I’ve lived in London my whole life, it’s a great city with great people and for a long time I knew nothing else. The hustle and bustle in the mornings, the rich history at every turn, and the unbelievable opportunities that are available to everyone. I didn’t see it as anything but “the usual stuff” but the more I speak to my friends in other countries, I started to realize the true uniqueness of my home city. The more I started to show my oversees friends around, I realized how much London has to offer and how very few cities can offer what London can. So this is a short guide to London based on my experiences, my recommendations and general tips that may come in handy on your next visit!
Tourist Attractions – There are so many “must do” things for tourists, and some of them are truly spectacular. It can be a little confusing on how to structure your visit to these places, so I’ve devised a route which optimizes your time. Let’s start in Kensington where you can see how some of London’s richest live. Here you can do some shopping at designer stores, most probably window shop at the famous Harrods, visit the Natural History Museum, take a stroll through Kensington Gardens and walk down to Buckingham Palace where you can watch the “changing of the guards” ceremony everyday at 11am which encompasses a colourful spectacle and British pageantry at it’s finest. From there you can visit the gorgeous Hyde Park and take in the beautiful scenery, get on paddle boats on the pond and ride a Santander Cycle (formerly Boris Bikes, named after former London Mayor who launched them).
Next head down to Piccadilly Circus and get some pictures with the famous big screen (renovated in 2017 to become the largest single screen in Europe) before taking a short walk to Leicester Square where you can go to the theatre (book in advance), head to China town, or just stay to watch the street performers outside the green (Free options are always great). From there you can take in the beautiful cobbled streets of Covent Garden and stroll over to Trafalgar Square where you can visit the National Gallery and take pictures with the famous four lion statues, commonly known as the ‘Landseer Lions’ after the artist who created them (beware of climbing the lions, guards may ask you politely to get down). And then head down to Westminster where you can walk past 10 Downing Street where our Prime Minister lives, look up at Big Ben to take cheesy pictures of you leaning on it, have a tour of Westminster Abbey (highly recommended if you love a great history lesson) and then stroll over Westminster Bridge to the London Eye.
That is by no means “all of it” but is an overview of the most visited places by tourists in the capital. A few honorable mentions; Notting Hill to visit Portobello Road, Camden to visit Camden Market, Waterloo to enjoy South Bank vibes and Borough Market, London Bridge to visit the Shard (tallest building in Western Europe), Shoreditch to visit our town of hipsters, Canary Wharf to check out London’s financial district and lastly be sure to visit the beautiful and historic St. Paul’s Cathedral which is still a working church with hourly prayer and daily services.
Cuisine – This highly diverse city of course has food influences from all over the world. Whether it’s Indian, Italian, Middle-Eastern, Chinese, Thai etc, you will find a spot in London. This may be because the British food isn’t exactly the best… I’d definitely recommend trying local dishes like Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash, Full English Breakfast, Steak & Kidney Pie, High Tea at one of the nicer hotels, and of course a Sunday Roast!
But if that doesn’t excite you, maybe some of these restaurants recommended by me will… Nandos: Portuguese piri-piri chicken loved by Londoners and leaves foreigners confused as to why we refer to it as “Cheeky Nando’s”. Wahaca: Mexican food done right, offered as a tapas style where you order several small dishes, all so good! As is Nando’s, this again is another chain restaurant that can be found throughout London, but definitely worth a visit. Homeslice: Little pizza place found in Covent Garden keeps it simple with true Italian style pizza, beers served in large steins and a no-reservation policy which means you will most likely need to wait in line for this little gem, totally worth it! Gaucho: Arguably the best steak I’ve had in the UK. Locations and service are fantastic, however can be a little pricey. Dishoom: Indian food is considered as much British as it is Indian! Dishoom offers a wonderful array of Indian food as well as the full experience of dining in an Indian restaurant. Dinner at the Shard: The Shard has a number of restaurants and bars for you to chose from, which are very nice but combined with the experience of views from the 40th floor overlooking London and Tower Bridge, it is worth considering if you have the budget. Again, these are by no means “all of it” but some of my personal recommendations 🙂
Nightlife – London is not short of bars or clubs, but the type of night you’re looking for may dictate your choices. If you’re looking for an experience which some say mirrors Williamsburg in New York, then head down to Shoreditch where you will see plenty of man-buns, big beards and 20-something year olds ready for a good night, particular shout outs to Cargo and Floripa. If you want to head to a huge “super club” in the heart of London, head down to Piccadilly Institute in (you guessed it) Piccadilly, which features seven themed floors of different atmosphere, music and the promise of you being lost at some point. Sticking with Central London, head to Piano Works in Faringdon for live piano playing your favourite songs, head to Fabric in Covent Garden or Jager Bar in St Paul’s for a R&B night out and if you’re looking for Dance music then head down to Ministry Of Sound located in Elephant and Castle (South London).
If you’re looking for a quieter experience where you can have some drinks, have a conversation and have a civilized night, then there are many places in areas like Richmond and Angel which have a beautiful setting and chilled out vibe. Plenty more locations around the city so depending on your preference and I’m sure by just walking around you may stumble across a favourite of your own!
That’s my short guide to London! I’m always posting about cool spots around London so check out my Instagram page (@OMGISTHATVIK) and get in touch if you want some more recommendations! Hope this helps, enjoy your visit 🙂