London is one of my favorite cities. Having lived there with my family from 1994-1996 it holds a very special place in my heart and every time I return I find more reasons to fall in love with it.
When I returned in late October I had such a great time over 6 days. I’m excited to share today all my recommendations on where to eat, where to play and where to stay!
Post updated: June 2018
Where to Eat:
Modern Pantry: This darling eatery is right off a great street full of cute shops and has a delightful terrace when the weather allows to sit outside and dine on seasonal fare like pumpkin soup. 47-48 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell.
Wildflower Cafe: Nestled on a quiet street away from the bustle of Notting Hill, this spot features a small menu but some delicious avocado toast and carefully crafted coffees. Had I been hungrier I would have gone after the delicious looking pastries, too! 108 Chepstow Rd, Notting Hill.
Corinthia Hotel: If you want to indulge in the traditional afternoon tea, I can’t recommend doing so at The Corinthia Hotel enough. The dining room is stunning and the food outstanding. Not to mention we had the pleasure of seeing some of the stars from the new James Bond movie departing for the premiere! So the people watching with tea sandwiches and the cutest desserts really made for a win/win. Whitehall Pl, Trafalgar Square.
Bumpkin: This is actually somewhat of a chain in London as they have multiple locations but as far as we could tell its because of the delicious pub-like fare and warm atmosphere. We got our fish & chips fix and gin cocktails that hit the spot. Multiple locations.
Quo Vadis: This was our first and most memorable meal for me in London. I didn’t know what half of the items on the menu were (it is “Modern British” food) but we inhaled their seasonal winter salad and loved everything we ate. And their fig cocktail? Maybe one of the best things I’ve ever had to drink. 26-29 Dean Street.
Tate Cafe: With sweeping views of the Thames River, the Tate cafe feels like something right out of a Sex & the City episode featuring a power lunch. They do a great prix fixe menu and our food was really good. Bankside.
Elan Cafe: This is a “do it for Instagram” cafe that also happens to have good coffee and food. Try and score a table outside for breakfast or lunch but don’t miss the flower wall in the basement.
Saint Aymes: A beautiful cafe for a sweet treat.
Aubaine: This spot is tucked away in Selfridge’s and great for either a light lunch or some caffeine. It is adorned in faux wisteria so be sure to ask for a table in the back to enjoy the decor.
Dishoom: Famous for a reason this spot now has several outposts and is busy at all hours of the day it seems. Serving up delicious Indian dishes the menu is expansive and the staff so helpful in determining what to order. I loved this spot.
Claridge’s: Claridge’s is one of London’s finest hotels making it also a great spot for high tea or a divine breakfast in a beautiful setting.
Farm Girl: Tucked away down a little alley off a bustling Notting Hill street this spot is not to be missed. I devoured a delightful brunch and enjoyed the rose latte on their menu.
Peggy Porschen: Famous thanks to Instagram this spot is totally worth it when you want a street treat and a place to rest your feet. Try to score one of the outside tables and order a slice of cake or one of the raspberry jam cookies. Delicious!
Where to Play:
In addition to heading to the must-see landmarks in London like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, here are some of my recommendations of where to spend your time in London.
The Borough Market: Take a breath before you enter here as saying it is “crowded” is an understatement but you can find incredible stalls of food with burgers, hummus, cheese and the most divine looking doughnuts. 8 Southwark Street.
Tower of London: While this is a massive tourist destination it is well worth it. I absolutely love the history here and highly recommend the audio tour. (The guided groups can be very large in scale and hard to hear.) Don’t miss taking a photo with one of the Yeoman Warders and see the Crown Jewels including Queen Elizabeth’s crown.
Portobello Road Market: Winding down through Notting Hill, this market is such fun to wander. Over 1,000 vendors are selling everything you can imagine so the treasure hunting is such fun.
Fortnum & Mason: This is a beautiful and historic shop that’s such fun to peruse for souvenirs. Pick up some of their famed tea to enjoy back at home.
Bywater Street: This colorful street is tucked away in Chelsea but gives the homes of Notting Hill a run for its money.
Elizabeth Street: This street in the beautiful Belgravia neighborhood is lovely to walk down. Enjoy the shops and don’t miss the nearby florist Wild at Heart that’s full of lovely blooms.
Neal’s Yard: This colorful spot is tucked away on an alley and while under scaffolding while we were there, we loved popping into the little shops. And you must visit Neal’s Yard Remedies. I bought several products that I absolutely love. If you are looking for gifts I highly recommend looking here. Off Covent Garden.
Columbia Road Flower Market: This place is heaven if you love flowers & plants! It is full of people every Sunday and the blooms are truly incredible. There are some great little shops nearby as well that are worth exploring.
Kensington Palace & Gardens: I love this nook of London which has so much history and is home to several members of the Royal Family (hi Harry & Meghan!). The gardens are not to be missed and the palace typically is hosting interesting exhibits.
A play on The West End: I fell in love with musicals when I lived in London during 4th and 5th grade so it was awesome to return to the West End and take in a show. We saw Matilda at The Cambridge Theater and can’t recommend it enough. We were laughing out loud and the cast was so wonderful. Not to mention their concessions were all inspired by the book – so cute! Earlham Street.
Liberty of London: I don’t do much shopping in London given the exchange rate with the pound but I always have to stop by Liberty. The department store is in Tudor architecture and aside from having a beautifully edited selection of clothing and shoes, they have a card selection where I wish I could visit whenever I wanted, a housewares area that has gift ideas galore and even a small tea salon if you need to refuel while taking it all in. And don’t miss the outdoor flower stand – it is the cutest! Great Marlborough and Regent Streets.
SOMA House: Want to squeeze in a workout while in town? I took a great hot yoga class at this very chic workout studio that also offers heated cycling and heated barre classes. It is in Old Spitalfields Market which is also worth a gander before or after class.
Where to Stay:
If you want to feel at home:
Cheval Three Quays: This chic and modern property is meant for either short or extended stays so the rooms feel just like apartments. A 5-minute walk from the Tower Bridge many of the rooms are situated right on the Thames River – our view was absolutely incredible to wake up to in the morning! With over-sized windows, full kitchens, sitting areas, free wifi (and incredible perk while being abroad!) and laundry we loved our stay here. It was centrally located and right near a tube stop and the fact that we could do a load of laundry and make a cup of coffee made us relaxed and feel immediately right at home. Other favorite elements I loved were the bathrobes included, the great bathroom amenities and delightful accents like a London-themed Monopoly game! And the terrace to take in the view? Perfect that morning cup of coffee. 40 Lower Thames St.
If you love boutique hotels:
Batty Langley’s, Hazlitt’s, The Rookery: These three charming hotels are all owned by the same parent company but each are rich in history and such delightful stays. Each room is decorated in antique furnishings and many feature 4-poster beds, claw foot tubs (made the bath experience so divine!) and cozy sitting rooms with fireplaces. Each property is in a divine location (we loved exploring Shoreditch and Soho) and the staff couldn’t have been nicer. I ended up being sick unfortunately at Batty Langley’s and they were so accommodating. Each hotel also has lovely public spaces like cozy libraries for afternoon tea and plenty of bookcases should you want to unwind with a drink and a historic read at the end of the day. Various locations.
So there you have my recommendations for this charming and ever-changing city. If you’ve never been, plan a trip as soon as you can! And a few general tips? Use Uber when you’re not taking the Tube (the famous black cabs are very expensive), test out Google Maps Offline for getting around and I’d recommend having a currency converter on your phone as the Pound to Dollar exchange can be frightening.
Stay tuned for my recommendations on Paris! In the meantime, the most Instagram-worthy places in the city of lights.
[All photos by Meghan Donovan]