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Destinations: London's bar scene – a snapshot of glamour in the capital

It’s time to celebrate, the end of summer has been postponed! Although London abandoned us to rain and wind in August, as fate would have it, as soon as the Children went back to school, the sun appeared! We have been enjoying unseasonal warm weather in the recent week and it shows no sign of abating. What better excuse then, to explore London’s best spots for sipping a cocktail on a balmy autumn evening?

I have received quite a few emails from friends over the Pond in recent weeks, asking for recommendations for relaxed, intimate bars in London; the perfect place to chat with friends or enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail. I was more than happy to oblige and I have listed below my top 5 places to enjoy a high-glass drink in the capital. Cool, intimate but definitely unstuffy, these bars are some of my favorite places to hang out in London. With the sheer volume of hotel bars and cocktails bars in the capital – some good, some indifferent and some terrible, I wanted to narrow it down to the five best, at least in my view.

London of course, hardly needs an introduction. This vibrant and exciting city is as culturally rich and multinational as the come. The nightlife scene is one of the most eclectic and progressive in Europe, bars, restaurants, cafes and pubs to suit all tastes and budgets! The following five vary in size and location, but what they have in common is a varied cocktails list, an intimate vibe and fantastic service. Enjoy!

Vista At The Trafalgar

2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, London, SW1A 2TS

0207 870 2900

What better place to start an evening than sipping a cocktail at the Vista bar, overlooking London’s famous Trafalgar Square. Although there is plenty of competition in London, with new sky bars seemingly opening every month, for me, Vista wins hands down. It does so by offering some of the best views over London, worth the price of a cocktail alone! It’s a sophisticated and exclusive space, with a chic black interior lifted with lanterns, trees and fairy lights! They also offer food, weather permitting. The cocktail list is impressive, featuring both classic and more contemporary concoctions. Vista attracts everyone – first date couples, friends and those searching for an intimate evening. If it has a drawback then it’s certainly not cheap, but with views like this, it is so worth it.

Eleanor’s at the Charing Cross Hotel

The Strand, London, WC2N 5HX

0871 376 9012

Situated just off Trafalgar Square, Eleanor’s has become a popular place to meet before a night out. A recent refurbishment of the hotel has given the bar a sexy new look, complete with a striking marble bar, red and black interiors and plenty of plush cushions. The atmosphere is tranquil yet vibrant, individual candles and soft lighting make this sleek space the perfect spot for a bit of romance with a loved one. Eleanor’s, however, is not just about the venue and the drinks list shines with creativity and versatility, offering an extensive selection of martini’s, champagne cocktails and wine by the glass. Undoubtedly, one of London’s best hotel bars!

Claridge’s Bar

Brook Street Mayfair, London, W1K 4HR.

0207 629 8860

Effortlessly chic, grand and intimate at the same time, Claridge’s needs little introduction. One of London’s finest hotels also houses one of the best cocktails in the capital. Hardly surprising really, considering the hotels renown and the flair of its designer, David Collins. A most intimate and luxurious space to enjoy a multitude of cocktails, rare champagnes and fine wines, many available by the glass! Glamour, elegance and a quintessentially Claridge’s buzz are complimented by the quality of the staff, their professionalism and skill is second to none. A fantastic space for the great and the good to meet, which manages to remain decidedly un-pretentious.

Galvin at Windows

Park Lane Hilton, 22 Park Lane, London.

0207 208 4021

A sophisticated cut above the rest, Galvin at Windows has an effortless chic about it. The views from this luxurious sky bar are some of the best in London, attracting a well-heeled, older crowd. They come for the comfortable setting – soft leather sofas, a Mable-topped bar set against a backdrop of muted grey. Not forgetting the extensive cocktail list which covers Mojitos, non-alcoholic cocktails and everything in between. With such stunning vistas over the capital in this setting, it’s not hard to see why Galvin is rarely anything less than packed.

Flemings Bar

F7-12 Half Moon Street, London, W1J 7BH.

0207 499 0000

Mayfair, an extremely monied district in central London has long been the centre of the city’s grandest hotels and most refined and elegant night spots. Behind Piccadilly and the hub of central London, lies a gem of a bar, recently revamped and re-energized for today’s discerning visitor. It has one of the plushest decors of any bar I’ve seen – soft lighting and textured seating surrounding a well-staffed bar. Your hosts are extremely professional and set the standard for service in the capital – friendly but efficient and discreet service for all. A fantastic cocktail and wine list similar does not fail to impress, try the Strawberry Champagne crisp if you only have time for one.

Editor's Note: Have a question or comment? Leave a message in the comments below.

James LawrenceJames Lawrence is a self confessed wine obsessive, passionate about discovering and promoting the lesser known wines and wine regions of the world. He is a frequent contributor to decanter.com and runs an interactive, community led wine forum, thewineremedy.com In 2004, he went to study in Bilbao, Northern Spain. Luckily for him, the famous wine region of Rioja was just over an hour away by car. He began to spend a great deal of time there, visiting the wineries in Rioja and speaking to local wine makers. Their passion for the subject and their pride in the wines was infectious. He began to realise what an amazing subject wine is and how wide and complex the world of wine could be. Subsequently James moved into wine retail while finishing his degree, and was hooked. James also enjoys food and travel writing - he lives for Italian and Thai cuisine!

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