Summer in the City: What to do in London. I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while, so for everyone who asks me ‘What shall I do when I come to London’, this one’s for you. There will, of course, be fashion for those who are solely interested in that. And it goes without saying that there are many other things you can do in our fair city other than these six things, but these are places that I love to go to, so I hope you find this useful. I won’t go into too much detail or this will become a full-on London guide book. Instead, I’ll leave it up to you how you get there and where to stay etc, but for a general overview, I hope you enjoy.
I will say first and foremost that the best way of getting around these places is to WALK. Many places in London are a lot closer than you think and it’s by walking that you discover so much more. I have lived here for nearly 30 years and literally every single time I go out I discover something new. And LOOK UP – that’s where the blue plaques are, and you know I love them…
KEW GARDENS AND RICHMOND
Let’s start in the places closest to where I live. They’re a bit of a way out of town but you can do both in one day, and if you like plants and TV shows about American football coaches then they are a must. Kew Gardens is a perfect oasis on Earth. You can forget you’re in London and just wander through the gardens and glass houses. Even buy yourself a giant Tunnocks bar when you get peckish. From Kew, you can either walk from the Lion Gate to Richmond or get the 65 bus. As ever, I’d say walk – it only takes 15 mins.
In Richmond, have a drink at the Prince’s Head, which doubles as the Coach and Horses in Ted Lasso. If you’re unaware of Ted Lasso at this point – 1. Why? and 2. Watch immediately, it’s the best TV show ever and it’s all filmed in Richmond. Ted’s flat is in Paved Court, just next to the pub. Walk along the river, have an ice cream. Eat at either Carluccio’s, as Richmond STILL has one, or go to the Fat Badger up the hill for some amazing UK-sourced food. Have the mushroom marmite eclairs. Thank me later.
This is a day out that I always recommend to someone visiting London for the first time. You get to see so many things with a walk down the river. Even more if you take a boat trip – more on that later. For the Southbank walk, I’d suggest starting at Westminster Bridge – always good tourist selfie-stick photo opps there, plus Big Ben and Parliament. Hurry along the first stretch, unless you’re a fan of a mime artist or a juggler. Once past the London Eye, grab a Truffle Burger under the bridge. Best burgers in London and I will fight anyone that says different.
Then keep going, past the skate park, the Southbank Centre (good gift shop), National Theatre and the Oxo Tower. Some fun little boutique shops in there too. End up at the Tate Modern. It’s free, and there’s LOADS of mad art to see in there. From here, you can either cross over the ‘wobbly bridge’ to St Paul’s on the north side or carry on your path and walk past the Globe Theatre, Borough Market, the Golden Hinde and HMS Belfast. Cross over Tower Bridge to the Tower of London. Honestly, so much to take in on one day. It’s something we’ve done as a family ever since the kids were tiny and it never disappoints.
LIBERTY, SOHO & COVENT GARDEN
I think most of you know by now that my favourite shop in all the land is Liberty, so if you’re up for a day in W1 then this is a good place to start. My suggestion would be to get the tube to Piccadilly Circus and walk up Regent Street; you can duck in behind the main drag and wind around the back streets. Ideally do this before you get to Hamleys, unless you enjoy watching grown men dressed up as Disney characters blowing bubbles in your face. Take your time in Liberty: smell the smells, feel the merchandise, try not to spend ALL your money. Avoid Oxford Street at all costs.
From there, walk through Soho and up to Cambridge Circus and on to Covent Garden. Don’t worry if you get lost. Maybe stop off at Bar Italia for a coffee on the way and watch the Soho sights walk by. In Covent Garden, be sure to check out Neal’s Yard as it’s just so cute. And the area behind the tube station has some great boutiques – there’s Free People, Ganni, Arket and more, and it’s nice and quiet. For food, go to Seven Dials Market, which is a big food hall with many different culinary options. If you want something VERY Instagrammable but that also serves excellent Italian food, go for Ave Mario. Over the road from that is Petersham Nurseries and La Goccia which are also both fantastic.
CHELSEA, BELGRAVIA & BLUE PLAQUES
A proper classy day out, this one. One for fans of blue plaques too. Start in Cheyne Walk for some excellent plaquage. In that one street you have George Eliot, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Hilaire Belloc, Elizabeth Gaskell and Sylvia Pankhurst. Have a drink at the Cross Keys pub. Walk up to the Kings Road – tons of great shopping opportunities there, they’ve got Rixo, American Vintage, Ganni, Anthropologie and Peter Jones, which is the best John Lewis in the land. Once you get to Sloane Square, seek out Pont St and visit the Anya Hindmarch Village. There’s an ice cream parlour open until the end of August and a great little café selling homemade versions of your favourite childhood biscuits.
For a drink or dinner, walk into Belgravia via Eaton Square. Lots more blue plaques here. Eaton Square: Vivien Leigh. Ebury St: Mozart, Ian Fleming, Vita Sackville-West, Edith Evans and George Moore. Once in Belgravia, there are more small boutiques to discover including NRBY, Beulah, Jo Loves and ME+EM. For food, I love Wild by Tart or the Thomas Cubitt. Just don’t have the espresso martinis at 10pm. A mistake I won’t make again.
SPITALFIELDS & THE CITY
This is quite a good one if you’ve got teenagers. Get the train to Liverpool Street, cross over Bishopsgate and head into Spitalfields Market. All kinds of goodies to be had there, plus more great boutiques around the edges. For vintage fans, there’s the excellent vintage market on Brick Lane. If you have football-mad offspring, head over to Brick Lane to Classic Football Shirts. You may have to make use of the ‘mums’ bench’ out the front for a while. Take a book.
Carry on your walk by heading towards Aldgate. (These places are all close. Like I said, so many places in London are much closer together than you think if you just look at the tube map.) Leadenhall Market is worth a look, especially for Harry Potter fans as it was used as a location for Diagon Alley in the first film. I would also suggest a visit to the Sky Garden. You have to book, but tickets are free and there are fantastic sky-high views of the whole city from up there.
THE THAMES CLIPPER TO GREENWICH
Finally, a really great way to see the city is from the Thames. Get the Thames Clipper (although, looking at it, they are now called Uber boats; not sure how I feel about that) from Embankment Pier to Greenwich. These are also great if you’re going to a gig at the O2. Best way to travel. They even have a bar! This trip will cost you the same as a day travelcard but it’s so much more interesting than getting the tube. It’s even better if you return once it’s got dark as all the buildings are lit up at night. If you have smaller children, Greenwich is fun and secretly educational. There’s the Cutty Sark, the Observatory and the Maritime Museum. They will also get a kick out of the tunnel that takes you under the river. Easily a full day out.
Since I’ve been writing this I’ve thought of so many places I have missed, but I’ll save them for another day. I hope this has been useful.