You probably know everything you need to know about Coronavirus by now, but what about travelling to London at the moment? I’ve put together an overview of the current situation and it might affect your plans.
Can I still travel to London? You can at the time of writing (16/03), with no limitations for travel in London and the UK, and no requirement quarantine on arrival. Yes, most London attractions, museums and restaurants are open and public transport is functioning as normal. But do you really want to get on board train or plane right now? If you’ve already booked, check if you can get a voucher to rebook for a later time.
UPDATE 17/03: While you still might be able to physically travel to London, the official advice from Visit London is ”The UK is still open to visitors. However, the UK government has advised all visitors to consider if your travel is essential. ”. Since the government suggested people avoid crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres, many of the capital’s major attractions have since closed or announced their future plans to.
What can’t I do in London?
• Use your reusable cup at Starbucks – you will still receive a 25p discount for bringing reusable cups with you, but your drinks will be served in disposable cups.
• Catch a Premier League football match (cancelled until at least April)
• See Daniel Radcliffe in EndGame (no it’s not the Avengers!) as the Old Vic is the first major London theatre that has cancelled performances; other theatres to cancel include the Young Vic and the Arcola. (UPDATE 16/03: all major London theatres are closed until further notice)
• Visit the South London Gallery or the Wellcome Collection – both are closed until further notice. All London museums have now closed or are planning to close in the coming days.
•The same goes for most of the cinema chains including Odeon, Vue, and Picturehouse.
How does London look like?
A lot of companies allow working from home so the streets in Central London are emptier than normal. To give you an idea, this is Soho this afternoon.
While stores like Apple, Urban Outfitters and Nike are closed for the moment, the LEGO Store and M&M’s Store on Leicester Square are open as usual.
Will food markets stay open? This is a rather empty offering from today in Rupert Street in Soho.
In terms of restaurants, most places are open as normal, though a lot emptier, such as Bill’s, which is usually packed but a lot quieter today.
It looks like while restaurants, at least at lunchtime, are less busy, delivery drivers are taking up the slack.
A brave buddy.
How to protect yourself while in London
In case you’re ‘stuck’ in London here are a few ‘tongue in cheek’ tips on how to protect yourself presented by my good friend and Germophobe Adam
Being a bit OCD about germs was never my thing, but given the current news I had to get in touch with long-running blog friend Adam to ask him his top tips for surviving in London while being a bit OCD about touching things. He’s a bit over the top, so take his suggestions with a pinch of salt (or hand sanitiser!)
London might be the most wonderfully amazing city on earth (next to LA ofc), but the metropolis can be scary when you’re a bit of a germophobe, so here’s how to take it in your stride and avoid unnecessary touching in the capital.
Paying for items or transport? Be a ninja – keep that debit/credit card, Oyster or phone from touching the reader and keep it about half an inch or so above to avoid having to wash your cards. My personal advice is to stick to paying by phone (Apple/Google pay) to skip having to type your PIN in occasionally for security reasons.
Opening doors? Treat it like yoga – use your elbows or feet/knees to open doors (what else are you using elbows for right?!), but if it’s a pull door, slide your wrist behind the handle/bar to pull it towards you. If you’re in a toilet, use a tissue to open or close the doors for maximum relief.
Travelling on buses or the tube? It’s all about balance baby – find a corner or window/door to lean against to avoid holding the poles, or if you have to, wear gloves or ensure you have sanitiser ready to use when you escape. If you’re a that rare species of tube surfer even
better, use that surfer’s balance to stand without holding on to anything (sadly I’m not able to manage this feat). Obviously finding a spot to lean is tough in rush hour, so try and stick to non-peak hours if you can!
Self serve tills? Make a fist – these tills might seem like heaven as you’re avoiding extra human contact, but touch screens are a big no no. In this case use your knuckles or gloves and like I said earlier – keep that card safe from touching the reader directly.
Heading out to eat? Be a monk – make sure you wash your hands or use sanitiser before devouring meals, and don’t let any concerns ruin a tasty treat.
Foodcourts, foodhalls or indoor foodmarkets…whatever you call them, they have been popping up like crazy in London! Food courts aren’t a new concept, but the trend has changed and instead of inside shopping malls you’ll more likely them in old and unused buildings that have been repurposed into indoor food halls.
Here are some stops for your London food markets itinerary that will cover you from the rain, provide you a seat and fill your stomach with lots of tasty treats.
Seven Dials Market – Covent Garden
Situated in a former banana warehouse, the Seven Dials Market is a rather impressive looking food market, with eateries which make me want to come back again and again. Vendors include Club Mexicana (vegan Mexican), Pick & Cheese (British cheese) and Nanban (Japanese ramen and curry).
The current vendors are: Monty’s Deli, Claw, Pick & Cheese, Club Mexicana, Nanban, Yum Bun, Yin, Strozzapreti, El Pollote, Truffle, Ink, Big Shot
If you can only get one thing: get yourself a chair at the Pick & Cheese conveyor belt!
This massive indoor and outdoor complex contains an on-site brewery, Italian food shop and over 40 vendor stalls including Hermanos Tacos (Mexican tacos), Guasacaca (Venezuelan arepas) and Ze Spatzle Club (German spatzle). Mercato Metropolitano Elephant & Castle also offer a variety of workshops on their site, so make sure to check out the most recent offerings here.
The current vendors are: Caffe Latino, V For Vegan, Badiani, Butcher’s Grill, Leggero, Ophra’s Dogs, Oshpas, Pasta London, Okonomiyaki, The French Corner, Pad Thai House, Your Mums Truck, Deja Brow, Molo, Turkish BBQ Kebabs, Burhero, Fresco Pizza, Little Sicily, Champagne & Fromage, Lebanese, The Italian Job, Bottles and Battles, Vietnamese, Kalimera, Juzu Ramen, That’s Food, German Kraft, Jim & Tonie, Ze Spatzle Club, Baba G’s, RiceOn
If you can only get one thing: Try the German pasta dish from Ze Spatzle Club
Mercato Metropolitano Mayfair – Mayfair
This central London spot is set in a former church and just looks amazing, plus it even has a crypt filled with wine and cheese!! The market consists of several bars, a speciality foods store and seven food vendors including Lala (Turkush pide), Steamy & Co (bao buns) and Fresco (Neapolitan pizza).
The current vendors are: Steamy & Co, Pasta London, Badiani, Lala Mayfair, German Krafts, Fresco, ChaCha Mayfair, Santo Grill & Wine, Molo, Jim & Tonie
If you can only get one thing: Give the pide at Lala a go.
Market Hall Victoria – Victoria
This food hall paradise is the perfect spot if you’re looking for a place to eat near Victoria Station. In addition to 11 vendors, there are also three bars, a rooftop patio and a coffee shop. Vendors include Soft Serve Society (soft serve ice-cream), Monty’s Deli (deli) and Gopal’s Corner (Malaysian Tamil inspired food).
The current vendors are: Fanny’s Kebabs, Monty’s Deli, Press Coffee, Flank, Gopal’s Corner, Baoziinn, Soft Serve Society, Cookdaily, Squirrel, Kerbisher & Malt, Nonna Tonday, Super Tacos
If you can only get one thing: Go for Monty’s Deli egg and cheese bun!
Market Hall Oxford Street – West End
The arrival of the Market Hall on Oxford Street introduced some much-needed life into the Oxford Street food scene that always felt a bit short on non-chain options. Hungry shoppers can indulge into a range of cuisines and vendors include Super Tacos (Mexican tacos), Goodbirds (rotisserie chicken) and Yatai (Japanese).
The current vendors are: Super Tacos, Pleasant Lady, Pastaio, Yatai, Paradise Slice Pizza Shop, Cookdaily, Goodbirds, Hotbox, Fanny’s Kebabs, Love Mini Pancakes, Gopal’s Corner, Baoziinn
If you can only get one thing: Opt for the chicken katsu sandwich from Yatai.
Market Hall Fulham – Fulham
This former Edwardian Underground station ticket hall is now a happening spot with a bar, a fitness studio and food vendors including Hotbox (Texan barbeque), Machan (Sri Lankan dishes) and Fanny’s Kebabs (all things kebabs).
The current vendors are: Ahi Poké, Love Churros, Fanny’s Kebabs, Hotbox, Butchies, Press Coffee, Made of Dough
If you can only get one thing: an oat latte from Press Coffee.
The streets and neighbourhoods in London keep changing. The recent closure of a fantastic restaurant and the upcoming demolition of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre inspired me to highlight some of those forgotten places in London that we can’t visit anymore.
Long before streaming sites there was Blockbuster to pick up movies and TV show boxes. They also had ridiculously cheap Ben & Jerry’s and sweets and snack deals. Other places that fed my book, music and movie hunger were HMV and Virgin Megastore, which had massives branches on Picaddily Circus and Tottenham Court Road with listening posts to check out new music. RIP.
I’m also sad that The Heygate Estate is gone. It was a Brutalist gem that housed over 1000 families, but has since been flattened to make place for 360 new identikit flats, just one of the too many in London. It will live on in the memories of its residents as well as the movies and shows that it was featured on, such as Attack the Block.
Watching a football game in traditional stadiums has changed over the years. Arsenal’s home base Highbury and West Ham’s Boleyn Ground were scrapped and replaced by new developments and the holy ground is now much more modern, grand and generic.
While the Millenium Dome’s white shell still remains over the top of the O2 Arena – today known for its giant events space, cinema and countless restaurants – it was originally famous as the site of the Millennium Experience – a massive celebration for the year 2000 comprising interactive exhibits, art and music.
Then there is the London Astoria, a venue in Soho and a cinema and ballroom before that. It sadly had to go down to make way for the Crossrail train project in 2009. Other London venues that have closed have included the Hammersmith Palais (2007), the Mean Fiddler (2009), The Luminaire (2010), Earl’s Court (2014), Madame JoJo’s (2014), The Good Ship (2017) and the Borderline (2019).
Battersea Power Station is probably my favourite London building and my biggest regret is not getting in queue for Open House several years back. The former coal-fired power station is being re-developed as Apple’s European head office and I’m sure they’ll open up for Open House in the future again, so fingers crossed!.
Cantina Luredohad 7(!) different types of guacamoles on their menu and it was my intention to savour them all with nachos in hand. When I walked by the other day I saw place was permanently closed and I won’t be getting my guacamole fix after all.
All I want is to spend all of January in bed and catching up on films and series. But despite this, I forced myself to face the January sadness and leave the streaming services for a few hours and do something. It brought me to indoor foodmarkets, foodhalls and foodcourts.
I covered my love/hate relationship with the House of Illustration here. The Cuba: Cold War Graphics exhibition had little background information, which is something you need as the posters on display don’t speak for themselves. But I guess they get some bonus points for managing to find these posters featuring women rebels.
I don’t really get to visit Mayfair so it’s nice to walk around and spot things, like this little peaceful corner in Grosvenor Square.
The reason for my trek to Mayfair was to check out the new Mercato food hall! Their second location opened last year and is housed in a former church. Yes… it looks amazing as it sounds.
Where else can you better share coffee, croissants and confessions than in a former confessional?
Not too far away from there is yet another food market – Market Hall Oxford Street. Apart from the go-to chain joints there’s not really too many options all in one place in the area. Until now that is!
It’s located in an old warehouse and very industrial and offers around 15 vendors cooking up tasty food of all cuisines from Mexico, Italy, Japan and more. The katsu curry sandwich was a sure-fire winner.
A walk in Bishops Park brought me to Fulham House and Garden, a historic house that was once the home of the Bishops of London and has now opened its doors to the public.
My favourite place in historic houses I visit are always the libraries. This one with a secret door has to be my favourite! Though it might be a tie with the pink/blue one in Kenwood House.
I can’t wait to go back in spring to see the gardens in full bloom. Maybe even bring a blanket, some sandwiches and wine for a picnic.
My indoor food market hopping also brought me to Market Hall Fulham, which is smaller than its Oxford Street and Victoria counterparts, but might be fun to check out if you are near the area.
It seems you can’t open a foodhall in London without it being in a unique location. This venue is in the former entrance hall of an Edwardian Underground station, if only all public transport locations were this amazing.
Here are 11 awesome things I’ve seen & done in London that you should do too and two you can skip, ranging from eateries to exhibitions and gardens.
Pick & Cheese
A Conveyor Belt. With Cheeses. I can’t believe London had to go this long without one! The place offers 25 types of cheeses plus a few desserts paired with specific condiments. Plate after plate passes by and all you have to do is pick up what sounds or looks good. It has been my favourite dining experience for some time and I am going back to try the other 20.
Olafur Eliasson: In real life – Exhibition @ Tate Modern
On until 5 January 2020 I wasn’t expecting too much of this as I had a feeling I had seen all of it on Instagram! But to really experience the art installations of Olafur Eliasson you need to be in the middle of it. The exhibition lay-out and information was so-so, and though it was meant to be a retrospective, there was little to no information of his career progression and I had to read all the interesting bits online afterwards.
Chelsea Physic Garden
The Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden and has been an apothecary garden since 1673 … so you can image they know their plants and how to present them. I loved the Mental Wellness corner that encouraged you to smell and touch the plants and to sit down, close your eyes and listen to the sounds. Hope they keep that section.
Play Well @ Wellcome Gallery
On until 8 March 2020 The Play Well exhibition showcases the ideas and objects that have shaped the way from mid 1800 to today and how play is part of childhood and society. I have to say it’s not my favourite exhibition of theirs, but if you find yourself near Euston and are looking for some free entertainment it’s worth popping in for.
I’ve seen the most delicious pictures from people enjoying their French toast, Full English or avocado on a sourdough at Burnt Toast. As you can image, this all day breakfast place is almost always packed. It took me some time to figure out you the best time to have the place alone with just you and French Toast is as soon as they open.
The Crossrail Place Roof Garden The free garden in Crossrail Place in Canary Wharf is designed to display and conserve plants from the eastern and western hemispheres to reflect the indigenous to countries visited during the 19th century by trading ships. It’s surprisingly peaceful, well planned out and not too busy on weekends.
WA Cafe is a Japanese patisserie and has the best selection of cakes and teas I’ve had in a long long while. I can confirm their matcha roll cake, sesame cheesecake and strawberry shortcake all go perfectly with a hot pot of buckwheat tea.
I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be out of Mexican places to try in London! Though I prefer most of the market places I do like to go to an actual restaurant once in a while. Casa Pastor has a selection of delicious and well-sized tostadas, tacos and quesadillas, but the winners have to be their in-house tortillas and Chile de Arbol salsa.
Buddhism Exhibition @ British Library
On until 23 Feb 2020 In the British Library you can escape for a Buddhism 101 exhibition where you can learn more about the roots, philosophy and contemporary relevance of the religion. My favourite bit was the adding of music to bring you in the right mood while examining the Buddhist art and scriptures.
London Calling: 40 Years of the Clash @ Museum of London
On until 19 April 2020 An exhibition taking us a behind the scenes of the album as well as background info on all four of the band. I learned one of the members was born just around the corner from where I live and that their diet while recording consisted of beans, eggs and chips. While pretty small, it covers a lot, such as the broken Fender Precision Bass that’s being smashed on the cover of the album, their personal jackets and tour photographs. And of course London Calling is the soundtrack for your tour.
You might have noticed that I like to visit a good old house/manor. But if your visit to London is limited and you’re not sure which to pick, why not combine a walk through Hampstead Heath with some exploring of Kenwood House? You’ll find Dutch masters on the wall, French baroque furnishings in most of the rooms and Latin books in the dreamlike library. The best bit? Entry is free!
Wasn’t For Me
Designed in Cuba: Cold War Graphics @ House Of Illustrations
Until January 19 2020
Their exhibitions sound great on paper, but I haven’t managed to like any of them so far. The current exhibition Cuba: Cold War Graphics didn’t really give me any info on the materials used or how the day to day of a designer looked like back then or who kept the posters. It could have been tied in with the current affairs. Ah well.
Charbonnel et Walker afternoon tea @ The May Fair Hotel
When Team Confetti and I looked for a place for Afternoon Tea I picked The May Fair Hotel because we used to book it for talents a lot back when I worked in film PR. If it’s good enough for all the talents, it’s good enough for me I thought….but not for the Afternoon Tea it seems! I can honestly say the one at Pattiserie Valerie is better value. The sandwiches AND scones were dry, two Charbonnel et Walker Truffles were too rich and the mini donuts were nothing like the ones on the press images. Either go for Pattiserie Valerie or treat yourself to one at Park Lane or Corinthia.
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