2i’s Coffee Bar at 59 Old Compton Street in the heart of Soho was the beating heart of British rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, it’s considered its birthplace, the site where the BBC broadcast its first pop music show in 1957. Over the years, audiences crammed into the tiny basement to see acts such as Sir Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, The Shadows and Adam Faith. It closed in 1970, but you’ll find a commemorative plaque at the locale.
You’ll find a history of sartorial excellence on St. James’s Street in London—namely, at Lock & Co. Not only is it the oldest hat shop in London, but it’s also the oldest hat shop in the world and one of the oldest family-owned businesses in existence. Dating to 1676, the shop is credited with the invention of the bowler hat. Their hats have crowned the head of many a luminary, such as socialite Beau Brummell, author Oscar Wilde, Admiral Lord Nelson (who wore their bicorne into the Battle of Trafalgar) and Sir Winston Churchill, who made their Cambridge and Homburg hats part of his signature style. Now run by the seventh generation of the Lock family, the shop boasts two Royal Warrants.
Did you know that New Covent Garden Market supplies 75% of London’s florists? The indoor market is, in fact, the largest wholesale fruit, vegetable and flower market in the United Kingdom. With Garden Day coming up this month, it’s the perfect time to stock up on your wholesale flowers, plants, foliage, floral sundries and florist supplies. And don’t stop there. You’ll find seasonal fruit, vegetables, artisanal fine foods, meat, fish, dairy and more. The venue is located at Nine Elms, one of London’s trendiest new districts stretching between the south London districts of Battersea and Vauxhall.
Considered one of the grandest Stuart houses in England, Ham House is a 17th-century house set in formal gardens on the bank of the River Thames in Ham between Richmond and Kingston. Thanks to the decorating prowess of the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale 400 years ago, it’s internationally recognized for its superb collection of paintings, furniture and textiles. Like many formal gardens of the period, it would’ve originally included a quiet “wilderness” area for reflection. That concept has been recreated for contemporary times in what is known as a Silent Space, an area of the garden reserved for silence, rest and reflection. At Ham House, the silent space is contained within a compartment formed from hedges of hornbeam based on a design plan from 1671. Richmond underground station is a little over 1 mile away by footpath.
One of only three National Trust properties in London, 575 Wandsworth Road is a Georgian terraced house that belonged to Kenyan poet, philosopher and novelist Khadambi Asalache. To say that he turned his entire house into a work of art is hardly hyperbole. He embellished almost every wall, ceiling and door in the house with exquisite fretwork patterns and motifs, which he hand-carved from reclaimed pine doors and floorboards found in skips and hand painted. The house stands as he left it, boasting delicate painted floors and collections including pressed-glass inkwells, pink and copper lusterware, postcards and his typewriter. To protect the hand-painted floors, you’ll need to remove your shoes when you visit. Don’t delay in booking your ticket; visitors are limited to 2,000 each year. Wandsworth Road Station is on the Overground, one stop from Clapham Junction.
Hatchards is London’s oldest bookshop. It was established in 1797 by publisher John Hatchard and has occupied its current space at 187 Piccadilly since Georgian times. Far from a crusty old bookstore, it shelves are lined with the latest bestsellers and contemporary works along with time-honored classics. The store’s dedicated team can even source out-of-print titles. As one might expect, they’re the Official Bookseller to the Royal Household.
Gunnersbury Park boasts an opulent stately home in Regency style located in the London Borough of Hounslow. Once owned by the Rothschild banking family, it now houses a local history and heritage museum for the London boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow. You can thank Maria de Rothschild for that, who sold the park and its mansion houses to Ealing Borough Council and Acton Borough Council in 1925 to be preserved as a public space. Some popular features are the 19th-century carriages owned by the Rothschilds, the Victorian kitchens and the Greek-style Doric Temple, one of the oldest buildings in the park. You can get there easily via Acton Town or South Ealing tube stations.
A blue plaque marks the spot in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea where King Henry VIII’s manor house once stood. Located on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, the house was last occupied by Sir Hans Sloane, a collector whose massive holdings provided the foundation for the British Museum. All that remains of the estate is the manor garden, where mulberry trees allegedly planted by Queen Elizabeth I flourish.
The Battle of Britain was a military campaign of World War II, in which the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy defended Britain against relentless air raids by Nazi Germany’s air force. The successful defense is commemorated in bronze friezes at the Battle of Britain London Monument. The friezes, cast at the Morris Singer foundry (which also cast some of the lions in Trafalgar Square), depict various scenes from the battle. The monument is located on the Victoria Embankment (north side of the River Thames) opposite the London Eye.
William Morris was a leading member of the Arts and Crafts Movement. With help from the architect Philip Webb, he created Red House, a significant Arts and Crafts building located in Bexleyheath on the outskirts of London. It’s a red-brick villa with pointed arched window frames and towering chimneys that served as a family home for Morris. Inside, you’ll find decorative ceilings, stained glass and evocative murals like the Wedding Feast. Cannon Street and Charing Cross stations offer direct train service.