Country 9: England | This post is part of my 30×30 series. Read more here!
At 10 years old, I was a self-proclaimed Anglophile who wanted nothing in the world more than to live in London when I was older. While I’m a few countries off, London is still a place that captures both my imagination and a good chunk of my paycheck. I’ve done at least one London trip a year since I moved to Germany—I can’t help it. I find the city irresistible.
There is so much to do in London, whether you want to dose up on culture, food, history, art, or all of the above. Here are ten of the things that get me itching to fly into Heathrow, or Gatwick, or Stansted, all over again.
10 Things to Eat, Drink, and Do in London
Visit the Natural History Museum
The best thing about London? Most of the museums are free. And my favorite museum out of that long list is the Natural History Museum. The architecture alone makes this place worth checking out, but it’s also got so many cool exhibits and fascinating collections. Just this last year they installed the complete skeleton of a whale shark across the ceiling! The main trick is getting in—it’s also a lot of other people’s favorite place to visit in London. Time your visit either very early or later in the day to beat the crowds.
Eat at Franco Manca
It’s not news that London is a pricey city. I found Franco Manca on a list of budget restaurants in London, and it’s quickly become my go-to place whenever I visit. You can get a whole pizza (with a sourdough crust, to boot) for under £10! They’ve got a few locations around the city—but they fill up fast, so make a reservation if you want to eat in or prepare yourself for a bit of a wait. Our favorite thing to do is get two pizzas to go and then picnic in a nearby park or square.
Find a pub to have a pint
Our last trip felt more like a London-wide pub crawl than a proper city trip, but we’re not complaining! There’s no better place to soak up the London feeling than nestling into a cozy pub booth with a sudsy British beer in hand. I love all the history the different pubs have witnessed—we were deep into round two at The Ten Bells in Spitalfields when we found out that Jack the Ripper had snagged a few of their patrons. Eeep! Grab a few rounds and let the people-watching begin.
Trace the Thames
I find London to be a very walkable city, and given the crazy traffic and the crowded Underground, prefer to wander whenever possible. One of my favorite walks follows the Thames from Tower Bridge to Buckingham Palace (you can read the full route here). I love the juxtaposition of the modern skyline, old buildings, and the ancient, murky water as you walk along the Thames.
Explore the East End
If you’re a fan of street art, look no further than London’s East End, which is chock full of muraled masterpieces. There are proper tours you can book that take you to all the big spots, but I think it’s more fun to wander and see what you can find. When you’re tired, stop in at the Cargo Bar to rest your feet and snag a pic of Banksy’s “Guard Dog”.
See a show at the West End
Living in Germany, it’s hard to find indulge in a night out at the theater, since most of the shows are only in German. London has the largest and most robust theater presence outside of Broadway—even Hamilton is now in residence! Prices run the gamut—while the West End, unfortunately, doesn’t do rush tickets, you can often visit the theaters the day of to check for returns or standby options that will save some cash. I saw The Lion King in the tippy-top corner of Lyceum Theater and wouldn’t change it for a thing.
Wander through Hyde Park
Hyde Park, which fronts Kensington Palace (home of Kate and Wills and Harry and Meghan), is the largest of the four royal parks that weave through London. There are two lakes, greenhouses and fresh gardens, and a host of memorials, including one for the victims of the Holocaust, one for the victims of the 2005 bombings, and a memorial garden for Princess Diana. The park is an incredibly peaceful place to take some air or have a snack, but when the cars come ‘round at the end of the day to tell you the park is closing, hurry up. We took our time packing our things and the police locked us in. The only way out was to climb over the wrought-iron fence!
Treasure hunt in Camden Market
There are few funkier places than Camden Market, which is actually comprised of not one, not two, but seven vibrant markets that sprawl through what used to be a stable. Chock full of vintage clothes, quirky gifts, and amazing street food from all over the world, this stop will take up easily a day of your trip and still leave you with things to see, buy, and try. Read my full post about Camden Market here!
Visit the British Library
Visiting a library may seem like an odd recommendation, but the British Library is no ordinary one. It’s home to all kinds of literary treasures, from the Magna Carta to one of the Gutenberg Bibles, da Vinci’s sketchbooks and Handel’s compositions. They also have rotating exhibitions (two of my recent favorites were A History of Magic, which curated references to/from Harry Potter, and Cats on the Page, which deals with, well…cats on pages). Finish up your visit with tea and shortbread at the café.
Stay out Late at the Tate
If you happen to be in London on the last Friday of the month, don’t miss Late at the Tate, a Uniqlo-sponsored after-hours opening of the famous art museum. You get full-range access to the museum and discounted tickets to the special exhibits, as well as pop-up talks (where curators do a quick dive into the different collections), street food, readings, and music.