It’s no secret that right now London is super-hot with Thai travelers. But if you’re making a return trip and have already toured the Tower of London, grown weary of the crowds at Harrods or trawled through the Tate, then where else is there to explore?
One answer lies just yards from the heaving mobs and flagship stores of Oxford Street in a neighborhood that’s quaintly known as Marylebone Village. Formerly a site for bear baiting and home to Charles Dickens, the area is now an affluent retail and residential refuge in central London. At its epicenter is Marylebone High Street, a small thoroughfare blessed with a whole host of chic boutiques, great restaurants, bars and cafes and, with its striking Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian buildings, some historic architecture as well.
“Formerly a site for bear baiting and home to Charles Dickens, the area is now an affluent retail and residential refuge in Central London.”
There really is an amazing mix of stores to explore with the High Street being the central retail artery. The sheer depth and breadth of shopping on offer is impressive, though be warned it doesn’t come cheap.
That choice ranges from the bright prints of the country-chic inspired Cath Kidson store (51 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5HW. +44(0)20-7935-6555), to the soothing tones, clean lines and heady scents on offer at the White Company (Marylebone High Street, W1U 4NR. +44(0)20-7935-7879). Indeed it’s a bit of a who’s who of design-focused fashion and home décor stores, whether it’s the three floors of furnishings, accessories and design classics housed in the former stable that is now the Conran Shop (55 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5HS. +44(0)20-7723-2223), or the uber-stylish fashions and accessories at Monocle (2A George Street, Marylebone, W1U 3QS. +44(0)20-7486-8770) and the Designer’s Guild (76 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5JU. +44(0)20-3301-5826), with its range of creative and high quality fabrics, accessories and furniture.
But it’s not just high-end chains. There are also plenty of unique and eclectic standalone boutiques to enjoy like men’s clothiers Trunk (8 Chiltern Street, W1U 7PU. +44(0)20-7486-2357), art concept shop Eclectic, diverse ethnic fashion and jewelry at Kabiri (37 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4QE. +44(0)20-7317-2150) or the preppy university-inspired British clothing available at Jack Willis (26 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4PJ. +44(0)20-7486-8873). One absolute must-visit is the specialist travel and literary book store Daunt (83 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4QW. +44(0)20-7224-2295), whose original Edwardian oak galleries and lofty skylights make it a charming spot to while away a few hours.
Fortunately, after all that shopping there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and bistros in the neighborhood in which to relax and recharge. While you can spend some serious sterling on classic French cuisine at the excellent Conran restaurant Orrery (55 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5RB. +44(0)20-7616-8000) or upmarket innovative Indian at the Michelin-starred Trishna (15 -17 Blandford Street, Marylebone Village, W1U 3DG. +44(0)20-7935-5624), not everywhere has to break the bank.
A big local favorite is Fishworks (89 Marylebone High St, W1U 4QW. +44(0)20-7935-9796). It looks like a fresh fishmongers from the front but tucked away out back there’s also a small restaurant. Choose from the selection of sustainably caught fish and seafood and let the chefs cook it up to your liking. Further down the High Street, The Providores (09 Marylebone High St, W1U 4RX. +44(0)20-7935-6175) has in-the-know foodies flocking here for the food of star Kiwi chef Peter Gordon. Downstairs is the rather rustic and informal Tapa, which serves up small plates of intriguing fusion-influenced offerings and great New Zealand wines, while upstairs provides slightly more formal fine dining. If Gordon’s dishes seem a little complex then you can always opt to head to the London branch of Parisian classic Relais de Venise (120 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2QG. +44(0)20-7486-0878), which only does one dish, grass-fed steak and hand-chipped frites with ‘special sauce’—but as the queues indicate, they certainly do it well. Another specialist is the Golden Hind (73 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2PN. +44(0)20-7486-3644), which has been serving up the British classic of fish and chips for nearly a hundred years.
For something a little lighter, Pain au Quotidien (72-75 Marylebone High St, W1U 5JW. +44(0)20-3657-6949) is an upmarket organic cafe that does breakfast, lunch and early dinner and also sells bread and cakes to go. If you are considering making your own picnic to enjoy in the nearby Regent’s Park (see attractions) then you might also want to pop by one of the best cheese shops in the UK (the British are as crazy about cheese as the French). La Fromagerie (2-6 Moxon Street, W1U 4EW. +44(0)20-7935-0341) doesn’t just pride itself on the huge range of artisanal farmhouse cheeses it sells but also boasts its own cheese maturing cellar and on-site affineur (cheese carer) as well as a walk-in temperature controlled cheese room. They also have a shop selling breads, olive oils and delicious homemade jams and chutneys.
As if all that food weren’t enough, keep walking down Marylebone High Street towards Oxford Street and you’ll come to St Christopher’s Place. This little street, not much more than an alleyway, is packed with over 20 restaurants and cafes, most of which spill out onto the small sidewalk giving the place a wonderfully cosmopolitan vibe that’s quite unusual for London. With most focusing on Mediterranean dishes, you can sample Italian, Spanish and Lebanese, if you can find a place at the usually packed tables.
Of course, a visit to London just has to involve a pop down to the nearest pub. Marylebone isn’t exactly blessed with great taverns but there are a couple worth checking out. Down the Southern end of the High Street is The Angel in the Fields (37 Thayer St, W1U 2QY. +44(0)20-7486-7763). Run by the Samuel Smith’s brewery, a chain of pubs known for their authentic vibe and affordable beers, this place is pretty straightforward but with its dark oak paneled walls and friendly staff it has a nice, cozy vibe. Just up the street is another decent bar in the Prince Regent (71 Marylebone High St, W1U 5JN. +44(0)20-7486-7395). Having undergone a renovation which really shows off its Victorian features, it has a real drinking den kind of vibe going on thanks to its preponderance of plush velvet and opulent chandeliers—the pub grub is pretty decent, too. If it’s something stronger than ale you’re after then the Marylebone (Marylebone High St, W1U 4RE. +44(0)20-7935-4373) sees things ramp up at night when residents flock in to sample the inventive list of cocktails. Finally, Coco Momo squeezes in to our list thanks to its location in another beautiful old Victorian pub. A decent enough bistro by day, its focus turns to drinks in the evening. It also has the added benefit of some nice al fresco seating—great for spotting the numerous celebs from Madonna to Noel Gallagher that call this neighborhood home.
Often overlooked in favor of the more central Hyde Park, Regent’s Park
is a glorious expanse of open space that’s home to a boating lake, the delightful Queen Mary’s flower gardens, fave celebrity hang-out Primrose Hill, an open-air theatre and, as if all that weren’t enough, the iconic London Zoo and its menagerie of weird and wonderful creatures. There are also lots of little cafes dotted around the 360 acres selling organic ice cream and cakes. For something more warming and savory then drop by the Honest Sausage
), which serves up organic sausage sandwiches, bacon rolls and Fair Trade tea and coffee.
London is a city blessed with great museums but if you’ve done the V&A and the British Museum there are plenty of other smaller gems to discover. The Wallace Collection (Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN. +44(0)20-7563-9500. Mon-Fri 10am–5pm) is one of these, featuring the art collections of the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the fourth marquess. It is a treasure trove of works from the 18th and 19th centuries, all contained in a beautiful townhouse where the marquess’ used to live. The 25 galleries contain works by such famous old masters as Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto as well as collections of medieval armor, porcelain and French furniture all housed in a stunning period building. The best bit: it’s all free.
While it’s technically on Oxford Street you can get to the iconic Selfridges (400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB. www.selfridges.com) store pretty easily from Marylebone via St Christopher’s Place. More than just a shop, Selfridges is an institution and has been voted the best department store in the world. Opened way back in 1909, it’s worth visiting to admire the amazing architectural features, from the striking Selfridges clock to the ornate sculpture on the facade, as much as for the luxury goods displayed over its six floors. The window displays are normally impressive, it boasts lots of cutting-edge fashions by leading designers and it also happens to be home to three Champagne bars, the perfect pick-me-up for the weary shopper.
Probably as affordable as you’ll get round here, there’s hardly ever anyone at the tiny reception counter (located beneath the stairs) and the lack of air-con can get rough in the summer (if it happens). But what Marylebone Inn lacks in class, it makes up for with its clean, recently refurbished rooms, which all have little kitchenettes in case you’d like to microwave yourself some Mama. Plus it offers a great location close to all of Marylebone’s main attractions and Baker St. Tube. Rates start from B5,000 a night. www.marhotel.co.uk
Number 10 Manchester Street
Sat on a quiet street just around the corner from the main shopping and dining areas, this delightfully stylish, yet intimate boutique hotel is set in an Edwardian townhouse. The 45 rooms feature lots of quirky period features like large bay windows but are finished in a contemporary style. There’s also the added bonus of a cigar lounge and Italian restaurant on-site. If you can afford it, there’s even the option of rooms with their own garden terraces. Rates start from B10,000 a night. www.tenmanchesterstreethotel.com
The area is walking distance to Bond Street and Baker Street Underground lines and its central location makes it a great base for exploring the rest of the city.