From the birth of the royal baby to a royal wedding and countless sightseeing adventures, visiting London has never been more alluring.
By Mauri Elbel, The Milestone Hotel photos courtesy of The Milestone Hotel, Buckingham Palace photo by Pawl Libera, courtesy of London and Partners and visitlondon.com, Gift shop photo by Mauri Elbel, Skyline photo by Pawl Libera, courtesy of London and Partners and visitlondon.com
The clip-clop of hooves reverberates through the streets as the queen’s horse-drawn royal carriages roll past an unending procession of taxis and double-decker buses. Sunlight splashes on Kensington’s broad, leafy streets, which are lined with affluent historic residences crawling with fragrant lavender-hued wisteria. A crisp breeze blows through London’s bustling boroughs, and the entire city is abuzz with the unmistakable excitement only royal weddings and the birth of royal babies can bring.
London is brilliant in late spring, and summer days beckon travelers to discover some of the stories and secrets found in this nearly 2,000-year-old city steeped in history and culture. On the heels of the year’s most anticipated nuptials between Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle, and the arrival of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s third bundle of joy, Louis, a visit to London has never been more alluring. Luckily for Austinites, taking a trip across the pond is also more convenient and affordable than ever. While it’s impossible to see London’s countless attractions in a single trip, here are some suggestions to get you started.
Every guest room is unique at The Milestone Hotel. Book one of the luxurious suites or spacious extended-stay residences at The Milestone Hotel and you can’t help but feel like royalty. Overlooking Kensington Palace and Gardens, the historic five-star hotel exudes Old World charm with uniquely themed rooms and suites bedecked in rich furnishings and original artwork. Guests of the posh property receive personalized business cards upon arrival, “suite treats” each night and perks spanning a chauffeur-driven Bentley, personal yoga instructors and private tours of the neighboring royal residence. Indulge in the hotel’s signature melt-in-your-mouth pot-roast Dover sole at Cheneston’s Restaurant, sip an Old Fashioned in the intimate Stables Bar or partake in the quintessentially English tradition of afternoon tea accompanied by finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones served with Devonshire clotted cream and jam, and colorful pastries. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, you’ll definitely want to check out the hotel’s resident Confrérie du Sabre d’Or, which includes a demonstration of the art of sabrage (ceremonially opening a Champagne bottle with a saber), as well as an opportunity to sip away on the sparkling stuff.
If the British royal family has inspired your trip to London, gain a glimpse into their lives and storied past by visiting the royal residences. Kensington Palace, tucked into the heart of London, is home to Prince Harry and his new bride, as well as Prince William’s darling family of five. While visitors won’t get a glimpse of their private digs, you can wander through the magnificent King’s and Queen’s State Apartments, adorned with paintings from the royal collection, snap a selfie in front of the flower-filled Sunken Garden and trace the evolution of Princess Diana’s style through the outfits she wore as a princess, fashion icon and humanitarian at the exhibit Diana: Her Fashion Story.
Visit sprawling Buckingham Palace, a working royal palace and the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Wander through Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, tour the opulent State Apartments and set foot in St. George’s Chapel, one of England’s finest examples of Gothic architecture and the site where the royal newlyweds recently made their vows. If time allows, take a trip to Kew Palace, the intimate royal-family palace retreat located in breathtaking Kew Gardens.
When the sun shines on London’s cobblestone streets, put on your walking shoes to lose yourself on paths less traveled and get a feel for the city’s food and culture by meandering through its local markets on foot. Treat your senses to a tour through Borough Market, a colorful culinary haven on the fringe of the River Thames that bursts with everything from British-raised meats and artisanal baked goods to pastel petits fours and sugar-dusted croissants.
Wander through the markets of historic Covent Garden to see British handmade crafts, fashionista-worthy handbags, street performers and five-star restaurants before becoming a “culture vulture” and relishing in one of its numerous theaters.
Get lost perusing the vintage shops and stalls of Notting Hill’s mile-long Portobello Road Market, the world’s largest antiques market.
Shopping can be found on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge at posh stores like Harrods.
Delight the little ones or find souvenirs to bring back home at Hamleys, an over- the-top toy shop established in 1760 that now boasts seven doors and more than 50,000 toys.
Sip, Eat and Enjoy the View
Sip a glass of bubbly or Pimm’s while enjoying a spectacular view of London. Skip admission to The Shard, towering above the London Bridge area, and instead, head up to one of the city’s finest restaurants, like Aqua Shard, located on level 31, for drinks and contemporary British cuisine accompanied by 360-degree unobstructed 40-mile views of the London skyline.
At the Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows, situated on the 28th floor of the London Hilton on Park Lane in the heart of Mayfair, sip signature cocktails or tuck into a three-course meal while taking in iconic sites such as the London Eye, Canary Wharf and Hyde Park.
Back on the ground in Central London, visit historic Trafalgar Square to gaze up at Nelson’s Column, which was erected in 1843. Pose with the bronze lion statues that protect the monument, view priceless works of art for free at The National Gallery or enjoy a hot coffee and cold canapes while people-watching in this vibrant gathering space.
Norwegian Airlines recently launched its new nonstop service from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to London Gatwick Airport, making it easier and more affordable than ever for Austinites to make the trip. The low-cost, transatlantic airline offers nonstop flights between Austin and London three times a week on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Visit norwegian.com for specific fare information