A London Local’s Cultural Hotspots
How to Spend 3 Days Exploring England’s Capital
Felicity—a 20-something travel lover—has teamed up with her friends from around the world to provide readers with local, insider knowledge of today’s most awe-inspiring destinations. Through writing, photography, and video, they’ll share the best tricks and tips for experiencing a place authentically and getting off the beaten path.
It’s humanly impossible to grow bored of London. Whatever your interests, whether you like doing things in groups or flying solo, are an early bird or a night owl, a bookworm or party animal, there is always something waiting for you in the English capital. Every area is overflowing with centuries of history, architecture, and the arts, and there is just so much to see and learn. Now, you've said you only have three days, so what should you do? What should you see? Let me take you on a tour of some of my all-time favorite sights and activities.
Day 1: Making It On The West End
All the museums in London (and there are a LOT) brim with treasures, but if you’re looking for something a little more off-track than, say, the V&A, make the Soane Museum in Holborn your first stop. Home of renowned 19th century architect Sir John Soane, this place is a true time warp, left exactly as it was 180 years ago and full of art, books, and unique features.
You’ll probably be hungry after taking in all that culture, so head to Pachamama in Marylebone for lunch, where you can feast on their creative and colorful Peruvian dishes. Then have a browse through Daunt Books---the famous bookshop in a gorgeous Edwardian building---and take home one of their iconic green tote bags. Spend some time checking out the distinctive red-brick architecture of Marylebone, and make sure to grab a coffee and pastry at the trendy Monocle Café.
Hear that? That’s your stomach rumbling again. It’s time for your (hopefully long-standing!) early reservation at Chiltern Firehouse, an award-winning restaurant owned by the same people behind the legendary Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood. After dinner comes your choice of entertainment on the West End, London’s own Broadway. Seeing a show is a rite of passage, and I always bring visitors when they’re in town — why not catch Waitress, Wicked, or The Book of Mormon? I get it, though, musical theater isn’t for everyone. If you’d rather avoid that scene, head out to another LDN fixture: the 100 Club on Oxford Street, an old-school jazz club that dapples in a bit of every genre and makes for the perfect dancing spot.
Day 2: Down By The Thames
For brave souls only (I’m so jealous of you): book yourself into 6:30 am sunrise yoga followed by breakfast, all with a ridiculous view over London at Sky Garden, an incredible panoramic venue on the top of the Walkie Talkie building. Follow it up with a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral, a tourist mainstay that’s worth every minute. If you think the outside of this holy site is impressive, wait till you step inside. And while it’s a trek and a half, I definitely recommend walking up to the top if you can---the view is completely staggering.
Next stop is Borough Market, for food and deli items from around the world. My personal faves are the vegan bowl from The Big V and veggie thali from Gujarati Rasoi, but carnivores will also love the duck confit sandwich at Le Marché du Quartier.
Dedicate your afternoon to culture by making your way over to the Tate Modern to take in their extensive permanent collections and current exhibitions; it’s spread out over 84,250 square feet, with many cafés, gift shops, and viewpoints to explore.
You’ll be needing some sustenance after all that exercise, so cross the river over to The Sugar Loaf pub, where the savory pies are out of this world and they also make a mean fish and chips. After that, catch a play at one of the riverside’s best theaters. You can go tradi at Shakespeare’s Globe, or discover one of the younger, hipper venues like the Bridge Theatre or the Young Vic. If you’re not quite ready for bed after that, go dancing at Bar Salsa near Temple Underground, where the Latin hits are blaring and the rum flows all night.
Day 3: Along The Northern Line
Walk past the breathtaking St. Pancras Station and Renaissance Hotel to the British Library, a bustling feat of architecture where academics, students, and visitors converge. They offer several guided tours of the building, or you can walk around to get a feel for it on your own, stopping for a coffee in one of several cafés and browsing the ground floor bookshop.
After that, retrace your steps back to the King’s Cross area, taking the long way around through the St. Pancras Old Church and Churchyard, which has a cool/creepy literary history---notably, it was the preferred date spot of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, whose mother Mary Wollstonecraft was buried there. If that has you feeling bookish, hop aboard Word on the Water, a floating “bookbarge” on nearby Regent’s Canal.
A trendy lunch can be found on King’s Cross’ Granary Square, either at small-plate specialist Caravan, or famed modern Indian canteen Dishoom, set in a surreal repurposed railway shed. While you digest, take the opportunity to people watch around Central St. Martin’s, the competitive art and design college where students dress like it’s always fashion week.
For your last destination, mosey on North to Camden Market for dessert and vintage shopping (watch out for pickpockets, though!). Next, admire the candy-hued houses on your way to Primrose Hill, a garden within Regent’s Park that has a prime view of the city. Note: this is also a perfect picnic spot in the summer.
The Camden area is wonderful for live music, so check out what’s on in small venues like pubs and jazz bars---the standard is high, so you’ll rarely be disappointed. Last but not least, end the night at The Blues Kitchen, where live bands will have you dancing your feet off to the sound of blues, soul, and even country. Good times guaranteed.
Finally, if you need hotel recs, the Marylebone Hotel, London Edition, Nobu Hotel Shoreditch, and the Ham Yard Hotel are all great options. Have fun!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
After growing up in France with an English mother and jetting off to Los Angeles for university, Iris Goldsztajn has made London her home for the past 18 months. There, she loves getting lost in the city’s streets, taking in the incredible mix of cultures, and the centuries of history hiding around every corner. A freelance writer, Iris takes on London one coffee shop at a time, while also trying cool new lunch spots, catching the latest plays and shows, and generally making the most of everything the capital has to offer.