I once took an eight hour bus ride where I had to withstand a crying baby for the entirety of the trip from Paris, to London. After surviving a pretty painful bus ride, I spent four short days exploring London-town as a mini getaway from my studies abroad in Paris in 2013.
Although I was too broke to afford even buying an English muffin at the time, one thing was clear: I loved London. Walking through the pristine streets, admiring the brick buildings layered throughout quiet neighborhoods, gazing up at the red double decker buses; it all had me twinkling in the eyes.
Since then, I hadn’t gone back. Until this October, directly after deciding to sell half of my crap and move out of our LA apartment to start living rent and commitment free. London would be the first stop, and would definitely prove to still have that sparkle that I felt back in ’13.
Only this time, I had a little more than just $5 in my pocket to fully experience new things and create this list of things I think are worth spending your time and money in while in London.
My favorite places in London:
Despite the mixed feelings on if Shoreditch has lost its cool points or not, I still loved it. This neighborhood is known to have artsy and hip people swarming on every corner. It’s the kind of place where you’ll find niche stores; like a place that only sells those necessary monster supplies. If you’re not in the mood to buy Fang Floss or petrified mice, you can always stroll around Brick Lane to gaze at street art, or wander into the hundreds of independent concept stores and coffee shops scattered along Shoreditch’s streets. Don’t be surprised if most of my recommendations below are practically all in Shoreditch; no shame in my Shoreditch swag.
Favorite Healthy Places to Eat
Café Albion, Shoreditch
Albion Café is one of those places that was meant for a healthy meal, good coffee, and an even better instagram picture. Between it’s French vibe, yummy and healthy salad buffet, and awesome natural lighting, this place is a winner. While not the cheapest, you can definitely stock up on your veggies for a decent price. And it’s in a great location for strolling the streets post lunch break.
This truffle, spinach, mushroom was phenomenal
It’s pretty challenging to find a cheap and healthy spot for breakfast in SoHo; but Ethos is one of those hidden gems. For around six pounds, you can get an omelette with sweet potato & onion crackling, avocado, or kale and sweet potatoes sautéed in coconut oil with organic scrambled tofu, turmeric & spices. Don’t act like you didn’t just get hungry.
Ronnie Scott’s, SoHo
If you’re a Jazz lover, this place needs to be on top of your list. For around 12 pounds, you’ll have one of the best musical nights of your life. After a late night Jazz session at Ronnie Scott’s I was almost convinced I had to move to London one day, just to keep enjoying the perfection of the music that happens in this venue. I loved it so much, I even wrote a blog about my attempt to finding quality Jazz in London, and eventually ending up here.
Troy Bar, Shoreditch
I met this really awesome singer/songwriter, and British boy, Kenny, on the plane ride from LA to London. While my melatonin induced sleep prevented me from speaking to him during the strenuous 10 hour flight, we managed to start chatting at baggage claim, when I was finally awake. After a few words exchanged, the vibe was right and we connected on Instagram (yay social media) to eventually meet up at one of his favorite spots in London, Troy Bar.
Why was this place extra special? Well for starters, it’s in Shoreditch. Secondly, because they have the most amazing Open Mic Night every Tuesday where the best of London’s talent comes together for minutes of R&B, Hip Hop, and Soul magic on the stage. Get there early and come with an empty stomach; people don’t just go for the music, they also go for the bangin’ Caribbean chicken and rice plates sold.
In the heart of Shoreditch, you’ll run into what looks like old shipping containers housing boutiques, bars, and even restaurants. Don’t be intimidated by how hip this place looks, get in there, and start drooling at the cool factor. While you can always walk in during the day, the real magic happens at night. The bars inside on the second level all host interesting international people, and good music that changes the further you walk inside. Boxpark is every creative, young hipster’s dream.
Favorite Cheap Things to Do
You know we can’t leave a city without finding out the best and cheapest way to see the skyline views. Well, here’s the trick to seeing the London skyline completely fo’ free: visit the Sky Garden. You have to reserve in advance to get free entry, and can technically only be up there for one hour, but you get amazing views, and save the ridiculous price to go to the top of The Shard. Instead, you see the shard from Sky Garden’s viewpoint and feel like a bada$$ who just saved a bunch of money. We signed up in the morning for an afternoon slot, and it was definitely worth it.
POP Brixton, Brixton
Although it’s planned as a temporary outdoor market/venue, and claims to shut down in Autumn of 2018, this place is worth visiting. Brixton in general is a more “off the beaten path” neighborhood to explore in London, with more diversity, and that up-and-coming feel that we love. I dropped into POP Brixton just because I was in the mood for something sweet. Between the colorful vibes and the choices of food and retail inside more shipping containers, I got my fix.
Old Spitalfields Market, Shoreditch
This massive market is open everyday from 10AM to 5PM, but the “moment” happens on Sunday mornings. I was roaming the streets solo in hopes of finding a good place to sit with my laptop; and although I failed with that quest, I won some travel points when I stumbled into Old Spitalfields. Bummer that I didn’t continue onto Brick Lane Market like the locals suggested (of course, after I had already left), but I was still satisfied with browsing through the stands of Pashmina scarves, delicious desserts, and random things like wire art.
These recommendations are only scratching the surface of all the amazing places London has to offer.
If you have any other suggestions of amazing places to see in London, please comment below!