A Local’s Guide to London
London is an extraordinary city with countless wonders to explore. Having been fortunate enough to have lived there for 5 years, I am well acquainted with its many charms. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of my favorite London attractions, including museums, restaurants, and bars.
This list is not exhaustive; rather, it is a curated selection of the places and experiences that I personally hold in the highest regard. By introducing you to these discoveries, I hope you will discover for yourself why London is so beloved by locals and visitors alike.
Museums in London
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in London’s culture, then South Kensington is the place to be. Home to three of the city’s top museums—the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum—this area has something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in natural history, science, or art, each museum offers a wealth of knowledge and an incredible array of artifacts for you to explore.
Natural History Museum
My favorite museum of all time (and not just for the dinosaurs). Housed in an amazing Romanesque building, it’s got one of the most spectacular entrance halls of any museum I’ve been to, overseen by Darwin himself (his statue sits at the top of the stairs). nhm.ac.uk
Victoria & Albert Museum
I only recently rediscovered the V&A (too many visits during school put me off for years!). If you can fight your way past all the sketchers in the more popular places, it’s a calm, beautiful space filled with stunning artwork. There’s a lovely garden area, and even the café is a work of art, featuring intricate mosaic-tiled walls, patterned marble pillars, and cool, oversized lights. vam.ac.uk
If you’re coming to London with kids, the Science Museum is brilliant – so much fun and, y’know, educational too. When I was about 10, I did one of their Science Nights, where you get to sleep over in the museum and see all sorts of cool exhibits and demos. If you’ve got children who are into science, it’s a fab experience. sciencemuseum.org.uk
And best of all, entry into these iconic institutions is free, making them accessible to everyone. However, some temporary exhibitions may incur an extra charge. So, it pays to plan ahead before your visit! With its incredible selection of museums and its convenient location, South Kensington is definitely worth a visit if you want to experience London like a local.
Neighborhoods & Areas of London
London is a vast and vibrant city, which can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. But if you take the time to explore its many neighborhoods and areas, you’ll discover that each has its own character and charm – from iconic Notting Hill to leafy Richmond Park.
One of the most popular areas is South Bank, stretching along the south side of the River Thames. With its dramatic skyline of futuristic glass skyscrapers and buzzing riverside bars and restaurants, this area offers a unique cosmopolitan vibe.
Having commuted to Waterloo Station for years, the South Bank was always my go-to area for after-work dinners and drinks. There are tons of restaurants and bars, you get fantastic views across the river, and there’s always something going on, whether it’s live music or a pop-up festival.
In stark contrast is Notting Hill, one of London’s most fashionable districts. Renowned for its vibrant street markets and open spaces, it’s a great place for people to watch or simply soak up the atmosphere.
Notting Hill is a real mix of cultures. On the one hand, there are million-pound mansions, super expensive restaurants, and a lot of avo-on-toast cafés. But on the other, you’ve got Portobello Market, jazzy multi-colored houses, and a Caribbean culture that spawned one of the biggest carnivals in the world (it’s at the end of August, in case you want to time your visit to coincide).
Kensington is another fascinating part of town. Most famous for Kensington Palace, home to Britain’s Royal Family, it also boasts several popular museums, galleries, and parks.
Very smart and very expensive, but home to some of London’s most beautiful real estate. Wander the streets here to gawp at giant townhouses and mansion flat blocks, and duck down the little mews streets for Instagram-pretty cobbles and cottages. Kensington is also home to the big three museums (see above).
Finally, Richmond offers a more laid-back experience. Known for its wealth of green parks and riverfront walks, it’s the perfect escape from busy city life. Whether you’re looking for an adventurous day out or some restful downtime, Richmond should be on your list.
Richmond is where I’d live if I won the lottery. It’s on the river (and comes with a cluster of lovely riverside pubs), has a super-cute village green lined with Georgian mansions, and has loads of independent boutiques, cafés and restaurants. There’s also the small matter of Richmond Park, which you can read more about below.
London’s prettiest Mews Streets
Wander around the streets of Kensington, Chelsea, or Notting Hill and it won’t be long before you stumble across a mews street. You might not notice them at first – they’re often hidden away behind brick archways or ivy-covered entranceways – but make the effort and you’ll discover some of the prettiest streets in London.
Below are five of my favorite mews streets in London. They’re all nice and close to each other in Kensington (Gloucester Road or Earl’s Court are the nearest tubes), so they make a really nice walk, particularly on a sunny day.
Kynance Mews London This is one of the mews you’ll see popping up all over the place on Instagram, thanks to the picture-perfect entrance and pastel-colored cottages (plus the ivy-draped dream house in the photo above). It’s split into two sections – the shorter one to the west of Launceston Place and the longer one to the east.
Queen’s Gate Mews
This one is just down the road from Kynance Mews and has a lovely little pub at the end, The Queen’s Arms (although be wary if you’re after lunch – last time I was there, they didn’t have about half of what was on the menu). The street is covered in cobbles and the cottages are as cute as they come. Is Queen’s Gate prettier than Prince’s Gate? I’ll leave you to decide (more on Prince’s Gate Mews below).
Atherstone Mews London
Round the corner from the Natural History Museum, Atherstone Mews is one of the most colorful mews I’ve found, with houses decked out in pastel shades of blue, pink, purple, and yellow.
Prince’s Gate Mews
Another colorful one, Prince’s Gate Mews lies behind the V&A and is split into three sections, so it lies partly in Kensington and partly in Westminster. While I wouldn’t say no to any of the houses here, I do have a bit of a soft spot for the blue-painted one (and it has a garage! If you’ve ever tried parking around this part of London, you’ll know how amazing this is).
Spear Mews London
Just off the chaos of Earl’s Court Road (about a minute’s walk from the station) is this little oasis of calm. The cobbles, the flowers, the gorgeous houses at the end of the street – it’s a beaut.
You’ll mostly find mews streets lying behind a row of grand townhouses. The little cottages along these streets used to be the stables for the townhouses back in the day, but nowadays they’ve been converted into multi-million-pound properties that you’ll need a lottery win to afford.
When it comes to parks in London, there is no shortage of options. From Richmond Park in the Southwest to St James’s Park in the center of the city and Hampstead Heath in the North, the capital has a wide array of green spaces to explore.
Richmond Park is the largest urban park in Europe and is known for its diverse wildlife, including herds of red and fallow deer that call the area home. The park also offers plenty of trails for walking or cycling, as well as gorgeous views of the city skyline.
Richmond Park is situated on the outskirts of the city and offers stunning views of the Thames Valley and beyond. With lush greenery, plentiful wildlife, and a vast area of over 2,500 acres to explore, this tranquil park provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Richmond Park is like a giant wilderness on the edge of the city. It’s got open fields, woodland, ponds, roaming deer, and some of the best views in London (read my Richmond Park post to find out more about why I love it).
St James’s Park
St James’s Park is much smaller than Richmond Park, but it offers a unique city oasis near Buckingham Palace and other royal attractions. Its main feature is a picturesque lake, where visitors can take a boat trip or feed ducks and swans.
It’s central, it’s fairly compact, and you get lovely views of Buckingham Palace and the London Eye from here.
Hampstead Heath is a vast open space on the northern edge of London, offering beautiful views of rolling hills and heathland. There are several ponds and lakes to explore, as well as woodlands and grassy meadows. This park is perfect for picnics or simply enjoying the fresh air while admiring the natural beauty on offer.
The Heath is absolutely huge, but my favorite part is Parliament Hill. Hike up to the top (or run – I used to train for cross-country races here and it’s a brilliant workout!) and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over London.
Favorite London Restaurants
Amazing Mexican food (try the Molcajete Mestizo, a mouth-watering mix of chicken, chorizo, cheese, avocado, and mole sauce, bubbling in a volcanic stone bowl) and epic all-you-can-eat Sunday brunches. Read more about it in my 5 places to eat in London post.
Another noteworthy restaurant just a few minutes away from Mestizo is Caravan. With its modern take on global street food, this is the ideal place for those who like to explore new flavors. The menu offers a wide range of dishes from around the world, including Korean dumplings, Chinese bao buns, Italian fritto misto, and Mexican enchiladas. The vibrant atmosphere makes it a great spot for catching up with friends over dinner and drinks.
I used to work around the corner from Caravan and my colleagues and I would find any excuse to treat ourselves to lunch there (birthdays, engagements, Fridays, Mondays…). The menu is mostly small plates, so it’s great for sharing.
For Spanish cuisine, Camino is a must-visit spot. This chic restaurant serves traditional dishes from the Basque Country, such as croquetas, lomo al ajillo (pork loin), and huevos estrellados (fried eggs). The decor is bright and modern, and the staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. Plus, you can enjoy some Spanish wines and sherries while you dine!
Great tapas and Spanish drinks (beer, wine, cava, sherry). There are a few different outposts around London and they’re all quite different – my favorite is the Blackfriars venue, mostly because they’ve got a dedicated cava bar beneath the restaurant!
Finally, Meat Liquor is ideal for anyone looking for a fun night out. This lively gastropub serves up mouthwatering burgers, ribs, wings, fries, and more. The setting is intimate yet playful, with neon signs lining the walls and loud music creating a buzzy ambiance. It’s also conveniently located near some of London’s best nightlife spots—making it the perfect stop before heading out for the evening.
The kind of dirty burgers that’ll clear a hangover in seconds. It’s very cool/trendy, so expect a queue unless you get there early. meatliquor.com
Bars & Pubs
If you’re looking for the quintessential London experience, then look no further than Viaduct Tavern. This beloved pub has been around since 1869, and it’s easy to see why it’s been a staple of the city for so long. The cozy atmosphere is inviting and comfortable, with lots of vintage décor to add to the traditional feel. They also have a great selection of beer on tap and classic pub food that will satisfy even the most discerning palate.
This historic pub near St. Paul’s is all about the gin & tonic, served in bowl-like glasses with chunks of hand-chipped ice.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
Gordon’s Wine Bar is another fantastic spot in London. Established in 1890, this bar is as old as they come, and it oozes character. The walls are covered in wines from all over the world, making it the perfect place to sample some wonderful new vintages. And if you get hungry, their menu offers a variety of delicious tapas dishes.
You can drink wine and eat cheese in a cave – what more do you need to know?! It’s the oldest wine bar in London, too. There’s a massive terrace outside (with heaters to keep you toasty in winter), but the real USP is indoors. A handful of rickety little tables are tucked into a candlelit cave at the back of the bar. You generally have to get there early to nab one straight away, but if you don’t mind hanging around (and why would you, with so much wine to keep you company) it’s not usually long before one opens up.
If you’ve got time, stay for a bite to eat. Their Sunday roasts are epic, as is the cheese selection. For £6, you can get a massive hunk of cheese (ask the guy serving to recommend one – he’s a font of cheesy knowledge), crusty bread, and as much pickle as you can pile on to your plate.
The Three Kings
The Three Kings is a modern take on a traditional British watering hole. Located in Shoreditch, this lively bar is the perfect place to meet new people or just hang out with old friends. The impressive drinks list includes beers, wines, spirits, and cocktails, along with some excellent bar snacks and sharing plates.
I adore this cozy, quirky pub in Clerkenwell. The décor is slightly bonkers (think stuffed animal heads and vintage photos), but it all adds to the charm. If you’re eating, go for the chili, and if it’s winter, ask if they’ve got any of their mulled apple cider. 7 Clerkenwell Close, EC1R
London Cocktail Club
Finally, there’s the London Cocktail Club. This exclusive club is renowned for its wild parties and inventive cocktails. With its sophisticated yet laid-back atmosphere, it’s the ideal spot to let loose and enjoy some truly unique concoctions. Whether you’re looking for an exciting night out or a relaxing evening of conversation, this club has something for everyone.
There are six of these bars, so you’re never likely to be too far from one. There are dozens of cocktails to choose from – I love a martini, so my picks are the affogato (an espresso martini with ice cream on the side) and the bacon & egg, which comes with a Haribo fried egg and rasher of crispy pancetta (it works, promise!).
When it comes to shopping, Londoners know where to go! From the city’s high-end shopping districts like Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Bond Street to the smaller markets, the streets of London are filled with every type of store imaginable.
For luxury items, head to the designer boutiques along Bond Street, while for a range of fashionable stores check out Oxford Street or Regent Street in Soho. For more unique finds, Camden Market is one of London’s most popular spots – you can find everything from vintage clothes to handmade jewelry and even books.
Then there’s Selfridge’s department store on Oxford Street, which offers shoppers an incredible selection of products from all over the world.
Oxford Street is the perfect place to window-shop or just explore – you never know what treasures you may find! And if you’re a fan of department stores, Oxford Street has plenty to offer: Selfridges, John Lewis, Debenhams, and more are all within walking distance of each other. Along the way, you’ll also find plenty of lively restaurants and cafes where you can recharge after a long day of shopping.
It’s insanely busy, but there are a lot of shops – including Selfridges and the mother of all Topshops (prepare to lose a good few hours in there). Avoid Oxford Circus during rush hour; they tend to close the station due to overcrowding, leading to massive people pile-ups on the pavement outside.
Liberty is another great spot for shoppers on the hunt for something special. The store itself is a sight to behold – its exterior is made up of intricate carvings and colorful stained glass windows, while the interior is filled with designer pieces and unique homeware. For those looking for a truly luxurious shopping experience in the heart of London, there’s no better option than Liberty.
I don’t tend to buy much here (too pricey), but the building is beautiful and the Christmas section (which opens nice and early) is great. One day I’ll treat myself to one of their famous Liberty print scarves! liberty.co.uk