There’s no doubt about it: London is my favorite city in the world. Filled with dazzling architecture, up and coming music, sexy accents and curry for days, it’s kind of impossible not to love. While there’s certainly something to be said about doing all the tourist-y things (Big Ben, fish and chips and stuff, aye), there’s so, so much more to this beautiful city than meets the tourist’s eye—which is exactly why I’m going to give you an insider’s sneak peek into the real London.
Think cat cafes (it’s a real thing, I swear), secret underground dining clubs, Banksy street art and fancy cocktails, art museums, then add on the kind of whimsical fun you can only get from wandering around on foot, and you’ve got yourself a sweet recipe for all things wonderfully British.
1. Don’t be afraid to walk around
This may seem like a silly tip, but part of what makes London so ephemeral are the magical things you encounter every day. A lot of tourists make the mistake of signing up with a group tour or have their travel agents arrange their entire journey in advance, and while there’s something to be said for that kind of certainty it takes all the discovery out of the city.
With so many free museums and historical sites (plus, hello, epic street art) and that darling we know as the Tube, walking in London is definitely the best way to get to know the city firsthand. This also lends itself for fabulous touristy photo op-s, too, if that’s your kind of thing. Don’t be afraid to roam around wildly and snap away to your heart’s content—there’s plenty of art to be seen, after all.
2. Go underground
While the food in London is literally unparalleled, not many of us have the opportunity to dine in at some of London’s finest establishments. There is, however, another way to get your fancy fix: by checking out the world of underground “supper clubs”, aka traveling pop up restaurants. For a fixed price, you’ll not only get your fix of delicious food and posh British mingling, but you also get the thrill of having to find your restaurant first.
The Breakfast Club in Shoreditch also has a (believe it or not) underground speakeasy that’s only accessible through the fridge. It’s called the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town & I bet it freakin’ rocks. For more fun “speakeasies” you can also check out Worship Street Whistling Shop and Callooh Callay, an Alice in Wonderland themed bar that’s full of delight at every turn.
3. Explore the Boroughs
If you’re up and exploring about, chances are you’ll eventually run into a borough (British for neighborhood) that you’ll positively adore. Shoreditch, for instance, is the king of hip, featuring amazing places like The Breakfast Club (one of the only places you can nab some pancakes for breakfast), Brick Lane and all sorts of fun, American inspired bars (rooftop barbecue at the bar, anyone?). Other awesome spots to check out include Hoxton, Dalston, and most definitely Camden if you’ve got shopping on the brain.
4. Eat, drink and be merry
This hardly needs explaining. You’ll find some of the best food (the spicy eggplant at Inamo in Piccadilly Circus is just out of this world) & fanciest cocktails in the world here, so be sure to hop from pub to bar to get your fill of all the best stuff. The West End is littered silly with all kinds of musicals & if you’re feeling thrifty you can always get half price tickets to most musicals at Leicester Square if you show up early enough. And if you’re broke going on real skinty, you can always swing great food deals as you head towards East London.