Destination Guide: London

London is arguably one of the best cities on Earth: great restaurants, great entertainment, and lots to see and do. When you think of London, you probably think of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Tower Bridge, but there’s more to the English capital than that.

A major settlement for over 2000 years (the Romans called it Londinium), London has become one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. When planning your next trip to the Big Smoke, keep some of these recommendations in mind. There are, of course, thousands of things to do in the city; this is a just a brief overview, and a subjective one at that, as each person’s London is different. If you have more recommendations, make sure to leave them in the comments below!

 

Borough Market/Tate Modern/the South Bank

This combination makes for a great afternoon. Start with lunch in Borough Market, found near London Bridge station. There are dozens of stalls to choose from, with food from around the world; try to grab a coffee from the famous Monmouth coffeeshop, too. When you’re finished, head across the Thames to one of London’s best museums, the Tate Modern, which offers free admission. With five floors of gallery space, you’re sure to see something you like. With permanent collections of Picasso, Matisse, and Rothko, the museum also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions that you can pay for at the front desk. While you’re by the river, you can finish up the afternoon with a walk along the South Bank for views of some of the most famous London landmarks, including the London Eye, Big Ben, and the Parliament Buildings.

 

Brick Lane

Found near Shoreditch High Street Station, head here on a Sunday to catch all of East London’s best and brightest. Known for its proliferation of curry restaurants, Brick Lane is now the place to be on a weekend. Packed to the gills with some of the most fashionable people in the city, the Shoreditch street transforms into a busy market filled with art, music, food, clothing, and just about any antique you’d want to find (make sure to keep some cash aside for an antique gas mask or tuba). This offers some of the best people-watching in the city. If you have time, walk a few blocks toward Hoxton to catch the Columbia Flower Market, a lesser-known but exciting little market, and try to end your day with a walk along Regent’s Canal.

 

Duck and Waffle Restaurant

The menu at this restaurant is terrific, offering up unique dishes (there is indeed a duck and waffle dish) and delicious cocktails, all using sustainable British ingredients. The main draw to this particular restaurant, however, is its location: the 40th floor of the Huron Building, offering up some of the best views of London. While you can get a great view from The Shard, brunch at Duck and Waffle is much cheaper and a lot more fun. On top of that, the restaurant is open 24/7, which means you can go extra early and catch the sunrise over the city. Find the restaurant near Liverpool Street Station, and don’t forget to make a reservation!

Saatchi Gallery/The V&A

Once again, this combination of museums would make for a fabulous afternoon. Start at Sloane Square station, where the Saatchi gallery is located. Although the owner, Charles Saatchi, has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons, the gallery is still something to behold, as it always showcases extremely unusual art and up-and-coming artists (and sometimes controversial ones, so bringing children here isn’t advised). Admission is free, and don’t miss out on any of the floors, even the basement. From here, stroll through the beautiful and historic streets of West London; you might even pass by one of Oscar Wilde or Mick Jagger’s old homes. Heading toward South Kensington, you’ll come to the V&A museum, which is also free. An absolutely stunning collection of art and design, make sure to research their temporary exhibitions before visiting, as they are always showing something unique. Also schedule in time to have tea at their outdoor café.

Catch a show in the West End

Because of London’s reputation as a cultural hub, it is home to some of the best productions in the world. If you have the time (and the money, these shows are pricey), make sure to catch a musical or play. Popular ones at the moment include The Book of MormonWar HorseLes MiserablesMatildaJersey Boys, and so many more. You’ll find something to enjoy whether you’re visiting the city as a family, with friends, or on your own.

Time in the park

This is an extremely vague recommendation, but it would be a shame to visit London and not spend time in any of its parks. For such a populated, bustling city, London has a surprisingly large amount of parks and green spaces. Some of the most popular parks are St. James Park, Greenwich (which can also include a visit to the Greenwich museum), Hyde Park, London Fields, Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park, Victoria Park… the list is endless. Take some food for a picnic and try to catch a glimpse of the often elusive English sun.

 

Once again, these are just a few recommendations. There are hundreds of things left out from this list: Camden Market, The National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square, the British Library, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and so on. What are your recommendations for London?

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