I love London. I have had my whole life to explore this fantastic city steeped in history, amazing architecture, interesting museums, great food and excellent nightlife, and yet I am still finding hidden gems that fill me with delight on every adventure around the capital.
For many of my friends, now is the time that they are moving into the big city, drawn by the excitement that London can offer and, more importantly, the unyielding desire to spend more time with me! Bearing this in mind, I thought it was only fair that I shared some of my favourite spots with those special few who read my blog. Enjoy!
Love it, love it, love it. If you haven’t been then you absolutely have to go to Borough Market. It’s London’s most renowned food market, so if you’re looking to get fresh fruit and veg or other exotic foodie bits and bobs, there’s probably no better place in the city. For a day out, head over early and indulge in the hot chocolatey goodness of Rabot Estate – the chocolate cafe and shop. At lunch time, head to Roast for, well, a roast (but the best one you have ever had – they also do an amazing breakfast menu), or try Applebee’s Fish Restaurant, they do a delicious Garlic Prawn Wrap that you can grab from outside; dining in is a tad pricy. For after-eats coffee Monmouth is the place to go. I am not a coffee drinker but have been told this is the best coffee in London and if you fancy buying a bag to take home, the Guatemalan blend is supposedly delectable. Nearest tube: London Bridge.
Covent Garden and The Royal Opera House
There is something delightful about wandering around the cobbled streets of Covent Garden on a warm summer’s evening whilst the booming voice of an opera singer resonates from the Royal Opera House. The Covent Garden Market operates on most days, with the weekends being particularly busy. Keep an eye out for the food market which comes to town in the summer months – we sat on the pavement edge sipping champagne from the oyster bar and nibbling juicy olives before a trip to the theatre last time. For food, head to Navajo Joe; a buzzing Mexican restaurant with an extensive cocktail list and great atmosphere situated just off the main square. I also have it on excellent authority that Bill’s is THE place to go if you’re in town at brunch time. Nearest tube: Covent Garden, funnily enough.
Another historical gem, Hays Galleria is a beautiful old wharf which was used during the nineteenth century as one of the chief delivery points for ships bringing tea and other dry goods to London. The site underwent a massive regeneration in the 1980’s and is now a stunning place to enjoy after work drinks or a delicious dinner. For food, I recommend Cote Brasserie which has been rated the ‘best value restaurant in Britain’. The Cote restaurants are sprinkled all over the capital but there happens to be one at the end of Hays Galleria right on the waterfront and the food is truly delicious. For drinks, head to the Horniman for a traditional English pub feel. After your feast, be sure to take a wander along the waterfront past the HMS Belfast and toward Tower Bridge; views not to be missed. P.S – this would make an excellent date. Nearest tube: London Bridge.
If you have no better reason for going, go because the door to Diagon Alley is here. However if you’re not a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I’d still recommend a trip there for lunch, tea or general perusing. Leadenhall is a really beautiful market. At Christmas time the market is buzzing and there are lots of lovely events to get you in the festive mood from carol singing around the enormous Christmas tree to mulled wine tasting and seasonal markets. If you’re there on a weekday the place will be teaming with executives in expensive suits drinking beer and gaining a few pounds, so a weekend or evening may be a better time to enjoy the scenery. Nearest tube: Bank or Monument.
The Northcote Road
The Northcote Road is in situated in Clapham and is easily accessible from the main station. Ok, it’s sort-of teeming with yummy mummies and baby shops, but it’s also a very pretty street and a great place for breakfast, brunch or a sunny lunch sat on a table outside one of the many cute cafes the street offers. If you fancy getting out of the main city, or just want to potter about all day in boutiquey shops looking for a nice gift or copious amounts of bunting, this is the place to go. Nearest station: Clapham Junction
I adore Soho. An area of London that is constantly buzzing with eccentric individuals, quirky bars and cute restaurants, and it’s situated a stone’s throw away from the Oxford Street shops – what’s not to love?! Dean Street, Greek St and Wardour St are packed with great food outlets and nice bars; plus the Hummingbird Bakery… need I go on? If you’re walking from these roads toward Regent Street, a stop in the wonderful Tudor building Liberty’s is essential. Then, wander down Carnaby Street and finish in Kingley Court: a three-storey courtyard at the end of the street which is home to lots of little boutiquey stores and a lovely cupcake shop. Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road or Oxford Circus.
The streets of Shad Thames are cobbled and dark; even spooky at times, yet it is a fascinating area of the city. This is true Dickensian territory so literature fans will be in heaven. Shad Thames is teeming with nice bars, good restaurants and is right next to the river so excellent views are guaranteed. Take a stroll down from London Bridge or wander over Tower Bridge and take a left from the North Bank. Nearest tube: London Bridge.
Shaftsbury Avenue and China Town
This is prime tourist town so I know I’m not revealing anything ground-breakingly new, but this area of London is pretty special, whatever time you visit. It could be 3am on a cold winter’s night and you would still find the streets around Leicester Square teeming with tourists and party-goers enjoying central London life. You don’t have to go to the theatre, but take a walk down Shaftsbury Avenue and bask in the excitement of theatre-land. Then, head over to China Town and dive in to one of the hot and steamy restaurants for dim sum or a buffet feast. I can highly recommend Plum Valley Fine Dining if you’re looking for somewhere elegant and a bit special. For a blow-out feast, and the best Chinese in London, you’ll need to go to Michelin-Starred Hakkasan off the Tottenham Court Road. I’d start saving now if this takes your fancy. Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus.
I really didn’t know very much about East London until I had the pleasure of attending a wedding in Spitalfields in the summer. The area is really buzzing, so don’t be put off by the stereotyped skinny-jeaned, ray-ban-wearing, artsy people swanning about making you feel extremely un-cool. I’m not denying these people exist, I’m just saying the place is so nice you should definitely go anyway. The market is open from Tuesday to Friday 10am-4pm and on Sundays from 9am-5pm. Look out for great food and quirky gifts, and be sure to pop in to the original AllSaints whilst you’re in the area. Nearest tube: Liverpool Street.
St Katherine Docks
Plonked right next to Tower Bridge on the North Bank are the beautiful St Katherine Docks. For a wonderful place to spend a summer’s evening head over here to meander across the bridges and gaze at the glamorous boats, then dip into one of the cute restaurants or head to The Dickens Inn – an 18th century pub named after Charles Dickens and his grandson (who owns the pub) Cedric. This side of London is steeped in history and the Docks certainly have a Dickensian feel to them. Nearest tube: Tower Hill or take the lovely walk from London Bridge.
Bankside and Shakespeare’s Globe
The stretch of river from London Bridge down to Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern is lovely. The waterfront is lined with nice restaurants and coffee shops with outdoor seating, and the area is generally buzzing with workers and tourists enjoying the location and views down the Thames. Being an English graduate, I’m keen to suggest people try and get tickets to see something at the Globe; it is a fascinating experience to see a play at this historical theatre, even if you’re not a big Shakespeare fan, plus the tickets are generally very reasonably priced. Tate Modern is equally interesting, the majority of it is free to enter and it is always packed with thought-provoking art work to get your brain working. Time to conceptualise darling. Nearest tube: London Bridge.
That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’ll update as and when I stumble across somewhere extra special. Please feel free to comment on your hidden gems and favourite haunts in London; as you can tell, I’m always keen to try new spots in the best city on earth!
Images: Google Images