Marylebone

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Maggie Squires manages to combine shopping with culture in one of the capital’s most vibrant districts

01Regent’s Park Leave corporate London behind for a few hours and escape to charming Marylebone – the beautiful buildings, oneoff shops and gourmet food make for a fantastic afternoon. Start at Regent’s Park, at the northern boundary of the area. The green space, once known as Marylebone Park, was originally used as a hunting ground by Henry VIII . In 1818, John Nash, architect to the crown, developed it into the 166-hectare site it is today. There’s lots to see – consult one of the maps to get your bearings. Try a stroll through Queen Mary’s Gardens, a tranquil spot filled with palm trees and rose-gardens. Or visit the Wildlife Garden for some ideas on encouraging wildlife in your own little piece of England – look out for the glassy-eyed earthen newt sculpture. London Zoo, on the northern side, has almost 750 species. If you’re short of time, simply have a wander and enjoy a bit of people-watching. If you’re visiting in summer and have an evening free, there are regular plays performed at the Open Air Theatre (openairtheatre.com). Regent’s Park opens at 05:00 year-round; closing time is seasonal. Visit royalparks.org.uk

02 Royal Academy of Music Museum Your next stop, the Royal Academy of Music Museum, is on the corner of York Gate and Marylebone Road and offers a fascinating insight into the history of classical musical instruments. On the ground floor is the ‘Treasures of the Academy’ collection, containing sheet music and guitars from the past 300 years, along with personal letters from musicians dating back to the 1860s. Go upstairs to the Strings Gallery for a lesson on the evolution of the violin – the oldest instruments on display are from the 1500s. You can also often see a luthier in the workshop maintaining the academy’s stringed instrument collection. The second floor houses the Piano Gallery, showcasing pianos, harpsichords and fortepianos from the early 19th century, as well as a few old English ‘square pianos’ – a technician is often on hand, making repairs. Entry is free. Open 11.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. weekdays; 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. weekends. Visit ram.ac.uk

03 Marylebone High Street Cross the busy road and turn down Marylebone High Street – you’ll immediately feel a sense of calm descend. The beating heart of Marylebone village since the 15th century, it is now home to a range of high-end home stores, designer boutiques and cafés. Highlights include Skandium (skandium. com) at number 86, which offers two floors of Scandinavian-inspired furniture and homeware, and Daunt Books (dauntbooks. co.uk) at 83, well known for its travel section. Cath Kidston’s store (cathkidston.com) at number 51 has quirky bags, purses and clothing in her trademark floral prints, while Caroline and Friends (44) is full of pretty gifts. Apartment C at 70 (apartment-c.com) is the place for beautifully made lingerie. Around the corner on Paddington Street, the brand-new Colony Bar and Grill (7-9) offers cuisine and cocktails inspired by the British Raj. Visit colonybarandgrill.com

04 The Landmark For your last stop, head back to Marylebone Road for a well-earned refreshment break at one of the area’s most venerable hotels, the Landmark – it’s a ten-minute walk away, just in front of Marylebone railway station. The striking Victorian architecture is hard to miss, and inside you’ll find a glassroofed, eight-storey-high atrium complete with towering palm trees. The Winter Garden restaurant (open 7 a.m. – 12 a.m.) serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and a fantastic afternoon tea, while Two Twenty Two (open 11a.m. -12 a.m.) offers lunch and dinner with main dishes starting from £12. The atmosphere is lively yet relaxed, and the drinks list is varied. A swankier option is the hotel’s Mirror bar. Open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday -Saturday (later than most other bars in the area) it’s a luxurious spot featuring plush seating, jazzy music and excellent staff. Be sure to try the signature mojito champagne cocktail, but be warned that it will set you back £17. The Landmark, 222 Marylebone Road;

Tel +44 (0)20 7631 8000; landmarklondon.co.uk;mirrorbar-london.com