Some friends of mine were soliciting advice for visiting London and since it’s one of my beloved cities, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and compiled some visiting tips for them.
Boat trip from Westminister to Greenwich
This is touristy but totally worth it. I went after living in London for a while and still enjoyed it. Board the boat at Westminister, the service is a part of Transport For London. The departure is frequent. The boat will take you all the way to Greenwich, pass the Tower of London, Canary Wharf, etc. The lovely tour guide will give a brief history of all the sights that one can see from the River Thames, which is a lot! Greenwich is charming like all English towns and has plenty of places to eat, but I also recommend buying lunch and have a picnic at Greenwich Park and go see the Prime Meridian. The park is lovely! This would require a non-rainy day, obviously. To save time on the way back, I’d just take the tube back into the city.
Walking Tour of the City at night
The City, aka the financial district, is bustling during the day, but by night, it’s quiet and really lovely to walk around and see the buildings lit up. The area is quite vast, but I would say start at Tower Hill station and see the Tower Bridge lit up at night, then walk towards Liverpool Street station through Algate and there’s the Gherkin, the Lloyds building, and such all in that general area.
At Liverpool Street station, there are all kinds of pubs cater for the bankers to have a drink after work. My favorite was The Shooting Star. It’s across the street (Bishopsgate) and a bit hidden, but they have really great Ale Pie! I went there often after work in the summer. If you are in the mood for Indian food, Brick Lane is right around there and have the best Indian food in the city. I don’t remember any specific restaurants on Brick Lane, but they are all pretty safe bets. And later in the evening, depending on the night, there is sometimes live music at Spitz that is also in the area.
Show in Leicester Square & Dessert at Häagen-Dazs
Probably not as exciting coming from New York City with easy access to Broadway, but still may be fun. Usually I go the day before I want to see a show, usually in the afternoon, to many of the ticket booths around Leicester Square to get last-minute tickets. Any of them will do. I typically just ask around for reasonable prices and purchase. Before the show, I recommend going to dinner in Convent Garden. There are so many great places. I would skip Chinatown. The Chinatown in New York is so much better. After the show, stand in line at Häagen-Dazs and go for dessert in the restaurant! This is really rather touristy, but really quite fun. The line is worth the wait; it moves fast!
Walking Tour to Primrose Hill & Hampstead
The summer that I lived in London, I lived right between the Swiss Cottage and Belsize Park tube stops and spent plenty a afternoons walking to these two wonderful places. From Swiss Cottage tube stop, walk down Adelaide Rd then take a right onto Primrose Hill Rd and that’ll take you to Primrose. After you’ve had your fill of Primrose Hill, or rather when you are ready to drag yourself away from this fantastic place, then back track to Swiss Cottage tube. If you have the A-Z, I’d suggest taking a different route through the neighborhoods. I always liked those better.
When you get back to Swiss Cottage tube, take Fitzjohn’s Ave for a few blocks and take a right on Belsize Park. This is the street I lived on. I absolutely adored the neighborhood. Keep taking this street and it’ll turn into Belsize Ave. Eventually you’ll hit a big busy street and see the Belsize tube stop with a Starbucks near and other restaurants. Then take a left and begin the climb uphill to Hampstead. After what seems like forever you will begin to see shops and that means you’ve hit Hampstead High Street. If you time it right and are there in the afternoon, there is a crêpe cart, I think near Café Rouge that makes delcious and ginormous crêpes both savory and sweet. If it’s there, you’ll see it; people line up for this!
High Street Kensington & Hyde Park
High Street Kensington has all your typical High Street shopping include TopShop and H&M. The summer I was there a ginormous Whole Foods opened. It’s quite the sight. While expensive, it’s worth to go in and take a look around. It’s not quite like the Whole Foods I know back in the US. The alley way off of Whole Foods hides one of my favorite cafés in the neighborhood. The French café Montparmasse is on Thackeray St. with a cozy ambiance. Great place to have afternoon English tea with a chocolate croissante! If up for it, must take a walk through Hyde Park and watch the English boys play football. And if you make it across Hyde Park, the pedal boats on the other side is quite fun.
Okay, I can go on forever but these are some of the things I’d revisit if I have a plane ticket to London next week! If there are time, the neighborhood near the US Embassy, Grovenor Square is quite nice to look around. You can get off either at Marble Arch or Bond Street tube. Also, I’d recommend having a coffee at all the outdoor café & restaurants at National Theatre. That’s at Waterloo station, but I usually always walk across the bridge from Westminister and along the Thames. I would definitely try to stop by the Tate Modern if you are into modern art, and one should stop by the British Museum just because. That area is lovely as well! So obviously I have tons more ideas to share so if you want more, feel free to contact me!