Girls’ Guide To London
Australians have always flocked to London but now more and more are choosing London as a holiday destination and not just for the working holiday visa. The pound is stronger and there’s never been a better time to discover the best of British.
Having lived in London for two years I’ve compiled my ultimate list of where to shop, eat and play in this great city!
Where to shop
Sure Topshop is available online (and they deliver to Australia) but the Oxford St store is a shopping experience you’ll either love and come back many times for, or you’ll run for cover. Spanning several floors, it’s loud, bright, stuffed with thousands of pieces of fun, disposable fashion, shoes, accessories, plus a nail bar and cafe to revive.
It’s definitely on the pricey side – save up for one of their world-famous prints charming scarves. Creaky floors, unique finds from around the world, beautiful gift-wrapping, Liberty is a special shopping experience that’s worth a leisurely peruse around while you’re in the Covent Garden area.
There are so many great markets in London. This is classic East End – edgy fashion, ethnic eats, unique crafts and a village feel. Take a stroll along Regent’s Canal with a cake from Coco&Me, the very best sweet stall in London.
Marks & Spencer
You can’t overlook this much-loved high street store. As cheap and cheerful as it gets in London, there’s a good selection of casual clothes and accessories with great choices for kids.
This is a must-visit from the ubiquitous buskers to the little boutiques dotted around the area. For very sexy lingerie, visit Coco de Mer, stock up on amazing botanical skincare at Neal’s Yard Remedies and pop into the original Doc Marten’s store for boots with attitude.
Where to eat
Despite all the jokes about English food, London is one of the best cities for eating out at the moment. English food is definitely making a comeback so give it a go.
This corner block in Shoreditch is home to 2 of my favourite restaurants in London: the all-day caff serving English fare done properly on ground floor Albion, with special occasion French bistro underground at Boundary.
Marylebone is just off crazy busy Oxford Street but it feels like it’s miles away: a pretty, slightly posh village dotted with boutiques and fine food. Pop into hole-in-the-wall Cocorino for colourful salads, savoury croissants and the best Nutella icecream anywhere.
The food is almost too pretty to eat. Owner Yotam has made salads sexy and there’s not an iceberg lettuce in sight. Menu items are displayed around the restaurant so feast with the eyes before ordering. Billowing meringues are a must to end the meal.
Where to drink
It’s really all about the pubs. There’s one on every street corner – I suggest a pub hop around Covent Garden and Soho to find your favourite.
Lamb & Flag Pub
This Soho pub sure gets packed on a Friday afternoon. Elbow your way in like Dickens did for a fine selection of beers and great people watching.
Shoreditch is where all the cool kids hang out so make a reservation – yes, just for a cocktail. The kooky décor makes the perfect backdrop for the prettiest cocktails that pack a punch.
This is the place to hold court in Soho. Taking up an enviable corner position on Old Compton Road, there’s never a dull moment at this classic French bistro. Order a kir (white wine and cassis) and sip the afternoon or evening away. You won’t leave for hours.
What to do
There is just so much to do in London, beyond the London Eye, strolling along the Thames, gawking at the Houses of Parliament…
Nearby Tube expansion has changed the look and feel of one of Europe’s oldest markets, but it’s still one of the most authentic London experiences you can enjoy. I recommend going on a Thursday or Friday as Saturday can be too busy. Incredible oysters, fish and chips, French pastries, jams…it’s a moveable feast.
One of my most-loved things to do was to join a two-hour walk run by London Walks (walks.com). There’s not a subject or part of town that they don’t cover and the guides will blow you away (many are actors and historians so inject their stories with real passion and verve). Highly recommended.
Where do you start…the National Gallery, V&A, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, London is an art lover’s dream. Be sure to check out smaller museums like the charming Courtlauld Gallery and Photographer’s Gallery.
Iceskating at Somerset House
Winter is when London really shines, despite the bitter cold. The Christmas lights on Oxford St, chestnuts roasting on street corners, and iceskating in the courtyard of Somerset House is an unforgettable experience. Warm up with a mulled wine afterwards.
What are your favourite things to do in London?