Where to Stay
Because my experience was through my school, I obviously didn’t spend the whole four months in a Hotel. I was placed in a renovated townhouse in South Kensington. While the neighborhood sounds fancy, I shared a room (a single room) with three other girls. With that being said I do have some recommendations.
The Park Tower Knightsbridge. When my mom came to visit this is where she stayed and I jumped at the opportunity to ditch my bunk bed to stay with her. The location was great because it was one tube stop away from my dorm room, but is also only a few feet away from Harrod’s and the tube (underground) station.
The Kensington. I didn’t actually even go into this hotel, but it was on the same block as the townhouse I stayed in and looked sooo nice! It’s definitely a smaller hotel, but still luxurious. I would love to stay there the next time I visit.
Where to Eat
Dumplings Legend. If you’re a fan of soup dumplings, then this restaurant right in the middle of Chinatown (Soho) is a must! My friend and I went for her 21st birthday and it was sooo good. They even have glass windows so you can see the restaurant making the dumplings.
Franco Manca. By far the BEST pizza I’ve ever had. This place is a must — gourmet pizza made on sourdough bread at extremely low prices. If my roommate and I ever wanted to go out and treat ourselves without spending a lot of money, this was the place to go. There are multiple locations in London, but the one in South Kensington was less than a block from our housing.
Tayyabs. If you love Indian food, this was my absolute favorite place. My professor brought our entire class here for a late lunch and it was amazing. The restaurant is located White Chapel, and serves more of a Pakistani cuisine, which was completely new to me. We ended up trying a little bit of everything and that’s definitely the way to go!
Zetland Arms. I’m saying Zetland Arms because that’s the pub I went to most frequently, but really any pub will do. Everyone assumes fish and chips are the go-to pub fare, but I am obsessed with Britain’s pies. Make sure to try the steak and ale pie, it’s probably my favorite thing to eat in the UK.
La Bottega. This is another South Kensington find — the cutest Italian deli. I went there all the time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The staff are the sweetest and definitely remember their regulars! It’s a super casual place, and even works as a coffee shop to bring your laptop to.
If you know me, then you know I have a major sweet tooth, especially if it’s chocolate! Here are some great places to try if you’re craving dessert.
Hummingbird Bakery. My favorite cupcake shop in London! They have multiple locations, one in South Kensington of course, but also one on Portobello Road, for those who are headed that way. I recommend the black bottom cupcake.
Aux Merveilleux. This is a little French bakery again in South Kensington that sells these little desserts called merveilleux. They’re hard to explain, but definitely nice to try. But the main reason I love this place is the brioche buns. THEY. ARE. DELICIOUS.
Peggy Porschen. This is probably the most instagrammable place in London. You may recognize the all-pink building overflowing with cuteness. It’s definitely a place to take a cute pic, but I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with their cupcakes. To be fair, I spent an hour waiting outside in the rain (I forgot mis y umbrella) and because I looked like a drowned rat, I didn’t even get my picture, so I was a little salty…
Sketch. I lied above. Sketch has to be the most instagrammable place in London (especially the bathroom!). If you want to treat yourself to an extravagant afternoon tea, this is the place to go. Warning: it’s a little pricey and you definitely need reservations.
The Secret Tea Room. An alternative to Sketch’s expensive tea service is the secret tea room in Soho. This place is actually hidden. We walked around lost for 15 minutes until realizing you had to go into a pub and be directed to the upstairs. I actually opted for cream tea instead of afternoon tea and I wasn’t disappointed!
Things to Do
Albert and Victoria. By far the coolest museum I saw in London. It’s an eclectic mix of art, fashion, furniture, and really just anything you can think of!
Hyde Park. Since this park was so close to where I lived, I was there all the time. It’s especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves change color. Go here if you want to take a scenic walk (walk through on your way to Kensington Palace!), go for a run, or sit by the pond and watch the swans (did you know the Queen owns all the swans in England? #funfact).
Palace Tours. I went on tours of both Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace. While they weren’t the best palace tours I’ve been on, it was definitely cool to see these historic buildings. Compared to the tours I’ve gone on in other palaces (Versailles, the Palace of Madrid), these tours felt pricey and not very informative if I’m being completely honest.
Portobello Street. You have to walk down Portobello Street in Notting Hill. This street is full of vintage stores and cute boutiques, and has a really great food market at the end!
Harrod’s. Probably the most touristy place to visit, Harrod’s still remains a must-see. If nothing else, treat yourself to tea in the Harrod’s restaurant or the Laduree store inside. I also enjoyed the toy section, and the food market makes a great place to buy souvenirs for friends (Harrod’s tea and biscuits!).
Brick Lane. Another eclectic street to walk down. If you’re into vintage clothes and records, as well as artisan products, all within a funky neighborhood, this is the place to go.
Old Spitalfields Market and Canal Street Market. Markets are clearly a thing in London. Old Spitalfields has a really trendy vibe, with good food and cocktails, as well as some mainstream shopping (MAC, Lululemon). Canal street is actually located right by canals which makes it gorgeous to visit during the day. It’s known for having really great street food and fun/vintagey stalls to buy from.
Selfridge’s Rooftop Bar. If you want to get a drink in the most luxurious setting, go to the rooftop bar in Selfridge’s. I went during Christmas time and the outdoor bar featured little cozy nooks with fires and blankets for all of the guests. The restaurant was also really good!
I’m just going to share some great shopping areas in a list for both mainstream/high end stores. But I will say this: the Topshop located on Oxford Street is ah-mazing. It’s four or five floors and just the coolest shopping experience. But whatever you do, don’t go on a Saturday.
- Oxford Street
- Carnaby Street
- High Street Kensington
- Old Spitalfields market
- Covent Garden
Things I Wish I Did
Even with all of the time I spent in London, there are a few things left on my list that I really wish I had gotten around to. I really wanted to go on the London Eye, but for some reason just never did. I’ve heard it’s not that great, but still — it’s iconic! I also am so upset I forgot to sign up for the Jack the Ripper tour. I find that story so fascinating and want to learn more. Last but not least, I really wish I went for afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton. It sounds like a great excuse to dress up and indulge!
And that’s my complete guide! I hope you all enjoy and let me know if you’ve been to any of these places/are planning to in the comments below!