Weekend in London: our city guide on where to stay and what to do

Consider this your ultimate weekend city guide to London, packed with recommendations on the best restaurants, hotels and places to visit for after 17 May.

Oh London, how we love you. This vibrant, beautiful, hectic melting pot has everything we could have ever wish for. 

From romantic French restaurants, raucous bottomless brunches and tasty Italian restaurants to country walks, whimsical hidden reading spots and cosy pubs. When it comes to planning the best things to do in London, the list could go on forever. 

Picking the best hotels in London is an overwhelming task too, thanks to how many gorgeous places there are to stay. On our list you can expect to see a mix of British institutions next to lesser known hipster hang outs, from The Charlotte Street Hotel which sits parallel to Oxford Street to the Henrietta Hotel, which is barely visible to those who wander past it every day. 

Whether you live in London yourself or you’re visiting for the weekend, we’ve gathered our experiences and expertise to pick out the best places to go, stay, do, drink and eat. Just how we’d recommend our favourite local brunch spot or the fanciest bar around to a friend passing through, we’ve picked places in north, east, south and west that represent some of the city’s hidden gems. 

So this city guide is like a love letter to the city we call home. From the polished mews of Chelsea to the gritty streets of Dalston, we love London and everything that makes it the vibrant, beautiful, hectic melting pot it is.

We hope our London weekend city break guide treats you well and you grow to love the city as much as we do, and give these recommendations to your friends – we don’t even mind if you pass them off as your own.  

Best hotels in London

  • Sofitel London St James

    There are few spots nicer in central London than the idyllic Waterloo Place where Hotel Sofitel London St James smartly sits. Just seconds from The Mall and iconic landmarks like Buckingham Palace, this little corner of the city is all about huge, regal buildings with creamy neoclassical facades like something out of Oliver Twist

    So, it’s fair to say that if you’re planning on staying at Sofitel London St James, you’ll be in one of the best spots in town. Although, why you’d want to leave this swish hotel and all it has to offer, we couldn’t guess. Step inside to the enormous lobby and guests are immediately met by friendly, helpful staff for whom nothing seems to be too much trouble. 

    Being housed in a listed building, the rooms come in all shapes and sizes (although most are generous) and benefit from lots of natural light thanks to the large windows. In terms of décor, the aesthetic is matchy-matchy with rooms or suites tending to be themed to one colour or pattern. The aesthetic also has a luxurious formality about it (not the kind of place you want to throw a hen do). Each bathroom is decked out with complimentary products from Hermès and with huge rainforest showers, giant mirrors and swanky tiling; the experience is almost spa like. 

    While there are lots of lovely restaurants in a close vicinity, we would encourage anyone staying the night to try out Wild Honey St James for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The lighting installations are a thing to behold and create a sense of drama, while the plush leather and velvet booths are sumptuously comfortable. Sofitel describes the restaurant as ‘casual’ but the delicious menu and brilliant staff make this place worthy of special occasions. 

    Currently open for essential travel bookings.

    Book now

  • The Ned

    This list wouldn’t be complete without a hotel that’s caused a pretty big stir among Londoners in the last few years.

    Unlike anything the City has seen before, The Ned opened its doors in 2016 like an adult playground with a monstrous mix of nine restaurants, two bars, a private members area, rooftop, pool, spa, hammam and hotel rooms.

    Housed in the only building we could imagine carrying off an operation like this, the grade II listed former bank is utterly majestic. It has green marble pillars and a statement check floor, a re-purposed vault and a central bandstand hoisted above the crowds to host live entertainment.

    And upstairs the bedrooms have been created with the same magic. The vibe feels slightly gentleman’s boudoir-come-1920s dressing room, with lush touches and vintage influences, but with all the modern luxuries you could want. Room sizes vary from a simple Crash Pad to a selection of overtly decadent suites, some of which come with four poster beds, a terrace or even a kitchen and living space.

    Staying at the hotel also gives you temporary access to The Ned’s members only spaces, like the rooftop restaurant and pool and the underground cocktail bar in a vault, which are well worth a visit too. 

    All bedrooms will be open from 17 May.

    Book now

  • Henrietta Hotel

    This London offering from Experimental Group (the très chic gang behind the Experimental Cocktail Club and some of Paris’s hippest hangouts), the Henrietta Hotel is essentially why Instagram was made.

    In a tiny townhouse on Covent Garden’s Henrietta street, this boutique hotel has just 18 rooms and a laid-back attitude. You can choose between a ‘grand’ or ‘room’, but either way your new abode’s colour palette will revolve around a pastel spectrum.

    Our favourite is the Henrietta, with dark navy walls that look delicious against a pink velvet sofa that sits nonchalantly in the corner of the room, everything in this room feels like a statement – especially the huge Art Deco headboard. The real show stopper though? Well, it has to be the millennial pink bathroom which comes complete with gold foil adorned doorway and white fluffy robes annotated with the hotel’s cute logo.

    The hotel also has a bistro, which you’ll find just downstairs. Perfect for an evening bite to eat, this venue is all about the ambiance, with an amber glow emitting from every table and jazzy tunes tinkling softly in the background. 

    All bedrooms will reopen from 17 May.

    Book now

  • The Charlotte Street Hotel

    The iconic pastel green facade and matching old fashioned lampposts are enough reason to visit this central London spot. After over 20 years on Fitzrovia’s Charlotte Street, The Charlotte Street Hotel has become somewhat of an institution. Nestled between Oxford Street and Goodge Street, it’s super central (and accessible for celebrities) while also being out of sight.

    Once inside, the hotel’s style feels more avant-garde than its exterior. You’ll find an eclectic mix of art works accompanied by unusual sculptures in the lobby, while the bedrooms are a mish-mash of vivid colours and patterns.

    The overall look is one that feels unique, curated and utterly boutique with a nod to the worlds of art and textiles. A standout feature in one of the deluxe junior suites for example, is a giant, scalloped headboard printed with exuberant flowers, complimented by the beautiful, fabric crafted walls.

    As you would expect from a luxury five star hotel the bathrooms are gorgeous. Most have walk-in showers and monochrome granite walls, floors and baths. The TVs are generous in both size and viewing options, the only mod con you’re missing is a tea and coffee station so call up for some hot water and teabags if you’re feeling like you can’t go without.

    All bedrooms will reopen from 17 May.

    Book now

Best restaurants in London

Morito

Oh, to be the kind of person who eats at Morito on the regular. The Hackney Road restaurant is the definition of coolest kid on the block. Think New York-esque in design, but pared back enough to look at home in Hackney.

The staff manage to balance their hipster aesthetic with charming people skills, making them particularly efficient at their jobs. And this, along with a mouth-watering menu, makes ordering all too easy.

We advise starting with a cocktail. Negroni fans get stuck into the baharat negroni (gin, Campari, la copa vermouth rosso, Baharat) and white negroni (la copa bianco, suze, gin, cardamom). Or, if martinis are your thing, then the PX espresso martini with pedro ximenez sherry has a real kick, as does the spicy quindilla martini.

We also recommend ordering a mix of dishes to share, but make sure you include the charcoal grilled lamb chops, fried aubergines with date molasses and feta and the patatas bravas. 

Restaurant is open for outdoor bookings.

Jikoni 

From the moment you sit down, it’s clear that Jikoni, the pink-hued Asian slash Middle Eastern slash African neighbourhood restaurant in Mayfair, is an independent. From the carefully selected table wear in an array of pastels, to the unique art on the walls, to the handmade chocolates ready to picked up on your way out, this place is all about the little touches.

It’s also about the way each and every dish on the menu feels like it took a lifetime to create. Take the roasted scallop for example, which comes with avocado, yuzu and crisp seaweed. It’s the softest thing you’ll ever bite into and is served on a picturesque seashell. 

Or the ridiculously succulent chicken skewers, smothered in peanut sauce. These kinds of dishes will keep you coming back and back, especially the dessert menu, which features a banana come sticky toffee pudding cake with malted ice cream (that has the consistency of clotted cream).

With a gorgeous ambiance, lust-worthy interiors and one of the best menus in London, you’d think Jikoni couldn’t get any better – but wait for it, it’s also founded and owned by a woman. Hurrah!

Born in Kenya to Indian parents, Ravinder Bhogal is not only delightful and clearly a pro at running a restaurant, but an award-winning food writer, presenter and cook. Jikoni may be her first restaurant, but we doubt it will be her last. 

Restaurant is open for dinner Thursday to Sunday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday, for outdoor bookings.

Frenchie 

Foodies, take note: this Henrietta Street eatery is a big deal for those who consider themselves in the know about gourmet grub. Stylishly slick, you’ll find that everything at this haunt has been designed with consideration.

Pale grey tonal walls and plenty of lighting elongate the restaurant, while block colours and structured lines create a sophisticated feel. Hero furniture pieces like blush pink velvet chairs and monochrome tiled flooring had us hooked as soon as we walked in the door, cementing Frenchie as one of the coolest restaurants in Covent Garden, and beyond.

If you’re not familiar with the story behind the restaurant’s name, the owner Greg Marchand who originally hails from Brittany in France, worked with Jamie Oliver at his restaurant Fifteen, where the naked chef gave his protégé the nickname Frenchie. And it’s stuck ever since.

Marchand is known back in France for a string of Parisian venues and is well regarded for his experimental, quality menus. Thankfully, his Covent Garden venture is no different. The five course taster menu includes mouth-watering dishes like duck foie gras cranberries, mulled wine and ginger bread and Cornbury Park venison, quince and smoked celery root.

Restaurant open Wednesday to Sunday for outdoor bookings.

Bob Bob Ricard 

Anyone who’s anyone has been to Bob Bob Ricard; the infamous Soho restaurant with ‘press for champagne’ buttons at every table.

If you haven’t seen them on social media we think you’ll have heard of them via urban restaurant legend, and we’re sure, have been dying to try them out ever since.

Unless you’re Mariah Carey (or at least live like we imagine she does), this is a special occasion kind of place. The service is impeccable, your coat is taken at the door and as previously mentioned, a member of the wait staff is with you armed with a bottle of bubbly at the simple press of a button.

The menu is all about decadence, which follows suit from the gold drenched surroundings. We’re talking rich pork belly, lobster mac and cheese, truffle french fries and caviar. Oh, and vodka shots served at a precise minus 18 degrees.

Obviously having a glass of champagne is a must, there are four different kinds on the menu and we recommend asking your waiter which works best with your meal.

Restaurant will reopen 17 May.

Sketch 

Stepping inside this restaurant is like falling down the rabbit hole. Push aside a thick velvet curtain and you’ll see the outline of a hopscotch on the floor (feel free to practice your playground skills), neon signs interspersed with avant-garde artworks on the walls and utterly over-the-top décor and furniture. And this is nothing compared to the completely millennial pink room where a unique afternoon tea is served.

Whether you’re stopping by for a casual drink with friends in the upstairs Parlour, wish to enjoy lunch is the foliage-covered Glade Room or simply want to try out the much-talked about egg toilets, Sketch is a sight to behold and always bubbling with atmosphere. 

Restaurant will reopen 17 May.

Best things to do in London 

Hire a rowing boat in Hyde Park 

There’s nothing like being out of the Serpentine on a sunny day, basking in the rays and feeling as close to nature as you feasibly can in London.

From April until October, those who have got their sea legs sorted can hire either a rowing boat or a pedal boat to go out on the water and reenact The Notebook, no Ryan Gosling required (we reckon your best friend is more than up to the job).

Choose between an hour (£10) or half an hour (£12) and take a bottle of something fizzy out there with you to keep you entertained.

Columbia Road Flower Market 

Every Sunday morning, Columbia Road’s flower market sees rows and rows of colourful stalls appear, each with a bundle of blooms to choose from. Work your way down the street and shop to your heart’s content. Fair warning, though: it can get very busy here, so we suggest going either early in the morning (it’s open from the wee hours) or around 2pm when the bargains come out.

Even without the flower market, this little road is ridiculously cute. It’s lined with tiny boutiques selling everything from antiques and handmade rugs to quirky footwear and art prints.

If you get peckish swing into Lilli Vanilli’s bakery which sells cakes and sweet treats that look almost too good to eat, or if you’re in the mood for a drink we recommend cosy pub The Royal Oak.

Primrose hill 

For a real Londoner’s day out, we have the perfect route for you, and it involves taking stock of the glorious sights from Primrose Hill. 

Starting at Regent’s Park tube station, walk through the park using the central pathway (although we would recommend a diversion to the rose gardens if you are so inclined) and enjoy one of the city’s most beautiful green spaces. You should notice a Benugo cafe half way through your walk, so grab a tea to amble along with. 

By the time you reach the zoo you’ll be at the edge of the park, and from there cross the road and enter the park opposite which surrounds the infamous Primrose Hill. Pack some snacks beforehand and climb to the top of the hill, with no peaking at the view until you reach the summit.

Once you’ve had your fill of the skyline, make your way down the left hand side of the hill and walk along Regent’s Park Road, a delightful street littered with pastel houses, cafes and boutiques. Stop by Greenberry or Odette’s for lunch and be sure to check out the florist, The Fitzroy’s Flower Collection. 

Sky Garden 

A short walk from St Paul’s Cathedral, nestled among the somewhat soulless patch of London that lies in the shadow of Bank, is a leafy dream hoisted high into the sky. 

The Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden and sits on the 35th level of the famous enlarged glass dome of 20 Fenchurch Street, where it boasts 360’ views of the city’s skyline. Laid out across three levels, it’s free for visitors to look around the main garden: all you have to do is book a time slot online in advance (way, way, waaaay in advance though, as it gets booked up very quickly), and you will be given an hour to walk around and take some snaps.

Not only is the contrast of a tropical garden and an all glass surrounding mesmerising, it makes for a very cool place to take some me-time and read a book, sketch or simply look out at the view. 

If you want to take your experience to the next level, though, you can book into either the Darwin Brasserie restaurant which serves up some rather high class nosh in a really beautiful surrounding, at the highest point of the garden with the best view. There’s also two bars scattered on the different levels, where you can park yourself up for a drink.  

Venue will reopen 17 May.

Barbican 

Any trip to London should see you attempt to visit as many of the city’s culture spots as possible with names like the V&A, British Museum and Natural History Museum riding very high on the list. But if you’re looking for somewhere that’s slightly off the beaten tourist track, the Barbican makes for a fascinating and enlightening day out.

Although it’s described as a performing arts centre (the biggest of its kind in Europe) the Barbican is actually a medley of cinema, exhibition space, library, restaurant, shop, conservatory and host of theater performances. 

Book onto a high profile exhibition, see a big new release or indie flick and definitely visit the glass-roofed, leafy sanctuary which features tropical plants and trees, birdlife and exotic fish. It’s only open on select Sundays so check before you go, but the cacti room has got your next profile picture written all over it. 

Venue will reopen 17 May.

Images: Instagram / Instgaram / Venues 

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