I’ve lived in London since February now and have really enjoyed exploring the new city I call home. I obviously haven’t done everything the city has to offer (that would take years!), but of the things I have done I thought I’d share my top ten favorites below.
My Top 10 London Experiences
1. An evening in Hyde Park
Like most Londoners, I don’t have a yard, or a balcony for that matter, so I really appreciate the bounty of parks that London has to offer. Hyde Park is a very popular park in the city – Kensington Palace sits on one end of it, and within you can find the Princess Diana fountain, Peter Pan statue (author J.M. Barrie died in London), and the Serpentine Gallery. In summer months, there are paddle boats that you can rent and paddle around Serpentine Lake. I first visited in January and enjoyed it, and even more so now that it’s summer.
2. Gardens in Regent’s Park
Regent’s Park is another park within the city. Regent’s Park has several gardens with well manicured shrubbery, which are really nice to walk through. There’s also Primrose Hill to the north of the park that you can climb up and get a great view of the city.
3. Eating in Camden Lock Market
Camden Market and Camden Lock Market are across the street from each other and are a lot of fun to explore. Camden Market has a lot of clothes and accessories, while Camden Lock Market has more artisan items and a large international food area where you can get foods from all around the world. This market is not where you’ll find a bargain since it gets a decent tourist crowd, but it’s worth a visit. During warmer months, you can also hop on a canal waterbus from the Camden Lock area for a one or two hour boat ride (more info on the London Waterbus company here). One of the times I went, without knowing, I ended up at The Hawley. The Hawley was Amy Winehouse’s favorite pub (she was a resident of the neighborhood) and you can see messages written to her in the bathroom stalls.
4. Learning in the Museum of London (and seeing the London Wall)
London has several great free museums, but the Museum of London is my favorite thus far. While many of the other museums have artifacts and history from around the world, the Museum of London is focused on solely London and somewhat on England (hence the name). My first time here I did a tour called ‘Fire, Plague, and the Civil War’ which was a free one hour walking tour with a guide who discussed these topics. This summer the museum is having a special exhibit since its the 350 year anniversary of the 1666 Great Fire of London. Next to the Museum of London is the London Wall, which is the original wall from Roman times that surrounded the City of London.
5. Viewing London from above
I always enjoy having a nice view – and in London one of the best ones is from above. So far I’ve viewed the city from the Shard and Duck and Waffle. You can pay £25+ ($35+) for the view from the Shard, but the insider tip is to go to one of the restaurants in the Shard (make sure to enter through the restaurant entrance) for a similar view but for much less – I got an £5 beer when Mark and I went. You can also get a great view at the Duck and Waffle restaurant; my friend Miriam and I got an £8 glass of wine and enjoyed the view there as well.
6. Traditional British tea time
Tea time is a British tradition, but can be quite costly in London. I recommend looking at Groupon or LivingSocial for tea time deals, otherwise prices start at £25 ($36) per person. With Groupon I did tea time twice for about £12 ($17) per person, which is a much more reasonable price. I did splurge once and go to one that was £26 though. Tea time is great because you always get plenty of food – enough for a filling meal and some – and the food and tea are well presented.
7. Going on walking tours
One of my top interests since moving to London is to learn more about the city’s history. I’ve done two walking tours thus far – a Jack the Ripper Tour and Ghosts of the Old City tour. Both focused on different aspects of the city and what has happened in the past. There’s more tours that I’d like to do (Harry Potter walking tour!) as well so I can continue to learn. Bonus of walking tours is you definitely get your step count in for the day!
8. Drinking and eating in pubs
While the U.S. has bars, England has (mostly) pubs. Pubs are more laid back, generally historic, family-friendly watering holes that typically have English classics like fish and chips or steak and ale pie on the menu. I have three pubs in a five minute walk of my flat, one of which I’d consider my ‘local’. I also enjoy exploring pubs throughout the city of London and have a few favorites. Pubs are a good place to go for a hearty meal, relaxing with friends, and watching a game.
9. Eating out and partying in SoHo
SoHo is the most ‘New York’ area of London with dozens of restaurants, pubs, bars, and clubs. If I want to have my choice of cuisine (Ramen! Korean BBQ! Tapas!) I tend to go to SoHo. There’s also plenty of pubs and bars for a good night out.
10. The infamous Platform 9 3/4 photo
For any Harry Potter fan, getting the photo at Platform 9 3/4 in Kings Cross Station is a must-do. There’s a professional photographer there who will take your picture (and give you a scarf and wand to pose with), but you can take your own photo for free. Be warned though – I went at 10am on a Tuesday in January and the line was over 30 minutes; I’ve heard its even worse in more popular tourist months. Try to go at off peak times if possible (early morning or late at night) to beat the rush.
What are your favorite London experiences? Are any of the above on your bucket list? Post in the comments below!
Till next time all!