London Travel Guide
Katie Dean, April 03 2020
My initial visit to London was over 12 years ago when I was fresh out of my first year of college and my dad took me on a whirlwind European adventure. But this wasn't just any trip, he had me follow in his and my mom's footsteps from when they went backpacking through Europe before I was born, visiting a lot of the same places they went to.
After traveling through Italy and France, My Dad and I finally made it to London where we would be ending our trip. We were a bit tired from almost three weeks of travel but we did some incredible things like going to see a play at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. We were experts at making our dollar stretch and traveled like most college students would, staying in hostels, getting discount tickets to performances and taking trains versus flying from country to country. It was such an amazing experience.
With all that said, I left London feeling like I didn't really get to see the magical sides of her. So going back with my husband, who is the ultimate planner and foodie (as you can see from our previous travels to Barcelona, Italy & France, Puglia) was bound to be an eye opener.
And rest assured, London really swept me off my feet on this trip.
First and foremost, being the flower lover that I am, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that London is known for their absolutely stunning flower installations. Seeing the floral installations, that were in my eyes quite brilliant living sculptures, adorn many of the boutique shop entrances created a bond between me and England that will never be broken. Did I mention flowers are the way to my heart?!
This door instinctively reminded me of the blue door house in the film, Notting Hill - which if you haven't seen, please remedy that asap! It's a perfectly whimsical movie to bring your spirits up during COVID-19. Which of course Jon and I went to visit the Notting Hill borough on this trip.
The above floral installment is one of the social media stars, famous for it's wonderfully pink exterior, overly abundant floral touches and extravagant desserts. If you plan on visiting Peggy Porschen Cakes while in London, get there early, the line starts to form before they open their doors. If you don't make it before the line has stretched around the block, make sure your phone is fully charged so you have something to do while you wait, or bring a book to read.
BRING ON THE COFFEE
The amount of coffee shops that are perfectly sprinkled throughout greater London is a caffeine lovers dream. We were only in the city for about three days so we averaged about two coffee spots a day while going back to our favorites of course. Anymore caffeine would have shocked my system I'm afraid but next time I'll get my tolerance up so we can get to at least three to four a day... kidding, or am I? 😉
We stayed at the gorgeous Marylebone Hotel in London which was right down the street from Monocle Coffee. Lucky for us because Monocle turned out to be my absolute favorite coffee shop in London and we went daily.
Above shows a glimpse of the lobby as you enter into Marylebone Hotel as well as a beautiful lounge area for guests that is decorated with modern art and plush velvet chairs and sofas. The design of the Marylebone Hotel was a wonderful mixture of modern and classic. Just my style.
Monocle is easily spotted by their cute striped awning. It looks as if it is just waiting to get its picture taken, doesn't it? You better believe we played full tourist and shot tons of photos in front of this picturesque coffee shop. I indulged in a Swedish Bun (pictured above) on every visit because: vacation. I definitely recommend bringing along your favorite book and cozying up at one of the outside tables to enjoy your visit to Monocle.
Coincidentally I was deep in the throws of a novel written by an English author, Jojo Moyes. I highly recommend her books if you like to get lost in another world, she keeps her stories adventurous and light hearted with witty writing and a touch of humor but never gets too heavy. Exactly what I look for when reading for fun.
Here are a list of Coffee Shops I recommend:
- Monocle - our favorite coffee spot, 18 Chiltern St, Marylebone, London
- Monmouth - strong coffee just FYI, 27 Monmouth St, London
- Minnow - coffee, brunch, lunch, din, 21 The Pavement, London
- Paper & Cup - just the cutest, 18 Calvert Ave, Hackney, London
- White Mulberries - coffee with a view of the water, St Katharine Docks, London
- There are soooo many more coffee shops but these were our top 5
TEA TIME AT SKETCH
My next suggestion may be known to many but it deserves the spotlight. Tea time at Sketch London. It was a dream destination for me being that it is super artsy and encompasses my core color palette of pink. Every detail about Sketch is thoughtfully planned out and they delightfully don't stay within the lines. You'll see what I mean when you look at the pictures of their bathrooms below. You may think you're going to set off into outer space when you step into the egg shaped pods but have no fear, each pod is its own bathroom.
Tea time at Sketch is way more than your average tea time. The walls are filled with modern art, the staff look like they've just stepped out of a print ad in head to toe Gucci and they have live classical music that fills the air. The best comparison would be: Alice in Wonderland and I mean that as the highest compliment.
Full transparency, it is on the pricier side when it comes to traditional tea times so if you don't think it's your thing, I wouldn't make it a must on your travel itinerary. If it is your thing, definitely make a reservation. Oh and go hungry because they give you TONS of yummy and beautiful tea time cakes and sandwiches. In my opinion the experience was worth every penny.
Now, on to food!
We ate SO MUCH GOOD FOOD. In other words, the old fable that England isn't known for their food scene is totally outdated because let me tell you, we are foodies and we were not disappointed.
For a healthy brunch we loved Farm girl. It's in the heart of Notting Hill so I recommend taking a stroll through their colorful streets, snap a bunch of photos because that neighborhood is the definition of photogenic and after you've walked around enough to work up an appetite, head over to Farm Girl at 59A Portobello Rd.
Jon and I were both surprised that our favorite thing was the oat latte that we each got. FYI Farm Girl is a 'healthy' food spot. I always try to include healthier places in the itinerary since we need to balance out all the heavier meals, right? You'll still leaving feeling satisfied and with a full tummy though so don't over think it!
Now, after brunch head to one of the beautiful gardens within London, read a book, play a game of travel scrabble, give your digestion system a break and then head to...
Definitely one of our tastiest meals in London. You may know Darjeeling Express from their Netflix episode on Chef's Table. If you haven't watched it, this is another show you should add to your COVID-19 Watch List. It's super inspiring and both Jon and I love knowing as much as we can about the history of a restaurant before we dine there. It definitely makes us appreciate the food and culture and makes for a memorable experience.
Also, you can see from the above picture, the interior of Darjeeling Express is beautiful! I loved the hanging plants and globe lights as well as the gorgeous pastel blue accent color that you see in the tile and on some of the walls. Below you'll see our top three dishes that we loved the most:
- Channa Chaat
- Chilli Garlic Prawns
- Kalonji Paneer Curry
Thinking about those dishes literally makes my mouth water. Definitely a foodie place. HIGHLY recommend making a reservation if you want to eat here. It's in demand and normally you have to book well in advance (4-6 weeks). If you aren't planning to travel to London anytime soon, lucky for you, Asma Kahn (the founder of Darjeeling Express) just released her first cookbook!
After you've walked off, or napped off your Indian lunch, it's time to head to dinner at...
What a delight this dinner was. It's in a really cool area of London called Shoreditch and from what we were told this area has gone through an artistic rebirth. Apparently it used to be more rundown but from what we could tell it's in its prime. A lively neighborhood with tons of restaurants, bars, hotels, cafes.
The interior has more of an industrial style while still feeling warm and welcoming thanks to the open kitchen (love being able to see the chefs work their magic) and the beautifully golden brown tables and chairs.
Lyle's does a pre-fixed menu for dinner and we we're in love with our meal. The portion of each entrée was just right. We went from one to the next feeling satisfied by the incredible flavors but not feeling stuffed. See our menu below for the delicious meal that we indulged in and some snaps of our actual meal.
Jon did the wine pairing and he was a fan. On that note, orange wine was immensely popular when we were in Europe last year. Everywhere we went it was on the menu.
London is known for their pubs but they also have an incredible cocktail and wine scene. Even though I'm not much of a drinker, I still like going along to cocktail hour and getting a mocktail.
Here are three places that we were very much in love with.
This ultra stylish cocktail bar sits on the River Thames within the hotel, Sea Containers London. It's monochromatic blue interior is another perfectly picturesque interior that you most definitely should document and their cocktail menu was very impressive.
P. Franco is a natural wine bar north of central London. We took a double decker bus instead of an Uber so we could sit on the top deck and see the city as we made our way. We got there in the early afternoon on a Friday and it was already pretty packed. After about 20 minutes we got a seat by the window and while putting in Jon's wine order we also put in an order for the bread, which came out hot and an incredible pasta dish that was part of their daily special. It was so good we didn't have time to take pictures and we even ordered both again for a second helping. To see some photos of the food at P. Franco's I found this article where they are featured.
P. Franco was definitely the most down to earth place we went to in London and it was delightful. The exterior is still up from the previous owners and when we entered we felt like we had stumbled upon a place that you only hear about from a friend of a friend (which was the case with us!). You could tell this was a local spot and very beloved by the neighborhood. If we lived in London we would be regulars in no time.
This place is the exact opposite of P. Franco but we still loved it. Chiltern Firehouse gives off an exclusive, 'members only' vibe something that I roll my eyes at but I also had fun with. We got dressed up and met a friend for drinks and we had a great time.
We also had brunch here one morning and it was very yummy. You aren't allowed to take pictures inside so I snapped a few outside from our cocktail evening and LBH, Chiltern Firehouse is stunning!
If you're looking for something to do besides eat and drink, beautiful gardens and museums are a plenty in London. We went to the Victoria & Albert Museum for the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition.
They had rooms upon rooms filled with Dior gowns from the beginning of his career to the end. It was so whimsical and inspiring. The care and attention that Christian Dior put into his work is something to be marveled at. He seemed to never compromise on the integrity of his vision when you're with them in person, each piece truly takes your breath away.
We spent hours at the Victoria and Albert Museum and left with a new appreciation for Christian Dior, and all high end designers.
All in all there is no shortage of exciting things to do in London and I can not wait to go back!
During COVID-19 I've spent a lot of time reflecting on all the things I took for granted in life. The world will be a different place once this virus is handled and I think it will be a better place. I can see a world where kids are excited to go to school, men and women look forward to heading into the office, concerts and festivals will sell out, the arts will be supported and admired more than ever and we will all cherish our in-person moments together like never before.
Start planning your future travels while you have this extra time on your hands! 💛
May 28 2020
Amazing recommendations!! Planning to visit them all soon!