A Tourist in Your Hometown: London, England Edition!
Welcome once again to A Tourist in Your Hometown where every Wanderlust Wednesday different travel bloggers share their hometown pride with us! This series is dedicated to people who want to explore more of their hometown, and also for those who are planning to visit at some point. Today, we are going to discover the hidden gems of London, England, UK from the perspective of a native. We interviewed Lottie from Princess in a Caravan.
What’s your hometown best known for?
London is best known for it’s icons from black cabs to Buckingham Palace and Beefeaters. It’s known for well-established traditions including fish and chips, bangers and mash and ‘aving a pint down the local. Despite being an international city with people from all over the world visiting, moving and settling there, the city still has classic elements that make London, London.
What’s the best time of the year/season to visit?
London is best visited between May – September when the weather is less likely to be grey and wet than the rest of the year! Known for it’s cold, wet winters, there is still plenty to do and getting the real London experience can only come from seeing the city in winter, all lit up and ready for Christmas despite the weather. However, during spring and summer, people make the most of the better weather, spending time outdoors, and getting involved in the festivals and events that pop up all over the city. The city comes alive and everyone jumps on the bandwagon!
What is your biggest annual holiday or tradition?
Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year with most people from all races and cultures getting in to the festive spirit. It is the time of year that makes everyone want to socialize and get festive, forgetting the normal day to day tasks of going to the gym and picking up groceries in favor of going to watch the Christmas lights be switched on, getting Christmas shopping done and fitting in meet ups with everyone you haven’t seen the rest of the year!
What is the currency in your country?
GBP, £ which is a very strong currency.
What’s the best form of travel to get around your hometown?
Walking, especially if you’re only going a few tube or bus stops, is a much better way to see the city and is often more enjoyable than going all the way down to the tube platform, being squashed between commuters and then back up to street level just a few ‘blocks’ later. However, despite public transport seeming like a minefield to work out once you get the hang of it is an easy and convenient a way to get around. Buses and tubes are clearly signed and there are maps everywhere as well as apps that can be used to help you navigate the city. If you’re there longer than a few days, getting an Oyster card makes tubes and buses cheaper and the convenience of swiping the card rather than buying tickets is great..
Any recommendations for packing essentials?
Money! London is known as an expensive city
Other than that, most essentials can be easily sourced but comfy walking shoes, layers (the weather can change throughout the day) and waterproof jackets are definitely essentials.
Any hidden gems and/or foodie spots? (Top 3-5)
– The White Horse pub on Brixton Hill (walking distance from Brixton tube), does the best Sunday roast (as well as other yummy mains and deserts). It has a great, relaxed atmosphere with big couches that are great for whiling away a wet Sunday afternoon on.
– Borough Market (London Bridge tube) is an experience in itself with fresh fruit and veg, cakes, cheeses, paellas, pies and wine amongst other goodies. Hours can be spent walking and eating so t’s always best to get there hungry.
– Gordon’s Wine Bar (Charing Cross tube) This underground wine bar, in an old wine cellar has a great atmosphere and setting. It’s often full to bursting, especially straight after work but if possible, getting a table in the cave area will make you forget about the hustle and bustle going on above you.
– San Marino (Brixton tube) is a famil run Italian café smack in the centre of Brixton. All generations of the family are involved in the day to day running of the place. They serve the best chai latte in the city as well as plenty of tasty Italian baked goods. It’s a popular meeting spot for locals and is a great location for people watching and seeing the ‘sights’ of Brixton.
Mention top three main or traditional dishes/drinks that people must try (including location).
– Fish & Chips from any ‘chippie’ Traditionally served in newspaper (which isn’t allowed these days) this meal is best eaten right from the packaging, doused in salt and vinegar and eaten with the wooden fork provided. Who needs crockery?
– Afternoon Tea: A trip to London wouldn’t be complete without an afternoon tea at one of the fine hotels in the city. With more and more places offering the tradition, there are huge prices ranges and something to suit every budget. The focus should be on the experience; drinking tea from bone china while eating cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
– Everyone visiting London should pop in to one of the many traditional pubs for a pint. These are usually the pubs down the side streets and not part of a larger chain. They have original décor and at most times of the day locals can be found sipping pints of London Pride.
List the top 5 things to do.
– Go to the top of The Shard for a great 360 view of the city from one of London’s newest additions to it’s skyline.
– Watching one of the oldest traditions, the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace
– An open top bus tour will help you get to grips with the layout of the city and show the highlights and must-sees. You can hop off there and then to explore or go back at a later time
– The ‘Boris Bikes’, sponsored by the bank, Santander are all over the city and can be used in a hop on hop off, pay as you go fashion. Since launching the bike sharing scheme, London has become much more of a bike friendly city and they are a great way to get around.
– Hyde Park has something for everyone, memorials, funfair, gallery and statues.
Any outdoor or nature related activities?
In good weather, London is an outdoor city with everyone wanting to make the most of the opportunity to get outside! There are plenty of green spaces to walk and explore, all filled with nature as well as activities including football, boot camp, cycling races and runs. If you don’t want to get involved with any of these, just walking through the city is the best way to soak up the atmosphere and architecture.
Where can someone best have an authentic local experience?
Getting away from Oxford Circus, Leicester Square and the area known as the West End is the best way to experience authentic London. Whichever borough you venture into, away from the city you will experience the London where locals live and work, run businesses, make homes and choose to spend their free time.
Mention family-friendly vs. adults-only activities.
London is a great city for families with plenty of museums and attractions, including Madam Tussauds, London Zoo and the Science Museum to name but a few on a huge list. There are many festivals and street events that welcome children and are great family events as well as child and family oriented shows and productions. However, there’s also an adult-only side to London with art galleries, sex shops and music gigs spread across the city.
Describe the nightlife and best places to go. Best Dance clubs to kicking up your heels!
London is home to some of the biggest names in clubbing including Ministry of Sound and Pacha which are both based in the city. London is huge and with each area having it’s own feel and vibe it is hard to pinpoint one place to party as there are so many to choose from! However, the West End and Soho are always lively with dancing going on until the early hours most nights of the week!
Best shopping spots and places to get souvenirs
Oxford Circus and the surrounding streets are home to all the mainstream / high street shops, designer brands, department stores and souvenir spots too. For a one-stop shopping trip this is it. However, it’s also a tourist hot spot and is always incredibly busy! Most neighborhoods will have their own high street with mainstream shops and often a market that represents the culture of that area.
Any tips for solo travelers?
As with any city, solo travelers should be sensible and aware of their surroundings. Public transport is safe, as is walking in well lit, busy areas at night. Solo travelers would be best suited to staying in hostels enabling them to meet other travelers as, due to it’s size, London can be a lonely city!