Monday, November 3, 2008


It's almost certainly not the best time of year for it, but, nonetheless, I'm going to be spending next week in London. I've been there a couple of times, but don't know the city very well and I'm hoping that some of you can help me out.

Given that I'm not going to have all that much free time, what should I do, see, eat, drink, buy in London?

Bonus Educational Link: For those who, like me, have never really understood the distinction between England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom and the British Isles, enlightenment in the form of a Venn* diagram is at hand.

*Actually, a Euler diagram, but whatever.


Road Blocks and Roller Coasters said...

No advice to offer as I've never been...but have fun!!! :)

CLC said...

All I can remember at this point is lots of delicious Indian food everywhere!! Or fish and chips. I preferred the Indian! Have a nice time!

erica said...

Don't know if any of this will be interesting, but London has really fantastic theater (theatre once across the Atlantic, of course), not too outrageously priced. If you like books, the British Library is amazing, and the British Museum has some great stuff - the Lewis Chessmen, Elgin Marbles, and, right now an exhibit of contemporary sculpture.

And, as previously mentioned, really good Indian food, as well as excellent beers and ciders.

Have fun!

Mad said...

Yes. Theatre. You can go to Leicester Square earlier in the day and get rush tickets to just about any theatre in London. I'm not sure what's currently playing but the Royal Shakespeare Company is always a good bet.

Also, you must go to either Harrods or Fortum & Mason's to oggle their food courts and maybe bring home some tea. Or send some to me.

Bea said...

I'll put in another vote for the British Library. It has a free museum with amazing manuscripts - my favourite place, and not just because I spent most of two weeks holed up in there while I was researching my thesis.

Cara said...

World traveler I am not...but lover of the Venn / Euler diagram I definately AM!


Tash said...

I loved the Elgin marbles.

Also, apparently one can get in and see Parliament in session (I think I read that correctly, and there were lines, but it was when the war broke out) and I was always bummed that I didn't take advantage of that, because I think it'd be a hoot.

Oh, and we went on a Jack the Ripper walking tour that I really enjoyed.

Food was meh, and I don't say that to be coy. (I'd stick with Indian, frankly.) For my birthday, we ate at a French Restaurant in Mayfair that was v. nice. Tea at the Ritz gave me food poisoning.

Monica H said...

Hope you don't lose your luggage this time!

Have fun!

Lisa b said...

I just got back from London and the weather was comfortable. I am obsessed with the Marks & Spencer foodhall as well as Pret a Manger so perhaps I am not one to be giving advice.
I always buy my theatre tickets directly from the theatres rather than the booth at Leceistre Square. They are cheaper and if there is a particular show you want to see I think you get better tickets this way.
In addition to what was already mentioned I love the V&A museum, Covent Garden, Camden Lock and the antique market in Notting Hill.
I suppose it depends where you are staying what you should do if you don't have much time.
I know you will have fun though.

Kathy McC said...

I lived in London for three years and it is my favorite place on earth!

The British Museum is great, as is The Museum of London. And I love Madame Tussauds. Regents Park is gorgeous although I am not sure how your weather will be.

If you're there over a weekend, go see Bayswater Rd. Sunday art exhibition. Lots of cool stuff to buy.

Make sure you visit a few nice Pubs while you're there as well and get a Ploughman's lunch.

I am so jealous!

BasilBean said...

Oh I LOVE London! I find myself agreeing with a lot of what has been mentioned. I would definitely make a visit to Harrods, take advantage of the theater, and enjoy some good Indian food and fantastic fish and chips at a pub.

One of my favorite things about England is the breakfast of eggs, bacon (not the thin, fatty American stuff), and beans--yum! And I also am strongly drawn to the Tower of London.

Aurelia said...

Bring back stories and pictures please! To entertain the hordes left back home!

Lori said...

Oh, I love London. However, I am the worst traveler in the world because I never remember any details of what I saw or did. I just know I had fun.

I hope you will too.

Betty M said...

Oooh this Londoner has just seen this post - and I have so many suggestions. Give me a couple of hours and I'll think of something sensible to say! Whereabouts will you be based hotel/workwise and I'll try and think of some things? Oh and the weather has been foul - it even snowed last week - so bring sweaters and a brolly.

Anonymous said...

What's a brolly? There is an interesting Francis Bacon exhibition at the Tate.
Ally Pally

niobe said...

Ally Pally: I think a brolly is an umbrella.

Bon said...

Borough Market would be my suggestion, cause there's fabulous things to eat and drink and buy all there (mostly eat and drink...but they do require buying) and it's fun just to sit and people watch and all. i also loved walking along the Thames, over the bridges and into the Tate Modern and along by the Globe and blah blah blah.

have a fabulous time, Niobe!

beagle said...

I've stopped in Heathrow serveral times on the way to other places. One of these years I'll have to make England, the UK, etc., my actual destination.

Scotland will top my list though.

Have fun!

ewe are here said...

It's been a bit wet and cold over here lately, so pack accordingly.


luna said...

yep, another one for excellent indian food, and fish and chips, both with good beer. also if you can find scottish smoked salmon, mmm.

definitely theater -- you can buy last minute tix somewhere like NYC, but if there's something you want to see, try earlier.

if you're into history, definitely check out the british museum. very cool egyptian and asian artifacts from across time. lots of other art museums galore, of course. also the tower of london, if you're into that kind of thing.

probably lots of great shopping too...

have fun!

Libby said...

Took my 11 year old Beatles fanatic girl-child to London and Liverpool this summer. I love London, and you are lucky that the dollar is doing better now than it was then. Would highly recommend the British Library - I could spend all day there. The illuminated manuscripts are amazing, and the Magna Carta room is quite awesome. Also the 'Beefeater' tour at the Tower of London is a must-do. Food halls at Harrod's are stunning (my daughter was most impressed that there's a Krispy Kreme donuts inside Harrod's, lol).

The Last Debutantes exhibition at Kensington Palace was fascinating to me. First I had to explain to my daughter, who had gone on a field trip two months previously to our state capitol, where she learned about her two state representatives, her state senator,and her governor, (not to mention her two federal senators), *all* of whom are women, what a debutante was, exactly.

the dragonfly said...

Oh, I'm jealous! Enjoy...I look forward to your photos. :)

passingwindows said...

Now is probably not a bad time to go to London, the Christmas lights might be up in Regents Street, I think it is - it's a diagonal street that runs up from Picadilly Square. There's a great bookshop called Books for Cooks that has a fabulous selection of cookbooks and cooking classes if you're interested in that sort of thing. I have been wanting to visit for years and I check out their website frequently. Kings Road and Kensington High Street are both nice streets to visit, good shops. They're both in south west London and worth a wander. There are also nice pubs along the Thames at Hammersmith. We used to go one called The Angel. Wagamama used to have good noodles and Pret a Manger is always good for a BLT on the run. Camden Lock is nice on a Sunday morning when they have a huge flea market and brunch in lots of the restaurants. Hope you have a good time and get a chance to sightsee and get lost in another life.

Furrow said...

My little librarian heart loves Venn and Euler diagrams.

Enjoy your trip. Take lots of money.

Which Box said...

Ooh, am so jealous. Cannot believe no one has mentioned you need to take your little black heart to the Tower of London and check out the dungeons, and where Anne Boyelyn was decapitated, etc etc. Good stuff. Loved Westminster Abbey, too.

Loved the British Museum (the rosetta Stone is displayed in the open ,you could almost reach out and touch it!), but unlike others, I HATED the Elgin Marbles. I thought I would love them, and they are displayed beautifully. But I have never walked into a museum room and had such a palpable sense of wrong-ness in my life. Those marbles belong in Greece.

If the weather is nice, and you have a long period of time (an afternoon), Greenwich is really cool.

And any of the food courts at any of the big shops are fun. Harrod's is fun, too.

Soooo jealous.

Zara said...

I live in London, have done most of my life, and I am finding these comments very interesting!

Borough Market is a good one - it's better on Fridays than Saturdays (when it is very crowded), and only open those two days. It's next to Southwark Cathederal which is beautiful.

The Globe theatre is well worth a look and is a short riverside stroll away from Borough Market. It's (as you may know), an accurate-as-they-can-get-it reconstruction of the original.

Further along the river is the Tate Modern - Rothko's on at the moment and the free Turbine Hall has some weird alien spiders going on. A great space.

St Paul's is quiet and beautiful and just across the river.

The South Bank is fun - good restaurants, the National Film Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall if you like classical music.

The museums are all beautiful but take a while - the Victoria and Albert museum (where my mother works), the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum all close to each other near South Kensington. Some wonderful architecture there.

If you do go to the British Library have a look at St Pancras, one of the most beautiful buildings ever - I think they are redeveloping it as a hotel now.

Zara said...

Oh oh oh and please don't believe what They say about English food - go to Rules (, if you have time.

Covent Garden is also well worth a look though it's packed in the evenings.

Caro said...

Can't think of anything that hasn't already been mentioned.
Have fun and I'll look forward to te pictures.

Anonymous said...

Do not miss: Sir John Soane Museum and the Jack the Ripper tours. Try to get Donald Rumbelow for your guide, but if you cannot, just be sure you do it with this company:

Two posts I wrote on London w. kids:

Catherine Illian said...

we LOVED london--
orangerie for tea

Andrew Edmund's for dinner

Wagamama for cheap noodle lunch or dinner

Regent's and St. James' park

not sure if the Globe Theatre is happening but it is very fun-- we got the 5 pound "groundling" seats

also we loved-- the walking tours--all 5 pounds-- we loved the pub tour--can't remember the name of the tour company-- but google london walking tours-- its the original

also-- the borough market is awesome-- so fun-- we ate there-- it is the best farmer's market i've ever seen-- I don't even know if farmer's the right word--

also- I like Hampstead and hampstead heath and there is an incredible crepe stand there.---

hmm-- if I think of anything else-- i'll let you know----

Tripadvisor is a great--- resource

Jenny said...

British Library for the amazing manuscripts - Beowulf, and Jane Austen and the Lindisfarne Gospels just there for the gawping at. Also completely free.

Lord Leighton House, just off Kensington High Street - £2 to get into, and fabulous. Pre Raphaelite painter's house, which he turned into an Arabian palace in the middle of Kensington. Red brick and ordinary on the outside, breathtaking antique Isnik tiling and fountains and harem lattices on the inside. After that, Kensington Palace is a lovely walk through Kensington park, and you can have a delicious cream tea in the Orangery there.

The Wallace Collection - just off Oxford Street, and crammed with delightful French furniture & art and a fascinating historical weapon collection. Also free.

Rules is also a fantastic restaurant and wonderfully English, to second a recommendation I spied above.

I live in London, it is a fabulous city. Hope you love this visit.

painted maypole said...

oh, oh, oh! I LOVED my trip last year. I, of course, must say GO TO THE THEATRE. See some Shakespeare at the Globe, see some great british theatre at The National Theatre.

TAKE WALKING TOURS with London Walks ( every one we did was great - so pick your interest and go.

We loved the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. Eat at pubs with fun names. And the British Museum may make you uncomfortable as you realize how many treasures they've STOLEN from all over the world, so I suggest skipping that.

Betty M said...

Borough Market - if you go on Sat go early early for breakfast a it gets full of tourists after that. The walk down past Tate Modern is good right up to the South Bank and then on to the London Eye if the weather is clear.

Best coffee is at Fernandez & Wells on Beak St in Soho (near Andrew Edmunds which was mentioned above). Some are fans of Flat White nearby.

There is a Laduree in Burlington Arcade if you feel like a taste of Paris.

Marylebone High Street has some interesting shops once you have finished in the Wallace Collection (which is excellent).

The Wellcome trust has an interesting new museum too although its on the Euston Road which is not scenic.

Food at Ottolenghi in Islington is amazing.

You might be in time for ice skating at Somerset House - not sure when it starts.

Countries with the Met in them should not throw stones at the British Museum - it is a truly amazing place.

Have a fabulous time. I like being a tourist in my own city sometimes.