London offers a great selection of places to go out and admire them or take a moment to stop and recharge your mind. Here are some of my favourite gardens, conservatories and nurseries to feed my green addiction.
Make sure to check the safety measures each place has before you go out and visit.
Chelsea Physic Garden
The Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden and has been an apothecary garden since 1673…so you can imagine they know their plants and how to display them, all 5,000 of 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. I also learned that there are way more chillis than I thought – so I need to work on my chilli pepper game. But the highlight of course is the little section dedicated to the elixir of life: tea.
Barbican Conservatory The Barbican Conservatory is a botanical dream! You’ll find species of trees and plants as well as a special cacti and succulents corner, all against a concrete backdrop which gives you the idea you escaped (or got lost in) a dystopian world. Many of the outdoor gardens are not active during the colder months so the Conservatory is the go-to place that allows you to enjoy the beauty of plants, trees, and flowers throughout the year.
The Crossrail Place Roof Garden
Among the towering buildings and power suits of Canary Wharf you’ll find a green oasis. 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, this place is really a haven from the madness of the city.
St Dunstan In The East
Head on over to London Bridge and you’ll stumble upon St Dunstan in the East, a green space that’s built around the church that was damaged during the Blitz. If you are visiting London you might want to skip the place during lunchtime but if you come before or after that, you can have the pretty garden nearly all to yourself – except for a photo shoot here and there or a school class stopping by for a demonstration what happened at the place during the Great Fire.
The Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola If flowers and trees are your thing, the Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola is the place to be. Story goes that a rich philanthropist wanted to build a pergola for his garden parties, but sadly he passed away before it was finished, so in his spirit lets all go hashtag him while you spam our Instagram #Leverhulme. And while you’re there why not watch the sunset at Hampstead Heath? If you manage to cough up some change with all the money I’ve saved you, get cheese and a bottle of finest M&S red and enjoy.
The Phoenix Garden is where I used to escape the chaos when I worked in Holborn. And one of my observations is that a lot of people seem to walk into the community garden when they spot the Stik graffiti wall and stay for the range of urban wildlife the little place offers.
Dishonourable mention – Sky Garden
You don’t really go here to escape or enjoy the plant selection, but the SkyGarden (located on the 43rd floor of the Walkie Talkie building) offers one of the most beautiful and free views of the London skyline. Though the green bit seems to reduce every time I visit it, so enjoy it while it lasts.
You guys! London is slowly re-opening bit by bit and I still haven’t decided what I want to do on my first day out. Do I want to return to a favourite place or go somewhere I haven’t been yet?
This planning led me to good old TripAdvisor, which then inspired me to write a post on some top recommended places in London that I haven’t visited yet and why.
Tower of London – Would you believe if I said that the Tower of London is my favourite London landmark to look at? It’s true, but despite that I’ve never been inside the grounds. I’m kind of afraid it will disappoint, so I want to plan my visit properly.
London Eye River Cruise – It’s probably a combination of price and a river cruise having a bit of a dusty image. Now I come to think of it, I have never seen London from the water. Should change that at some point.
Churchill War Rooms – Same as for many others: the price, combined with queueing and so many other alternatives. Eventually I will go to compare it to my own wartime bunker in Bosnia.
Westminster Abbey – I’ve always preferred St Paul’s and nothing and no one has ever tried to convince me to go inside. I’ve seen many other Abbeys and at some point I’m sure I’ll make my way there. Just not yet.
London Transport Museum – Take public transport to pay money to go into even more trains and buses? I’ve actually wanted to visit and see how bus and train carriages looked throughout history, but I just haven’t been willing to pay for it. Yet.
Chelsea FC Tour – I mean… they are not one of my favourite London clubs, so I’m not in a hurry. At all.
Buckingham Palace – For someone who used to visit a palace / castle a month it’s weird I haven’t been to the summer exhibition of Buckingham Palace. I just never got around to booking and going.
Royal Air Force Museum – I keep forgetting about the other IWM museums. Will I get to the Royal Airforce Museum? Who knows? Maybe when I run out of all of the museums to explore I can go to this one.
Arsenal Emirates Tour – Because I’m waiting for my Brother, so we can experience it together and bond in shared love of Arsenal.
Leake Street Arches – I think I wanted to walk here once, but from what I remember it didn’t look too welcoming, but now I see all the street-art I might have to give it another try.
HMS Belfast – Another attraction that’s way too expensive to commit to and for some reason I imagine it being a small and narrow place and I’m not a big fan of that. Also, the fact we are so spoiled with all the free museums means the threshold to pay for entrance is high.
Abbey Road Studios – Am I a music barbarian? NW8?! That’s too far … is what comes to mind every time I see Abbey Road Studio. In reality, it’s not that far, so maybe one day I will cross that zebra crossing. Keep an eye on my Instagram for the winning photo.
Cutty Sark – Many moons ago I wanted to visit and learn more about this tea clipper, but backed out when I saw how much it cost. To be fair it was when I didn’t have a fulltime job, so who knows in the future I might go and see what they have to say about the tea trade.
Harrods – I’m not sure why this is listed on Tripadvisor and I don’t know what I would need to do there? I imagine I can only afford a keychain, but I guess I would have to go to test this, or maybe the food market will appeal.
Freemason’s Hall – I’ve seen the Freemason’s Hall in so many movies that I feel like I HAVE been there. Despite working around the corner from it for about two years, I just never managed to go in and have a look.
Gods Own Junkyard – This neon light art gallery is on top of my list, but it’s soooo far out to go for just one thing. For me it would take over an hour on two different trains and so far I could not have been bothered.
ArcelorMittal Orbit – This 114.5 metre sculpture slash observation tower slash slide is something I’ve HAVE been wanting to go to, but so far I haven’t found anyone who is willing to pay the £15.
Kensington Palace – This is not something I’ve not gotten around to yet as there are so many other palaces, manors and castles that seemed more interesting to me. Maybe wait for an interesting exhibition so I can combine the two.
Apothecaries’ Hall – This is something I actually did not know existed, even though I’ve walked past it often. I’ll be making my way there at the next Open House as it has my name all over it.
All in all … I’m cheap or don’t think some organisations deserve my money and attention!
What has kept you from visiting certain attractions near you?
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.
Food courts, food halls or indoor food markets…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 – Food Court In 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 – Food Hall in 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.
Arcade Food Theatre – Food Court in Soho
Situated on the ground floor of the Centre Point tower, this food hall, sorry…food theatre, is the place you want to visit if you want more of a traditional, upmarket restaurant feel. It felt a bit like a fancy hotel lounge filled with delicious treats. I’m not sure who their target audience is, but it’s fair to say their offer is a bit different from the other food halls I’ve mentioned, and that means you’ll feel it in your bank account as well. At the Arcade Food Theatre you’ll find offerings such as Chotto (Japanese Peruvian), Pastorcito (Mexican) and Flat Iron Workshop (beef).
The current vendors are: Pophams, Casita Do Frango, Chotto by Chotto Matte, Flat Iron Workshop, Lina Stores, Le Bab, Pastorcito and TŌU
If you can only get one thing: Treat yourself to a hazelnut praline (or anything really) from Pophams
Market Hall Victoria – Food Hall In 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 – Food Hall In 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 – Food Hall in 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.
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