Readers have been asking me for places to stay, shop, and eat in the cities where I’ve traveled, and you guys know I’m always inclined to oblige.
Up first? London.
If you only have a short amount of time in a big city, I firmly believe you’ll get the most out of your visit if you stick to a certain radius. Try to run all over town, and you’ll wind up exhausted AND feeling like a tourist. Stick to one part of town, though, and you’ll start to get a feel for the neighborhood, which by extension, will make you feel like someone who might actually belong in said-city.
And besides, I’m confident you know that you should walk the famous London Bridge and try to stop by the Queen’s for a glimpse of the newest royal (a boy!), but what about the “locals only” type places?
On my most recent trip to London, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it two and a half day visit, I fell in love with East London, specifically the Shoreditch neighborhood.
Here are some of my favorite places in East London and why they deserve a visit.
The Hoxton Hotel feels like an uber-cool, trendy hotel with the staff of a much less cool hotel. And I mean that in the best possible way. While the vibe says hipster, the staff says “How can I help you?” With a smile. And they mean it. Shocker, right?
The photo booth, the Macs in the corner, and the food and drink for sale at the front desk that costs – biggest shock – what they’d cost at a deli down the street – everything and everyone there works together to make you feel welcome and comfortable.
For lunch: Pizza East
Okay, kind of generic name, I admit. But give it a shot: the pizza is delicious, the communal tables are fun, and, sorry, did I mention the pizza’s delicious? Try the garlic bread to start.
For dinner: Dishoom
One could be thrown off by notes in this Indian restaurant’s menu like “Chicken will be slightly pink,” but just push through it. Everything I’ve tried has been delicious, including the libations from its extensive cocktail list.
For Coffee: The Old Shoreditch Station
It shouldn’t be a surprise that really great coffee is hard to come by in England. The country is known much more for their tea, after all. But if you need a good place to get your caffeine fix when it’s not high tea time, try this friendly neighborhood spot. Located in a decommissioned train station, the space doubles as both a cafe and showroom. A fun place to pick up souvenirs.
For Booze: Happiness Forgets
This cozy bar has christened its offerings as “High End Cocktails / Low Rent Basement,” so you already know you’re in for an experience. This place takes reservations, but if you miss out on getting ahead of the game, just get there early. The bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable, so this is a good place to say, “Well, I like gin….” and then leave it in their hands to come up with something amazing for your tastebuds.
Fun to say, fun to wander through. You’ve got standbys like Jigsaw, Orlebar Brown, Hackett, and the bizarrely named White Stuff. When you get tired of shopping, you’ll find food to nosh on at the big open market in the same space. They’ve also got like, three cycling shops all in a row if you’re into that kind of thing.
The busier Hyde Park that joins up with Kensington Gardens is lovely, but Victoria Park feels more like where Londoners actually hang out. Whether you go there just to pass some time on the grass, or get a workout in, it’s never so busy that you feel like you’re dodging and weaving to get by. There’s also a really random-but-awesome flea market in houseboats along the canal that’s fun to pick through.
What are your favorite London finds?