London was recently ranked the number one European city for shopping and culture. At this time of year, dazzling lights and window displays, great shops, chic hotels and restaurants make London the ideal destination for a winter getaway. Visit in December for festive gifts and holiday fun, or in January for the sales.
Here are my top five suggestions for a winter visit to London.
London’s West End is the main shopping area; your first stop should be the historic Selfridge’s department store, which has all the top retail brands under one elegant roof. While you’re there, be sure to check out the ‘Wonder Room’ where you’ll find a series of limited edition products ranging from temporary tattoos to jewellery by controversial artist Marc Quinn (known for making sculptures out of his own blood!). The West End can be a tad crowded so try to get an early start.
#4. The Harold Pinter Theatre
The West End’s ‘Theatreland’ has over 40 theaters and my new favorite is the former Comedy Theatre, renamed the Harold Pinter Theatre after the late, great playwright. Currently showing (until December 31st) is Death & The Maiden, Ariel Dorfman’s Olivier award-winning thriller about a former Latin-American political prisoner. Thandie Newton in the lead role gives a gripping and convincing performance. Next up will be Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends, opening January 26th.
#3. Two Temple Place
Well worth a visit is the former home of Lord Astor, located on the Embankment just east of Temple tube station. Two Temple Place has just opened a stunning art gallery within its impressive Victorian walls. The inaugural exhibition, William Morris: Story, Memory, Myth, runs until January 29th and features embroidery, tapestries and drawings. There is also a cozy café serving delicious sandwiches, tea and cakes.
#2. The Sanderson Hotel
London has an abundance of boutique hotels with The Sanderson ranking as one of the best, so it was a real treat to be offered an overnight stay last month. Elegant and funky in equal measure, the rooms and common areas blend Philippe Stark’s contemporary style with French baroque touches. In addition to a spacious, comfortable room, I also enjoyed the divinely scented spa with a gym and steam room, an 80-foot bar and the cozy late night Purple bar. Naturally, as their invited guest, I experienced faultless service! However, judging from the conversation I overheard on arrival, I’m guessing that impeccable service is the norm. The concierge was explaining in great detail to other guests where to find the best Sunday lunch, the oldest pub in the area, good places to shop and more. Check their website for special offers.
#1. Live Jazz
London is a great place to hear jazz year-round, with a multitude of options from the world-renowned Ronnie Scott’s to smaller, more insider venues like the Vortex and the Servant Jazz Quarters. You’ll have to wait until next November for the London Jazz Festival, one of the best in the world. Highlights this year included the legendary Ornette Coleman, still going strong at 81, and a screening of Louis, a silent film based loosely on the early life of Louis Armstrong. An outstanding live band, directed by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, performing the soundtrack scored by Wynton Marsalis, accompanied the film. Louis has had a limited release in North America and it’s worth watching out for future screenings.
About the Writer
Joanne is also the co-director of PayneShurvell, a London art gallery showing contemporary art by emerging and mid-career UK and international artists.
Follow her on Twitter at @jshurvell.