What to do in London: Platinum Jubilee, Bridgerton events and more

London comes back to life. Heathrow Airport reports that March 2022 was its busiest month since the start of the pandemic, with passeng...


London comes back to life. Heathrow Airport reports that March 2022 was its busiest month since the start of the pandemic, with passenger travel from North America in particular increasing by more than 60% compared to January 2022.

The uptick is linked to the UK government’s recent lifting of coronavirus restrictions, a welcome move for many travelers looking to get their fill of British culture, including once in a lifetime. Platinum Jubilee events and experiences based on “Bridgerton”, Netflix’s intoxicating hit show.

“We love ‘Bridgerton’ and all things royal,” said Tasha Gelling, a Chicago-based teacher who, with her 16-year-old daughter Ruth, booked afternoon tea on their six-day trip in Britain this month. The duo also visited the Tower of London and Hyde Park, and spent an afternoon in Bath.

Even with new coronavirus variants brewing and a war raging in Ukraine, many other American travelers are planning trips to the British capital.

“London has remained the second most popular international travel destination for Americans – only behind Cancun – for recent vacation periods,” said Jen Moyse, vice president of product for TripIt, a travel planning app with 19 million users. The volume of flight bookings to London, she said, increased by 300% comparing TripIt’s booking data over the four-month period from April-July to December-March.

Some city stalwarts have closed during the pandemic. Among them: Coffee of Parisa cabaret hall in the West End since 1924; The Whim at St James’s, once a favorite haunt of Princess Diana; and the physical locations of Debenham’s, the 242-year-old department store. But across London, other cafes and shops are bustling, loads of new bars and restaurants have opened and the town squares swarm with everyday life. A large number of the royal parks are ablaze in the daffodils and teeming with picnickers, while live theater is back in the West End. The return of in-person events lends to the dynamism of Platinum Jubilee ‘Central Weekend’ in June, when public celebrations will mark 70 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Here’s more about what’s new and noteworthy in London.

It’s a testament to London’s vitality that new restaurants have managed to open and even thrive during the pandemic. One of the busiest places is Arts Club Sessions in Clerkenwell, a reimagined 18th-century courthouse where crumbling artwork and dramatic decor give a whimsical patina to chef Florence Knight’s dishes. Dishes like sea bream with parsley and eel in crème fraîche are deliciously British with hints of France and Italy (dishes range from 10 to 25 pounds, or around $13 to $32).

Another new hit is K.O.L., Britain’s first Michelin-starred Mexican restaurant, where chef Santiago Lastra prepares dishes like pork belly carnitas with mashed cabbage. On the ground floor is The Mezcaleriawhich serves energetic cocktails with a focus on mezcal (six- and nine-course tasting menus are £90 and £125, with no wine or mezcal pairings; cocktails at Mezclaria are £15).

Vegans and meat eaters might be delighted with the restaurant Gauthier Sohofrom classic French gastronomy to plant-based gastronomy. One dish, rice with truffle ‘cream’, offers the richness of dairy through a combination of potato and lentil starch (the tasting menu starts at £50, with no wine pairings).

When Leroy in Shoreditch embraced roast chicken take-out as a pandemic survival maneuver, the Michelin-starred restaurant might not have imagined the side hustle would evolve into a stand-alone restaurant. Now, royal sells whole or half-corn-fed Anjou chicken, sides like leek vinaigrette and hazelnut parfait (whole chickens are £30, sides around £10).

In his 1970s-inspired bar facing the Thames Lyaness, bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana concocts cocktails around quirky ingredients. A springtime drink called 21st Daisy blends vodka, passion fruit and crystallized verbena with a homemade ‘Green Sauce Liqueur’ (£14.5), but this South Bank location also serves a “Spirited Tea” weekend (£55 for the full selection of teas, cocktails, cakes and sandwiches).

Brown clocks in like London’s oldest hotel, opening in 1837, but bartender Salvatore Calabrese invents new ways to revisit the property’s history through cocktails. The First Call pays homage to Alexander Graham Bell (who made Brown’s first phone call) with Elephant gin, pistachio pesto, verjuice, coconut syrup, egg white and white port ( £23). Another drink, the Winston – as at Churchill – is whiskey-based and spiked with coriander, lime juice and a swirl of smoke (£25).

In Covent Garden, New York design firm Roman and Williams transformed a 19th-century magistrate’s court into Europe’s first court Nomadic Hotel. Selected art and textured materials imbue the spaces with a contemporary flair and the restaurant is housed in a three-storey glass atrium (rates from £409).

Two interconnected Georgian houses are now the 14 suites Beaverbrook Town House in Chelsea, where interiors designed by Nicola Harding feature bold color combinations, vivid prints and fringed upholstery inspired by London’s great theaters (rates from £495). Hotel guests can access the leafy, residents-only Cadogan Gardens, as well as enjoy “Bridgerton”-themed experiences with sister property Beaverbrook Estate in Surry.

Kingsland Locke has unveiled 124 stylish apartment-style rooms in East London’s Dalston area, with a cafe, microbrewery and kebab restaurant on the ground floor (rates from £123).

The lights are back in the West End with hit musicals like “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” and “Six,” a modern chronicle of the fate of Henry VIII’s wives. For those looking for games, there is “A lot of noise for nothing” at the Shakespeare Globe (until October 23) and West End openings include “Glass factory” with Amy Adams (May 23 to August 27) and “At first glance” with Jodie Comer of “Killing Eve” fame (until June 18).

Ticket prices vary for various shows, from £5 (standing room only) to around £90, and can be sold out for popular shows. Tickets and matinees on weekdays are cheaper and the Booth TKTS at Leicester Square offers discounted tickets for the day. Note that some theaters have their own vaccine requirements, so check back to see what documentation is required for entry.

At the Victoria & Albert Museum, theShaping masculinities: The Art of Men’s Fashion” brings together historical and contemporary ensembles to highlight the concept of gender fluidity. Expect to see 18th century frock coats and suits worn by the Beatles to dresses sported by singer Harry Styles and drag performer Bimini Bon-Boulash (entrance to the museum is free and there is no timed entry; “Fashioning Masculinities” runs through November).

Surrealism beyond borders” at the Tate Modern explores the global reach of the surrealist movement with works by lesser-known artists from Osaka, Japan, and Bogotá, Colombia, juxtaposed with paintings by Dali, Miro and Magritte (free and paid admission to museum and advance reservations are recommended; “Surrealism Beyond Borders” runs until August).

At King’s Cross, Britain’s first museum dedicated to LGBTQ people, queer britainopens May 5 with a exhibition of paintings, photographs and paintings brought together by Matthew Storey, the curator of LGBTQ art, design and history for historic royal palaces.

Britain celebrates Platinum Jubileemarking Queen Elizabeth as the first British monarch to spend 70 years on the throne, full year. But from June 2-5, events like “Trooping the Colour,” a ceremonial parade featuring 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians, will take place. The parade will march from Buckingham Palace to the Mall with members of the Royal Family; other festivities this weekend include a concert at Buckingham Palace and a series of street parties.

The hotels are also celebrating. The Jubilee edition of the Berkeley’s”Ready to wearfeatures Her Majesty’s most iconic looks in petit fours and other pastries (£79 pp, available May 30-June 12) and June 5, the Connaught will host a Jubilee street party, complete with an English marching band, garlands and family tables offering tea sandwiches.

Other non-royal and large-scale events welcoming spectators back are the Chelsea Flower Show, (May 24 to 28); the Royal Ascot horse racing (June 14 to 18) and Wibledon (June 27 to July 10).

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