How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in London

Footballers, baller steaks, musical greats, and the city’s most exclusive gin bar — you can do it all

April 6, 2022 6:00 am
Exterior of Flemings Mayfair
Exterior of Flemings Mayfair
Flemings Mayfair

Fictional Ted Lasso‘s home has some very real charms, but experiencing them all in just a couple of days can feel daunting. Don’t let it. Here is a quick, two-day itinerary with the best new sights, some classics as well as the perfect hotel — that will leave you more than satisfied.

Where to Stay

“In the heart of the West End, there are many quiet pockets, unknown to almost all but taxi drivers who traverse them with expert knowledge,” begins Agatha Christie’s 1965 mystery, At Bertram’s Hotel, set at a fictitious auberge the author describes as “dignified, unostentatious, and quietly expensive.” The model for Bertram’s was Fleming’s Mayfair, and those adjectives still track.

Studio Suite Bedroom at Flemings Mayfair
Studio Suite Bedroom at Flemings Mayfair
Flemings Mayfair

Situated on Half Moon Street, a slender lane off Piccadilly and a convenient two-minute walk from the Green Park tube station, Fleming’s dates way back to 1851 and has managed to carry on through the decades entirely independent of the big brands that dominate London’s luxury hotel market. This doesn’t affect the nuts and bolts — like the boutique scale and primo location — but does inform the property’s distinct point of view. Neither the fantastic staff (shout out to Guest Services Manager, Sara Crasto) or design are afraid to show a little personality, something not to be taken for granted in London’s stiff-upper-lip hotel culture.

You’ll find 129 rooms within the series of conjoined brick townhomes, and not to be presumptuous, but you should book a Studio Suite like #65, which in addition to a private plant-filled courtyard and smart navy-and-brass touches, is home to your very own gin bar. As part of Fleming’s most recent $20-million renovation, the hotel worked with Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley, authors of The World Atlas of Gin, to kit out each suite’s sleek armoire with all the fixings: cut-crystal glassware, citrus, Fever Tree tonics, recipe books and of course, premium gins from around the world, from Britain’s Sipsmith to Japan’s ROKU to Germany’s Monkey 47. A black ribbon with the hotel’s name stitched in gold thread encircles the neck of each bottle, from which dangles a tag with botanical notes. “Welcome to your gin honesty bar,” invites a notecard. “London has a rich history when it comes to gin, and as a quintessential London hotel we want you to relax and imbibe the city’s spirit — literally!” You mix what you like and simply make a note for housekeeping. From the proper glasses to the weighty card stock and branded ribbons of the gin tags to the quaint honor policy — gotta be honest, the whole set-up is pretty damn dashing. If a suite’s not in the budget, check out the G and Tea at the hotel’s handsome Manetta’s Bar, where you’ll find a gin-focused twist on the traditional British experience.

What to Do

DAY 1: Keeping it close
American flights usually land early in the morning, and the bright and shiny promise of a full first day in London can quickly disintegrate into falling asleep standing up. The first-day plan hits the ground running — well, walking — which helps harness that initial surge of travel energy but keeps you relatively close to the hotel in case jet leg catches up to you like the monster in It Follows. Start with art. Since you could fill an entire week visiting London’s museums and galleries, it’s a good idea to pick a couple institutions whose exhibits speak to you instead of trying to cover too much ground. If you’re even a casual music fan, this spring that means the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. From Fleming’s, it’s a pleasant half-hour walk — a little longer if you take a recommended detour through Hyde Park, which is unbeatable in nice weather — to the contemporary art center, where the Bob Marley One Love Experience just made its global debut in February. The immersive exhibit chronicles the reggae icon’s life, career, and legacy through memorabilia, fan art, photography, music and the multi-sensory One Love Forest, a trip through the misty Caribbean jungle (through April 18). If you’re traveling soon, you follow Saatchi with the Design Museum in Kensington for Amy: Beyond the Stage (through April 10), an incredible exhibit that puts in sharp focus what a once-in-a-generation talent Amy Winehouse was. Lunch somewhere between the two, like the Duke of Clarence or the Builder’s Arms, and then for dinner follow this incredibly sexy advice for your first night in London: Pick something casual and go early. Think Koya, the cozy udon specialist whose original location in Soho is a 15-minute walk from Fleming’s, or even closer, Kiln, where long peppered curry duck and raw beef-and-Castelfranco laap stitch together British ingredients and Thai techniques. Your 25-year-old self would be embarrassed, but that’s kind of the point.

Cocktails from Manetta's
Cocktails from Manetta’s
Flemings Mayfair, Manettas

DAY 2: Father afield for football and food
After a full night’s sleep and bio-clock reset, the plan is to cover a lot of ground today, so start with London’s breakfast of champions: donuts. The city is home to two of the best shops in the world, St. John Bakery at Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden and Bread Ahead at Borough Market. Plumped with seedy raspberry jam or silky vanilla custard, you can’t go wrong at either outpost, both of which open early and are just a few stops on the Piccadilly and Jubilees lines, respectively, from the Green Park station outside Fleming’s. That’s where you begin your second day before catching a 15-minute westbound train at Waterloo Station to Richmond, which will sound familiar to anyone who watches Ted Lasso. Yes, Richmond is a real place in London! And you can even have a pint at the Prince’s Head Pub, which models as the show’s Crown and Anchor — though chef Muhammed Siddique really knows his way around a bronzed and flaky chicken-and-veg pie, too. Not a Lasso fan? (1) Uh, why? (2) Richmond is a charming village that’s worth seeing anyway. Talking a stroll along this scenic stretch of the Thames like Roy and Keeley is great even if you have no clue who Roy and Keeley are. You’ll pass students on the sun-splashed steps and ancient-looking gents refinishing their equally ancient wooden boats, as well as cows at Petersham Meadows and horses at Petersham Stables. It’s a like being in the country while still in the city, and if you end up spending a fortune on an earthy ceramic mug or trove of heritage British seeds at the idyllic Petersham Nurseries, well, can’t say you weren’t warned. Hop the train back from Richmond, pass straight through the West End, and keep going and onto East London. You’ll close the day with a superb one-two culinary punch. Start with Gibsons, olives, and pickles at the bar at the Marksman, a lovingly resurrected and modernized old pub in Hackney, and follow with a 15-minute walk and dinner at Brat, chef Tomos Parry’s second-story temple to wood-fired cooking in Shoreditch. The entire menu will tempt you, just don’t miss the impeccable sirloin and Basque-style burnt cheesecake. Can you finish it all? As Coach says, “Believe.”


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