
Culture vultures will be held spellbound by the treasures housed in South Kensington's world-famous museums, from the blue whale of the Natural History Museum to the five millennia of human creativity at the V&A, pictured above. Photograph: Getty Images
The Kensington, with its grand, stucco facade is set on the eponymous neighbourhood’s wide, leafy boulevard. Certainly, the Victorian grandeur of its high ceilings, heritage decor, and open fireplaces evoke something of a bygone era. Yet, there is also modernity to the colourful, contemporary furnishings and the attentive, unstuffy staff. It all combines to lend the personal, familiar vibe of a lovingly-restored mansion and sophisticated members’ club, where everyone feels like they belong.
The hotel’s enviable location in South Kensington means guests can wander to the chic boutiques of Sloane Street and Kings Road and the vibrant food markets and art galleries of Duke of York Square. Culture vultures will be held equally spellbound by the treasures housed in the neighbourhood’s world-famous museums, from the blue whale of the Natural History Museum to the five millennia of human creativity at the V&A.
Away from these well-trodden routes, though, there are hidden gems to be discovered – as recommended by the hotel’s weekend curator, who picks out Exhibition Road, with its ‘classic brickwork, sculptures and trees lining the wide-open avenue’ as ‘quintessentially London’. For something more bijou, take a stroll down the bohemian yet exclusive South Kensington Mews.
And for retail therapy? Well, you’ll find it all at Harrods, of course, which, even if you’re not in the market for Chanel dresses or Cartier necklaces, is worth a trip if only to check out the food halls and marvel at the original Victorian tiles. The recently revitalised restaurant Bibendum also has wonderful tiling – Art Deco this time – stained glass, and is a great spot for a coffee. End the day back at The Kensington’s K Bar, home to a cool, confident ambience, urbane guests, and creative cocktails mixed by immaculate staff.
It’s a similar scene at The Marylebone – home to some of London’s most eye-catching suites, complete with outdoor terraces, along with the upscale Third Space pool and gym. Here, 108 Brasserie and 108 Bar spill out onto the cobbles of Marylebone Lane, their outside tables, greenery and elegant lantern lighting recalling a Parisian café yet blending seamlessly into Marylebone’s creative, compelling neighbourhood.
It is Marylebone’s rich streak of independent businesses that give rise to a ‘village’ feel. There is a wealth of cultural attractions – from the contemporary artworks of the Rebecca Hossack gallery to the classical splendour of the Wallace Collection; from the immaculately dressed A-listers of the Chiltern Firehouse to the intimate confines of the Wigmore Hall – and all just a short stroll from the buzz of Bond Street, Oxford Street and the West End.
Chiltern Street itself is emblematic of the neighbourhood’s communal feel – home to an array of quirky independent boutiques, selling everything from whiskey and candles to woodwind instruments and wedding dresses. Then there’s the fantastic food shops: The Ginger Pig butchers; FishWorks for the best fishcakes in town; and, for lunch, the wonderfully British sandwich bar – and local institution – Paul Rothe & Son. If, after all this, you’re after a sweet treat (with a side of fashion), try Cabbages and Frocks – a small high-end market set in the grounds of St Marylebone Parish Church. The church was where poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning secretly married, and one of Charles Dickens’ children was baptised (he wrote six of his novels from a family home nearby).
For more writer references, The Bloomsbury is set amid the historic 18th century neighbourhood of the same name – a literary heartland that is home to The British Museum and a host of galleries, antiquarian bookshops and a wealth of cultural heritage; it is also just five minutes from the boutiques and markets of Covent Garden, and London’s theatreland.
Its vibrant creative spirit lives on in the restored Grade II-listed neo-Georgian architecture and elegant facade of Edwin Lutyens' magnificent building. The Bloomsbury is a hotel steeped in heritage but now at the forefront of its own vibrant transformation, with a bold new look encapsulated by the dynamism of The Coral Room – London’s new hotspot. Designed by the team behind some of London’s most defining contemporary venues – think Berkeley Square’s Sexy Fish and the new Annabel’s – and set within the former high-ceilinged hotel lobby, this is a grand salon bar offering all-day dining and late-night carousing for a chic crowd. When you can pull yourself away, this is a neighbourhood made for walking – with a host of independent restaurants and cafés hidden around each corner.
And if there’s one street that embodies the postcode’s creative vibe, it’s Lamb’s Conduit Street – from the foodie haven of La Fromagerie to a string of characterful boutiques – Universal Works, Folk and Persephone books, to name a few.
From there, it’s a short walk back to the hotel – so will it be the Instagrammable Dalloway Terrace for Afternoon Tea, or the intimate Bloomsbury Club Bar for a signature cocktail. Both celebrate The Bloomsbury Set – a clique of local artists, writers and intellectuals who, at the start of the 20th century, became as notorious for their lifestyle as their creativity.
In London, if you look hard enough, there are surprises around every corner – The Doyle Collection will help you find them.
For more information, visit doylecollection.com