The sophisticated tastes of the world’s tourists have finally caught up to London’s long-sumptuous buffet.
Enlightened travelers have always sought out best-in-class embodiments of their values and interests. Fortunately for the most globally curious, we have Europe’s grandest capital. The 2,000-year-old crossroads of the world’s voyagers welcomes us, despite being burned, rebuilt, bombed, rebuilt again and snapped up by the world’s wealthy (which, for renters and residents without offshore income streams, is another sort of siege).
London, right now, is a tight, highly curated Venn diagram of multi-ethnic revelry, enviable luxury retail, coveted universities and colleges (more than 40 institutions of higher education are based in the city) and—finally!—the restaurants to sate the palates of a growing number of curious global wanderers. It reigns atop our world cities ranking because it excels in all six of our main categories.
London’s magnetism is certainly world renowned, with visitors streaming into the city in record volumes—19.8 million in 2017, almost a million more than the record set the previous year. The tourist boom drove strong sales for British luxury brands such as Burberry, which helped propel Bond Street in London into the top three of the world’s most expensive store locations, overtaking Paris’ Champs-Élysées. Travelers, predominantly from Europe, the U.S. and China, have been arriving in ever-increasing numbers to buy luxury designer brands for prices lower than they can get at home.
London ranks #1 in our Programming category, an index that measures visitor and resident experiences in the subcategories of Shopping, Culinary, Nightlife and Culture, where the city placed no lower than third globally.
Perhaps most impressive is its food scene, which overtook Tokyo this year globally according to traveler and resident sentiment. Given the clichéd reputation of British cuisine—historically passable at best—this is an incredible development. As of 2018, the city had 70 Michelin-starred restaurants, with nine earning two stars and three earning the maximum three. Good luck scoring a last-minute reservation at three-star Akari, a nine-seat, £300-per-person Japanese gem in Mayfair, or at Claude Bosi’s Bibendum, a restaurant named after the tire-maker’s white mascot and situated in “Michelin House.”
It is in its sudden rise of global cuisine that London demonstrates perhaps its most distinct appeal: its diversity and openness to humanity. Ranking #12 in our People category (an amalgam of Education Attainment and Foreign-born Residents), London refutes any attempt at typecasting. Sure, Londoners obsess over footy. They love a pint or cuppa after work. And they talk your ear off about each in wonderfully divergent accents, changing noticeably by neighborhood. But despite their melting pot Londoner souls, they likely started out Tamil, Somali or Polish.
Appropriately for a city that invented public transit, the new east-west Crossrail link is currently the biggest construction project in Europe. When it opens to the public in December 2018, it will give Londoners more than 13 miles of new tunnels and 10 new stations. Internationally renowned artists are currently working with new Elizabeth station architects and engineers to create ambitious works woven into the structure of each station and reflect the unique character of the local area. Given the tapestry in every step of this historic capital, that’s no small feat.