With this year marking the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, also known as the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, London is feeling extra festive. Add to all the royal celebrations the fact that the British capital is experiencing a renaissance as new hotels open their doors, buzz-worthy restaurants mark their debut, and major events and celebrations return to the city after a pandemic pause and suddenly London is calling us to visit more so now than ever. (The strong dollar doesn’t hurt either.)
London Mayor Sadiq Kahn recently filled in AFAR on all the latest happenings, how London has changed over the past two years, and some of his favorite current London hangs.
“London has been constantly innovating over the last two years,” Kahn tells AFAR. Among those innovations has been “a huge increase in walking and cycling since the pandemic, with an additional 100 kilometers [62 miles] of new and upgraded cycleways built” in the city.
As for the up-and-coming areas and neighborhoods of London right now, Kahn pointed out that the Elizabeth line, a new high-speed train line running through the middle of the city, opened on May 24 with stations in Paddington, Farringdon, and Whitechapel. “The underground train line is set to make visitors explore these new areas further, making them the next one-to-watch neighborhoods in London,” says Kahn. The project is the biggest expansion to London’s underground railway network (aka the Tube) in more than 100 years.
In Paddington, “you’ll find beautiful canals, quiet garden squares, plenty of places to eat and stay, and a famously friendly bear. And Farringdon is home of Smithfield Market—one of the largest meat markets in Europe,” notes Kahn.
When asked about his favorite London hangouts right now, says Kahn, “I am lucky to live close to Tooting Common and really enjoy walking our dog Luna there. If I had to single out one place to eat, I would definitely recommend Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express on Garrick Street. And if you want a great night out, you cannot beat an evening at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Bar.”
What to do in London this summer
After the beloved tennis Grand Slam on the green was canceled in 2020 and toned down in 2021, it is fully back in effect for 2022, with matches running from June 27 until the finals on July 10. Tennis fans can pull out their Wimbledon whites and get ready for some strawberries and cream courtside as Serena Williams (who got a wildcard entry), tennis phenom Emma Raducanu, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal battle it out on the grass.
Pride in London
On July 2, following a two-year hiatus, the 2022 Pride Parade will return to London on the 50th anniversary of the U.K.’s original 1972 pride march. This year’s parade route will take revelers past significant sites from the first gathering, starting at Hyde Park Corner, which was the end point of the 1972 march. The 2022 incarnation will continue on to Piccadilly Circus, Haymarket, Trafalgar Square, and end at Whitehall Place. But the pride celebrations extend far beyond the July 2 parade. Pride events and celebrations are taking place in London throughout June and July. Last month also marked the opening of London’s first LGBTQ Museum, Queer Britain, in Kings Cross.
Superbloom at the Tower of London
As part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, more than 20 million pollinator seeds have been planted in the moat of the Tower of London, which will blossom over the summer. The floral display will be open to visitors from June through September, including access to a “Superbloom slide” that you can ride down into the moat. It’s about a 30-minute stroll along the one-way, willow-lined path through the moat to see all the flowers. In July and August, Superbloom will have extended hours on Thursdays through Saturdays, from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. You can purchase timed-entry tickets to Superbloom online.
Elton John, the Rolling Stones, and Adele at Hyde Park
Some relatively unknown musicians, including Adele, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Duran Duran, Pearl Jam, and the Eagles, will be performing at BST Hyde Park this summer. The concert series kicks off with the man, the myth, the legend Elton John on June 24 and ends with ’80s playlist essential band Duran Duran on July 10.
“Surrealism Beyond Borders” at Tate Modern
The hulking “industrial cathedral” that is the Tate Modern is forever a go-to for provocative, contemporary art on London’s South Bank. But there are even more reasons to stop by the Tate this summer thanks to a landmark surrealism exhibit, Surrealism Beyond Borders. It’s an extensive look at more than 50 years of surrealist artistic expressions from around the world, including works from Buenos Aires, Cairo, Lisbon, Mexico City, Prague, Seoul, and Tokyo.
Where to eat and drink in London
Arcade Food Hall on New Oxford Street near Soho Square Gardens offers an impressive span of international cuisine (from Nepalese and Indonesian street food to fried chicken and a southern Thai restaurant), and a chance at a bit more calm than your standard boisterous food fall with beautifully designed spaces and the option to make reservations in advance.
For a truly special dining experience, head to Caravel in Islington where duck and delicate pasta dishes are served on a converted Dutch barge.
In the effortlessly hip Shoreditch nabe, colorful Lebanese fare is now being served at Sohaila. After dinner, linger for drinks at Bottles (for a bottle or glass of wine), Happiness Forgets for perfect cocktails, or Bull in a China Shop for Japanese whisky.
Alternatively, head to Lisboeta on Charlotte Street, for a taste of Portugal in London. This super-charming space is dishing out Portuguese small plates such as bacalhau (whipped cod), and aged bavette steak with pica pau sauce alongside mains that include arroz de marisco (prawn and seafood rice).
Where to stay
We recently rounded up the 10 New London Hotels to Get Excited About, a lineup that includes the 249-room see-and-be-seen Nobu Hotel London Portman Square in Marylebone. (Even if you don’t stay here, you may want to try for a reservation at the signature restaurant or grab a spot at the Nobu bar for a cocktail and some cool spotting.)
Also on the list is hip Soho hideaway the Londoner with 350 bedrooms and tasteful minimalism decor. The hotel’s restaurant Whitcomb’s serves French Mediterranean fare on a terrace overlooking Leicester Square.
Modern art lovers may want to book into Sea Containers London, which is short walking distance to the Tate Modern. Guests will feel like they’re on a luxury 1920s cruise liner, complete with a spa, 61-seat movie theater, a rooftop bar with Thames views, and maritime-themed rooms.
As of March 18, the last of the U.K.’s COVID-19 travel restrictions were lifted. Travelers can now enter without proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. They are also no longer required to fill out a passenger locator form.
Returning to the U.S. from the U.K. recently became much easier as well. Effective June 12, all travelers, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, no longer need to show a negative COVID test to enter the U.S.
With the easing of travel restrictions on both sides of the pond, there has also been an uptick in airlift to help facilitate travel between the U.S. and the U.K. British Airways recently expanded its U.S. route network to incorporate four additional flight paths, bringing the carrier’s total number of direct flight routes from stateside cities to London Heathrow to 26. JetBlue has also beefed up its London service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
New transatlantic low-cost options include Play with service from Baltimore-Washington, Boston, and New York/Newburgh to Reykjavík, with connections to London, and Norse Atlantic Airways, which connects to London via Oslo, Norway.
And United Airlines is offering 22 nonstop flights to London Heathrow in 2022 including daily flights from New York/Newark (EWR); Washington, D.C. (IAD); San Francisco (SFO); Chicago (ORD); Houston (IAH); Denver (DEN); Boston (BOS); and Los Angeles (LAX).
Katherine LaGrave contributed reporting.