Here are some awesome and less awesome things I’ve seen and done in London during what was the LONGEST month ever.
I usually go to Lumberjack because their mocha is Just. The. Best. If you’re hungry, get a slice of banana bread, a simple avocado toast or one of the ever-changing cakes on offer … heck, just get everything, plus one of their cute tote bags to go.
WELLCOME COLLECTION Bloomsbury
Ignoring the fact that this health/medical museum is located on one of London’s most polluted roads, this place is a nice breath of fresh air on the capital’s cultural scene. In addition to its permanent collection of medical history, this institution puts on some of the most thought-provoking exhibitions you’re likely to see.
SAN MARINO Brixton
You could walk past a place a thousand times before you actually walk in. I know, because I did when I was looking for a place for an English Breakfast in Brixton. If you are looking for a no fuss and cheap Full English breakfast this is the place to be. They also do vegetarian, vegan and even halal. Keeper!
WALLACE COLLECTION Marylebone
The Wallace Collection is a beautiful Instaworthy old mansion house filled to the brim with more 18th and 19th century paintings than you can imagine. But I won’t give away too much, as I’m putting together a proper post for my Museum Musings series.
DAUNT BOOKS Marylebone
You have seen this bookshop on every self-respecting Instafeed or on one of their iconic tote bags. Enter at your own risk! Depending on your level of impulse control, you might want to ration yourself as it’s hard to leave this place without picking up everything for your bookshelf.
If I had money to burn it would be at Skandium, a Nordic design & furniture retailer, with everything from Moomin cups to sofas and chairs you’ll never want to leave.
But not everything can be awesome, so here’s a heads up on what to avoid.
MILDREDS King’s Cross
With mock chicken burgers, soul bowls and smoked tofu, this vegetarian food paradise has got you sorted…or does it? I want to say I loved it, but it was too expensive for what you got. The Mac & Cheese was dry, the chips were inspirationless and the soul bowl was soo lemony that it ruined the other flavours. If I ever return it would be for the baclava type of dessert and their grilled anchovies.
HACKNEY FLEA MARKET Hackney
The maps and decorations looked amazing. The clothes were overpriced and mainly 70s lycra fabric vintage dresses and overworn jumpers! To top it off it was rush hour tube levels of crowdedness.
With everyone on Dryanuary, NOSpenduary or Vegananuary it’s so tempting to spend your weekends indoors binging whatever Netflix throws at you. But don’t give in yet! Why not take a walk, a ‘green’ walk that is. London is full to bursting with walking routes, many within easy reach with public transport. Here are three to consider this weekend.
Wimbledon Common – Richmond Park Walk
Living in London is great, but sometimes I’m just starving for greenery and a place to walk without carbon monoxide in my face, you know? Only 20 minutes away from Central London there is Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park, two large green spaces which can traversed together for a nice day out. Wimbledon Common feels a lot more wild, with lots of little paths and a sense of getting lost, while it features a lovely little Windmill (NL♥) and you even get to cut across golf courses and encounter a horse traffic light! When you make it to Richmond Park you can explore the Isabella Plantation, go up to Poet’s Corner and King Henry’s Mound, relax by the Pen Ponds and of course, catch some beautiful deers in action (if you’re lucky you might even see one taking a bath!). When you’ve seen enough green stuff for the day, you can head out of the Petersham or Richmond Gates for a stroll by the River Thames, part of Thames Path major walking route.
Still need convincing?
This 128 km route lines the River Thames all the way from Hampton Court in the west to the River Darent in the east, with sections split between the north and south side banks. There’s a lot to see and do along the route, with highlights such as Hampton Court Palace, Parliament, Kew Gardens, London Eye, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Old Royal Naval College, the O2, Canary Wharf, Thames Barrier, and a lot lot more. One of my favourite stretches is the old industrial areas that are found between the Thames Barrier and the O2, with massive cranes and industrial materials, some still being used. If you feel a bit cheeky you can make use of the TfL Riverboats to get a different persective along London’s major river, plus it’s also a bit faster than your old feet.
Still need convincing?
Green Chain Walk
They say you don’t know South-East London til you’ve done the Green Chain Walk. Alright, you got me, no one’s said that, but they really should. This hodgepodge of little routes goes all the way from weird dinosaur models of Crystal Palace Park to the Clockwork Orange film location of Thamesmead, just on the River Thames. The routes can be a bit hit and miss, as there’s often a quite a bit of walking along roads, but there’s definitely gems to find here and it’s especially magical if you don’t know the areas, and feel like your exploring a hidden route with the only clues being little signposts every so often to guide you on your way. My particular highlights were the Lesnes Abbey Ruins and Woods, Oxlea Woods with Severndroog Castle, plus the route by Eltham Palace, which is a must-see in its own right.
Who doesn’t love visiting a museum? I know it’s of my favourite rainy Saturday morning activities and now the season has started I’ll be doing another round of museums and seeing which one is truly worth your visit. I want to make it as fact based as possible, so I’ve opted for a traditional grading system.
I’m looking at the 4 things that are most important to me: location, exhibits, value for money and the layout. So, how easy is it to find your way around? Do you need a map? Does how they’ve arranged all the exhibits make sense or leave you more confused than when you entered? Is it far from the city centre and can I combine it with a visit to something else? To top it all off, there are extra points to be had for places with a wow factor.
Kicking off with the Museum that’s been the home to British art since 1897, it’s Tate Modern’s overlooked and dusty uncle: Tate Britain.
Location – 15/20
Tate Britain is located in Pimlico, not really a must-see London neighbourhood. Though I did see a lot of people with carry-on suitcases so it might be an Airbnb nirvana? It’s about a 10 minute walk from the Pimlico Station or Vauxhall Station in Zone 1.
Pretty quick to get to, but since it’s a bit out of the center and there isn’t really another activity you can combine it with I’d say it loses some points.
Exhibits – 10/20
Holds a permanent British collection, offering an overview of paintings, photographs and sculptures by the island’s finest. It has all the big names but not the world-famous works you might know for them – it’s like the the B-sides of an album.
Value For Money – 20/20
Like most museums in London, anyone can browse the permanent collection for free while temporary exhibitions start at £13, which is very fair for the capital .
Layout – 10/ 20
To make sure you don’t miss anything, do grab a map as it’s easier to navigate. The placement of the paintings is hit and miss: in some rooms there would be 20 crowding a wall, while others would have a lot less, making it feel inconsistent.
Wow Factor – 10/20
Points for the gorgeous neo-classical portico entrance, the dome ceiling and for that forgotten corner that’s left from how the building used to be in the 90s.
Total: 65/100 points. It’s a reasonable enough art museum, where you’ll have lots to enjoy, but it falls down for its lack of big-name pieces and it doesn’t have the grand magic of its newer, hipper brother on the South Bank – Tate Modern.
After having lost faith in humanity at Open House 2016 due to abysmal queuing set ups and swarms of rude crowds, in 2017 I only ventured to one tiny place, but this weekend I felt like giving the event another chance. Where better to go than the political heart of London?
Given the general distate for politics I was hoping everything would be empty – I was wrong, but it was the smoothest Open House experience. Once again I didn’t get picked in the 10 Downing Street ballot – has anyone ever been drafted? Or does my dodgy East European last name mean it’s a no no for me on security grounds?
Everyone has their favourites at Open House and mine was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – it’s included in pretty much every news round-up, and was the main reason for me heading to Westminster. It was well worth the trip and probably my favourite Open House I’ve been to so far! I loved everything from the ceilings to the carpet and even the wallpapers. Also … seeing Palmerston, Chief Mouser to the FCO, himself was a purfect treat. And a shout-out to the organisers as it was super quick and efficient with a one-way system taking you everywhere.
Thanks to the Open House app it was easy to see what other places were nearby. I wouldn’t have known about HM Treasury, next door to the FCO which houses a hidden courtyard. Despite being the place where they spend all the money it was pretty stripped back compared to the grandiose FCO building, though they did have super comfy sofa booths. It also included a mini exhibition on the history of the building, for history/architecture geeks to get their rocks off. But really it WAS all about the round courtyard.
Some places only offered guided tours – despite the app not mentioning it, but with so many things on offer it was easy to simply walk to the next place. Having to go to court isn’t most people’s idea of a fun day out, let alone the Supreme Court, but when it’s housed in an amazing building I’m happy to volunteer as tribute. The UK Supreme Court comes with a dream library (though the books are a bit too dry for my liking) including ladders, a tower room and Harry Potter like stairs. If that wasn’t enough, you could also don various judge robes and wigs for your own legal catwalk experience – take that London Fashion Week!
Portcullis House is the little less loved brother of the Houses of Parliament. Sitting just opposite the famous landmark, it’s where lots of important political stuff happens but in a kinda ugly 90s style building. Despite this it has its charms: the open space and lots of light and a great spot to just catch a breath and process everything. While walking around the hall of political portraits I came up with the next Date Game Show hit: you have two potential love birds matched up with show centred around them walking around the hall and giving their opinion on the portraits – yes I know it’s not exactly Love Island, but let’s get some culture into our reality TV!
Another favourite was the Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament and reachable through a cool secret tunnel underneath from Portucllis House. I would have thought being in such a powerful place might have given me a kick, but it was more the giant mural paintings filled to the brim with bearded medieval dudes that really did it for me. It is also currently hosting a free exhibition on votes for women and the representation of women in the House of Commons and House of Lords, so learn about how kick-ass women fought for their suffrage with tickets via
If you look up boujee in the picture dictionary you will see a photo of Banqueting House with its mysterious cellar like space to its grand hall. It’s so extra the powder rooms come with a sit down and re-apply your make-up corner – sadly I wasn’t invited to the next ball/feast/extravaganza…
P.S this is the current state of Big Ben. Does it look bigger with a hood on?
Have you ever been to an Open House style event? Which was your favourite attraction?
Central London in summer is my own personal little corner in hell. Just like many other major cities, London is starting to burst at the seams with overtourism, and to catch a peaceful moment I’ve started avoiding the major attractions – instead I head South of the river, to the far far East or even to the West!
One of those recent stops for me was re-visiting the Horniman Museum and Gardens – a quirky museum in Forest Hill which houses a lot of stuffed animals, musical instruments from all around the world and African, South American and Siberian anthropology.
We owe the place to Frederick John Horniman, a Victorian tea trader and avid traveller who brought back curious things from around the world to Forest Hill to let people share in on his passion. I assume his partner and friends got tired of hearing how he got Wally the Walrus for the 20th time so he opened up his display to the public. As the collection grew and grew and attracted more visitors I imagine his wife wasn’t too excited with people wandering around her house and so they secured a nearby building that still houses the museum and gardens. To top it off, there’s also a butterfly house, an aquarium and a crazy golf course – sadly it wasn’t the one from Alice in Wonderland, but is still worth a shot.
It doesn’t take more than 1 hour to see everything, which leaves enough time to go up the hill for the amazing view over central London, see the gardens in bloom and grab some food at the Saturday Farmer’s Market for a picnic on the grass. The collections are a bit dry and leave a lot to the imagination, but it’s kind of charming in old fashioned way with Wes Anderson style fonts and pastel colours, and did I mention it’s (mostly) for free?
It’s a bit out of Central London in Zone 3, so it might not be the ideal hotspot for your first visit, but definitely hop on the bus/train if you are visiting London for a second or third time or love stuffed animals, dried insects and a bash on the drums in the music room.
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