8 things everyone visiting London during the summer must do

A summer's evening in LondonSummer has officially started. Marked by the ‘longest day of the year’ on 21st June, summer is here, the sun is shining and we’re ready to enjoy it.

One of our favourite times of the year, ask around the city when someone should visit London and it would be surprising if the vast majority didn’t say the summer. The winter is definitely quieter, which is a plus for some, and both spring and autumn have their own draws, but we can’t deny that London truly comes alive in the summer.

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Why is DUKES Bar such an iconic part of London?

Alessandro Palazzi, the bartender at DUKES Bar, LondonWhen you visit us at DUKES London, we aim to make sure you have a truly memorable experience. This differs for everyone and can be anything from the truly welcoming service from each and every member of staff right through to the food in our highly-coveted GBR restaurant.

But what so often connects every visitor’s experience is DUKES Bar, our world-famous bar that has been serving up tipples of all varieties for decades.

And importantly, given our position in the heart of Mayfair, DUKES Bar has become a firm favourite for many in the vicinity who aren’t staying with us overnight or dining with us at GBR, but who simply want a perfectly concocted drink in a wonderfully traditional, British setting. Continue reading “Why is DUKES Bar such an iconic part of London?”

How to treat your dad to something a little different in London this year

The London skyline from aboveThe time of the year when it’s time to treat your father to something a little special, Father’s Day 2018 is taking place on Sunday 17th June and we’re getting ready to help you mark the occasion.

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Getting ready for Royal Ascot? Come and stay with us at DUKES LONDON!

The Queen's procession at Royal AscotIn a few short days Royal Ascot 2018 will be upon us. One of the most famed and favourable events on the horse racing calendar, it’s no real surprise that it’s such a popular event – not only do its roots stretch back to the early 18th century when it was founded by Queen Anne, but it’s still attended by often a large number of our Royal family today (including the Queen herself, who is known to be particularly fond of the occasion).

Being also one of the most valuable meetings in the horseracing calendar, over £7 million is available during the period of Royal Ascot in prize money. Spread over 18 races, it’s undoubtedly one of the most attractive for competitors, but similarly, one of the most competitive.

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12 of the most unique places to eat in London

A plate of food from GBR, the hotel at DUKES LondonOver the coming weeks we have the opportunity to celebrate a range of days dedicated to food and drink, ranging from World Whisky Day right through to National Fish and Chips Day. And what better place to celebrate them than in the city that’s home to one of the most diverse range of food and drink options in the world?

When you’re in London, you have the culinary world at your fingertips. We’re not just talking in terms of whether you want Greek or Italian, but real niche requirements and specific tastes are completely catered for, almost irrelevant of where in the world your favourite dish comes from.

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Why London is the best place in the country to watch this summer’s sports

Henman Hill at WimbledonThe summer is always a favourite time of the year for sports fans here in the UK. The football league season might be over, but over the coming weeks this year we’ve got the FA Cup final, the World Cup, and Wimbledon to name just three of the main sporting events taking place.

Perhaps saying “just” isn’t quite right here – the FA Cup final is arguably the most coveted match on the UK football calendar, the World Cup is the biggest football event on earth and Wimbledon is the most popular of the four Grand Slam tennis events. These aren’t “just” sporting events – they’re some of the most followed, watched and anticipated events in the sporting calendar.

So if we couple this with the fact London is at its busiest in terms of visitors during the summer months, it’s no real surprise that we’re often asked where you can watch X match or Y game, regardless of the day of the week or in fact, time of the day.

And the great thing about London? As with everything, no matter how specific your tastes may be, you’ll always be able to find somewhere perfect for you. It really is one of the best cities to visit if you’re a sports fan wanting to keep up-to-date with every kick of the ball or serve of the racket, and we wanted to take some time to explain exactly why.

You can watch the event (almost) at the venue without needing a ticket

Let’s take Wimbledon as an example. Tickets are traditionally hard to come by – and that’s no different for Wimbledon 2018 – and so getting seated to watch a match, particularly on one of the main courts or later in the tournament, can be more difficult than many might expect.

Rather than just settling for this fact and disappointing swathes of fans, organisers arrange for each match to be shown on huge screens outside of the venue (home to the ever-popular “Henman Hill”). You can head to Wimbledon, soak up the atmosphere and watch every match outside of the venue, enjoying your own food and drink and having a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable day.

What’s more, some fans actually prefer this approach as it means they can make it a family occasion. If you have young children, taking them to Wimbledon can induce all sorts of headaches. But if you’re outside of the venue, you can have a picnic, take as many toys as you can carry and let them play freely whilst you enjoy the tennis.

Late night sports bar aren’t just for America

Moving inside, the ‘sports bar’ might be an American tradition, but over the years they’ve gradually made their way to the UK and London in particular has a variety of bars showing every sport imaginable.

And whilst we’re quite fortunate this year in terms of the World Cup – the fixtures for the 2018 World Cup mean if you’re staying with us in London you’ll be able to view most games at reasonable times of the day – the sports bars will undoubtedly be showing them, and any replays or insights, whatever time it is.

They make for really great places if you’re a solo traveller and a sports fan, too. You might be able to watch the FA Cup final in your hotel room, but soaking up the atmosphere in a place where you know everyone else is a sports fan? Now that’s appealing.

One of the most popular examples in London of such a sports bar is ‘The Carlsberg Sports Bar’ located on the other side of St James’s to us here at DUKES Hotel – and being located in the Empire casino, not only is it 24/7, but it’s the perfect connection to our third point.

Casinos often have it all

London may not have the same ‘city that never sleeps’ moniker as some other cities around the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find what you want if you look for it.

The city is scattered with casinos and many have a 24/7 license, giving you the opportunity to eat, drink and enjoy whatever casino game takes your fancy irrelevant of the time of day – and for most, having a lounge area to kick back and watch sports in is a key part of their offering.

Often the go to place for US boxing matches that don’t start until the early hours of the morning here in the UK, the atmosphere is very much relaxed, informal and especially in the early hours, it can be surprisingly quiet.

Enjoying the summer sports in London

London loves sports. From the mainstream to the niche, whatever your chosen sport is, you’ll be able to find it in London – and with this summer one packed full of sport, you’ll find fewer places better to enjoy them than those right here in the city.

Image courtesy of Jonathanawhite

Everything you need to know for visiting and staying in London for the Royal Wedding

Afternoon tea at DUKES Hotel, LondonExpected to be one of the most momentous occasions of the year, Prince Harry is set to marry Meghan Markle this summer. Having been in a relationship since 2016, the wedding marks a particularly interesting point in British Royal Family history, as back in 1936, Prince Harry’s great-great uncle, King Edward VIII, also married a divorced American – but for the pleasure of doing so, he had to abdicate the throne.

Whilst Prince Harry is not yet king, the wedding shows the change in views the Family has, taking a more modern approach that some may not have expected but which is undoubtedly seen as a positive across the board.

And with people from all around the world wanting to share in Prince Harry’s and Meghan’s big day, if you’re joining us in London for the day of the wedding, a little planning can go a long way to making sure you have a truly fantastic time.

When is the wedding?

The official date of the wedding is Saturday 19th May 2018, having been announced via Twitter on Friday 15th December 2017.

Interestingly, this breaks from tradition once again, as whilst there have been some notable exceptions, most Royal weddings are usually held on a weekday.

Whilst this does mean there won’t be an official Bank Holiday, a weekend is great for many people wishing to visit London for the wedding. However, that weekend is going to be a popular one regardless – the FA Cup Final is scheduled for the same day!

With that said, it is important to keep in mind that London really is likely to be a lot busier than normal, so do give yourself enough time in all respects.

From booking your hotel before you even get here through to setting off earlier than you thought you might need (particularly if you’re taking the Tube – you may not get the first one that arrives at the station), the day of the Royal Wedding and FA Cup Final is going to be a busy one, so be sure to plan your journeys in particular (whether that’s on foot, by car or public transport) beforehand.

Where is it taking place?

The wedding ceremony itself is taking place in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle at 2pm, about 25 miles outside of London’s city centre. Expecting in the region of 600 guests (according to Kensington Palace), it’s relatively small in comparison to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding, who wed in front of nearly 2,000 people in 2011.

After the ceremony, the couple will journey through Windsor before returning along the Long Walk to Windsor Castle. With the reception taking place in St George’s Hall, Prince Charles will later host a private evening reception for the couple’s close friends and family.

Whilst the wedding is taking place in Windsor, given it’s only a relatively small town, so many are staying in London itself. Accommodation is much more readily available in general in London, but we’d definitely recommend you heed our advice above regarding giving yourself enough time here – although you may be able to book a hotel hours before you stay normally, over the weekend of the Royal Wedding, it’s anticipated most hotels in and around London will have limited availability. Book quickly!

What celebrations are taking place?

The primary celebrations for the wedding are without doubt going to be in Windsor itself. Big screens are planned to be erected on the Long Walk and in Alexandra Gardens, allowing for the anticipated tens of thousands of people to watch the wedding live. Food and drink will be available right throughout the outdoors of Windsor, and it’s undoubtedly going to be a brilliant atmosphere for the entire day.

However, Windsor itself isn’t a huge location. 6,000 car parking spaces are able to be pre-booked (but are quickly filling up) and extra trains are being made available to transfer people to and from the wedding location from all across the south.

But one of the great things about Royal events in the UK is wherever you are, we’re almost certain you’ll be able to find a celebration to join in with. Venues will be showing the wedding live. Outdoor parties will be in full swing. There’s talk of opening times for bars and restaurants to be extended, too.

Simply put, whether you’re in Windsor or not you’ll be able to join in with the wedding festivities and thoroughly enjoy the day.

Staying in London for the Royal wedding

Our location in London is one of our favourite aspects of DUKES (and as Travelmag pointed out, we’ve been here since 1908!). Within walking distance to so many fantastic attractions, it’s particularly beneficial if you’re planning on heading into Windsor on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day – we’re a short walk to Green Park tube station, from which you can travel directly to Victoria and jump on trains right throughout the day to Windsor & Eton station (itself just a short walk from Windsor Castle).

What’s more, for use over the coming weeks we’ve put together an exclusive ‘Royal Escape’ package, which includes a three hour guided walking tour of Westminster for two, complimentary afternoon tea for two in our Drawing Rooms, a complimentary four hour Windsor excursion for two, including a picnic breakfast in the car, and much more.

With there little doubt that the atmosphere in Windsor, London and right throughout the country is set to be electric on 19th May, we really do hope you’re looking forward to celebrating the Royal wedding as much as we are.

5 reasons you need to bring your dog to London

A dog appearing to smile with its tongue sticking outOn Wednesday 11th April, it’s National Pet Day, and with just under half of the UK owning a pet, it’s no real surprise that so many are marking the occasion. We love our pets and a day devoted to celebrating how fantastic they are will never go unwanted!

Whilst London is a bustling city, this in no way makes it a place that isn’t pet-friendly. In fact, speak to anyone who has a pet in London and you might just find them saying it’s actually one of the best places in the world to have a pet.

As we’ve said before, there’s something in London for everyone – and that undoubtedly extends to pets, too.

So, with National Pet Day almost upon us, we wanted to look at the UK’s most popular pet – the loyal and lovable dog – and ask exactly why should you consider bringing your dog to London?

  1. We absolutely love dogs at DUKES

A quick look online and you can soon realise just how much we adore dogs here at DUKES – we have a whole page dedicated to our dog-friendly rooms!

Wanting dogs to experience the same high quality service as our human guests, we have on offer everything from dog grooming services and dog sitting options, through to two daily gourmet meals, mineral water and a delightful turndown treat, too.

We go into detail about our dog-friendly rooms here, but think of it like this – if we can make your stay with your dog relaxing and enjoyable for everyone involved, we’ll be sure to go that extra mile to do it.

  1. There are parks galore

If you do decide to stay with us at DUKES, and bring your canine companion with you, you’ve got easy access to some of the country’s most beautiful parks to let you both take in the fresh air.

For instance, Green’s Park is a stone’s throw from DUKES, whilst St James’s Park is only a short distance further. Add Hyde Park into the equation at just a little walk further along from Green’s Park and you can begin to see how a four-legged friend may find London as fascinating as we do.

  1. Doga is flourishing in the capital

The health benefits of yoga have long been discussed – but what about the benefits of doing yoga with your dog?

Doga as it’s officially known is exactly as stated: practicing yoga with your dog in tow. Yes, it may not be conventional, but it’s without doubt proving popular.

Helping to ease stress and make both you and pup more relaxed, you can take part in a doga session right here in London, and by all accounts it’s something you won’t just be experiencing once after you’ve tried it.

  1. Everyone can eat well

Shake Shack is hugely popular in the US, and having opened their flagship UK store in Covent Garden, it’s fantastic to get a taste of what our American friends have had for so long.

But it’s not only humans who can enjoy Shake Shack, as they have a specific menu for dogs.

Consisting of two choices, the first is is the Pooch-ini, which is made up of “ShackBurger® dog biscuits, peanut butter sauce and vanilla custard”, whilst the second is the Bag o’ Bones – “5 ShackBurger® dog biscuits made…by NYC’s Bocce’s Bakery”.

With an enviable menu for us, too, Shake Shake can be a brilliant place to stop on your travels around London.

  1. Enjoy a Sunday brunch

Gaucho is known for its brilliantly authentic Argentine food, but did you know they also have a Sunday Brunch event that’s specifically catered for dogs?

Taking place on the first Sunday of every month at the Hampstead restaurant, for £35 per person you can enjoy a three course set menu, whilst all accompanying dogs get beef and chicken empanadas, a water bowl and a goodie bag.

There are definitely worse ways for you and your dog to spend a Sunday morning in London!

London is a vibrant, diverse and electric city. It’s one that has something for everyone, regardless of your interests, needs or expectations – and that doesn’t change simply because you’re a dog owner (or a dog!).

We love to invite dogs and their owners into DUKES. Wonderfully located to provide access to London in its entirety – if not more so for dog-themed activities – we fully appreciate the needs of dog owners and really do believe London as a whole can be a brilliant place for dog and owner alike.

Image courtesy of Rob Witcher

An inside look at DUKES: our food and drink

Afternoon tea at DUKES Hotel, LondonAs we mentioned in a previous post, one of the pieces of criteria behind DUKES being a five star hotel is the ability to provide our guests with dining options whatever day you stay with us and whatever time it may be.

London is a city that never sleeps, and so if you’re checking out early and need something savoury and substantial to set you up for the day, or have spent all evening at the theatre and need a little something to satisfy your sweet tooth before you get into bed, you can rest assured we can provide it all at DUKES.

For this reason, it’s no real surprise that food and drink is really important to us. We want everyone who spends time with us to feel as though there’s something to eat and drink that’s perfectly suited to their individual needs.

And it’s because of this why we have so many different options available.

DUKES Bar

Our bar is a favourite with our guests and locals actually some guests come to DUKES just to experience our martinis. In the words of others it’s legendary, enviable and as the New York Times once said it’s the bar “which some say concocts one of the world’s best Martinis”.

Open from 2pm to 11pm Monday to Saturday (4pm to 10.30pm on Sundays), spending time in DUKES Bar is somewhat of an event. You aren’t simply dropping by for a quick beer or glass of wine – we want you to savour the whole experience; to enjoy time testing our bartenders’ knowledge to create a drink that’s perfectly suited to you.

Having a drink in DUKES Bar is in many ways about harking back to a time before mobile phones, the internet or television. It’s about choosing a seat, having a drink made for you, and wiling away the time with your loved one, a group of friends or simply by yourself.

GBR

Headed up by renowned chef Nigel Mendham, GBR is a truly ‘Great British Restaurant’. It’s all about providing a dining experience built around homegrown produce from here on our wonderful British Isles, or menus that follow – or are inspired by – some of the country’s most traditional dishes.

An all-day dining experience (you can grab breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner here), the team at GBR don’t try to overcomplicate the dishes on offer. They know what works, what our guests want and bring the two together perfectly.

And with the bar overlooking the restaurant, if you’d prefer a few light snacks with a drink here instead of a meal, we’d be only too happy to oblige.

Afternoon tea

A truly British occasion, afternoon tea is something we can all enjoy. After all, who doesn’t enjoy taking some time out of their day to eat sandwiches, cakes and pastries and drink tea?

However, knowing that everyone has different tastes, we’ve produced a variety of options when it comes to afternoon tea.

For instance, we have our DUKES afternoon tea, which includes an array of sandwiches, warm scones and a variety of pastries served with a choice of tea. However, for something a little more ‘relaxing’ you can enjoy our ‘gin and tonic afternoon tea’ or our ‘champagne afternoon tea’ – all the same delights to eat, but with an alcoholic alternative to tea!

Served in our elegant drawing room and conservatory, there aren’t many better ways to spend an afternoon in London.

Picnic in the park

We really do love it when our guests stay with us for a meal or a drink, but we also know London has a whole host of sights and attractions to take in, including a vast array of beautiful parks.

Not wishing for you to miss out on the culinary delights our chefs create, we provide a particularly popular option for our guests to take a picnic to one of the nearby Royal Parks.

A real decadent treat, your personal butler will meet you at the park, lay out your rug and picnic basket and then serve your drinks before leaving you to enjoy the great outdoors of our city with a selection of tempting treats.

Cognac and cigar garden

Open throughout the week from 6pm to 11pm, our outdoor cognac and cigar area is particularly popular for those looking for a break away from the hustle and bustle of London life.

Providing our guests with the ability to sample some of the world’s finest cigars alongside some truly favourable cognac, if you’re a fan of a cigar, we’re confident saying you’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere better to enjoy one in London.

Being real foodies at DUKES – and with a particular passion for high quality drinks, too – we aim to show this to each and every one of our guests. Only wanting you to have the best dining experiences possible, we do our utmost to cater for every need, no matter how diverse it may be. Just ask!

How to visit London with small children (and have the best time)

An external view of Hamleys on Regent's Street, LondonIt’s a well-known fact that London is one of the most visited cities in the world. In 2017 the city saw over 19 million international visitors make at least one trip to London. That’s a huge figure – and in context, it’s around one third of the UK’s population visiting the comparatively small capital.

One of the city’s main attractions is the fact there’s something for all. Young or old, first visit or fiftieth, foodie or outdoorsy, you can truly flourish in London.

And this is without doubt the case for families. Travelling to London with children be a truly unforgettable experience (for all the right reasons!).

As with any trip in which children are in tow, a little preparation can go a long way – and with a large focus on accommodating families here at DUKES, we like to think we know at least a few ways to make your trip to London with children as great as it can be.

Choose the right hotel

And it can all start with the hotel itself.

Given the brilliant transport links we have in London, to a certain degree it’s almost irrelevant where it is you’re staying in any of the central or outer boroughs. Of course, everyone wants to stay close to the action (and for the most part, we’d always recommend it – the least travelling you have to do with children, the better!), but choosing the right place to stay is arguably more important.

We’re fortunate enough to be well-located in central London at DUKES, making a whole host of attractions easily accessible, but we’re also particularly family orientated.

Rooms with adjoining doors that give you and your little ones separate space whilst still being connected. Children’s food and drink from breakfast through to dinner. Readily accessible services, such as childcare (in fact, our family escapes package comes with five hours complementary childcare).

It’s these things we know families benefit from, and when you’re travelling with children, you need to make sure they’re all readily accessible wherever it is you choose to stay. You could choose to stay right next door to the main attraction you’re planning on visiting, but if the hotel is not in anyway child-friendly, is it really that great of a choice?

Do a little research before you arrive

When travelling with children, it’s so easy to think that days need to be spent doing activities that offer no excitement for adults, or that meals are bland and boring.

But when you’re visiting London, this really doesn’t have to be the case.

Take the last point. There are so many fantastic restaurants dotted right around the city that cater for both children and adults alike. The ever-popular Rainforest Cafe is a great example. The surroundings will keep little ones gripped, whilst the food on offer has something for all tastes (and there’s alcohol available, too, should it be needed!).

With the first point, one of the parts of being a parent is doing things that offer little value to you but excite your children immensely – but there are so many family-friendly activities and attractions in London that the whole family can have a brilliant time together.

Tower of London. London Eye. British Museum. Warner Bros Studio Tour. Natural History Museum. Seeing a show in the West End.

There’s more than a long weekend’s worth of family activities there, but we’ve only really picked out the most popular attractions.

And of course, it doesn’t matter how old you are, a trip to Hamleys is without doubt a brilliant experience. A must for all families.

Create an itinerary

Following on from the last point, with so much to do, if you don’t plan, you can risk doing nothing.

Slow, lazy mornings can be great as a couple, but when you have some excited children, you need at least some type of plan as to what to do and where to go to ensure you fit everything in.

It may seem a little structured for some, but particularly those families with at least two or three children – and especially children who have ideas of what they want to do themselves – an itinerary can ensure everyone gets a say in what you’re going to be doing when you’re here.

And when everyone has a say, everyone can be happy, knowing that at some point during the trip, they’ll be doing something that they are particularly looking forward to.

Visiting London with children

If you’ve ever thought of visiting London with children but not made plans as you believed it wouldn’t be suitable, please do rethink your trip. London is one of the world’s most wonderful cities, regardless of almost every possible requirement or expectation you might have.

Home to everything from expansive tranquil gardens through to the world’s greatest toy shops (we’ll repeat it – definitely do visit Hamleys!), a visit to London with small children can be a magical and truly memorable experience.

Image courtesy of Richard Law