Destinations

5 reasons to love London

The scoop on what’s hot in town in this very special year!
London

As our Queen has turned 90 this year, it seems rude not to go to London.

If you’re politely travelling to the UK capital this year, here are some tips.

1 Birthday party

The Queen’s private celebrations are already done and dusted, but Her Majesty gets a special 90th birthday parade with the Trooping the Colour on June 11. This military spectacle has been taking place at Buckingham Palace once a year since 1820 and the good news is, if you’re in town, it’s free to watch. Just find a spot on The Mall or at the edge of St James’s Park and keep your eyes out for other royals too.

But if you are not in town this weekend – from July to October, the Queen opens the state rooms (and grounds) at Buckingham Palace to the paying public, and this year there’s a celebratory display of her dresses and accessories. Yes, we’re talking handbags!

As well as the State Rooms, visitors can also roam the Buckingham Palace grounds.

2 Cinema

Music royalty, the Queen of Pop Madonna, and her son Rocco recently had a bonding night out at Notting Hill’s Electric Cinema, which features squashy leather armchairs and cashmere rugs, as well as a diner attached.

Go on a Saturday and you can browse the famous Portobello antiques market, where more than 1000 traders sell their wares and many more thousands mill around to buy them. Or head east if it’s a neighbourhood cinema you like. I had a fab party for one last year eating pies, drinking rosé and watching the Amy Winehouse documentary at Genesis Cinema in Stepney Green.

Switch off from the buzz of the city with a quiet movie night at the Electric Cinema.

3 The theatre

A theatre-going pal of mine who lives in Soho in the West End has some great recommendations. Her favourite of this year so far was Nell Gwynn, for which former Bond girl Gemma Arterton got rave reviews. Worth checking out is Funny Girl and People, Places and Things. Magic fans will no doubt be saving their pennies for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which officially opens soon (and is about grown-up Harry’s youngest son Albus).

If you happen to be in London the weekend of June 18 and 19, you and your wallet are especially blessed – you can catch extracts from many hot ticket musicals at West End Live in Trafalgar Square – a free theatre-to-the-people extravaganza.

4 The food

My Soho pal is also a foodie. Knowing how much I love Yotam Ottolenghi’s Nopi, she reckons for my next visit I have to try Oklava in hipster-heavy Shoreditch, if only for its date butter. Date butter? I’m there! Barrafina is her fave for tapas and Wright Brothers in Kingly Court do oysters for £1 (about $2) a pop every day between 3 and 6pm. Even with our woeful exchange rate, that’s not too bad if you’re that way inclined.

Should money be no object (ha!), head to Berkeley Square’s Sexy Fish, the new A-list fave (after Chiltern Firehouse), where you might see the Beckhams chowing down on baked Alaskan crab ($95 a leg).

5 The galleries

Here’s me thinking the Tate Modern was “new”, but as of next month, the doors open on an even newer Tate Modern. This twisty, 10-storey building will provide 60% more exhibition space in Tate town on the city’s vibrant South Bank.

Or if your knickers are in a twist, check out Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear at the V&A. However, my favourite is the National Portrait Gallery behind Trafalgar Square, which has a Picasso portrait exhibition coming up – not all of them have three eyes and a nose coming out of the ear either. Plus, the restaurant on the top floor is great for brunch and not too expensive. Toodle-pip!

Glimpse intimate family portraits of the royals as the Queen opens her doors.

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