I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about London. It’s a city that doesn’t sleep (although slows down dramatically with the far too frequent tube strikes). Personally, dare I say, I don’t love London. I’m waiting for that moment it clicks, that I get it and love this city like everyone else, I’m skeptic though, each day the rose tinted lustre of London dulls a little and I dream a bit more of mountains and fields that resonate home. There are some things I love about London, if not predominantly the light which produces the most magic of twilights that make my heart beat a touch faster each night, but that’s a whole different story. Here are the things that probably hold a bit more interest for people not so obsessed with such frivolities.
Hampstead Heath: This is the most beautiful place to wander and get lost amongst the many trails that weave through the picturesque English flora. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a picnic on an infrequent sunny day, even luckier if it’s warm enough to allow swimming in one of the ponds (or pack a wetsuit), with that touch of English class separating gender with ladies and gentlemen’s ponds.
Galleries: The choice here is endless, and being London they are all very well curated. Tate modern is an obvious choice, the V & A is so diverse and the touring exhibitions are worth every cent to see, the National Gallery is simply stunning as a building itself and the Natural History Museum is perfectly what it should be complete with dinosaur skeleton in the main hall. For something smaller and less touristy head to Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, with a beautiful selection of modern works ever changing, or for something whimsical and saturated with nostalgia the Museum of Childhood will take you back to it’s exact namesake.
Columbia Road Flower Market/Brick Lane Market: If you’re travelling you probably don’t need to buy flowers, but this is a beautiful market to visit and spend your Sunday morning exploring the area. Come early and find a charming café for a delicious brunch before hunting about the vintage stores in the surrounding lanes. You can then head along to Brick Lane Market, only 10 minutes by foot; this is much bigger and has a huge focus on vintage as well as the tourist staples. You’ll also find some great street food and a variety of bars because it’s a Sunday, Sunday was made for afternoon beers.
Soho: This is a small pocket in central London, just off Oxford Street that’s perfectly London central, sans tourists unlike it Covent Garden counterpart. Soho is undeniably my favorite city spot that charms me every time, each street lined with amazing cafes (you will actually find good coffee here, praise the coffee gods), bars, boutique stores and the best magazine selections in London. Soho is the reprieve from the hectic surroundings you need for sanity; make sure find yourself here around lunchtime, don’t find yourself here with bundles of cash that you know you shouldn’t spend…
Borough Market: Food. Again. Jump of the tube at London Bridge, head up The Shard for London views before heading to the Borough Market for lunch. This place gets hectic for good reason, the street food is cheap and amazing, you honestly can’t go wrong, and if you want more of a sit down affair the narrow cobblestone laneways play host to endless cafes that will have you sorted. It’s the perfect place to fuel up pre/post a walk along the river; one direction heading to Tower Bridge and the other to the Tate.
The Palace: It kills me to admit it ever so slightly, but Buckingham Palace is truly worth a look, it is stunning. If you want to catch a glimpse of the changing of the guards be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes early, it does get incredibly busy and honestly, if you’re squeezed in behind everyone else it’s really not worth it, you won’t see much at all. Make sure to walk through St. James’s Park (and feed a squirrel along the way) to visit the ponies.
Primrose Hill: You haven’t done London if you haven’t done Primrose hill. Pack a picnic (for all you Aussies it’s a-ok to drink booze publicly here) and enjoy a sunset fronted by the best view of London around.
Tube vs. Bus: London relies on its tube (see aforementioned strike comment) but if you’re a tourist make the most of the transport time by taking the bus. It’s the best way to orientate yourself with the city, get the best view of the beautiful architecture, and a weekly pass (including the tube) is the same cost as a day pass for the London Explorer, go on, thank me. Not only that but you won’t have to suffer the stuffy underground and getting a touch to personal with strangers cramming every spot before those tube doors close.
That’s all. That’s all you need to see here. Sorry London, it’s you, not me.