Travel with Christina Valhouli: London

One of the world’s greatest cities, London is packed with iconic landmarks, such as Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, and cultural institutions, such as the British Museum and the Tate Modern. However, it’s hardly stuck in the past. London’s skyline is constantly evolving with new skyscrapers, like the Shard and the Walkie Talkie. Above all, this city continues to thrive and inspire with its resilient spirit. On a recent trip, we explored some of London’s hidden gems and newest spots.

Four Seasons Hotel London
Langham Hotel
WHERE TO STAY | The new Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square is located in the former Port of London Authority headquarters, right across from the Tower of London. Many of the building’s original 1920s features have been retained, such as the exterior Corinthian columns. The heart of the hotel is a central rotunda that pays homage to the building’s maritime heritage, with carvings representing the elements. Pink is the signature color at the stately Langham Hotel; spot it in the floral arrangements and the staffers’ uniforms. The guest rooms at this grand dame have Asian touches; also, keep an eye out for the contemporary art collection around the hotel. Refuel at the end of the day with champagne and canapes in the stylish Club Lounge.

DESIGN MUSEUM | London’s newest museum is the Design Museum, located near Holland Park in the former 1960s Commonwealth Institute. The museum has been in the works for about 10 years, and was originally founded by Sir Terence Conran, when it was located in the basement of the Victoria & Albert Museum. Dutch architects OMA (the firm led by Rem Koolhaas) tackled the building, while designer John Pawson masterminded the interior. The galleries are designed around a minimalist oak and marble-lined atrium with a soaring roof. The exhibits explore contemporary fashion and architectural and product design, and highlight how objects influence our daily lives.

World’s End
Designers Guild
Osborn & Little
Chelsea Physic Garden
Chelsea was once the birthplace of the punk movement and epitome of Swinging London. While the punks have been replaced by art galleries, such as the Saatchi Gallery, Vivienne Westwood’s boutique, now known as Worlds End, is still there. The Design Centre of Chelsea sells everything from furniture to tiles. If you love colorful wallpaper and textiles, head to Designers Guild or Osborne & Little. Unwind among the greenery at the 17th century Chelsea Physic Garden, which is filled with edible and medicinal plants, or enjoy a tea at the Fulham Palace Refuel at Tom’s Kitchen, or enjoy oysters and champagne, along with the Michelinstained glass window, at Bibendum.

White Cube Gallery
Cereal Killer Cafe
Bike Shed Motorcycle Club
Shoreditch may still be gritty around the edges, but it’s one of London’s trendiest and most vibrant neighborhoods. Stroll down Great Eastern Street to check out the street art. Don’t miss Jay Jopling’s groundbreaking White Cube Gallery. Studio Leigh gallery is the brainchild of Tayah Leigh Barrs, a former art director for Mario Testino. Break out the credit card for Boxpark, a pop-up mall crafted from shipping containers. Get a sugar high at Cereal Killer Cafe, which serves over 120 varieties. Labour and Wait stocks vintage clothing, as well as cookware in a minimalist setting. Emerging artists showcase their works at Luna & Curious. The Bike Shed Motorcycle Club is a combo of restaurant, bar and barber shop.

Wallace Collection
Daunt Books
This neighborhood feels like its own village, and is crammed with jewel box boutiques, cafes and patisseries. Sherlock Holmes Museum is here, as well as the superb Wallace Collection, with 25 galleries of Old Masters in a Georgian town house. Browse for hours at Daunt Books under its impressive glass roof, head to Skandium for upscale Scandinavian furniture, or go to The Monocle Cafe for Japanese-inspired food and coffees.

Spotlight: BEN EVANS | Ben Evans is the director of the London Design Festival, which he co-founded with Sir John Sorrell in 2003. Kicking off in mid-September, the festival celebrates London as the design capital of the world through a mix of events and exhibitions. Evans is also the executive director of the London Biennale; the next one will be in 2018.

Jasper Morrison It’s hidden from view and has limited hours, but is the best design shop in London. The shop sells his own work, but also includes mini exhibitions on sticking tape, serving trays and other everyday items – unmissable if you can find it.

Hampstead Heath. I am fortunate to live 10 minutes away from one of London’s biggest open spaces. It is 32 hectares of largely untended parkland, including woodland, views and fresh water swimming ponds. Saves the trouble of actually going to the countryside when you need some fresh air.

Claridge’s. I want to choose a contemporary hotel, but this is still the best. Old style luxury with total discretion. It is why everyone stays there and was the venue for my wedding after party.

Lloyd’s of London. This masterpiece designed by Richard Rogers is impeccably maintained. Although it’s not open for visitors, a walk around the outside is almost enough. It is the evolution of the Centre Pompidou in Paris – one of the most important postwar buildings in the world.

Canary Wharf Station. Norman Foster’s tube station is an underground cathedral, a breathtaking cavernous concrete space that is worth a detour to see.

Drift Bench. My dear wife, Amanda Levete, the director of the architecture and design studio AL_A designed this bench in fluoro fiber glass. It’s all about complex curves and subtracted spaces. It is a daily pleasure given it sits in our main room at home.

Dinings. This is the best time in history to eat in London as we’re in the midst of a food revolution. This restaurant offers a wonderful experience. It’s tiny and so impossible to get a table, but it offers the freshest modern Japanese foods with the most delicate flavors. You’ll want to lick every plate clean.

Spotlight: CHEF GARY FOULKES | Gary Foulkes is no stranger to Michelin stars. This London based chef is the executive chef of South Place Hotel and helms the property’s Michelin-starred seafood restaurant Angler Previously, he was the head chef of the Michelin-starred The Square in Mayfair. Here, he shares some of his favorite spots in town.

For formal dining in London, try The Ledbury in Notting Hill. Brett Graham is one of the country’s finest cooks.

My favorite restaurant for casual dining is the North Indian restaurant Tayyabs, but recently I have been eating at The Liman in Islington, which comes close with their great Turkish cuisine. Try the lamb beyti.

The Golden Heart is a great bar to wind down in. Sandra, the landlady, is a good friend and one of a kind.

My favorite way to spend a sunny afternoon in London is a walk along Regent’s Canal. I live in Islington, and it’s a pleasant stroll toward Camden, where we usually end up at London Zoo, thanks to my three-year-old son.

I could wander the displays at The Natural History Museum for hours. It’s a slice of tranquility away from my intense working environment. Again, it’s a favorite of my son, especially the dinosaur section.

Pick up a snack at Eat Saigon in Whitechapel. They do an incredible banh mi, which is a Vietnamese baguette. I go for the BBQ pork. It’s also right next to the iconic Spitalfields market.

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