Establishment neighborhood
Royal Academy
Burlington House, Piccadilly
With graduates like J.M.W. Turner, David Hockney, John Constable and many, many others, The Royal Academy is simultaneously one of England's most competitive art schools and also one of its most inventive exhibition spaces. The students and remarkable-in-their-own-right faculty make the Academy more of a community rather than just a space to experience great art. Don't miss their annual Summer Exhibition: A tradition since 1769(!), it's an enormous open-entry show with submissions from around the world that's meant to offer insight into future art-world trends.
Hotel Café Royal
68 Regent St., Piccadilly
Opened by a Frenchman as a restaurant in the mid-1800's, the Café Royal came to be known not only for its wine cellar—at the time, the largest in the world—but also as the intelligentsia's favorite watering hole. Everyone from Oscar Wilde—today, the sleek, green glass-tiled absinthe bar is named after him—to Rudyard Kipling, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, and later, David Bowie, Princess Di and Mick Jagger showed up. When the glamour died down, the small hotel chain The Set came to the rescue for a revamp via David Chipperfield Architects and reopened the institution as a hotel and private club. Nowadays, the hotel, café, bar, and club attract a new kind of intelligentsia— namely fashion and media types—and is a hive of activity especially around fashion week, Frieze, and PAD. If you're splurging, don't miss the dreamy, pastel-hued Dome suite on the top floor, which boasts a terrace overlooking Regent Street, and the Akasha Spa, which is an unlikely, peaceful haven in the middle of Piccadilly.
Picturehouse Cinema Central
Great Windmill St. & Shaftesbury Ave., Piccadilly
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).