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Why Now Is the Time to Return to London: Fall 2022 Insider News & Intel

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London was at its best this summer: Platinum Jubilee street parties and celebrations for the longest-reigning Queen, pub dinners by the Thames, and all the best hotels, restaurants and guides booked up. The mood shifted considerably after the Queen died on September 8, with the official days of national mourning bringing hundreds of thousands of mourners (including David Beckham joining at 2 a.m.) to the miles-long queue to see the Queen lying in state, 24 hours a day.

This fall, the U.K. is somewhat reluctantly moving on with King Charles III at the helm. He gave a better than expected first speech as King and showed rare emotion at the funeral, his eyes tearing up as guests sang loudly the new national anthem, “God Save the King.”

“Everyone is curious as to how the next royal chapter will play out,” says author and royal expert Jerramy Fine. “Locals will notice the small, slow changes—boring government letters will no longer bear the words From Her Majesty’s Service, but His. So many Hers that are now His! Not only on letters but in songs, on post boxes, on uniforms, stamps, coins and passports. They’re all His now. And that will take some getting used to.”

Financial uncertainty looms, as does a long energy-rationing winter ahead, like in much of Europe. But, especially for American visitors, the historically low exchange rate means this is an incredible time to visit London, offering great value at the best hotels and restaurants—and a bit of magic when we need it.

Contact your Trip Designer or Indagare, if you are not yet a member, to start planning a trip to London. Our team can match you with the accommodations, reservations and activities that are right for you.

London Intel: News & Openings

Battersea Power Station, which once generated one fifth of London’s electricity and now has its own stop on the Northern tube line, will open to the public on October 14. The former industrial no-man’s-land is hoping to become one of the city’s top shopping and dining hubs, focusing on middle to upper high street brands like Reiss, Mango and Theory—and a Zara, of course. There will be an outpost of BAO, which serves some of London’s best pillowy bao buns. Another highlight will be the restored 1950s control room turned all-day bar, Control Room B. (Also coming to the Battersea Power Station complex: Apple’s new London headquarters, arriving in early 2023.)

Now Open: Claridge’s Stunning New Spa

For the first time in its 160-plus year history, Claridge’s has opened its first spa, dug up from five floors beneath Mayfair. We visited on day 2, and it is already one of the great urban hotel spas, with seven treatment rooms, steam room and sauna, plus a sexy subterranean pool with three cabanas. Inspired by Japanese zen and the concept of omakase (“I’ll leave it up to you”), you enter to the sound of a cascading rain chain and banquette seating underneath a cherry blossom painting by Damien Hirst.

Details that stand out include phone chargers in the spa lockers (encouraging you to leave the phone behind—but also helpful), the fluffiest duvets on the spa treatment tables and orange and white spa kimonos. They’ve partnered with beauty brand superstars, including Augustinus Bader and FaceGym. Color expert Josh Wood has his own two-seat salon, and nail influencer Harriet Westmoreland created a Claridge’s manicure, with a jade tip to match the hotel’s signature color.

All they need is a fabulous spa sushi menu.

More Hotel News

 

Families with young kids should consider staying in a suite at Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel as they recently partnered with DockATot to provide Moses baskets for babies and “tents of dreams” for older toddlers.

At Corinthia London, the Winter Garden—one of central London’s most beautiful al fresco places to meet—is now open. The Alpine-themed space also has a cozy new winter menu, with a raclette cheese, ham, and sauerkraut toastie and baked spätzle. After a bit of indulgence, walk two minutes to the nearby Hungerford and Golden Jubilee bridges for one of London’s best Thames views.

Family-owned and led by GM Janine Marshall, One Aldwych completed a significant refresh recently, news that was somewhat lost in the Covid years. In what used to be the headquarters of the Morning Post newspaper, the soaring Lobby Bar has a new Art Nouveau look–settle into one of the orange velvet sofas and admire the enormous flower displays. The hotel has always done an excellent job at finding locals to show off their Covent Garden neighborhood to guests–for instance, Milly Kenny-Ryder, co-founder of the wonderful guides, Weekend Journals, shows off favorite finds on a personal tour: coffee, an Asian-inspired French bakery, a stationery shop, and more.

The Twenty Two Mayfair has been one of the biggest hotel openings of the year. Indagare interviewed the managing director, but travelers should know that while it offers fine dining at night, the beautiful restaurant has become a breakfast and lunch hot spot, rivaling nearby Claridge’s. Combine a personalized fruit and vegetable juice with a flaky croissant.

The Best Theater & Musicals To See Now

Many of the buzziest openings this fall can be found beyond London’s West End hub.

“The one thing I am looking forward to more than anything is My Neighbour Totoro, by RSC [Royal Shakespeare Company] at the Barbican,” says a friend and theater insider. “It will pull in non-theater people. The puppets are by Henson Studios and the RSC sees this as their next Matilda,” referencing the smash hit running since 2010 in London’s West End. The show is a stage adaptation of the 1988 Japanese animated film, and recommended for ages five and up. Through January 21, 2023.

In Hammersmith, Cages is playing a limited run at Riverside Studios on the Thames (a great complement to an early dinner at River Café). The show, which blends live actors and avatars in sometimes indistinguishable ways, arrives in London from L.A.. It is a wild show of 3D projections and dance music by award-winning producers. Through January 1, 2023.

Tony-award winning The Band’s Visit closed in New York City in 2019, but an entirely new production has debuted in London at Donmar Warehouse. Through December 2.

In a new adaptation at the National Theatre, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, set during the Salem Witch Trials, asks a question just as relevant as during its premiere 70 years ago—will extremists of any belief admit when they were wrong or press on, knowing they are wrong? Through November 5.

Tammy Faye, with an original score by Elton John, opens at the Almeida Theatre October 13 and tells the story of Tammy Faye Messner, a Christian televangelist known for her support of people with HIV/AIDS. Through December 2 (many dates sold out).

Don’t Miss: Make sure to see Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre before it ends its latest run in January.

The Most Compelling Exhibits

Paul-Cezanne-Montagne-Sainte-Victoire-with-Large-Pine--Courtauld-Gallery-Bridgeman-Images
Paul Cezanne. Montagne Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine, about 1887. Courtesy Courtauld Gallery / Bridgeman Images
KewWaterLilies-AnnieFitzsimmons
Kew Gardens. Photo by Annie Fitzsimmons

Art lovers are booking trips to London this fall specifically to see two exhibits: Cézanne at Tate Modern (coming off its first run in Chicago) and Lucian Freud at the National Gallery.

The Cézanne exhibit will include 22 paintings never before seen in the UK, amongst a large selection of portraits, landscapes and still lifes. Book a two-course lunch with the exhibit, featuring some Cézanne-inspired dishes. Through March 12, 2023.

Lucian Freud, grandson of Sigmund, died in 2011–and loved eating at the Wolseley, still a London classic today. This exhibition brings together works from 70 years of painting, including many of his signature nude portraits. Don’t miss Freud’s Hotel Bedroom (1954), in which you can feel the anxiety and tension of a marriage while Freud and his then-wife were staying at Hotel La Louisiane in Paris. (Not recommended by Indagare today.) She left him shortly after. Through January 22, 2023.

For kids especially, Dippy the Dinosaur has returned to London and the Natural History Museum after a global tour. Through January 2, 2023.

Kew Gardens in west London is beautiful all year round, and Christmas at Kew tickets sell out far in advance. The stunning greenhouses are warm cocoons on cold days, and the Marianne North Gallery, filled with 19th-century paintings by a woman who traveled the world solo, is a hidden gem.

But this season, don’t miss the largest water lilies in the world, named “new to science” at Kew in July 2022. Floating in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, they seem otherworldly–one friend said they looked like giant quiche pans. Whatever they remind you of, they are worth the trip to west London. Combine a visit to Kew Gardens with a late lunch in nearby Richmond at Petersham Nurseries, or the pub where they film Apple TV’s Ted Lasso, the Prince’s Head.

Where to Eat & Drink

Food halls are often overrated, with limited seating and loud crowds. Arcade Food Hall is combating food hall fatigue with beautiful interiors, the ability to book a table in advance and high-quality global cuisine options. Among the highlights: North Indian cuisine from Hero; Indonesian hawker-style duck and chicken from BEBEK! BEBEK!; Southern Thai food from Plaza Khao Gaeng; and Nepalese small plates at Tipan Tipan.

It is a great casual choice to pair with a visit to the British Museum or Sir John Soane’s Museum.

One of the hardest reservations to get this fall is at the Darjeeling Express pop-up at west London’s The Pembroke. They are serving until the end of November, when hopefully a new permanent spot will be announced.

Bakery enthusiasts should visit one of London’s newest, Frog Bakery in Camberwell outside of central London, for addictive treats.

Part of London’s allure will always be its gateway status to continental Europe—and the perceived glamour of train travel to get there. Book a table at hot spot Booking Office 1869 before a train to Paris–or while exploring Coal Drops Yard–at St. Pancras International. Opened by Harry Handelsman (Chiltern Firehouse), the triple-height interiors are inspired by a Victorian-era winter garden–eight palm trees soar over the long bar surrounding the original ticket office. Bar manager Jack Porter is particularly charming and knowledgeable.

Award-winning Honey & Co left its first home in Fitzrovia this year and found a new home on Lamb’s Conduit in Holborn. My favorite thing is to cobble together a meal from the small plates—salads, hummus, falafel, house breads and pickles. Their cookbook makes a great London souvenir.

Café Cecilia opened in late 2021 and is a bit of a haul from central, in an ever-changing area of east London now called the Hackney Riviera. Chef Max Rocha trained partly at The River Café and St John’s Bread and Wine. The simple breakfast menu (think bacon sandwiches and kippers and toast) draws locals returning weekly, and the light-filled space overlooks the canal and metal skeletons of the enormous former London gas holders.

Don’t forget about: Maison Francois for breakfast; the new yellow Gallery room at Sketch for afternoon tea (book far in advance!); and newish Lisboeta for higher-end Portuguese gastronomy. Although not new, I’ve had great meals recently at Trullo (perfect for a low-key birthday celebration) and the Cinnamon Club, set in the beautiful Old Westminster Library.

Related: The Best Afternoon Teas in London

After the Queen: Finding Royal Magic

To honor the Queen’s long reign and tap into royal magic, classic spots in London feel fresh and new again. Most famously, the Goring behind Buckingham Palace hosted the Middleton family before the Royal Wedding and then-Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret danced the night away at the Savoy.

But we recently stopped by Rubens at the Palace, directly across from the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace’s stables–they will reopen next spring. Even with no reservation, we were greeted by some of the friendliest staff in London eager to help secure a table, and great live music in the New York Bar.

“Although our beloved Queen is gone, the magic of the monarchy is still very much here to stay and if you look for them, royal moments can be found on almost every corner of the city,” says Jerramy Fine.

“Wander behind St James’s Palace and to the hidden entrance of Duke’s Hotel,  where the Queen, Princess Diana and Prince Edward often came for tea. Surround yourself with antique jewels and tiaras at Bentley & Skinner where you can watch jewelers by Royal Appointment repair and create dazzling pieces,” she says. “Or walk along the South Bank, from Blackfriars to Westminster Palace and recreate the route walked by so many to pay their respects at the Queen’s lying-in-state. You don’t have to stand there for 19 hours or do it in the middle of the night, but London is especially enchanting when seen from the banks of the Thames.”

Contact your Trip Designer or Indagare, if you are not yet a member, to start planning a trip to London. Our team can match you with the accommodations, reservations and activities that are right for you.

– Annie Fitzsimmons on October 5, 2022

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Quotable

Financial uncertainty looms, as does a long energy-rationing winter ahead, like in much of Europe. But, especially for American visitors, the historically low exchange rate means this is an incredible time to visit London, offering great value at the best hotels and restaurants–and a bit of magic when we need it.

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