Are you’re in London for business and have a few hours between meetings to do something fun? If you enjoy art, culture and sensational food, in no special order, one of our best recommendations for how to spend an afternoon in London is to pop into the Royal Academy of Arts; then stroll over for a look at the famous Piccadilly Circus; then stop for a bite at the gem that is San Carlo Cicchetti.
For Travelers Who Like: Art, food and culture.
Where to Go: The nearest Tube station is Piccadilly Circus, on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo line. Check the Royal Academy website for hours. Admission is free.
What Makes It Special: The Royal Academy of Arts was opened in 1768 as way to champion art and artists. What makes the Royal Academy unique is that it's run by the "Royal Academicians", artists and architects elected by their peers in recognition of their exceptional work. In addition to being Britain's oldest art school, each year the Royal Academy holds an annual Summer Exhibition which is the largest open-submission art exhibition in the world.
The Royal Academy houses some of the most stunning collections of historic art but also always has cool, modern exhibits that keep it feeling fresh. One of this summer's exhibits is "The Making of an Artist" which features a 16th century copy of Leonardo's "Last Supper" and Michelangelo's Taddei Tondon, a marble sculpture which has been described as "one of the most beautiful works of art in existence."
Piccadilly Circus is a London icon. Similar to New York's Times Square, it is essentially a major traffic junction known for its video display and neon signs, a busy meeting place, and a tourist attraction in its own right. But this bustling junction of Regent Street and Piccadilly has more historical heft, such as the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and statue. This statue of the Greek god Anteros, often mistaken for his brother Eros, was erected in 1892–1893 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Lord Shaftesbury, a Victorian politician, philanthropist, and social reformer. Piccadilly Circus is also surrounded by several notable buildings, including the London Pavilion and Criterion Theatre.
After the busy Piccadilly Circus, you’ll need some respite. San Carlo Cicchetti is one of the most stunning restaurants in all of London. The marble interior, gorgeous bar and glass detailing all adds to the experience. The food is divine, but we must admit we like to people watch in here too.
Must Try: Cicchetti :- (pronounced chi - KET - tee) are medium size dishes best shared among some friends. You can also easily make a meal out of a couple of them if you are travelling solo. Cicchetti is a concept from Venice – these small format dishes are found in their Cicchetti bars. Our favorites at San Carlo are the fried Mozzarella balls and the cod croquettes. We find they are best washed down with a glass of cold champagne.