Olympic fever: 8 things to do on a luxury Summer break in London

With the Olympics coming to London next year there will be thousands more visitors than usual in an already busy city throughout the Summer. As well as the sports fans, competitors and accompanying family and friends, there will also be dignitaries, government officials, leaders of industry and a host of VIPs who will want to enjoy the spirit of the games.

London is a beautiful city in Summer: the green spaces come alive with activities and events and the tended gardens, particularly Kew and Hampton Court Palace, are at their best. As well as the parks and gardens, the architecture of the city is a real highlight, which ranges from Romanesque and Georgian splendour to contemporary structures such as 30 St Mary Axe. More commonly known as ‘The Gherkin’, it was created by Sir Norman Foster’s award-winning team of architects and is renowned for its distinct silhouette.

To get the most out of visiting a major city such as London, New York or Paris it’s necessary to know what’s going on, plan, and book a long time in advance. Having lived in London for years, I’ve put together a list of things I can recommend as perfect diversions if you’re in the city next year.

1. Tea at The Ritz

The epitome of all that is quintessentially English, afternoon tea at The Ritz is a must. Served in the Palm Court of the Ritz Hotel you can choose from several varieties of tea and a mouth watering menu of finger sandwiches, fruit scones with preserves and clotted cream, followed by cakes and pastries. The Ritz does insist on formal dress in the public areas of the hotel. Denim and sports shoes are strictly forbidden and they recommend booking up to 12 weeks in advance in the high season.

2. Les Trois Garcons

This little known restaurant is an undiscovered gem in Shoreditch. Located in a converted public house on Club Row the owners have put together something that is quite unique in its almost surreal opulence. Dine from a fine menu while being observed by stuffed tigers in tiaras and crowned gorillas. The service offers everything you would expect from any of the best restaurants in any city. Previous diners include Madonna and Donatella Versace, so who knows who might drop in.

3. The London Eye

For an unrivalled opportunity to gaze out over London, a ride on the London Eye is something nobody should miss. There is a Champagne experience where you can enjoy a glass of bubbly as your capsule makes its way over the city. But if you’re after a really special occasion, you can book a private capsule, which includes Pommery Brut Royal Champagne and priority boarding pass as well as a guide to point out all the sights.

An interesting alternative to the Eye is The Monument to the Great Fire of London. Located near the point where the Great Fire started, the Doric column stands 202 feet tall. It was built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1677 and has 311 steps to climb. As you climb the cantilevered steps looking down is truly terrifying given the claustrophobic nature of such a confined space, but once you reach the top you stand under an urn of golden fire and can see all of London’s most famous landmarks and the Thames.

4. Tate Modern/Tate Britain

The Tate Modern occupies the former Bankside Power Station on the south bank of the Thames. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron (who won the contract by opting to keep the iconic central chimney on the north wall), the gallery receives 4.7 million visitors a year and hosts exhibitions of the best international modern art. Tate Britain, formerly know simply as the Tate Gallery, houses British art from 1500 to today. As well as exhibiting art from galleries the world over the world, it also owns pieces by some of the most famous artists ever to have worked, including Dali, Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian. The gallery also plays host to the Whitbread Prize for Modern Art each year.

5. Claridge’s

Synonymous with the zenith of quality hotels; Claridge’s not only offers luxury accommodation and the finest dining, but also offers to show you how to emulate its style and grace. Claridge’s staff give master classes in building bouquets, mixing the perfect Pimms and cocktails, as well as cooking grouse pie and canapés. So while you stay in its fabulously styled art deco rooms and eat in one of Gordon Ramsay’s dining rooms, you can learn a few tips, which will allow you to bring some of Claridge’s style to your own home.

6. River Cruises

Many of London’s most prized buildings were built to be viewed from the river as much as from the land, so taking a cruise will give a delightful perspective that people on tour buses or seeing the city by foot rarely get to enjoy. If you travel beyond the city limits you sail through some of the most picturesque countryside England has to offer. Heading westward you’ll glide past Kew Royal Botanic Gardens to the port side with Syon Park to starboard, a little further on and you’ll see Hampton Court Palace, former home to Henry VIII, then past Bushy Park. If you have time you could go as far as Windsor, past Egham with the Polish War Memorial and Runnymede which saw the signing of the Magna Carter. Once in Windsor a visit to England’s oldest continuously inhabited castle is not to be missed.

7. Sanderson’s Agua Spa

Located on Berners Street, Agua is a 10,000 square foot luxury spa in the heart of London. It provides an oasis of peace and tranquillity in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. There is a dizzying array of treatments available, both ancient and modern to allow you to take some time for yourself. There are fourteen treatment rooms, a chill-out zone and meditation area. The miles of floor-to-ceiling curtains lend a cloud-like feel to the whole environment.

8. Nightclubs and Bars

If you’re in the mood for going out, London offers some of the best nightclubs in Europe. If you’re looking for a big night out there’s Fabric and Ministry Of Sound, two clubs that have become so successful as labels it’s almost possible to forget they were ever clubs at all. If, on the other hand you’re looking for something a little quieter, a little more exclusive, then there are clubs like Annabel’s and China White. Annabel’s is so exclusive that they forego having any frontage so it may be a little difficult to find. China White is well known as a haunt of the celebrities; with a capacity of just 500 they are currently inviting applications for membership.

Luke McCormick is Channel Editor at WEXAS.

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  1. I suggest going to the London Eye twice in your life. Go in the day and during the night. It’s quite a view in both cases.

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