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.

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