The Central London Guide
Dickens, Mozart, Lenin, Marx, Handel, Virginia Woolf, and the Bloomsbury Group were all one-time central London residents, and that rich history is still palpable today in the old Soho clubs and eateries, and the quiet, residential streets of Bloomsbury that they frequented. There are even hints of this rich history in touristy Covent Garden, in the legendary Royal Opera House, and in the old covered market. Westminster, home to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, is an endlessly fascinating place. Tourists, of course, are also a common thread, as are the constant stream of restaurant and bar openings that lure both local Londoners and foreign visitors alike.
Picturehouse Cinema CentralGreat Windmill St. & Shaftesbury Ave., Piccadilly | +44.87.1902.5747
Picturehouse is known for taking old movie theaters and jazzing them up with plush decor, all-day cafés, and bars. The newest of the group, right smack in central London in the Trocadero is no exception, with a much more contemporary look that makes you feel like you've walked into a big, clubby bar rather than a movie theater. You sort of have, in that the top floor is an exclusive member's bar with a terrace that provides great views of the bustling surroundings. And oh, there's the seven theaters themselves which have undergone a massive renovation and now have comfier red velvet seats and better screens (with cool retro curtains).
19 Greek Street19 Greek St., Soho | +44.78.5030.9667
Interior designer Marc Peridis opened this sustainable design gallery in 2012, and it has slowly gained acclaim in design circles. Open by appointment only, it's a bit of an industry secret. In a narrow six-floor Soho townhouse, Peridis curates and commissions stunning work from a stable of international designers like Markus Friedrich Staab, Nina Toolstrup, Hamajima Takuya, and more.
Bloomsbury LanesTavistock Hotel Basement, Bedford Way, Bloomsbury | +44.20.7183.1979
While you can walk in and bowl, booking ahead is strongly recommended. This is a great place for parties.
Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop44 The Market, Covent Garden | +44.20.7379.7866
Benjamin Pollock's toy theater shop was revamped in the 1960's by Marguerite Fawdry (it was her idea to add a museum), and Mr. Pollock's grandson runs the shop and adjoining museum to this day. There are old-fashioned teddy bears, doll houses, zoetropes, and vintage games that kids and adults alike will find fascinating. The specialty here, however, remains the mini-theaters. The toy store still stocks them and makes for the start of a very fanciful toy collection.
Somerset HouseStrand, Covent Garden | +44.20.7845.4600
This cultural institution has some of the best shows on Fashion, Photography and Design every year, not to mention the new London Design Biennial as of 2016. Aside from the galleries, there are a couple good spots to have a snack, take in the views of the Thames and also take the kids. Every Saturday, Somerset House offers kids a range activities from painting and model-making to fashion design and animation. Each workshop is designed to encourage and inspire fresh activities to try at home. The courtyard, which is by a great concert series in the summer, is transformed into a public ice skating rink every winter.
The Sir John Soane Museum13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, City of London | +44.020.7405.2107
One of the most wonderful house museums in London, this 19th-century home, designed by the famous architect himself, is exactly as he left it 180 years ago. In his life, he was a well-traveled collector, which is reflected in the way he liked to cram his collections of Etruscan figurines and 16th-century Roman plaster casts on every available surface. In short, it's a multi-story cabinet of curiosities, packed with history and inspiration.
The Store at 180 The Strand180 The Strand, Westminster
Hidden in this iconic Brutalist building is a hub of creativity curated by the current doyenne of cool, shop owner Alex Eagle. Many fashion companies are set to move in here (including the British Fashion Council), though Eagle is still free to host and create just about anything she desires—currently it's The Infinite Mix a powerful show of video installations put on by the Hayward Gallery. Stay tuned for everything from fashion presentations, to pop-ups, concerts and more. At the heart of this creative hub is a leafy café with incredible views of the Thames, where London's creatives convene.