What a cap­i­tal idea

Whether you’re a first-timer or fre­quent vis­i­tor, Lon­don al­ways ex­cites and en­ter­tains, writes Sarah Ni­chol­son.

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - PHIL HOFFMANN TRAVEL -

ORE than a mil­lion Aus­tralians vis­ited the United King­dom last year, with most start­ing, stay­ing or stop­ping in Lon­don to prove the English cap­i­tal has some­thing for ev­ery­one.

This lively city sits com­fort­ably on any list of the world’s most dy­namic des­ti­na­tions with a long – and al­ways evolv­ing – in­ven­tory of things for trav­ellers to see and do, eat and drink, shop and stay. Here’s just a snip­pet of what’s new in the city by the Thames. Lon­don’s Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum (Lam­beth Rd; iwm.org.uk) re­opened last year af­ter a $70 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion, with the city sched­ul­ing a cal­en­dar of events to com­mem­o­rate the Great War’s 100th an­niver­sary (1914.org).

The Na­tional Gallery (Trafal­gar Square; na­tion­al­gallery.org.uk) will host In­vent­ing Im­pres­sion­ism un­til May 31; Alexander McQueen: Sav­age Beauty will stay at V&A (Cromwell Rd; vam.ac.uk) un­til Au­gust 2; and The Alice Look will be at V&A Mu­seum of Child­hood (Cam­bridge Heath Rd; vam.ac.uk/moc) un­til Novem­ber 1, mark­ing the 150th an­niver­sary of Lewis Car­roll’s Alice in Won­der­land.

When it comes to trendy neigh­bour­hoods, Shored­itch in Lon­don’s East End – home to Brick Lane Mar­ket (Brick Lane; brick­lane­mar­ket.com) and Old Spi­tal­fields Mar­ket (16 Horner Square; old­spi­tal­fields mar­ket.com) – is the hot spot.

Sam­ple gourmet good­ies at Satur­day’s Ur­ban Food Fest (162-167 Shored­itch High St; ur­ban­food­fest.com), try the famed salt beef bagel at Brick Lane Beigel Bake (159 Brick Lane), and browse the shops at Box­Park (2 Beth­nal Green Rd; box­park.co.uk). The Shangri-La Lon­don (31 St Thomas St; www.shangrila.com) was 2014’s high­est pro­file un­veil­ing, oc­cu­py­ing 18 floors at the Shard (the­shard.com), which is now the city’s tallest tower, while Ham Yard Ho­tel (1 Ham Yard; grand­lux­u­ry­ho­tels.com) is a new build­ing on a block va­cant since The Blitz.

Sev­eral new prop­er­ties cater to bud­get-con­scious trav­ellers, with Z Pic­cadilly (2 Or­ange St; thezho­tels.com), Hub by Pre­mier Inn Covent Gar­den (110 St Martin’s Lane; pre­mierinn.com) and Hamp­ton by Hil­ton Water­loo Lon­don (157 Water­loo Rd; hil­ton.com) three 2014 op­tions.

There was also a run on bou­tique ho­tels open­ing in old build­ings, with The Beau­mont (Brown Hart Gar­dens; the­beau­mont.com) in a garage, Chiltern Fire­house (1 Chiltern St; chiltern­fire­house.com) in a for­mer fire sta­tion, and Dorsett Shep­herds Bush (58 Shep­herd’s Bush Green; dorset­tho­tels.com) in a vin­tage cinema.

Jan­uary saw the in­tro­duc­tion of Z Shored­itch (136-144 City Rd; thezho­tels.com) and Ur­ban Villa Lon­don (Great West Rd; ur­ban villa.com) for self-cater­ing stays while Z City (24-28 Fleet St; thezho­tels.com), Old Court­house Ho­tel (19-21 Great Marl­bor­ough St; court­house­ho­tel.com) and The Lanes­bor­ough (Hyde Park Cor­ner; lanes­bor­ough.com) will wel­come guests dur­ing 2015. There are restau­rants open­ing in Lon­don all the time. Here are just a few high­lights.

Ara­bica Bar & Kitchen (3 Rochester Walk; ara­bi­cabar and­kitchen.com) is a Mid­dle Eastern-in­spired cafe.

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