Things you know about me if you read this blog, or know me in real life.
- I’m a sucker for an itinerary.
- I grew up 27 miles outside London (for my first 14 years of life)
- I lived in London right after college.
- I visit at least once a year and miss it. Lots.
- I love telling people what to do and where to go.
- I’m a sucker for an itinerary.
- I repeat myself when I want to make a point.
As a result, the people that know me, often ask for my London recommendations, I love giving them, and since I’ve gotten good at this, and the requests have gotten quite frequent, I actually went as far as saving some of my advice. I started doing this, maybe a year ago, and why it’s taken me this long to pop it all in a blog post I have no idea. I just booked a flight to London for next month, maybe that did it, maybe it was the two requests I got in the past 24 hours….BUT, here it is. My top
five six London itineraries.
Itinerary One: St Pauls and Clerkenwell
Visit St. Pauls. It’s pretty straightforward, it’s a beautiful cathedral and you can pretend you’re in Mary Poppins and run around singing “Feeeedd the Birdsssss, tuppence TUPPENCE A BAG”.
Once you’re done being kicked off the property (it helps if you pop a cone on your head), leave the area via an alley (Queens Head Passage) – you’ll keep going, cross over King Edwards St and then take that street. On your left will be Greyfriars Chruch Gardens (this is the ruins of a church filled with a country garden – it’s very pretty). Keep going down King Edwards St and on your right will be Postman’s Park. Inside Postman’s Park there is a wall with hand painted tile memorials. Each one tells a story and memorializes someone who died saving another person. It’s very special. It was also in the movie Closer. That movie is muchos feels.
By now you’re hungry. So it’s time for Fox and Anchor, a very old pub. And if it’s Sunday then this is a must do, (umm sunday roast!) but if it’s not a Sunday the food IS still really good. You’re going to walk there – the directions are a little complicated, it takes about 10 minutes, so that’s a job for Google Maps. You’ll also pass a huge building painting a very unusual shade of purple. This is Smithfields Market – a meat market, it opens very early, so it probably won’t be open, but the building is pretty great. But now, GO EAT. And take a picture or your yorkshire puddings, because I’m jealous.
Itinerary Two: Curry and Cider in East London
Around the Brick Lane area there are a good few things to do. If you want a really good curry, then I recommend either City Spice or Cinnamon both on Brick Lane. They are both really good. What you need to do here is get the best deal. They’ll hang out outside the restaurant and shout their deals at you. If you haven’t got 20% off and a free round of drinks before you go in, you have failed.
Once your mouth is sufficiently singed you can go grab a pint of cider. You should stop at Ten Bells, just because it’s the pub that Jack the Ripper supposedly grabbed his victims and it’s worth going down the stairs to see the news cut outs on the wall, but the selection of cider is pretty shitty. If you want a good pint of cider (and I know you do) go grab a pint of Old Rosie at The Commercial Tavern.
Other local highlights: Thrift shopping – there’s a plethora of shops on and around Brick Lane, there’s also Spitalfields Market, and if you want Indian/English fusion for breakfast, then Dishoom is just delicious (I also love The Breakfast Club for a classic brekkie any time of day) and if you’re really hungry, Borough Market is a hop, skip and a bridge away. Also: Bar Bonus – it’s a little further away, but still walking, Calooh Callay, really unusual cocktails. Make sure you go through the wardrobe….and if you get really drunk you can treat yourself to a shit but fun night out at Cargo.
Itinerary Three: Tourism and Booze
The West End is a tourist trap, BUT, it’s London. So it’s also kind of awesome. These are all within walking distance of one another. If you’ve never been you should absolutely see Piccadilly Circus, you should visit Liberty the oldest department store in the world (and actually go inside). You should go to Covent Garden and watch the street performers, you should go to Trafalgar Square, where you’ll also find The National Gallery AND the National Portrait Gallery. And when you’re done you’re going to go into a cave and drink. But really tho.
Just a stones throw away from Trafalgar Square is Gordons Wine Bar. It’s the oldest wine bar in London. It was home to Samuel Pepys and Rudyard Kipling wrote “The Light That Failed” in the bar. You’re going to grab a bottle of wine and some cheese and sit among the stalactites and drink and eat by candlelight OR if you’re claustrophobic like me, you’ll take it outside and watch the world go by.
Itinerary Four: Breakfast and a Show
This is a quick hit. But back in East London is a little east end “caff” called E.Pellici. There’s not much else to do around there (though it’s a good stop before Itinerary Two or Itinerary Six), but I highly recommend stopping for a proper breakfast (bacon butties or a full english!) and be thoroughly entertained by the owner, who enthusiastically greets everyone like an old friend (and most of the patrons are). Be prepared to share a table and feel like you’re in an episode of Eastenders.
Itinerary Five: Museum Row + Harrods
Over in Knightsbridge a person is spoiled for choice on the museum front. If you have all day hit up all of them (because, oh yeah, they’re FREE ALLL FREE). If you’re short on time, focus on what interests you the most. The Victoria and Albert Museum is my fave because it has a lot of variety and usually the best pop up exhibits. Natural History Museum is really quite amazing (animatronic dinosaurs!) and as a kid I’d spend hours in the Science Museum (they have a kid oriented hands on science exhibit which is just as fun as an adult). You can just hop in and out of there’s things in each you want to see and they’re literally next door to each other.
Across the street (and down the road a little) is the world famous Harrods. For me the priority here is the Food Court(s). There’s also a pet store on the top floor. I bought a hamster there once. His name was Bintsy Bramble.
Itinerary Six: Markets and a Farm Oh My
Back in East London, on a Sunday, Columbia Road Flower Market is a beautiful stop. The picturesque little street is filled with tiny boutiques housed in candy colored terraced homes. Even if you’re not able to visit on a Sunday, many of the shops are still open on other days. This website will help you navigate which are.
A little down the road (less than half a mile) is the Hackney City Farm. It’s a little like a petting zoo, but they have some amazing educational programs, including practical training programs for asylum seekers. It’s free to visit but they do accept donations which I highly encourage you to do :)
On Thursday nights they serve their own produce from their farm, the rest of the week all of the ingredients are sourced locally.
About another half mile from Hackney City Farm is Broadway Market – a pretty typical London market – selling a little bit of everything. It’s a great spot for food and has some great little pubs in the vicinity.
Market Note: Portobello Market in Notting Hill is also an excellent experience, but much bigger and much crazier. I personally think you can get the same experience, with a lot less tourists with Columbia Road + Broadway Market.
So there you have it, enough for a couple of days in London – there’s so much more where that came from! Let’s see if I add some new faves to my agenda on my next trip.