London is an amazing city, and a place I was lucky enough to call home for 26 years. Although I’ve got lots of London-specific blog posts, I thought I’d pull together a guide to all my favourite parts of the city – museums, restaurants, bars… a local’s guide to London. I haven’t included everywhere I like, as it would go on forever, so this is a curated list of my personal favourites!
Handily, all three of my museum picks are in a row, on Cromwell Road in South Kensington. And, like most of London’s top museums, they’re free to enter (though you’ll have to pay extra for some temporary exhibits).
Natural History Museum
My favourite museum of all time (and not just for the dinosaurs). Housed in an amazing Romanesque building, it’s got one of the most spectacular entrance halls of any museum I’ve been to, overseen by Darwin himself (his statue sits at the top of the stairs). nhm.ac.uk
Victoria & Albert Museum
I only recently rediscovered the V&A (too many visits during school put me off for years!). If you can fight your way past all the sketchers in the more popular places, it’s a calm, beautiful space filled with stunning artworks. There’s a lovely garden area, and even the café is a work of art, featuring intricate mosaic-tiled walls, patterned marble pillars and cool, oversized lights. vam.ac.uk
If you’re coming to London with kids, the Science Museum is brilliant – so much fun and, y’know, educational too. When I was about 10, I did one of their Science Nights, where you get to sleep over in the museum and see all sorts of cool exhibits and demos. If you’ve got children who are into science, it’s a fab experience. sciencemuseum.org.uk
Having commuted to Waterloo Station for years, the South Bank was always my go-to area for after-work dinners and drinks. There are tons of restaurants and bars, you get fantastic views across the river, and there’s always something going on, whether it’s live music or a pop-up festival.
Notting Hill is a real mix of cultures. On the one hand, there are million-pound mansions, eye-wateringly expensive restaurants and a lot of avo-on-toast cafés. But on the other, you’ve got Portobello Market, jazzy multi-coloured houses and a Caribbean culture that spawned one of the biggest carnivals in the world (it’s at the end of August, in case you want to time your visit to coincide).
Very smart and very expensive, but home to some of London’s most beautiful real estate. Wander the streets here to gawp at giant townhouses and mansion flat blocks, and duck down the little mews streets for Instagram-pretty cobbles and cottages. Kensington is also home to the big three museums (see above).
Richmond is where I’d live if I won the lottery. It’s on the river (and comes with a cluster of lovely riverside pubs), has a super-cute village green lined with Georgian mansions, and has loads of independent boutiques, cafés and restaurants. There’s also the small matter of Richmond Park, which you can read more about below.
Richmond Park is like a giant wilderness on the edge of the city. It’s got open fields, woodland, ponds, roaming deer and some of the best views in London (read my Richmond Park post to find out more about why I love it).
St James’s Park
It’s central, it’s fairly compact, and you get lovely views of Buckingham Palace and the London Eye from here.
The Heath is absolutely huge, but my favourite part is Parliament Hill. Hike up to the top (or run – I used to train for cross-country races here and it’s a brilliant workout!) and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over London.
Amazing Mexican food (try the Molcajete Mestizo, a mouth-watering mix of chicken, chorizo, cheese, avocado and mole sauce, bubbling in a volcanic stone bowl) and epic all-you-can-eat Sunday brunches. Read more about it in my 5 places to eat in London post.
I used to work round the corner from Caravan and my colleagues and I would find any excuse to treat ourselves to lunch there (birthdays, engagements, Fridays, Mondays…). The menu is mostly small plates, so it’s great for sharing. caravanonexmouth.co.uk
Great tapas and Spanish drinks (beer, wine, cava, sherry). There are a few different outposts around London and they’re all quite different – my favourite is the Blackfriars venue, mostly because they’ve got a dedicated cava bar beneath the restaurant! camino.uk.com
The kind of dirty burgers that’ll clear a hangover in seconds. It’s very cool/trendy, so expect a queue unless you get there early. meatliquor.com
BARS & PUBS
This historic pub near St. Paul’s is all about the gin & tonic, served in bowl-like glasses with chunks of hand-chipped ice. Read more about it in my historic pub crawl post.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
You can drink wine and eat cheese in a cave – what more do you need to know?! It’s the oldest wine bar in London, too. Read my love letter to Gordon’s here.
The Three Kings
I adore this cosy, quirky pub in Clerkenwell. The décor is slightly bonkers (think stuffed animal heads and vintage photos), but it all adds to the charm. If you’re eating, go for the chilli, and if it’s winter, ask if they’ve got any of their mulled apple cider. 7 Clerkenwell Close, EC1R
London Cocktail Club
There are six of these bars, so you’re never likely to be too far from one. There are dozens of cocktails to choose from – I love a martini, so my picks are the affogato (an espresso martini with ice-cream on the side) and the bacon & egg, which comes with a Haribo fried egg and rasher of crispy pancetta (it works, promise!). londoncocktailclub.co.uk
It’s insanely busy, but there are a lot of shops – including Selfridges and the mother of all Topshops (prepare to lose a good few hours in there). Avoid Oxford Circus during rush hour; they tend to close the station due to overcrowding, leading to massive people pile-ups on the pavement outside.
I don’t tend to buy much here (too pricey), but the building is beautiful and the Christmas section (which opens nice and early) is great. One day I’ll treat myself to one of their famous Liberty print scarves! liberty.co.uk