New York, Milan, Paris... Three out of four fashion capitals I've written about before. So it was about time I shared my thoughts on London with you! There's something about this city that I just love. Is it the architecture, the energy or simply the English culture? Either way, I feel very much drawn to this place. Unfortunately, it can be quite pricey. Which is why I worked on a guide that takes you along some of the city's main attractions without spending a single pound. That is, everywhere except in restaurants, which are truly amazing and worth the splurge.
Walk in and around Carnaby Street
London was the epicenter of the fashion world in the Swingin' Sixties for its miniskirts and mod fashion. And it is exactly in Carnaby Street that it all happened! To this day, this street and its surroundings have kept its cool vibes, making it a great area to shop and hang out. If you're looking for a spot to have coffee or some breakfast, head to Soho Grind (19 Beak Street, Soho). Whether you're looking to buy something or not, you have to push the doors at Liberty (Regent Street). The luxury department store housed in a Tudor style building is beyond epic. Over five floors, you'll find fashion, cosmetics, accessories, deco and ancient furniture. My favorite floor is the one dedicated to the home as it is packed with rich floral prints. Never have I seen so much graphic exuberance, a true feast for the eyes!
Shopping at Dover Street Market | 18-22 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4DG
I already told you about Dover Street Market in my New York city guide. Indeed, Rei Kawakubo, the designer behind Comme des Garçons, opened five of her signature concept stores slash fashion galleries in the world, but the one in London was the first. Since 2016, it is located at Haymarket (in a historic building commissioned by Mr Burberry himself at the time), but originally it could be found at Dover Street Market, hence the name. A visit to this five floor boutique is an inspirational experience on its own. Each brand gets to design its corner itself, which turns the space into a poetic chaos. Of course you'll find plenty of Comme des Garçons pieces, but also the big names such as Gucci and J.W. Anderson are present. And let's not forget the Belgians! Raf Simons, Maison Margiela and Delvaux are just a few brands that represent our Kingdom in this fashion mecca.
Walk by Buckingham Palace
If, like me, you've become obsessed with the TV show 'The Crown' you cannot miss Buckingham Palace. And since it is located in the heart of London, you'll come near it anyway! The palace strikes by its sheer size, but beyond that it is a cultural symbol, a quintessential British icon. It has been the home of the Royal family since 1837 and as such, the Queen and Prince Philip can be found here on weekdays. Don't be fooled by the picture below, the place draws many, many crowds!
Lunch at Rail House Café | 8 Sir Simon Milton Square, Victoria, London SW1E 5DJ
The Rail House Café has quickly won itself a spot in my heart. First for its interior, which is very big and open, in an 'industrial chic' style that's really well done. Second for its menu, which has something for everyone. This modern brasserie's international menu has dishes that range from an 'Avocado & Chard Florentine' to a 'Coconut Chicken & Rice'. Delicious and healthy minded! The atmosphere is relaxed and buzzy, making it a place you'll want to linger in for a while (not for too long though, because there's still plenty to see).
Walk in Elizabeth Street
One of the most beautiful (yet still relatively under the radar) streets of London is the Elizabeth Street. Together with the Ebury Street and Eccleston Street, they form a sort of picturesque village with niche boutiques and unique restaurants. And most importantly, it seems to be Spring all year long over here, with many facades that adorn the most colorful bouquets. If you had to enter just one store, push the doors of Moyses Stevens (53 Elizabeth Street), an out-of-this-world florist.
Stroll along the South Bank
You cannot go to London and not have a look at the Palace of Westminster (and its famous Big Ben) and the London Eye (an iconic part of the city's skyline). However, be prepared to be overwhelmed by the crowds. Once you reach the part of the South Bank beyond the London Eye, that's where the actual fun begins. The stretch of the River Thames from Waterloo to Tower Bridge offers the real London experience. It is a pleasant walk during which you'll cross many strollers and runners and you'll trully get in touch with the city.
On your path you'll also come across the Tate Modern, a reference when it comes to modern art. Housed in an impressive, former power station, the Tate Modern holds many treasures of modern and contemporary art and the great news is entrance is totally free (except for special exhibitions)! If you're in need of a small break (which I'm sure you will), you can have something to drink and a small bite at one of its multiple bars.
Visit of St Dunstan's in the East | St Dunstan's Hill, London EC3R 5DD
And from the busy banks of the River Thames to the quietest place in London... St Dunstan's in the East are the ruins of a medieval church that have been turned into an enchanting public garden. The church was built nearly 1,000 years ago, meaning it survived the Great Fire of Lodon in 1666. However, it did not survive the Blitz, the sustained aerial bombing of London by the Nazi's in 1940 and 1941, which saw many consecutive nights of direct bombing on civilian targets. In memorial of the countless losses made by the Blitz, the ruins of the church were kept and nature took over. The ruined arches overgrown with trees and wall climbing flowers are truly magical and form the backdrop of the most beautiful secret garden.
Walk by the Tower Bridge
London's most famous bridge is probably the Tower Bridge, located near the Tower of London, the former prison that holds the Crown Jewels. It is easily recognizable for its Victorian Gothic style and its drawbridge. It used to go up almost 50 times a day, but luckily nowadays it only does so about 1,000 times a year. The bridge gets even more beautiful at night, when it comes to life with a myriad of lights.
Dinner at Redemption | 320 Old Street, London EC1V 9DR
Under the motto "Spoil yourself without spoiling yourself", Redemption is a vegan, sugar-free and wheat free restaurant serving non-alcoholic drinks. Now I know you're thinking all of the above are real fun spoilers, but the truth is Redemption will undoubtedly leave a mark on your trip. The cocktails are delicious and beautiful and the food is amazing. And you can enjoy all of it to the fullest since you're guaranteed it's 100% good for you. Make sure to save some room for dessert since they are surprisingly delicious!
Visit of the Victoria and Albert Museum | Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
The Victoria and Albert Museum hosted some of the world's most coveted fashion exhibitions (people are still talking about 'Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty' from 2015). But the museum also holds a fascinating permanent collection (which can be visited for free) that focuses on art and design through more than 4,000 objects. The building itself is mesmerizing and holds more rooms than you can imagine. In the middle of it all, you'll find the most charming courtyard, that becomes even more lovely in summer when all the hortensias are in bloom.
Stroll in Hyde Park
London is also a very green city thanks to its eight royal parks. Hyde Park is the largest of them and a stroll around its imposing lake (the Serpentine) will surely make you forget the city hustle. The perfect Sunday getaway if you ask me. As you wander among the more than 4,000 trees, look out for the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain and the Rose Garden, two highlights I particularly enjoyed.
Late lunch at The Wolseley | 160 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EB
The Wolseley offers a luxurious experience without being too formal. This all-day brasserie is housed in a car showroom from the twenties (for Wolseley Motors Limited) and boasts a gorgeous Art Deco interior. Their afternoon tea is one with good value for money but is only served as off 3 PM (which makes total sense, but can be a problem if you have to catch your Eurostar back to Brussels at 6 PM). Don't worry, if you're there earlier, there's no doubt multiple items on the menu will please you. Speaking of which, their éclairs are the best! Bonus: the place is rumored to be a favorite among celebrities such as Kate Moss and Emma Watson.
To make the most of your Saturday, I recommend heading to London on Friday night already. The Eurostar will take you from Brussels-Midi to London in just 2 hours. Do mind that there airport kind of controls before boarding, so be there one hour in advance (if you need to leave you car near the station, I recommend BePark's Parking Gare du Midi). Once you've arrived in London, buy yourself a Oyster Card for public transport. It's really convenient and the cheapest way to get around (you should be fine with 20 pounds). Oh and don't forget there's a one hour time difference in the UK.