The brief: LUXOS asked four of the capital’s most cutting edge and exclusive specialist tour guides to create bespoke itineraries for a quartet of London’s most agenda-setting urbane explorers.
The Assignment: Urbanologie Founder Hugo Campbell-Davys is treated to a private harpsichord recital of Handel’s most notable works at the Handel House Museum, Journalist and Presenter Rob Crossan samples the finest botanicals at a London micro gin distillery while on gastrotour, Editor-in-Chief Victoria Gill receives a Mayfair and St James luxury shopping education and Broadcaster Giorgia Orlandi discovers the Banksys and Shepard Faireys hidden around Shoreditch’s streets.
Henrietta Ferguson Luxury Tours of London
Who: Henrietta Ferguson, whose tours of the capital unravel its most exclusive historical secrets
What: Vintage British luxury – from Mayfair shopping to Castles and Churches and London espionage
Where: Mayfair, St James, Pall Mall and beyond...
Highlights: Being promenaded through the Burlington Arcade by a top-hatted Beadle, member of the oldest – and smallest – police force in the world. Eating the prototypal Scotch Egg during a behind-the-scenes tour of the world’s oldest department store, Fortnum & Mason. Queen Victoria’s original foot mould at John Lobb, art at Chanel and crocodile skins at Kwanpen.
Dinner Party Drop: Discovering Pickering Place, Britain’s smallest public square. Commemorated for once being the site of the Texan Embassy, it’s where Beau Brummell gambled his entire fortune away down to the shirt on his back and the last ever duel was fought.
Celia Brooks Gastrotours
Orrey delicatessen in Marylebone, courtesy of londononview
Who: Celia Brooks, published food writer, former personal chef to Stanley Kubrick and the only official licensed tour guide for London’s legendary Borough Market.
What: Specialist food tours unearthing the culinary secrets and epicurean trailblazers of London’s most fashionable gastro neighbourhoods
Where: Covent Garden, Marylebone, Portobello and Borough.
Highlights: Sampling champagne in the covert basement of Marylebone’s Le Vieux Comptoir and grazing on divine Spanish cheeses and ham at Garcia's grocery store in Notting Hill left my tastebuds feeling like they had just qualified for air miles, such was the atlas-defining avalanche of tastes encountered.
Dinner party drop: I was introduced to the Carolina Reaper, the world’s hottest chilli, in The Spice Shop then, just around the corner, a bespoke local gin made onsite at the Portobello Star traditional pub as the finale to the tour.
Related: Private member clubs in London
Love Art London
Joachim, Saint and Sinner, Rivington Street
Who: Chris Pensa, a former Sotheby's auctioneer with a devotion to British contemporary art and behind-the-scenes access to its hidden gems.
What: Customised private tours off-the-beaten art track. A guided journey through the unseen wonders of contemporary street art and its legends.
Where: East London, through the maze of Shoreditch's colourful streets.
Highlights: Learning how to master the art of graffiti-spotting and recognise different artists' trademark patterns, from the 19-inch long ‘Panic’ drawing off Old Street to a wall-sized graffiti by American artist Shepard Fairey.
Dinner Party Drop: I realise that, beyond the Banksy era, the interconnection between the graffiti art and business worlds is stronger than ever – Camille Walala's commissioned piece on the ‘Splice’ building facade is a good example, as is hearing the story behind Ben Eine's district-defining work on Ebor street and how the owners of Soho House got involved with it.
Related: Best walking tours of London
Art History UK
South Drawing Room, courtesy of Sir John Soane's Museum, photo by Gareth Gardner
Who: Art History UK – founded by by London art expert Rose Balston
What: A boutique cultural tours company, specialising in the history of art and architecture of London.
Where: Throughout London & beyond
Highlights: A private tour of the wondrous Sir John Soane's Museum – formerly the home of the neo-classical architect Sir John Soane – including a show round of the renowned architect’s most personal rooms. An exclusive tour of the Handel House Museum in Mayfair, followed by an intimate concert by a foremost harpsichordist performing notable works including those by the German baroque composer.
Dinner Party Drop: Jimi Hendrix lived in an attic apartment adjoining Handel House which has just been restored and opened to the public for the first time in history.
Related: London top's new boutiques