top of page

top five guide: london, england

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

London England Big Ben Westminster 2022

I will admit that it took me a few trips to London to really find my groove. To be fair, it is a massive city, and it is understandable if one struggles to get past the standard tourist attractions to see the more local charm of the city. After spending a month pretending to be a Londoner - including living in a charming flat and taking the tube all over this sprawling metropolis - I can finally say that I get it now and I love London!

This is one of the most livable cities I visited during our "adult gap year," a feature likely influenced by the shared language, multicultural scene, and modern amenities that Americans like me are so very accustomed to (UberEats delivering delicious Indian food directly to my door? Using Apple Pay for literally every transaction? That is LIVING, baby!). Although it took a long term stay for me to get a grip on what to do here, I firmly believe that London is still an excellent city for shorter stays as well.

Below are my tips for how to see London in a more local but still tourist-friendly way. I have intentionally left out some of the more obvious museums and other historic sights, which of course you can read about on virtually ever other London guide out there.

here are my top five tips for a trip to LONDON:

Flowers at Columbia Road Flower Market London England 2022

1: markets

Local markets are my favorite way to explore a city, and no city in the world does markets quite like London. If your trip includes a weekend, you are spoiled for choice! To try food for every palate, visit Borough Market (open daily). For an abundance of flowers, plants, and good vibes, visit Columbia Road Flower Market (pictured; only Sundays). For vintage clothing, global street eats, and loads of hipster energy, visit the markets on Brick Lane (best on weekends). Finally, for antiques and colorful streets, visit Portobello Road Market (open daily except Sundays).

Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park London England 2022 Princess Diana Statue

2: parks

For a place nicknamed "foggy London Town," it feels especially lucky if you are blessed with sunshine. If that's the case, you'd best enjoy that weather by spending time outdoors in one of the city's many parks. London is full of lovely outdoor spaces: St. James’ Park in Westminster is small but beautifully designed, Regents Park is sprawling with a lovely rose garden, and Hyde Park is famous, massive, and home to Kensington Palace and Gardens (don’t miss a stroll through the sunken garden there, pictured). Finally, a favorite way to enjoy sunset views is with a picnic overlooking the city at Primrose Hill.

The Churchill Arms Pub Flowers Flags London England 2022

3: pubs

If you truly want to see London through the eyes of its locals, you must spend some time in the pubs. Pub culture may be my favorite thing about the UK, and the coziness of a 400-year old pub is simply impossible to replicate in America. Perhaps that's what makes it feel all the more special. Here are my favorite pubs across town: The Fox and Pheasant, Ye Olde Mitre, The White Horse, Blackfriar, The Churchill Arms (pictured), The Ship Tavern, The Anglesea Arms, and Princess of Wales. Each has its own unique charm, so take yourself on a self-guided pub crawl to find your favorite.

London England Restaurant Pub Fish and Chips 2022

4: eats

There are a few classic London eats you need to try: fish and chips (at a pub or Fishers, pictured), Indian food (definitely at Dishoom, which is always packed), full English breakfast (anywhere), and a Sunday Roast (at most any pub, though Harwood Arms is the only pub with a Michelin star!). Beyond those standard meals, Soho is the best area for a trendy dinner and drinks. Many spots don’t have reservations, so expect to queue! We loved the Thai dishes at Kiln, the udon at Koya (pictured), and modern Italian at Negronis.

Little Venice Boat Cafe London England 2022

5: little venice

If you are a fan of scenic strolls like me, you will probably be a bit disappointed by the walk along the (chronically brown) River Thames. Instead, head to the lesser known but far more picturesque canals of Little Venice. On sunny summer days, this area is magic. Think: a narrow canal lined with houseboats, floating cafes, droopy willow trees, and swimming waterfowl. Start by the bridge (a good place for a photo) and continue into Paddington or into Camden for a surprisingly relaxing walk amidst the backdrop of the big city.

You can't always do it all, so one thing we didn’t do but wish we had:

Visit more museums. While we highly enjoyed visiting the Design Museum and Churchill War Rooms, London is home to an incredible variety of high quality museums. I would love to see The British Museum, the London Transport Museum, and Tate Modern on a future trip.

Have a great trip! Feel free to leave a comment with your own favorites. You can also find these recommendations (and more!) in map format by following me on the Out of Office app.


bottom of page