There’s much more to the United Kingdom and United States’ “special relationship” than mere politics. The two sides have a huge amount in common and, when it comes to culture, heritage, food and drink, and hospitality, the two nations are constantly inspiring each other to innovate and excel. Alongside all of the classically British things to see and do in London, there is a host of attractions with American connections. Travelers visiting this spring can do everything from visit museums dedicated to great American statesmen to shop in iconic stores founded by U.S.-bred entrepreneurs. Here’s our guide to the best of the states in the capital.
American Bar, The Stafford London
Tucked down a narrow alley in one of London’s most historic neighborhoods is a drinking den that appears at first glance to be the epitome of Englishness. But look beyond the leather seating, racing green color scheme, elegantly dressed bar staff and dazzling array of whiskies and you’ll find that the American Bar at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Stafford London is international in more than name. Thanks to a tradition that began in the 1970s, every available square inch of space on the walls and ceiling is covered by memorabilia gifted by clients. The first present from an American guest was a carving of an American eagle; the place is now filled with photographs, flags, model airplanes, baseball caps, footballs and much more. You could spend hours taking it all in, so order a Seabiscuit (Gordon’s Sloe gin, Heering cherry liqueur, blackberry and pineapple juice, grenadine and soda water) or any other signature cocktail (they’re all inspired by tales from the bar’s history) and get comfortable.
Benjamin Franklin House
Only one of the former residences of Benjamin Franklin has survived to the present day, and it’s not what you might expect. The house where “the First American” lived in during the lead up to the Revolutionary War can be found in a modest brick structure on a quiet London street. Full of original 18th century features from the time that the Founding Father lived here as diplomat for the Pennsylvania Assembly, the house is open Wednesday through Sunday for atmospheric and historical-experience tours in which an actor playing Polly Hewson, the daughter of Franklin’s landlady, tells the story of the statesman’s life in London, from his political work to his scientific discoveries. Architectural tours are available on Mondays.
Brits might not like to admit it, but it’s the American-born retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge that they have to thank for London’s coolest department store. Selfridge went from working at Marshall Field’s in Chicago to investing a huge sum of his own money to start a new department store in London following a trip to the British capital in 1906. Selfridges opened at the then-unfashionable western end of Oxford Street in 1909 and was an instant success. The head honcho stepped down as chairman in 1941, but his flair for innovation lives on: over the years, the store has wowed with the launch of the world’s largest denim and shoe departments; additionally, each winter Londoners are treated to the most exciting and glamorous holiday window displays in the capital.