The series “Holiday like a local in…” aims to show you a destination through the eyes of locals living in any European city. Discovering a place’s hidden spots, the things that are not included in any guide book, and the charming cafes with amazing views or the best known sights from a different angle are just a glimpse of what locals can show you.
Today we are going to discover London through the eyes of a local – Emily, and an expat – Valeria. They will share their favourite places, most hidden gems and favourite food.
#1. Please, introduce yourself, your blog and the city you live in!
Emily: My name’s Emily and I blog at The Cosy Traveller. I live just outside London and commute in every day for work.
Valeria: Hello! I’m Valeria, an Italian globetrotter with a strong passion for international travels and cuisine. I was born in Rome, lived in New York City the past three years, and have recently relocated to London. My blog Rome, New York, London, World gives an insight into life in these beautiful cities, plus advice and random facts on world destinations. I have decided to embark on this new adventure in travel blogging because I enjoy sharing my experiences, itineraries and pictures I took in all corners of the world.
#2. What do you love the most about London?
Emily: I adore the fact that there are so many different pockets all over the city. For instance, East London, with its vintage stores and hipster vibe, feels so different to the up-market West where you’ll find all the most expensive brands. You can pretty much pick a region depending on your mood and spend the whole day just exploring.
Valeria: How many cultures, personalities, stories blend in a wonderful melting pot, all of this in a city that offers unlimited opportunities and things to do.
#3. What are your favorite local meals?
Emily: My favourite local meals come courtesy of Borough market where you can pick up bites to eat of whatever you fancy, from cheese to sandwiches to curries. It’s pasta galore at Coco di Mama which does the best macaroni cheese.
Valeria: I could eat cottage pie till I explode! It is a meat pie with a crust of mashed potato. Also, you can’t miss afternoon tea with scones (small pastries) and jam.
#4. What’s the best place to have breakfast?
Emily: While I was studying in South London I fell in love with Rosy Lea café in Wimbledon. It’s nothing fancy, just a typical tearoom, but I challenge you to find a tastier portion of scrambled eggs! For something a little extra special you can’t beat The Breakfast Club, spread across six locations. Funky décor, an insanely extensive breakfast menu, and even a selection of drinks for when breakfast spills over into the afternoon – what more could you want?
Valeria: “My Old Dutch” offers various delicious breakfast options in a cozy environment. Their most well-known dish are Dutch pancakes and they are at several locations, such as High Holborn, Chelsea, and Kensington. My favorite option is the “make your own pancake”, but I also recommend the full English breakfast and the banana waffle.
#5. What’s the best place to have dinner?
Emily: If I’m completely honest, I’m not one to really eat out because I’m constantly saving up for my next trip (or five!) However, Meat Mission is a winner for both me and my boyfriend (there are vegetarian options available too), while a good old Pizza Express serves scrummy Italian food on a budget. Also, head to Kingly Court off Carnaby Street for a great selection of restaurants – I’m still dreaming about my delicious meal at the Caribbean-themed Rum Kitchen.
Valeria: Being Italian, I am struck by how authentic the Italian cuisine is in London. If you fancy pasta or pizza, I strongly suggest making reservations at Antico in Bermondsey or Número 28 Pizzeria in Notting Hill.
#6. What are the top three attractions in London?
Emily: London is bursting at the seams with tourist attractions. In my opinion, the best three are the London Eye – iconic, and great views of the River Thames and beyond – the Natural history museum and Hyde Park. Hyde Park is absolutely huge and is home to a boating lake, a children’s playground, the Princess Diana memorial fountain, plus a restaurant.
Valeria: I’m sure you’re familiar with the Big Bang and London Eye, so let me give you something more original. Westminster Abbey – The Abbey is a must-see living pageant of British history. Some of the most significant people in the nation’s history are buried or commemorated here, and Prince Williams’ wedding (among many) took place in this treasure house of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles and other artefacts.
St Paul’s Cathedral – One of the largest churches in the world. Make sure you check out the Whispering Gallery inside. A whisper against the wall can be clearly heard on the other side, 112 feet away. Pretty cool!
Globe Theatre – The one associated with Shakespeare, of course! The globe was made to fit roughly 3000 people. Did you know that at the time, women were not allowed to perform, so men had to dress up as the women and wear a ton of makeup?
#7. Where can you get the best view of London?
Emily: For an all-encompassing view of the city, head to Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath. On the skyline you’ll be able to pick out all the main buildings, yet you’re away from the crazy bustle of the city. For a more up-close-and-personal view, the Shard is right in the heart of the city so views from the top are some of the best you’ll find.
Valeria: One rainy Saturday afternoon I visited one of London’s most famous museums: the Tate Modern. With great pleasure, I found out that apart from hosting interesting contemporary paintings and artwork, it offers a stunning view of London’s skyline. Reach the Restaurant at Tate to get a glimpse of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge and other famous landmarks.
#8. Your favorite cultural attractions or activities?
Emily: When I used to live in Russell Square, I would pop into the British Museum as often as I could. There’s so much to see in there that you could probably visit every day for a year and still only scratch the surface. The Old Operating Theatre Museum by London Bridge was something completely different – it’s a completely unassuming building, yet the inside is full of gruesome titbits straight out of the 19th century. Just don’t go on a full stomach!
Valeria: London presents some of the best shows and musicals in the world. I’ve recently seen Wicked and it always amazes me how actors and scenographers manage to bring the story to life on such a limited stage. You’ll feel like you’re at the movies, but it’s actually happening right in front of you! On rainy days, I also enjoy browsing around the Natural History and the Imperial War Museum, which are free like most museums in London.
#9. Are there any possibilities for exciting day trips from London? Where to?
Emily: Yes, lots! You’ve got the Warner Bros. Harry Potter studios in Watford, just 15 minutes away on the train from Euston station. I’ve been twice now and I can’t get enough! If you want to experience a typical English seaside, Brighton is just under an hour away on the train, as are the historic sights of Cambridge, famed for its beautiful university buildings, cobbled streets and traditional British streets.
Valeria: There are so many cute little towns to visit on a day trip from London. My personal favorites:
Stonehenge – The well-known prehistoric monument which consists of the remains of a ring of standing stones. The lovely city of Bath, where you can bathe in naturally hot spa water and original roman style baths, is only 50 minutes away. Many tour companies organize day trips to both destinations.
Brighton – If you want to spend a day at the beach, Brighton is the place to go! Enjoy beachfront sports and events and have brunch at a lovely restaurant on the water.
Winchester – Explore the medieval streets of Winchester and admire the history of Winchester Cathedral and Wolvesey Castle. Then stroll along the River Itchen to The Hospital of St Cross. The perfect way to end your day could be an evening of comedy, theater, ballet or opera at one of Winchester’s entertainment venues.
#10. What are the best traditional festivals or events throughout the year?
Emily: There always seems to be something going on in London! February sees the award season hit the capital, so you’ve got a fair chance of spotting a celeb on the BAFTA red carpet. Notting Hill Carnival takes place every August bank holiday over in West London. It’s basically a massive party with a Caribbean theme and parade. Tickets for London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are always the hottest in town. Sure it often means hanging around in the cold for hours on end, but it’s the place to ring in the New Year with the best views of the fireworks.
Valeria: Chinese New Year Festival – It takes place in February and it is the biggest in the world outside China. This event features a parade that begins north of Trafalgar Square at 10am, with a Dragon and Lion Dance on the stage in the square from noon to 1pm. After there are Lion Dances throughout Chinatown until about 5pm. Chinatown goes crazy with decorations on those days!
WOW Women Of the World Festival – In March at the Southbank Center, let’s celebrate all that is great about women and girls, and all the great things they have achieved. This festival features a week of talks, debates, concerts, film, comedy and workshops.
London Craft Week – For all arts & crafts lovers, this week-long event in May celebrates craftsmanship in all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies across London. Famous galleries and specialist workshops alike host events to showcase both ancient skills and exciting new talent.
If you want to participate in “Holiday like a local in…” series on Travelling Buzz, send an email to: [email protected] with the city you live in. Currently wanted: Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Paris, Valencia, but always ready to include other European cities.