A night in London to remember (1 night in London)

Planning a dashing visit to the capital? A lack of time doesn’t mean your experience should be any less memorable. Pack your overnight bag, the city awaits…

As you’re alighting in London for one night only, where you stay is key. For the ultimate in luxury there is Blake’s, an opulent boutique hotel in South Kensington. The décor is inspired by the Far East and is highly decadent, and even the simplest rooms have Bang & Olufsen audio visual equipment. If Blake’s is a bit out of your price range, the four star Royal Park offers a very quaint experience; the furniture is antique, the staff are extremely attentive and all guests are treated to champagne and canapés at 7 pm every evening. In a nutshell, steer away from chains like Hilton and Marriott and opt for boutique hotels, other good choices are the cool Zetter Townhouse and celebrity favourite Sanctum Soho.

A drink to kick off the evening is a must. Speakeasy-style bars are still hip, and the most sophisticated is Nightjar in Shoreditch, which boasts a large selection of absinthe and liqueurs which date back to the 1860s. Their menu has pre and post-prohibition cocktails, and it’s a seated bar so book in advance. For old school luxury the Library Bar at the Lanesborough Hotel in Knightsbridge is unbeatable, and there is a roaring fire to complement their vintage spirits and champagnes. More affordable are the award-winning cocktails at 69 Colebrooke Row in north London, alternatively the sheer beauty of the Mahogany Bar at Wilton’s Music Hall and the otherworldly charm of the subterranean Gordon’s Wine Bar are excellent options.
There’s nothing like an aperitif to whet the appetite. There are restaurants to suit all palates in the city, take your pick of London’s top-rated 100 restaurants here. Dine with a view at Galvin at Windows, or in the summer on the rooftop of the trendy Boundary. If weather permits, dine alfresco – there’s something very special about eating outside, perhaps because the occasions when this may happen in London are rare. Our favourite restaurants with outdoor dining are here. For romance and atmosphere, try Galvin La Chapelle, located within a Grade II listed Victorian school chapel, or Clos Maggiore’s, styled like a Tuscan country home. Lastly there is Sketch, with three restaurants (one of which is Michelin-starred) and two bars, but worth the visit for the egg-shaped toilet cubicles and the Swarovski crystal-studded toilets alone.

The river Thames at night when the bridges are illuminated is a beautiful sight, take a walk along the riverbanks, whether you’re west by Chelsea Bridge or to the east by Tower Bridge there’ll be plenty to look at. If you’re in the West End eschew conventional taxis or public transport for a rickshaw ride, a romantic and novel way to get to your next destination.

What to do next? Well, there is a large concentration of theatres in the West End (hence the area’s nickname Theatreland) showing musicals, dramas and comedies; these usually start between 7 and 8 pm. If live music is more your thing, London has everything from stadium concerts to intimate gigs where there is barely any space between you and the stage. For indie music, head to Camden, where there are numerous pubs and venues hosting bands any night of the week. For jazz and blues there is the glamorous Ronnie Scott’s, where you can sit and have dinner while you watch the show. The concert halls at the Southbank and the Barbican have large seated auditoriums with great acoustics, and host classical, jazz, world music and contemporary music. At large scale venues like these events are ticketed.
Want to go clubbing in the capital? If you like hobnobbing with the stars try the glitzy Movida, DSTRKT or Mahiki, the latter has seen Princes William and Harry get a little worse for wear. World famous Fabric and Ministry of Sound are more about getting sweaty on the dancefloor than sipping bubbly, and there are other smaller venues dotted around Shoreditch and Dalston devoted to dance music. Note that most clubs only open late on Fridays and Saturdays.

But there is even more to London’s nightlife than eating, drinking and dancing. More adventurous options include practicing your table tennis skills at Bounce, a ping-pong venue, restaurant and bar all rolled into one. Or there is karaoke, great fun if you’re gifted with a good singing voice or are inebriated, but a little questionable otherwise; try Lucky Voice, which is probably the best known karaoke bar, or the so-cheesy-it’s-cool, playfully named Bunga Bunga. There are cabaret and burlesque shows aplenty, and there is Supperclub, which combines dinner (which you eat perched on a bed) with burlesque and circus performances.

For drinking into the small hours head to The Scotch, a swanky bar in St. James’s that opens till 5 am; you’ll need a password to get in, so contact them in advance. For a late night caffeine hit wander down to the legendary Bar Italia, ideally positioned for spying on Soho’s night time characters.

End the night at 24-hour restaurant Duck & Waffle, which is situated on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower. If you can, time your visit with the sun rising, although in the summer this will be as early as 3.30 am, whereas in the winter months you’ll have to wait till 7 am. Whatever the season the fantastic views over London should provide the perfect finale to your evening.

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