Joshua Bell’s London

“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.


“One of the problems with classical music is that it’s developed a reputation of formality,” Mr. Bell said. “In fact, classical music can be the most exciting thing to watch.”

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.