Where Paris is chic, cultured and refined, its rival cousin across the channel, London, is cool, happening and in your face fun. So, you’ve done the Tower of London, watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and toured Westminster Abbey . Where to next? I’ll guide you through some of my favourite things to do in London .
The very best thing about London is that you don’t have to learn a new language. Alright then cobber, off we go for a butcher’s. Hmmm …. Maybe you do.
Hop on my red double decker bus and off we go. On every trip to London we visit Madame Tussaud’s wax works, yes, it’s a bit kitsch and yes, the lines can be long, but it is Fun (that is with a capital F). Once inside lose your inhibitions and take plenty of photos with your bestie Julia Roberts, go on a date with George Clooney or hang out with Kimye (that’s Kim Kardashian and Kanye West for the rest of you). Test your skills against Michael Jordan in the sporting arena or grab a snap with Warnie. Be terrified in the dungeon and board the boat ride which tells the history of London. It’s amazing to see the actual heights and outfits of some of your favourite stars ( gold hot pants anyone? ) I overheard some American visitors say, “ This is the best attraction I’ve ever seen.” Praise indeed!
Whilst on this side of town wander down Baker Street which is filled with music paraphernalia shops and is home to the cute Sherlock Holmes museum. Around the corner cricket fans can tour the hallowed ground of Lords or Beatles fans can cross the famous crossing on Abbey Road and re- create the iconic album cover.
“ I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her.”
Who could forget this heart wrenching line and what better place for a movie to be set than the quirky Notting Hill. If like me ,’Notting Hill’ is a favourite movie , you will be blown away.
Wander the streets looking at colourful homes, walled gardens just like in the movie and take a snap outside the famous blue door. (We really did stay in a pink house when we were here).
Find the bookshop where the romance began down a side street filled with lovely restaurants and organic food stores and visit the famous Portobello Markets. There are markets on most days but weekends are madly busy with more antiques and more tourists. We bought artisan travel journals, Banksy posters and t- shirts as well as delicious organic fruit and vegetables and a pastry or two.
The boys obliged by tasting the cakes in the must do Hummingbird Bakery and found the best burgers and coffee in the streets around Notting Hill. The pubs were also all welcoming and unique.
Australia’s Bill Granger now calls Notting Hill home and has a lovely restaurant called Granger and Co. The iconic Ledbury has a three month waiting list so sometimes it is best to book way in advance. We enjoyed the Italian Mediterraneo which Is a haunt for locals so you know it’s good.
One of our favourite places to stay is Kensington . This is Princess Diana’s old stomping ground and it is easy to see why-. great shopping, lovely restaurants and cafes and Kensington Gardens and Palace right on your doorstep.
Visit Kensington Palace and be dazzled by a display of some of the ornate dresses once worn by The Queen , Princess Margaret, Princess Diana and the Queen Mother. See how the royal family lived and worked in the home. The Queen Victoria display is spectacular. Prince William and Kate reside here when in London so be on the lookout for our young royals or take tea on the terrace outside.
Make the most of a sunny day by visiting Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. These oases in the centre of London are where locals go to stretch their legs, kick a ball and exercise their pooches of every shape and size. Walk to Princess Diana’s memorial fountain , find the statue of Peter Pan or take a spin on a paddle boat.
For a cheap, tasty meal for the whole tribe visit your local Franco Manca sourdough pizza place or the Dutch Pancake House. A more elegant meal can be found in Arcadia just off Kensington High Street or Bumpkin, South Kensington.
For entertainment , book in to see a London Theatre show. Booking in advance is advised, but we like to wing it and go to the discount ticket office near the statue of the winged archer in Piccadilly Circus. You can get some great deals here. We loved ‘ The 39 Steps ‘ and more recently ‘ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night –time’ We enjoy a pre-show dinner at Jamie’s Italian.
A visit to London would not be complete without shopping -visit Harrods ,the quirky Liberty, London and browse through the shops along Oxford Street. Hamleys toy store and Sports Direct are still favourites with the lads.
After all that shopping you’ll need to have High Tea. Take your pick in London from the Harrods Food Hall, The Savoy or the Berkeley’s legendary designer afternoon tea- Pret a Portea inspired by the themes and colours of the fashion world.
London has been calling Australians for decades and I can guarantee you’ll never be bored here. These are just a few of my favourites. What are some of yours?