Whether you’re just in London for 24 hours or are spending a couple of weeks traveling around the UK, you’re sure to want to see, do and eat the best that the city has to offer. Our Foodie Guide to London offers you insider’s tips on how to make the most of your visit. We’ve gathered together our favorite attractions, restaurants, bars and places to stay in London, as well as our very own shortlist of not-to-be-missed food and drinks in Britain! (PS. Want to be shown around London by a local and taste the best of the city? Then book one of our food tours! Choose from a foodie tour of the hip East End, or an evening of cuisine and cocktails in Soho.)
Fish and chips came about because of the development of trawl fishing in the North Sea and was one of the only foods to not be rationed in England during the Second World War. It’s made by coating cod or haddock in batter and then deep frying until the batter is crispy and the fish inside is soft. Paired with chunky fried chips and a side of mushy peas, this has been a much-loved meal in many households in England for years and it’s even better eaten by the seaside. To taste award-winning fish and chips in London, join us on our East End Food Tour!
Bubble and Squeak
Bubble and squeak may have lost its popularity over the last decade but it still remains in the traditional English food hall of fame for a couple of reasons: 1) it’s an amazing way of using up leftovers, 2) it’s delicious. The recipe couldn’t be simpler; if you’ve got any leftover cabbage (or any vegetables) and mashed potato from a previously cooked meal, throw them both in a frying pan with a tiny dollop of butter and stir until the cabbage begins to brown. Serve with a fried egg on top for a delicious (and cheap) brunch. Read our very own posh bubble & squeak recipe on the blog.
Bangers and Mash
Another traditional English meal featuring mashed potato, bangers & mash is basically sausages (usually pork) fried or cooked in the oven, served with a generous helping of mashed potato (made with, of course, lots of butter and milk). Traditionally you’d also serve it with fried onions on top and then pour over some gravy. There’s literally nothing more comforting when it’s raining outside.
We couldn’t tell you about traditional English meals without mentioning the humble roast dinner. Consisting of roasted meat, mashed or roast potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, Yorkshire pudding & gravy, it was traditionally served as the main meal on Sundays, but really it can be eaten any day of the week. The beauty in the English roast dinner lies less in how it tastes (although, it’s obviously delicious) and more about what it symbolizes: it’s a time for family and friends to get together, eat good food, and spend time together.
Bread and Butter Pudding
We’re not going to lie; the English love their desserts. So much so that there’d be far too many to mention here, so we’ve gone with what we feel is the most traditional of the lot: bread and butter pudding. Decades ago, bread and butter pudding was a meal that poorer families would have made from leftover stale bread; layering the bread in a dish, adding sultanas or dried fruit, soaking it all in milk and then baking in the oven. Years later, it’s seen as more of a dessert than a main meal but, because it’s filling and warm, it’s still hugely popular. Taste some of the best bread & butter pudding on our East End Food Tour!
Probably the quirkiest afternoon tea you’ll find in London: a mad hatter’s tea party at Sanderson Hotel. This luxury hotel, situated in the heart of the capital, has left no stone unturned in their quest to give you the impression that, just like Alice, you’ve “tumbled down the rabbit hole, straight into the mad hatter’s tea party” and you’ll be delighted at all the little details that make this afternoon tea spot so special. You’ll find the menus hidden in vintage books, napkins wrapped in riddles for you to solve, and food that encompasses the traditional (think mini-sandwiches and home-baked scones) and the imaginative, with strawberries and cream marshmallow mushrooms and a “Tick Tock” Victoria sponge.
Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea served daily 12.30 – 5.30 pm
BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
If you’re looking for an afternoon tea experience like no other, BBakery’s afternoon tea bus tour is sure to please. Not only do you get all the tea, cakes, and sandwiches you’d expect from a traditional afternoon tea; you also get to do some London sightseeing at the same time! Departing from Trafalgar Square, you’ll spend an hour and a half touring London, taking in the city’s most famous landmarks including The London Eye, Marble Arch, The Royal Albert Hall, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and more, while you enjoy what BBakery (who also offer afternoon tea at their Covent Garden store) does best: pastries, delicious cakes, sandwiches and, of course, tea (served in travel cups to avoid the inevitable spillages that come with drinking hot beverages in a moving vehicle).
8 Northumberland Avenue, off Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5BY
Tour runs daily 12.30 pm – 3 pm; reservation essential
We can’t talk about afternoon tea in London and not mention Claridge’s. Their dedication to the art of afternoon tea is extraordinary and spans the best part of 150 years! Claridge’s is the place to go if you want the traditional afternoon tea experience: finger sandwiches, warm scones served with Marco Polo jelly and Cornish clotted cream, sweet pastries, and of course a huge selection of teas from around the world.
Through its near 1,000 years of history, the Tower of London has been a royal palace, fortress, prison, place of execution, menagerie, arsenal, and home to the Crown Jewels and its famous ravens. Due to its history and immense cultural importance, it is now one of the top London attractions. You can even enjoy a tour with one of the famed Beefeaters, or Yeoman Warders.
The London Eye
Opening in 2000, the London Eye is Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel and sits imposingly on the South Bank of the River Thames. Be sure to get yourself along to this top London attraction and see just why 45 million people have gone along for the 360-degree ride. Be prepared to be impressed – the 30-minute journey gives you the most spectacular views across the city stretching for miles in every direction. Save 10% by booking online.
St James’s Park
The oldest of London’s eight Royal Parks, St James’s covers an area of 58 acres and is the center of ceremonial occasions in the capital. Along the fringes of the park are some of the most important sights in London: Buckingham Palace, The Mall, and Horse Guards’ Parade. Inside the park, which is a popular picnic site, there is a lovely lake and even a colony of pelicans – not exactly your average city park.
Located amid the magnificence of Regents Park, London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo, having opened way back in 1828. Today it houses a collection of over 760 animal species and is a fun and educational family day out. You can take a stroll through the African Forest at the Gorilla Kingdom, or pop into the Tiger Territory and see the biggest of the big cats. It even has the largest penguin pool in London – just don’t try to pick one up!
St Paul’s Cathedral
Built by the great Sir Christopher Wren, the cathedral with one of the most famous domes in the world is an iconic feature of the London skyline. Be sure to go to the renowned Whispering Gallery, where you can whisper on one side of the dome and be clearly heard on the other side, over 100 feet away! At the very top of the cathedral is the Golden Gallery which has fabulous views over London. While there, you’ll find many of Britain’s national heroes are buried in St Paul’s crypt, including Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.
The Globe Theatre
The Globe is an authentic reconstruction of the original Elizabethan playhouse built in 1599. It was built “in the round” using 16th-century building methods and has been home to many an original Shakespearean play – produced by the bard himself! It is still home to a number of inspiring productions each year. Given the vagaries of the British climate, it is worth noting that the theatre is open air, but performances will continue no matter the weather. The theatre also has an array of educational events and exhibitions that bring to life London as experienced by Shakespeare. Adult prices for standing tickets are £5, while seats are priced from £15-39, or £3 for under 18s.
The National Gallery
As impressive as London’s Trafalgar Square is, there is so much more to it than Nelson’s Column. One of the square’s great treasures is the vast National Gallery, Britain’s premier cultural art museum. Founded in 1824, it houses over 2,300 paintings which date from the 13th century to 1900. It displays works by artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Renoir, Van Gogh, Constable, and many more. It’s also free to visit!
For those with a head for heights, there is a new top London attraction – which is almost at the top of London. The Shard is an 87-story church steeple-inspired skyscraper, and at 306 meters it is the tallest building in Europe. Take a trip to the top of The Shard and you’ll find a viewing platform at 244 meters that offer majestic 360-degree views across London. Open daily tickets cost £23.95 for adults and £23.95 for under 15s.
As the home of Her Royal Majesty the Queen, Buckingham Palace is at the center of British society. Sitting proudly at the top of The Mall, it is an absolute must-see for every visitor to London. Best of all, for two months each year, it is possible to take a peek inside the palace. The queen likely won’t be in, but you can tour Elizabeth II’s home in August and September. Every day from 11.15 am, don’t miss the ceremonial Changing of the Guard at the palace!
While Stonehenge is located several hours outside of London, this iconic landmark is well worth the drive. You can take a bus, but we suggest you enjoy more privacy and the flexibility to stay as long as you like by renting a car for a day. Take the M3 to the A303, an easy drive – even if you’re new to driving in the UK. Upon approach, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of this historic landmark. Take some memorable photos to share with family and friends and teach your children the history of this world-famous site before returning to London.
Situated in one of London’s most stylish districts and just a stone’s throw from the capital’s major sights, the Sanctum Soho is definitely one of our favorite hotels. Each room has been individually designed and is packed full of mod-cons, including your own personal Wii console. You’ll also get to enjoy the Sanctum Soho’s secret rooftop terrace, in-house cinema and alfresco spa during your visit.
Forget bellboys, trouser presses and those pesky pillow chocolates; CitizenM promises to provide you with a one-of-a-kind experience which is a world away from your average hotel stay. Found in the heart of London, CitizenM is bursting with cool designs and contemporary features including wall-to-wall windows, rain showers, a self-check-in service, and super comfy beds. Enjoy complimentary WiFi, unlimited movies, and even a tablet to control your room’s smart functions… but only for the duration of your stay!
20 Lavington St, London SE1 0NZ (multiple locations in London)
If you’re looking for something a little more glamorous, then The Pavilion Hotel is the one for you. Near Oxford Street, this unusual hotel boasts 30 rooms, each with their own individual design and packed full of quirkiness, with themes including the exotic “Indian Summer”, the playful “Funky Zebra”, and the vibrant “Flower Power”. The Pavilion Hotel is so cool that it’s become a favorite with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, so get your camera at the ready!
In the heart of Theatreland, Hazlitt’s has an irresistible charm and is full of indulgent luxuries – dazzling chandeliers, four-poster beds and priceless antiques in every room. This unique 4* boutique hotel also has a fascinating literary past. A regular guest in the early 19th century, the hotel pays homage to the writer William Hazlitt, and many of its rooms are named after Hazlitt’s contemporaries. Enjoy a night in the luxurious Duke of Monmouth suite, but don’t forget to add Hazlitt’s delicious breakfast to your booking – their freshly baked croissants are out of this world!
Nestled in East London, Ace Hotel is no doubt one of the trendiest hotels in the capital. Book a night at Ace and you’ll find a basement bar, a photo booth in the lobby and even an acoustic Martin guitar in your room! You can browse the in-house art gallery, boogie on down in the lobby bar or grab a healthy treat at Lovage, the on-site juice kitchen.
A stay at the Rookery Hotel is guaranteed to take you back in time. Set in the heart of East London, this hotel combines indulgent luxury with period charm. The Rookery Hotel is decorated in an opulent Georgian style and adorned with original features. Each room contains beautiful antiques, silk curtains, and plush furnishings. But if you’re looking for an entirely unique experience, then book one of the Rookery’s themed suites. A night in the Sir Walter De Manny or the Dr. Theophilus Garencières room won’t disappoint.
Located in Clerkenwell, this hip and trendy hotel is packed with quirky personality. Each and every room at The Zetter Hotel has been designed individually to ensure that no two experiences are the same. Its 59 rooms are bursting with mod cons, chic furnishings and even a personally selected vintage library.
St John’s Square, 86-88 Clerkenwell Rd, London EC1M 5RJ
A short stroll from some of East London’s most popular haunts is The Hoxton Hotel. Why not book a quirky concept room? Take your pick from the Salt Beef and Mustard, A Slice of Hoxton, or one of the many other East End inspired rooms. Keep an eye out for The Hoxton Hotel’s sale which often offers rooms for only £1 per night – perfect for any savvy traveler.
A hotel that feels like a home away from home. Where a mini-kitchen with a microwave, fridge, kettle (with complimentary tea), and Nespresso machine (with complimentary coffee) can be found right there in your room. This is The Nadler hotel, affordable luxury near Soho’s theaters and brilliantly positioned for a spot of shopping on Oxford Street and Carnaby Street.
Sister to The Covent Garden Hotel, The Soho Hotel is a place that, having stayed there once, you’re probably not going to want to leave. The hotel is cool, calm, and the perfect place to retreat to after a day of exploring bustling and busy Soho. And if hanging out in a homely hotel room for the evening doesn’t float your boat, you can always head down to the hotel’s screening room for their Sunday night film club.
Proving that cheap Soho hotels are actually a thing is Dean Street Townhouse, which shies away from the superficially trendy and, instead, goes for a more traditionally elegant and timeless look. A Georgian townhouse located near some of Soho’s best restaurants and bars, the rooms aren’t huge but they do boast comfortable interiors.
The Shoreditch Rooms are East London’s best kept secret. The rooms may only be available in Tiny, Small or Small+ but they certainly aren’t lacking in comfort. You’ll be provided with a rainforest shower, Cowshed products and plenty of gadgets to play with. Guests of the Shoreditch Rooms are also allowed access to Shoreditch House. You can have a drink at one of the trendy bars, go for a spin in the bowling alley, or even take a dip in the rooftop swimming pool.
Shoreditch House, Ebor Street, Shoreditch, London E1 6AW