I never considered London to be in my top 10 cities to visit. To be honest, the first time I went, I wasn’t even excited. My sister, who had been there once before, fell head over heels for the exciting city and tried to convince me of the opposite. “You will love it”, she promised as we landed that first time.
I did love it. I remember thinking to myself "It's more beautiful than Paris”, but I didn’t share this thought with anyone because I knew I could be severely judged. I flew in with my mother and sister and we did the usual touristy trip: visited the London tower, got a tour of the Westminster Abbey, sat at Trafalgar square and visited the National Gallery Museum, had high-tea at The Wesley, hopped on the London Eye, shopped for a single chocolate at Harrods, and walked through crazy Piccadilly Circus.
I will never forget that feeling of amazement and wonder towards a city that is so beautiful, rich with history, modern, and clean.
This summer I had the privilege to visit London with my family once again. My cousin, who lives there, and some friends that had lived in London, shared with us a detailed list of things to do. You cannot imagine my level of excitement when I realized that most of these recommendations were related to food. Bring it on!
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What I loved the most was walking around discovering all the different areas and zones; London is truly an amazing city. The architecture of every house and building is classic to the point of being cliché, except that it’s not, because this is truly what London looks like from every perspective. From Noting Hill to Camden, Greek columns dominate the frames of every single entrance, windows are decorated with plants or flowers, and short fences separate the streetway from the front stairs that lead to a beautiful door.
We were very lucky to be in London the best two weeks of the year, it was sunny and warm every day. This made it easier to walk the city from top to bottom, 12 hours a day, with not a cloud in the sky, and not a worry in our hearts. "The city looks brighter and more beautiful", that’s what the locals kept on telling us.
The parks, with enormous trees and romantic lakes full of ducks and swans, are truly worthy of a painting. The classic and the modern don’t stand in conflict, but rather create a sensation of visiting both the past and the future in one day.
London is elegant, of course (Buckingham and Belgravia), but it has also the hippie-hipster side (Camden and Brick Lane), that compliments its character perfectly. The city is a mixture of different cultures, languages, and religions; which makes the gastronomical aspect so exciting. Finally, I would love to say out loud and in writing: London is more beautiful (and definitely cleaner) than Paris, sorry les français, this is my humble opinion.
Things to do
1- Pick a sunny day and head to Borough Market for brunch (Closed on Sundays).
The market has plenty of food trucks, local shops, and a variety of European products to shop. You can get a full lunch just by sampling on bread and all the different kinds of olive oils that vendors have to offer. -Try the truffle oil from the truffle stand. – For brunch, we had the duck confit sandwich with cheddar cheese and caramelized onions at the corner stand in front of the strawberries. And for dessert, a cappuccino and a ginormous cookie the size of my face.
2- Visit Convent Garden, it’s touristy but still beautiful. Order a gin & tonic in one of the pubs located on the second floor- in London they have hundreds of different tonics- and watch the street performers downstairs.
3- Take a bus to Trafalgar Square, a public square in Westminster, Central London, where you will find some of the coolest street artists performing in front of historic monuments.
4- You can also visit the National Gallery for free and then walk through the Admiralty Arch past St. James Park to get to the Buckingham Palace.
5- Go shopping at Piccadilly Circus and finish your day at Carnaby Street.
6- Get a late lunch or dinner at Kingly Court, a food venue hidden in one of Carnaby’s streets. FYI, the nightlife there gets pretty vibrant.
7- On a Saturday or Sunday, take the trip to Noting Hill and go to the Portobello Road Market. Best thrift shopping of your life.
8- Kilometers of antique shops and stands that sell clothes, books, cameras, jewelry, accessories, etc. Make a refreshing stop at UKAI, best sushi around.
9- But if you are looking for the greatest biggest thrift market of all you have to visit Camden Market. It is so big, it took us almost three hours to walk it all. Try the PB & Jelly sandwich at the entrance!
10- Pique-nique! Go to La Fromagerie at Moxon St. in Marylebone and order some lunch to go; walk 5 minutes to Hyde Park and enjoy it while staring at the beautiful views.
For an authentic English dinner, visit The Grenadier, a hidden pub in Belgravia, one of the most beautiful and elegant neighborhoods in London. Order the Beef Wellington, it is to die for.
11- Extra! One of my favorite neighborhoods to walk around is Brick Lane in Shoreditch: cool people, cool coffee shops and pubs, street art, thrift shopping, and the best Indian food in London. Make a reservation at Dishoom for dinner, you can thank me later.
It would’ve not been very Beauties-type of me if I did not share my experience with you, les bons vivants.
Where to eat Breakfast/Brunch?
Where to eat Lunch?
Where to eat Dinner?
London is an incredible city with exceptionally good restaurants, elegant yet modern sights, and a very English 5-7 ambiance. I truly recommend placing it on your list of “Top 10 cities to visit”.