An Essential Guide To London

Lately I’ve been asked a lot from my lucky jet setter friends, ‘what are the essential things to do and see in London?’ I usually reply with ‘depends if you want to see the touristy London, or the real London?’ And whilst I only lived in London for a year and am still no expert on the real London, here’s my list of awesome things that you must see and do in the fabulous city of history and culture, LONDON!

Don't be afraid to do some sight seeing at night! You get a beautiful different perspective on things minus all the tourists.
Don’t be afraid to do some sight seeing at night! You get a beautiful different perspective on things minus all the tourists.

Photo Ops

1. Big Ben. Of course.

2. The Red Telephone Box. Again. Of course. And don’t worry, they’re EVERYWHERE!

'Ello Govna
‘Ello Govna

3. Piccadilly Circus TDK neon signs. Kind of unmissable if you venture into the city.

4. Tower Bridge. So much history and beauty. Get a good shot from the Southbank.

996021_731518820196469_1823809950_n 5. Buckingham Palace. Obviously.

Culture

1. Camden (Markets). Pretty much one of my favourite parts of London. You can walk around aimlessly for hours and find a good feed and bargain along the way. With music, buskers and weird and wonderful things everywhere, it’s a must see. Plus an amazing music scene! Amy Winehouse ring any bells? This was her territory.

Camden with my girl
Camden with my girl

2. Brick Lane. Possibly one of the coolest places ever. Located in East London and just a short walk from Liverpool Street, Brick Lane is a hipsters paradise. Amazing pop up food stalls, underground vintage markets (I bought my pair of Converse from there for 20pounds), street performers and AMAZING Indian cuisine. If you want cheap and authentic Indian then this it the place to go. Hidden between the high rises of Liverpool Street, it really is a hidden gem.

3. Covent Garden. Beautiful restaurants and a few little markets hidden around, conveniently located right in the middle of the city.

Food

1. Carnaby Street. Lots of cute little restaurants and bars scattered along the street it’s a great find and a lot of fun.

IMG_3936

2. Any markets. Camden, Brick Lane, Southbank, Notting Hill, Borough Markets…

3. Browns for High Tea. If you’re in London then you must indulge and have a high tea experience. I was fortunate enough to go with some family members and it was a simply divine dining experience.

Expensive but beautiful little cakes
Expensive but beautiful little cakes

Galleries and Museums

1. The British Museum. I went here about 4 or 5 times and still didn’t see everything! Make sure you don’t miss Cleopatras Mummy or the Rosetta Stone.

2. The National Gallery. Prime location, overlooking Trafalgar Square. Again, a day simply is not enough but my (biased) recommendation is checking out the Romantic’s artwork.

3. The National Portrait Gallery. Adjacent to the National Gallery, it’s worth the detour to spend an hour or two here. When I visited, there was an exhibition on Miss Marilyn Monroe and I was in love.

Chillin in Trafalgar Square
Chillin in Trafalgar Square

History

1. The Tower of London. If you want to dive deep into 13th Century London, this is the place to do it!

2. Shakespeare’s Globe. If you’re a poetry/literature nut like me then you’ll probably swoon when you see it. If you’re not too keen on paying super high prices, every now and again they have deals on tickets.

3. John Keats House in Hamstead Heath. Again, if you’re an English Romantic Literature fan… you CANNOT miss this. I studied John Keats in English at high school and have since had a fascination of him and his work. Being at his actual house and in the surrounding neighbourhood was so inspiring and overwhelming, I may have shed a tear or two.

Swooning over Mr Keats
Swooning over Mr Keats

A Little Something Extra

1. The Heron Tower. Located just near Liverpool Street tube station is this fabulous 40 floor tower. If you dress up pretty nicely and say to the guy at the door ‘I’m just going up for drinks’ then he’ll let you past. Press number 38 and you’ll shoot up in a glass elevator. Up the top of the building is something spectacular. An amazing 5star bar, a sushi restaurant and a fantastic view (which is free). I’ve been up there a few time and not purchased anything, just to check out the view and it’s splendid every time. If you feel like splurging, why not enjoy a glass of wine whilst overlooking the spectacular city.

Some of the view from the Herron Tower
Some of the view from the Herron Tower

Things to give a miss

1. The Tate Modern. OK if you love modern art… go for it. Even with my open mind, I still didn’t get it. Any of it.

2. The London Eye. Look at it from a distance. It’s not worth wasting the time in the huge line or money.

3. Changing of the Guard. I never went and I’m glad I saved myself a few painful hours. There’s waaaaaay too many people, you can’t really see anything and it’s all rather uneventful.

Do you have any recommendations?

xxx A

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18 thoughts on “An Essential Guide To London

  1. Recommendations:
    (1) The London Monument. A high view of London for less than a fiver.
    (2) The ICA gallery in The Mall (just down the road from Buckingham Palace). Free entry on Tuesdays. Any other day – a quid gets you in.
    (3) Kew Gardens. Go for the day and see a world class horticultural exhibition.
    One to miss;
    The Shard. Yes it’s the tallest building in Europe, but you pay a lot of money, and unless you are lucky – the view from the top is of clouds.

    1. I never went to the top of the Monument but it’s in a great spot, I could imagine the view would be great!
      And yea I agree with the Shard, I think I’m just against paying a lot of money to go up the top of a building for a view.
      Thanks for the recommendations!

  2. I live in London and this gave me a few ideas! I would also recommend visiting Borough Market and some of the others such as Maltby Street and Portobello Road, for all the vibrant food and stalls. Also, in summer Hyde Park is lovely, and you can rent pedalos and deck chairs 🙂

    1. Glad to offer a visitors perspective on such a great city. I do love Hyde Park in summer. Perfect for a nice little picnic!
      And I think I have a weakness for markets, especially food stalls! Way too good!

  3. As for London Eye: go there when there’s a World Cup or Euro Cup finale on, and you get in within two minutes (literally). We did that once and it was perfect 😉 There are so many unmissable things to my opinion in London, but you already mentioned quite a few good ones! I’ve booked a time slot to visit the Sky Garden next week. Very excited about that, because it must boast stunning views + it’s free.

    1. Free things are definitely amazing! And that’s a great tip about the London Eye
      There’s many things I didn’t include to this which all contribute to London being amazing, but it’s an essential guide for a few of my friends who unfortunately only have a few days to spend there.
      I spent a year there and still didn’t see it all! 🙂

  4. Great list. I live 20 miles from London at the moment so I try and go there every now and again.
    Some of the places you’ve mentioned I haven’t been to, so I might try that out next time I go.
    I still haven’t been to the British Museum – I know, that’s outrageous, but I hear such good things about it, so that’s number 1 on my list next time I go! 🙂

    1. Thankyou! Definitely try and make the most of your time there. Whilst I wouldn’t trade some great nights in I spent with girlfriends, in some way I do wish I explored my own backyard a bit more! Make most of a great opportunity like living so close to one of the best cities in the world! 🙂

    1. I think regardless of how long you spend in a place, there will always be things you missed out on doing. I doubt anyone went to Paris for a few days and left saying ‘yep, I saw everything I could possibly want to see.’
      Thanks Danielle, I’m sure you and I both will return one day and explore away!

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