London


(This is under construction!)


My heart beats for London.

While I like to pretend that it has a sacred relationship with me alone...
I know it's cheating on me with others,
millions of others.

So if you are going to come to my beloved city,
please- do so in style.

Here is my (very long!) list of recommendations 
when planning a trip to London...
which I do not get paid to provide,
but do, for you, because I like you.

{If you are traveling to London during December,
here is my guide for what not to miss at Christmas in the city.}


ACCOMMODATION

Living Social can offer great packages in their Escapes section.
I love seeing what they have listed for ideas on weekend escapes.


Jetsetter UK has some really great deals at times. It's always a place I like to check...
sometimes you can find some great hotels at prices you'd never find elsewhere. 


Luxury Link has some amazing offers for a lot of places, but I typically think the London prices are crazy expensive for my budget... it's worth checking though. 


AirBNB is a great site where people can list their own apartments.
I have used it about 5 times and have had great experience each time.
I think it's the best way to get a decent price on a central location...
plus, it makes me feel kinda cool.


My last option would be Acorn Management. They have a place that I would use over weekends when I wasn't up for the commute between London & Ox. It's like a blend of a hotel and an apartment. Maid service, but not 24 hour desk reception. Small kitchenettes which can help with bfast, but no food service through the facility. Though, they are pretty great locations! 

HOTELS I HAVE STAYED AT & LIKED:

Thistle Hyde Park- right across from Kensington Gardens. 
Remember that dreamy bath I took? It was here.

The Cavendish- Situated quietly on Jermyn Street. 
The breakfast room looks into Fortnum & Mason's second floor.
Perfect central London location, feels like a business hotel.

St Martin's Lane: Great west-end location, cool hotel bar.
Boutique feel though it's part of the Thompson hotel family.

The Grange Hotel, St. Pauls: Perched between St. Pauls & the Millenium Bridge...
the rooms are nice, the staff is so-so, and you can often find good rates on lastminute.com

St. Pancras- The newly reopened room is fancy... and a bit expensive. 
The architecture is amazing, and the Wannabe video (hello, spice girls!) was filmed inside.

The Stafford Hotel- This is fancy, y'all. 
It sits in Mayfair- near the Ritz- and has an amazing feel
as it was renovated from old English stables.
It also has the reputation for the best cheeseburger in London,
which I can pretty much agree with.



SIGHT SEEING

Most visitors will head to the Tower of London. It is worth a visit if it's your first time.
If you have already been once, let me recommend going for the matins service at the Chapel Royal.

All you have to do is walk up, cut past the enormous line, and say you are there for church.

Just like that- you're in the Tower of London. No tickets, no line, nothing...
you just walk straight into the Tower and head back to the tiny church in the back.

{You do actually need to continue on and head to the church service.}

There you will attend a very sweet service in one of the six chapels of the Queen.
The minister there is about the nicest man in the world, too.

{I blogged about it once here.}

Tube stop: Tower Hill

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Shakespeare's Globe Theatre- Oh, please go see a play there.
 It's just amazing to stand under the London sky and see Shakespeare's work.

Standing tickets are really cheap- like £5.
If you are up for standing for three hours, it's a lot of fun.
{Might be good to pack an umbrella... just in case.}

You can also buy seated tickets starting at around £20.
Tube stop: Southwark or St. Pauls (recommended!)

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Everyday at 5pm Westminster Abbey opens its doors for Evensong...
a choir service where the young boys in robes come sing psalms.

It's something ethereal and beautiful.

Pro's of seeing Westminster Abbey this way opposed to the traditional site seeing hours:
It's free. Just wait in the queue and head in when the gates are opened.
It's beautiful. Stunning... and the perfect way to relax before dinner
after a long day walking through the city.

Con's of seeing Westminster Abbey this way opposed to the traditional site seeing hours:
You can't explore. No historical information or audioguides given- as it is a religious ceremony.
You can't take pictures inside... though, I'm not sure you can in normal hours either. (Anyone?)

Tube stop: Westminster



SIGHT-EATING
{you know, eating in awesome places}

Have coffee on the balcony of the Tate Modern.

I love this view of the city
with the Millenium Bridge & St Pauls laying before you.

Plus, it's free to enter the Tate. 
(Which is conveniently next door to Shakespeare's Globe)

Tube stop: Take St. Pauls, walk around the cathedral, and walk across the Millenium Bridge.
It's how I like to go. Otherwise, opt for the Southwark stop.
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Go in the National Gallery's Cafe and enjoy a cream tea
{read: warm scone with clotted cream & jam + pot of tea for £6}.
This prime location in Trafalgar Square can't be beat... 
and you can wander in {for free!} the National Gallery at the end of your mid-day feast.

Tube stop: Charring Cross

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Right off Piccadilly, there is a giant bookstore called Waterstone's.
Go upstairs to the 5th floor, to the 5th View cafe...
take a right out of the elevators and have happy hour
with a view of the London Eye & Parliament.

Tube stop: Piccadilly

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If you've been long craving Laduree macarons,
the newest London location is in Covent Gardens.
Enjoy brunch on the patio there on a sunny day...
it's not terribly overpriced as their lunch & dinner options.
 {Plus, it's less crowded & you can have a macaron on the way out.}

A warning: service here can be hit or miss. 
Go on a day you are feeling particularly unrushed & relaxed to fully enjoy the experience. :)

Tube stop: Covent Garden


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The Borough Market is a food market right off London Bridge
that is a must-see for any food lover visiting (or living in!) London.
With hundreds of stalls offering every type of savoury & sweet food,
it's a destination that will hit the spot. 
Plus, it's close proximity to the Tower Bridge
offers some pretty great photo ops.
(Read more about here from a recent visit.)


Tube Stop: London Bridge


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If you're looking for a swanky night out,
head to Harvey Nichol's OXO Tower for dinner. 
It's prime setting on the southbank
offers stunning views of the city...
particularly Christopher Wren's famed dome of St. Paul's.

The tower has two options for dining-
the restaurant (higher end) & the brasserie (a bit more relaxed).

Check www.lastminute.com to see if they have any deals available,
as you can sometimes find a set price for a multi-course dinner.

Tube Stop: Southwark or Temple


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If you're going shopping along 
Oxford Street or Regent Street,
stop by Central & Co.
for a casual chic spot to fill up 
while sitting across the street
from London's landmark department store, Liberty.

Check out pictures & my longer post on Central & Co. here.

Tube Stop: Oxford Circus




SHOPPING

I love the epicurean delights of Fortnum & Mason.
Their lemon curd, tea, jams & biscuits are packaged perfectly...
and make for great gifts to carry back home.

Tube stop: Piccadilly

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Harrod's is gorgeously massive.
It's overwhelming. It's intimidating. It's slightly mass-produced...
but I just love it.
The food hall is wonderful, their Laduree is gorgeous & 
I have no doubt you'll find something there you love.

Tube stop: Knightsbridge

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Selfridges makes me feel Christmas cozy.
Something about it's position on Oxford Street reminds me of British holidays.
{Partially because "Snape" buys his skank the heart necklace from Mr. Bean there on Love Actually.}
The windows are amazing, the pop-up shops are fantastic, 
and their price-range is welcoming to all budgets.

Tube stop: Bond Street

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And Liberty, ah sweet Liberty.
Land of the free. Home of the fat wallet.
The outside of the building gets my heart beating faster,
and the perfectly edgy products that line the shelf make me want to kiss someone.
I love Liberty of London so much. It's my favorite. Please, go there.

Tube stop: Oxford Circus

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Primark... it's cheap, it's overwhelming,
and goodness, I actually love it.

Go there for great deals on tights, flats...
and anything trendy you won't be wearing next season.

Tube stop: Marble Arch 

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Camden Town is a weird, funky place
where indie meets goth meets hipster meets antiques.
I love to shop the Stables- where shops now reside in converted horse stables.

If you are into eating ethic foods, this is your place.
It's heavy, street food though.. so pack your Pepto.

Tube stop: Camden Town

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Portobello Road is Notting Hill's famous Saturday market,
It's definitely worth going, but be ready to push through some serious crowds.
Follow the masses to the start of the market.
Stop on the first block of retail at Arancina (it has an orange car in the window),
and grab a coffee and a bomba, an Italian chocolate-filled donut, to join you on your walk.

I'm not a morning person, but I try to be when headed to Portobello Road. 
Shopping before 10 am can help save some sanity.

Antiques are at the start of the market,
food stalls in the middle,
random housewares at the far end....

Tube stop: Notting Hill


Great Places to Eat

Traditional British Food:

Newman's Arm Pie Room is a tiny room above a pub that serves... well, British Pies!
Imagine a Chicken Pot Pie
- but with various different fillings inside- 
served with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. 

As this room is tiny (and the place very popular), 
I highly recommend making a reservation the day before
 to insure you have a table.

Also, their sticky toffee pudding is really amazing. 
Hot, gooey, caramel-y... and served with your choice of ice cream, custard or cream.
{Try the warm custard for a delicious treat.}

Tube Stop: Goodge Street

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The Clarence is a really cute pub that will be in a location that you will most likely cross at some point in your visit to London. It sits on Whitehall, the street that connects Westminster Abbey & Big Ben to Trafalgar Square. The pub is cozy and somehow, regardless of it's touristy location, not too touristy. 

The food's good, the staff is kind, the prices are reasonable 
& the decoration leans itself to "slightly adorable."

Tube Stop: Charring Cross

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Bumpkin is a posh pub with several locations in equally posh neighborhoods.
The one (and only) location I eat at is the one in Notting Hill.

The atmosphere is perfect and you'll find yourself sitting around some well-manicured diners...
the last time I was there, the Duke & Ducchess arrived for a private dinner upstairs right as we left.

It's reasonably priced for an evening out in London
and offers a good glimpse into what local life is like in Notting Hill.

(Most Sundays, there is a pianist that will play. He's great.)

Tube Stop: Westbourne Park (4 minute walk) or Notting Hill (15 minute walk)


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Italian

If you're a devotee of Jamie Oliver, I'd recommend trying out his restaurant, Jamie's Italian.
The menu changes quite frequently (and some items can be hit or miss), but I'm sure you'll find
some items that really hit the spot...

A word to the wise, the "world's best olives" on the menu
really are the best olives in the world.

The wait can be long, so plan to hang around the bar
with a drink while you wait.

Tube Stop: Leicester Square or Covent Garden

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Centonove is a spot that is a local as they can get in Notting Hill,
but it's small, cozy & delicious.

The waitstaff is adorable, too.

It's a safe bet for a great spot to eat.

The salsiccia & pepperoncino ravioli is delicious
and their margherita pizza makes for the perfect starter.

Finish off with their homemade tiramisu...
regardless of how "over" tiramisu you might think you are.

Reservations are easy to make and I'd recommend it,
as locals can often appear and quickly fill out the place.

Tube Stop: Westbourne Park


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Osteria Basilico

Adjacent to the Portobello Road market,
sits Osteria Basilico- an Italian restaurant so authentic
you may feel the need to start practicing your rusty traveler's Italian.

The atmosphere & prices are a bit fancier than other options listed, 
but don't worry- if we can afford to eat there, so can you.

Though I've been successful at walking in and being seated,
I'd opt for calling ahead as vacation time is a bit more precious!

Tube Stop: Notting Hill


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Having Tea in London

It seems that when people visit London,
something on their bucket list is often "to have tea."

There are a few versions of how to do this:

A cup/pot of tea: Most cafes will have tea and small cakes/sweets. 
This is probably the most authentic version of what daily tea consumption is like...
and it's the most affordable/available version- as it truly is everywhere!

Cream tea: I love this version.
A "cream tea" is a pot of tea served with one (or two) scones, clotted cream & jam.
To get this, it's typically around £3-7, 
depending on how fancy the setting is... or how large the serving is.

Traditional Afternoon Tea: This is the stereotypical fancy option
that includes silver, tiered-trays stocked with fancy sandwiches & cakes.
It's a jump up in price, but something that people seem to need to experience
before they are satisfied trying a lesser route.

I've been lucky to have tea in some of London's finest tea rooms...
some are fancy, some are quirky... but most all are delicious.
Read through the posts here to find one that suits your fancy.

Some of my favorites include:

Fortnum & Mason | Cocomaya | The Orangery at Kensington Palace







Posted on March 26, 2010 and filed under "London", "travel tips", "travel".