This London Trip is Fit For A Queen

You don’t have to be Meghan Markle to get the royal treatment, thanks to Norwegian Air’s great nonstops to London and Dukes Hotel, a fave of Princess Diana

buckingham-palace

BUCKINGHAM PALACE Courtesy Visitlondon.org

Haven’t yet received your invitation to the May 19 wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and American-born actress Meghan Markle? Pretty sure it didn’t get lost in the mail? Not to worry. You can still experience London like a member of the royal family. Norwegian Air has low-priced non-stops from Denver to London, and when you stay at the elegant Dukes Hotel (on the city’s Royal Mile), you will feel like a special guest of the queen, situated as it is in the swankiest postal code (SW1A) in England.

Sleep like Princess Charlotte.
When you stay at the newly renovated Dukes Hotel in St. James’s Place, you’ll walk in the foot-steps of everyone from royal mistresses to Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde and Chopin. The Diana fave (rumor has it she’d often stop in at the hotel after her morning runs) feels like a private home tucked into a charming, quiet courtyard and yet is within short walking distance of St. James’s Palace (still a royal residence), Clarence House (where Prince Charles lives with Camilla) and the 18th-century Spencer House (Diana’s family home, owned by her brother, Charles, and open to the public on Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).

Visit the Queen.
Windsor Castle, where Queen Elizabeth II now spends most of her time, is a short tube and train ride away (about 90 minutes, door to door; ask the Dukes concierge for directions). While at Windsor, make sure to stroll through St. George’s Chapel, where the royal wedding will take place. The chapel is also the burial place for many British monarchs, including the current queen’s parents and Henry VIII. If you can, time your visit for the changing of the guard (on our visit, the royal band inexplicably played hits by Chicago and Stevie Wonder).

See London on foot.
Do a historic walk with British Tours (ask for the fabulous guide named Jonathan). In less than two hours, you can see the Houses of Parliament (often surrounded by anti-Brexit protesters), Big Ben (getting a facelift so currently shrouded in scaffolding), 10 Downing Street (home to prime ministers from Winston Churchill to the current Theresa May), Buckingham Palace (if the Royal Standard, not the Union Flag, is flying, the queen is in residence) and Westminster Abbey (where most monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth, have been coronated).

Visit Kensington Palace.
Home to Diana during her final years, and currently the residence of William, Kate, the kids, Harry and Meghan, this palace is a lovely 30-minute walk or 10-minute cab ride from the hotel. Make sure to visit the Sunken Garden (where Harry and Meghan’s engagement photos were shot) and stroll to the Princess Diana Memorial.

Duke-conservatory

THE CONSERVATORY AT DUKE’S Courtesy Dukes Hotel

Pamper yourself. 
The Duke’s French-born masseuse, Coralie Biseuil, is a master of “bespoke massage,” tailoring her technique to your needs. The gentlemen in your party can get a straight-razor shave around the corner from Dukes at Truefitt & Hill, one of London’s oldest barbershops.

Channel James Bond.
Have a martini (stirred, not shaken, advises the Dukes bartender) in the Dukes hotel bar, once the haunt of 007 author Ian Fleming. And keep your eyes peeled: A certain aristocratic heartthrob actor (paging Mr. Darcy) reportedly likes to stop in for the occasional sip.

Have a sniff.
Floris, perfumerie to European royals since the 1700s (and a 10-minute walk from the hotel), was once a favorite of Diana’s. It still makes custom perfumes ($400 and up), but the shop’s clerks also can steer you to a less-pricey fragrance that feels as if it were made just for you.

Get immersed in art and history.
So many museums, so little time—that’s London. (And many of those museums are free.) Two faves: the Victoria and Albert Museum, which specializes in the decorative arts (don’t miss the fashion and jewelry sections), and the Tate Modern, which features 20th-century art. Both are short cab rides from the Dukes.

Shop ’til you drop. 
There’s something so… well, civilized about shopping in London. Dukes is within walking distance of many stores, including those on Picadilly, Bond and Jermyn streets. Other faves: Liberty of London, Hatchard’s and Foyle’s bookstores, and Fenwick and Harrods department stores.

Lift that pinkie.
When in London, you must have afternoon tea, and Dukes’ onsite Great British Restaurant is a perfect spot (you’ll also find killer fish and chips). For small bites, make a visit to the Covent Garden market, home to dozens of merchants, and famed food emporium Fortnum & Mason.

DUKES HOTEL LONDON
Luxury hotel nestled in the heart of historic Saint James’ Mayfair.

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