london city guide {update}

londonengland
Today’s London City Guide update comes from the original guide author, Lynne Robinson of the blog Tea for Joy and the store Paper Mash, and Nick Wyke, a writer and editor for The Times and founder of the Looking to Cook cooking school directory. Like any huge city, it’s hard to catch every shop, restaurant and favorite spot, so if you have a favorite that’s missing, please feel free to add it in the comment section below. Thank you, Lynne and Nick, for a wonderful update! — Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump . . .

London is a vibrant city, full of leafy residential neighbourhoods with their own music, arts and food scene, as well as its more urban and historic attractions. Don’t be too ambitious with the amount of ground you can cover in one day, and visit attractions off-peak if you can. The national museums have stunning collections and free entry, but some of the smaller galleries and museums can be equally rewarding. In London, you are never far from a green space, so try to walk through a park wherever you can.

Check out the Google Map with all of the below listings.

EAST LONDON

The trendiest design scene in London is in the East End, with lots of vintage stores and most of the action occurring on Sunday. The area is walkable, so start with the Columbia Road Market. While in the area, walk to Spitalfields Market or the Sunday Up Market on Brick Lane (which has more unique and funky items than Spitalfields) and examine the surrounding streets. The nearby Geffrye Furniture Museum is also worth a visit. There is a vibrant food market at Broadway Market in Hackney on Saturdays, and both Spitalfields and the Sunday Up Market have lots of food stalls and surrounding restaurants. Close to Spitalfields, 19 Princelet Street is an unrestored silk weavers’ home, which is rarely open to the public, but it’s worth joining the mailing list just in case.

Sleep

The Hoxton Hotel (81 Great Eastern St, EC2A 3HU) Some no-frills features (Pret-a-Manger breakfast delivered to your room) but lower than normal London prices and periodic promotions that sell five rooms each night at £1.

Town Hall Hotel & Apartments (8 Patriot Square, E2 9NF) Trendy hotel decorated with vintage furniture and art commissions from young artists.

Eat

Brawn (49 Columbia Road, E2 7RG) Bringing this year’s “big flavours, small plates” trend to carnivores roaming Columbia Road. Natural wines and functional furniture.

Jones Dairy (23 Ezra Street, E2 7RH) A tiny parlour of a place serving a few home-cooked dishes and cakes, just off the busy beaten path of Columbia Market.

Leila’s Shop and Delicatessen (17 Calvert Avenue, E2 7JP) A Shoreditch neighbourhood gem with great breakfasts, light lunches, superb hot chocolate and brownies.

Albion Café (2-4 Boundary Street, E2 7DD) British deli food by Conran in handsome surrounds.

Corner Room Bistro (Town Hall Hotel & Apartments, E2 9NF) Portuguese Chef Nuno Mendes cooks to a more affordable and approachable tune than his nearby flagship, Viajante’s restaurant. Arty, cool interior. No bookings.

The Deli Downstairs (211 Victoria Park Road, London E9 7JN) Runner-up in the 2011 Deli of the Year competition, this family-run shop in Hackney has old Victorian street signs and a full range of organic groceries.

Shop

Columbia Road Market Open-air Sunday flower market, from early until around 2 to 3pm. Many of the shops are only open on Sunday and keep similar opening hours. Go to the market near closing time to buy flowers at knock-down prices.

Two Columbia Road (2 Columbia Road, E2 7NN) Collectable vintage furniture and art from designers including Charles Eames and Hans Wegner.

Ryantown (126 Columbia Road, E2 7RG) Papercuts, tiles and cards from papercut legend Rob Ryan.

Nelly Duff (156 Columbia road, E2 7RG) Contemporary prints and limited editions

Buddug (158 Columbia Road, E2 7RG) A girly haven that sells handcrafted enamel plates, lovespoons and items made with vintage ephemera, lace and linen.

Beyond Fabrics (67 Columbia Road, E2 7RG) A large selection of patterned fabrics, especially suitable for quilting, as well as drop-in workshops.

Elphicks (160 Columbia Road, E2 7RG) Reasonably priced prints from UK artists, including the owner, Sharon Elphick.

Ben Southgate (4 The Courtyard, Ezra Street, E2 7RH) Purveyor of vintage furniture, which often includes plan chests and antique shop cabinets.

Columbia Road Gallery (7 The Courtyard, Ezra Street, E2 7RH) A small gallery, selling serene landscapes and seascapes from Cornwall-based artists.

Vintage Heaven (82 Columbia Road, E2 7QB) A well-chosen selection of vintage crockery and more, including a charming tea shop decorated with a gallery wall of tapestry pictures.

Supernice (106 Columbia Road, E2 7RG) A huge range of Blik wall stickers and decals, as well as Thomas Paul plates.

Treacle (110-112 Columbia Road, E2 7RG) Primarily a cupcake bakery, this shop also offers a great selection of new and vintage ceramics.

BRICK LANE + AROUND

Eat

The Vintage Emporium Cafe (14 Bacon Street, E1 6LF) Tea rooms in vintage-decorated surroundings.

Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room (Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX) Quality European dining in a cool art gallery restaurant by one of Britain’s leading chefs, Angela Hartnett.

Shop

Le Grenier (146 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6DG) Eclectic mix of vintage collectables

Unto This Last (230 Brick Lane, E2 7EB) Simple and affordable furniture made from laminate birch plywood.

Labour and Wait (85 Redchurch St, E2 7DJ) Functional homewares with utilitarian design, including enamel saucepans, feather dusters and wooden brushes.

Caravan (3 Redchurch St, E2 7DJ) Pretty homewares that reflect the shabby chic and vintage style of owner and interiors stylist, Emily Chalmers.

Mar Mar Co (16 Cheshire St, E2 6EH) Simple but stylish homewares

Comfort Station (22 Cheshire Street London E2 6EH) Stunning jewellery including necklaces incorporating old poetry books and barometer necklaces that you can change with your mood.

Backyard Market (146 Brick Lane) Smaller market with independent designers; next to it are The Tea Rooms, which include a tea shop as well as a large range of vintage homewares sellers.

Blitz London (55-59 Hanbury Street, E1 5JP) London’s new vintage department store, selling a huge range of clothing and homewares.

SPITALFIELDS

Shop

The Lollipop Shoppe (10 Lamb Street, Old Spitalfields Market, E1 6EA) Contemporary furniture and official design reproductions of Vitra and Eames classics.

Elemental (67 Brushfield Street, Old Spitalfields Market, E1 6AA) Quirky vintage finds and furniture

Beedell Coram (86 Commercial Street, E1 6LY) A cluttered space with lots of appealing Victorian antiques.

ISLINGTON AND KING’S CROSS

Islington has an antiques market in Camden Passage on Saturdays and some notable design shops, as well as the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, famous for its contemporary dance productions. Nearby, closer to King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations, the British Library and the science-based Wellcome Collection (which both have very nice Peyton and Byrne cafés) offer excellent smaller and less crowded cultural displays than some of the larger museums. Close to King’s Cross Station, the façade of the recently reopened St. Pancras Hotel is stunning.

Sleep

Rough Luxe (1 Birkenhead Street, London, WC1H 8BA) Distressed luxury is the design theme of this hotel with bare plaster walls.

Eat

Ottolenghi (287 Upper Street, N1 2TZ) Creative, contemporary meze-style dishes with window displays of seductive colour and beauty.

The Albion (10 Thornhill Road, N1 1HW) Eating at this perennially popular Georgian-style pub feels like being in the country. The Yorkshire puds are unbeatable.

Waterhouse Restaurant (10 Orsman Road, N1 5QU) Modern European food in a bright, airy canalside setting at London’s first truly environmentally sustainable restaurant.

Shop

Atelier Abigail Ahern (137 Upper Street N1 1QP) Boudoir glamour, including realistic and popular fake flowers.

TwentyTwentyOne (274 Upper Street, London N1 2UA) Twentieth-century design

Smug (13 Camden Passage, Islington, N1 8EA) A tastefully curated and merchandised  homewares store (we like their clever top 10 gift ideas), including Matt Pugh owls, Thornback and Peel textiles and the brilliant Wrap magazine.

Ray Stitch (99 Essex Road, N1 2SJ) Stylish sewing shop and haberdasher selling Merchant and Mills and Sublime stitching books.

Drink, Shop, Do (9 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9DX) Not far away, near King’s Cross Station, is this crafter’s paradise, with activities including Scrabble Sundays. It also retails a small selection of wares from independent designers.

WEST LONDON

If you must go to Portobello Road on a Saturday, rise early to avoid the hoards. Consider going on a Friday, when many of the antiques arcades are open, which will still give you lots of browsing opportunities without the street vendors. On Fridays and Saturdays, there is also a popular second-hand market at Golborne Road. A fun and nostalgic visit for all ages is also the independent Museum of Brands and Packaging. Not far away, the Leighton House Museum is decorated with a stunning array of Islamic tiles, and 18 Stafford Terrace is a preserved Victorian home.

Sleep

The Hempel (31-35 Craven Hill Gardens, W2 3EA) Unstuffy luxury hotel inside a terrace of London houses overlooking its own pretty garden.

Eat

Books for Cooks (4 Blenheim Crescent, London W11 1NN) A longstanding cookery bookshop with a café at the back serving just one dish of the day, a selection of cakes and superlative coffee.

Pizza East (310 Portobello Road, W10 5TA) Portobello outpost of the trendy Shoreditch pizzeria with a handsome interior, wood-fired pizzas and a deli.

Shop

The Portobello Print and Map Shop (109 Portobello Road W11 2QB) Large selection of reasonably priced antique botanical prints and maps.

Pedlars (128 Talbot Rd, W11 1JA) Quirky homewares and prints with a strong emphasis on British design and nostalgia, such as vintage London bus blinds.

Couverture and the Garbstore (188 Kensington Park Road, W11 2ES) A well-curated range of clothing, with a small selection of tasteful homewares, kids’ items and stationery.

The Cloth Shop (290 Portobello Road, London, W10 5TE) New fabrics, as well as antique linen sacks and wool blankets.

Summerill and Bishop (100 Portland Road, London, W11 4LQ) Traditional and decorative kitchenware

CENTRAL

Marylebone High Street and nearby: A great area for foodies, with specialist shops such as the Ginger Pig and La Fromagerie (which also has a café) on Moxon Street. From Marylebone High Street, you can easily reach Oxford Street, where the main clothing chains are (you can’t miss a visit to the flagship Topshop) as well as high-end department stores such as Selfridges, which has many designer concessions. Oxford Street will be unpleasantly busy on the weekend, although some parts of Soho (which is thriving with busy media industries during the week) may be quieter than during the week. Covering all of this area — from Marylebone to Oxford Circus to Soho then through Covent Garden to Charing Cross and Holborn — is possible by foot but will be exhausting, and you may want to intersperse some shopping with one of the many museums and galleries nearby. These include the Wallace Collection, Royal Academy, British Museum, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, many of which are open late on Fridays.

MARYLEBONE + OXFORD STREET

Eat

Natural Kitchen (77-78 Marylebone High Street,W1U 5JX) Marylebone’s equivalent of Wholefoods: vast choices of natural food and wine in the café and restaurant of this shop.

Sensory Lab (75 Wigmore Street, W1U 1QD) Coffee for true coffee connoisseurs, with scientific brew stations.

Shop

Alfies Antiques Market (13-25 Church Street NW8 8DT) Dealers of 20th-century design, with a particularly good selection of lighting and antique jewellery.

The Conran Shop (55 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5HS) Our favourite London location of this high-end design store is located in converted stables.

Eclectic (66 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5JF) Japanese ceramics and a cute Japanese tea counter.

Divertimenti (33/34 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4PT) High-end kitchenware for the serious chef, with a café that has a small selection of tasty deli-style food.

MacCulloch and Wallis (25-26 Dering St, W1S 1AT) Long-time haberdasher with antique counters that are frequented by local London College of Fashion students.

SOHO

Sleep

Dean Street Townhouse (69-71 Dean Street, W1D 3SE) A small hotel in the centre of Soho with a recommended restaurant.

Eat

Fernandez and Wells (Two locations, round the corner from each other: Café 73 Beak Street, W1F 9SR and Food and Wine Bar 43 Lexington Street W1F 9AL) What the owners like to call their “version of a European market stall in an English setting.” Great wine, tapas and coffee.

Nordic Bakery (14A Golden Square London W1F 9JG) Uber-cool Scandinavian café in Golden Square with Nordic cakes, coffee and open rye-bread sandwiches.

Shop

Liberty (Regent St, W1B 5AH) Iconic design store with accordingly marked-up prices, but it has particularly fabulous lighting, dining and stationery departments, and a charming tea shop.

Beyond the Valley (2 Newburgh Street W1F 7RD) Independent store stocking fashion, prints, stationery and ceramics by Shan Valla and Tina Tsang.

Lomography (3 Newburgh Street W1F 7RE) All things lomography-related for photography enthusiasts.

The Cloth House (47 and 98 Berwick Street, W1F OQJ) A fine selection of fabrics, including traditional ticking and linens.

CHARING CROSS ROAD AND COVENT GARDEN

Eat

Café at Foyles Bookshop (113-119 Charing Cross Road London WC2H 0EB) Literary haven for hearty sandwiches, deli-style food, cake galore and live music for good measure.

Dishoom (12 Upper St. Martin’s Lane London WC2H 9FB) London’s first Iranian-style Bombay café serves street food in a cool setting.

Bill’s (13 Slingsby Place, St Martin’s Courtyard, WC2E 9AB) Tasty all-day menus at this relaxed café/restaurant and store that uses seasonal British produce.

Da Polpo (6 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NA) Another outpost from the Polpo stable — ultra cool, light bites, tattooed staff and no bookings.

Shop

Cecil Court Beside the National Gallery, a quirky row of antiquarian bookshops, such as David Drummond’s theatre-related ephemera shop, is well worth a browse. The more contemporary artist-run store Tenderpixel is unusual in its surroundings but sells a range of prints and small design items.

BLOOMSBURY AND HOLBORN

Eat

London Review Cake Shop (14 Bury Place, London, WC1A 2JL) Debate intellectual issues in the café of this bookshop, which also publishes the London Review of Books and is just across from the British Museum.

Shop

L Cornelissen & Son (105 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3RY) An art supply store. It’s worth a visit to see their antique signage and dark wooden drawers with gilded numbers.

Falkiners (76 Southampton Row, WC1B 4AR) Bookbinding paper, including Japanese chiyogami paper, and bookbinding workshops.

Volte Face (21 Great Ormond Street) Independent design and quirky children’s books, including bright leather satchels, Paperself eyelashes and stationery.

The French House (50 Lambs Conduit Street WC1N 3LL) French linens and tableware, and traditional enamel lighting.

Darkroom (52 Lambs Conduit Street WC1N 3LL) Homewares and fashion accessories with graphic and bold designs in geometric styles and primary colours.

Persephone Books (59 Lamb’s Conduit Street WC1N 3NB) Reprinted 20th-century fiction, mostly by female writers. Notable for their iconic grey covers (their diaries are equally beautiful) and rows of books pre-wrapped in pink tissue and black ribbon.

Nearby, Cockpit Arts, a collective of designer-makers’ studios, including Catherine Hammerton, Abigail Brown and Yoyo Ceramics, has open evenings twice a year.

SOUTH KENSINGTON/SLOANE SQUARE

Three of London’s largest and most impressive museums are clustered together here: the Science Museum (the most equipped for visitors with children); Natural History Museum, which has the outstanding Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition each year; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, with its collection of decorative arts (look out for its library, Leighton galleries, fashion galleries and the architecture rooms). The V&A museum currently has an excellent free exhibition in conjunction with the Craft Council, which celebrates the Power of Making. Its shop also stocks has a wide range of stylish crafts, jewellery and prints from independent designers. In recent years, some renowned design shops have relocated here, branding the area as the Brompton Design Quarter. Not far away, the Kings Road is very good for mid-priced clothes shopping.

Eat

The V&A Museum Café has an impressive dome and tiling and reasonable fare for a cultural institution. You can sit outside in the garden square on a sunny day; in the newly paved area between the Underground Station and the museum, the V&A Reading Rooms have a bar serving biodynamic wines and snacks, opposite from which is a branch of the Spanish tapas restaurant Brindisa.

Shop

Kings Road

Design House Stockholm (205 Kings Road SW3 5ED) Scandinavian design

Designers Guild (266-267 Kings Road SW3 5EN) Bold and bright floral fabric, wallpaper and tableware

Sigmar (263 Kings Road SW3 5EL) Original Scandinavian design classics, as well as some contemporary items such as Marthe Armitage’s stunning block-printed wallpaper.

Green and Stone (259 Kings Road, SW3 5EL) An expensive art supplies store that has everything you need and some small curiosities.

South Kensington

Skandium (245-249 Brompton Road SW3 2EP) Modern Scandinavian design. Stocks brands such as Marimekko and Asplund.

Few and Far (242 Brompton Road, London SW3 2BB) Unusual, small homeware items and gifts, selected by Priscilla Carluccio.

Mint (2 North Terrace, Alexander Square SW3 2BA) Expensive but exquisite range of furniture and gifts.

Sleep

Not in the immediate vicinity, but easily accessible is The Orange (37 Pimlico Road SW1W 8NE), a pub with elegant bedrooms upstairs and a popular restaurant.

GREENWICH

A historic naval area that boasts the Cutty Sark (re-opening in 2012 after a fire) and the National Maritime Museum, and it also has the Royal Observatory (where Greenwich Mean Time begins). The Royal Naval College’s Painted Hall is grand and stunning, as well as their chapel. Greenwich Market has lots of food stalls, as well as stallholders selling crafts.

Eat

Old Brewery (Pepys Building, Old Royal Naval College SE10 9LW) A stylish restaurant and café with an impressive beer list.

Shop

Market stalls include funky chicken doorstops from ReFab and delicate ceramics from Sinead O Moore.

Lush Lampshades (8 College Approach, Greenwich SE10) Vibrant lampshades and textiles with quirky animal and botanical designs.

The Home Front (2a Greenwich Market, SE10 9HZ) Homewares and gifts, including a good selection of prints from Jonny Hannah, James Brown and Aardvark prints.

Paper Moon (4 Greenwich Market, SE10 9HZ) Folk-inspired paper cuts from Central St. Martins graduate Wei Chen.

Greenwich Printmakers Gallery (1a Greenwich Market, London SE10 9HZ) An artists’ cooperative selling etchings and prints.

The Junk Shop (9 Greenwich South Street, SE10 8NW) Antiques and ephemera

THE SOUTHBANK/TOWARD BOROUGH MARKET

The Southbank is a busy and interesting area to walk along the river, which often hosts special events, passing the British Film Institute, National Theatre (this partly animated play coming up in January 2012 is breathtaking), and Tate Modern (take a detour to spot the 18th-century almshouses behind in Hopton Street).

Further along, toward London Bridge, Borough Market on Fridays and Saturdays is well known for its foodie appeal (and Elliot’s Café, 12 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD, is highly recommended, using only ingredients from the market). However, to beat the crowds, and for a more “now” experience, head instead to Maltby Street, where a handful of Borough Market tenants are showing up beneath the arches.

If you want to head further afield on a foodie pilgrimage, you will be well rewarded by heading south to Brixton Village, a regeneration project that has revamped the market with lots of outstanding cafés and restaurants (try Pakistani food at Elephant or the brand new French and Grace, opened by the Salad Club bloggers, who started with a restaurant in their living room).

OTHER

London is not a source of great bargains when second-hand shopping, but car boot sales at Wimbledon (on an early Saturday morning­) and Chiswick are worth perusing. For a fun excursion, and if you can take low expectations about finding a bargain, take the train from Waterloo to the bi-monthly Sunbury Market, where stallholders come from as far as France. If you have even deeper pockets, a trip to the twice-yearly Midcentury Modern fair in historic Dulwich College is always inspiring.

  1. betsy says:

    i visited friends in london last january. loved the columbia road market and also an old time candy store on columbia road–suck and chew. i took the thames river boat between the tate museums–fun. also fav museum was the sir john soane museum–amazing.
    also the fact that the museums were free.

  2. Shan Gadge says:

    Shop: Books and Ribbons do some amazing gifts, centred around books, and, err… ribbons – http://www.booksandribbons.co.uk
    Do: The Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum is fascinating (and a bit spooky/gory)- it includes a tour through the specimen rooms. When I visited, they were working on the world’s only specimen of a giant squid.

  3. EriKa says:

    I moved here 2 months ago.. This is perfect for me!! Thank you!

  4. EriKa says:

    Anyway.. I forgot, my favorite place to cupcakes is this: http://hummingbirdbakery.com/
    You can believe how much it is good!
    I brought one cupcake to my flat mate, and now she obsessed with them!
    Me too.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Just a wee correction to the earlier comment by Shan: Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand has housed a giant squid for a couple of years now :)

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