No whirlwind visit to London is complete without taking in Tate Modern. Dominating the river at Bankside, the converted power station may seem like an enormous challenge, but it is ideal for both a flyby visit or a saunter through the free permanent collections. From live art in the cavernous Tanks to temporary displays in the Blavatnik Building, this gigantic ode to international contemporary art will not disappoint. There are free tours covering different themes every day (most start at 11am). Or if you want to meander through the galleries after dark, Tate Modern is open until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Behind the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street on Manchester Square is the tranquil Wallace Collection. The galleries hark back to how Hertford House (which houses the collection) would have looked in the 19th century, with impressive displays as resplendent as the Rococo-esque decor. Don’t miss Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing (1767), Medieval equestrian armour and one of the world’s most remarkable collections of Sèvres porcelain.
Overlooking the Gabriel Orozco-designed garden, The Habit Bistro is a perfect spot for a respite from looking at art. Set within the South London Gallery with a stunning 24-carat gold-leaf painting by Paul Morrison, this English bistro offers an enticing seasonal menu that uses locally sourced ingredients, making it ideal for a brunch or lunch pit stop between exhibitions.
From 4pm, the general public can rub shoulders with artists and architects at the Keeper’s House. Through a discreet door to the right of the Royal Academy of Art’s main entrance, signposted only by an illuminating Tracey Emin neon work, the former home of the RA’s keeper is a beautifully restored haven for socialising on the hoof. In David Chipperfield’s luxurious interiors, you can choose from the intimate Belle Shenkman Room that overlooks the walled garden, dinner in the restaurant that’s adorned with architectural casts or a post-exhibition drink in the vibrant Shenkman Bar.
One of the first London galleries to challenge the art museum model, Gagosian Britannia Street opened in 2004 in the middle of the King’s Cross development. The former garage was transformed into 1,400 square metres (15,069 square feet) of naturally lit gallery space by architects Caruso St John, who also designed The New Art Gallery in Walsall. The three interconnecting spaces lend themselves perfectly for ambitious exhibition projects by gallery artists, so expect to see immersive painting installations by Katharina Grosse or be dwarfed by Richard Serra’s monumental steel works.
The gallery has come along way since its days of being tucked down Heddon Street in the late ’90s. Now situated in the foodie hub of Kingly Street, Sadie Coles hasn’t lost her knack of pinpointing the next art star and regularly mixes up her exhibition programme of firm stalwarts, including Polish painter Wilhelm Sasnal and New York-based sculptor Urs Fischer, with young blood like multimedia American artist Martine Syms.
Discover the street-art-laden East End of London, with a walking tour that takes in some of the area’s most famous art. Shoreditch Street Art Tours is one of the best as the company keeps up to date with the freshest work in the area. The tour operator will also teach you about the history of Shoreditch through its contemporary artists.
Dine at these arty restaurants
Pub, British, $$$$
Named Michelin Pub of the Year in 2017, the Marksman was given both a culinary and interiors revamp by chefs Tom Harris and Jon Rotheram in 2015. The duo, with their acclaimed experience at St John and Fifteen respectively, has created a simple yet innovative menu that includes the delectable beef and barley buns served with horseradish. Make sure to check out the Martino Gamper-designed dining room upstairs, where the restaurant hosts regular cookbook dinners with guest chefs.
Have a dining experience as if Francis Bacon still strutted around Soho at this charming bistro-esque haunt. Since 1986, the restaurant, which is spread over two floors of an 18th-century townhouse, has been serving up traditional dishes like roast grouse with bread sauce, and pear and sherry trifle. Booking is essential. If you have time, peruse Andrew Edmunds Prints & Drawings next door, which specialises in English and French 18th- to 19th-century satirical and unusual works.