London // My City Guide

April 12, 2018

Oh, London. A city that has my heart. The capital where Ben & I bought our first flat together. The city where I studied Law and met some lifelong friends, had a first proper date day, chose my engagement ring and then had countless date nights, the hustle & bustle, the secret 'villages', the pretty pastel coloured houses, the architecture, the Thames, the world's best restaurants, the Christmas windows & decorations, the green leafy spaces, the memories over the years. I've been meaning to put together my version of a London city guide for a while. I literally LOVE helping readers who are coming for a visit plan their trip, especially if they're flying in from a far - recently I've had some lovely readers get in touch from Canada, America & Australia - and it's their first visit. I hope that people will love our capital and won't get rained on. Yet even if it is a grey day, I hope that they see the charm that this city has to offer and if they have time, go beyond the tourist hotspots and instead wander around some of my favourite places...

// When to Visit

Whenever we travel abroad and people ask where we're from & we say London {we live about 20 miles North in Hertfordshire so it's easy just to say North London}, the first question people will ask is 'how's the weather there right now'? I know that England gets a bad reputation for weather. Which is true, I mean just look at this Winter {and what we can even call Spring} this year. Being an island, our weather is ridiculously unpredictable year round. But visit on a sunny Summer's day & you'll have your breath taken away. I remember a Frenchman once saying to me that living in England for that first warm, buzzy day makes it all worth it. So what I'm trying to say is, whenever your visit, pack for all weathers! As a rule, May, June & September/October tend to be some of the most beautiful months for warm days. But Winter can make for some beautifully crisp days too.

// Where to Stay

This I can't help with all that much I'm afraid because we live so close we haven't stayed in many London hotels over the years. A few amazing looking places though; The Artist Residence London, any Mr & Mrs Smith hotel, any Firmdale Hotel {they own The Charlotte Street Hotel, the Soho Hotel etc}, The Ned London or you could try Airbnb for somewhere a bit different. Area wise will really depend on what vibe you're after/how long you have and what you want to do. Feel free to message me about this!

// Where to Explore
I won't give you details of all of the touristy things to do {the London Eye, a boat trip down the Thames, look at Tower Bridge etc} as it's not something we do as our home city. Even when Ben & I travel abroad these days we tend to favour the more local version of travel, seeking out farmers markets, nice parks and relaxed areas rather than the main attractions. You can split London into villages and choose a couple to explore each day that are near each other.

- Primrose Hill & Belsize Park {more here in this previous blog post} in North London have the best views over the city from Primrose Park and the whole area has a cute villagey feel. The shops & cafe culture around Primrose Hill are adorable and we love walking from here down through Primrose Hill Park & into Regent's Park or along the canal. Expect lots of property porn too.

- Hampstead & Highgate via Hampstead Heath. Further North of Primrose Hill is Parliament Hill in the middle of Hampstead Heath which arguably has an even better view and a huge area of wild parkland to roam around. Kenwood House is a favourite of ours for picnicking and you can walk down Hampstead High Street for a London fix of shops/restaurants yet still an old, village kind of vibe. This part of London is very old property wise {see this past post on Hampstead}

- Little Venice & St John's Wood. We used to live in Maida Vale which sits in the middle of these two areas and we loved spending time across all three. You'll find Abbey Road here, home of the Beatles famous crossing. St John's Wood high street is perfect for delis {Panzer's is the foodie dream & a favourite of many a famous chef - Nigella cough cough}, brunch or a gelato and is then close to Regent's Park. Little Venice is set amongst the canals and the ridiculously beautiful streets surrounding it and Maida Vale are worth a stroll on a sunny day.

- Notting Hill {more here}. Again, from our flat in Maida Vale we'd walk to Portobello Road and Notting Hill at weekends and some of my fondest memories are wandering around Notting Hill. Filled with pastel coloured mansions, and some high end shops. Check out Westbourne Grove {restaurant recommendations below}.

- Chelsea/Kensington. A bit further South & West, you'll reach Kensington & Chelsea. Very upmarket, manicured areas of London which make for a fun afternoon out or a treat for dinner. We love Kensington High Street for shopping {a less hectic version of Oxford Street} combined with a walk through Holland Park. Especially around Halloween time - the houses around here go all out.

- Richmond. Further out of town, near Kew Gardens & set on the River Thames you'll find Richmond in South West London. Richmond is a real favourite of ours for weekends, it's got Richmond Park with the famous deer, Petersham Nurseries & the town itself which has all of our favourite shops {Anthropologie, Oliver Bonas, Whole Foods etc} to get our London fix whilst having lots of fresh air and watching the boats along the river. We visit in all seasons and love watching it change throughout the year.

- Soho/W1. Central London at it's finest. The area around Oxford Street, Regents Street and across into Soho. Alll of the brands you could wish for, alll of the coolest restaurants/cafes/bars. It's happening and it's busy but it can still be beautiful {if you look up!}.

- East London. Is probably the most recently developed area of London and definitely one of the most fun despite the fact that it merges into the City {the Gherkin/Old Street/legal areas etc}. Shoreditch/Hackney have become very hipster, with unique new things to do/eat/see. Kind of like an Adult's playground. It's also home to my favourite Columbia Road Flower Market.

- Greenwich. Dulwich. Is an area we don't visit that often as it's completely the other side of the city to us - South of the river, but always love when we do. The views from Greenwich Park are impressive, and it's a lovely old Maritime area for a walk and lunch/dinner. You can get the river boat down here too. Dulwich is like a Southern Hampstead! Then there's areas like Clapham/Wimbledon to the West which are equally as lovely, and upmarket but again somewhere we don't get to visit as often.

// Where to Eat 

- Wahaca {multiple locations}. A cheap eat, Mexican street food. We adore this chain {created by Thomasina Miers, one of the original Masterchef winners} and have been coming here for dinner dates since 2010 {!}. They've gradually opened more across the capital. Come here with friends and order lots of sharing dishes, or order our favourite burritos and 'pimp them up'. Great tequila and cocktails here too.

- Oxo Tower Restaurant {on the South Bank}. This is a favourite restaurant of ours for a special occasion. There are two restaurants here, the main restaurant and the brasserie. We've only ever eaten in the brasserie and it's been incredible food, views and still fairly reasonable prices. See this past blog post for more.

- Franco Manca Pizza {multiple locations}. Really good sourdough pizza that reminds us of Italy. A relaxed atmosphere and amazing value {even their alcohol is cheap as it's all own brand}.

- Pizza Pilgrims {multiple locations, we go to the one in Soho behind Liberty or Shoreditch high street}. Another runner up for the best pizza in London. Very Naples style, we adore the Aubergine parmigiana version and I like their classic Italian branding and check tablecloths.

- L'Antica de Michele Pizza {Stoke Newington or Baker Street}. We discovered this world famous, out of Naples pizza restaurant just a couple of weeks back and have been dying to go back ever since. Best pizza in London hands down. See the end of this post for more.

- Granger & Co {Notting Hill, I think they may have others though?}. Bill Granger's famous Australian brunch/all day dining spot. Expect to queue but it's worth it. Not cheap cheap but not expensive either.

- Sketch London {Mayfair}. Such a pink, posh dream spot for afternoon tea {see this post} for an occasion to remember. They also have other rooms for breakfast and dinner. Expect the unexpected here.

- The Ivy Chelsea Garden {Kings Road}. We adore this new Ivy spin off, they've got a few cafes and market grills around the capital now and the style/food is upmarket yet the kind you want to eat. They just get it here. Beautiful decor with a garden theme. Fair pricing, not cheap but not crazy expensive, great for afternoon tea, lunch or dinner.

- Have brunch at Duck & Waffle {The Heron Tower}A famous London landmark and views right across the city. We had breakfast here, you can watch the sunrise, but equally drinks & dinner would be magical.

- For the prettiest cakes head to Peggy Porschen.

- The Ned London has 8 restaurants, some of which we're dying to visit {just can't seem to find the time at the moment!} and is part of the Soho House group but a stand alone city version so it's not exclusive to members. They have an amazing looking lobster buffet on a Sunday and Cecconi's is always a winner.

- And if you're really craving a cheeseburger {because who doesn't occasionally?!}, head to Five Guys or Shake Shack {both American imports I'm so happy that have landed in London}.

// Where to Shop

- Liberty London. London's oldest department store but with a difference. A real institution in a Tudor beamed building. It's such a treat wandering around all the different floors here and you'll find unique brands. Their beauty department is especially worth a visit. Along with those Insta famous Wild at Heart floral displays at the entrance.

- Graham & Green Primrose Hill {or Notting Hill}. Is probably my favourite interiors shop in London. They sell everything from furniture to cushions to small home accessories.

- KJ's Laundry Marylebone. I only recently discovered this curated fashion boutique in Marylebone {just North of Oxford Street} through my friend Emma and then had a really fun morning there the other day trying on all of their insanely gorgeous clothes. Some really unique beautiful brands that you won't find on the high street with un-intimidating staff. I can't wait to go back.

- Marylebone High Street. All of Marylebone high street is worth a mention, it's just yards from Oxford Street yet feels worlds away. You get more high end, upmarket brands here like J Crew, Anthropologie, Diptyque, The White Company etc rather than your typical British high street on Oxford Street. Lovely cafes here too and a nice buzzy, but not crazy feel.

- Regent's Street. British brands and the high street at it's best in a big sweeping impressive crescent. Expect crowds though, especially around Christmas time.

- Upper Street, Islington. Another lovely area to shop, you've got a mix of high street and more independent shops - even some antique shops. Great food options and quieter than Central London.

// What to Do

- Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday morning {see these past posts here and here}. Probably the UK's best flower market hands down. Great prices and a huge selection of not only cut flowers but plants too. A fun atmosphere, expect some legendary Cockney sellers. And combine it with a cafe stop at Violet Cakes or brunch nearby. Get there early to avoid the crowds or go later {around 2pm} when the sellers are packing up for the best bargains.

- Borough Market, the best food market in London, just by the river in Southwark. Visit from Thursday through to Sunday and go hungry, so many amazing food stalls there.

- Find a London Farmer's Market at a weekend for small farm stall sellers. We used to like Queen's Park when we lived in London or Marylebone or Hampstead Heath.

- Have a drink at the top of the Sky Garden {see this post} for a garden in the sky, and amazing city views. Likewise go up the top of the Shard for a drink, or the viewing platform and see London looking like a toy town below.

- Have cake at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond {see this post and this one}, the sweetest garden centre by the Thames with beautiful food, plants & interiors. Weekends are busy though especially around lunchtime.

- Just wander, it's a smaller city than you think and the areas all link up/overlap. We love just picking one of the areas I listed above and going for a walk & lunch/dinner.

- Visit Kew Gardens for a picnic amongst the gardens {more on this post} if the weather looks promising. It changes throughout the seasons but the Palm House there is always impressive.

- Regent's Park is probably my favourite London Park as it's the one we visit most often being North, it's so diverse though with formal gardens, rose gardens, open air Shakespeare productions in the summer, lakes, deck-chairs, the Zoo {you can see giraffes without going in!} and glimpses of the skyline yet you're surrounded by grass and trees. It also links up with Primrose Hill.

- Holland Park in Kensington has an orangery that we love and a Kyoto Japanese garden which is especially impressive in the Spring with cherry blossom or the autumn leaves in October.

- Visit the Chelsea Flower Show & Chelsea in Bloom in May {see past post here}, the whole area goes garden & flower mad.

Where else would you add to this list? I'm sure I've forgotten a few things so will add more if I think of them/discover more this summer. There are so many more places we want to eat at. I keep hearing amazing things about Dishoom and Dinearama in Shoreditch, likewise The Ned is somewhere we want to try this summer.

I hope this helps if you're visiting! Let me know what you get up to. And if you're looking for more London travel inspiration, I always find planning via Instagram works well {especially the Pretty City London account/tag} along with Conde Nast travel guides and other travel blogs.

R <3 xx

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  1. Love that! I always say I'm from 'just outside of London' because nobody ever knows Herts here in Australia, but then you'll get the occasional person who will say 'Oh really, where in Hertfordshire' .... !!


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