London has a well-deserved reputation as a global hub for art and design, and that means there’s loads to enjoy for art lovers in London. So much so that you can easily fill a weekend with inspiring art and design. We’ve got great galleries and museums but it doesn’t stop there - from creative bars and restaurants to artistic activities, there’s lots for arty people to explore in the capital. Check out our guide to an art and design weekend in London.
Guide to an art and design weekend in London
In this guide
- Arts and culture hotels
- Pre-dinner drinks
- Creative dinner destinations
- Artsy night out
- Art-themed activities
- Places to shop
- Brunch for art lovers
- Visit some galleries
- Dinners with flair
- Laid-back lunches
- Relaxed arts activities
Arts and culture hotels
Breathtaking independent arts hotel
At The Mandrake you can immerse yourself in art, culture and luxury during your London stay. Rooms and public spaces are opulent, there's a dynamic art collection with work by the likes of Salvador Dali, an artists residency, and regular cultural events. This is a luxury hotel that delivers a unique experience.
Modern British styling
Ham Yard Hotel is a treat for design fans. The guest rooms and public spaces are furnished by renowned designer Kit Kemp, showcasing her signature eclectic style layering patterns and textures. 91 well-appointed rooms and suites are available that are full of well-considered design. Facilities at the hotel include a restaurant, vintage bowling alley, and a rooftop terrace.
Doodle whilst you drink
Leave your mark at The Doodle Bar, where you’re welcome to draw on the walls. This relaxed bar and restaurant has a huge choice of drinks that’ll satisfy anyone, plus food and a range of artistic events and workshops. Have a little doodle or leave behind a masterpiece while you have a drink here.
Quirky cocktail and absinthe destination
Check out The Last Tuesday Society for curious and creative cocktails in a distinctive environment. This gothic bar is decorated with taxidermy and curiosities, and features original cocktails as well as a choice of the classic artist’s drink, absinthe. You can try it here served in a variety of ways.
Cocktails and art events
Creative people can enjoy a drink or a themed event at The London Art Bar. This sociable bar and events space in Holborn serves coffee by day as well as wine and cocktails. A range of arts events go on here like live music performances, exhibitions, and in-demand guided painting sessions.
Creative dinner destinations
Creative menus and events
Sessions Arts Club combines a bar, restaurant, and performance space, making it a perfect stop for art fans. The focus is on creativity and the collective. This stripped-back setting serves seasonal international menus with options like shrimp croquettes, sea bream, and pork with fennel. You can also hire spaces for creative events.
Dinner with contemporary art
Sketch’s Gallery is a must for art lovers. In this creative Art Deco space with a floor that’s reminiscent of Twin Peaks, you can enjoy afternoon tea or dinner. French-inspired dishes are on the menu and afternoon tea comes with a classical string trio.
Immersive Peruvian dining experience
Dining at Coya is a multi-sensory experience with mouthwatering Peruvian menus, immersive music, contemporary art, lush plants, and vibrant colours. Explore dishes like ceviche, tacos, and salads that combine traditions from Peru with Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish cooking methods. Bold signature cocktails are on the menu, plus lots of rum and tequila.
Art on the walls
At Kerridge's Bar & Grill, a restaurant from esteemed chef Tom Kerridge, you can enjoy a meal surrounding by art. The walls are filled with pieces that were specially created and curated for the restaurant. Upscale British dishes are served. Bar snacks and cocktails are also available, with gin and tonic being a speciality.
Artsy night out
Bohemian cocktail spot
Freud Bar in Shaftesbury Avenue opened in 1986 and has built a major reputation for creative cocktails and art. There's a bohemian vibe here and a huge choice of alcoholic drinks. Choose from classic mixes and more original concoctions, to enjoy in the buzzing atmosphere with monthly art exhibitions and lively music.
Cocktail bar with character
Named after artist and caricaturist Gerald Scarfe, Scarfes Bar is a bar-cum-art gallery that’s ranked as one of the best cocktail bars worldwide. You’ll find work by Scarfe literally everywhere, and you can buy a piece, or commission your own. This sociable space has a varied and original cocktail menu that enhances the creative vibe.
East London roof terrace
In Whitechapel you'll find PocketSquare, a buzzing sky bar and roof terrace with fantastic city views. This place has modern and highly curated interiors that are a delight for design fans, with mirrored surfaces and copper details complemented by pops of colour. Elaborate signature cocktails are served plus sophisticated bar snacks.
Discover East London's street art
If you’re into street art, join a walking or bike tour with Alternative London to explore some of East London’s most notable examples. Tours are led by local artists and street art experts who are full of knowledge. If you’re feeling creative, take part in a workshop to make your own masterpiece.
Join a life drawing class
Get creative with a life drawing class at Candid Arts Trust. Classes run regularly and are led by experienced tutors. This place is a charitable organisation that also holds group and solo exhibitions by local artists, has its own tranquil café, and hosts other exciting events like film screenings and poetry evenings.
Making and painting ceramics
Book in at Clay Time to try your hand at making or painting ceramics. You can learn to sculpt your own pot or paint a ready-made piece. There are sessions suitable for kids and adults, and parties and groups are welcome, from children's birthday parties to corporate team-building exercises.
Places to shop
Modern and contemporary art specialist
Shop for rare books on modern and contemporary art at Marcus Campbell Art Books, which is handily located next to Tate Modern. This independent book seller has out-of-print books, periodicals, rare posters, exhibition catalogues, and artists’ books. There are items at every price point so it’s always worth a rummage.
Serving artists since 1979
The largest art materials shop in the UK is Atlantis, which was opened by artists in 1979. Based in East London, it sells a vast range of high quality art supplies. Whether you're a professional, a hobbyist, or a complete beginner, you'll find all the materials you need here, plus creative gifts.
Shop for Japanese art
Shop for Japanese artwork and prints at Japanese Gallery. Whatever your budget is, you'll find something to suit you here, including affordable greetings cards. The art ranges from modern manga prints to traditional ukiyo-e woodblock prints. The knowledgeable staff here can help you find the ideal piece for you.
If you're passionate about design and interiors don't miss a visit to Pentreath & Hall. This store sells furniture, homewares, and lighting, and is a collaboration between an artist and a designer. There are desirable pieces showcasing exceptional design, laid out in a style-conscious showroom with a striking aesthetic.
Brunch for art lovers
Unique café environment
Visit the Fitzrovia branch of Attendant Coffee Roasters for food in a wholly unique setting. This café is based in a converted Victorian public toilet, built around 1890. The original tiles and urinals are in place, making this an intriguing spot for design fans. Breakfast, brunch, and lunch are served every day.
Lively art-filled eatery
The design-led interiors at lively Old Compton Brasserie make it a hit with arty people. It’s a space for creative all-day dining in a vibrant setting with murals and wall art. Brunch, lunch, and dinner are served each day and there’s a weekend bottomless brunch with music and a fun atmosphere.
Vibrant and comfortable dining
For all-day dining in a space that's filled with unique art, Artist Residence Clubhouse is worth visiting. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served, with a brunch menu at weekends. Colourful cocktails are also available. This place is lively but feels comfortable, with outdoor seating, walls laden with art, soft cushions, and candles.
Visit some galleries
Top spot for classical painting
Discover classical European painting as well as inspiring temporary shows of more recent work at Dulwich Picture Gallery. The permanent collection here includes works by artists like Rembrandt, Gainsborough, and Constable. Explore the unique building that the gallery is housed in and visit the café and shop on-site.
Explore contemporary design
A trip to the Design Museum lets you immerse yourself in contemporary design across many areas. Whether your interests are in fashion, architecture, industrial design, or graphic design, you’ll find inspiring examples and insightful information. There are temporary exhibitions as well as the main collection. Don’t miss visiting the shop here either.
Cutting-edge contemporary art
White Cube has two London galleries as well as various other locations globally. These are modern and minimalist spaces where you can discover the latest in contemporary art. Exhibitions change regularly and often feature huge art world names like Gilbert & George, Tracey Emin, and Cerith Wyn Evans.
Immersive look at classic masters
Providing an unparalleled, detailed look at works by celebrated artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Dali and Klimt, Frameless uses top-quality projection technology to place you in the centre of the masterpieces themselves. Surrounded by the impressive visual presentation on all sides and accompanied by a breath-taking soundtrack, the immersive experience is likely to permanently change the way you view these paintings.
Dinners with flair
Food, art, and music
Explore Nikkei cuisine that fuses Peruvian and Japanese cooking at Chotto Matte. The creative setting here, complete with dazzling unique murals, makes it a popular restaurant for artistic people. DJs and performers add to the spirited feel. The menu here is lively fusion food – sushi and sashimi, gyoza, tacos, and tabletop grilling.
Aquatic and indulgent
Don’t let the name Sexy Fish fool you – the menu has meat and vegetarian choices too. Where the name really comes into play is in the exotic aquatic decor. Two of the world’s largest coral reef tanks are here and there’s art by notable names like Damien Hirst and Frank Gehry.
Michelin-starred classic restaurant
Opened in 1967, Le Gavroche is a mainstay of French haute cuisine in London. With two Michelin stars to its name, you can expect impeccable cooking in a refined and intimate atmosphere. The dishes are classic and rich, and you’ll see floral displays and original art throughout the dining room.
A collaboration between an acclaimed designer and a Michelin-starred chef, Coal Office is a style-focused contemporary eatery. In the same building you’ll also find an art gallery and furniture store. It’s a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean menu here with dishes like shashlik skewers and Yemeni pancakes. There’s also a chef’s table experience.
Dazzling art and decor
Fans of art and design can’t miss a meal in the inspiring surroundings of Brasserie of Light. This Art Deco space is dominated by a 24ft tall glittering pegasus sculpture by renowned artist Damien Hirst. Food is served all day – expect refined international cuisine. Creative cocktails, including The Pegasus, are served too.
Sophisticated gallery restaurant
Townsend’s location in the Whitechapel Gallery makes it an ideal restaurant for art lovers and great for a meal before or after seeing an exhibition. It’s a modern British dining room with seasonal menus that change daily. Options include oysters, fried Wendsleydale cheese, and braised cuttlefish. It’s sophisticated cooking that celebrates British ingredients.
All about portraits
Located on the fourth floor of the National Portrait Gallery, Richard Corrigan's The Portrait Restaurant offers great views of the city and has walls decorated with pieces from the gallery's collections. In these artsy surrounds you can savour seasonal British recipes as well as some of Corrigan's signature dishes. There's a set menu for lunch and pre-theatre plus à la carte options.
Relaxed arts activities
Fashionable afternoon tea
Try a fashion-themed afternoon tea at The Berkeley, a luxurious five-star hotel in London. Their Prêt-à-Portea changes every season, translating the hottest styles in the fashion world into indulgent cakes and fancies just made for Instagram. It’s the ideal afternoon tea if you’re looking for a creative twist on a tradition.
Constantly-changing design finds
Browsing at The Old Cinema is great for retro design fans. Based in a converted picture house, this antiques department store is full of vintage furniture and collectibles from the 20th century. The stock here changes constantly and there are multiple dealers under one roof, so there’s always something new to discover.
Famous public art commission
Possibly the UK's most famous public art commission, The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square attracts visitors and locals. Every two years a new piece of thought-provoking British art is installed on the plinth. Past artists to have been commissioned include David Shrigley, Yinka Shonibare, Marc Quinn, and Anthony Gormley.