London is a magical place, but it’s more than the home of Harry Potter, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Covent Garden and Big Ben: it’s one of the hautest, most luxurious travel destinations in the world. Did you know that London was the first home of Soho House, or that the spa at the tony Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge has been named the best in the world? Perhaps you weren’t aware that afternoon tea at The Ritz is a rite of passage for any true luxury traveler, or that Penhaligon’s perfume was a favorite of the late Princess Diana? So follow Haute Living on a journey that begins at the new Virgin Atlantic Upper Class lounge at LAX through a week of high-end experiences and ends at London Heathrow, where you’ll bid a forlorn farewell—or should we say cheerio—to the trip of a lifetime.
Pardon the pun, but flying on Virgin Atlantic’s all-new Dreamliner 787 is like a dream come true. When flying from Los Angeles to London, you won’t wake up jetlagged or exhausted thanks to cleaner cabin air, a higher humidity rate and a lower cabin altitude on board the plane, which makes for a more refreshing, less exhausting journey. There’s also mood lighting on the flights including a soft rose champagne color to de-stress, amber for that candlelit glow during dinnertime and a silver shade to mimic moonlight. With the flick of your finger, you’ll also be able to block out sunlight instead of pulling down those pesky airplane shades of the past. Upper Class travelers on board the Dreamliner will also be able to meet and greet fellow passengers in a newly designed bar area, indulge in wine pairings, a full English afternoon tea, dinner served with fine wine, port and cheese and seats that convert into full mattresses for a comfy, cozy sleep.
Virgin Atlantic opened its first-ever Clubhouse at LAX just this past April, providing a much-needed respite for high-end travelers. The 4,000-square-foot lounge is inspired by SoCal: here you’ll find accents of gold to reflect the L.A. sunshine, a media installation by local artist Diana Reichenbach and a mural created by British artist Vic Lee called “LOLA,” meant fittingly to showcase the symbiotic relationship between Los Angeles and London. The menu items, created in part by Century City’s Hinoki and the Bird restaurant, are meant to feature clean, healthy California eating, while the bar area offers green juices and organic cocktails.
1 World Way, Los Angeles, CA 90045
Your return journey will be just as incredible as your arrival, thanks to the plethora of high-end amenities offered at Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class London Clubhouse. Getting there is key: a complimentary limo service (also available to guests in L.A.) includes drive-through check-in and baggage collection, as well as a private security channel that allows travelers to bypass the brouhaha and go from car to Clubhouse in just 10 minutes. The $17 million, 15,000-square-foot flagship lounge offers high-end cocktails, spirits and champagnes as well as gourmet fare, a Bumble and Bumble hair salon, a spa the contains a sauna, six steam rooms, showers and a Jacuzzi, and complimentary services such as massages, manicures and facials from Dr. Hauschka. Haute!
Greater London TW6, United Kingdom
The May Fair, located in the heart of London’s posh and trendy May Fair neighborhood, is a party waiting to happen. Here you’ll find lavish bedrooms, vibrant restaurants and bars, a 201-seat, Dolby 3D cinema with Ferrari-red leather seats and a tranquil spa, all sprinkled with a dose of mischievous flair and contemporary cool. Hang out in the Crystal Room, which is dotted with a stunning Baccarat chandelier, or in the hotel’s luxurious May Fair Kitchen, where you can actually choose the meat and fish you’re about to eat, or sip tobacco-infused rum while listening to live jazz in the Cigar Room. Whatever you choose will surely be a good time. If you need more proof that this is the spot to see-and-be-seen, we advise you travel during London Fashion Week, as this five-star hotel is the official home to A-list-attended parties where fashion and film converge.
Stratton Street, London W1J 8LT, United Kingdom +44 20 7769 4041
The Bulgari Hotel, located in Knightsbridge, London’s toniest neighborhood, is one of the most opulent places you could ever hope to stay. Designed by noted architect Antonio Citterio, you’ll find understated, yet obvious elements of luxury throughout the property, from the pair of solid silver chandeliers that illuminate the grand ballroom to the leather traveling cases that double as high-end minibars, to silk curtains inspired by a brooch made by the brand’s founder, Sotirio Bulgari, during the 19th Century. Stay in one of the seven Bulgari Suites, all of which offer two bedrooms, a steam room, a contemporary kitchen with Bulgari silver, open gas fireplaces and expansive terraces. For an amazing culinary experience, head down to Rivea, the Bulgari Hotel’s restaurant that is inspired by the vibrant food markets in Italy and Provence. The menu of small plates from Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse incorporates the classic flavors of the Riviera in an airy and glamorous blue-hued room that will make you feel like you’ve taken a trip under the sea. Those who feel like indulging après-dinner should head to Edward Sahakian’s eponymous Cigar Shop and Sampling Lounge, which specializes in rare Havanas that are unobtainable anywhere else in the world as well as a carefully curated selection of vintage cigars like the Cohiba Sublime Edicion Limitada 2004 and the Cohiba Double Corona Edicion Limitada 2003.
171 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DW +44 20 7151 1010
Those seeking a quaint, yet rich British experience should check into The Milestone, located near Kensington Palace. An old-school British butler, dressed to the nines in traditional garb, will take you on a tour of the hotel, hand you a glass of champagne and offer to unpack for you. Now that’s service with a smile! Other delightful amenities include high-end afternoon tea, evening cocktails in the Stables Bar (you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a Jane Austen novel), a heated resistance pool, a sauna, a gym and a chauffeur-driven Bentley to whisk you around to see the city sights. Service is ace here, and doesn’t go unnoticed by those who are watching.
1 Kensington Ct, London W8 5DL +44 20 7917 1000
DINE & DRINK
Duck & Waffle not only offers one of the best views you’ll find in London, but also one of the best meals. Located atop the 40-story Heron Tower, this chic eatery boasts wraparound floor- to-ceiling windows with prime panoramics of Tower Bridge, London Bridge, the Gherkin and beyond, an open kitchen (better to see Chef Dan Doherty of the “Most Influential People in London” and “Rising Star Chef” fame) prepare his elegant, seasonal and sustainable dishes in style. The décor here is modern-meets-Old-World, thanks to touches like stainless steel and frosted glass juxtaposed by white marble, weathered wood and ceramic tiles, and the fare follows suit. Indulge in savory and sweet dishes like foie gras crème brulee, a spicy ox cheek doughnut and BBQ-spiced pig ears.
Heron Tower, The Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY +44 20 3640 7310
Dean Street Townhouse—located in the space formerly occupied by the infamous Gargoyle Club, a well-known hangout of politicians, intellectuals, artists and entertainers such as Fred Astaire, Noel Coward and Tallulah Bankhead—is all about atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. It has that warm, yet opulent home away from home vibe that Soho House properties have curated so well, offering an inviting, ambient place to indulge in a quintessentially upscale British meal. Nosh on fish n’ chips, Banham chicken or golden beetroot and ginger soup accompanied by cocktails like the Witty English Gentleman—Hendricks, apple, lime and the Gentleman’s Wit brew. You’ll feel very English, trust us.
69 – 71 Dean St, London W1D 3SE +44 20 7434 1775
There is no more renowned London Town institution than Claridge’s, the big daddy of luxury hotels. We recommend making a much-needed culinary pit stop at its Michelin-starred eatery, Fera. Its moniker—which means “wild” in Latin—is apt, given that most of the restaurant’s ingredients are grown in chef Simon Rogan’s private farms, and that his ever-expanding menu is inspired by the changing of the seasons. Whether you’re dining in the airy, ethereal main room, or in the bijoux maple-paneled private dining room, you’ll be sure to enjoy thoughtful and creative dishes, such as Cornish cod with gem lettuce hearts and jersey pearls, as well as roasted hispi cabbage with violet mustard and chestnuts mushrooms.
49 Brook St, London W1K 4HR +44 20 7107 8888
Much like another mister—Mr. Toad—a trip to Mr Fogg’s is a wild ride. This secret bar was inspired by Jules Verne’s novel “Around the World in Eighty Days,” and, as such, is modeled after the house in which its protagonist, Phileas Fogg, would have lived after his journey. Upon arrival, guests enter an immaculate hallway where Mr Fogg’s trusty valet Passepartout is on hand to take coats, umbrellas and calling cards. The staff members are dressed in specially designed, bespoke, old-fashioned military-style uniforms, created by the internationally renowned, Gieves & Hawkes. With its Around the World in 80 Cocktails menu—a unique interpretation of ‘Victorian Cocktailian Culture’—many classics from the era are revived with a modern twist, such as: Absinthe Aperitifs, Grogs, Sazeracs, Stirrup Cups and Pouce Cafés. There are also sharing drinks served in the form of globes, Indian heads, steam trains and antique punch bowls. Wood paneling, stuffed tigers and crocodiles, maps and Victorian lanterns all add to the mystique. Don’t miss the Victorian-era afternoon “Tipsy Tea.”
15 Bruton Lane, London W1J 6JD +44 20 7036 0608
Everyone, at least once in a lifetime, must experience afternoon tea at The Ritz. Get dressed in your finest duds and head to The Palm Court, an elegant salon originally designed as a destination for glamorous, high society guests to see-and-be-seen. Peek at the high walls of gleaming mirrors, the intricately gilded terrace and romantic birdcage chandeliers while sipping one of 16 loose
leaf teas as well as Ruinart champagne, finger sandwiches, pastries, warm baked scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves while a pianist tickles the ebonies and ivories softly in the background.
150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR +44 20 7493 8181
The London outpost of Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud’s popular New York eatery, Bar Boulud, is a fun and casually elegant way to dine. Expect to find a seasonal bistro menu with a wide variety of house-made terrines and pâtés, as well as a handful of signature sausages and burgers. The interiors are inspired by a contemporary take on the craft of winemaking with a sleek open kitchen and vaulted ceilings, while the deep, red-leather banquettes and zinc-topped bar create a comfortable and welcoming surrounding. As expected, the wine list focuses on French varietals from Burgundy and the Rhône Valley.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA +44 20 7201 3899
While Oxford Street, Regent Street and Old and New Bond Street have their charms (New Bond Street in particular is quite charming indeed thanks to London outposts of brands like Hublot, Cartier and Piaget), exploring the backstreet arcades of Regent Street will result in some rare finds as well. Make a pit stop at Charbonnel et Walker, one of Britain’s first and finest chocolatiers. Its famous pink champagne truffles are beloved by everyone from Sir Alec Guinness to Lauren Bacall to Noel Coward, who requested a box of the chocolates be personally delivered to his home every night. You must also stop into the luxurious, sensational scent shop of Penhaligon’s, a brand adored by the late Princess Diana, which utilizes rare ingredients in its perfumes, such as hand-squeezed bergamot to jasmine, that’s twice the price of gold.
CHARBONNEL ET WALKER
One, The Royal Arcade, Watch Club, 28 Old Bond St, London W1S 4BT +44 20 7491 0939
Burlington Arcade, 16-17 Burlington Arcade, London +44 20 7629 1416
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental London is a calming oasis in the midst of Knightsbridge. Here you’ll find a Zen color therapy relaxation area, a sanarium a vitality pool and am amethyst crystal steam room. Its signature spa therapies are developed in consultation with specialists in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as treatments courtesy of celebrity facialist Linda Meredith. Our favorite (naturally) is the Haute Couture facial, which includes rejuvenating products, massage and essential vitamins which will leave you feeling five years younger.
Mandarin Oriental Spa, Hyde Park, London, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA +44 20 7838 9888
The Bulgari Spa has been dubbed the best spa in the world for a reason. It’s treatments—everything from facials to fitness and in between—are the most innovative we’ve ever seen in one place. There’s a synchronized four-handed massage, emotional healing with a modern day wizard (Andrew Wallas actually refers to himself as The Modern Day Wizard as he practices psychology, intuitive healing, body whispering and alchemical shifts in energy) Mesotherapy, a customized rejuvenating cocktail of nutrients is injected into your skin via micro air gun, and opulent treatments like the 24K gold Naturalift Anti-Aging Facial, which, as it suggests, utilizes 24-karat gold. We must also mention the spa’s gym, The Workshop. This isn’t any ordinary gym. When you join, you’ll receive a food intolerance test, an exercise and nutrition genetic analysis and a body composition analysis that will pinpoint specifically what makes your body tick and why, as well as how to shape it best.
171 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DW +44 20 7151 1010
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
The Harry Potter series were some of the highest-grossing films of all time, but beyond being a financial success, the films are magic to adults and kids alike. For a truly unique experience, take a train to Leavesden, where the eight franchise films were shot over the course of ten years at Warner Bros. studios. Once filming wrapped on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in 2010, the production crew were left with a treasure trove of thousands of intricate and beautifully-made artefacts, many of which wouldn’t have been saved on a typical production. The team behind Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter wanted to preserve and showcase these iconic props, costumes and sets so that Harry Potter fans could experience the magic of filmmaking first-hand. Many of the original cast and crew returned to reassemble the sets and record their memories from filming, and on 31st March 2012, the Studio Tour opened its doors. Set adjacent to the working film studios where all eight Harry Potter films were made, the Studio Tour offers visitors the unique opportunity to explore two soundstages and a backlot filled with original sets, animatronic creatures and breathtaking special effects. So get ready to visit the Boy Who Lived in his bedroom under the stairs by stepping on the Hogwarts Express and into a world of magic.
Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, Hertfordshire WD25 7LR, +44 845 084 0900
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.