Top tips on what to do in London (from a local)
Written by Javina Houri.
I know many Haas students are currently studying or vacationing in London. As a proud Londoner, I wanted to share with you my insider tips on what to do in this bustling city! Although it rains a lot and people don’t smile back at you on the Tube, London is a great city, rich in history and culture. From monuments, museums, art galleries to shopping, food markets, cool bars and, of course, the River Thames, London has something for everyone. In this post, I’ll point out some of my favourite things to do while in London.
Chelsea and South Kensington and Hyde Park
Home to London’s finest, Chelsea is a beautiful neighbourhood, filled with rows of pristine, white houses. Go for a walk around this posh district and admire the beautiful houses! My favourite street is the Little Boltons, where the famous British movie Oliver Twist was filmed.
Stroll around South Kensington, a lovely neighbourhood nicknamed “little France”, due to the high concentration of French people living there. In this area, you can find a selection of excellent restaurants that won’t break the bank. My favourite brunch places are Good Life Eatery and Le Pain Quotidien. Some of my favourites restaurants for lunch or dinner are Rocca and Cacciari on Old Brompton Road and La Brasserie on Brompton Road. In my opinion, South Kensington boasts the best cheese, bread and cake shops in London. My favourites are La Cave a Fromage for authentic French cheese and Maitre Choux for eclairs.
Take a walk down Exhibition Road and visit the Natural History museum, arguably London’s most iconic museum. It is a gorgeous building and is absolutely free to visit! My favourite room is the main hall where you’ll find the gigantic skeleton of a whale. Also, check out the dinosaur section in the museum, where you can see life-like robots of Tyrannosaurus Rexes.
Notting Hill and Portobello Market
Notting Hill, known for its rows of colourful, cute houses, is a quaint and charming neighbourhood. Populated with unique bookstores and independent clothing stores and charity shops, it is definitely worth a stroll around this cute part of town. In particular, Daunt Books is my favourite bookshop. In addition, I would recommend stopping by Portobello market. This popular market, selling a mixture of antiques, food and all sorts, runs on weekdays and Saturdays. The best days to go are Fridays and Saturdays.
Camden Town and Camden Market
To see the grunge side of London, go to Camden Town. Filled with tattoo and piercing shops, Camden is home to the punk youth of London. But it is so much more than that. It is has great concert venues, nightlife and clubs so make sure to check them out! Moreover, Parkway boasts great restaurants like Jamon Jamon, a cool tapas restaurant I highly recommend.
While in Camden, you should definitely visit Camden Market, a former horse stable that has been transformed into a market. Camden Market boasts many small, hella cool, independent shops, a bunch of food stalls and not to mention, the killer cereal cafe, a cafe where you order a bowl of different types of cereal and toppings from all over the world, with your choice of milk.
Buckingham palace and St James Park
This beautiful palace, home to the longest-serving British monarch, the Queen, is a must-see. But, after Buckingham Palace, walk down “The Mall” and explore St James Park, London’s most beautiful park in my opinion. Often, people disregard St James Park in favour of Hyde Park but St James is much quieter, smaller and prettier. Have a picnic and grab yourself a glass of Pimms, a quintessentially British alcoholic summertime drink. Since you’re already in the neighbourhood, it is worth visiting Horse Guards Parade.
Afternoon Tea is an occasion to sit down with friends and eat a collection of sandwiches, scones and other cakes, and well of course to drink tea. Who wouldn’t love that?! I recommend having afternoon tea at Cafe Royal in Regents Street. After, head over to Fortnum and Mason, a British upmarket department store, and have a look at their collection of teas and cakes. Also, if you like tea, stop by Whittard’s, a store specialising in tea. They sell the best tea!
Have fun discovering London!