An extensive exhibit by a visionary artist, a celebration of the Beatles, exciting new restaurants, and more make autumn the season you should finally get to London.
The summer crowds have thinned, replaced by the locals home from vacation and back to work and school. They haven’t given up on enjoying the world outside, though, and the theater (excuse me, theatre), art, and music scenes are rolling out new enticements to stay out late. Couple that with noteworthy restaurant openings and a new friendly, hip hotel on the South Bank, and it’s prime time for heading to London for a visit.
Grab a table
The remarkable Food Halls at Harrods have long been a destination for seeing amazing displays of fresh and prepared foods—carefully piled towers of macaron boxes and pyramids of tropical fruits, gleaming refrigerated cases of cheese and meats and glorious fish. The halls, which originally opened in 1902, have been undergoing a phased transformation set to last three years. In late June 2019, a new concept, the Harrods Dining Hall, opened with six new dine-in restaurants to supplement the take-away options in the rest of the Food Halls. The new venues—the Grill, the Pasta Bar, the Fish Bar, the Sushi Bar, Kama by Vineet, and the Wine Bar—are not only spectacular art deco destinations for a seasonal and exquisitely prepared lunch or dinner but they also manage to make Harrods, which began in 1824, seem cutting-edge again, no small feat for a department store in the age of Amazon.
Yotam Ottolenghi, that clever alchemist of all things veg, has opened his sixth London restaurant, Rovi, and continues to wow. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the vegetable-forward kitchen focuses on fire—grilling, charring, blackening—as well as fermentation and pickling. No matter what method he uses, rest assured that Mr. Ottolenghi brings big, delicious, and unexpected tastes to the plates. There’s also a lively scene at the buzzy cocktail bar by the restaurant’s entrance.
Get a room
New to the south bank of the Thames, the Hoxton Southwark opened this month, the latest Hoxton hotel and the third in London. Positioned near the Blackfriars Bridge and a short stroll from the Tate Modern, this new Hoxton is making a splash on this side of the River Thames. With the brand’s commitment to creating not only a place for visitors to stay but also a gathering space for the community, the hotel honors its place in the country (art throughout the hotel’s public spaces was curated by Project on Walls, a group that showcases British artists) as well as its neighborhood. The ground floor is broken up between all-day restaurant Albie, a lobby bar, the reception area, and a lot of sofa-scattered warmth in which to linger, with tall windows, lovely plants, and a welcoming if noisy vibe. Another lure to bring the locals in? Six floors of the building are set aside for ultramod coworking space. That still leaves enough real estate for 192 guest rooms, in varying sizes and price points, and the rooftop Seabird, a seafood-focused bar with year-round terrace views across the city that rival those of the nearby London Eye.
Snag a ticket
Fans of The Crown will want to hurry to the Old Vic to catch a performance of Lungs. Claire Foy (who played HRH Elizabeth in Seasons 1 and 2) and Matt Smith (who played her Prince Phillip) will be portraying another kind of couple altogether in this play about bringing a baby into a world of upheaval, crazy politics, and global warming. October 15–November 9;
See some art
The William Blake exhibit at the Tate Britain is a must-see for anyone at all interested in art or genius. Sound hyperbolic? Nope. The poet and artist, poor and without any formal education, certainly had one of the most interesting and subversive intellects in British history, and his artwork billows and bellows and cowers and thrums with the same impulsive lyricism as his poetry. Go see it. That is all. Through February 2, 2020;
Contemporary art lovers will want to head outside to Regents Park for the Frieze London Fair when 600+ galleries show the work of 1,000+ artists in the park’s English Gardens. In addition to the art on show, the festival has music events (not in the park), lectures, awards, and neighborhood gallery tours.
On the very opposite end of Regents Park, a low street-facing wall outside Abbey Road Studios is usually given up to fans’ scribbled tributes to the Beatles. In early August, 50 years after the release of Abbey Road, the studio revealed that it has commissioned artists to illustrate each of the songs from the album on the wall. So far, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Come Together” have had their time. Be sure and stop by for the obligatory photo crossing the street and then pose for a shot in front of a limited-time-only “Mean Mr. Mustard” or “Polythene Pam” painting. (Ongoing, final dates not yet announced.)
Take a walk through centuries
From the edgy edifices of the Gherkin and the Shard to half-timbered Tudor buildings to ordinary council houses and art nouveau masterpieces, London”s architecture spans styles and centuries. There’s a way to put the skyline into perspective: AFAR’s trusted partner Context Travel offers private walking tours focused on the city’s architecture, led by an architectural historian.