Hoping to give you some distraction with this blog! It was obviously written pre-Corona, but let’s hope we can soon do activities like these again 🙂
London is one of my favorite cities in the world; it offers the perfect combination of historic buildings and modern architecture as well as having the perfect balance between culture and nature. London is an amazing location to visit year-round, and every season has its own highlights when visiting. I love visiting London during Christmas time, as the British go all-out when decorating during these festive times. Spring is perfect for spotting blossoms in neighborhoods such as Kensington and Notting Hill, while in summer you will find amazing rooftop gardens scattered throughout the city. London is an extremely colorful city, partly due to it being a cultural melting pot. One of my best friends has been living in London for several years, so I try to visit every year and over the years I have really developed my favorite things to do in London, which you will find in this blogpost.
London is home to some of the best rooftop bars in the world. I especially love visiting these bars during summertime. Near the Shakespeare Globe Theater you will find several options, some more casual while some are upscale. On the pictures below you will find some views from Madison’s Rooftop, which offers amazing views of St. Pauls Cathedral. When we visited it was quite windy, but I can imagine this being a lovely spot when visiting during sunshine. Bad weather does not deter British to have a drink in a rooftop bar, so you will find a good atmosphere year-round 😉
Sometimes I feel that London specifically creates cafes for Instagram. As if the London cliches such as the red telephone booths and traditional double-decker buses are not enough for Instagram, a new hotspot café seems to arrive each week. There are so many cute cafes to choose from, that I wouldn’t even try to start visiting them all, but I do like a stylish environment for a meal or a cake every now and then. One of London’s most famous cute cafes is pink café Peggy Porschen, I happened to run into Peggy Porschen in Chelsea and in Belgravia and couldn’t resist taking some snaps. One of my favorite restaurants in London is the Ivy Chelsea Garden and we usually end up going there for brunch. The Ivy Chelsea Garden likes to change it up and completely changes the exterior decorations a few times a year. Luckily, the food is delicious as well and the interiors are classic British.
One of my favorite activities when in England is visiting a pub, particularly for a Sunday roast or a pie. Sunday roast is one of the best traditions of England and I love how families and friends come together for an early dinner in the pub on Sunday afternoons. In England it also seems to be a national sport to decorate your pub as beautiful as possible. One of London’s most famous pubs is “The Churchill Arms”, which apparently spends 25.000 pounds a year on flower baskets. Seasonally The Churchill Arms mixes it up and I was surprised and happy that the pub was decorated in February. I will definitely make sure to come back here in a different season, to admire the beautiful flowers!
THE best neighborhood to visit in London of course has its own blog post, which you can find here!
I love the architecture of the Tower Bridge. I find it so special that a lot of traffic actually passes over this extremely old looking bridge. From the whole area surrounding the Tower Bridge you get amazing views of the Tower Bridge and it is relatively easy to take a good picture with the Tower Bridge in the background. It is also possible to go inside the Tower Bridge and to cross a walkway between the towers, if you pay 12 pounds for the exhibition. I find the whole area surrounding the Tower Bridge perfect for watching a dreamy, pink, London sunset.
City of London
Have you really been to London if you have not walked through the city? The City is the financial heart of London, but it also is a separate county (instead of a neighborhood) and the smallest city in the UK. The City of London is where the Romans originally founded London, but London has grown tremendously since then. Some famous skyscrapers in the City of London are (jokingly) named The Gherkin, the Cheesegrater and the Walkie-Talkie, in which Sky Garden is located. The Tower of London officially is not located in the city, but the fact that it is located next to the City is the perfect example of how old and new coexist in London. Make sure to check out Leadenhall Market, which is a classic covered market in the City. I would recommend to spend at least a half day in the city, wandering around and enjoying the combination of old and new in this area of London!
Chelsea is one of the most posh neighborhoods of London and I find it one of this quintessential London neighborhoods. As we always drop by the Ivy Chelsea Garden, we usually take a walk in Chelsea too. The Ivy Chelsea Garden is located at Chelsea’s infamous Kings Road, where you will find interesting stores such as Anthropologie and Free People and classy restaurants such as Bluebird and Peggy Porschen. You can walk Kings Road in the direction of Sloane Square and Knightsbridge for a full tour of London’s swankiest neighborhoods. Chelsea is also the perfect area for blossom spotting, as you will find some of London’s oldest and biggest magnolias in Chelsea. We dropped by St. Leonards Terrace to spot the incredible magnolia on the pictures below.
London is one of the cultural capitals of the world and if you can spend a full week in museums without seeing the same art piece twice. Over the years that I visited London I have visited several museums, such as Tate Modern, The National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery and the Natural History Museum. I have yet to visit the V&A museum, but I am sure I will somewhere in the future. Museums in London are free to visit, except for special exhibitions, so you can easily pop in a museum to see some works of your favorite artists. I would particularly recommend visiting the Natural History Museum, I found the building really impressive and I loved the giant skeleton of a whale which you will find near the entrance. The Natural History Museum is also a perfect activity when you have kids, as it is very informative and the exhibitions are colorful and spectacular. The National Gallery has some lovely impressionist works, which makes it one of my favorite museums.
Sky Garden is an observatory building that features a massive indoor garden, definitely worth to check out if you love a skyscraping city view. I wrote a separate blogpost about my experience with Sky Garden, which you can check out here.
London has its love of markets, with the Borough Market, Camden Market and Brick Lane being the most widely known. However, many other neighborhoods have small, charming markets. An example of that being the Marlybone Farmers market, which is held every Sunday from 10AM-2PM. In February I visited the Borough Market again, after years of absence, and I must admit I found it too crowded during the weekend. The Borough Market mainly consists of food stalls, which offer delicious food for an okay price, but I would recommend to visit outside of the weekend. Brick Lane market is mainly interesting for vintage finds.
London has its fair share of parks and some areas are extremely green. My favorite park in London is Regent’s Park. If you visit it around June St. Mary’s Rose Garden is in full bloom, making it a lovely place to visit for flower lovers like me.
Another great district in London is the Shoreditch area. Shoreditch is a rougher area in London and is known for its streetart and good nightlife. If you want to have a party weekend, this is where you have to stay the night. Shoreditch also hosts the Bricklane market, which is open on Saturday and Sunday from 11AM-17PM. We visited Shoreditch on the weekends, which was perfect as I love the bustle that a market brings to a neighborhood. The Bricklane market is perfect for antique and thrift shopping, it is really big so it will take a few hours to check out everything. One of my favorite British traditions is the Sunday roast, Shoreditch has lots of traditional pubs so you are not short of supply here. A visit to Bricklane market and a Sunday roast is pretty much my ideal afternoon. We even went bowling at All Star Lanes!
The Royal Botanic gardens of Kew are an amazing activity if you want to get out of the city for a bit. I first visited in February and will make sure to come back again someday during summertime when all the flowers are in full bloom. I absolutely loved the enormous glasshouses with tropical plants as well as the Orchid Festival, which took place while we visited. Kew also has a Christmas light show, which usually sells out weeks in advance. I wrote a separate blogpost about Kew Gardens which you can check out here.
London Eye & The Thames
Personally, I do not find the London Eye worthy of 25 pounds, just to be able to take a ride on this ferris wheel, but I do love how it is located at the Thames river banks. The London Eye is located in an extremely touristy area, with the Big Ben and Westminster just around the corner. It is definitely worth going here, just to take a short stroll and photograph some typical London clichés. During Christmas time, you will find incredibly atmospheric Christmas markets in this area.
Things to avoid
I have a few things I would recommend avoiding, with the first item being Buckingham Palace. The surroundings of Buckingham Palace are always extremely crowded, while I do not think there is that much to see. There are so many people photobombing Buckingham Palace that it becomes uncomfortable. If you visit other castles in England, you can actually enter the gardens and the castle itself, which I find more fun than watching a boring building from afar. I also don’t want to enter Harrods anymore, I do like the way Harrods lights up during Christmas time, but I hate the way the crowds shuffles through Harrods to ogle at too expensive items. I just don’t get it.
Daytrips from London
It is very easy to do interesting daytrips from London. When visiting in summer you can visit Lavender farms such as Hitchin Lavender and the Hop Shop, which are both situated less than two hours away. I also was charmed by Canterbury, which is only a one-hour train ride away. In this area you will also find Leeds Castle, which is definitely worth a visit. Oxford certainly isn’t my favorite city in England, but is worth visiting for its history. Windsor Castle is also one hour away by train and still on my list of activities for a next time.