I recently had a friend ask for recommendations of places to go in London and realized I have a whole repertoire of my favorite locations in London saved on my iPhone, perfect for the occasion. I believe I’ve spent roughly a month and a half total in London this past year. It is one of my absolute favorite cities in the world (Edinburgh is really high up there) for many reasons.
Little back story: It was founded all the way back in 50 AD by the Romans and the history is prevalent in every crack and crevice of the city, much like Rome itself. There’s an abundance of culture. You can find authentic cuisine from all different parts of the world all over the city and nearly every major museum is free.
I’ve also been a huge Harry Potter fan since I was ten years old. I used to get in trouble for reading it under my desk during class and still have the wand my grandmother got me for my 11th birthday.
As I walk down these streets that I read about for years and see these buildings and trains stations that I saw in each film, I couldn’t help but feel like my childhood was forged into the crucible of the city.
London has and will forever hold my heart. It is truly a magical city and I recommend every traveler visit the city at least once in their lifetime. I’m even planning on moving there in a few years time, but that’s another post.
So without further ado, here is my list of the best places to go in London (categorized of course.)
1. Piccadilly Circus. It’s nice to sit on the (slightly dirty) Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain and watch the breakdancers and musicians perform around you. A nice time to go is sunset because the streets are perfectly positioned for the colors to filter through, and with the contrast of the neon lights of the huge electronic billboards, it will take your breath away.
2. Millennium Bridge. This was the bridge featured in the first scene of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It also lines up perfectly with St. Paul’s Cathedral so that it almost looks as if it’s sitting in the middle of the bridge if you look from afar.
3. Highgate Cemetery. This graveyard is the resting place of Karl Marx and is, supposedly, one of the world’s most haunted places. Legend also has it that, back in the day, this was the location of famous duels of powerful magicians and hosted angry mobs of stake-wielding vampire hunters.
4. St. Dunstan-in-the-East Church Garden. Heavily overcome by shrubbery, this place is often riddled with people reading or eating on their lunch break. It was partially destroyed in the Blitz, so when you walk around, you’re able to see the crumbled arches and scorch marks that remain to this day.
5. Leadenhall Market. Another Harry Potter site! This was one of the inspirations for Diagon Alley, along with Victoria Street in Edinburgh, and was featured in the first film, right before Harry and Hagrid first entered the Leakey Cauldron.
6. Royal Botanical Gardens. One of the most stunning Botanical Gardens there is, this one is packed with colorful and tropical flowers from all over the world. It’s a great place to spend your day.
7. God’s Own Junkyard. An explosion of neon nearly bursts in front of your eyes as soon as you walk into this bar. A collection of neon signs of all kinds cover almost every inch of the wall in an overwhelming array of color.
8. St. Pancras International Station. Climbing high into the sky, so that you have to crane your next to get a good look, this station impresses one with intricate architecture. It was also featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Ron and Harry stole Mr. Weasley’s car and nearly hit the top of the station as they drove away from King’s Cross. The muggles definitely noticed.
9. 29 Claremont Square. Here you will find the real-life Number 12 Grimmauld Place, Sirius Black’s house and the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.
10. Neal’s Yard. A colorful courtyard tucked away in Convent Garden is the perfect place to take a break from the hectic city life. The buildings are painted, heavily decorated and tall and the whole courtyard is like a giant work of art. I’m sure it’s been Instagrammed at least ten thousand times.
FOOD AND COFFEE:
1. Cereal Killer Cafe. If you are in denial about your adulthood and miss the good old days when you could sit on your superman bed with a bowl of cereal and watch The Lion King, then you better get your butt over to Cereal Killer Cafe. You select what cereal, milk, and toppings you want. With all their options, the combinations feel infinite. You can also get yourself a crazy shake that tastes like Froot Loops or Captain Crunch!
2. Bake in China Town. The lines are long, and the staff isn’t the friendliest, but I’ll be damned if that stops me from recommending this place. Get yourself a mini waffle shaped like a fish or a larger waffle fish filled with the creamiest ice cream you will ever eat. Just make sure you have some napkins because heat plus ice cream makes for a messy situation.
3. Algerian Coffee Store. This place is as authentic as a coffee store can get. Let the baristas recommend you their favorite coffee and get those beans ground for your Moka. Make sure you get a shot of espresso before you go.
4. Yolkin. Ice cream sandwiches!! Between two delicate macarons!! They have flavors of edible lavender and malted chocolate that will stay in your mind for weeks after you’ve eaten them. But note that it is only open on the weekends.
5. The Ritz London. If you’re looking for a way to pretend to be a millionaire for a day, head over to the Ritz for the most amazing high tea experience of your life. The sandwiches and desserts are small and perfect while your tea has been specifically selected by a real-life tea expert. It’s a little expensive but definitely worth it.
6. Sketch. Another great restaurant to go to for high tea. There are three rooms, all decorated with crazy and elegant furniture. There is a room where every seat is made of pink velvet and one that makes you feel like your in a magician’s underwater lair, not to mention a futuristic bathroom that makes you feel like you’ll be transported to another dimension when you step in the toilet-encapsulated-capsules.
7. SAID dal 1923. If you love chocolate of any kind, then this is the place for you. I recommend the triple hot chocolate, where they combine white, dark and milk chocolate. It’s very rich, so the small size was enough for me. It even came in a cute little espresso cup.
8. The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. This is a great third wave coffee shop in the heart of Carnaby. They have community like tables, so it’s a good place to make friends.
9. Crosstown Doughnut and Coffee Bar in Soho AND Dum Dum Donutterie in BOXPark. Doughnuts like you’ve never seen before! They offer a variety of interesting and unique flavors of delicious doughy nuts. I recommend asking the worker for their favorite, as I’m sure they have had plenty of opportunities to try each flavor.
9. Aubaine in Selfridges. Located in the giant designer department store, this cute little cafe had lavender hanging from the ceiling and is perfect to grab a cup of tea while your sister shops for a skirt for an hour and a half.
10. Dominique and Ansel Bakery. This is the famous bakery that invented the cronut. They usually only offer one flavor of cronut at a time, and they’re always delicious. If you go early enough in the morning, you might be able to grab a shot of milk in a cookie cup before they run out.
1. The Victor Wynd Museum of Curiosities. Very creepy and properly disturbing, this lair of magical and odd items is the perfect museum to satisfy the curious and daring. It is not for the faint of heart.
2. The Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a free museum, I repeat A FREE MUSEUM. Make sure to check out this art and design museum that has over 4.5 million objects. Try to see the Unicorn Tapestry and some of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.
3. The Natural History Museum. Dinosaurs, earthquake simulators, and an impressive collection of insects. What more could you want?
4. The British Museum. This museum is known to be one of the most impressive in the world. I spent more than three hours here. Keep an eye out for the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian human AND cat mummies, the Colossal Granite Head of Amenhotep III, the Eastern Island Statue (Hoa Hakananai’a). And any temporary exhibition. They once exhibited Ice Age Art and Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum.
5. British Library. A beautiful collection of ancient and modern books, this is a great place to wander or to simply study. In October of 2017, they hosted their fourth-month exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic at British Library.
6. The Royal Observatory. My experience here was one of the best of my life. You can stand on the prime meridian and learn about astronomy. But what I recommend above all is a guided tour of the galaxy in their Planetarium. It was easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced and I genuinely learned a lot about the universe.
So there you have it! Make sure to follow my Instagram to keep up on all of my travels. xoxo.