The domed roof of St. Paul's Cathedral in London viewed from the modern Millennium Bridge
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London Calling: The Enduring Appeal of the U.K.’s Cultural Heart

Despite a bumpy couple of years, the British capital continues to be a great place to work, rest, and play

What better way to showcase the unique splendor, centuries-old history, and jaw-dropping architecture of London, the U.K. capital, than with the coronation of a king?

Not that we needed May’s footage of the processions and pageantry celebrating the crowning of Charles III to remind us why—according to the consultancy group Resonance—London is the best city on the planet, the “capital of capitals.”

For the seventh consecutive year, Resonance’s World’s Best Cities report has ranked London top, lauding its post-COVID-19 comeback, successful ability to attract global investment, and buzzing restaurant scene.

A young man in a suit walks across a London rooftop with the Gherkin building in the background
Rooftop spaces in the financial district of London, known as the City, are defined by the striking architecture of the skyline, including 30 St. Mary's Axe, aka The Gherkin. Image: Tom Craig/Trunk Archive

“Despite much hand-wringing about the flight of talent and capital due to the pall of Brexit (and the follow-up specter of an airborne pandemic), London is hanging in just fine, relying on a dipping currency to attract investment,” Resonance says.

London, of course, has long been the city of choice for high- and ultra-high-net-worth individuals from across the globe to buy and own property. “It has impressive architecture and history, good transport links, and great connectivity to Europe, Asia, and the U.S.,” says Anthony Payne, managing director of the property network LonRes. “The city also has comparatively low crime levels, is home to world-class universities and schools, is rich in arts and culture, and is politically stable.”

The weakness of sterling contributed to bumper sales of multi-million-pound homes in the capital in 2022. And while rising interest rates and the hangover from last fall’s disastrous “mini-Budget” led to a sluggish start to 2023 for the prime London property market, the segment over £5 million ($6.4 m) is holding up best.

In April, the number of sales agreed above this level was up 26.1 percent on the same month last year and was 58.2 percent above the 2017-19 average, according to LonRes.

Much of the current buzz is centered on prime central areas, such as Mayfair, which has regained popularity among the world’s elite in recent years thanks to significant real-estate investment, a flurry of cool new private members’ clubs, and an expanding menu of trendy eateries.

A red-brick mansion block overlooks a crescent of benches in a green city park in London
Mount Street Gardens in Mayfair are a great example of the many beautiful green spaces that provide areas for contemplation amid
the exciting hustle and bustle of the city center. Image: Chris Lawrence / Alamy Stock Photo

“Mayfair has some of the smartest restaurants in London, great shopping, stunning architecture, and almost 346 acres (140 ha) of open space in the form of Hyde Park—all within walking distance. What’s not to like?” Payne says.

As well as receiving a boost from the weak pound, prime central London is sheltered from rising interest rates because purchasers are less reliant on mortgage debt. Also, property prices in many desirable areas represent best value compared with historic pricing according to the latest data from Coutts Real Estate. For example, values in Knightsbridge, Belgravia, and Marylebone are all more than 17 percent below their previous peaks, while in Chelsea they are 15.5 percent below.

International Appeal

“People did sit back after the mini-Budget to see what the fallout would be and what effect it was going to have on London,” says David Ruddock, head of residential sales operations at Carter Jonas, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in the city.

“However, in times of political and economic uncertainty, people look to safe havens like prime central London. There is a lot of interest from international buyers right now, particularly those whose currencies are pegged to the U.S. dollar. It’s a complete reversal of what happened during the pandemic.”

London is a truly global city, and I can’t see its appeal fading—Anthony Payne

While COVID-19 travel restrictions kept central areas of the U.K. capital quiet, many parts of prime outer London saw a rush of domestic buyers looking for more space during the pandemic, which drove up prices significantly.

Now, however, some of these locations, which are dominated by mortgage-reliant purchasers, are experiencing a slowdown, with lower sales levels and falling prices in places such as Wimbledon and Richmond. Some areas are holding up better, though—while sales are down in Clapham and Wandsworth compared with the end of 2022, Coutts says prices in these areas are slightly up year on year.

“Buyers are definitely still looking for family houses in places like Clapham and Wandsworth,” Ruddock says. “Micro living is dead in London now—no one wants a tiny studio flat somewhere really central. They want somewhere with space to work from home and with green space. And in prime central London particularly, buyers want a home that is the best in its class.”

Of the entire London market, prime central is expected to continue to perform best over the coming year—Ruddock predicts prices will rise by an average of five percent by next summer. Indeed, London doesn’t look like it will give up its crown any time soon.

“For many years, people have called the end of London and the demise of its property market, only to be proved wrong time and time again,” Payne says. “Like anything, it goes through its ups and downs, but there are many more ups than downs. London is a truly global city, and I can’t see its appeal fading.”

Read on to find out what makes London so unique and appealing to its movers, shakers, and taste makers…

A futuristic staircase with the appearance of a spaceship overlooks tables and chairs in a high-ceilinged hall at the Young V&A Museum in London
Formerly known as the V&A Museum of Childhood, the newly reimagined Young V&A in London is designed to inspire creativity in visitors of all ages. Image: © Luke Hayes courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Dr Helen Charman

Director of learning, national programs at Young V&A at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Where are you from?

Southeast London. I’m a Londoner through and through: my family goes back many generations. I have lived overseas but each time I returned to London because of its incredible cultural vibrancy.

Why is London is such a cultural hotspot?

London is a dynamic, fascinating, and energetic place to live and work. The city attracts people who have an outward-looking and critically engaged mindset, who are not afraid to innovate and push at the edges of creative practice. There’s a sense of freedom and space for experimentation.

Who is your favorite cultural Londoner?

Mary Poppins—her umbrella, made for Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s musical, arrived on-site at Young V&A this week for display!

What are you hoping to achieve with Young V&A?

This project is the first of its kind: a full-scale transformation of the former V&A Museum of Childhood, from its prior incarnation as a museum of the social and material history of childhood to a completely refurbished and reimagined museum for children. We hope it will be a powerhouse of creativity for children and young people.

A view looking up at the brick walls and tall chimney of the Tate Modern in London, against a blue sky
The Tate Modern on the Southbank houses one of the largest contemporary art collections in the world. Image: Christopher Hope-Fitch / Getty

Flavia Frigeri

Chanel curator for the collection at the National Portrait Gallery, leading on the Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture project

Where are you from?

I am Italian, born and raised in Rome. I came to London 13 years ago for a six-month internship at Tate Modern. I never expected to stay for so long, but life and work have kept me here, and so far it has been good.

Can you tell us a bit about the ‘new’ National Portrait Gallery?

The new NPG is more inclusive and shows greater gender balance in the 20th and 21st century galleries. Of this I am extremely proud, as my team and I, in close collaboration with the rest of the curatorial team, have been part of the rethinking around the representation of trailblazing female artists and sitters across the collection.

Who are your inspirational Londoners?

There are so many, from all times. Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell have always been firm favorites.

What’s your favorite London discovery?

Afternoon tea at Zetter Townhouse, movie nights at the Curzon cinema in Mayfair, a walk along the canal starting in Maida Vale and ending in Angel, dinner at Lurra in Marble Arch or Rubedo in Stoke Newington, and Marchesi in Mayfair for a true Italian cappuccino.

Anything goes in London, subcultures feed on subcultures, giving birth to an explosion of hybridized style—Patrick Morrison

Patrick Morrison

Artist and founder of British accessories brand Furious Goose

You’re Scottish (though born in New Zealand)—what brought you to London?

I studied fine art at Newcastle University in the north of England and then continued on my journey south to colorful, nonconformist Brighton. My partner and I moved to London in September 2022—we came for the inspiration, the food, the culture, and the adventure. And of course, the fashion! We have been welcomed with such warmth into Brixton, our ‘village’ of choice, and we’ve found people across London friendly and willing to connect.

Tell us about Furious Goose…

Furious Goose makes wearable art and we’re best known for our silk scarves and pocket squares. The ‘furious’ is for British colors, crisp digital shapes, and bold design. And the ‘goose’ represents luxury and quality.

Is there a London look or way of dressing?

Anything goes. Subcultures feed on subcultures, giving birth to an explosion of hybridized style. You have Savile Row sartorialists mixing with 
club kids, the gloriously genderless, cyber punks, and looks that I don’t even pretend to understand. It’s a great place to see and be seen.

What sets London apart from other cities?

I don’t know of any other city with so many world-class museums and galleries covering everything from geology to fashion, with a lot of them free to the public. For a designer seeking source material it’s like being a kid in a candy store.

A host of colorful houseboats moored on the Regent’s Canal in Little Venice, with surrounding trees reflected in the water. The River is calm, still and reflective during the early morning sunrise.
A host of colorful houseboats moored on the Regent’s Canal in Little Venice are a popular sight for Londoners enjoying a walk in the city. Image: George W Johnson / Getty

Orlando Rock

Chairman, Christie’s U.K.

Where are you from?

I am a Londoner, born and bred… but now live between London and Stamford, Lincolnshire. My London home, in Ladbroke Terrace near Notting Hill Gate, is a stucco-fronted 1850s three-bedroom apartment, on the second floor and with two balconies.

What sets London apart from other cities?

The trees, the architectural variety punctuated with beautiful Baroque churches by Wren and Hawksmoor in the old City, the sense of small villages stitched together around historic Royal Parks—and the idyll of communal garden squares.

You’ve been at Christie’s for a while—how does it feel being custodian of such a London institution?

London is one of the greatest cultural hubs of the world, and Christie’s plays a vital role in that interdependent cultural ecosystem of museums, galleries, art fairs, academia, and commerce. It is an ever-changing landscape—and a huge privilege to celebrate works of art from antiquity to the present day—and to embrace and define the future.

What are your favorite cultural institutions? 

There is nothing more inspiring than a house museum, so I have a weakness for Sir John Soane’s Museum or Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields.

How would you describe the city in three words?

Diverse, historic, energetic.

The grand Arab Hall in Leighton House, Holland Park, is covered in intricate tiles with gold touches, an arched window is flanked by white stone columns and a chandelier with lit candles is overhead.
Famously exquisite interiors at Leighton House in Holland Park include The Arab Hall, with its sumptuous tiles and gilded details. Image: Richard Bryant / Arcaid Images

Martin Hulbert and Jay Grierson

of MHD design practice

Where are you from?

MH: We both hail from quaint English countryside villages. Our deep-rooted love for nature has greatly influenced our countryside interior design projects.

Tell us about your London home.

MH: My London home also doubles as the MHD studio. It’s a Grade II listed early Georgian house in Bermondsey, split over five floors. The original interior remains remarkably intact, showcasing exquisite paneling and loads of original details.

JG: Mine is a simple yet charming Edwardian townhouse in Crouch End. It sits on one of London’s smallest streets, with only six buildings!

How would you define your style?

MH & JG: We find inspiration in the beauty of nature, gardens, and the immediate surroundings. Our designs mix high-quality pieces with humble elements, creating a harmonious blend. We believe in sustainability and often use recycled materials, which not only help the environment but also add a unique and personal touch to our creations.

Which London interiors are your favorites?

MH: Eltham Palace, Leighton House, Sessions Arts Club in Clerkenwell, Hotel Café Royal, the V&A… these remarkable establishments showcase the city’s architectural grandeur and serve as testaments to the abundance of interior talent thriving within the capital.

The front of the Michelin Building in Fulham, with its huge art deco, arched stainged-glass windows and modernist architecture, which features blue tiles at the bottom of four columns, and an arched roof
Michelin House in Chelsea is home
to the Bibendum restaurant, headed up by chef Claude Bosi. Image: Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Sonja Vodusek

Managing director, The Peninsula London

Where are you from?

I am originally from Australia and have been fortunate to have lived and worked all
over the world, in wonderful cities like Tokyo, Dublin, New York, Washington D.C., Houston, Manila, and Prague.

How long have you lived in London?

I arrived in London in February 2020 to open The Peninsula London. Then COVID-19 hit!

You relocated here from Tokyo, where you were GM at The Peninsula Tokyo. How do the cities compare?

In some ways there are similarities, like a proud heritage, exciting food scenes, understatement, and unique traditions. Tokyo is a city like no other in terms of culture, people, and the attention to detail in everything they do. London, on the other hand, is incredibly diverse and dynamic. Theater, fashion, and art have such a huge role in how the city constantly evolves. It’s an exciting place to live.

Where do you go for a special meal?

Claude Bosi’s Bibendum, Alex Dilling at Café Royal, and Kitchen Table by James Knappett.

What would be your ideal London weekend?

I like a bit of peace and quiet after a busy week
at work: a late, long breakfast at home reading
the papers, a spot of pampering perhaps in the afternoon, and then dinner in one of my go-tos such as Zaika, a great Indian restaurant, or my absolute favorites Maison François and Fallow, then perhaps a movie at the Electric Cinema.

With its gold walls and ceiling, which holds an intricate chandelier, The Palm Court at The Ritz is watched over by a Maitre D', who stands behind a counter and looks out over round dining tables with white tablecloths and red-upholstered chairs
With sumptuous surroundings and exquisite food, The
Ritz is world-renowned for its inimitable dining experience. Image: Marc Zakian / Alamy Stock Photo

Patrick Powell

Chef at The Midland Grand Dining Room in King’s Cross and Allegra in Stratford

Where are you from?

Killala, County Mayo, Ireland. I’ve been in London for just over 11 years now: I originally left Ireland for Melbourne, Australia, where I stayed for nearly two years.

What sets London apart from other cities?

The dining scene. It is unequivocally one of the best in the world across all cultures and cuisines and at all levels, primarily due to the different community hubs you’ll find driving many of the dining options in each neighborhood. There’s great Turkish food around Stoke Newington, for example.

How would you describe it in three words? 

Fast. Vast. Expensive.

Tell us about a memorable London meal…

Lunch at The Ritz a few years back. For me it’s the best premium dining experience in London and I always recommend it when people ask for a proper special-occasion restaurant. It’s far from everyday, and the sense of occasion is quite something. You have to get dressed up with a dinner jacket and tie.

What can people expect at The Midland Grand Dining Room?

An incredible level of food and service in one of the most beautiful and glamorous rooms in the city. It feels a complete privilege to be working in a building that is such a part of the capital’s DNA.

What’s your favorite London green space?

Stonebridge Gardens in Haggerston. My dog Coco and I go there every Monday for a game of fetch.

A barman in a suit shakes a cocktail shaker as he stands behind a white bar with butterflies painted on it. A large wooden display of bottles is behind him, and two large chandeliers dominate the foreground.
Artesian, the glamorous cocktail bar at The Langham hotel in the West End, is a favorite among drinks connoisseurs. Image: Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Sandrae Lawrence

The Cocktail Lovers magazine and podcast

How long have you and your husband, Gary Sharpen—co-founder of The Cocktail Lovers—lived in London?

We’re both born-and-bred Londoners. In fact, we grew up three streets away from each other in east London and went to two of the same schools—and didn’t find out until we met, quite by chance, on the street, 20 years ago!

Where’s your London home?

Bloomsbury. We live in a two-bedroom, two-reception room apartment in a Grade II listed 1880 mansion block.

When and why did you set up The Cocktail Lovers?

In 2008. At first it was a blog to share our cocktail experiences and to shine a light on the exciting bars and bartenders in London. But over the next two years it evolved to cover product reviews, fashion for cocktail hour, and interviews with our favorite bartenders and other movers and shakers.

Where do you go for a special meal and why?

Claridge’s for the history, elegance, and amazing hospitality (not to mention their incredible lobster wellington—one of our favorite dishes of all time).

Which are your favorite London bars?

That’s like asking us to choose a favorite child! We’re so lucky in London that we have a choice of fabulous five-star hotel bars like The Connaught, Claridge’s, and Artesian at The Langham.

If London were a cocktail, what would it be?

A dry martini with a twist—made with a London Dry gin. It’s classic but cool with a zingy edge.

UK, London, Liberty Department Store in Great Marlborough Street, illuminated at dusk. Its exterior is made up of black-and-white and plain wood stripes in the Tudor style.
Liberty department store, in its striking Tudor Revival building, sits at the foot of Carnaby Street in Soho, and is famed for its bold, floral-print fabrics, luxury goods, and high-end fashion. Image: Shomos Uddin / Getty

Steven Short

Editor of Christie’s International Real Estate magazine

What sets London apart from other cities?

You can travel around the world on a 10-minute walk—you’ll hear all kinds of different languages and accents. That’s something that I’ve always liked about this city.

What are your favorite neighborhoods and why?

I’ve always loved Soho, from hanging out in dark bars and clubs in the 1980s to eating and drinking there in the 2000s and beyond. I’m also very fond of Marylebone. It’s super central but not as busy as Soho.

Which London shops would you recommend?

I like Geo F. Trumper in Mayfair for its lime cologne, I Camisa i Son in Soho for pasta and tarali cookies, and Liberty for its menswear
and home departments—and because it’s a beautiful building made from old ships.

What’s your most treasured London green space?

Battersea Park. My partner and I walked around it a lot when we were first dating as it was equidistant from both our homes, so I have
a special affection for it.

And your favorite London discovery?

I show this to new visitors to the capital and it always gets a “Wow!”—if you stand on the traffic island on Soho’s Charing Cross Road at the end of Old Compton Street and look down, you’ll see an old sign for Little Compton Street, which doesn’t actually exist any more, but which is proof that London, like most cities, is constantly being built and rebuilt upon.

Banner image: A view of St. Paul’s Cathedral as seen
from the Millennium Bridge. Karl Hendon / Getty

Find yourself attracted to the bright lights of city living? Browse a host of London properties, and read more from the Fall/Winter 2023 issue of Christie’s International Real Estate magazine here.