LONDON — Here are four experiences not to miss on a trip to London.
Relive the splendor of the Edwardian era at Café Royal. During the early 20th century, when Queen Victoria's rigid monarchy segued into Edward VII's permissive one, London's high society rubbed elbows with its bohemians at this glamorous Belle Époque café on Regent Street.
Over the years, Café Royal has seen its share of drama, from the Marquis of Queensbury discovering his son dallying with Oscar Wilde, precipitating the latter's downfall, to the Duke of Windsor courting Wallis Simpson, resulting in his giving up the throne for the American divorcée.
After a four-year closing, Café Royal reopened to great acclaim in 2012. The ornate Louis XVI Grill Room, with its lavish mirrors and painted ceilings, invites guests to sip premium cocktails and commune with the illustrious ghosts. (68 Regent Street. Hotelcaferoyal.com.)
Take tea at the Houses of Parliament. Westminster Palace, home to Britain's Houses of Lords and Commons, makes for a fascinating 75-minute tour led by one of London's famed Blue Badge guides.
A combination of history, politics, art and architecture, it also provides a treasure trove of interesting facts. For example, while the queen addresses the House of Lords at the annual state opening of Parliament (the tour follows her process through the Robing Room, Royal Gallery and Prince's Chamber), she is not allowed into the House of Commons.
The monarch has not been allowed here since the 17th century, when a petulant King Charles I stormed into the chamber.
Follow your tour with tea in the House of Commons' elegant Pugin Room overlooking the Thames. (Whitehall. Parliament.uk.)
Check into one of London's newest boutique hotels. Across from Hyde Park, in what was once a pizza place, The Wellesley is London's newest five-star boutique hotel.
The Art Deco décor is carried out in the rooms and suites, intimate Oval Restaurant (all white with a chandelier that would do The Phantom of the Opera proud) and the Jazz Lounge. For lovers of fine Havanas, there are two outdoor cigar terraces surrounded by clipped hedge fences.
What I loved most about The Wellesley was the service; the staff can't do enough for you, including chauffeuring you to dinner or the theater in a Rolls Royce. (11 Knightsbridge. Thewellesley.co.uk.)
Sashay into history on a London Walk. Fodor's has called London Walks the world's best walking tour company. With more than 65 itineraries throughout the capital, ranging from Sherlock Holmes' London to James Bond's London, from the historic village of Clerkenwell to the picturesque Little Venice area, London Walks has a stroll for everyone. There's an Old Kensington Walk and an Old Knightsbridge Village Pub Walk. (Londonwalks.com.)