Destination: England: London
Knightsbridge & Chelsea
Knightsbridge and Chelsea, two of the oldest and prettiest areas of London, are where well-heeled Londoners go to avoid the chaos of Oxford Street. Start the walk at Harrods but skip this behemoth, which frankly has not aged well, and instead head straight to sleek, buzzing Harvey Nichols, one of the world’s great department stores (ladies who lunch love the organic juice bar and chic Fifth Floor restaurant).
All the major league fashion houses are just outside Harvey Nics on Sloane Street, but don’t miss Gina which sells the hazardously high shoes coveted by London’s party girls, Pickett filled with an eclectic mix of gorgeous accessories and handmade leather luggage, and Jo Malone the epic purveyor of delicious scents.
Continue down Sloane Street to the King’s Road (during the 17th-century the road was King Charles II’s private thoroughfare between his London and country courts). Here is high-end boutique Austique with glam designer labels. Just down the road is Steinberg & Tolkien, a vintage clothes hot house spanning the 1940’s to the 1980’s–John Galliano himself occasionally pops in for inspiration. Further down you will find the iconic Vivienne Westwood boutique where high drama meets the outrageous. Those in search of gifts should look out for the Organic Pharmacy, offering a selection of wonderfully pure, natural products.
Rococo is a chocolate heaven of flavors ranging from violet creams to passion-fruit truffles. Just opposite is Bluebird located in a garage built in 1924 and complete with a brasserie, pit-stop café and deli bursting with delicious French and Italian treats. It now also boasts its own impeccably-edited fashion store, with an ever-changing mix of fresh designer labels such as Bella Freud, Mint and Park Vogel.
The next stop must be Brompton Cross, home to a chic enclave of designer stores and cafes, including arty Walton Street. At its center lies the magnificent Art Deco Michelin Building housing British designer Sir Terence Conran’s superb flagship store. Around the corner, little Walton Street offers some of the most eclectic shops in the city. Blossom is London’s hippest maternity store with exclusive pregnancy pieces by top designers like Diane Von Furstenberg; Laurence Tavernier sells luxurious nightwear in old-fashioned styles. Nina Campbell, London’s leading interior designer, showcases elegant knick-knacks for the home. Monogrammed Linen Shop sells superb sheet sets, table linen and nightwear while old-fashioned Bentleys brims with expensive antiques, vintage luggage, bowler hats and 1920’s airplane propellers.
While in the area, shoppers can ease tired feet at Reflexions a walk-in massage parlor with good reflexology. And fashionistas must not miss the fashion exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum – just a short taxi ride away in South Kensington. The exhibition charts the history of dress from 17th-century ball gowns to the latest trends fresh off the catwalk.
The best way to kick off a stay at Dorset Square, rather than hurrying immediately off to all of the city’s requisite big-ticket attractions, is to embrace some of Marylebone’s local institutions. Start with a glass of wine and a plate of UK farmstead cheeses at La Fromagerie (2-6 Moxon Street; +44 20 7935 0341), where casual epicures gather at rustic communal tables surrounded by barrels of produce, artisan jams and freshly baked breads. The By Malene Birger flagship (28-29 Marylebone High Street; +44 20 7486 4000) is just across the high street, and historic Daunt Books (83 Marylebone High Street; +44 20 7224 2295), only a couple of blocks to the north, will make booklovers swoon. Slightly further down the road lies Content Beauty (14 Bulstrode Street; +44 20 3075 1006, a tiny but well-edited organic skincare emporium; their 30-minute express facials make an expedient antidote to a jetlagged complexion.
Those who prefer a more bohemian vibe love trendy Notting Hill for its laid-back village atmosphere and for Portobello Market, a riot of antiques, clothing and food stalls on Saturdays. The famed road is also home to several outre, fashion-forward stores. Olivia Morris is known for her unique heels with quirky detailing, Sasti is a funky children’s wear mecca, Preen carries romantic Victoriana looks and Skins and One of a Kind make a virtue out of cool vintage clothes.
The nearby Westbourne Grove is an oasis of sleek stores including Heidi Klein, featuring flattering bikinis and pretty kaftans and Emma Hope whose shoes combine sophistication with wearability. Adjoining Ledbury Road has familiar names like “Paul & Joe”/destinations/13/departments/70#article_1150 alongside up-and-coming boutiques such as Matches and Aimé. Bodas is an excellent source for refreshingly simple underwear.
Portland Road has The Cross which is swiftly becoming a cult boutique with children’s clothing and unique home goods, Virginia filled with vintage clothing in a boudoir setting, and Summerill & Bishop, a stylish, French kitchen shop.
Another must-walk street is Blenheim Crescent. Here, The Notting Hill Bookshop stocks fiction and non-fiction covering every part of the planet (and was the inspiration behind the bookshop in the film “Notting Hill”); Books For Cooks, sells new and old culinary literary gems, as well as offering cooking classes; the Spice Shop seems to stocks every herb and spice known to man. All are natural, additive free and freshly ground.
While in the area, stop by hip hangout Tom’s Deli, owned by Sir Terence Conran’s son. It has a buzzing café and a deli section that’s filled with cakes, chocolates and other treats. The Electric Cinema invites movie-goers to recline in comfortable leather seats and munch on gourmet snacks while watching the latest blockbuster or art house film.
The West End
The West End is home to some exceptionally good department stores, each with their own particular character and all just steps away from the Langham Hotel (Regent Street, 1C Portland; 020 7636 1000). Liberty of London, housed in a landmark Tudor mansion, exudes an off-the-beaten track charm; Selfridges is bright, modern and fun, Fenwick is renowned for showcasing hot new design talents and Fortnum and Mason has been a landmark in Piccadilly for over 300 years.
Glamorous Bond Street is said to have more royal ‘By Appointment’ awards than any other thoroughfare. Here you will find iconic British labels like Burberry, (21-23 New Bond St.) Mulberry, (50 New Bond St.) Alexander McQueen (4–5 Old Bond St.) and Pringle (112 New Bond St.). Smythson of Bond Street (40 New Bond St.) is the Queen’s favorite purveyor of leather goods and stationery. For the traditional British bespoke tailoring so admired the world over, ladies and gentlemen should head to legendary Savile Row and Jermyn Street. Gieves & Hawkes provides exemplary custom tailoring combining classic craftsmanship with design-led collections. For more modern suits, head to Tom Cruise’s favorite, Richard James. Prince Charles favors Jermyn Street’s, Turnbull and Asser which produces sharp shirts cut from 400 fabrics. Meanwhile Emma Willis is one of the few female tailors, renowned for her skills and fabrics.
Take a ten-minute cab ride to the charming, tranquil Marylebone High Street which provides a low-key antidote to the glossy world of Bond Street. Among its star one-off shops are Brora, bursting with gorgeously soft cashmere in a range of mouth-watering colors, Rachel Riley, whose Fifties-inspired children’s clothing are sweet but enduring, and Madeleine Press, renowned for her immaculate, minimalist pieces and urban cool. Emma Bridgewater is beloved for her chunky pottery in colorful patterns that can be spotted in most English country kitchens. Domestic goddesses will adore Divertimenti, a mega kitchen store which also holds cooking classes.
While in the area, pop into the Wallace Collection, a gem of a museum established from the private collection Sir Richard Wallace (1818-1890) including Old Masters, arms and armor and porcelain.
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