London is such a large and varied city that it's easy to get lost, both in planning a trip and in the city itself. I have to recommend making your home base in Covent Garden - a gorgeous pocket in the center of the city that has everything you'll need during your stay!
Various factors go into picking a hotel for a lengthy vacation, but location within the city you’re hoping to learn to get to know has got to be #1. And you cannot beat Covent Garden. Most tourists end up in Mayfair ($$$$) or Westminster (thinking they’re near the sights) only to find that St Paul’s is not even remotely walkable and it’s quite a journey to the inevitable London Eye trip. From Covent Garden, we spent many an evening having a relaxing, after-hours drink in the City, then strolling along the Thames after a long day shopping at Fortnum's. All on foot (with the caveat, of course, that are huge walkers). You’re about a 20-minute walk from St Paul’s and a 24-minute walk from Westminster Abbey. You can tour the two greatest royal wedding locations all on foot - what more could you ask for? Additionally, taking the Heathrow Express, getting to the airport is about as easy as it can ever be from Central London - the Express drops you at Paddington Station, and then I'd recommend a quick cab ride over to Covent Garden.
Covent Garden itself has amazing shopping - from classic, luxury mainstays like Chanel and Dior to great English names like Mulberry, if you're looking for a relaxed shopping experience, look no further. A recent favorite of mine is The Cambridge Satchel Company, which offers a variety of simple, tasteful leather bags, generally around $150-$250. Walking just outside the confines of the Garden, you'll find Eileen Fisher, H&M, and Barbour, among many others.
In a 10-night stay, we saw 5 shows, often with same-day ticket purchases. What is better than eating dinner, seeing a show, grabbing a drink, and being able to walk back to your hotel? I must particularly recommend The Mousetrap - a London classic. We attended the 27,297th performance. Personally, I’d pair The Mousetrap with dinner (before or after at The Ivy, see below)- and remember - don’t spoil the ending! If you're lucky enough to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the Palace Theatre is easily walkable. Check out the blog post on trips and tricks for seeing Cursed Child in London.
Covent Garden overflows with dining options, all the way from The Ivy to Pret. Caution - unless you’re going to a show, avoid arriving at a restaurant in this area from 6-7. Shows start at 7:30, and many an unsuspecting American attorney (oh wait, at least just these two), has wandered around Covent Garden at 6, unable to get into any restaurants and eventually finding one with completed harassed waitstaff trying to get everyone else out to their 7:30 show. A personal favorite of mine is The Ivy. Yes, I know it’s no longer David Beckham (or his modern day equivalent)’s favorite hot spot, but it’s still a very nice restaurant and, if it were a hot spot, I couldn’t get in. Her Majesty, not a frequenter of restaurants, dined here in 2017. So go, have a wonderful dinner, visit a London landmark, and stumble across the street to The Mousetrap.
No shortage of boozers here! We happened upon a tiny little pub, Savoy Tup, right off the Strand toward the Thames, looking out on the back of The Savoy. Not much seating area, but everyone is drinking outside anyway. If you’re feeling more traditional, don’t forget about Ye Old Cheshire Cheese (obviously they don’t have a website, so here’s a Frommer’s review). They have a delicious lunch (not cheap, but you if you need your fill of lawyers - you’ll find them here), but definitely pop by for a pint and soak in the atmosphere. I always pretend to be Dr. Johnson, myself, while I sit next to the roaring fire. It's not as touristy as you might think - in fact J.K. Rowling even gives it a little plug in The Silkworm, one of my favorite mystery novels. Additionally, The George (pictured below), on The Strand, as a hit with the Husband!
Covent Garden has its own tube station, of the same name. DO NOT TAKE THE STAIRS. Enough said. Charing Cross Station is a 10 minute walk along the Strand. From there, you're easily connected to a number of the large London train stations, from which you can catch trains for any day trips you might be planning. Additionally, Waterloo Station is easily walkable (on the other side of the Thames). For more on day trips from London - check out the post on visiting the U.K. by train.
HOTEL: We loved The Waldorf Hilton Covent Garden. Located on a little crescent off of the Strand, it has nice, clean rooms, door attendants, and was extremely quiet in the room at night. We opted for a fairly large room, as we had such an extended stay. Kettle in the room (always important, in my opinion!!) stocked with tea and instant coffee. As a thoughtful touch, they brought us a few little treats, including a bottle of 🍷.
If you’re looking for the high end luxury experience in this area, check out The Savoy. Now owned by Fairmont, it’s unforgettable luxury (with a hefty price tag).
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