Touring a european capital can feel oddly familiar these days thanks to the reach of global fashion brands and café chains. But seasoned travellers know that the best trips are those that can never be replicated. For a quintessential London experience, ditch the generic and embrace the genuine in Covent Garden. Here, a couple of days out showcase what the Brits do best, from incredible historical sites to cinematic backdrops and world-famous shows to standout design details.


One Aldwych

First opened in 1998 and recently renovated, this family-owned luxury hotel is fiercely independent and full of hidden gems, and it eschews cookie-cutter luxury for subtle and striking odes to English ingenuity. The famously triangular Edwardian building is sometimes compared to a slice of cake, and it once housed The Morning Post newspaper, where a young Winston Churchill worked. Suites feel like elegant apartments. They are full of muted pinks and blues (this may be the first time you’ll want to steal a hotel carpet) and British amenities—including handwoven wool blankets from the Isle of Skye and English leaf bath oil from body-care brand Mitchell and Peach—and even come with a Dyson hair dryer. There are also fridges stocked with gourmet local goods like shortbread and cider—all complimentary, which is perhaps the very height of luxury. The hotel has its own 30-seat movie theatre for champagne screenings as well as a jewel-box-sized spa and a lap pool with sooth- ing sea-life projections being played at one end. For truly one-of-a-kind experiences, its Curators program pairs guests with experts like perfumers and art specialists. 

One Aldwych

One Aldwych One Aldwych


Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea

As delicious as it is daring, this Roald Dahl-inspired tea is so popular that it has its own entrance at One Aldwych, and chef Dominic Teague says it’s even more popular with adults than it is with children. Delight in treats like beetroot macarons and cotton candy in an experience that’s just as much a feast for the eyes or book a traditional (but hardly boring) afternoon tea in hotel restaurant Indigo, where gluten-and dairy-free dishes reign by default.

Lamb & Flag

Regardless of good-natured debates over what constitutes the “oldest” pub in London (continuously operating, in the same building, with the same name and so on), this Covent Garden spot is definitely up there, dating back to the 1600s and claiming Charles Dickens as a one-time regular. It’s delightfully cramped and unfussy, all dark wood and framed antique ads, with locals regularly piling out into the alley, pints in hand. Snag a booth downstairs or head up the narrow staircase for a traditional Sunday roast or fish and chips.

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea One Aldwych


Donmar Warehouse

Big, small, musical, Shakespearean, based on a ’90s romcom or children’s fairy tale—there really is a play for everyone in London’s West End. For a truly intimate experience, head to Donmar Warehouse, a 251-seat theatre whose layout means no audience member is ever more than four rows away from the stage. Past productions include Henry V with Kit Harington (a.k.a. Jon Snow) and a stage adaptation of the film Force Majeure. And if you’re a One Aldwych guest, the hotel can arrange for a behind-the-scenes tour and meet-and-greet with the actors.

Somerset House

As much a cultural hub as a sprawling gallery space, this neoclassical one-time palace, on the bank of the River Thames, regularly presents film screenings, panel discussions, interactive art installations and outdoor activities and events like ice skating, drag shows and London Fashion Week. For a more traditional art experience, check out the permanent collection of the on-site Courtauld Gallery, home to works including Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait With Bandaged Ear and Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.

180 The Strand

Housed in a brutalist building on The Strand (a major thoroughfare in Central London), 180 The Strand is a hub for London’s young creative community. At the 180 Studios, they can work remotely amid the indoor plants and art installations of the 180 Atrium, book the TV and photography studios upstairs and check out the nearby 180 Gallery. Recent interactive exhibits have showcased the dizzying multi-sensory work of Ryoji Ikeda as well as Richard Mosse’s explorations of the Brazilian Amazon. 

The Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Gallery Benedict Johnson

An Art Installation By Pipilotti Rist At 180 The Strand

An Art Installation By Pipilotti Rist At 180 The Strand 180 The Strand


Covent Garden

A day spent strolling the shops around Covent Garden is a downright culturally enriching experience, one that follows in the footsteps of everyone from Jane Austen to Casanova. After the Great Fire of London, in 1666, the area became the city’s largest market, mostly selling fresh fruit and vegetables, and it remains one of the most varied and interest- ing shopping destinations in the world. Skip the global luxury brands (okay, maybe take a peek in the DIPTYQUE store) and seek out British shops like Choosing Keeping for stationery, Blackout II for glam vintage clothing and accessories and Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop, which has been selling shadow puppet theatres for more than a century. There’s also plenty to snack on, like specialty cheeses at Neal’s Yard Dairy and creative takes on street food at the covered Seven Dials Market. In between stops, look for shooting locations from movies like My Fair Lady and Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy. Take a break in the rose garden outside St. Paul’s Church, which regularly hosts free lunchtime concerts. Known as “the Actors’ Church,” it has on display memorial plaques dedicated to Boris Karloff, Vivien Leigh, Charlie Chaplin and playwright Noël Coward, among others. 

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Choosing Keeping

Choosing KeepingChoosing Keeping