Unsure what to do in London? Not with this list.
New to the city and still finding your bearings? This list of random places includes some of the top-rated establishments in all of England. All of these places were my personal favorites and on the top of my list when I visited London for two weeks. You’re sure to find something that fits your mood, style, and budget with stories you’ll bring up at any party or event for years to come.
From quaint restaurants, bars with entertainment, and elaborate department stores, look to this list to get a cultural taste of all things London.
Borough Market – Hungry? You’ll find every possible food that exists here.
Borough Market has some of the freshest produce in London, with aged cheeses and wines and plenty of samples to go around. While I was here I tried a homemade Pimm’s drink, which is Pimm’s liquor mixed with fresh fruit in a sangria-like drink. It was super refreshing on a hot day in May. I also got a creme-filled donut and an olive breadstick from Bread Ahead Bakery (a renowned favorite to locals and tourists) to snack on later before a show at the Globe.
The coolest part?
Borough Market is all outside, so you can easily walk around to different vendors and taste fresh ingredients right on the spot. It’s accessible from train, tube, bus, bike, or foot.
The food ranges from charcuterie, fish, exquisite chocolate, cakes, pastries, Taiwanese street food, spices, eggs, antipastos, Spanish tapas, honey, nuts, gelato, coffee, and so much more.
No matter where you’re from, you can find something familiar to your part of the world or something completely out of the box. Hit up Borough Market during your next visit to London!
Nando’s – On the go or sit-down, this restaurant will leave your mouth watering with freshly grilled ingredients.
Nando’s is an Afro-Portuguese inspired restaurant with many locations all over the world, famous for their flame-grilled PERi-PERi chicken. While my friends and I were waiting in the standby line for a show at the Globe, we stopped by Nando’s for some fresh food to take with us on the go.
One of the best parts of the menu?
The side dishes: Spicy rice, garlic bread, coleslaw, creamy mash, corn on the cob, salted PERi chips, macho peas, and sweet potato mash to name some favorites.
Along with salads, dips, burgers, and wraps for your main meal you can find wings and marinated chicken which will fall on the PERi-ometer for heat and spice. My favorite part was near the napkins and utensils where you can pick up sauce packets ranging from spicy to sweet to savory and beyond.
Definitely a must to visit! I still miss Nando’s to this day with their wholesome food and good prices.
Paul – A delightful stop for a baguette sandwich or a sugary treat.
This French bakery has greatly expanded its store locations to over 33 countries since 1889, featuring glorious hand-crafted cakes, pastries, breads, sandwiches, and salads.
When visiting London this was the first place we stopped for food, so it holds a memorable place in my heart. We were so hungry and ordered baguette sandwiches with ingredients like mozzarella, tomato, and pesto or freshly-sliced ham with swiss cheese on an everything-seasoned piece of bread. A lot of us over the course of two weeks got croissants for snacks with chocolate on the inside. Everything at Paul is wrapped in paper for easy, on-the-go snacking which we loved.
The best part?
Everything is extremely budget-friendly with large sandwiches for around 4 euros and croissants for 3 euros.
One of my favorite things I ate was the Tartelette Fine Pomme, which is a small, handheld tart with thinly-sliced apples and seasoned with cinnamon. Delicious is an understatement.
All of these recipes are originally family recipes, with a French influence in cakes like Millefeuille (rum-laced vanilla flavor), Fraisier/Framboisier (strawberry & raspberry flavors), or Opéra (dark chocolate & coffee flavors). I still remember walking inside Paul for the first time and seeing the huge cakes with strawberries in circular patterns from the middle to the fluffy edges. Everything smelled so fresh, fruity, and chocolatey all at once.
They even have a new loyalty app at Paul, which earns you free delicious treats and hot beverages. Paul also offers masterclasses where you can improve your baking skills to learn how to bake fresh French bread and pastries right from your own home.
At Paul you’ll see the family spin intertwined with French tradition right when you walk in the door, with their clear passion for fine quality food.
BEST SHOPPING (includes food!):
Harrods – An extravagant experience, from pastries to dresses to shopping and more.
This world famous department store features everything luxurious and tasteful, from finely decorated cakes to handbags and jewelry. Each section of the store is cube-shaped, and each room you enter changes in design and products sold. From top-notch designers and food and wine experts, at Harrods the word “gourmet” is an understatement.
While I was at Harrods my friends and I ventured upstairs to the clothes department (definitely out of our price point). We combed through the racks of expensive dresses which was an experience like getting ready for an Oscar red carpet event on steroids- plenty of sequins, over-the-top feathers, and long, delicate trains made for non-wedding occasions. Simply put, it was heaven. Definitely for A-listers in London, but it was fun to look at all the ornate design options of what we could wear to a fancy event, even if it was just in our imagination.
We also went into the grocery of epic proportions inside Harrods, buying pretzels and browsing the racks of fresh jams and jellies. There’s plenty of coffee and chocolate to go around! Just ask the bakery staff and they’re sure to whip up something new and unexpected for you depending on your taste buds, from homemade cupcakes to cheesecakes in all flavors and sizes.
I highly recommend heading to Harrods for a fanciful and extravagant time any day of the week.
Fortnum & Mason — An emporium of tea and sweets to bring back home.
Even before stepping inside Fortnum & Mason, the sparkly, magical window displays blew me away. There was tea coming out of teapots but they looked almost suspended in midair. I immediately thought this was going to be the Disneyland of tea and biscuits, and boy was I right.
Fortnum & Mason was established in 1707, which I think speaks towards its class, elegance, and tradition of fine ingredients done in simple but outstanding ways. When you walk inside you’re greeted by large circular displays of tea, which makes it easy to walk around the store as you view tea from any side of the shelving units. They have plenty of open tea jars so you can smell all the different types. Some of the flavors of tea include: Elderflower with strawberry and rose, rhubarb with raspberry and nettle leaf, and sour cherry and orange infusion tea.
The farther you venture into the store, you realize just how many cases of goodies and treats there are, with pastry chefs awaiting to help you try things like bonbons and eclairs behind the glass. Something that changed my life? A strawberry-champagne truffle. Wow. I liked it so much I told my friend to buy one. Did it change her life too? You bet. She immediately made a video outside on the street about how it tasted unlike anything she’d ever had before.
One of the best things about Fortnum & Mason is that all of the tea is packaged in the cutest, colorful tins. This makes for great holiday and birthday gifts, and the tea stays very fresh in the tins. I brought home dozens of tea tins here and a couple of chocolates to try on the walk back to our hotel. From tea to truffles to biscuits and more, stop by Fortnum & Mason to bring home a taste of London.
Piccadilly Circus — For theatre, street performers, and art from locals.
Piccadilly Circus describes a huge outdoor area filled with many close monuments, museums (I highly recommend the National Portrait Gallery), restaurants, fountains, guided tours, and endless forms of entertainment.
While we were here we almost got tickets to a theatre show for less than 30 pounds, but we decided to save our money and see a street performance instead. And I’m so glad we made that decision. The street performance was full of music and guys doing flips and hilarious antics towards members of the crowd. A little boy was involved in the show and received 20 pounds, so you never know—you could become a part of the performance.
There’s plenty of theatre to choose from on the West End in Picadilly Circus, from Broadway to comedy shows and everything in between. We actually went back near our last day in London to the West End to see Les Miserables for around 80 pounds. I had never seen the show, and seeing it in the heart of London with performers having actual accents just made the story that much more real.
From singers like Lizzo, Daniel Caesar, and Elton John to Waitress and Come From Away on Broadway in the West End, you’ll find the exact form of entertainment you’re in the mood for or maybe an unexpected experience which strikes just the right chord. Head to Picadilly Circus for the time of your life!
BEST TEA PARLOR: (in Stratford-upon-Avon)
Fourteas — For a sit-down tea and little finger food experience.
Fourteas is a vintage-themed tea cafe with a terrace and an outdoor garden in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon. While you’re exploring Shakespeare’s birthplace and all the theatre in Stratford, carve some time out to go to tea. The Fourteas Tea-Room has a huge range of possibilities on the menu, from green tea to black tea to herbal tea or fruity tea. I got the baked apple infusion tea and loved it, and I’m definitely more of a coffee person.
You’ll also get a tiered stand of freshly made sandwiches, home-baked scones with strawberry jam and butter, and a selection of mini cakes and pastries at the top of the tower. I recommend going with friends because then you can trade your mini desserts for who wants what. There were macaroons, chocolate cakes, and little tartlets—your favorite type of dessert will definitely be in the mix.
One of the perks? Most of the breakfast is served all day! You can get the GI breakfast of bacon, two poached eggs, pancakes with a griddled banana, fruit garnish, and maple syrup. There are also soups and specials of the day, so be sure to ask your server what’s new.
The whole time you’re chatting and eating, old-timey music plays in the background. You feel like you’re living in the fifties with all the vintage newspapers and decorations on the wall. Times available range from about 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, but remember that any time of day is good for tea.
From the time you arrive to the Fourteas to the time you leave, you’ll be talking about the “clotted cream” while eating your fresh BLT and drinking Rooibos tea. The Fourteas is sure to be a meal that hits the spot.
FUN AT NIGHT:
O’Neill’s Bar– For live performers and a get-up-and-dance atmosphere.
Here at O’Neills bar in London you can get a round of drinks while live performers entertain right in front of you. When I visited O’Neills in London the first time, the power was out. We went in the bar and it was completely dark! This made the experience even more unforgettable; we were dancing in the dark with candles lit. The band’s amps were out so everything was acoustic. We talked to many other people from around the world visiting London, and it was fun to hear the range of accents and party attitudes depending on the different countries. The second time the power was back after the big storm, but I will always remember O’Neills in the dark with my friends and a good cider in my hands.
This bar is originally Irish, but you’ll feel at home no matter where you’re from. You can book parties here and watch Premier League matches live on the many jumbo screens during hosted sporting events. From singers, live bands, artists, and DJs, you’ll certainly find your style of music as well, whether it be rock or country.
At O’Neills you can choose from a range of draught lagers, bottled beers, ciders, and many spirits, soft drinks, wines and whiskeys – there’s always something for everyone.
Whether you’re getting a few drinks after work, wanting to dance the night away to live music, or celebrating a birthday with friends at the bar, at ONeills you’ll have the time of your life with Guinness and Bulmers chilling in the fridge when you arrive. Go to O’Neills if you’re craving that party mood atmosphere to let loose and have fun, from watching live soccer or singing out loud to an indie pop band.
*Make sure to yell where you’re traveling from when the band asks during shoutouts!
Amanda spent two weeks in London, England.