As a wise person (Ferris Bueller) once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
It’s definitely a sentiment I’ve found myself echoing recently, with the weeks galloping by in a blur of new openings, pop-ups, festivals and more.
As exhilaratingly fun as it all is, I’ve always been the kind of person who needs a time-out every now and again. If you’re of a similar conditioning, you might enjoy the charms of these inviting hideouts too – situated nondescriptly in the thick of things, they present just the retreat to flee the madding crowd…
A floral fairyland, interiors inspiration, hands-on workshops and nature-inspired deli-fare are just a few of the many beguiling appeals to Petersham Nurseries’ new outpost in Covent Garden. The location in Floral Court couldn’t be more perfect either, given the area’s history as a flower, fruit and vegetable market!
Spread across 16,000 square feet, it’s all-too-easy to lose track of time immersed in the enchanting garden or browsing the ethereal collection of Venetian glassware here. And if you’re feeling peckish there’s a delicatessen next-door (holding its own cellar of Italian wine), with two restaurants to follow suit soon!
Petersham Nurseries, Covent Garden, Floral Court, London, WC2E 9FB
If you ever need somewhere to duck into near Piccadilly Circus, look no further than Maison Assouline.
Described by its founders as “the first luxury brand on culture’ – the luxury bookstore champions publications and titles which are as aesthetically-appealing as they are intellectually-galvanising, spanning the cross-cutting worlds of art, fashion, architecture and design, photography and travel.
Eccentric furniture, ornaments and a striking architectural backdrop (designed by Sir Edwin Lutyen in 1922) set the stage further; and there’s a handsome bar partitioned off if you fancy a languid lunch or an elegant tipple.
Maison Assouline, 196A Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9EY
Handy tip: Other bookish escapes include the hallowed interiors of Daunt Books in Marylebone. Replete with oak balconies and stained glass windows, this Edwardian gem of a bookstore is particularly well-known for its travel section from where you can explore the world through maps, travelogues, guide books and more!
House of MinaLima
“There is always room for a story that will transport people to another place.”
– J.K. Rowling
Nearby(ish) in Soho, you can enter the magical world of witchcraft and wizardry at House of MinaLima.
The four-storey exhibition is from the creative couple Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima (MinaLima!), who designed the incredible graphics seen in the Harry Potter films – from the Daily Prophet posters to the Marauder’s Map and more… If you’ve ever wanted your very own Hogwarts acceptance letter, this is the place to go to!
House of MinaLima, 26 Greek Street, Soho, W1D 5DE.
Handy tip: House of MinaLima is located right next door to The Bun House, where you’ll find the next best thing to the exploding bonbons of Honeydukes in Hogsmeade (if you know, you know)… exploding custard-filled buns! Find out more, here.
An amble along the arcades
Then there are the historic arcades running between the busy streets of Piccadilly and Mayfair. The arched walkways are always a peaceful port-of-call for promenading and a spot of window-shopping, with boutiques running the gamut from art and silverware to bespoke shoes and the finest cashmere.
While Burlington Arcade remains the most popular of these Victorian-era establishments, I’ve always been partial to the more quiet charms of the Royal Arcade which connects Old Bond Street and Albermarle Street… And it’s not just for the silky truffles at Charbonnel Et Walker!
Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond St, Mayfair, London W1S 4DR
Mayfair art galleries
While one of the (many) beauties of London has always been its panoply of iconic museums, the city’s stand-alone galleries are no less impressive, and lead the charge in shaping the contemporary art scene on a global scale. The density with which these galleries are packed in Mayfair always makes for an afternoon thought-provokingly well-spent hopping between them.
Must-visits include the New York-based Pace Gallery (for their experiential exhibits), White Cube in Mason’s Yard (a zeitgeisty addition to the period landscape of St James), and The Gagosian (it’s helmed by arguably the most influential art dealer in the world, showcasing artists from Pollock to Picasso).
And lest I forget: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Housed in an 18th century mansion on Dover Street, the London branch of the Paris and Salzburg dealerships, champions artworks, installations and performance pieces which are redefining the world of art as we know it…