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Forget long trip to the airport and endless waits for your luggage. When you take the train to London, you’ll travel straight to the city centre – so how will you make the most of all that extra time? Even fifteen minutes can be enough for a small adventure: use them wisely to experience something a little bit different in the capital. Whether you’re in the market for a quick makeover or have time for a leisurely paddle along Regent’s Canal, here are eight suggestions to help get you started.
After a shopping spree on Oxford Street, pop in to this blow-dry bar to freshen your look. At Duck and Dry, expert stylists can transform your do with plaits, twists, and artfully mussed buns in the blink of an eye. The décor is Instagram-worthy, too: snap the swing seat, hanging plants and bloom-covered nail-bar. If you’re not in a rush, ask for a wavy blow dry or get your eyebrows tidied up.
Over the last 300 years, the street shows of Covent Garden have become something of a tradition. Raw talent doesn’t cut it alone; performers have to go through an audition to be given a sought-after slot. Whatever their style, the acts always thrill and entertain. Look out for Tom the juggler, Seija the soprano or Sparkles the clown: they all know how to work the crowds gathered on the cobblestones.
This Mayfair establishment specialises in rare teas from small plantations. Treat yourself to a tasting session in the pared-down shop, and take your time savouring the subtleties of the most British of beverages. You can also pick up some artisanal ceramics from Kyoto or Jingdezhen, or send a postcard to a loved one, complete with 50g of your choice of leaves.
This picturesque bric-a-brac shop, open since 1887 near the Notting Hill flea market, had its moment in the spotlight in the Paddington film. But that star turn hasn’t gone to its head: you can still pick up affordable vintage knick-knacks. A half hour is plenty of time to find a treasure or two in this charming jumble; look out for pub signs, pretty biscuit tins, or a toy telephone box.
Fuelled by an insatiable appetite for casual dining, Londoners have fallen hard for food courts. The new must-try address is this gourmet hall near Tottenham Court Road. It brings together eight creative kitchens, three bars, a terrace and an incubator for culinary projects under one roof. Try Tou’s katsu sando with Black Iberian pig, Pastor’s veggie tacos, or Oklava’s spiced and roasted cauliflower.
Head to Glow bar for some restorative pampering. This women-only Marylebone spa is all about soul-soothing, from its pale pink décor to moon milks steeped with lavender or ginger. Treat yourself to 45 minutes of downtime in the sauna, where infrared lights work in tandem with therapeutic heat. Don’t be surprised if you emerge with a healthy flush and that fabled glow.
London is glorious from the water – even in winter, if you’re feeling brave. Paddleboarding London, in Camden, offers 90-minute tours and lessons for beginners. Their excursions along Regent’s Canal are a memorable way to experience the city differently. You can even book a themed session: try yoga classes, moonlit trips, or paddle-and-prosecco parties on Friday evenings.
Soho’s Milroy stocks fine whiskies from Scotland, of course, but also lesser-known bottles from Taiwan, Japan or Ireland. Book a tasting session in the cellar bar and treat your taste buds to a trip around the world, all from the comfort of the intimate, candlelit space. They’re held every Monday at 6.30pm; if there are two of you, ask for a private session to sample a selection of rare single malts.
As soon as you step off the train, you’re in the thick of the action.
Early-bird or night-owl, here’s how to enjoy every moment in London
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