London City Guide

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A big city like London, surely, can offer much more than I can explore within 4 days. This is my second time in London city, and I cannot feel more excited. I’ve set some must-visit plans for ourselves while you know, many targets we’ve missed due to the impact by COVID-19. 

We've got a bit of art, a bit of culture, a few hidden gems, and a bit of general city stuff (that everyone does when visiting a metropolitan city) in London.

I shall not call this London city guide, but a mini London city guide, if you wish. Allow me share a few photos (coz I have really many) and some thoughts from this London trip with you first.

Earl's Court neighborhood in London is super quiet and beautiful with a convenient connection with metros to everywhere inside London city or outside the city
We stayed in Earl's Court in London
London city view from the Stone Gallery of St.Paul's Cathedral
Vintage cars near Notting Hill just bring more delight to our London city adventure
Big Ben under maintenance in London
A memory with Big Ben while it's under maintenance in London
Top: Zara basic tank & oversize Shirt | Shorts: H&M bike shorts | Shoes: &Other Stories, Nomadic State of Mind | Bag: Vintage LV

Living in Italy made me feel I am too Italian, but now I'm in London

Several times, we were called “sorry” or “excuse me” in the underground tunnels, which made us travel from one line to the other. I’m not here to blame the Londoners being “too fast” nor ourselves being “too slow”, it was just a very personal moment for me, and it’s super lovely! As I’ve lived in Hong Kong for more than 6 years. That “rush” reminds me of Hong Kong a lot. I guess this is what we always define as, Culture Shock

If you ask me, do I miss busy city lifestyle like this? I do, but I don’t want to go back.

Near London, British's countryside is awesome!

Often I hear people saying that life in Britain is awful with always-depressing weather, drunk and loud people and dull countryside life (or stressful city life). We visited our friends in their lovely house outside London another night. Guess what? I just love their very British backyard. Instead of staying in the typical conservatory, we chilled “out”. It was a simple and peaceful night with some wine (yes, 3 bottles of red and a bottle of Prosecco) and warm food with friends. From time to time, our friends pointed out their little neighbors – the bats and the foxes.

Forget about Big Ben in London, it is in maintenance

We were there at the perfect sunset in London. You know, a perfect sunset needs a clear sunny day, and I know we were just that lucky to have this rare blue-and-cloudless-sky-melting-to-a-golden-backdrop moment. 

Unfortunately, Big Ben wasn’t ready for our tourist selfie. Funny thing was, friends, told me they’ve never seen it back to business for many years that they lived in London. I think the longest record was 5 years?

We didn’t see everything this time in London city centre, but I’m happy that we’ve got a bit of art, a bit of culture, a few hidden gems, and a bit of general city stuff (that everyone does when visiting a metropolitan city). So, here is my mini London city guide.

To do

Marylebone

Like many other London neighborhoods, it is vivid with its local community but it keeps a touch of peace by itself. Marylebone is lovely with a few highs and lows. 

If you are a fan to Sherlock Holmes, there is Sherlock Holmes Museum and the famous Baker Street. Even when you arrive at Baker Street Station, you feel very Sherlock Holmes. If you are an art lover, go to The Wallace Collection. This massive mansion has the most beautiful collection of paintings, furnitures and decorations of 18th and 19th centuries. If you like boutique shops, Le Labo, Lululemon, Sweaty Betty, Anthropologie, Fresh, Theory, Maje, Paul Smith… the list is going on. However, we spent an hour (or maybe much more) in only one shop, Daunt Books. It’s an independent bookshop in London with a reputation. I found their way of organizing the books according to the countries extra adorable and reader-friendly. Without doubt, I’ve spent my 95% time there in front of the Italy section. It’s heaven for an Italy lover but cannot read Italian. You cannot believe it! I got the most beautiful books for my collection. (It’s Iliad and Odyssey by Homer, published by Penguin Classic, but I cannot find the same one on Amazon…)

Marylebone is a London neighborhood with typical London style buildings and it is an area with many hidden boutique shops, cafes and even an art gallery
Marylebone
Daunt Books is London's famous independent book shop in Marylebone neighborhood, where you can find all interesting books well organized by countries and even a rich collection of precious vintage books.
Daunt Books
Great Gallery Room inside The Wallace Collection (Gallery/Museum) in Marylebone in London. The gallery itself is a beautiful mansion and it collects many amazing paintings, furnitures and decorations of 18th and 19th centuries.
Great Gallery Room in The Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection is one of the top galleries you have to visit in London.
The Wallace Collection

Notting Hill

Notting hill is our first stop in London – I love its vivid vibe and free spirits flowing in the streets. 

Following Portobello Rd, there are plenty of “secrets” hiding around the corners or narrow streets. Even just to stay on the long Portobello Rd, pubs, cafes, vintage shops, independent brand pop-ups, souvenir shops are one after the other. 

Later hours in the day, the small stands are out for their small daily business, and they sell almost everything, even vegetables and flowers. The locals are out too. Around the flower stand, or in front of the pubs, you can always find them catching up with friends or simply someone they just knew. If you are not a social person, it doesn’t matter. Join one of the outdoor spot for a pitch! It was 4pm and still very sunny and too hot for a British summer, but they were with their second round. That’s so British!

The colorful houses are the icones of Notting Hill in London.
Along Portobello Rd in Notting Hill, you've got all funky shops, vintage stalls for almost everything, and an experience of local market and lifestyle
Portobello Rd in Notting Hill
Street art is part of Notting Hill in London
Sun Glasses: Marc Jacob | Dress: Nastygal | Bag: Vintage LV | Shoes: &Other Stories
Interesting street art near Notting
Spend a relaxing afternoon to do your vintage car hunting in Notting Hill in London
Capture this cute vintage in Notting Hill

China Town and Soho

We didn’t mean to go there, but somehow we end up there in our second night. 

The extreme crowded and vivid vibe of that area draws us attention. From the late afternoon hours, the area becomes incredibly crowded. Walk around in the area while freeing yourself to embrace the Londoner’s lifestyle, in terms of parties and chilling-out. I ensure you the Chinese restaurant in London’s China Town is super too!

Lecestor Square

Lecestor Square is a standard-public-square-in-the-commercial-centre type, which means many shops and car-free pedestrian. You can find another Big Ben in the Lego shop (since we didn’t see the real Big Ben), and become a kid while see the statues of Mr.Bean, Paddington Bear and Mary Poppins

If you are on a mission of bringing English tea back as gifts, there is a TWG tea shop on the corner. I got this Flamingo ice tea for ourselves.

Have a photo with Mr.Bean in Lecestor Square in London

Borough Market

Borough Market is the place where Luigi asked me “Can we come back here for dinner tomorrow?” when the day after is when we shall fly back to Rome

Ok, so you got it? Borough Market is a foodie place no matter you are a foodie preferring buying ingredients from the market and cooking at home, or simply eating and drinking there. The market is just at the foot of The Shard (I was so surprised to see this super-future-verse-super-street combination) with very simple covers. Inside, there are many stalls for fresh vegetables, meats, fishes, wines – a place for daily grocery shopping. But there are bistros, bars, take-away street food stalls too. 

We were there in the late afternoon, and as we have been used to Londoner’s daily schedule, groups of mixed youngs and professionals were drinking there.

To See

National Gallery

National Gallery costed us 3 hours? or maybe more. The collection is huggggggge, with a big potion of early Medieval arts – mostly from Italy and with a heavy focus on western religion. However, our favorite part combines a bit of Renaissance (eg. paintings by Sandro Botticelli) and Impressionism art by many French artists, also the artists from Britain and Belgium like Van Gogh, Rubens, Monet, Anthony Van Dyck, Claude, etc.

National Gallery in London has such a big collection which is not able to be finished in only one day.
National Gallery London

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is where I started to understand a very different development from the ancient Roman Catholic. Of course, one of the most interesting things to do in Westminster Abbey is “celebrity” hunting. Surely, you want to meet Newton there, but don’t overlook Hoking and many dramatic Kings and Queens there.

Westminster Abbey in London
Westminster Abbey in London
Westminster Abbey in London

St.Paul’s Cathedral

Another place to admire the greatest men in our history is St.Paul’s Cathedral, where I find the poet corner is the most interesting. 

However, the most impressive of St.Paul’s Cathedral is its architecture. It’s sooooo different from any church in Rome, even I’m not comparing its Gothic style verse Roman style. The black and white floor and the purely white marble sculptures (the tombs and the crypts) are mind-blooming. Make sure you listen to the audio guide carefully, climb your way up to the Stone Gallery for London’s city view, and “dive” into its crypt.

The stunning art inside St.Paul's Cathedral in London
St.Paul's Cathedral
St.Paul's Cathedral in London is a must-visit place
It is amazing to see some modern art inside St.Paul's Cathedral in London, a perfect harmony of modern and history.
London from the top of St.Paul's Cathedral
Have a bird view of London city from the Stone Gallery of St.Paul's Cathedral in London

Tower of London

Tower of London is where the Royal fans go. It’s interesting that the British call it “Tower” while the same building in Europe is called Fortress or Castle. Also, the visit to King’s Tower and his bedroom made me admire the “minimalism” pursue of British Kings. It was that plain and simple, while automatically I was comparing to Versailles. This is probably because I don’t know British history.

In your trip, you will have a nice view of Tower Bridge after the visit of King’s Tower and traitor’s gate, a visit to the precious Crown Room, and don’t miss the sad story about the two missing princes.

From Tower of London you can see Tower Bridge as well
View from Tower of London
Tower of London
Sun Glasses: Marc Jacob | Dress: &Other Stories | Bag: Vintage LV | Shoes: &Other Stories
Traitor's Gate of Tower of London is where a famous gate in British history. It is only open for few special people (traitors) and they went throw this gate from the river directly to the jail.
Traitor's Gate of Tower of London
"Minimalism" King's Room to be visited in Tower of London
King's Bedroom

To Eat

Farm Girl

Farm Girl is super cute with an inner garden. 

It’s pink-y, girl-ish, botanic, oriented-twisted, funky, and last but not least, it’s chic. Don’t expect something usual on their menu. Like us, pick the most “weird” names, order them, and wait. We love our Butterfly Matcha (organic blue matcha and almond milk) and Spicy Bulldog Tacos (hot like a hell for many people, I believe, but you will love it)! 

Farm Girl in Notting Hill has a very cute garden and open space for brunch, light meals and drinks
You must try the butterfly latte with organic matcha and almond milk in fancy purple and blue as well as the super hot but yummy tacos
Butterfly Matcha and Spicy Bulldog Tacos

Fishers

Places to eat London’s fish and chips in London are almost everywhere, but a good one takes you some effort. 

We got Fishers near Putley Bridge station. It’s such a tiny restaurant with limited tables outdoor. Luckily and unluckily that we didn’t die inside without an AC but almost dead with those bigger-than-your-stomach fish and chips… They’ve got some fish options which I have no idea what those fish are. But that night, I discovered my favorite fish for London fish and chips. That’s called Rock.

Fishers offers not only authentic London's fish and chips freshly but also its potion is "horrible"
From Fishers

Tommi’s Burger

Ok, I didn’t know Tommi’s Burger is also in Rome! 

Well, we went there because we thought leaving London without a burger was pity. Their burger is a good reward after nearly 2-hour gallery walk, and I love the option of extra avocado. If you go there, try their coconut ice cream smoothie too!

Ben & Jerry

I know it is very very rare to have “hot” summer days in London, but we were just that lucky. If you are like us – cannot live without the life motto “One Gelato A Day, Keep Doctors Away”, Ben & Jerry is the easiest cheap-holi-day option.

Ben & Jerry for a rare hot summer day in London

Honi Poke

Having a bit of everything is so “London”, and a vivid city cannot go without a trendy Poke, right? We got it at Honi Poke in a back lane. It’s flexible, simple, healthy and chic (you name it). Plus, you can have a special experience of eating in the street in London!

Honi Poke in London

Tips about visiting London this August or during post COVID-19 period

No cash almost everywhere, no matter public transportation or restaurants. So make sure you bring along the credit cards or mobile payment devices.

 

Masks are required at least in the closed area, for example: metros, trains, restaurants, shops, etc. However, you do while what you see.

 

Open or close? Many museums and galleries in London are free, but due to COVID-19, many of them remain closed. Make sure you checked the opening hours on their websites before visiting.

 

Booking and limited visits are common in this period, because the museums are controlling the maximum visits in a certain time slot. So, you have to book your visit and time slot on the museum’s website. A lot of famous places, eg. Sky Garden, ask for booking too.

 

Many museums and galleries design the one-way visiting route to avoid chaos due to COVID-19. It’s mandatory to follow it while visiting, and you won’t be able to see everything.

 

Hotel has reduced labours and service, so don’t feel bad when the hotel won’t do the room cleaning every day. The normal breakfast buffet is not allowed in this period either. 

 

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Mini London city guide with must-see London monuments, art, history, food and some cute neighborhoods to explore. If you have only 3 to 4 days, check it out.
Mini London city guide with must-see London monuments, art, history, food and some cute neighborhoods to explore. This is made based on our second visit to London and during a post-covid period so I have specially added a few tips for your city visit.

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    Christopher Bossano
    Christopher Bossano
    August 26, 2020 12:52 pm

    A stunningly detailed London guide. Thank you, your photos capture the charm of this beautiful city!

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