No matter how many times I go to London, I find there’s always something new to discover. On my last trip, I stayed with some New Zealand friends and the time before that, a high school friend who was attending London School of Economics. This trip was a blogging trip and the first time that I opted for a hotel.
If you’ve never been to London before, you’ll immediately notice just how expensive everything is. Of course, you can find affordable options if you’re looking, but it’s not the place to go if you’re after a cheap getaway. That said, taking the underground is the best way to get around, it’s super efficient, convenient and surprisingly affordable. I spent just over 50 pounds on my Oyster Card for the week and that includes one trip to the airport via Gatwick Express. Oh, and all the galleries and museums are free, so you can save your money for accommodation and eating out.
I spent the week with my friend and fellow foodie, Isabelle and we prioritised visiting cafés and restaurants and creating content for the gram (and the blog). Although I’ve shared London recommendations in the past, this is the most current list for anyone visiting London within the next few years.
Art and Culture:
Somerset House is an arts centre in the heart of London. It offers a diverse public programme of contemporary arts and culture.
Tate is an institution that houses, in a network of four art museums, the United Kingdom’s national collection of British art, and international modern and contemporary art. If you haven’t been, be sure to add Tate Britain and Tate Modern to your sightseeing itinerary.
There’s so much to see, do and experience at Kew Gardens that it’s worth planning ahead. We dedicated our afternoon to exploring Palm House, Temperate House and The Hive, which is a temporary installation, but could have easily spent an entire day here.
Palm House: An iconic Victorian glasshouse, the rainforest climate inside supports a unique collection of tropical plants from some of the most threatened environments on Earth.
Temperate House: The largest Victorian glasshouse in the world is home to an internationally important collection of temperate zone plants, including some of the rarest and most threatened.
The Hive: A unique, multi-sensory experience designed to highlight the extraordinary life of bees. A feat of British engineering, it stands 17 metres tall, set in a wildflower meadow.
Ozone Coffee Roasters is hands-down my favourite place for a flat white. It’s owned by two New Plymouth sisters, so you know the coffee will be superb. You might recall I visited the New Zealand outpost when I was in Taranaki last year, so I made a point of visiting the UK branch. I suggest coming here for breakfast, especially if you’re craving a traditional Kiwi feed with poached eggs, sautéed spinach, halloumi, roasted tomatoes and hashbrowns!
AllPress is another New Zealand café and roastery. It’s actually my preferred espresso roast in New Zealand. We visited the Shoreditch location on Redchurch Street (my favourite street for eating and shopping in London!) and loved both the space and the coffee. Grab a seat on the bench and spend a few minutes (or hours) people watching.
Peggy Porschen Cakes is one of the most Instagrammed spots in London and it isn’t difficult to see why. The cupcake shop boasts a light pink exterior that’s decorated every season. We visited just before Halloween and loved the pastel pumpkins and ghosts.
We ventured to Élan Café on our second to last day in London. Initially, we anticipated a beautiful café without a substantial (or quality) food offering, but we were wrong! Not only were the Middle Eastern dishes inventive, they were filling, delicious and beautifully presented.
Duck and Waffle is a must-visit whenever you’re in London, but especially for the first-timer. Located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, the views are seriously incredible. Isabelle and I had a window seat with stunning views of the skyline (we were ridiculously close to the Gherkin and the Tower Bridge). Order the duck and waffle because it’s the namesake dish and mouthwateringly delicious!
Located on a trendy street of hotels, bars, and shops in Hackney, Genesis is a brand-new entirely plant-based (and all-pink) eatery. Not only is the interior super ‘grammable, the food is remarkable! I even returned the next day for a kale caesar and kombucha (because, balance!) Whether you’re vegan or not, I 100% recommend this spot! It was my top pick during our week in London.
There are so many great pizza joints in London, but Pizza East was our all-time favourite. Yes, the pizza’s good but OH MY GOODNESS, the macaroni and cheese is life-changing. It’s the ultimate comfort food for when the temperatures drop.
Isabelle recommended a gorgeous wee French bistro whilst we were in Soho. Not only is Le Café Bohème beautifully understated, there was live music when we visited and guests spilling onto the streets. I was reminded of my time in Paris as we indulged in shoestring fries and some greens (for balance, ya know?) The drink menu also looked excellent, so I’ll have to return for a negroni or two.
Located on the first floor of the Town Hall Hotel, the light-filled Corner Room is a place where neighbourhood folk and visitors can hang out any time of the day. The menu showcases bold flavours and seasonal dishes with a French flair.
Other favourites include Saint Aymes for beautiful freshly baked goods, Bubblewrapwaffle (Hello Kitty waffles, anyone?) and Biscuiteers for the most adorable iced biscuits I’ve ever seen. They certainly make beautiful souvenirs! Mister Fitz is an Australian ice cream shop (I actually visited when I was in Brisbane) with a seasonal pop-up in London’s Soho neighbourhood.
Conservatory Archives is the most millennial of plant shops. Located in Hackney, this space is filled with plants of every variety. With the aim of bringing “more plants in our lives”, you’ll find a gorgeous assortment of plants hanging from every shelf and will undoubtedly be tempted to take something home with you.
I was in the market for a new medium-sized suitcase and was thrilled to discover one of AWAY‘s few brick and mortar shop in Soho. I opted for the pink case and I am officially obsessed.
Goodhood is Shoreditch’s lifestyle destination and a favourite local spot for a global and well-curated selection of both men’s and women’s clothing as well as homeware.
I fell for AIDA, an independent concept store in Shoreditch. Combining Scandinavian inspired men’s and women’s clothing, homeware and delicious, barista-made coffee, it’s no wonder this is a must-visit for locals and visitors.
Labour and Wait offers a wide range of timeless, functional products for daily life.
We were lucky to stay at two different hotels during our time in London. The first was Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, which we both agreed was in the perfect location. East London is my favourite part of the city, it’s artsy, creative, fashionable and gritty. Here, we were spoiled for choice in terms of where to eat, drink, shop and even workout! If you’re hoping to stay active, I can’t recommend 1Rebel enough!
A bit more off the beaten track, but still central was Artist Residence. One of four properties, this boutique hotel has an international reputation for its luxurious rooms and suites. We were invited to stay in the Grand Suite and it was divine.
Photos by both Isabelle Cheng and myself.