London draws in tourists worldwide, but with famous sites like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace at the top of visitors’ must-see lists, some off-the-beaten-path treasures can be too easily forgotten. Stepping into a new city can be disorienting — the choices are overwhelming! But after three years living in London, I have discovered the best (and lesser-known) spots worth visiting, the restaurants worth dining in, and the shows worth seeing. Here is my quick but comprehensive guide to the romantic city of London!
1. Sky Garden
London’s highest public garden is the perfect balance between city and nature, offering spectacular views of the cityscape. Although access to the garden is free, you should book ahead here to ensure a place; this is a popular attraction, and it’s often fully booked.
2. Somerset House
Somerset House is a beautiful Georgian building overlooking the River Thames, but what makes it worth the visit is the seasonal events it hosts. In the winter (November-January), it makes the perfect backdrop for ice skating, and in the summer, al fresco cinemas and concerts are the ideal way to spend an evening here.
Take a quick trip to the outskirts of London, and you can enter a whole new world as you take a tour of the Warner Bros. studios and immerse yourself in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Stroll down Diagon Alley, board the Hogwarts Express, and toast an amazing holiday with a butterbeer.
4. Camden Lock
Looking for something a bit different to do? Camden Lock is the center for hipsters in London. The only way to describe this location is ‘eclectic.’ Wander around the labyrinth of the market and come across all sorts of unexpected businesses, from sheesha cafes, to a Cuban Bar, to a futuristic clothing store. You’ll be overwhelmed with what to try (although I highly recommend you try bubble tea), which brings me nicely to....
Where to eat
1. Homeslice Pizza, Neal’s Yard
Nestled in a colorful corner of Covent Garden, Homeslice Pizza is walk-in only. There is no option to pre-book, so you should be prepared to queue, as this restaurant is both small and popular. Tables are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. If there is no availability when you arrive, they’ll take your number and call when your table is ready. That way you don’t have to stay in line, but you can wander around Covent Garden (just don’t stray too far), until it's your turn. Order a 20” pizza to share, and if you’re disagreeing on toppings, you can order two different choices spread over each half of the pizza.
One of the most ‘Instagrammable’ cafes in London, Sketch is famous for its pink interior and egg-like toilet cubicles.
3. Peggy Porschen
Founded by award-winning cake decorator, Peggy Porschen and her husband, this cafe has several locations in London, complete with very pink decor and expertly decorated cakes and biscuits.
How to spend your evenings
1. West End
A trip to see a West End show is a must. Even if you’re traveling with younger family members, there are shows that appeal to everyone, like “Matilda” (based on the Roald Dahl book).
Part cocktail bar, part ball pit, this Shoreditch locale offers the perfect night. High heels aren’t allowed in the ball pit, but you’re also not allowed to go barefoot, so flat shoes are a must (YES!), letting you dance all night and thrash around in the balls to your heart's content.
This is an acclaimed jazz bar, with main music events going on downstairs. You’ll need to book your downstairs shows in advance, but if you want a spontaneous night, there is an upstairs bar that frequently has a live band too.
So where are you headed first? Let us know in the comments — and start planning your trip to Europe with Acanela Expeditions!
Written by Jade Touron — follow her adventures on Instagram.