The visitors guide to London
Samuel Johnson once stated that when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.. and rightly so! This city despite the weather, is always buzzing and alive with action. You can easily get lost in it all … and why wouldn’t you? It’s exhilarating!
When visiting London everyone knows the main tourist attractions to see – Big Ben, London Eye, the red phone booths … that is certainly no secret! After living in London for two very short years, I have put together a list of my absolute London faves. Some well-known, others a little less so. Enjoy!
When you visit a city like London, you want to see it from above. To do this, you can head towards the very touristy (and in my opinion very boring) London Eye or pay a fortune to see the ‘View From The Shard’. Though, you would never catch me doing either of those. Instead, I would head to the Heron Tower and go up to the decadent bars of either Duck and Waffle or Sushisamba restaurants. For the price of a drink, you can catch some absolutely stunning views, in one of the most beautifully decorated bars in London.
For an opposing view, you can also see the same view as ‘the view from the Shard’ from the bar Aqua Shard which is situated at the top of the Shard. Forget fighting other tourists to catch a glimpse of the view. Instead sit back, have a drink and take in the views with the satisfaction that just above you there are tourists who forked out nearly thirty pounds for a 30 minute slot for the same view!
Please note there is a dress code for both of these venues, so leave the flip flops and singlets at home.
What’s hot in London
This tip applies to most cities, but before reaching any new city do yourself a favour and sign up to Timeout emails. In a city like London, where there are almost as many events as people, you need someone to filter and compile into a nice succinct list what’s worth your time and Timeout does exactly that! They also have offers for cheaper tickets to events in advance, so if you sign up a few months beforehand you may score some great offers by booking in early.
Broadway shows are certainly no secret and tickets can be easily obtained. However the best shows I saw during my time, were never on mainstream Broadway (with the exception of Book of Mormon which is absolutely brilliant). Try either or all of the following in your next London visit!
- Sadler’s Wells Theatre Company, based in Holborn produces some of the best mix of modern dance and circus I have ever witnessed in my life. I am talking jaw to the flaw, on the edge of your seat, mind blowing shows. For as little as fifteen pounds per ticket, you can have a truly entertaining night out.
- Roundhouse Camden was formerly a railway engine shed. Today it is home to a range of entertainment from music to theatre to circus. With no seating, the venue itself is worth a look! Each performance making you feel a little less like an audience member and more like an interactive part of the show! Not to be missed – check out the website (www.roundhouse.org.uk) for the latest ‘whats on’.
- Secret Cinema is something that just needs to be experienced to understand. With either a secret location, movie or both! You are given a character and role to play out in the venue that is essentially a set! No phones or cameras allowed. Secret cinema is something I cannot recommend highly enough. Slightly more pricey at around fifty pounds, it is worth every cent! Upcoming events can be found on the website (http://www.secretcinema.org/)
If you feel the need to escape the hustle and bustle and would like to see a more typically English city, there are a few fantastic day trips you can do from London which are very accessible by train. If you purchase the tickets in advance on websites like thetrainline.com you can get return ticket for next to nothing (around 15 pounds return).
By far one of the most picturesque and quaint cities in England. Home to the famous Oxford University, the oldest university in the English speaking world where I also believe Harry Potter was filmed. The city is small enough you can get around by foot. Take a walk through the University grounds and keep your eye’s peeled for a toff!
Feeling a little nostalgic? Take your hand at punting along the river Cam behind the stunning Cambridge University. A gorgeous town which can easily be seen in day for a little London timeout.
As the name suggests, home to the Roman Baths. Slightly higher end, this city is perfect for a nights getaway or spa retreat. Take a wander through some of the most picturesque architecture in all of England or put your feet up at one of its many spas.
Any visit to London would not be complete without browsing at least one of its iconic markets. But how on earth do you chose which one?! Below is a brief feel for what to expect from some of the most popular markets.
- Borough Market. Very close to my heart, I had the pleasure of browsing this market on a weekly basis due to its very close proximity to my work. This market is a food only market and a great place to grab lunch so definitely come hungry.
- Camden Lock market is not just a market, but an experience. With both food stalls and a mix of clothing, art and design – it has something for everyone. For something a little different, head into Cyber Dog. Has to be seen to be believed!
- Columbia Road Flower market is as it sounds, a flower market! While you may not be in the market to purchase some plants, it has a great atmosphere a located near plenty of great pubs.
- Old Spitalfield market is an atmospheric mix of clothing, art and food. Located near the iconic Brick Lane you can easily team this with a bit of exploration of the hip suburb of Shoreditch.
- Portobello Road market is the market for anyone with a more antique, vintage or bric-a-brac interest.
In a city like London, there is certainly no shortage of places to eat. With everything from fine dining to doner kebabs, there is something to suit every taste and budget. However there are some culinary experiences that should not be missed.
Upper Street, which stretches from Angel to Highbury and Islington tube in the borough of Islington is a culinary delight. With endless choice of both established and up-and-coming restaurants and every cuisine imaginable, it is definitely worth a look. This area, buzzing with excitement and activity is one of my favourite areas of London to wander through. My personal favourite is The Canonbury pub. Located slightly off the main street, about 5-10 minute walk from Highbury and Islington tube, it has a beautiful outdoor area in which you can dine and ‘pub food’ which is of exceptional quality. For a typical Sunday roast, the Winchester pub located walking distance from Angel tube has two-for-one Sunday roasts (even a veggie roast!). The plates are exceptionally large and great value for money and actually taste great!
For those hoping to splurge a little, both Duck and Waffle and Sushisamba restaurants located in the Heron Tower are an absolute treat for your taste buds. I personally preferred Sushisamba which is a Japanese, Brazillian and Peruvian fusion and by far some of the best food to pass my lips. Both restaurants require bookings months in advance to dine at the popular dining times, however if you are open to dining a little earlier or later you should be able to get a booking at much later notice.
A final note… you can live in London your whole life and never see all it has to offer. Don’t get caught up trying to see everything and instead try to enjoy the experiences you do have. It gives you an excuse to go back again!