London was my home city for just over twenty-years and I always find something very comforting about it when I visit. It’s partly due to the family connections I have there but also the familiarity of the streets and the sights. If you’re planning a trip to London and want to venture away from the more touristy areas, then have a read below of my alternative guide to London.
Great foodie spots to try on arrival
Generally speaking, I find it easiest to catch a train from Edinburgh to London – it does take a little longer than flying but I actually really enjoy a long train journey. On a fast train, it takes 4.5 hours from Edinburgh to London and you arrive bang in the centre of this diverse and bustling city that (hardly) ever sleeps.
King’s Cross St Pancras
Regardless of where you are coming from, if you’re near King’s Cross St Pancras International Station then I would highly recommend Half Cup. It’s a fairly small cafe, tucked a few streets away from this station and takes all of six minutes to reach. On a weekday it’s fairly easy to get a seat but is significantly busier at the weekend (expect to wait 30 minutes at peak times). Reasonably priced (for London) and offering a tasty array of brunch and lunch choices, this is a great option if you need a post train pick-me-up.
Waterloo Train Station
If you arrive near Waterloo Train Station then check out Southbank Centre Food Market. It’s sadly only open from Friday to Sunday but if you are in London during those days, then it’s worth going along to. Try the coffee at For The Good of The People, if you’re a fan of vegan food then try Ethiopiques or if you’re more of a meat-eater then stop by Woodwards Farm (they do the best on-the-go burgers around).
Fellow book-lover? Check out the South Bank Book Fair which is open every day from 10am to 7pm. I always come away with a book or two from here so it’s definitely worth a browse if you are in the area. The South Bank is also a great place to have a walk along the Thames and stop for a drink in one of the many restaurants and bars.
Just an eight minute walk from Farringdon Station is the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings which has the dreamiest, open, green-spaced restaurant. They do the most incredible brunches but also have a very elegant cocktail bar. Effortlessly cool, the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings is a popular choice with the locals as well as visitors to the city so be sure to book in advance.
Cecil Street, London
Talking of books, this street is a must-visit if you love a good browse and aren’t rushed for time. Although located in the very heart of London it is completely immune to the hustle and bustle that surrounds it (linking Charing Cross Road and St Martin’s Lane). The shop fronts are something out of the Victorian age and the street is lined with specialists in rare books, maps and all manner of related printed material. If books are your bag, this street is definitely worth a visit.
The Sky Garden, London
Perhaps better known as the Walkie Talkie building, it’s here at 20 Fenchurch Street that you’ll find the Sky Garden. The Garden is right at the top of the skyscraper – 35 floors up. The best thing about it? Entry is completely free (although you do have to book in advance). Top tip: tickets are released three weeks in advance – book as soon as they are released (generally first thing in the morning) to avoid disappointment. The Sky Garden offers panoramic views of the city and has gorgeous green flora giving it that garden feel. Although entry is free, the costs of food and drink are astronomical so you might be best to try somewhere else near by for refreshments after your visit here!
Holland Park, London
A stone’s throw away from Notting Hill is Holland Park, which makes for a lovely walk and escape from the bustling city. Its surroundings are just as beautiful – the Holland Park Mews, crescents and pastel colored houses in the streets around it are so pretty. There are also some lovely museums in that area, including the Design Museum and Leighton House Museum. After a wander around Holland Park, head over to Notting Hill – I’ve written an entire blog post about 24 hours in this gorgeous neighbourhood here. More recently however, I’ve discovered some more gems in the Notting Hill area including The Continental Pantry (perfect lunch stop) and Gail’s Bakery (tasty cakes and lots of window seats ideal for people-watching).
Top picks for dinner out in the city without breaking the bank
I actually think this might be my favourite place to eat in London. I personally am a massive fan of the Covent Garden branch of Flat Iron – the steaks are delicious and you get a free ice-cream for desert (when you have one of the steaks for your main course). It’s very popular with Londoners and they don’t take reservations – try and get there early, add your name to the list and they will give you a ring when a table becomes available.
Another firm favourite, which is located in Neal’s Yard is Homeslice Pizza. They serve 20 inch pizzas which are perfect for sharing with a friend or you can order by the slice. Packed full of flavour in a rustic setting, this is a great pick for any fellow pizza-lovers.
Something a bit different to the above two foodie picks but nonetheless delicious, is Dishoom. Dishoom is a restaurant chain located in London, which pays homage to the Irani cafés and the food of all Bombay. Offering flavoursome food at reasonable prices, this again is hugely popular with Londoners and visitors.