I’ve been spending time in London since I was small. My dad is a Northern English man and my mum’s family moved to London when she was younger. So as you can imagine, there was one holiday destination for the Weightmans each year. Over the course of my career, both finance and fashion, I was in and out of London on an almost weekly basis. The purpose of my visits went from quick trips in via London City Airport for meetings when I was in consulting, to five day adventures of non stop fashion shows for London Fashion Week. So let’s say, I’ve had a very varied view of the city. But it’s a home from home for me. There’s an infinity with it that pulls me towards it, but I’ve never imagined myself living there; commuter life is more for me. It’s a very short flight from Ireland (flights from Dublin, Cork, Knock and Belfast) – my choice is always Aer Lingus to Heathrow as it’s the quickest and with the Elizabeth Line due to open in the Autumn connecting LHR with central London, you can be wandering around Oxford Street within 30 minutes. With travel chaos becoming the norm at airports, it’s easy to see why people may not want to leave the country until some semblance of normal service resumes, but if you are planning a trip across here are some of my most loved places to visit.
Undoubtedly, London is an expensive city. And hotels certainly don’t always provide a bargain. But over the years I’ve stayed in everything from budget hotels with windowless rooms to luxurious places that were more one-off splurges. If you want to stay central, The Strand Palace Hotel on Strand is a five minute walk from Covent Garden as well as the South Bank & Trafalgar Square. A basic four star hotel, it had a post-Covid refurb and having stayed there many times over the last decade, the rooms are clean and the staff are incredibly nice. A short distance away is Wilde Aparthotels which you may have seen on my You Tube. These are studio style apartments that have kitchenettes, bathrooms, plenty of storage as well as being in a prime location. Book as far in advance as you can to get the best rates and watch out for promo deals online! The Hoxton hotel group offers trendy hotels in three locations across London – Holborn, Shoreditch and Southwark. They are buzzy and well located, but expect to pay a good bit more for both! If you are on a budget, I’ve stayed in the Easy Hotels – Victoria is the best one in my view. Very reasonable with a basic offering, but rooms are clean and secure.
This list could be a long one! Sunday afternoons in Soho are wonderful, the place is hopping and I love to sit and people watch. Bar Termini is an Italian bar on Old Compton Street that does the best Negroni and Spritz you’ll have in London. I also have a soft spot for Dukes of Mayfair – the bar is where Ian Fleming wrote James Bond and inventing the Vesper! Their martini is infamous – made at your table to your liking, it’s a lovely experience. They are so strong you are limited to two! The hotel has a smart dress code, so keep that in mind if you are going. A secret bar I love is in the wonderful food emporium, Fortnum and Mason. It’s lovely and quiet! On the top floor, you can enjoy your drink in a calm space right in the heart of Piccadilly. For wine lovers, I have two places to share. The first is Gordon’s Wine Bar on Embankment. The first time I went here it was fashion week; it was cold and raining and myself and a friend came across this little cavernous place where you felt you were underground where water from the Thames ran down the walls. The wine is excellent and their meat and cheese plates are delicious. There is now a lovely terrace along the front for summer. Next is Vagabond wines in Charlotte Street where wine is on taps so you can sample so many varieties!
Ah my favourite bit. London is awash with great restaurants so I will keep it to the places I have been and loved. Lyle’s in Shoreditch is a casual, but well awarded restaurant with a stripped back interior that I think was a warehouse. Brawn off Columbia Road has never disappointed me, it’s the first place I ever tried fresh radishes! The wine list is really interesting and there is always something new to try. Back into Central and specifically Soho, La Porchetta Pollo is a gem. Freshly made pizza and pasta that is very reasonable is a win for me. Not too far away is Bocco di Lupo, another Italian that prizes itself on classic dishes that make me feel like I’m back in the Tuscan Countryside. If you get the chance, sit at the bar and you’ll be right in front of the pass to see the chefs in action. But my all time favourite is Locanda Locatelli next to the Nobu Hotel on Portman Square. I love it so much, I have all of Giorgio Locatelli’s cook books (that’s where my ragu recipe comes from!).
I am in museum heaven in London. The Tate Modern on the South Bank is simply incredible. Explore modern art and sculpture in the vast space and then walk across the footbridge to St. Paul’s. It’s a lovely afternoon’s expedition. The National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square is in a breath taking building that hugs the iconic square and full of portraits, both old and new, of the world’s most recognisable spaces. The Natural History Museum in South Kensington is a must visit. When I was little this place was the most intriguing museum I had ever seen and I still feel that way. A short walk away is the Victoria and Albert museum that displays cultural artefacts from all over the world and is well known for its fashion exhibitions. Take a tube to Green Park and take a stroll around the Royal Parks and over to Buckingham Palace. The sight of it never gets old, then you can walk back up the Mall to Trafalgar Square!
If you are on a city break, you may have some carry on luggage (or a bigger suitcase (s)) so be aware if you are using the Tube many stations have steps. Be prepared to lift the cases up and down to the trains! I love getting the bus around London, you get to see so much of the city. And you can tap on and off with your debit card so you don’t need to rummage for change. Comfortable shoes are a must, I know, kind of goes without saying!
If you do plan to go, keep an eye out for flight deals, and book a good few months in advance. Flights to London are always pricey so save some money where you can!