120 hours in the capital of the united kingdom
Samuel Johnson, an English critic, writer, and poet of the 18th century once commented, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. This was in reference to Johnson’s love for exploring that latest that London had to offer.
While city dwellers may echo that sentiment with varying reasons, a single factor is all it takes to tie everything together — culture. The melting pot is home to over 270 nationalities. Yet, there is still an unmistakable British identity, and we’re not just talking about enjoying afternoon tea. The museums, monuments and galleries serve as a hallmark for the city’s history and tradition. Even high-fashion brands like Burberry, Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford all carry traits that are quintessentially British with their tailored and polished silhouettes.
And what’s a city without food? Like Singapore, London sees a vibrant mix of immigrants, resulting in a perfect orchestration of various cuisines coming together to complement the city’s pub grubs and Michelin-starred restaurants.
To appease your insatiable hunger for adventure, we’ve come up with a week-long itinerary that showcases the best of London’s culture. Thai Airways offers 12 flights a week to London, with a stopover in Bangkok. And in November, the airline will increase its flights to 14 per week.
From now until 31 July 2016, Thai Airways will be having a sale (prices start from S$1,098 for Economy Class, S$4,848 for Royal Silk Class (Business Class) and S$7,088 for Royal First Class), making London more accessible than ever before.
Check in at Changi Airport Terminal T1 and receive your Royal First Class boarding passes. Then, head to Thai Airways’ Royal Orchid Lounge Singapore at the Transit Hall on level three and enjoy a pre-flight meal.
Sip on a glass of champagne and indulge in some caviar along with other delectables on board the first flight. During the BKK-LHR leg, take advantage of Thai Airways’ exclusive ‘chef on call’ service that allows Royal First Class passengers to pre-select one of 18 Thai, oriental and continental dishes that has been prepared by an award-winning master chef. After your meal, freshen up in the lavatory as the crew provides turndown service, converting your seat into a plush flat bed with an additional mattress pad for added comfort.
Arrive at Claridge’s, London’s art deco jewel. You’ll be sure to spot Dale Chihuly’s free-blown glass chandelier in the foyer. Check into the hotel’s presidential suite, your home for the next four nights.
1200 hrs: Lunch is at Corrigan’s Mayfair. Savour the freshest produce with either the seasonal lunch or tasting menu created by chef Richard Corrigan, a three-time winner of AA’s Restaurant of the Year award.
1400 hrs: Take a leisurely stroll around Mayfair, a popular neighbourhood for the well-heeled. Stop by Penhaligon’s to nose or purchase some of the 38 original scents created by the perfumery, and understand how this 1870 establishment worked its way to be a supplier to HM The Queen herself.
Across the street, look out for house numbers 23 and 25, both of which form Handel & Hendrix London. These humble abodes were once home to rock legend Jimi Hendrix and renown composer George Frideric Handel, and now serve as museums that pay homage to their previous owners.
Love art? Halcyon Gallery organises exhibitions regularly, focusing on one artist at a time, and has previously displayed pieces by Andy Warhol, Dale Chihuly and even Bob Dylan. The Fine Art Society is also just a stone’s throw away.
1600 hrs: Ladies, your shopping adventure begins on New Bond Street. Make a stop at Fenwick, a boutique store displaying a well-curated collection of multi-labelled shoes. Down the lane, pick up the latest in British fashion from Burberry and seek treasures in Burlington Arcade, Britain’s first shopping arcade that opened in 1819.
2000 hrs: Enjoy steak that has been dry-aged on-site and pair it with a fine selection of red wines at Goodman, Mayfair.
2200 hrs: The Fumoir Bar at Claridge’s shakes up a lethal dose of cocktails, like Claridge’s Julep (£19, S$37), a blend of Adrien Camut 6 Year Old Calvados and Laurent-Perrier. And then there’s the 1976 Krug Collection (£2,700, S$5,307) that takes indulgence to the next level.
0830 hrs: Make your way to The Wolseley’s private dining room for breakfast. Enjoy the ambience of classic European architecture while tucking into a creamy caviar omelette (£77.50, S$153) along with a basket of homemade Viennoiserie (£8.50, S$17).
1030 hrs: Witness Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. The ceremony commences promptly at 1130 hrs, but it’s best to get there at least an hour earlier to reserve a spot.
1230 hrs: Dine at Hibiscus, one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Indulge in a seven-course Tasting Menu for Two (£270, S$530) that includes lobster with black pepper sauce, apricot, and cucumber, created by head chef Claude Bosi.
1430 hrs: Keep a look out for the Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament on your way to Westminster Abbey. Your private tour guide (from £85.80, S$169) will lead you to the back of the Abbey, away from the crowds, to marvel at the grandiose architecture of the 700 year-old gothic building. Don’t forget to visit the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I.
1830 hrs: Dinner is served at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, one of two London restaurants to hold three Michelin stars. The seasonal tasting menu (£405, S$794), as well as the bespoke wine menu paired by the head sommelier (£440, S$863) will be a treat for your palate.
2030 hrs: Have exclusive after-hours access to The National Gallery (£5,400, S$10,626) and admire more than 2,300 pieces of artwork without the need to jostle with a crowd.
0000 hrs: Nurse a martini at Dukes Bar and request to have it “shaken, not stirred”. Yes, this is the legendary bar frequented by Ian Fleming, creator and author of the famed James Bond series.
1000 hrs: Post-breakfast at Clarigde’s, make your way to Kensington Gardens for a stroll. Once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, the 265-acre plot comprises the Italian Gardens, Albert Memorial and the Serpentine Galleries, and is now open to public.
1200 hrs: Min Jiang’s wood-fired Beijing duck (£58, S$114) done two ways (crispy duck skin pancakes with the option of lettuce wraps, salted vegetables, rice or noodles) will hit the spot. Lunch will also be a feast for your eyes — the restaurant offers unparalleled views of Kensington Gardens.
1345 hrs: Visit the Royal Albert Hall and opt for the Grand Tour (£12.75, S$25). You’ll experience the joys of being in one of the world’s most famous Victorian buildings, which has been graced by legends in the entertainment industry.
1500 hrs: Home to over 4.5 million art pieces, the Victoria and Albert Museum is a must-visit for fashion and architecture lovers.
1700 hrs: If there is one person to have tea with, it is with Henrietta Lovell, the ‘rare tea lady’ who designed Claridge’s Afternoon Tea (£5,000, S$9,839). Lap it all up; Lovell will open your eyes to the world and culture of English tea in the comforts of your suite.
Following that, cruise to your theatre of choice for a musical. Most shows commence promptly at 1930hrs.
2230 hrs: Step into the lavish Le Caprice for supper and be serenaded by the restaurant’s pianist. Keep your eyes peeled for celebrities at this hour. There’s also an exclusive post-theatre dining package that’s only available for selected West End’s shows.
0900 hrs: Make your way towards the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. Walk along the lines of cherry blossom trees in full bloom, get trigger happy with some of the world’s largest water lilies, and admire Kew’s iconic ten-storey Pagoda, which was built in 1762 and is about to undergo a two-year restoration project. Alternatively, roam around Kew’s 300-acre plot with an expert in horticulture (from US$539.30, S$1,061).
1300 hrs: Head to Glasshouse for its bantam egg yolk raviolo and Cornish cod with mussels (£49.50, S$97 for three courses). The unpretentious setting in this Michelin-starred restaurant draws a parallel between the rustic interior and dishes prepared to perfection.
1630 hrs: Meet the UK’s youngest keeper of the Quaich, Cesar Da Silva, and sample some of the finest whiskies that are unattainable on the open market (£3,000, $5,903), including the rare 62 Gun Salute and Glenfarclas 50 Years Old.
1800 hrs: Pay a visit to Gordon Ramsay’s Pétrus, where a wine cellar makes its mark as the centerpiece. Opt for front row seats at the Kitchen Table and be entertained by the chefs in action.
2100 hrs: Head to Vertigo42 Champagne Bar and indulge in tapas-style champagnes, wines and cocktails while surrounding yourself with a breathtaking view of the city’s iconic landmarks.
1000 hrs: After checking out, have a quick bite at the French brasserie Balthazar. Even in the wee hours of the day, the atmosphere is electrifying, sending you jolts of bygone memories of New York.
1130 hrs: Explore Covent Garden, Soho and Bloomsbury, and make a few pit stops along the way.
Stop by the Royal Opera House and go on the Backstage Tour. It’ll allow you to peek at the restricted areas of the grounds. Fashionistas should visit 7 Dials, a network of avant-garde stores that link Covent Garden to Soho.
Make your way towards Heathrow Airport T2. While waiting for your flight, relax in one of Star Alliance’s airline lounges (Lufthansa Senator, United Airlines Club, and Air Canada Maple Leaf lounges). You’ll once again get to enjoy the ‘chef on call’ option, so be sure to pre-select your meals. And to soothe sore muscles after the first leg of the flight, pop by the Royal Orchid lounge during the Bangkok stopover.
Extending your stay? We’ve a couple more options for you.
Barrafina for Spanish Tapas.
La Gourmandina for Italian food.
The Ledbury for its signature flame-grilled mackerel.
Dabbous for contemporary European cuisine.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal for multisensory cooking that dabbles and surprises with a dash of science.
HIX Soho for its creative take on British gastronomy.
Gymkhana for Indian food, which has been a part of Britain’s food culture since 1971.
Places of interest
The British Museum for its architecture, especially its two-acre Great Court. Hint: look up.
Charles Dickens Museum, where the acclaimed novelist had written Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby in a short span of two years.
Windsor Castle, home for many members of the monarchy. The standard flying from the Round Tower indicates that Her Majesty The Queen is in residence.
Claridge’s Spa’s Phyto Aromatic Body Treatment will keep you coming back for more. It’s one of the few Sisley Spa packages exclusive to the hotel.