Paddington Bear said it best, “in London everyone is different, that means that anyone can fit in.” It only took my first ride on the tube to see that this is completely accurate depiction of London. There are so many different types of people in all different paths of life that all mesh into one title, a Londoner. I was completely energized by this realization and for the remainder of our days in London set out to discover what it was like for different people living in London. 4 days is not nearly enough time to achieve this, but here is our start; and I assure you we will be back to continue where we left off.
Views not to Miss:
The Shard is a skyscraper near the London Bridge with 87 floors and a viewpoint at the top over much of the London area. Tickets are steep at about 25 GBP for a single ticket and 35 GBP for a day and night combination ticket. You can also have a similar view for the price of a meal at the restaurant Duck & Waffles.
View of Big Ben through the Westminster Bridge
A recent construction project on big ben has foiled the aesthetics of this view for at least the next four years, but bookmark this for later. Near the St. Thomas hospital gardens across the Westminster Bridge from the Parliament building and big ben there is an arch way that perfectly showcases big ben – head this way for a great view!
The London Eye
Everyone says you have to do the London Eye once, so we paid our 40 GBP for a single loop around and enjoyed the views on a sunny day in London. The view really is spectacular and I would venture to guess its a while different experience by night! Buy tickets ahead of time to skip the line and get a slightly reduced price.
Things to do:
The Churchill War Rooms
For the history buff’s, the Churchill war rooms is a very interesting museum that includes the actual underground cabinet war rooms of the British government command center during world war II and an interactive museum to show the background of Winston Churchill’s life and background. Book tickets a head of time to skip all the lines and walk right in! We spent about 2 hours exploring this museum.
Explore Notting Hill and the Portobello Market
One of the most colorful, floral and posh neighborhoods of London is Notting Hill. Home to the famous Portobello Market, there are many reasons to come check out this neighborhood. I liked walking the streets and picking out a brightly colored house to pretend I owned. We also loved walking the Portobello market and stopping into any shops that looked like they had something interesting to offer. There are tons of great unique gifts – we found some cufflinks made out of clock parts here and picked up a few pairs! We started out early in the morning at one of the many brunch spots in the area and explored the market by mid-morning. By noon this area is packed so try to stop by earlier in the day if time permits.
Gordon’s Wine Bar, 47 Villiers Street London
Gordon’s is the oldest wine bar in London. Love by locals and tourist alike, this place has a great atmosphere. On a nice day you can enjoy some wine and appetizers out on the bustling patio, or if you are like us and wanted to get some of the experience we sat at a table in one of the cellar rooms, which were dark and cool but had an awesome atmosphere to it. You actually had to duck down as you walked. Being a wine bar and being in London we fully expected to be paying a pretty penny for a couple of bottle of wine to share with the group, but surprising you can find pretty reasonable good bottles of wine for around 17-20 GBP. Have fun and always remember “In Vino Veritas”!
Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, London
Any gastronome in London has been to the famed Borough Market, a gigantic food market in the Souhwark area near the tower Bridge which is still on the site of the oldest food market in London. Here you can find any type of food that you are dreaming of to eat. For us, we were dreaming of tacos and therefore our noses and stomachs lead us right to some Mexican food. And then out of nowhere we spotted a plate of cheese fries with brisket and ate that as well.
Take an artsy trip to Shoreditch
Shoreditch is a trendy and artsy area of London easily accessible by the tube. Here you can find abundant boutiques selling the most unique finds. If you are visiting on a Sunday, you shouldn’t miss out on the Brick Lane Sunday market which offers incredible street food and vintage gift finds. Close to my heart is the wonderfully vibrant weekend Columbia Road Flower Market which makes the narrow streets of Shoreditch come alive with color.
Play the role in Belgravia
Belgravia is part of the Westminster borough and is one of the wealthiest districts in the world. The residential doorsteps are immaculate and the shop window displays are sprawling. This is where you can find the floral facades of Le Sentures (a perfume shop) and Peggy Porschen Cakes (a bakery). There are also multiple Michelin star restaurants in the neighborhood if you want to treat yourself here.
The Queen’s Way towards the Tower Bridge
Besides the Parliament and Big Ben, the Tower Bridge is on of the most iconic pieces of architecture in London. Get off at the London Bridge tube station and walk the Queen’s Way along the water which connects the London Bridge to the Tower Bridge. You will pass Horniman on the Hay’s on this route which is a former tea warehouse turned into a pub and is beautifully decorated. This is a great place to stop in for some lunch.
St. Dunstan in the East
Here’s a recommendation you probably won’t find in a Rick Steves guidebook. St. Dunstan in the East was a church in England that was almost completely destroyed during WWII and it was decided not to rebuild the church. Instead today, it serves a garden haven where you can find some quietness and solidarity in the middle of a bustling city. The trees and bushes have also grown around crumbled the walls of the church which provided an extra dose of serenity.
Attend a football match
England is home to the oldest international football club in the world, and many have claimed that football actually originated in England as there is written evidence of the game being played during the medieval times in England as early as 1170! Today there are 13 professional football teams in England so there is more than enough opportunities to catch a game if your are a sports fan. Our household is a Chelsea fan, and we are the newest members of the Chelsea Football Club, a membership you need to even purchase tickets to a Chelsea home game.
Notable Brunch Spots:
Saint Aymes, 59 Connaught St, London
Famous for their 24ct gold cutlery and their Gold Cappuccino, this cute little chocolate shop covered in pretty purple wisteria offers up dreamy little experience. We ordered the Nutella pancakes and opted for the regular cappuccinos and were there right at the opening (10AM) and got a spot next to the gorgeous flowery wall that lines the back end of the shop. The patio is also a nice place to enjoy your breakfast! If you are taking an easy morning and feel like stopping by this picturesque little shop it is relatively close to Westminster Abbey.
Elan Café, 48 Park Lane Mayfair, London
Speaking of cute brunch spots right on the edge of Hyde Park also near Westminster Abbey sits Elan Café. Also quirky and picturesque, stop in for one of many cakes and tarts or try one of the lovely egg dishes. The eggs benedict was as delicious as it was pretty and the carrot cake was nothing less than divine.
Farm Girl Café, 59A Portbello Road, Notting Hill, London
When you have to decide between the rose latte and the lavender latte, you know you are brunching in London’s Notting Hill. The Farm Girl is a laid back spot that offers a farm to table concept and gluten free options. Every meal we saw pass up by looked delicious. If you are in ton during wisteria season, this place has a treat in store for you!
Duck & Waffle, 110 Bishopsgate, London
Duck and Waffle is a 24 hour restaurant serving up with many specialties that transition beautifully from breakfast into dinner into late night all while boasting a view from the 40th floor over London’s financial district around the corner from the Liverpool Street tube station. If you want a table for dinner, it is a must to book a few months in advance. Personally I want to watch the sunrise here one morning over on of their signature savory waffles!
Sketch, 9 Conduit street
Sketch is made up of a few different uniquely decorated restaurants and dining rooms. Two of which are open for breakfast, the Parlour and the Glade. The Gallery is the baby pink restaurant which is best known for their afternoon tea. Reservations are definitely suggested.
Dalloway Terrace, 16 – 22 Great Russell Street, London
The decorations in the outdoor terrace change with the seasons and it is oh so cozy and perfect! The weekend brunch is a special, and the eggs benedict looks fabulous, but you can make this a lunch stop as well or a well deserved break for afternoon tea!
Places to Eat:
Wan Chai Corner, 3 Gerrard Street, London – Dim Sum in China Town
I love Asian food and this place was a great and affordable pick smack dab in the middle of London’s Chinatown. It has plenty of seating on its multiple levels and we just popped in for a late lunch after moseying around Westminster Abbey. Honestly, pick anything from the menu and I promise it will not be bad. Most dim sum dishes are about 2-3 GBP and come with about 3-4 pieces. We would suggest an order of fried rice and picking a handful of dim sum dishes for a filling and cheap lunch for being in the heart of London.
The Mayfair Chippy, 14 North Audley Street, Mayfair, London – Fish and Chips
Nothing is more quintessentially British than a plate of fish and chips. There are many places to get good fish and chips in London and we can recommend the Mayfair Chippy as well. The fish was fresh and the atmosphere was lively. We did not make a reservation ahead of time and they found room for us because it was 2pm. If you know this is where you want to go, call ahead.
Churchill Arms,119 Kensington Church Street, London – Notting Hill
This is a pub that serves delicious Thai food, with one of the most floral facades that I have ever seen. The flowers are maintained all year round, so don’t be discouraged from visiting in cooler months. If you are looking for a casual dinner spot with a fun atmosphere this is your place.
Dishoom, 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane – Soho
This is a highly talked about Indian restaurant that is modeled after the Irani cafes in Bombay which almost cease to exist today. Paying homage to the legacy, the owners of Dishoom bring this experience to London with all of the same qualities without the fuss and expense of a pricey metropolitan restaurant. We have only heard great things and as new found Indian food lovers, we can’t wait to try it out next time we are in London. If you have been – let us know your thoughts!
Flat Iron, 17 Beak Street, London – Soho
This one is perfect for a guys-night and comes as a recommendation from a friend who spent time living in London. You have one option for a main course, skirt steak, and you can personalize your steak with different sides for a reasonable price. We stuck to the basics and had some steaks and chips along with some very nice cocktails.
The Vault, 3 Greek Street, London – Soho
If the finer things in life head over to this fun little speakeasy whiskey bar. The entrance is a secret door disguised as a bookshelf at the back of another bar called Milroy’s in Soho. Straight through this door, down down some stairs and you will find the Vault. We made a reservation as it is a bit smaller of a space and there was a point in the night were it got rather crowded, so we recommend to call ahead. The staff were very helpful in guiding us through the whiskey menu based on our preferences. Or in my case if no whiskey is your preference, they have delicious champagne cocktails too. It can be a bit pricey depending on your tastes but overall I would strongly suggest a visit!
Cheers to a great time exploring London!