Top London Districts to Explore
Top of the morning to you! Isn’t it a darling day to talk travel? Since we will be discussing London, England it is only necessary that everyone read with British accents and pretend to daintily sip on a cup of tea and eat freshly baked biscuits with jam and clotted cream (you know you want to). Sounds quite lovely, doesn’t it?
Out and about in London…
I had the pleasure of visiting England in early December 2016 and I managed to spend a total of 5 days in London alone. There was so much on my to do list and I didn’t want to miss anything. 5 days was just the right amount to explore the areas that were most important to me and I’m so glad I didn’t have a minute less.
Because London is such a large city, it is conveniently organized into what they call “boroughs” or districts much like major cities I am familiar with like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New York City, etc. I find this easier to understand a place and wrap my mind around its geographical layout. Especially since I lived in San Francisco, I learned the city by memorizing names of neighborhoods and making plans based on whether I wanted to explore a place like the Mission which is down to earth, alternative, and full of life or somewhere like Pacific Heights that is for those with classy, more expensive taste.
LONDON BOROUGHS AND DISTRICTS
1. Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush
This district was so charming and made me feel like I had traveled into a smaller village neatly tucked away somewhere hidden where all knew each other and lived a simple, yet sweet life. Roads were lined with brick houses, brightly colored doorsteps, English gardens, and small cafes and shops that I could imagine get most of their business from the reoccurring locals. Notting Hill was romantic and fit into my imagination of what a small English town might be like. It became famous from the film “Notting Hill” in the early 2000s and is how I came to know the name. It attracts antique collectors and vintage lovers to its weekly Portobello Market. This is a dream for me because I deeply love all things vintage and have a collection back home myself. Vintage is so full of unique characteristics and has a long history of stories to tell that I want to be apart of. Vendors spend their days selling antique jewelry, clothes, books, clocks, china, etc. and you know they experienced a journey to find all these treasures. I bought a couple lovely rings and a few teapots at a corner antique shop where I appropriately saw “Mr. Carson” the head butler from the BBC TV series, “Downton Abbey”. I was REALLY excited. I’m a huge fan of the show and used to watch every Sunday with my mom and sister. It was so refreshing to step away from the hustle and bustle of downtown London for a minute and walk through a quiet and elegant neighborhood still within London’s city limits.
This borough is where you will find all of the bigger tourist attractions such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, House of Parliament, Palace of Westminster and Buckingham Palace. It is full of the iconic double decker buses, red phone booths and streets full of foreigners from all around the world trying to navigate the city and see every site. You won’t be short of amazing pictures, cups of tea, fish and chips and a good brew around here. Be sure to take the “Birdcage Walk” along St. James Park from Buckingham to Westminster Abbey. Stunning!
3. SOHO (Carnaby)
SOHO had a fun atmosphere and had so many trendy looking restaurants and shops. I only happened upon it accidentally while going up and down side streets from the busy shopping district of Regent and Oxford Street. I stopped in at a local coffee shop called the “SoHo Grind” and had two amazing lattes to warm me up before walking around in the chilly winter night a little more. I then found Kingly Market, a high end food court with a fine assortment of ethnic foods to select from such as Italian, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Seafood, Hamburgers, etc. It was covered in lights in theme of Christmas season and even though it was freeezing outside most were in the open air seating area enjoying their dinner and drinks under heat lamps and friendly company. SOHO was sending me good vibes and is definitely a place I want to visit again. Since I didn’t get a chance to experience the nearby Wine Club or the Speakeasy style bar that was playing live Jazz music, I’d like a rain check please!
Shoreditch is an up and coming area and one that was referenced by the few locals I talked to as a fun, quirky, alternative, artsy neighborhood with good food and funky art graffitied on walls by the famous Banksy and many other local street artists. He is an English based artist from Bristol and tattoos the walls with a stencil like technique that portrays satire in his work. Abby and I were able to visit this district together and take a walk down Brick Lane where we saw all of this and more! We definitely felt cooler just by being here. We explored the must see Spitalfield’s Market and glanced at a few stands selling miscellaneous clothes, foods, homemade goods. etc. Though we didn’t have the time, there is an alternative art tour that runs almost every day and is a “pay-what-you-like” system. I would have loved to experience this and get some explanations on the funky art I stared at with my head turned sideways and mouth wide open trying desperately to interpret.
It is extremely difficult for me to not write all of my favorite things about this city (because I liked nearly everything!) but here is a quick list of places I can’t get over and need to see more of in my lifetime:
- Borough Market – Just go! I tasted so many unexplainably good things. Shout out to Max and Angela for being such excellent hosts!
- Covent Gardens – Love, love, lovvvvveeeeeddd. Drink tea at Wittards.
- Kensington Gardens – Take a stroll and peek into the lobby of Kensington Palace and pause for a moment at the memorials for past monarchs such as Princess Diana.
- British Museum – 100% worth it. Give yourself plenty of time.
- Tower of London – Too much history to pass up
- Leadenhall Market – Walk through the red and gold painted market (Christmas made it seem extra special)
- Thame Path – I took an evening walk from Millennial Bridge to Tower Bridge and it was so lovely experiencing the city at night.
- Victoria & Albert Museum – I really enjoyed the fashion through the centuries exhibit on display and they have an amazing antique jewelry collection.
- Westminster Abbey – Experience a short church service and be in awe of the beautiful interior architecture as the choir worships and you get to feel a sense of peace in God’s presence. Try not to cry as much as I did!
- West End Musical – A thousand times YESSS! I got tickets to see Wicked the morning of for only 19.50 euro at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Check out lastminute.com for deals like this.
Con Tanto Amore,