This post is long overdue. To sum it all up, I’m about to combine all of my must-see spots in London: my favorite things to do, the best places to visit, where to see and be seen, how to live like a local and get away from the run of the mill tourist sights. This is my “All About London” post featuring places to eat, drink, stay, shop, and more. I’ve been to London more times than I can count and it’s the one city I know better than any other. To follow is everywhere I’ve been that’s worthy of visiting and a guide for your next trip to the Big Smoke that’ll have the locals thinking you’re one of them and to give you some content for Instagram that doesn’t involve a giant clock tower or boring Ferris Wheel (no hate to Big Ben and The Eye).
This post is loaded with information and I promise you’ll find something that catches your eye for the next time you’re in good old Britain. Photos are all my own, snapped over the past three years! To organize it all, I’ve filed each location into a category, which you’ll find in CAPS and BOLD. Locations discussed are bold. And areas of town or tube stations or italicized.
Let’s Crack On.
WHERE TO SHOP
I’ve touched on some of these spots in previous posts about London, but I wanted to give you a more organized and detailed list of some of the best shopping in London for this particular post.
The number one spot is the obvious Oxford Street. Think 5th Avenue in New York City or The Champs Elysées in Paris. This is the main drag, the area with every type of shop and department store (from high street to high end) you can imagine. Its location is fantastic—extremely central. The downside to Oxford Street is the massive amounts of tourists. I also highly recommend staying away on weekends. Tube access is nearest found at Marble Arch, Bond Street, and Oxford Circus.
Just off of Oxford Street are two very famous streets as well that cater to more luxury items. These are Regent Street—the beautiful, curved street that turns into Piccadilly Circus, and New Bond Street. You might as well give them a snoop if you’re in the Mayfair and SOHO areas.
Next location—King’s Road and Slone Square. This is a great area for high end shopping as well as people-watching in the luxurious and uppity neighborhood of Chelsea.
Another favorite of mine seeing as I lived just up the road a few years back in Regent’s Park—Marylebone High Street. Say it with me: Mar-Luh-Bone. You’ll find the famous Daunt Books, a beauty-lover’s Space N.K., to shops like Cath Kidston, The Kooples, Sandro, Lululemon and more. This is a very quaint area that, for a lack of a better term, just looks simply British. Walk south along this street and you’ll pop right into the aforementioned Oxford Street. Get to it from Baker Street or Regent’s Park tube stations.
Fancy a proper mall outing? Look no further than the Westfield Shopping Centre in Notting Hill. This newly-built mall is huge and filled with a few of my favorites like Zara, Mango, Topshop, New Look, Ted Baker, and Warehouse. Again, it houses a large mix of high and low-end stores for any budget. Definitely a great rainy day getaway. Get here from Shepherd’s Bush.
Out east and visiting the Olympic Park? There’s another mall, Westfield Stratford City, with the same idea. This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone when visiting the (actually pretty cool) touristy home of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
WHERE TO DINE
AFTERNOON TEA, SWEET TOOTH, & COFFEE
My absolute number one location for an afternoon tea is the iconic Sketch. I’ve been a few times and the deliciousness of those teacakes and pastries never fades. Better than the food (which I really couldn’t say about anywhere else), is the décor. I’ve touched on it before in previous blog posts, but the lush, pink velvet sofas and marble countertops are practically screaming for photos. Book your tea in The Gallery and you’ll never want to leave. The interior design changes every two years so get there quick! Nearest tube stops: Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus.
Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea: This heavenly tea party is fit for the dreamy and unique folks out there. The décor is divine, and like most London teas, the vibe is as worthy as the food. Book beforehand and find it at the Sanderson Hotel up from Oxford Circus.
Said dal 1923: Said is an Italian café located in SOHO. They’re known for their delicious chocolate and coffee, and if I were you, I wouldn’t leave without a triple-dipped white, dark, and milk molten chocolate coffee or hot cocoa. Yes, it’s a thing and it’s more heavenly than you can imagine.
Yolkin Macaron Ice Cream: Yolkin is hidden in Siam Eatery in Covent Garden as well as in the SFU Market in SOHO. A delectable treat that I dare you to eat without snapping a photo of, Yolkin macaron ice cream sandwiches are served only on weekends and the limited amount means when they’re gone, they’re gone. Go early!
Soft Serve Society: This Boxpark Shoredtich stall serves insanely delicious and one of a kind ice cream cones and freakshakes. My favorite? The charcoalconut flavored soft serve—toasty coconut but it’s a dark charcoal grey color. Chic.
Fuckoffee: You’ll find Fuckoffee in one of my favorite hidden gem neighborhoods of Bermondsey, just south of the Thames between London and Tower Bridges. Telling by the cheeky name, it’s no ordinary coffee shop, and its quirky décor and relaxed vibe make it so enticing to grab a book and stay for a while.
LUNCH & DINNER
A few tasty and classy spots I must recommend for dinner are…
Bob Bob Ricard in SOHO: they have a ‘press for champagne’ button! That’s enough to convince me.
Berner’s Tavern in Fitzrovia: This classy haunt boasts delicious, modern British food in a glamorous, gallery room. Find it at the London Edition Hotel just up from Oxford Street.
Sticks ‘N Sushi in Covent Garden: the Japanese cuisine is fantastic and my favorite cocktail in all of London comes from their bar.
Ivy Chelsea Garden: a mega glam British café seen on many blog posts.
Dishoom: located in a few spots in the city, it’s my favorite Indian restaurant and everyone I’ve brought here has gone wild for it.
Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone: a pricey but anyone-who’s-anyone-goes-here kind of place.
You can’t spend a weekend in London without a stylish brunch. Whether in need of a little hair of the dog or just some wholesome, organic goods, you’ll find exactly what you need here. My preferred options are…
Gaucho: multiple locations, unending fun and prosecco, chic, Argentinian vibes.
The Breakfast Club: also in multiple locations, this restaurant offers that classic breakfast menu along with some funky twists. You literally can’t go wrong.
Bounce Old Street: Bounce is widely known for their nightlife, but their weekend bottomless brunch caters to three fan favorites: ping-pong, pizza, and prosecco.
Granger & Co.: located a few places in London, this delicious breakfast will fuel you for the day with healthy and hearty options—the ricotta pancakes are out of this world.
Farmacy in Notting Hill: This is the place for actually tasty, healthy food. I love their bowls and the maca & date smoothie is a total energy booster.
BRITISH FAST CASUAL, FAST FOOD, & COFFEE CHAINS
Nipping out for a quick bite or grabbing something on the go? There are a few iconic places you’ll see everywhere and are worth stopping into while you’re out and about. In every part of town you’ll see a…
Nando’s: This famous peri peri chicken restaurant is a cult classic. It’s the perfect spot for a quick and filling dinner. The menu is delicious, you can order to your liking, and it’s great for groups because each customer orders and pays separately at the beginning.
Wagamamma: This yummy Asian spot is another quick lunch or dinner joint that serves awesome food that everyone enjoys. Ramen, duck, bowls, you name it.
Caffè Nero: This coffee shop, similar to a Starbucks, is the best place for your favorite cup of coffee, my favorite soup (chorizo and lentil), and tasty desserts.
Prêt à Manger: Another coffee and snack shop that you’ll literally find on every corner is Prêt. Grab yourself a java and a sandwich when you’re in a hurry here.
ROOFTOPS & VIEWS
London is a massive city with breathtaking views. Taking in these views with a gin & tonic in hand is a favorite pastime of mine, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too at one of these fabulous rooftops…
The Boundary: An edgy Shoreditch hang, Boundary rooftop is in the heart of East London and is a year round spot for food and drinks.
The Ace Hotel: This Shoreditch hotel has a gorgeous rooftop with DJ’s, dancing, and drinks with panoramic views of the city. Check out their schedule and book online.
Aviary – Montcalm House: An elegant rooftop and dining room just off of Moorgate, Aviary boasts a gorgeous view of East London. I highly recommend for a breathtaking breakfast.
Madison: Madison rooftop is at the top floor of One New Change shopping center, and you’ve likely seen photos on Instagram featuring its insane views of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s definitely worth grabbing a meal here, day or night.
The Shard: The Shard has multiple bars and restaurants, and you’ll likely need a reservation. The views are obviously unbeatable as it’s the tallest skyscraper in the UK, and one of the tallest in the world. Drinks are pricey, but you’re paying for that amazing ambiance.
Sky Garden: The Sky Garden is located in the famous “walkie talkie” skyscraper with multiple bars and restaurants to fit whatever you may fancy.
The Roof Deck at Selfridges: Roof Deck is the restaurant located on the top floor of Selfridge’s department store on Oxford Street. Particularly lovely in the sunshine, its California-themed menu is a dreamy lunch spot between shopping spurts.
WHERE TO DRINK & PLAY
Flight Club Shoreditch: One of the most entertaining nights I’ve had in London. This Shoreditch darts bar is super interactive and a thrilling night out for a big group. They even make cocktails in giant trophies. Nearest tubes: Old Street and Moorgate.
Bounce: Mentioned earlier for their brunch, Bounce is a lively Ping-Pong bar located at Old Street. Make a booking and enjoy the music, neon lights, and old school fun.
Sink: Fancy a night reminiscent of the college days? If Bounce is busy, you can always head down the road to Sink, the beer pong bar. Top hip-hop hits playing and sticky beer on the floors will make you think you’re at a house party.
Queen of Hoxton: This multi-level bar in Shoreditch has a rooftop and nightclub feel. Expect bangin’ music and memory loss in the morning.
Mahiki: Mahiki is a tropical cocktail bar in Mayfair that you’ll likely catch a member of Love Island or Made in Chelsea sipping at. Open late on weekdays, it’s a perfect “going out out” spot when the pubs have closed.
Cahoots: For a lower key night with a quirky atmosphere, hit up Cahoots: the London Underground-themed bar. Find it in Carnaby, the closest tube being Oxford Street.
Tropicana Beach Club: Just up from Covent Garden, Tropicana is another wild night out, only open on the weekends. Expect top 40 hits and sloppy dudes hitting on you. Get a free drink out of it.
Neverland: A summer 2017 hit (I’m not sure if it’ll be back around come 2018), Neverland is located in Fulham. It’s a man-made beach with huts for booking, food stands, and the best part: it’s BYOB. Take part in the Instagram-worthy London cocktail scene without the London cocktail prices.
There’s nothing like the music that comes from London. Some of the many incredible British producers and other famous DJ’s host nights out at world-class clubs like…
XOYO: Located at Old Street (obviously the hottest area for a night out according to this list), XOYO is my favorite club. It’s large, yet intimate, and the best of the best house to techno to disco music is featured here. Bring your earplugs (literally) and expect the sun to be up when you leave. Oh, and there’s great late night food across the street.
Fabric: Probably the most iconic London nightclub, recently re-opened Fabric is a massive club boasting world-renowned artists. It’s a must-see if you can still handle all-nighters. Located in Farringdon.
Ministry of Sound: This club, located at the end of the Bakerloo line, features trendy and top-rated DJ’s. Multiple rooms provide a change of tune and everyone has a good time. Tube stop: Elephant & Castle.
Cargo: This club features some lesser-known DJ’s in the East End and throws other exciting events. Close to many other clubs, it’s perfect for an East London “club crawl.”
The Nest: The Nest is located up in Dalston, and if you’re a house music fanatic, it’s the place for you as it’s a bit off the beaten path. A quainter venue, you’re getting everything but mainstream here.
Phonox: Phonox is located in Brixton and has an intimate vibe. Renowned DJ’s play bangin’ tunes upstairs, and the bar downstairs is a great getaway to grab a drink and chit chat (and actually hear each other). I’m a big fan of their Sunday parties.
Egg: This late-night club located near Camden is literally open until 8am on Saturdays, so you will be taking the tube home in the sunshine with all the tourists Sunday morning. Expect a lot of techno and house.
Printworks: Printworks is a newer venue located in Canary Wharf. Legitimately a massive warehouse, it hosts incredible daytime and nighttime events with all different genres of music.
WHERE TO BUY SOUVENIRS
Souvenirs can be tough to find. Sure, there are loads of stores all over central London with junk made in China plastered in Union Jack or “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogans, but honestly, who wants that? Quit buying your loved ones magnets, t-shirts, and key-chains. London has many amazing stores that sell quintessentially British goods that are useful, charming, and far from tacky. Next time, try:
Cath Kidston: the cutest British goods, especially for kids.
Emma Bridgewater: for the pottery-lover. Get your mum a teapot!
Ted Baker: high-end clothing and accessories for the elegant friend.
Oliver Bonas: cute and trendy gifts for teens and women, darling cards.
Paperchase: amazing greeting cards, stationery and London-themed anything.
Source: located in Spitalfields Market—incredible pieces for women from fashion, to jewelry, and gifts.
Jack Wills: it says ‘Fabulously British’ in the name—consider it a UK-inspired Abercrombie & Fitch.
Spitalfields Market: my favorite shopping market! Unique, hand-made goods as well as high street stores all in one.
Camden Market: another great Central London market with quirky goods for anyone and delicious food stalls.
Boxpark Shoreditch: Incredible, independent shops with chic gifts you can’t find elsewhere. I love these pop up shops.
London is bustling with brilliant markets in all areas of the city. They’re a great place to find unique gifts and tasty food and a way to keep out of the rain or entertain a group with different interests. A few notable ones are…
Old Spitalfields Market: My favorite market is near Liverpool Street and is a covered Victorian market hall with food stands, shops, and gifts galore. It’s surrounded by lots of stores as well (the original All Saints!) and a lot of vintage shops, so you won’t run out of things to do.
Camden Market: Camden Market is up by Camden Town and Chalk Farm. This super edgy and punk rock part of town is the perfect place to buy some Dr. Martens, leather, tattoos and piercings (if you’re into that sort of thing), knock off goods, souvenirs, and the food stands are top notch. Camden will keep you busy for hours.
Borough Market: Borough is the market you go to when you want FOOD. Hundreds of stands will be calling your name, from French cheese, to fish mongers, American burgers, Ice cream sundaes and shakes, and any type of food from any region will be available here. Go hungry. Find off of London Bridge station.
Columbia Road Flower Market: Open only on Sundays (a great place to visit when Borough is closed on Sundays), Columbia Road Flower Market is a Street Market off of Hackney Road, known for their expansive array of flowers but also vintage finds, antiques, and art.
MY TOP FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOODS
I thought I’d pop a list of my favorite areas of town I’d personally suggest checking out because they’re simply gorgeous and buzzing with things to do. Some of them are definitely off the tourist drag, but they’ll be sure to impress and I promise you’ll enjoy your experience much more in London if you visit these areas of town (after you’ve crossed those typical tourist spots off your list your first time there).
Shoreditch: Shoreditch is the embodiment of that east end, edgy, and plain cool vibe of London. It’s the home of the best nightlife in London with bars and clubs on every corner. There’s also amazing food here, great vintage shopping, and some of the most Instagrammable cafés and restaurants—think street art, neon signs, and a lot of brick. Closest tube stations: Old Street, Liverpool Street.
SOHO: SOHO is a darling area in London comprised of small, cobblestone streets, the cutest cafés, and tons of restaurants. If you need a place to eat and can’t figure out where to go, wander down to SOHO and you’ll find something you love immediately. Closest tube station: Piccadilly Circus.
Covent Garden: Slightly touristy but absolutely worth checking out is Covent Garden. This little neighborhood houses the Jubilee Market, awesome shopping, and tons of food. Closest tube station: Covent Garden.
Southwark: Many London first-timers rarely get south of the Thames. It’s a shame because there is so much character and so many parks, coffee shops, and bars when you get off the beaten path of central London. You’ll also find great nightlife in the southern neighborhoods and prices won’t be so intimidating. Tube stations: London Bridge, Southwark, Borough, Bermondsey.
Notting Hill: Those photos you’ve seen of all the colorful homes on Instagram? Notting Hill. Charming as can be, Notting Hill is a residential neighborhood with a little more edge than its southern neighbors. Find famous Portobello Road Market where you can vintage shop and eat all day long. Tube stations: Notting Hill Gate, Holland Park.
Chelsea: Chelsea is the affluent neighborhood where many of the wealthy Londoner’s take residence. It’s the home of fine dining, classic museums, high end shopping, and its southern edge faces the Thames.
Kensington: Kensington, the classic London location. Just south of Notting Hill and north of Chelsea, you’ll find multi-million pound homes, some of London’s finest museums, and the edge of Hyde and Holland Park. Tube station: Sloane Square.
Marylebone: A part of town very close to my heart, Marylebone is the area of town just south and west of The Regent’s Park (where I studied abroad at Regent’s University). This neighborhood houses loads of top-notch restaurants, all types of shopping, pubs galore, parks, and more. Tube stations: Baker Street, Regent’s Park, Edgeware Road.
London is filled with massive parks, tiny squares, gardens, and areas of grass that make you question whether you’re in one of the world’s largest cities or not. I highly recommend grabbing a cup of coffee and taking in the scenery in any of London’s parks–small or large. Some of the more notable ones are…
The Regent’s Park: My favorite park in London. It’s hard to describe how gigantic it truly is, and it isn’t even the largest park in the city. Wander the rose gardens, watch a football or rugby match, and take in the best view of the city from the top of Primrose Hill. You’ll also find London Zoo in Regent’s Park, Regent’s University London, and the gorgeous Boating Lake. Use Baker Street tube station.
Hyde Park: Hyde Park is another enormous park in central London within the boroughs of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea. You truly can’t tell you’re in a city when you’re here and the best time to go is around Christmastime when Winter Wonderland is in town—it’s a can’t-miss event. Tube stations: Hyde Park Corner, Queensway, Knightsbridge, Lancaster Gate.
Green Park & St. James’s Park: Hugging Buckingham Palace and many other royal sights are these two parks. Perfect for a first-timer in London to peek at, you’ll be getting in some major tourist sights while enjoying the green grass and cute duckies swimming in the rivers. Use Green Park tube station.
Victoria Park: When I think of East London, I think of bars, clubs, and edgy neighborhoods. Victoria Park is literally a breath of fresh air a little further east from those foggy nightclubs and is right next to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: home of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Tube station: Stratford.
This post has taken me ages to write and I’m sure I will be updating it constantly as I find new favorite spots I just can’t wait to share with you. I hope you found a new location to check out on your next visit to the city or maybe picked up a few ideas for a first time vacation.
If you’d like to read more about my previous trips to London, be sure to click/tap the magnifying class on the top of the screen and type in “London.” It’ll all be there for you! I have plenty to say about my favorite city. See you soon.
Xx Jet Set Bets