Last month was my mom’s 60th birthday so I planned a secret surprise trip for her. On her birthday I gave her a little customized card nothing more than the flight departure and arrival details, without mentioning where we would go. I gave her some tips beforehand but until we arrived at Amsterdam Schiphol airport she had absolutely no clue! It was her first visit to London and for me it had been almost 10 years since I last visited this lovely city (wow, time flies!!).
So I did a lot of research on where to go, what to do and get the most out of our three days in London. I also received many great tips from my Instagram followers, thanks for that lovelies! I thought it could be fun to give you a little peek in our travel diary and share tips and pictures of my favorite hotspots in London. There are too many wonderful places to mention, but I made a selection of the best sights to see and things to enjoy when you only have a few days in the city.
SLEEP // Mondrian Hotel at sea containers
We spent our nights in the newly opened Mondrian hotel, which sits between the Blackfriars Bridge and the famous Oxo Tower at the vibrant South Bank. The hotel is designed by one of my favorite designers, Tom Dixon, who gave the hotel its wow factor and retro signature, while at the same time creating something truly original. Eye catching pink leather couches, velvet chairs and lovely brass details. An absolute heaven for an interior design fan like me. Oh mr. Dixon, pretty please (as we are currently moving and redecorating our interior), can you please can come over to my house and do your magic?!
The bedrooms are tastefully decorated with various shades of grey combined with touches of magenta. But the most exciting part of the room is the bathroom. It is completely covered in white marble with a spacious and delightful rainfall shower.
The breakfast buffet at the Sea Containers restaurant was simply awesome, offering a wide range of freshly baked breads, jars of yogurts and bowls of berries and other delicious fruits. And if you do not want to go out for dinner, in the evening this place tuns into a hot and happening dining restaurant serving refined dishes.
AGUA Bathhouse & Spa is an oasis of tranquility in the basement of the hotel and offers complimentary access to hotel guests, also for its gym facilities. It offers a diverse range of signature treatments with carefully curated niche wellness products to truly unwind. The spa looks very futuristic, with a huge copper teardrop hanging from the ceiling.
EAT // Lunch at Serpentine, Hyde park
A cute place that I will definitely go back to on my next visit to London is Serpentine Bar & Kitchen. It is located on the edge of the Serpentine lake in the heart of Hyde Park. This is the perfect spot to hang and enjoy a day it the park.
Here you can either cheat on your diet and order a delicious wood-fired pizza, or you could go for more healthy options as in fresh, seasonal salads or a deliciously made soup. All this can be enjoyed in their al fresco seating area with a nice view over the lake.
EAT // Dinner at Sketch
London’s dynamic restaurant scene has seen star chefs open up the most diverse restaurants, where the ambiance matches the food. Sketch, a very Instagrammable restaurant is one of the most extravagant restaurants that you must check out – provided you are willing to sacrifice the budget of a small shopping spree on dinner.
EAT // Dinner and drinks at Kingly Court
Kingly Court is a three story building with a diverse mix of international concept restaurants, cafés and bars situated in Soho. Tucked away between Carnaby Street and Regent Street, it is one of the best dining destinations for foodies.
We had dinner at seafood restaurant The Wright Brothers, which is set around a vibrant courtyard. It is open air throughout the summer and covered in the winter months. We started off with some delicious cocktails. For me mussels in a curry sauce sounded a bit strange at first, but since I’m a big fan of both, I went for it! I was not disappointed as it was a heavenly combination. I highly recommend this place for seriously excellent shellfish and a relaxed atmosphere!
EAT // Slow brunch at The Rosewood Londen
A highlight of our trip surely was the invitation to the slow brunch at the breathtaking Mirror Room of the Rosewood Londen. The exquisite Sunday brunch is organized in conjunction with the Slow Food & Living Market, which is held at the inner courtyard of the hotel every Sunday. There are about thirty beautifully decorated wooden stalls, with tasteful straw bales, set up every week and most offer the chance to enjoy a sample.
The hotel’s beautiful and supremely talented executive chef, Amandine Chaignot, not only curates the market, but also creates wonderful dishes from all of the fresh ingredients and sustainable products. And make sure not to skip the amazing variety of desserts, that vary from homemade marshmellows to tarts, cookies, brownies and a magnificent chocolate fountain.
SHOPPING // Sales Seasons, Harrods
When you go to London, you simply can’t miss out on a visit to Harrods, one of the world’s most luxurious stores in the world. If only just to experience its Shoe Heaven department; believe me when I tell you that if you are such a shoe addict, as I am, you don’t want to miss this!
Harrods announces its epic sale with the tagline: ‘There is only one sale”. And it surely is the sale of all sales, with reduced prices up to 75%!! But I felt it was already the tail end of the sale, because a lot of sizes were already sold out.
But if you can’t afford splurging on any of their outstanding designer names like Stella McCartney, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent (unfortunately also a teeny bit out of my price range) I suggest to hop over to the Harrods food department and treat yourself on a delicious tart or pie to wash away your sorrows…
VISIT // National Portrait Gallery, Portraits of an Icon
We obviously did not have enough time to go to all the stunning museums and exhibitions London has to offer. So we picked one and went to the National Portrait Gallery. Their fascinating photo exhibition illustrates the captivating story of actress and style-icon Audrey Hepburn. Some of these iconic portraits are well-known vintage magazine covers, while others are rarely seen prints from leading 20th century photographers such as Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. And even more special: you can find a small series of never-seen-before Audrey Hepburn photographs that are selected from the personal collections of Audrey Hepburn’s sons. The Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, exhibition closes on October 18, 2015. If you want to see it, I would recommend buying tickets in advance.
GET AROUND // Hop-on, hop-off bus Tour
Ok, it may sound a bit dorky and touristy but in almost every capital city I visit, I plan for a hop-on hop-off double decker bus tour, preferably on the first day. It is just a great and relaxed way to whip around the city and do some light sightseeing by hopping on and off as often as you like, without stressing about planning. We went with the The Original Tour which includes a Thames river cruise in the price, which allows you to hop on and off at Westminster Pier and the Tower of London.
GET AROUND // Oyster card
Especially now Uber has gone global, I’m not a big fan of public transport. In Amsterdam it has been ages since I last used it. But I have to admit it is the fastest way to go around London since the subway (the locals call it ‘the tube’) is connected really well and depart every few minutes. You can buy tickets as you go but their cashless pay-as-you-go Oyster Card is boss! You’ll get a strong, credit card-like card which lets you check in and out by holding it onto the scanner. You can easily refill your credit when you’ve emptied out your card and another bonus is that the fares are about less than half the price of a standard ticket.