Lily James is best known for playing the rebellious society beauty Lady Rose Aldridge in Downton Abbey and Natasha Rostova in the BBC adaptation ofWar and Peace. Last year, she played the lead in Disney’s Cinderella, directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, who directs her again this May in Romeo and Julietat the Garrick Theatre. The 26-year-old was born into stage life: both her father and grandmother were actors, and her partner is the actor Matt Smith. When not abroad, her home is in Hackney, east London.
How often do you travel?
A lot for work; this month I have flown every week between London and the United States, though I try to fit in holidays when I’m not working. Over New Year, I went to Goa in India and stayed in a little beach hut that was cheap and basic, but had all I needed. About 20 friends were there at the same time, so it was insane. We set off fireworks on the beach.
Had you been to India before?
Yes, for a month in a break from drama school. I travelled all over, to Kerala, Mumbai, the Himalayas, on trains. I love Indian trains – and the chai was so good I brought some back, with about 30 rugs, to sell at Columbia Road Market .
What do you need for a perfect holiday?
I like to go somewhere remote, with sunshine. I don’t mind if it’s cold, as long as it’s sunny. Plus, I need lovely people and a good book; I’m reading Young Woman and the Sea about the first woman, Trudy Ederle, to swim the Channel.
Earliest memory of travelling abroad?
Sitting with my two brothers on a brick wall overlooking the beach in Sitges, just outside Barcelona, eating ice cream.
Your most adventurous travel experience?
I recently went with a friend to south-east Asia for a month, which included Luang Prabang in Laos. We did a fantastic trip into the jungle, and cycled along the Mekong river , staying in local villages. In one village they had just one radio, and one night we went to a hut with some young people, and sat in a circle, drinking rice wine and listening to the radio. Although it was at the other end of the world, it reminded me of parties with my friends, sitting around, listening to music, and passing round the booze!
The most relaxing destination you’ve been to?
Qualia on Hamilton Island, Australia. It’s not often I get to escape and switch off totally and come back feeling amazing. We had a villa that was really secluded, with beautiful views, and I played chess all day, read and sunbathed. We also snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef and went by helicopter to Whitehaven Beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with turquoise waters, and white, white sand.
Have you ever been on safari?
Yes, to Elsa’s Kopje in Kenya, with my family. It was an amazing experience, with an infinity pool, and hippo and elephant. Sadly, there was a lot of poaching, so the elephants were nervous back then.
The Caves near Negril in Jamaica, which is built into the cliffs – you can jump off into the ocean. There was great snorkelling and a 24-hour bar.
Your favourite city for a weekend away?
New York. I am completely in love with it. I like the brightness, the sky and the water, the fact it has so much history, and such diversity and culture. It feels like anything’s possible. And it’s a city for walking, which I like.
Favourite restaurant abroad?
The best burger I have ever had was not in London or New York but in Vilnius, Lithuania, at Le Butcher. It was so good that the cast of War and Peace would go there every day. I also love the food in Florence, where I had amazing steak.
Favourite place for a drink?
The Bull & Last in Hampstead Heath, which feels like a proper English pub. The décor is lovely, the food is delicious and the Bloody Marys are amazing. All the best pubs are in North London – like The Flask in Highgate .
Favourite city for nightlife?
New York. Everywhere you go there’s life. But I’m not a big clubber. I prefer long dinners to cocktails.
Worst travel experience?
Losing my luggage in Russia.
Best travel advice?
Wear dungarees so you have a handy pocket on your chest for your ticket and passport. I also take melatonin to fight jet lag, and travel light, so I’m not carrying a really big rucksack and coat.
Things you always pack?
It depends where I am going. But I usually pack pretty light: all you really need is a skirt, a couple of shirts and some flip-flops.
Best beauty tips for travelling?
I always take Clarins Beauty Flash Balm to brighten my skin and Kate Somerville’s Quench lip gloss, and I drink lots of water.
What do you hate about holidays?
Nothing, although I am obsessed with putting on suncream so I don’t get tanned.
Where next for work?
Atlanta for five weeks to film a movie called Baby Driver. I have never been there before, and I have to make a friend with a Southern accent and hang out with them for a week so I get it right.
Where next on holiday?
Brazil, I hope. I like the look and sound of it, and I want to go dancing there. I love dancing.
Any country house hotel you’d recommend?
Babington House in Somerset. It’s got a great spa and you can walk straight out of the front door and into the woods.
I’d rather not go Wizz Air again; I flew with them to Lithuania to film War and Peace.