There's a reason so many expats base themselves in London. It's a vibrant city with more restaurants than you could possibly visit in a lifetime, exciting events and exhibitions every night and endless parks and green spaces to explore. If there's one thing this city has in spades, it's variety, which means there's something for every type of traveller.
Although, being spoilt for choice makes it a little hard to carve our your itinerary because there are just so many incredible places to visit. So I've jotted down a few of my favourite places. Hopefully one of these suits you!
If you’re staying in South London, perhaps around Brixton or Clapham, you’ll notice two things. First, there are a lot of Australians. Second, there are a lot of cafes. The two go hand in hand. Aussies are serious about their brunch so it’s no surprise these expats have descended on these pockets of South London to set up shop. Brickwood is a top pick, purely based on their epic instagram feed. People queue down the street to get a table her eon the weekends. The Kumara – sweet potato and feta on toast with poached eggs, kale pesto and pumpkin seeds – sound good?
Jump on the tube and head straight into London bridge. Here, you’ll find yourself a short distance from London’s so-called foodie capital – Borough Market. Graze your way through the stalls, sampling cheese, cured meats, seafood and all sorts of dips and preserves. You‘ll find the best baked goods at a stall called Bread Ahead, a bakery who is known for sharing their baking secrets rather than keeping their recipes a secret. Sample the fresh sourdough breads, focaccia, croissants, amazing amaretti biscuits and award-winning doughnuts overflowing with silky chocolate and salted caramel. (They also have shops in Chelsea and Soho if you just can’t get enough!)
In 2018, the city of London recorded a total of 88,848 restaurant, cafe and mobile food venues in operation and that number is steadily increasing. So picking out a place for lunch is no easy feat. If you’re craving Italian, Bar Remo tucked away behind Regent Street is a little-known local favourite with excellent antipasto, pizzas and pastas. For something upscale, The Greenhouse in Mayfair is one of the last serious old-school fine dining rooms in town. The food has received two-Michelin stars and can only be described and elegantly modern and classic at the same time. And for a more casual pub lunch, you can’t go past The Canton Arms in Stockwell. Its big-hearted, meaty dishes are made with love with menu highlights like salt marsh lamb shoulder and the classic daily roast with dutch carrots, roasties and watercress.
In the afternoon, you’ll want to walk off your food coma at one of London’s outdoor food markets. Camden isn’t just for hipsters and Instagramers – it’s got a great selection of pop-up food trucks and permanent stalls selling everything from ice-cream cookie sandwiches to Indian street food.
For dinner with a view (and a rather pricey bill), Duck & Waffle cannot be beaten. Forty floors up with a jaw-dropping view over the Thames, you’ll find items like Angus Beef Tartare, Foie Gras Creme Brûlée and, of course, the namesake Duck & Waffle dish consisting of crispy leg confit, fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup. This one is a real splurge so why not go all out and order a bottle of something special from the extensive wine list.
The perfect day begins with the perfect cuppa. For bookworms, it doesn’t get much better than The London Review Cake Shop. This quintessential British bookstore doubles as one of London’s long-lost coffeehouses. With a cabinet full of baked treats like millionaire slice and freshly-baked muffins, an extensive tea list and excellent coffee, you’ll be fuelled up and ready to sink your teeth into London’s literary cosmos.
After breakfast, enjoy a 20-ish-minute walk through Russel Square up towards the National Library. Take your time wandering around, perusing the 170 million items that make up the collection, including artefacts from every age of written civilisation. Between printed and digital publications, the library acquires around three million new items every year so no matter how often you visit, there’s always something new to read.
Make your way west across town to The Regent’s Park and wander around Queen Mary’s Rose Garden before heading into Marylebone to visit one of London’s most famous bookshops. Daunt Books, near Marble Arch tube station, is housed in a stunning Edwardian building on the high street. What makes this store unique is that all of the books are arranged by country, not genre, which makes browsing for your next read a little more fun.
Next, continue south towards London’s bustling Soho area. Here, you’ll find Hatchards on Piccadilly, the oldest surviving bookshop in London whose doors first opened in 1797. Spread across four floors, this prestigious bookstore holds more than 100,000 books.
You’ll find no shortage of places to grab a spot of lunch in Soho. Piccadilly Market has some great options if you want something on the go. Otherwise, The Wolseley, Gaucho Piccadilly and Heddon Street Kitchen are top picks for an upscale, sit-down lunch.
Spend the afternoon ducking in and out of London’s countless other bookstores. Sotheran’s Rare Books, Heywood Hill and even the Waterstones in Trafalgar Square are all worth a visit.
In the evening, head to Word on the Water, a 100-year-old Dutch barge moored on Regent’s Canal on King’s Cross. Catch one of the locally famous poetry slam or jazz nights here and peruse the selection of new and second-hand books.
From street markets to department stores, London has all your shopping desires covered. Start the day in Notting Hill at the famous Portobello Road market. You’ll find everything from antique clocks and vintage jewellery to handcrafted shoes and one-of-a-kind homewares. There are a scattering of cafes and bakeries along the winding road. The Hummingbird Bakery is a great place to grab a takeaway coffee and pastry as you wander along.
Continue on towards Chelsea and make a few pit stops at the charming shop fronts along the high street before heading into Knightsbridge, home to two of London’s most iconic department stores. Harrods is easily one of the most recognisable buildings in the city, with dazzling lights wrapped around its exterior. A stroll through the food hall is a must! Next up is Harvey Nichols, a fashionista’s dream. It’s packed with designer brands to #treatyourself.
Stretch your legs with a stroll through Hyde Park on your way to the next glamorous shopping destination and lunch spot. The food hall at Selfridges on Oxford Street is always packed so you may have to hang out for a seat but the selection of gourmet goodies is worth the wait. After lunch, you’ve got a bounty of stores to explore. Shop the best high-street brands including John Lewis, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, plus chain stores like H&M, Zara, Mango and Nike. Prepare for an arm workout carrying all those shopping bags!
To round out the day, wander over to Covent Garden and check out the independent labels and boutiques lining the laneways. At the centre of it all is Seven Dials, a warehouse-style market with boutiques, tea shops and pop-up food stalls. There’s a great beer garden here, too.
Brixton can be described as gritty-but-in-a-cool-way – gentrified to an extent but still retaining its rough edges. It's a cultural hotspot, packed with unique eateries and artsy cafes. The dozens of street food joints and pop-up venues operating out of converted shipping containers will give you plenty of options for a midday feed. Don’t miss Brixton Village and Market Row, where you’ll find everything from vintage stores to cheese mongers.
Jump on the bus and head into Shoreditch, another of London’s beloved hipster hangouts. It’s home to Brick Lane, a thriving laneway lined with bagel shops, curry houses, record stores and more. The walls are covered in vibrant street art giving the area an effortlessly cool vibe with its quirky markets and alternative fashion scene.
Be sure to spend some time wandering around Boxpark. This collection of shipping containers gives local designers, makers and bakers a chance to show off their wares in a super cool and casual environment. It’s also known for its epic weekend parties where confetti cannons, lasers and live music turn the grounds into a full-on festival.
If you’re there on a Sunday, head to Columbia Road Flower Market on your way up towards Hackney. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to antiques, homewares and independent fashion labels, as well as all the beautiful blooms and plants you can imagine.
Our final stop has shaken off its not-so-stellar reputation in recent years and is now an lively hub for London’s cool kids. The area is full of canals, green spaces and street art, as well as an impressive collection of pbs, bars and cafes. You’ll also find artisan bakeries, vintage fabric stores and some of the best op-shopping in London.
Enjoy a casual bite to eat at Crate Bar and Pizzeria by the canal and throw back a craft beer at their very own microbrewery. If you’re looking for a cool spot to listen to some live music, 333 Mother is a go-to for indie music fans. And for eccentric cocktails and totally strange decor, head to the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities – trust me...
The party animal
For those who love a drink (or ten), there’s no better way to start a day in London than with a bottomless brunch. The city is renowned for them! Battersea, Clapham and East Dulwich are pretty well known for hosting some of the best boozy brunches around town. The Yard Clapham offers unlimited fizz with a selection of brunch plates like smashed avo, croque monsieur, eggs Benny. Nearby, Megans puts on a great bottomless brunch with free-flowing bubbles, fair-trade coffee, freshly squeezed juices and an epic eggs Benedict that’s been voted in London’s top 10.
Kick on after brunch towards Oxford Street and track down a little oasis called Jurema Terrace at The Mandrake. It’s surrounded by ivy-tangled buildings and fairy lights with a gorgeous wooden deck area and plenty of cocktails to choose from (the jalapeno margarita is a winner!)
For a more intimate drinking experience, head to one of London’s many whisky and cocktail bars. Swift Soho has an impressive list of local and imported spirits. They’re also rumoured to make one of the best Irish Coffees in town. The Black Parrot over near St Paul's is another favourite, offering a luxurious take on Caribbean rum.
Across the way in Waterloo, Bar Elba is the place to be for sunset. This rooftop bar offers exceptional views over the city with communal benches, frozen cocktails perfect for a hot summer day and live music every weekend.
When the sun goes down and the vibe starts to pick up, a visit to any of the London Cocktail Club outfits will keep your spirits high. With 15 locations around the city including Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Clapham and Liverpool Street, you’re never far from a good time. They’ve got a huge list of cocktails, 2-for-1 happy hour specials and you can even book in a cocktail-making masterclass (although, you might want to start sober for that one so you don’t forget everything you’ve just learned).
Keen to dance the night away? Go to Heaven. This huge night club squeezes in more than 1,000 party-goers to see some of the best live acts in the country with themed nights like Popcorn Mondays and G-A-Y night on Saturdays.
The active traveller
If you like to hit the pavement early, London is the city for you. It’s mostly flat and has an extensive network of pedestrian paths that wind through the boroughs and into sprawling city parks. Star off with a jog through Hyde Park or bound along the banks of Thames before stopping in for an early morning coffee at one of London’s many cafes. Crussh Fit Food is a good pick for health-conscious foodies. There are a few of them scattered around the city.
One thing that London may not be so well known for is its collection of bike cafes. Yes, they are a real thing. The go-to spot for cyclists who want to grab a brew, some brekky or have their bike fixed. Auguste Handmade is Hoxton is an unusual outfit that refurbishes old bikes and up-cycles them for keen riders. They also sell a selection of delicious cakes and local Dark Arts coffee. The Dynamo in Putney is covered wall-to-wall in bikes and bike paraphernalia. The wood-fired pizza oven gets going around midday but the morning offering of pies and sandwiches are enough to fuel your morning adventure.
One thing you’ll see a lot of in London are the electric bikes for rent. An initiative that helped the current Prime Minister land his seat in parliament, these bikes are to encourage locals and tourists alike to stay opt for a more eco-friendly mode of transport and help decongest the busy tube lines. They’re a pay-as-you-pedal system. Just remember to dock your bike at a charging station when you’re finished.
If you want to see London’s biggest landmarks from a different perspective, jump in a kayak and cruise up and down the Thames. Adventure seekers can paddle past the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye, all while getting in their daily exercise. Or, you can opt for something a little faster-paced like a speedboat tour where you’re bound to get a little wet.
If you’re really keen to hit your step goal but also want to enjoy London’s night-time offerings, try a pub crawl. You’ll go from place to place, walking off your drinks as you go. It’s a great way to see the city and meet new people.
For more late night fun, head to one of the two Swingers branches in the city. It’s not what you think. Swingers is a super fun adult playground that combines crazy golf, street food and delicious cocktails. It’s a good idea to buy a food and beverage package so you can putt away all night long. You’ll need to book for this one – it’s extremely popular!