One of the most popular cities in the world to visit, London is a tourist’s dream. With plenty of amazing hotels to stay in the UK capital and famous attractions at every turn, you won’t be short on things to do – although to get a real feel of the city you may need to throw away the guide book. From cocktails to cupcakes here are 10 things to do in London for travel snobs…
Spend a day (and a night) in Angel, Islington
Most of London’s visitors head to Oxford Street to shop, although if you want to avoid the masses try the historic London borough, Angel Islington. Angel’s main high street, Upper Street, is far less crowded than the city centre making it a much more pleasant shopping experience. The Islington thoroughfare is a trendy consumerist’s heaven, home to boutique shops, vintage stores, design shops and even an antiques market (located in Camden passage). Stay until the evening and also find yourself choosing from a huge range of upmarket bars and restaurants which cater to an eclectic range of tastes.
Drink from Berlusconi’s head at Bunga Bunga
London has no shortage of bars to choose from, although there are many that take themselves far too seriously – unlike the beautifully kitsch BungaBunga. The bar/pizzeria/karaoke joint is named in a nod to the notorious parties thrown by the infamous (and now ex) Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and inside you’ll find Vespa helmets a plenty and a bar-shaped like a gondola. Bring your friends and drink cocktails out of mugs shaped like the ex Premier’s head or share giant pitchers formed like miniature Leaning Tower of Pisas. A fun bar and an alternate reality where Berlusconi has never been so popular.
- Bunga Bunga Bar – 37 Battersea Bridge Road London SW11 3BA
Explore Tooley Street
Tooley Street is a good place to start your tour of the trendy docks area of London. The street has a number of good independent shops and cafes but its proximity to other interesting areas is the reason why it’s made the list. Now fully gentrified, this part of South London is filled with achingly fashionable restaurants (Live Bait, Butlers Wharf Chop House etc.) cool DJs bars and stylish pubs, all of which have a much more laid back attitude than the centre of town. Cultural enthusiasts will also have plenty to see here – the international Design Museum is within walking distance, so is the ever-popular Borough Market, The Shard and Vinopolis.
Gorge on fine foods at Maltby Street Market
Still in the same area but deserving a special mention of its own is Maltby Market that has been hailed as the ‘new Borough market’. Head down the road from Tooley Street to Bermondsey and you’ll eventually get to Maltby Street – London’s latest haunt for those who love to eat and cook. Every Saturday (from 9am – 2pm) a collection of rented railway arches are filled with independent artisan producers and specialist drink retailers who sell everything from freshly baked goods to unusual varieties of vegetables.
Satisfy your curiosity at the Hunterian museum
This is a place for the curious of mind and strong of stomach. The museum is actually part of the Royal College of Surgeons and the building houses one of the oldest collections of anatomical, pathological and zoological specimens in the country. Curated by 18th-century anatomist and pioneering surgeon John Hunter, expect to find eight strangely interesting galleries spread over two storeys. Exhibits include the skeleton of the 7ft 7in tall ‘Irish giant’ and various parts of humans and animals perfectly preserved in formaldehyde.
Hang with the cool kids at Mildreds Vegetarian Restaurant
Sadly many excellent vegetarian restaurants come and go – even in a forward-thinking capital like London. Mildreds, however, is the exception and the trendy but homely restaurant has been serving up reasonably priced meatless fare for the last twenty years. The eatery – which serves everything from hefty veggie burgers to chunky burritos – is much loved by London locals, Soho media types and even a handful of celebrities. In fact, it’s so popular you will probably have to queue at peak times. Okay, it may be narrow and a little hectic but the well-proportioned food, friendly staff and great specials will more than makeup for that.
- Mildreds 45 Lexington Street, London, W1F 9AN
Find your sweet tooth at the Hummingbird Bakery
Portobello Road in Notting Hill is, of course, famous for its excellent (and very long) Sunday antique market and if you’re in this area you also shouldn’t miss the original Hummingbird bakery. Born out of a trendy cupcake revival, Hummingbird is the bakery that spawned the hugely popular must-have cookbook. It’s also one of the best places in town to satisfy your sugar cravings. Choose from Brooklyn blackout cakes, New York-style cheesecakes, cutely-named whoopie pies or just grab an exceptionally pretty cupcake to take away
- Hummingbird Bakery 133, Porobello Road, Notting Hill London W112DY and other branches at Soho, South Kensington and Spitalfields.
Try a speakeasy-style night out at the Experimental Cocktail Club
Bars that do things a little differently always go down well in London, so another place to try is the Experimental Cocktail Club. The city’s fascination with the 1920s has started quite a collection of speakeasy-style nights out and one of the best options is this China-town located drinking joint. Its scruffy exterior and unmarked door belies its polished interiors and inside expect exposed brickwork contrasted with mirrored tables, ornate wallpapers, and long dark comfy seats. Head to the top floor to find an intimate piano bar where skilled bartenders will whip up your favourite cocktail classic or serve you with top-end spirits. Just remember to smooth talk the doorman (or book in advance) for an easier entrance.
- Experimental Cocktail Club 13a Gerrard Street, London W1D 5PS
Go Undercover at St. Ermins Hotel
To complete your London travel snobs experience you may want to find a unique stopover. If you’re looking for hotels in Westminster a good choice is St. Ermins. Definitely one of the more interesting 4 Star Hotels in London, the elegant Grade II listed Victorian building has played a major part in British history. It was the place Winston Churchill once held secret wartime meetings and many famous spies were also said to have met here (including the 1950s double agent Guy Burgess and the Cambridge Five, who later became immortalized in the Hollywood thriller “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”). It’s also had a rather lavish £30 million makeover which blends its original opulent features with a new modern style, making it one of the most celebrated and intriguing boutique hotels in London.
- St.Ermins, 2 Caxton Street London SW1H 0QW
Discover Secret Cinema
A trip to the cinema usually doesn’t get any more exciting than choosing what size carton of popcorn you want. This is where Secret Cinema – the underground club with more than 100,000 Facebook followers – aims to change all that. An alternative to the usual theatre and hotel London this is more of an experience than an outing. The organizers transport guests into a surreal alternate reality complete with intricately designed sets and enthusiastic improvising actors. Events take place monthly and only the most quirky of venues are chosen, although you’ll only know where you’re going a few days in advance. Of course, fancy dress (based around a leaked theme) is actively encouraged promising to make it one of the most fun and unusual nights out in town, just remember to tell no one!
If you’re spending a little longer in London also try to pay a visit to the Outsider Tart Bakery in Chiswick, The Armoury of St.James, The Wellcome Collection and Notting Hill Arts Club. Enjoy your trip!
My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my rescued Greek street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Laos, California and the surreally beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.