London may be one of my oldest love affairs, smitten on day one of a college semester abroad. Years later, I was incredibly lucky to live in London with my family for four exciting years at #6 Ovington Square in the heart of Knightsbridge. A perfect mix of residential and retail, close to Hyde Park and minutes from the museums of South Kensington, you couldn’t ask for a better location. Maybe it’s nostalgia, but I still like to stay in Knightsbridge whenever I visit London. Which is as often as possible.
If it’s raining- and this is London - why not go to a museum? Some of London’s most famous and iconic museums are located within a few blocks of each other (bordering Knightsbridge and South Kensington.)
When my kids were young I spent countless hours in both the Natural History Museum (one of London’s most beautiful buildings.) and the Science Museum and rarely got tired of either. Both museums have plenty to interest an adult; these are not for kids only. As admission is free you can just go in for a peek, don’t miss the main hall of the Natural History with the majestic dinosaur and soaring ceilings, stunning!
Right next door—is The Victoria and Albert, the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. After browsing the antiquities stop in the wonderful gift shop for some unique design finds.
The Serpentine Gallery, located in Hyde Park is a modern and contemporary art venue. A second space, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery opened in 2013, designed by Zaha Hadid. The space is a bold architectural statement. The Magazine, its restaurant, is worth a visit for the extraordinary design alone. Open for breakfast and lunch only.
Check In: I’m staying at the Knightsbridge Hotel on Beaufort Gardens. This boutique hotel feels like your staying at a friend’s townhouse…but only if your friends are the design duo of Tim and Kit Kemp, the owners of Firmdale Hotels. All of their hotels, such as Charlotte Street, Covent Garden, The Soho Hotel, and the Crosby Street in New York, have such great style with fabulous comfy interiors. If you like a full service restaurant and buzzy bar, the Knightsbridge is not for you. Instead, consider the nearby Berkeley or Mandarin Oriental.
Coffee and Croissants: If you haven’t heard of Ottolenghi, I’m surprised, as he has been featured everywhere; his cookbooks Plenty, Jerusalem and Plenty More have been on the bestsellers lists for months! I literally swoon here, and want to eat everything. Ottolenghi ( the restaurant) is mostly a take out place, but there is one big circular community table and, in good weather, a few tables in the back courtyard. Have a coffee and the best chocolate croissant or pastries! (I usually get the gorgeous Middle Eastern influenced salads to bring on the plane for the flight home.)
Morning Workout: Forget the gym! One of the best ways to see a city, or get a feel for a place is to get out there and go for a walk or run! Hyde Park is just a few blocks away and such a scenic spot to get in a morning workout. Do a loop around the Serpentine, passing the formal Italian gardens near Bayswater Road, see if you can find the famous statue of Peter Pan, and visit the peaceful Princess Di Memorial Fountain.
Peek In: Harrods is really like no other Department Store in the world. It is always fun to spend a half hour wandering around its famous food halls. Of course you could spend the whole day shopping here, or at the smaller but trendier Harvey Nichols, just down the block on the corner of Brompton Road and Sloane Street.
Lunch: Go out the back of Harrods and stroll down Walton Street towards Brompton Cross. Walton Street has some charming boutique stores and along the way are a few good choices for lunch. Fancy a quick falafel or some Middle Eastern mezzes? Drop into Maroush on Beauchamp Place. Italian? Both San Lorenzo on Beauchamp or around the corner Scalini’s, on Walton Street, are neighborhood favorites that are still going strong after twenty plus years. (San Lorenzo was a favorite of Princess Di!) Further down, Aubaine or Jaks are always crowded and a good choice for a casual lunch.
Shopping: The end of Walton Street, known as Brompton Cross, is where Knightsbridge meets Chelsea and South Kensington. The Conran Shop in the historic art deco Michelin Tyre building is a great source for design inspiration. And the building itself is amazing - one of my favorite sites in London. It’s home to the restaurant Bibendum, named after Michelin’s iconic figure, “The Michelin Man”. If you’re still hungry, grab some oysters and a glass of wine in the bar on the ground floor. If not, just a glass of wine will do. It’s such a pretty space. Across the street is Joseph - always fun to check out the cutting edge selection of eclectic, high-end designer clothes along with the designer’s own label. Wander around the streets that intersect Brompton Cross for a mix of well-known designer stores like Acne, Carven and British designer Amanda Wakely.
Relax: Indulge in a Thai massage at Thai Therapeutics back on Beauchamp Place. If you have never had a Thai massage, you’re in for a treat. A combination of rhythmic massage, acupressure and gentle twisting and stretching—it’s heaven! Don’t be thrown off by the Spartan décor: this place is the real deal. I make it a point to come here every time I visit London.
Downtime: Harrods, The Halkin, Capital or Berkeley all do a nice High Tea, but I’m heading back to the Knightsbridge Hotel to have some tea in the charming drawing room or library. (Of course, there is also the option of grabbing a glass of wine at the “Honor Bar” and taking a pre dinner nap.)
Dinner: So many choices…if you feel like Indian, there’s upscale Michelin starred Amaya; buzzy, fun, chic Japanese: Zuma; classic Italian: Zafferano; for fine dining: Marcus at the Berkeley, recently redone. And then there’s Dinner, Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental—impossible to get a reservation and well deserving of all its acclaim, a tour de force in British Gastronomy.