How to spend 48 hours in London's Carnaby

The new rainbow installation in Carnaby Street

The new rainbow installation in Carnaby Street - Credit: David Parry/PA Wire

An Insider’s guide to London’s capital of cool   

There are few places more iconic for retail therapy than the 14 streets of Carnaby. From the swinging sixties through to the present day, there’s always been something special about this famous London leisure destination.  

But as well as a brilliant range of shops - from well known names to quirky independents - it also has a great selection of over 60 places to eat, drink and socialise and is home to more than 1500 external dining seats.   

Whether you’re looking for the choice of more than 30 world cuisines or a traditional London pub, you’re spoilt for choice. Carnaby has so much to offer, for all tastes, budgets and times of day.  

And running through it all is the famous Carnaby Street, flanked with iconic arches, the perfect Instagrammable location for your 48 hours in the capital of cool and don't forget its is a fully pedestrianised area to ensure you can browse at your own leisure.  

FRIDAY EVENING 

As the city winds down from the working week, head out for a drink on one of its coolest streets.   

You’re spoilt for choice for great places to try - although one not to miss is the brand-new Bar Crispin. Take your pick from 150 specially-curated wines, sourced from independent merchants. If you’re feeling peckish, it serves a menu of reasonably-priced sharing plates too.  

It’s hard to choose just one restaurant for dinner with so many great options, but the family-style hospitality at Korean Dinner Party is hard to beat. Enjoy Korean and LA inspired dishes with a glass of sake from the UK’s first ever sake brewery - KANPAI and enjoy the newly opened restaurant in Kingly Court.  

Then, finish off your evening with world-class live music at Ain’t Nothin’ But, the best blues bar this side of the Atlantic, or go back in time with Cahoots, a 1940s themed bar based in the disused Kingly Court Underground Station.  

Al fresco dining on Kingly Street

Al fresco dining on Kingly Street - Credit: Carnaby/David Parry

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SATURDAY

With a busy day ahead, start off with a hearty breakfast at The Good Egg. Enjoy the flavours of vibrant Tel Aviv in the heart of Carnaby, they serve some of the best babka French toast in London as well as award-winning shakshuka and the delicious salt beef Reuben sandwich to set you up for a big day exploring the area. Bag a table right outside the restaurant in the iconic Kingly Court, a three-storey alfresco dining destination in the heart of Carnaby, with 25 restaurants, bars and cafés. You’ll find a whole variety of covered yet open-air tables, with outdoor heaters, perfect for all weather.  

Then it’s time for some serious retail therapy. Don’t miss Annie’s Ibiza, a favourite of Kate Moss, Rita Ora, Paris Hilton and Maya Jama. Revel in bespoke fashion pieces, handpicked from an array of designers and is located just off Carnaby Street on Newburgh Street.  

Music fans will love RS No.9 Carnaby, the world-first flagship store of rock legends the Rolling Stones. It stocks fan must-haves, including an exclusive fashion collection as well as limited edition vinyl.  

Keep out any Autumn chills with GANNI, which was launched in 2000 by an art connoisseur and gallery owner's desire to create the perfect cashmere knit, and now has 21 concept stores across Denmark, Norway, Sweden and their first UK store on Beak Street.  

If you’re feeling peckish, head back to Kingly Court, and enjoy one of the many alfresco dining options that Carnaby has to offer.  

A favourite there is Pizza Pilgrims, which makes authentic Neapolitan dough, with a delicious range of toppings, or try Imad’s Syrian Kitchen on the second floor. A successful restaurateur in his home of Syria, Imad fled during the civil war and now has his first stand alone restaurant here.  

Along the beautifully maintained 14 streets that make up Carnaby, shop windows are a riot of colour.  

There’s something for everyone, whatever your taste or budget. Call into one-off shops such as War Paint. The world’s first makeup and wellbeing store created specifically for men. Check out their in-house pop-up barber and a bespoke makeup machine.  

Fashion fans will also love the Cole Buxton flagship store, a celebration of the grassroots British brand.  

There’s also the new NBA Store, with a range of official NBA and WNBA merchandise and memorabilia, including exclusive NBA products, apparel, jerseys, headwear, sporting goods, toys and collectibles.  

Beauty lovers will be in their element at Skin Laundry, the revolutionary skincare brand from California, who recently opened their first stand-alone UK clinic and store at 9 Newburgh Street.  

There’s plenty of options for a delicious Saturday night dinner and drinks. For wine lovers, visit Antidote’s intimate Newburgh Street wine bar, and enjoy a huge range of natural wines.  

Carry on the evening with small plates at Polpo, with  exquisite Venetian inspired sharing dishes.  Or, for a modern view on Greek gastronomy, INO brings the traditional Greek grill to Carnaby. Enjoy their mouth-watering Wagyu beef short rib chops and the famous Greek street food Souvlaki, as well as a number of delicious vegetarian options.  

People enjoying al fresco dining in Kingly Court, Carnaby

People enjoying al fresco dining in Kingly Court, Carnaby - Credit: David Parry

SUNDAY

You’re spoilt for choice for Sunday brunch. Play mix and match with takeouts from a choice of venues, and tuck in on one of 30 brightly-coloured tables set up on Carnaby Street, Newburgh Street and Ganton Street for communal dining every day of the week. There are over 200 seats to enjoy from 11am to 10pm, where shoppers can enjoy a takeaway meal from any of the venues without a booking.  

 Enjoy a leisurely Sunday afternoon and a hearty roast dinner in one of the pubs in the area – The Blue Posts, The Clachan, The White Horse and Shakespeare's Head. The White Horse is a buzzing local pub on Newburgh Street, serving great food and beers with a laid-back Soho atmosphere.  

Or, for something with a little more spice, try Sri Lankan home cooking on Kingly Street, with Kolamba's curries, sambols, rotis and a range of vegan dishes. Inspired by the food of Sri Lanka’s capital city, it’s the perfect cuisine to enjoy alfresco.   

Then, sadly, it’s time to go home all too soon. But, there’s so much to see and do that the only option is to come back again and try everything you missed the first time around.  

CARNABY STREET MUST-SEES AND INSTAGRAM FAVOURITES  

Iconic Carnaby Street Arches  
Bookending both ends of the street are the brand-new pink shimmer disk ‘Welcome To Carnaby London’ arches.   

Rainbow installation, Carnaby Street  
Two new bright shimmer disk rainbow installations have been revealed.   

Union Flag, Carnaby Street  
The giant 3D shimmer flag stands over the junction between Carnaby Street and Ganton Street, the coolest Union flag in London.  

Festoon lights, Kingly Street  
Head to Kingly Street and enjoy a photo on the outdoor seating under the pink festoon lights.  

Ganton Street giant light bulb installation, Ganton Street  
Head over to the West side of Ganton Street and be dazzled by 51 oversized light bulbs - at night they light up in a rainbow of colours.