The magic of London is hard to put into words – but bear with me as I try because I want to share with you the best of London!
I recently traveled to London for the first time, and it was absolutely magical. The culture is storied, the food is unmatched and the people are… British. Need I say more?
When I travel to new cities, one of my favorite things to do is just explore the area. I typically like to wander down streets and discover local places, taking in the culture of the town. That, and I plan what I do around restaurants because food – duh. This is how we did Barcelona last year, as well. Clearly I’m all about the foodie cities these days.
First, I’ll start by saying if you live on the east coast, it’s only a 6-6.5-hour flight. Have a few glasses of champagne, watch two movies and you’re there. Easy! Also, pro tip – take the Heathrow Express from the airport once you get there.
I stayed in the Marylebone neighborhood most of the week. Let me tell you, it was love at first sight. Quaint streets, amazing restaurants, fun shops and more! Within an hour, I knew this would be one of my favorite places in the world.
Similar to New York City, London has very distinct neighborhoods. Do some research ahead of time to see which neighborhood matches your personality or what you are wanting to do. Some, like Marylebone, have hip restaurants and shops while others, like Buckingham/Kensington are more business and history oriented. Whatever you are into, plan to stay near that area so you can take advantage of walking and being immersed in it!
Don’t know what to do in London? I’ve got you covered. Here are my top London travel guide recommendations:
WHERE TO STAY IN LONDON
- Amazing boutique hotel
- Rooms are on the small side, but they have great customer service, and it’s the perfect location
- Nice, big hotel
- Lacking customer service but near Buckingham Palace if you want to be more on that side of town
WHERE TO EAT IN LONDON
- This Spanish tapas restaurant has incredible food! They don’t take reservations and only have 22 seats, so show up for dinner when they open to guarantee a spot.
- You have to experience at least one pub while you’re in London! This historical pub is near Notting Hill, is covered in Winston Churchill memorabilia and has a great Thai restaurant tucked in the back of it. Win-win!
- I can’t speak to the food at Sketch, since I went just there for drinks. However, the drinks were great, the atmosphere was incredible, and you have to take a picture in the bathrooms – just trust me on this one. And if you don’t, search on Instagram to see what I mean.
- Famous chef Ottolenghi has several restaurants in town, and NOPI has a trendy vibe with wonderfully unique food. Make dinner reservations!
- I could wax on about Dishoom for hours… the Indian food is unmatched. I actually went twice while I was there because that’s how good it is. I’m still dreaming about my meals there.
- Cute, local café with healthy food that gets its produce from a farm about an hour outside of London. There are lots of fun little foodie gifts to take home, including their homemade pesto, chocolates, black truffle salt and more. It’s a great breakfast place!
- Another good breakfast place. This café is small and serves healthy food that is equally delicious.
- A local Italian restaurant near Borough Market. Great pasta and cute atmosphere for a quick lunch.
WHAT TO DO IN LONDON
- Great picture op and beautiful to see up close. You just take it in from the outside. Fun fact – If the flag is up, the Queen is there!
- Hyde Park is a wonderful slice of greenery in the middle of London that reminded me of Central Park in New York. It is great for an afternoon stroll. Also, the Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens are right next to it and absolutely beautiful!
- If you are a Harry Potter fan, even vaguely, you can’t miss the original Warner Brothers set tour. It’s located about an hour outside of the city by train, so you also get to see some other parts of the area which is nice. Once you get there, you can spend several hours walking through the sets, seeing things like the original wardrobes, props, the actual Great Hall and Dumbledore’s office! It’s a unique and fun experience.
- We did a guided tour of the Cathedral, and it was absolutely worth it to hear a local point out all the beautiful details of the church and tie it back to its rich history.
- This outdoor market has a ton of food vendors where you can grab a coffee and pastry or lunch or even just shop for dinner that night. Stroll around and grab a bite! Also of note – if you come here, you can continue walking and see the Globe Theater, Millennium Bridge, London Eye and Big Ben.
- Afternoon tea (or high tea) is a staple of the culture in London, and I am so on board with it. There are plenty of places to grab a cuppa around the city, and many are in hotels. We chose to go all out and do the tea at the Ritz Carlton. It was an experience I’ll never forget! One thing to note – I thought we could take it literally as a mid-afternoon light snack and tea… it’s incredibly filling! So don’t do like we did and have dinner reservations two hours after your tea because you won’t be hungry.
- Staying in Marylebone, Oxford and Regent Streets were just a brisk walk away. These two famous streets rival New York for storefronts and shopping options galore. It’s worth walking down them even if you don’t plan on doing any shopping – marvel at the windows and all of the people!
- Take the Underground/Tube everywhere! It’s super easy to understand and affordable (re: way cheaper than a taxi). I absolutely loved taking it all over the city and felt safe and comfortable doing it by myself many times.
- If you do any shopping, make sure to always request a VAT receipt. Then when you get to Heathrow airport to head back home, there are several areas where you can get money back for your VAT receipts. So worth it!
I hope you have the chance to make it to London sometime soon. It truly is a magical city that has so much to offer for everyone. Hopefully this Insider’s Guide helps you know what to do in London when you go!