I’ll be honest – London has never inspired me. I mean sure it’s the home of the British Royal Family and the fab Kate Middleton, birthplace of the Spice Girls (best girl band ever in the history of everything), the city that made punk cool and most importantly – Benedict Cumberbatch is a native London-ite.
To me London was just another Western cosmopolitan city that lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Oh how wrong I was.
London. Is. Cool. There is no other word for it. If cool were a tangible commodity, it would be London. Everything just oozes it – from their distinct architecture, their much-criticised yet highly-efficient underground system, the style of their citizens and even their pubs. Goddammit London, why must you be so cool?
Highlights and hints:
- If you are staying in a neighbourhood my advice is to explore the area. I didn’t do this until I had dinner with a friend of mine after a few days in London, who showed me that there was a lot of restaurants and cafes behind the tube station. Further investigation the following day resulted in a ‘d’oh’ moment when I discovered the V&A, Natural History Museum etc were a five minute walk and I had taken the long route on our first day. Double d’oh.
- I really love Big Ben, I have always wanted to see it as a kid. So I highly recommend walking along Westminster Bridge, taking photos of Big Ben and the London Eye, wandering further to Westminster Abbey, check out the changing of the guard from the Horse Guards Parade and take a shortcut through St. James’ Park to Buckingham Palace to see the other half of the guard change.
- My favourite museum was the Victoria and Albert (V&A). I don’t know if this is swayed by the fact that there was a wedding dress exhibition on when I visited (included celebrity wedding dresses from Kate Moss, Gwen Stefani and Dita von Teese to name a few), but it has such a varied collection of artwork from across the globe. It also helps that it’s filled with art students sketching the sculptures on display so you know it must be a legit art gallery. Make sure you browse the gift shop, it has some of the best gifts and I’m sure your loved ones will be grateful!
- Harry Potter fans MUST – stictly must – visit the Warner Brothers Harry Potter studio. Yes, it’s magic in real life. It’s not just a ‘OMG that’s from the movie’ experience, you really do appreciate the love, effort and time that went into producing the world of Hogwarts and beyond. My favourite part was Diagon Alley and of course, tasting Butterbeer!
- For the geeks out there please do yourselves a favour and visit the British Library. They have a special room where they have collections of antique and rare manuscripts including novels, song lyrics and religious documents.
- You’ll see this in the guidebooks but I beg you to visit the Borough Markets. If you’re a foodie you will absolutely love this place! The smells, the sights and the variety of options for lunch! The fact that it is bustling and you have to elbow people out the way is a guaranteed indicator this place is popular with both visitors and locals so it must be a winner.
- High tea at Sketch. Located between Oxford Street and New Bond Street this is every girl’s delight. As you walk past a curtain of sparkling stones (real or not real I’m not sure) you walk past the restaurant into a pink room. EVERYTHING is pink, it’s fantastic. The wall is covered in sketches by local artists (hence the name Sketch) and the food is divine. It is pretty costly (I think I paid £39 which included unlimited tea and sandwiches) but worth it. The chairs are poufy, what more do you want?!
- I caught up with some friends of mine and we went to the most strangest bar I’ve ever been to. Danger of Death is one of the many speakeasies that have opened up in London and is tucked beneath another bar behind a door which has one of those official-looking stickers that says ‘Danger of Death’. Hehe such cleverness. The barman was a charming Hungarian who made some killer cocktails (pardon the pun, it was too punny not to make) and if you drank all 20 in the Danger of Death cocktail passport (not in one night thank god) you won an unlimited bar tab or something like it. It’s located along Brick Lane so after sampling some of London’s not-so-best curry, soothe the belly with a deathly cocktail.
London is a place that has so much history and you can’t help but be drawn into and admire the stories they have to tell. Take a lot of photos as there are so many picturesque scenes, especially in their parks. London during Christmas time is just spectacular so if you have a chance to visit at this time of year do so, as you’ll be reminded of how to celebrate Christmas properly.