England’s capital is filled with museums, music, and food fit for royals. This means that like any large city, some areas can get quite touristy. Don’t let the crowds alarm you, however; places like Buckingham Palace and the London Eye are worth the elbowing you need to do to get there. Consult The Infatuation London for restaurant recs and Time Out London to find out what’s going on while you’re in town. I’ve compiled some of my favorite London spots that your concierge won’t tell you about.
Look, you don’t have to take a tour of this crib, but if you want to see where the royals actually live, Buckingham Palace is definitely worth a visit. While tours of some of the most stately rooms are offered during the summer months, I would recommend saving those pounds and watching the free Changing of the Guard ceremony instead. The ceremony takes place outside the Palace and starts at 10:45 AM every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. To find out more about scheduling, make sure to check out the Household Division’s website before your visit.
A famous marker of London’s skyline, the London Eye is far from a typical Ferris wheel. While tickets might not be cheap, you are paying for the 360-degree view of England’s capital when you reach the top.
Cheeky tip: Ordering your tickets online before the day of your visit will save you some ca$h.
The Top Secret Comedy Club
Despite its name, this comedy joint is regularly packed. Located just northeast of the Covent Garden neighborhood, The Top Secret Comedy Club attracts all types of comedians, so you’re guaranteed a good London laugh. The club has a bar and does not have a fixed ticket price. Instead, you pay what you think the show was worth on your way out.
I recommend that you hit up this centrally located Israeli restaurant before heading out on the town. Reservations are hard to come by, but this place is worth the wait. Sit at the bar and watch the chefs carefully construct your small plates. Order the polenta. You won’t regret it.
This famous street in the East London neighborhood of Spitalfields is a textbook example of gentrification. Nestled between the plethora of vintage stores and vegan bites are signs of Bangladeshi influences. Walk along Commercial Street for exactly what the name implies, and meander down the side streets to take a break from man buns and matcha. Make sure to head to the southern end of Brick Lane to find a high concentration of Southeast Asian restaurants and shops. Spitalfields boasts both the “Traders” Market and the Old Spitalfields Market, both of which are worth a stroll for street food and artisan stalls.
Recommendation: If you’re not too concerned about spending a few too many pounds, head over to Gunpowder and share small plates in this modern Indian restaurant. It’s a small space, so I would recommend reservations unless you grab an early meal.
South London Gallery
Most tourists don’t make it south of the river, but if you’ve got a few hours to spare or are inspired to explore after your visit to the Tate, enjoy the modern and innovative art of the South London Gallery. Come for the rotating variety of exhibitions and stay for the bookshop, cafe, and adjacent gardens. If you don’t fuel up at the gallery’s Habitat Cafe, stroll west to the Pigeon Hole to browse your London guide book over a fresh pastry or something more substantial like toastie. Tons of cultures converge on this side of the Thames, so get lost in the melting pot.
Bluebells of Portobello
In one word, West London is posh. Beautifully kept homes are accompanied by luxury shops and expensive restaurants, and you can get blissfully lost in the winding streets. After walking the tourist-catered Portobello Road, wander north into a more intimate set of shops and stop at Bluebells of Portobello for a meal. Oh, and yes, they serve vegan croissants.
Before you picnic in Regent’s Park, purchase reading material from Daunt Books in the picturesque Marylebone neighborhood. This multi-level book shop is filled with volumes you didn’t know you needed and a whole room dedicated to travel books for places to which you didn’t know you needed to go.
If you didn’t finish your new book in Regent’s Park, head north to the Hampstead Heath, an exquisite green oasis. I guarantee that you’ll forget you’re in a city. The perimeter of the park boasts historical homes and museums, and the funky Camden neighborhood is just south.