Jul 5, 2016

Travel Guide: 48 hours in London

London is my favorite city in the world and if I had my way, I would spend weeks at a time just soaking in the sights and sounds of this rich international city. It's a melting pot of culture, food, art and most importantly, fashion. The first time I visited back in 2009 I was on my honeymoon. That trip sparked what would later become six subsequent trips back to the U.K. to explore, linger in museums, sip coffee in chic cafes, and of course, shop. No matter how many times I visit, I continue to be inspired by the colors, textures, and attitudes about fashion that transcend any given season. London gives us many colorful ways to reinterpret fashion trends and create a style all our own.  If you only have 48 hours in London, here are the must-see shopping destinations to add to your list and a practical guide of what to pack for the adventure.

// Shop //

As one of the world's largest department stores, Harrods is a shopping experience you can't miss when visiting London, even if you're only in town for 48 hours.  The store spans seven floors and boasts more than 300+ departments including a champagne bar, food hall, and Toy Kingdom. Shop 'till you drop them head to Urban Retreat at Harrods for a luxurious Crème de la Mer Body treatment or signature massage.

I like to think of Selfridges as the cool, younger sister of Harrod's. In department store land that means unique shopping concepts, experimental pop-ups, indie brands and out-of-the-box merchandising. In addition to having the world's largest shoe department (35,000 square feet to be exact), Selfridges also introduced The Beauty Workshop back in 2012 bringing in a variety of beauty vendors including Hersheson's Blow Dry Bar, The Paint Shop, and Blink Brow Bar. Shoppers can splurge on express beauty services in between retail therapy sessions and then treat themselves to a refreshing cocktail at the rooftop bar.

Kurt Geiger opened his first store on Bond Street in London back in 1963. Since then, the brand has consistently pushed the envelope with stylish, fashion-forward shoes for men and women and now maintains additional brands including KG Kurt Geiger, Miss KG and Carvela. Celebs including Kylie Jenner, Claire Danes, and Karlie Kloss love Kurt Geiger. Don't miss the coveted shoe chandeliers in each shop.

Topshop at Oxford Circus aka "the mecca for cool girls" is a must-see shop in London. Boasting three floors of fashion including fashion-forward clothing for petites and an epic vintage clothing section, Topshop is also home to an EAT restaurant, Hershesons Blow Dry Bar, Strip Wax Boutique, Bleach Hair Salon and Wah Nails. Tip: If you have long hair and don't want to pack your styling tools for your trip, book an appointment at Hershesons Blow Dry Bar at Topshop. The styling team is crazy efficient and will even assign two stylists to blow dry your hair in tandem in order to get you out the door looking fab in 30-minutes or less.

If you have time to hit Covent Garden, don't miss the Lulu Guinness store. It's a fun, tongue-in-cheek brand for women who want to express their personal style without getting caught up in trends. The product mix includes luxury handbags,  fashion-forward but surprisingly functional luggage, and must-have tech accessories.

// Stay //

At this point, we've stayed all around the perimeter of Hyde Park in London. It's central to everything and it's a great way to escape the city when you need a nature break. On our last trip, we stayed at The Kensington Hotel in South Kensington and found that it was, without a doubt, our favorite hotel in London. The staff is friendly and the location is within walking distance to a tube station and local attractions like The Victoria & Albert Museum. The walk to Harrods from the hotel was less than 10 minutes which was an added bonus. If you're traveling with kids, request a tepee tent for your room so that the kids have a hideout.

// Play //

Here's a fun fact: in London admission to most of museums and art galleries is free. This means you can spend your time taking in the city history and culture without having to spend your shopping money to get in. This is critical information if you only have 48 hours to spend in London because you won't feel guilty popping in and out of museums as you explore the city.

Last time I was in town the National Portrait Gallery was showcasing Vogue 100: A Century of Style, a tribute to British Vogue, born in 1916 during World War One. At that time, shipping the US edition became nearly impossible so the Brits launched their own version to fill the fashion void. The exhibit featured magazines from the archives, behind-the-scenes videos from photoshoots, and an insider view of key moments in fashion including the 1947 launch of Christian Dior's 'New Look'. The exhibit ended in May but keep an eye out for other fashion installments by visiting the museum's website.

Must-see galleries for fashion and design in London include the V&A Museum, The Fashion & Textile Museum which is currently showcasing an exhibit on Missoni, and Tate Modern. If time permits, you should also check out events and showcases at Somerset House, which is home to the British Fashion Council and hosted London Fashion Week from 2009-2015.

// Pack // 

When it comes to packing for your trip keep in mind that London is a lot like Seattle in terms of weather. Don't let the clouds fool you, the sunshine will peek out and blind you, so it's a good idea to keep your sunglasses with you as you explore the city.

Show above:

1. Karu 'Kenley' Sunglasses via Moorea Seal. These babies were so popular they immediately sold out, so check out the Aerin if you want something similar.

2. When traveling, I like to pack light to leave room for shopping. My make-up bag is no exception. So instead of packing multiple eyeshadows, I opt for a palette with multiple color options like this one from Ciaté London via Sephora. I also like to take full advantage of beauty products that multi-task like lipsticks that double as blush.

3. A versatile leather jacket is a must-have item when packing for London. It goes with everything from dresses to jeans and you'll find yourself reaching for it when constantly. I like this quilted Moto Jacket from Topshop.

4. Be ready to do a lot of walking in London. Seriously. I run a 5k in the week leading up to my overseas adventures just so that I'm in peak performance for my trip. I mean, come on. I have to keep my stamina up for shopping purposes. If you have a Nike Fuel Band or a Fit Bit, you'll want to bring it with you because you'll rack up some serious mileage on your trip. From a fashion standpoint, if you plan to wear heels, go for something practical like these Laurel Peep Toe Booties via Nordstrom.

5. Versatility is key when traveling. Pack an easy long sleeve blouse like this one from DVF via Shop Style. You can wear it by day with jeans, or tuck it into a leather skirt for a night on the town.

6. And since graphic tees are all the rage right now, you can't go wrong with this oh-so-cheeky "Karl is My Father" tee by Seattle-based T+J Designs. This will be your uniform for the plane ride home paired with a leather jacket and dark denim jeans. Done.

Bonus items
Mexican Filigree earrings from JJ Caprices instantly take your outfit from day to evening. Light-weight and lovingly handcrafted, these earrings are gorgeous and great for travel.

A watch is one of my everyday essentials for travel. I love this Marc Jacobs 'Baker' watch with leather strap and rose gold plating. It goes with everything and keeps me on schedule.

Whether you have four days or a mere 48 hours to explore London is a city that will capture your heart and open your mind.

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