In Love with London Town
I am a New Yorker through and through–from my don't-mess-with-me RBF to my fast walking, almost-always-in-black feet. I have an irrational love for the city's smelly subways, pizza (don't even mention deep dish near me), and streets bursting with people. Maybe it's something in the tap water or radiating from the sidewalks but I'm full on Breakfast at Tiffany's head over heels in love with my hometown. Although I may be New York bred, I am London born and a recent trip back is giving my hometown some competition for the number one city in my heart.
Walking & Shopping
The best way to explore London is by foot! Ditch the Google maps and wander around the city's winding streets to soak it all in.
Chelsea: This quiet residential neighborhood is full of charming pastel-colored houses and coffee shops. Walk down the tree lined streets and people-watch from the bench of one of the many tiny little parks. The main road through Chelsea is King's Road which is full of shops and restaurants.
* Check out John Sandoe Books and peruse the overflowing stacks of this quaint tiny independent bookstore. 10 Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea, London SW3 2SR
Carnaby: Set off of the busy Regent St. with pretty much every major retail chain you can think of lies a mini shopping district called Carnaby which has lots of standalone beauty shops (Urban Decay, Estée Edit, MAC) and small boutiques. Several cute bars and restaurants are arranged around an open air courtyard if your feet need a break.
* Check out Dahlia for whimsical, feminine designs and eclectic accessories. 8 Fouberts Place, London W1F 7PD
Soho: The British Soho (as opposed to the one in New York that I'm familiar with) is full of wiggly streets and restaurants. After you finish your shopping on the busy Oxford St. (make sure to stop by the massive TopShop flagship and Primark stores!), take your pick of restaurants off Soho Square Gardens–from classic English pubs, to upscale Asian fusion and artisanal desserts.
Covent Garden: Hop off the Tube (subway) and explore the shopping/theatre neighborhood of Covent Garden. The cluster of boutiques and designer makeup stores give way to narrow streets studded with coffee shops and quaint places to eat before leading to the busier Trafalgar Square and Westminster.
Camden Market: A little bit north of central London is Camden Market which is a a giant market with vintage stores, bars with live music and dozens of food stalls hawking everything from churros to cheese covered everything. Although there are tons of tourists, the neighborhood is a bit edgier with cool graffiti murals on the sides of buildings.
Portobello Road: Another long market road, Portobello Road is home to cool vintage shops (hello $50 Dior blazer and Chloe sunglasses) and sweet Easter egg colored houses.
* Check out Retro Woman for hidden vintage designer gems, many brand new with tags! 20 Pembridge Road, London W11 3HL
London is full of amazing museums, with something for everyone. While the museums themselves hold some amazing art, the buildings themselves are worth the (mostly free) admission!
British Museum: This one is a can't-miss-classic. Check out the famous Egypt exhibit with the Rosetta Stone and stone statues and walk around the many rooms with Greek ceramics, jewelry and statues.
National Gallery: Even if classic paintings aren't your thing, the building itself is a beautiful neoclassical 19th-century landmark with cupolas and marble columns.
Victoria & Albert: My favorite of the bunch, the V&A, is massive so grab a map and tackle it in chunks. Enjoy the wide variety of exhibits and modern art installations sprinkled throughout before getting a bite to eat in the courtyard cafe.
Tate Britain: Set on the Thames, this is one of two Tate museums and displays British art throughout time with everything from pre-Raphaelite portraits to multi-media pieces of the modern era.
London is quite the food town. Skip the fish & chips and check out some of these cute (and photogenic!) spots.
Farm Girl: LA girls rejoice–you can still get your matcha latte/acaï bowl/avocado toast/vegan everything fix in London! This cute little nook tucked away from Portobello Road has all the trappings of an Insta-perfect cafe: whitewashed brick walls, baby pink tables, hanging fairy lights, latte art (dogs!) and cute waiters. The food is fresh and delicious to boot. Try the rose latte and berry pancakes for unique takes on classic dishes. 59A Portobello Rd, London W11 3DB
Crosstown Doughnuts: A tiny spot in Soho, Crosstown Doughnuts offers a wide variety of inventive flavors, all made fresh daily. Try the apricot lavender, chili chocolate and kiwi green apple confections. Various locations around the city
Cereal Killer Cafe: 20% gimmicky, 80% fun, this spot is worth it if only for the pics. Relive your childhood with a variety of sweet cereal and breakfast themed confections along with toppings and fun milk choices (how about bubblegum, chocolate cookie or pumpkin spice milk along with your Fruity Pebbles?). Mezz 2, Stables Market, Camden, London, NW1 8AH
Comptoir Libanais: Indulge in a sweet North African treat at this small chain of cafes. From rosewater lemonade to orange baklava and pistachio milk pudding, the exotic flavors are a fun alternative to classic British tea and scones. Various locations around the city
London Grind: What sets a good coffee shop apart are cool vibes and this one has it in spades. From a hip soundtrack to a David Bowie inspired neon light, this is the ideal spot to catch your breath after shopping up a storm. Go for a beautifully poured latte or green juice with an oversized pastry. 2 London Bridge, London SE1 9RA
All photos courtesy of Alexia Bacigalupi