London is just wonderful. Despite the chilly weather and the often-seen grey sky, there are very few people (if any) that can dispute this city’s magical, unique vibe. From the theatre to the cool, funky cocktail bars, to the free museums and the art galleries, this city just has everything.
On this trip, it’s my third visit to London. It certainly won’t be my last.
Here’s a few of my favourite spots to see the city. Some are peak tourist, some are foodie and all are vibrant and fun!
The Tate Modern
Andy Warhols’ Marilyn Monroe and Mao Tse Tung hang on the wall in vibrant colour. Picasso hangs on the walls. Strange contraptions and sculptures sit amongst a whole heap of contemporary art. Some are quirky, some poignant, some completely baffling. When I’m there, there’s also a mammoth installation in the entrance hall full of swings, so my inner child awakens and gets in the swinging spirit. The main galleries are free, so a perfect windbreaker to get warm after a walk along the Thames!
Unavoidably spectacular, I visit for the first time on my 3rd trip to London. I don’t know why I’ve never bothered to go in before, but it’s so steeped in history. It’s an amazing feeling walking among the bodies of the English monarchs that lie in the Abbey and take in the amazing tradition of this particular cathedral. The age of the Abbey can be felt underfoot, with the worn and uneven floors holding the tread of many many people who have walked these halls before me.
Churchill’s War Rooms
Somewhere hours can be lost easily, the left-as-is Churchill bunker where World War Two was lost and won with the Churchill museum attached. I visit around the same time that the Oscar winning Darkest Hour film comes out, which has scenes filmed using this museum as the set, so it’s a very cool experience walking from room to room imagining the conversations that these walls have heard.
A total foodie paradise, the famous Borough Market is full of tantalising scents and fresh produce that tease the senses no end. Paella dishes full of saffron coloured rice abound, cheese and pasta dishes are rife for the sampling and there is no better way to wash the food down than with some mulled wine to shake the chill.
Tradition & brightly coloured wheelbarrows full of plants mark the famous site of Covent Garden. The Theatre Royal on Drury Lane sets the tone for a vibrant area of street performers, restaurants and cafes amidst the shopping district. Whilst now it feels quite upmarket, it’s still a lovely spot to walk around and grab a coffee.
West End Theatres
Whichever show you see, it’s usually going to be awesome. Head down to the TKTS booth or download the Today Tix app on your phone to score discounted tickets. Whilst I was there I scored tickets to The Play That Goes Wrong, Motown and Young Frankenstein – all of which were heaps of fun.
Have a teacup cocktail at Cahoots
Cahoots has to be my favourite bar experience in London. Re-enter the Blitz area by giving the guards on the door a password and then descend to a bar designed to be a deserted tube station. Book ahead as it’s usually busy here, but I promise you it is worth the wait. Where else can you sip a lemon curd-tasting cocktail out of a teacup to the sounds of live jazz?
Eat Dim Sum and Drink a Zodiac Cocktail at Opium
The cocktail menu is named after the Chinese Zodiac and the drinks come out in ceramic mugs designed in the shape of the zodiac year you pick. Constantly ranked right up there as one of the best bars in London, and certainly one of the best speakeasy style bars, this dingy dim sum parlour lurks behind an unmarked jade door. The dim sum are wonderful and the cocktails are mixology heaven.
Break Bad in the ABQ Bar
If you didn’t know it was there, you’d walk right past and that’s absolutely the aim of the Breaking Bad style ABQ Bar where chemistry and mixology combine in the confines of a Winnebago. Located a little out of the main CBD on Hackney Road, this cocktail bar requires you to don a hazmat suit as you mix your own adventure. A neon Heisenberg sign looks on proudly from the back of the van.
Soho Pub Crawl with Urban Adventures
Learn the history and culture of London’s Soho district on an entertaining pub crawl with Urban Adventures. As well as some general history of London City and Soho in particular, you’ll also find out which famous people drank in the pubs the tour visited and sample some hand poured London ales. Always make sure you have a chat to the bartender – they’ve all got some very interesting stories to tell.
It sadly looks like the London branch of Urban Adventures is no longer running this tour – however, if you’re still keen to have a guide take you around the city, check out these other options here.
Changing of the Guard
I’m ashamed to say that after being to London twice before, I only saw this on my third visit and what a fancy, pompous and fun time it was! In winter months, this only happens a few times a week and the guards are in their grey uniforms instead of their famous red. Make sure you check to see what days it is on and get there nice and early to get a good photo spot. I recommend perching on the roundabout opposite the palace, so you can see them marching in.
One of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting series hangs in this spectacular gallery along with some beautiful Monet, Renoir and Manet works. The gallery is perched at the top of Trafalgar Square and is free to enter and wander around – a perfect way to ward of those rainy London days.
Walk beside the Thames to the Tower Bridge
One of London’s most iconic sights is totally free! Often mistaken as ‘London Bridge’, the famous blue of Tower Bridge stands out against the often-grey sky. You’ll be able to see the Tower of London from here, too, which is where traitors and prisoners were kept and killed and where the Crown Jewels are housed.
Take a day out of town to visit the New Forest
A couple of hours out of London lies a magical forest where livestock, horses and wild deer roam freely. Bring the wellingtons/gumboots and enjoy some quiet walks in the peace of the forest. In less than 24 hours I was totally charmed by the thatched roof cottages, open fields and perfectly picturesque forest.
Take a trip to Bath
Bath is now one of my favourite towns in the UK with it’s beautiful historic houses and streets. Explore the ancient Roman baths complex, which has been around since it was first built between 60-70 AD and wander this gorgeous town in Somerset where so many Jane Austen films are shot. A quick and comfy hour and a half train ride from Paddington to Bath-Spa, this town is utterly spectacular.
St Pauls’ Cathedral
There are few churches more famous than St Paul’s, although I admit I first heard about this cathedral from listening to “Feed The Birds” from the movie musical Mary Poppins. Construction on this current cathedral started in the 1600’s after the Great Fire of London, so even this ‘new’ St Paul’s is incredibly historic. It’s also been made famous from the Blitz in WW2 where the dome was photographed surrounded by smoke.
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