OK, we LOVE London, there’s no hiding it. It’s unique, exceptional, scary and exciting all at once and there’s so much to do. Here is a list of the top 50 not-to-be-missed places in London.
OK, we LOVE London, there’s no hiding it. It’s unique, exceptional, scary and exciting all at once and there’s so much to do. When you’re new in town and trying to decide where to go first, it can be pretty overwhelming and, like most big cities, you can never see everything. It’s easy to be drawn to the big tourist attractions and, whilst you can have fantastic experiences in these historic and fascinating places, you won’t get to see much of the real London – the London that hides down the myriad of backstreets and alleyways, the London you’ve always wanted to find, the London that us Londoners experience every day.
So, with that in mind, here are our top 50 favourite places to go to in London.
1. MONMOUTH (27 Monmouth Street, WC2H 9EU) in Covent Garden and 2. BAR ITALIA (22 Frith Street, W1D 4RP) in Soho. Both are small and often busy; the latter has outside tables which is nice if it’s sunny.
3. JOE & THE JUICE (69 Broadwick St, W1F 9QY) where you are served coffee, juices and paninis by good-looking young people. You can use the wi-fi and hang around either fancying them or feeling ugly – or both!
4. YUMCHAA (43 Carol Street, NW1 0HT) – awesome tea drinking to be found here!
5. TINA, WE SALUTE YOU (47 King Henry’s Walk, N1 4NH) which is cozy and welcoming, with great frothy coffee and tasty porridge.
6. CURZON SOHO (99 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 5DY) for reading, working, coffee and maybe a film.
7. FOYLES (113-119 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0EB), the best bookshop in London. There’s a coffee shop on the second floor and somehow it’s both a place to escape and filled with hustle and bustle.
8. GORDON’S WINE BAR (47 Villiers Street, WC2N 6NE) – a cavernous atmosphere beneath the streets complete with candles, cheese, the smell of damp and good wine!
9. FREUD (198 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8JL) which is underground. You need to follow the iron staircase on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Neal Street – at the bottom is a toilet on your left and the aforementioned cocktail bar.
Finally, a great place to start or end your night is 14. THE LOCK TAVERN (35 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AJ).
15. FOOD FOR THOUGHT (31 Neal Street, WC2H 9PR) is always tasty and healthy, sometimes excellent, never meaty.
16. GOVINDA’S (10 Soho Street, W1D 3D) is run by Hare Krishnas and you can get a big plate of Indian veggie food here. It used to be really cheap; it’s not quite so much of a deal anymore but it’s still nice and sort of blessed and holy, probably.
There’s a lot more choice at 17. MILDREDS (45 Lexington Street, W1F 9AN). It has a dignified pace, it’s been around for ages and it still does great food.
18. NUMARA BOS CIRRIK (34 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XJ) is our favourite Turkish joint in north London – perfectly cooked meat and the grilled onions with pomegranate molasses are so good that the memory will stay with you long after you’ve left.
19. LEON – if you’re in central London and want to grab a tasty lunch, then go here. They have branches dotted about all over the place.
20. BANNER’S (21 Park Rd, N8 8TE) is Caribbean at heart. The menu may sound a bit odd but we promise you’ll like their huge and delicious portions of comforting food. Far from the centre of London but it’s pretty marvelous.
21. MORO (34-36 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE) is our favourite restaurant in London. Never had a bad time there, the service is great and the food and atmosphere are utterly delicious.
22. NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY (2 St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE) – the restaurant is not as good as Moro but it’s still special and worth a mention because it’s got two things we like: it’s kind of secretive and has fantastic views of London, particularly if you can get a window seat. They do a good afternoon tea with sandwiches and cake too.
23. BARRAFINA (54 Frith Street, W1D 4SL) is fantastic. The service is always friendly and the atmosphere created by the tapas bar dining means it feels novel simply because it’s not the face-off that most meals for two are – although this is not a place to go if there’s more than three or if you’re used to Spanish tapas prices. This is Soho tapas prices.
Talking of pricey, 24. J. SHEEKEY (33-34 St Martin’s Court, WC2N 4AL) is an amazing fish restaurant but only go there if someone else is paying.
25. ANDREW EDMUNDS (46 Lexington Street, W1F 0LP) – a romantic little hideaway in Soho that you can easily walk past without seeing. It’s bohemian Soho at its best.
26. DUCKSOUP (41 Dean Street, W1D 4PY) – there isn’t actually any duck soup on the menu, however it is a delicious place to eat.
27. BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE (BFI) (Belvedere Road, SE1 8XT) on the South Bank for great old and new films and for sitting outside with a friend and watching the world go by. The world goes by that way sometimes. Food is quite good in the restaurant there too.
Around the corner behind the Royal Festival Hall, the restaurant 28. CANTEEN is also nice and not too expensive but the world doesn’t pass by there as much.
29. CYCLING is without a doubt the best way to experience London. You can hire bikes on the street and you may be interested to find out just how close to each other some of those tube stops actually are!
30. SOMERSET HOUSE FILMS – every summer they host an outdoor cinema in opulent surroundings. Take a picnic and enjoy a classic film (as long as it doesn’t rain)!
31. THE PHOTOGRAPHERS’ GALLERY (16-18 Ramillies Street, W1F 7LW) for a quick shot of culture away from Oxford Circus and the endless shopping.
32. NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM (Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD) – OK, you’ve already heard of this one, but it’s really worth a visit. There are old animals, stuffed and boned, and so many weird and wonderful things: wildlife photography, butterflies and even an ice rink!
Beyond the sparkly musicals and mainstream theatre productions of the West End, there are lots of smaller and extremely interesting theatres scattered around London. Check out the following: 33. THE ALMEIDA (where Luke once worked as an usher) is just off Upper Street in Islington – a road full of more restaurants and estate agents than you can possibly imagine. The Theatre itself is small, chic and intimate and consistently puts on great shows. Others worth mentioning are the 34. DONMAR in Covent Garden, 35. THE ROYAL COURT in Kensington and the brilliant 36. NATIONAL THEATRE on the South Bank.
Perhaps the ballet at 37. SADLER’S WELLS on Rosebery Avenue may inspire you to buy a leotard and dance off into the twilight? In fact, you could just pop into 38. PINEAPPLE STUDIOS in Covent Garden and take a dance class in pretty much any style you fancy. Classes are usually fine for beginners and it’s a fun hour spent laughing (and sweating) with friends.
Take a walk or cycle down a canal path from any point you wish to any other (it’s all good!), running from west London to east through different boroughs and taking in all different neighbourhoods and their offerings. 39. TOWPATH (Regent’s Canal towpath, between Whitmore Bridge and Kingsland Road Bridge, N1 5SB) is a nice little place to get a coffee, play a board game or, in the evening, have a glass of wine and hope that the jazz musicians will rock up and start busking. The whole canal has plenty to offer though. Highlights include Little Venice, London Zoo, Camden Town, Angel Islington, Broadway Market and Victoria Park.
We would also recommend throwing bread or bird food at birds in the sky and trying to get them to fly for their dinner. There are of course plenty of parks you can try this in, but it works particularly well with the birds in 40. ST JAMES’S PARK (SW1A 2BJ).
41. HAMPSTEAD HEATH is an essential visit, especially in the summer – but for all seasons it serves well to escape the city and to see Londoners pretending they’re country folk. (London may be a sprawling metropolis but, underneath, it’s still England’s green and pleasant land.) When the weather permits, there are also public swimming baths in the ponds and, for the the brave, jumping in is a thrilling experience!
If you can work out a walk that takes in 42. THE SPANIARDS INN (Spaniards Road, NW3 7JJ) for a English pub lunch you’ll be all the merrier for it.
London’s Markets are really worth a look at. 43. BRIXTON MARKET (Electric Avenue, SW9 8JX) is full of every fruit and vegetable under the sun (or at least available in London) and is a very authentic experience. 44. BOROUGH MARKET is full of wonderful food, although it’s often as busy as the tubes at rush hour.
We would recommend breakfast at 45. HACKNEY CITY FARM with the pigs and chickens. If it’s on a Sunday, you could then take in the trendy 46. BROADWAY MARKET (E8 4PH) too. And, if it’s sunny, stop off at the 47. LIDO for an outdoor swim.
Check out 48. COLUMBIA ROAD for its quirky independent shops and buzzing marketplace atmosphere. In particular, don’t miss out on its vibrant 49. FLOWER MARKET (E2 7NN) if you’re up for the crowds and the flowers.
Our final offering is 50. SPITALFIELDS MARKET, conveniently situated between the Square Mile and Brick Lane. Once a ‘free-for-all’ flea market, in recent years it’s been completely refurbished. There is a regular market almost every day but we particularly like bric-a-brac Thursdays, when the market comes alive with retro furniture and friendly stallholders. Once there, you are stone’s throw away from the famous curry houses, vintage clothing stores and boutique coffee shops of Brick Lane – where, on a pleasant summer’s evening, you’ll get a real glimpse into the London that we love so much.
Phew, that’s enough for now! We hope you’ll try and enjoy at least one of our top 50 London hotspots. What are your favourite places and sights in London? We’d love to hear what you think, so do please leave a comment below. You could use our list of favourite places to create a unique, London-themed webquest for your students, or try one of onestopenglish’s selection of London-focused lesson plans to bring England’s capital city into your classroom.
You can also tell us what you think on social networks: join onestopenglish on Facebook and Twitter or connect with the London Language Experience and Luke Vyner on Facebook!
For now go and enjoy London and everything that it has to offer you!
Thanks for reading,
Luke, James and Ben
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A local’s guide to the 50 best places to visit in London