“The first time I came to London, I was 17,” the violinist Joshua Bell, now 54, told me. We were at dinner together following a recent performance of his at Wigmore Hall, a small but renowned concert hall. “I came with my parents to make my first album,” he continued. “This was in the ’80s, and I remember thinking there wasn’t a lot of variety in food. Now, of course, it’s great.”
Mr. Bell estimates he’s been to London around 70 times since then.
So no, the virtuoso and onetime child prodigy doesn’t live in London. But you could say he’s a professional visitor. His London is one of exquisite taste, uncommonly good food and a handful of tiny places you’d breeze right by if you didn’t know they were there — with, of course, a measure of music.
Mr. Bell tends to favor lesser-known places, with one very notable exception: the Royal Albert Hall. “The Royal Albert Hall has this thing called the Proms. They take out the seats on the lower level, and people line up down the street to get in,” he said. “All these people are standing up like it’s a rock concert, and it’s Beethoven symphonies. It’s incredible.”
Here are five of his favorite places to visit in London.
1. J.&A. Beare
“In August 2001, I walked into Charles Beare’s shop to pick up a set of strings, and Charles Beare said to me, ‘You have to take a look at the Huberman violin, it’s on its way to Germany.’” The instrument, made by Antonio Stradivari in 1713 and known as the Gibson ex Huberman, was legendary. “I knew the famous story of the violin,” Mr. Bell said, recounting its theft from a dressing room at Carnegie Hall in 1936.
“Charles Beare put me in a room with the violin and after a few notes, I was shaking with excitement. I was in love with it. I had a concert at the Royal Albert Hall — at the Proms — and used that violin that very night.”
Even if you’re not in the market for a multimillion-euro violin, J.&A. Beare is worth a visit. The shop is open to the public — but if you want to see the collection of nearly priceless violins, book ahead.
“I did an event in New York with Salman Rushdie,” Mr. Bell said. “At one point, we were talking about London and he recommended Trishna. I love Indian food, but Trishna is not your typical Indian…
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