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London, More Affordable
Comments () | Published May 19, 2010
Once you’ve shopped your way up the street, Bluebird Café (350 King’s Rd.; 020 7559 1000) offers prime people-watching, so grab an outdoor table and eavesdrop to your heart’s content. Or follow all the homesick Italian soccer players and visiting celebrities to La Famiglia (7 Langton St.; 020 7351 0761), and feast on vitello tonnato and spaghetti with wild-boar ragu.

Go East
To find some real bargains, take a trip to Old Spitalfields Market (105A Commercial St.; 020 7375 2963) in East London. Sunday is the busiest day, when art and fashion vendors congregate and Londoners pick through the stalls for unique pieces.

Try an English delicacy at Square Pie (105C Commercial St.; 020 7247 2100), where popular varieties include steak and Guinness, lamb and rosemary, and jerk chicken. Or wander up to Brick Lane and sample that other British specialty: curry. The Aladin (132 Brick La.; 020 7247 8210) boasts Prince Charles as a fan of its Bangladeshi and Indian dishes. The heart of London’s Asian community, Brick Lane has restaurants, shops, and galleries as well as a bustling hipster scene—guerilla-art fans should look out for graffiti by Banksy.

Then head north to Hoxton Square and visit White Cube (48 Hoxton Sq.; 020 7930 5373), one of the world’s most successful and controversial commercial art galleries. Owner Jay Jopling is responsible for discovering a cadre of young British artists, including Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley.

Finally, indulge in dinner at Fifteen (15 Westland Pl.; 020 3375 1515), where celebrity chef Jamie Oliver—recently seen on ABC’s Food Revolution—first started training disadvantaged young people to work as chefs, kicking off a global franchise. The tasting menu in the dining room is a hefty £60 a person (about $86), but the restaurant also houses a trattoria with pasta options under £10 (about $14).

Where to Lay Your Head
Even when exchange rates are favorable, London hotels can be expensive, particularly if they’re in the center of town. Lastminute.com is a good resource for discounted rates—four-star hotels can be booked for less than £100 ($140) a night. If you don’t mind taking a chance, the site offers special deals on “top secret” luxury accommodation. Hotels prefer not to be identified by name because the rates are so low.
If money’s no object, London has some of the most elegant hotels in Europe. Claridge’s (49 Brook St.; 020 7629 8860) has been a Mayfair institution since the 19th century; it’s famous for its opulence, its glitzy clientele, and its discretion. During the 1940s it played host to many an exiled European monarch, and Katharine Hepburn was once banned from the lobby for wearing trousers. The Art Deco furnishings have been updated recently with a series of rooms designed by Diane von Furstenberg. Afternoon tea is served daily, and the hotel also boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. June rates start at $638 a night.

Less storied but considerably hipper, the Sanderson (50 Berners St.; 020 7300 1400) is a Philippe Starck-designed boutique hotel off Oxford Street. Lime-green walls, whimsical furniture, and a surrealist influence give it a dramatic sense of style, and the courtyard garden is an urban oasis by candlelight. The hotel is conveniently located for sightseeing and shopping, just a short walk from Soho and the restaurants of Charlotte Street. Rates start at $350 a night.

Walking distance from London Bridge, Borough Market, and the South Bank, the Bermondsey Square Hotel (Tower Bridge Rd.; 020 7378 2450) is in one of London’s recently gentrified neighborhoods, just south of Tower Bridge. The area—home to bustling art galleries, nightclubs, and museums—offers cheaper prices than tonier areas in central London, despite being steps from major tourist attractions and public transportation. The decor is light and ‘60s-inspired, with amenities such as Apple iMacs. One “loft” suite has a rooftop Jacuzzi with views of the Thames. An organic bar, restaurant, and delicatessen is on-site for those who get hungry. Rooms start at $142 a night.

Just looking for a clean, fuss-free place? Base2Stay (25 Courtfield Gardens; 020 7244 2255) offers small chic rooms in Kensington, close to Chelsea, Earls Court, and Notting Hill. All rooms are equipped with a mini-kitchen, tea and coffee, free wi-fi, a flat-screen TV, and bath/shower. The hotel is only the second in London to be given a Gold Award by the Green Tourism Business Scheme. Rooms start at $133 a night.

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Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 05/19/2010 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles