You’re going for the history, drinking, markets and parks. Plus, it’s a great jumping off point for traveling around Europe, and the food is actually good despite its bad rap.
Heathrow Closer to the west side of London, the Heathrow Express from Paddington is the quickest way to get there. Ubers are similar in cost, especially if there are two of you—just check traffic. Gatwick The Gatwick Express is 30 minutes from Victoria station or the National Rail from London Tower Bridge gets you there (a bit slower). London City Solid airport that’s close to the east side. Stansted/Luton, where budget airlines fly from, are both located much farther outside and take longer to get to with ~express~ trains available.
Black Cabs Black cabs offer more of an experience but are pricier than the tube/bus. Uber tends to be the least expensive option, but their rules keep changing so check their website for updates.
Oyster Card Use to get around via tube or bus; remember you need to tap out for the tube as you exit (not the bus). Citymapper is a great app to use for schedules.
good to know
Best Time to Go July, August and September have the best weather, but London during Christmas time is pretty special, especially with Winter Wonderland set up.
Zebra Crossing When you see a black-and-white striped post at a crosswalk, this means pedestrians have the right of way
One of the more iconic neighborhoods in London, especially after the rom com Notting Hill, you can expect to see hoards of people posing in front both the bookstore and the blue door behind which Hugh Grant supposedly lived. Market days are extremely busy (but fun) and off days are quiet and pleasant.
eats & drinks
Lowry and Baker This is the cutesy cafe that you want to live around the corner from. It has charm, quirk and is a little funky, not to mention tiny. You can expect the staff behind the counter to know the names of the regular customers, ask about their lives and take care of their dogs. Two friends opened it together, naming it after their grandmothers, and filled it with cute, colorful tables and chairs as well as a snug outdoor area. The shop is cash-only, and it offers great avocado toast, egg dishes, coffee and soups for breakfast and lunch. Thursdays through Saturdays it does wine and dinner with outdoor seating available at all times.
The Tin Shed Small and off the main drag, this quiet cafe serves fantastic breads and coffee. It’s a good place to do some work or meet a friend.
Ottolenghi Full of flavorful, colorful vegetables and mouth-watering pastries, this is a perfect sit-down or take-away spot for coffee, fresh salads, chocolate-dipped macaroons and granola. A small seating area is available on the lower level.
Il Mediterraneo Located on a quieter and cuter street off of Portobello road, this Italian restaurant has a family feel to it and almost feels like you’re stepping into a busy trattoria in Rome.
Pizza East While we are technically west, Pizza East has two outposts in Shoreditch and at the end of Portobello Road. They offer fantastic pizza for England— somewhere this New Yorker often visited—with a more Neopolitan, fancy-style toppings than a straight-up New York slice. The vibe inside is buzzy with the brick oven in full view. The vegetables, salads and cocktails are as good as the pizza. Also kid-friendly with some outdoor seating.
Lisboa Patisserie If you’re a fan of the Portuguese custard tarts, then this cafe is a must-stop for you. Bare-boned, old school service with a similar set of clientele gathered on the metal tables outside, they almost look like they’ve been gathering there for decades, and probably have been.
Snaps + Rye A Danish restaurant that embodies the clean aesthetic of the country and offers a variety of smorbrod (open-faced toasts) made daily and on display behind a glass counter. The house-cured salmon and herring are fantastic, and check out the kedgeree and porridge when you want something warming. The coffee was also fantastic, and you might want to steal the serviceware (apparently some guests actually do).
Kipferal Hunkering a warming Hungarian goulash? This is the place to get it along with classic Austrian coffee and fare.
Nama When you need a break from eating and drinking, this adorable raw, vegan restaurant is the place to go, just a couple of blocks away from Portobello road. Try the vegan desserts, freshly made juices and healthy dishes.
Osteria Basilico Il Mediterraneo’s sister restaurant located on the same block, it offers the same charm and a slightly more subdued vibe. Both offer indoor and outdoor seating.
Granger & Co This will be on many lists; however, it is more hype than it is worth For brunch especially, the line might wrap around the block most times of day. Either go early, go late or be prepared to wait.
Happy Donuts Located on Portobello Road, just beneath the bridge, this little stand has plenty of fresh doughnuts for you to choose from. It opens around 11, which is when the doughnuts are the freshest. Plan your day accordingly.
Churchill Arms Located in Kensington, a few blocks from Notting Hill gate, this is one of London’s oldest pubs and is known (and often photographed) for its gorgeous flower displays as well as the fact that it was one of the first pubs to start serving Thai food, which is actually really good. The memorabilia inside is worth checking out as well.
Walmer Castle Conveniently located across the street from Ottolenghi, it has a quintessential pub feel with library books, big cozy chairs and small nooks. The upstairs area offers even more space.
Trailer Happiness A tiki bar that serves well-balanced and fun drinks in an underground and well-decorated setting is a great way to close out the night. It’s located on Portobello road and is easy to miss during the business of market days.
The Oak A classy pub and cocktail bar located upstairs, making it a good place to duck into for a drink. It gets busier during the later hours of the day.
The Cow A local favorite for oysters and pub food, it’s casual with no frills but all of the charm that comes with that type of institution. Sit outside and enjoy the people watching at Westbourne pub, just across the way.
see & do
Portobello Road Market The colorful buildings and windy Portobello Road starts near Notting Hill gate and ends in Ladbroke Grove at Golborne Road — a hotbed of new and old restaurants. For the best route, take the tube to the Ladbroke Grove stop and then wander your way down. Friday and Saturday are the busiest days of the market, which fills the street with different vendors selling fruits, vegetables, produce, flowers and clothing. Some are great, some not-so great but all worth wandering through. Sundays are closed with it open a few other days of the week (good to check the Portobello Market schedule ahead of time to make sure).
The Canals The canals run east to west and you can hop onto them just behind the Westbourne road area and walk or run through Little Venice/Maida Vale and toward King’s Cross, eventually hitting Angel beyond it. It’s a great place for running as well as walks. The riverboats that line the canal banks are great for people watching and there are often festivals over the weekends.
Holland Park Technically in Kensington, this park offers wooden trails, Japanese gardens and massive koi fish. An open field is good for picnicking and a small lot with stretching equipment is good for runners. It’s not too far from Notting Hill Gate, if that’s where you find yourself at some point. You can also go for a run in a loop around the edges.
Westbourne Road Filled with cute shops and a large Space NK, this road is perfect for window shopping and browsing if you want some respite from the business of the market (it’s also where Granger & Co is located and nearby Ottolenghi).
Notting Hill Bookstore It might not have the largest selection of books, and there is a bookstore around the corner, but it is worth popping into, even just to bypass the hoards of people outside and see Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts heads’ hanging inside. The famous ‘blue door’ is one street up, closer to Portobello Road.
Jeroboams A thoughtful wine store with a well-priced selection and friendly service.
Notting Hill Farmer’s Market On Saturday’s from 9 am until one pm, there’s a market near Notting Hill Gate tucked inside a parking lot. You’ll see signs for it by the tube entrance, near the bookstore. If you can go in late June and July, there are the best cherries from Kent that I’ve ever had. He’s only at the market for about three weeks, and you’ll know where he’ll be because the his stand will have the longest line there is and sells out well before noon. He’s incredibly friendly and will pass down a pint of cherries for you to enjoy while you wait. Buy as many as you can.
Daylesford A restaurant, grocery store, cafe and home goods shop that’s wonderful for any or all of those needs. They sell Bamford products as well as bowls, aprons and linens that you’ll want to buy (but they are pricey).
Neal’s Yard Located off of Portobello road, this apothecary offers lotions, face creams, medicinal tinctures made just for you and smells great. Their rose balm is a super versatile product that can be used as a face mask, cream and for hands. It’s perfect for the plane. They have locations all over London.
Sangye Yoga Formerly the Jivamukti studio, it is now an affiliate branch and offers classes throughout the day in a similar style.
Iyengar Institute Located in Maida Vale, a more residential neighborhood that houses Little Venice and is near Notting Hill, the institute is visually beautiful with a tranquil setting in the trees. You’ll hear birds singing as you practice, surrounded by lush green grass and white walls.
Find our breakdown of London’s yoga scene here
Central London covers Covent Garden, Soho, Mayfair and Fitzrovia. Recommendations are listed below with the corresponding neighborhood.
eats & drinks
Dishoom With several locations, this Indian restaurant offers more tapas-style dining and is always packed. They only take reservations for six or more for dinner (breakfast and lunch are available). If you go after six most evenings, expect a two-hour wait, but you can enjoy fresh mint tea while you wait in line. Covent Garden and Soho.
Barbary Located in Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, this restaurant features food influenced by flavors and spices from numerous countries, especially that of the Barbary coast. There’s an open kitchen and fantastic desserts (labeled Heaven on the menu). Covent Garden
Terroirs A cozy and rustic wine bar with delicious food, it feels like more of a sommelier’s wine bar than for the average tourist. Fear not, the staff is helpful and welcoming and will guide you toward the best choice for you that evening. Covent Garden
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturales A wine bar with a focus on natural wines that also serves small bites like charcuterie, cheese and delicious sandwiches. Covent Garden/Seven Dials
Barrafina With a location in Soho and Covent Garden, this no-reservation Spanish tapas restaurant is absurdly popular for good reason. While we love the countertops at the latter location for it’s almost diner-like feel, the Soho one has a more Spanish resemblance and is smaller. You’re often allowed to drink/order while in line, which is a good thing because you might end up waiting for a bit of time. Covent Garden and Soho
The Ivy Market Grill A more casual version of the upscale (and often scene-y) Ivy on West street, the restaurant offers outdoor seating on a terrace when the weather permits and has several rooms inside. The menu serves upscale steakhouse cuisine but with a variety of salads, seafood and other dishes, so it’s easy to find something for everyone. The food will not blow you away, but it is good and reliable, which come in hand in this tourist-filled neighborhood. Covent Garden
Gordan’s Wine Bar The oldest wine bar that was a former wine cave in London is full of tourists and locals because it has a vibe that makes you want to sit and chat, whether it’s inside or outside. It’s noisy, crowded but also a great experience. Lunch and dinner is where you can order drinks and food from two different counters—their cheese and meat plates are fantastic. It’s close to the Embankment tube stop and a short walk over the bridge to the London Eye. Covent Garden
Somerset House With restaurants like Tom’s Kitchen, that has a fabulous space overlooking the river in the summer and offers accessible and shareable food all year round, and an ice skating rink in the center, this gorgeous building is located below the Strand and offers a variety of things to see as well as eat. Covent Garden
Nopi The formal restaurant in Ottolenghi’s London empire, it offers the same presentation of colorful, fresh vegetable displays with more composed and intricate plates that keep in mind the blending of flavors and ingredients from around the world. The restaurant has an upstairs with more conventional tables and a bar, while downstairs offers views of the kitchen at a communal table. Make sure to check out the bathroom, with its abundance of mirrors perfect for anyone with a little vanity in them. Soho
Ducksoup A natural wine bar and restaurant that’s intimate and cozy (read small but lively) and serves delicious small plates. Soho
Social Eating House Part of chef Jason Atherton’s London empire, which has recently expanded internationally, this restaurant is on the more casual side and is great for sharing small plates and for groups. Upstairs is the Blind Pig, an equally fantastic bar for drinks pre-dinner. Soho
Bao While it might be most famous for its buns, anyone who works or walks past this area will also know it for the ever-constant line in front of Prete, across the street from this sleek, minimalist and tiny restaurant. Is it good? Yes. Worth the wait? Eh. A plus is that you can get pints to-go from the pub across street and enjoy while waiting. Soho and Fitzrovia
Blacklock Sunday Roast is basically a better version of American brunch and an excuse to eat and drink a lot. You can choose from either a roasted meat or veg with a variety of sides to enjoy—kind of like a Thanksgiving dinner on a Sunday. Soho
Workshop One of the better coffee shops in London, it’s technically located in Marylebone off of Regent street (there’s also another in Fitzrovia) but it’s much closer to the Soho end of things. It’s tucked in a small square, surrounded by shops and restaurants, which can be equally as fun to browse. Soho
Salt Yard A solid restaurant in Soho that’s not too fancy or too casual and just right for an easy meal. Think of it as somewhere you’d go on a Tuesday or Wednesday night with friends but are equally happy going to over the weekend. Tapas style dining with some actual Spanish tapas like patatas bravas and croquetes and also European-influenced small bites like crab arancini and truffle mac n’ cheese. Soho
Bone Daddies A casual ramen shop that doesn’t take reservations that’s perfect for a lunch to warm you up or a quick dinner. There are some other locations, like in the Whole Foods Kensington and Shoreditch. Soho
Hoppers Delicious Sri Lankan cuisine in a casual, relaxed setting. Good for a low-key night. The Soho location doesn’t take reservations and can be a bit of a wait. It’s more crowded with a lively vibe than it’s sister location. Soho and Marylebone
Gymkhana Voted best restaurant in London one year, the two-story Gymkhana has an active, lively vibe that’s offset with a bit of pretension for the Mayfair crowd aka corporate cards (most five-star hotels are in this area). Getting a reservation can be really tough and typically requires the assistance of a concierge or familiarity with the restaurant. The lower level is more casual and great, but the real charm is the more upscale upstairs. The same great food and delicious lamb chops is served at both settings, so fear not. Just don’t skip ordering that one. You can easily go here for lunch or dinner, but it might be a bit easier to get a table during the day. Mayfair
Fera at Claridges Contemporary fine dining at one of London’s most prestigious and beautiful Art Deco hotels. The hotel is full of charm and exceptional service, which carries over to the restaurant. The food is interesting and exciting without being exceptionally memorable. Go for a splurge meal in a comfortable and relaxed setting. Mayfair
Raw Press Think California meets London and you’ve got Raw Press. Make-your-own chia bowls, cold-pressed juices and addictive vegan treats as well as a delicious salad bar are things you’ll find at this Mayfair location and the one in Sloane Square. Mayfair
Pollen Street Social A fancier Jason Atherton restaurant that’s Michelin starred, this sleek contemporary interior has a warm feel and is a great backdrop for the carefully crafted food that comes. Expect several amuses, intricate plating and boxes filled with smoke. Mayfair
Clipstone With wines on tap and seasonal British cuisine, this laid-back and relaxed restaurant is a great choice when looking for high quality food without a stuffy atmosphere. Fitzrovia
Berners Tavern Located inside the London Edition, the restaurant—by chef Jason Atherton—is beautiful to look at it with its intricate high ceilings, wooden paneling and gold-framed paintings. The bar is first-come, first-serve and also serves dinner, which is great if you get there early as it can be tricky to get a booking. It’s also ideal for a pre-dinner cocktail. Fitzrovia
Riding House Cafe Posing as a great cocktail bar and restaurant, this eatery is great for meals, especially brunch, and is just off of Oxford street and away from the busy craziness. It’s casual, buzzy vibe makes it a popular place for the early 30s-ish crowd. Fitzrovia
Mr. Fogg’s Residence This fantastic cocktail bar has over 80 drinks served on the menu and is meant to be inspired by travels around the world. Make a booking and enjoy the tiny seats, funky decor and comfortable nooks throughout the space. Also related to it are Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlor in Covent Garden and Mr. Fogg’s Tavern in Mayfair, both work checking out after you visit the original.
Lamb and Flag A historic London pub hidden on a small street away from the crowds of Covent Garden. Covent Garden
Bar & Co When the weather is nice, take advantage to go outside, sit on a boat on the Thames and people watch. The scene might be mixed, but the setting is so lovely with the views of Big Ben that you will have a great time. Covent Garden-ish
Opium Located in Chinatown, a hop skip away, this speakeasy is easy to spot because it’s the place with the big scary bouncer standing outside (otherwise can be a bit tricky if he happens to be inside). You probably need a booking because the multi-floor townhouse gets booked up quickly. It offers a range of creative and classic cocktails as well as dim sum. Soho/Chinatown
Duck & Dog A cozy and relaxed pub in Soho that’s worth visiting for a pint. There’s no fuss about it. Stand outside, drinking on a perch or sit at one of the few tables inside. Soho
Golden Lion A larger pub in Soho near Duck and Dog that’s good for a pint or two when it’s chilly outside. Or really just anytime. Soho
Dean Street Townhouse Part of the Soho House group, the food is solid with an outdoor area for drinks. Soho
Mark’s Bar Beneath Hix restaurant, this bar lets in a limited amount of people to keep the atmosphere tame, making it a good place to get a table or cozy couch and chat (also meaning it can sometimes be difficult to get into). Drinks are solid and typically use mostly British ingredients. Soho
Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel The hotel is composed of a string of former apartments linked together, including the apartment where the Jungle Book was written. Agatha Christie was a frequent guest and used the hotel as a base for one of her books. The most interesting fact, however, is that the first telephone call was made in the hotel — you can see the memorialized phone on the wall. The bar is hopping with dim lighting, a solid selection of classic cocktails and great for romantic dinners or intimate work drinks. Make a booking ahead if you can. Mayfair
The American Bar at the Stafford This boutique hotel is located off of Green Park with a secret tunnel that leads from the park path directly to the hotel (ask the hotel staff and they’ll gladly point it out to you.) The American Bar inside has fantastic decor with low ceilings and soft lighting, it’s a great place to gather with a group of friends for a drink or to recoup after a long day of walking outside. It almost feels like a secrete hideaway from the chaos of London. Mayfair
see & do
Hyde Park With the Serpentine filled with paddle boats in the summer and swimmers, the stunning Princess Diana memorial, two cafes as well as a small cluster of trees that are home to parrots, Hyde Park is probably the most famous park in London, for good reason. It’s a beautiful place to walk or jog through to take in the acres of greenery, walk along the water or observe the various art sculptures in the park and in the gallery.
Changing of the Guards A somewhat overwhelming event at Buckingham Palace as it becomes exceptionally crowded and pedestrians are not allowed to cross as the entire thing is taken quite seriously. St James Park is across the way, another beautiful park to wander through if your legs haven’t given up on you already.
Royal Gallery Near Piccadilly Square, which feels like London’s version of Time Square but not quite as abrasive, the Royal Gallery offers small exhibitions of works and is a manageable place to pop into during the day. It makes you feel like you’re doing something cultural and you can be out in less than 30 minutes (win!)
London Portrait Gallery Located in Trafalgar Square, near Covent Garden, this is another museum that can be visited during the day and then you can head to Terroirs for some drinks and snacks to reward yourself for being cultural.
TriYoga With Locations in Camden and other parts of London, the Carnaby Street location is charming and located inside a small collection of stores. It has a bit of a corporate feel, akin to YogaWorks in NY/LA, but it’s clean with solid teachers and bodywork available in some locations.
Corinthia Spa One of the more luxurious and pampering spas in London, it offers single sex and gendered wet areas so you can go solo or with your boo. Think dim lighting surrounding a sauna, whirlpool and steam room with relaxation beds sprinkled throughout. Not to mention the delicious vegan energy snacks and coconut water available in the adjacent gym, access to which is included in the spa booking.
A quiet and upscale part of central London and more on the west side, it's residential but offers a high street for shopping, eating and drinking.
eats & drinks
La Fromagerie This magnificent cheese shop also offers fresh produce and wooden booths and tables for guests to enjoy tapas-style dining or larger plates while sipping on wine and hopefully snacking on cheese. It offers indoor and outdoor seating—when the weather permits. Marylebone
Trishna Make a reservation and get excited to have one of the better lamb chops in the city. With a great cocktail and wine list, the dinner ambiance at Trishna is relaxed and elegant. It’s also the sister restaurant of Gymkhana, another phenomenal Indian restaurant in Mayfair. They have different vibes (but equally as great lamb chops) and are worth checking out if you’re a fan of Indian food. Marylebone
Vinoteca A cozy sit-down restaurant on Seymour street—a small section of this street that’s around the corner from Marble Arch has a bunch of great restaurants, pubs and cafes—that’s perfect for a solid and delicious Italian meal without pretension or fuss. Marylebone
Jikoni This restaurant offers a blend of Indian and other Middle Eastern cuisines with English fare. Marylebone
Fairuz A casual and low-key Lebanese restaurant in the heart of Marylebone, it is conveniently located right off of the high street. Marylebone
Grazing Goat A casual restaurant located inside a small inn, the Grazing Goat offers slightly upscale English cuisine and has a warming vibe inside. Good for group dinners or a quick meal when you’re tired and want something easy. Marylebone
Hopper’s The second outpost of this delicious family-style Sri Lankan restaurant opened in Marylebone
Mae Deli A healthy take away and casual sit down restaurant from the Instagram blogger and cookbook author Deliciously Ella — follow her on insta, those pics seriously make my morning porridge and berry bowls look sad as her’s are always gorgeous! Breakfast offers porridge and acai bowls and lunch healthy soups, rice bowls, vegan snacks or juice. (She also has a Neal’s Yard location in Covent Garden.) Marylebone
Workshop A coffee shop that has several locations around London and is one of my favorites. It doesn’t have a big food selection though, more pastries, sandwiches and brownie bites — literally bite-sized pieces of brownie, kind of genius. Marylebone
Purl A cozy, dimly lit cave-like cocktail bar, Purl is great for an intimate date-like experience with cozy booths and comfortable armchairs. Expect cocktails to come with flare such as scented smoke and tableside shows. A booking is highly recommended. Marylebone
The Marylebone A popular, upscale pub with great cocktails that’s located on the high street. Great for an afternoon pint or pre-dinner drinks. Marylebone
The Kings Head A classic and very British pub with a small outdoor area. Marylebone
The Artesian Winner of the World’s Best Cocktail bar, this upscale and very pricey craft cocktail bar located in the Langham hotel in London is worth a visit for one drink. More than that and you might go broke. Expect cocktails to be exceptionally thoughtful in their presentation, such as gold trunks to be opened and explored as well as giant ant-like gold models, especially ones from the Salvador Dali-inspired portion of the menu. Marylebone
Chiltern Firehouse Nuno Mendes’s upscale restaurant comes with high prices and the want-to-be seen crowd. Go for a drink. Marylebone
see & do
Regent’s Park One of the more beautiful parks in London, it is beautiful to walk or run through to observe the swans, canals and the Queen Mary’s rose garden which is stunning when they are in bloom as there are over 12,000 roses planted. This park is a royal park, which means it gets extra attention and money. The English are big on picnics and drinking is allowed in public, so… This would be a great time to get a bottle of wine, beer and some snacks and take a little nappy in the park. There’s a large cafe near the open-air theater where you can purchase all the booze and snacks you need. If you’re there in the summer, the theater also offers plays at night such as Shakespeare.
Oxford and Regent Streets While they are super crowded and touristy, they are worth seeing with the architecture being particularly stunning. There are some great places to wander in, like Liberty, which is a high-end, multi-floor high-end department store located in a Tudor-style structure with a floral signature print that comes at a high cost (kind of like a Bergdorfs). Right behind it is Carnaby Street that’s a pedestrian walkway with lots of shops and restaurants on either side.You can pop into other major department stores like Selfridges (there’s a Netflix series about the founder) and John Lewis for slightly discounted items. Or, if you’re not in the mood for these types of stores, you can wander over to Charlotte street and pop into the Charlotte Street Hotel for a drink, snack or observe the adorable windy streets that take you there.
Marylebone High Street Filled with boutiques and brands like Sandro, Maje, Koopel’s, Neal’s Yard etc., as well as local stores, it is a good place to stroll on the way to Hyde Park or Regent’s Park.
Daunt Books An expansive bookstore with a beautiful wooden interior set off by intricate glasswork. While it’s geared to travelers, it also offers a variety of non-travel books like a more typical bookstore. Definitely worth popping into if you’re someone who still likes to hold a book in their hands.
Indaba Yoga Studio Offering a variety of classes, from Forrest yoga to heated vinyasa, this studio is one of my favorites in London with a warm, friendly vibe. It also has locker rooms and showers upstairs.
Below the Thames river (pronouned tems), the borough of Southwark (pronounced suth-uck) houses neighborhoods like Bermondsey and city icons like London Tower Bridge, the Shard, Borough Market and others.
eats & drinks
Padella A fantastic (and inexpensive) Italian restaurant near Borough Market. The catch is that it doesn’t take reservations. Go early, put your name down and, either drink in line if there is one, or go around the corner and get some drinks. Pastas are small so you can get away with ordering quite a few. Don’t skip the cacio e pepe (sometimes subbed with the pici).
The Gong The bar on the 52nd floor of the Shard, the gorgeous glass building seen from most of London, offers amazing views of the river and city. If you’re there in the summer, you’ll be able to enjoy daylight views until about 10pm and even catch the sunset, if it happens to not be cloudy or rainy (good luck). Night views are equally as enjoyable with the city lit up and giving off a magical feel.
Tom’s Kitchen With a location along the river on the way to the bridge, it is a solid place to stop in for dinner or drinks.
Borough Market While this used to be more of an underground market, it is the oldest market in Europe and is now booming and beautiful. It will be packed with tourists, but it’s still worth going to see and eat. Check the market’s site for its schedule as the food stalls are not always there (there is usually a large center area with individual food carts in addition to the more established stalls/stores inside the market). It’s great to browse and pick up fruits for later or eat a massive salt beef (corn beef) sandwich.
Maltby Street Market Hopefully, you’ve arrived with a large appetite because this little nook of food shops is full of eating and drinking options. I’d recommend a lap up and down before committing to anything. This narrow street/alley has tons of small vendors and restaurants and can feel really crowded as you jostle for space, but the vibe is great. It’s only open on Saturdays and Sundays so plan accordingly. There’s also a fantastic gin distillery called Little Bird that’s a little bit away from the madness, so you can always replenish there before going back for seconds. The whole neighborhood is great for a stroll and getting lost in the cute little streets.
Druid Street One block over from Maltby, this is basically a strip of places to get pints of beer and stand outside. It’s like a mini outdoor frat party.
see & do
Brixton Market An indoor collection of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops that’s a lot farther south and more of somewhere to go once you’ve explored this area and other parts of London. Mama Lan is a good dumpling place to check out there.
London Tower Bridge Worth walking to and along the river to see it.
London Eye Across from the Embankment and Covent Garden, this is just as enjoyable from afar for the photo op and visual of the Thames and is not necessary to actually wait in line and visit (booking tickets ahead is a good idea). It’s not my thing, but maybe it’s yours. If you walk along one of the many bridges, you can also get a snapshot of Big Ben, Westminster, etc.
Running along the river is a good way to get your photo shot and some exercise, but it can get tricky with tourists on the sidewalk.
East London, which encompasses Shoreditch, the borough of Islington (which houses Angel), Dalston and Bethnal Green, can broadly be characterized as a more hip and fun place to go out and live than the west side. The west side, more or less, is a little cleaner and a little more proper.
eats & drinks
Brawn Located on Columbia road, this restaurant serves upscale British fare and is from the team behind Terroirs. Well-priced and comfortable inside, it’s solid choice for group dinners or a high quality food in a casual and rustic setting. Bethnal Green
Paradise Road Located in East London, this is a small strip of street with a ton of restaurants and is a fun place to hang out when the weather is nice. Bethnal Green
Typing Room Typing Room offers a relatively well-priced tasting menu in a quiet yet hip atmosphere. Bethnal Green
The Laughing Heart A late-night wine bar that serves natural wines (and also sells them) with fantastic food. The staff is friendly, the vibe relaxed and is a great place to have an early or late-night dinner. Bethnal Green
The Noble Rot In a bit of a random area, this restaurant/wine bar has high quality food and an even better wine list. Most are natural, and the knowledgable staff can guide you to the right choice. Don’t skip the bread plate. Bloomsbury
Culpeper A large, always crowded pub with a rooftop, this is an easy choice on Commercial street to have a few drinks, especially if you are waiting for Gunpowder to text you when your table is ready. It’s a three-minute walk away, so put your name down at Gunpowder then head over to Culpeper for a drink or two. Or, three. Spitalfields
Ottolenghi Located on a windy, narrow street a few steps from Spitalfields, this is the largest Ottolenghi with tons of seating area in a clean, white space. Spitalfields
Lyle’s Lyle’s specializes in game meats and British cuisine and is more on the upscale side with difficult-to-get reservations. Shoreditch
Pizza East Solid, slightly fancy pizza in London (their other outpost is in Notting Hill). It’s a bit like Mozza in LA with a casual vibe. Shoreditch
Dishoom Casual, tapas-style Indian that’s really good and well-priced with delicious drinks. While there will most likely be a wait, it’s in the neighborhood, if you want to go there. They don’t take reservations. Shoreditch
Bone Daddies A great ramen spot with other locations in Central London, it’s perfect for bone-chilling rainy London days. Shoreditch
The Pig and Butcher With locally sourced meats and craft beers, this cozy restaurant is good pick for a Sunday roast, lunch or weekday dinner. Islington
Tayaabs A bit of an institution, it’s BYOB, crowded and you’ll highly likely walk out of there smelling like a mix between lamb chops and spices. If you end up going, head down the street to the Discount Suit Company for delicious cocktails in a speakeasy type setting. Whitechapel
Bourne & Hollingsworth Bright with comfortable couches and greenhouse seating, this is a fantastic place to come with friends to get boozy. Brunch offers unlimited mimosa’s and Bloody Mary’s for two hours (they do start the clock), but the cocktail menu itself is great. Clerkenwell
Callooh Calley Well-balanced Tiki drinks with a funky menu that lets you keep track of what you’ve tried with stickers to mark on the menu. Shoreditch
Princess of Shoreditch Casual, intimate pub in Shoreditch that’s not a scene with a small outdoor area for standing. Shoreditch
Hoxton Bar at the Hoxton Hotel While the bar is fun and lively at night, breakfast, brunch or lunch are good for solid, New American-style dishes that range from healthy to not-so-healthy. Shoreditch
Earl of Essex A small-ish pub with a fantastic beer selection. Islington
see & do
Broadway Market Open on Saturdays, it’s a better, less tourist-filled version of Portobello Road Market and much smaller. Broadway market offers more food stalls with a smaller square around the corner located in the school parking lot. Go hungry! There are pubs on the street for drinking breaks.
Columbia Street Flower Market Open on Sundays. The streets are full and busy with vendors haggling with customers and calling out to you to purchase goods. It’s beautiful, crazy, busy and worth seeing at least once.
Spitalfields Market While the restaurants and brick-and-mortar shops are always open, some days the interior of the space is filled with vendors similar to what you’ll find at Portobello Market on its market days. It’s a beautiful space and worth seeing. There are more shops in and on Commercial street, so wander outside the market as well.
Brick Lane Now a major tourist trap (do not eat at the Indian restaurants there), take a walk to enjoy the pretty buildings, sites and street art on the narrow street or through the Backyard Market on Sundays.
Exmouth Market Located in Clerkenwell, it’s an adorable cobblestone road full of cafes and restaurants and has market days with food stalls. It’s great to visit even if the market isn’t happening.
Running or Walking The canals are one of the more beautiful parts of London. If you’re a runner, it’s great because you’ll see a lot on your run, from murals to swans to decorated river boats.
The Lanesborough On the corner of Hyde Park, the location of this ultra luxury storied hotel is only one of the perks. Rooms are done in classic styles with a new spa that recently opened. Their Library Bar has a lovely vibe and is worth visiting on its own. $$$$ Knightsbridge
Shangri-La at the Shard Located near Borough Market, the hotel offers sleek, modern rooms with unparalleled views of the city. The bathrooms, complete with soaking tubs and Japanese-style toilets, offer views of the Thames. Definitely a place to splurge. $$$$ Southwark
Browns The history of this hotel is one of its draws as its subtle and unobtrusive sense of luxury—you’re not going here for the scene. With a townhouse-like set up, it’s comprised of several attached apartments, in one of which the Jungle Book was written. It’s also where the first telephone call was made (you can see the phone inside). The rooms matter, so try to get one of the studio suites or deluxe rooms, if possible. The bar is worth a visit on its own and gets quite packed. $$$-$$$$ Mayfair
Charlotte Street Hotel A charming boutique hotel in a central location with a good restaurant. Check out the other Firmdale Hotels for cute, funky stays. It’s great for a relaxed and comfortable stay. $$$ Fitzrovia
London Edition Owned by Marriott, it’s great if you have Starwood or Marriott points. It offers a popular bar and restaurant (Berner’s Tavern) as well as a super central location near Oxford Circus. The design of the hotel and rooms is on point as expected for an Ian Schrager property. Rooms run small, but that’s London. $$$ Fitzrovia
Hoxton Hotel More of a hipster boutique hotel with limited services that focuses more on the design and community aspect in the public areas. Expect reasonable prices (it’s often on Hotels Tonight) with more minimalist, sleek rooms. There’s a Hoxton (more central) and Shoreditch (more east) location. $$ Hoxton or Shoreditch
Save Time Pick one general area and stay there. For example, if you’re visiting Notting Hill, then stay on the west side, maybe going to Marylebone or Kensington (about 20 minutes by tube or taxi give or take depending on where you are). Or, if you’re hanging out in Shoreditch, spend that day going to Clerkenwell and Islington instead of heading to Notting Hill. Otherwise, you’ll spend at least 45 minutes traveling around London each way.
Postcodes Much like how Paris is divided into arrondissements, London is categorized by postcodes. You’ll see that most addresses start with a letter and then a number. For example, Notting Hill is W11 with three letters/numbers following it after. The first three indicate what part of London you are located in, aka west, east, north west, etc and the last three can pinpoint your street and often exact building. You can get in a black cab and tell them your postcode, and they’ll know your general direction.
Markets One of the best parts about London is the markets. There are tons of them all over the city.
Parks London does a fantastic job with parks. Don’t skip Regent’s or Hyde Park and try to make it to Holland Park, if you can.
Drinking There is a lot of it, especially when the weather is nice, and people start early as the pubs tend to close early. Plus, you can drink in public.
Double Parking When you hold two drinks, one in each hands. Double fisting means something entirely different. I’ll let your dirty mind figure it out.
Quid The UK version of ‘bucks’ for pounds.
Sunday Roast Think of it as the Thanksgiving version of brunch, meaning it’s an excuse to eat and drink a lot.
Victoria Station When getting an Uber from there, select the Lower Belgrave Street and then walk to the Z Hotel, which is near where they will be.