This summer we’re celebrating the Great British staycation. Forget the fluster of flying and get set to stay put, with our insider’s guide to the secret side of London’s quintessential icons, cultural experiences, cuisines and outdoor pursuits.
Our handpicked selection will rival the very best the world has to offer but right here in the world’s greatest city. So get ready to ease effortlessly into London life and explore like you never have before.
EXPERIENCE ALL THE CULTURES OF THE WORLD RIGHT HERE
1. Dubai shopping vs Knightsbridge’s boutiques
Forget flying off to the malls and souks of Dubai, you’ll find all your designer desires at London's Knightsbridge boutiques, dotted conveniently side by side with the most sought-after high street stores. Just remember to leave some room in your case to take it all home!
2. Celeb spotting in Hollywood vs Madame Tussauds
Why leave celebrity spotting to chance when you can get up close and personal with your favourite famous faces at London’s Madame Tussauds? Meet film stars like Audrey Hepburn, fashion’s finest from Kendall to Cara, sporting heroes like the late Muhammad Ali and Great British royalty, the Queen herself.
3. Sydney Opera House vs The Royal Opera House
We may not always be able to guarantee the weather but the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden more than makes up with its promise of stunning architecture, British history and its stage to the Royal Ballet, Royal Opera, orchestra and choir. Dress to impress at this culture-rich institution, for a classically spine-tingling London experience.
4. Rome’s Colosseum vs Shakespeare’s Globe
From cultural-rich ruins to a thespian’s dream, discover Shakespeare’s Globe, an outdoor amphitheatre where history, culture and the arts collide. Catch A Midsummer Night’s Dream or evening of Macbeth, or learn something new at one of the many lectures, talks and events taking place here all year round.
5. Japan’s Imperial Palace East Gardens vs Kyoto Garden, Holland Park
Explore the exotic at Kyoto Garden in London’s pretty Holland Park. With its koi carp, waterfalls, rockpools and falls, it’s the perfect place to relax and recharge, for peace and zen for the spirit and soul.
SEDUCE THE SENSES WITH EXOTIC CUISINES
6. Mumbai vs Brick Lane
Savour the sights, sounds and spice of Mumbai right here on East London’s Brick Lane. Made famous for its myriad of curry houses sitting snugly side by side, you’re set for a celebration of the senses. Best of the bunch however sits solo and off the beaten track, so seek out Tayyabs, a little walk away, for a crowd-pleasing culinary delight.
7. Shanghai vs China Town
From the bright lights of Shanghai to the buzz of Soho, head to London’s China Town, set in the heart of the bustling West End. From casual cafés to fine Far East fare, you’ll find everything from Peking Duck to dumplings to satisfy your cravings for an authentic Chinese feast.
8. Tokyo vs sushi @ Aqua
Experience the national dish of Japan with a sushi supper at London’s world-renowned restaurant, Aqua. Then take in the sights of the city from its stunningly central skyline, while sipping on a Tokyo Martini at the Japanese-inspired terrace bar.
9. Argentina vs steak at Hawksmoor
Prepare to indulge Argentinian-style, but with a very British twist, with homegrown produce and seasonal fare at Hawksmoor. No wonder this has become one of London’s most sought-after steakhouses, with Londoners flocking to dine on its Porterhouse and fillet steaks, as well as its curious and delicious Fried Queenies, Tamworth Belly Ribs, Brixham Fish Pie and Beef Dripping Fries.
10. Mexico vs dinner and sundowners at El Camino
Nestled on Soho’s fashionable Brewer Street, this Latin American establishment packs some serious punch when it comes to Mexican specialities. With a menu served until 2am, this is the place to go for a late night tacco fix, so refuel before continuing on the evening downstairs at The Pink Chihuahua, for a tequila-infused night cap.
SEE THE WORLD FROM THE HEART OF THE CAPITAL
11. The Pompidou Centre vs Tate Modern
While Paris’s Pompidou wows with its colourful exterior, London’s Tate Modern’s pièce de résistance of internationally-acclaimed modern art has always remained tucked inside, until now that is. 2016 sees the exciting launch of the Switch House, with its twisting brick pyramid silhouette sitting vis-à-vis the powerstation. Inside expect to find even more avant-garde performances, art and film, as well as live artistry and a celebration of the female artists who have shaped the face of modern art today.
12. Burj Khalifa vs the Sky Garden
They both achieve record-breaking status, with Burj Khalifa standing as the tallest building in the world, while London’s Sky Garden hit the record books as the capital’s highest public garden. Add to this an uninterrupted 360 degree panoramic view of the city, stunning landscaping and a cocktail bar where you can relax and take it all in, this latest addition to London's skyline takes the capital's beauty to brand new heights.
13. Boston Symphony Hall vs The Royal Albert Hall
Both considered being among the best classical music venues in the world, the Royal Albert Hall is conserved as a Grade I listed building and celebrated as one of London’s most iconic architectural and musical masterpieces. Its Henry Willis organ is made from 9,999 pipes, while its roof comprises 20,000 square feet of glazed iron, all culminating into the perfect acoustics to showcase the very best talent from around the globe.
14. The Peabody Institute Library, Baltimore to The British Library
What Peabody has in height, The British Library more than makes up for in breadth, with a copy of each and every publication produced in the UK and Ireland under its roof. That’s an impressive 150 million pieces, with an extra three million added each year - so make space in the schedule to discover the many books, maps, manuscripts, magazines and sounds that make this institution so awe-inspiring. If you’re lucky you may also catch a glimpse of the Diamond Sutra, the world’s earliest dated book, which often sits on display in the gallery space.
15. The American Museum of Natural History vs the Natural History Museum
Sharing principles from across the pond, both museums seeks to discover, interpret and express the very best in science, the natural world and universe through research, education and exploration, while challenging how people think about the world and our habitat. Here you can enjoy immersive experiences, meet a host of experts and take part in interactive workshops, meaning you can take a whole host of knowledge home with you when you leave.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
16. Barcelona’s Las Ramblas vs Columbia Road Flower Market
Roaming through quaint, cobbled streets with the sweet scent of this season’s blooms in the air. No, we’re not at Las Ramblas, we’re at Londoners’ favourite find, Columbia Flower Market. Tucked secretly away between residential East End Streets, among the flowers and the foliage, is this bustling Sunday sensation, promising to provide you with your weekend fix of flowers, coffee, cupcakes and antiques.
17. California surfing vs Docklands wake boarding
Forget the uncertainty of the sea and learn to wakeboard, urban-style, at Wakeupdocklands. Bringing together industry experts, the latest technology and a whole lot of fun, this is one city adventure that favours the brave.
18. Colorado rapids vs jetboating on the Thames
Get all the thrill of the Colorado rapids right here on the Thames, as you to take to the waters for London’s fastest sightseeing tour. Fly by The Shard, Millennium Bridge, Royal Greenwich and Tower Bridge, as you race at lightning speed to the Thames Barrier and back, on the ride of your life.
19. Central Park vs Hyde Park
You don’t need to cross the pond for a picturesque park experience. Simply wander just a moment's stroll from your room to one of the most stunning city escapes that London has to offer. Feel the pace of the city melt away as you enjoy the many sights and activities waiting in store behind the park gates.
20. African Safari vs Land of the Lions at London Zoo
Get set to safari right here in the city, as London Zoo launches Land of the Lions. The newest addition to its already wild and wonderful schedule, this is as close you’ll come to an African safari adventure, but with all your creature comforts waiting for you back in your room when you’re ready to call it a night.