There’s such a variety of top attractions, restaurants and hotels in London that you could easily spend a whole week of vacation just working out how to spend your time here. But you’ve got better things to do than that, so we’ve done the hard work for you and rounded up some of the most exceptional options the British capital has to offer. Your only job now is to enjoy them all.
The Museum: Tate Modern
This former power station on the banks of the River Thames holds an enormous collection of modern and contemporary artworks and hosts regular temporary exhibits, many of them of blockbuster quality. You’ll need a ticket for major shows, but there’s no charge for general admission, which is fortunate, because this trove of treasured pieces is well worth multiple visits. The extraordinary Turbine Hall, which once contained the power station’s electricity generators, houses large-scale installations. Olafur Eliasson, Ai Weiwei and Louise Bourgeois are among the artists who have created commissions for the space, which measures 114 feet high and 498 feet long. Showing through April 6 is a huge textile and wood installation by American sculptor Richard Tuttle. Aside from the art, don’t miss the wonderful views over the River Thames from the second-floor café.
The Landmark: Royal Albert Hall
One of the best places in London to catch a concert, this beautiful 19th-century hall is worth visiting for its architectural and historical value alone. The building dates from 1871 and is named after Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria and the man who dreamt up the hall (sadly, he died six years before work began). It’s best admired from Kensington Gardens across the road, where you can make out the glass and wrought iron dome and the mosaic frieze running all the way around the building. Tours of the 5,000-seat auditorium and backstage areas run several times a day, seven days a week.
The Hotel: The Savoy
Only a handful of London hotels have what it takes to earn Forbes Travel Guide’s highest rating, but this historic establishment sandwiched between Covent Garden and the River Thames never fails to impress. Established in 1889, Five-Star The Savoy was the first hotel in the city to have electric lighting — it was luxurious then and is even more stunning today. The Savoy reopened following an extensive renovation and restoration in 2010, with designer Pierre-Yves Rochon setting new touches like Murano glass chandeliers alongside gorgeous historical features such as original mahogany paneling. Thirty-eight of the hotel’s 268 suites and guest rooms look directly onto the river, and there’s a 30-foot swimming pool tucked away in its own atrium on the fourth floor. Dine at the legendary Savoy Grill, head to the American Bar to sip a classic White Lady cocktail in the spot where it was invented or take afternoon tea in the Thames Foyer.
The Natural Attraction: Richmond Park
The biggest enclosed space in London, Richmond Park covers 2,500 acres. It’s the perfect spot for a rural ramble, complete with rolling countryside, ancient trees and herds of wild deer. But the park has its civilized side, too, as befits a place with royal connections dating back to the 13th century. Climb King Henry’s Mound to enjoy the “protected view” over London to St. Paul’s Cathedral 12 miles to the east. Explore the Isabella Plantation, a 40-acre woodland garden first planted in the 1830s; its famous azaleas are at their best in April and May. Bicycles rentals are available all year round, and a number of local stables will take you for a guided horseback ride in the park.
The Restaurant: Galvin La Chapelle
The third restaurant opened by brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin, Galvin La Chapelle has perhaps the most atmospheric setting of any eatery in the city: a 19th-century church hall with a vaulted 100-foot-high ceiling, stone archways and enormous windows cut into bare brick walls. The Galvins’ trademark modern French cuisine provides a nice counterpoint to these historic surroundings: think rich tagine of pigeon or tangy velouté of chestnuts to start, followed by poached guinea fowl with braised salsify (an edible brown root), or Icelandic cod with cauliflower purée. Opt for the à la carte selections if you know what you like, or, for a taste of everything, there’s the menu gourmand.