I’ve been going to London on my annual theatre pilgrimmage and actually for the last few years it’s been a biannual trip. Over those weekend trips I’ve obviously prioritised my stagey ulterior motive but I’ve also been able to discover other things. I’ve had a few friends ask me for my London tips so I thought I’d just collate them all into a post.
I am by no means an expert and am totally open to new suggestions for the next time I go down – please let me know!
Travel – I usually fly down to London cause you can get really cheap flights from EasyJet. Gatwick is my fave airport to go to but tbh Gatwick, Heathrow and City all have really easy ways for you to get into the centre afterwards.
When you’re actually in London walking is totally do-able and preferrable but obviously take the tube if you’re going a bit farther, it’s really easy to get an Oyster card. There are some great TubeMap apps that can help ypu navigate the underground maze. As a side note, I get such a kick from being in the tube when you’re killing it and on your way to something exciting and the breeze is coming through the tunnels.
Accommodation – I’ve stayed in a few different places in London so here’s my thoughts.
If there’s a few of you it’s worth getting a nice AirBnb – when my whole family have gone down together that’s what we did and it worked a treat.
When there’s just one of two of you I’d recommend something cheap and central, namely the Covent Garden Travelodge is so well-located and perfect if all you’re after is a convenient place to crash.
I also love to opt for a Premier Inn Hub because of the flexibility, good vibes and compact living. Do bear in mind that it’s build for the rooms to be small so I’d recommend that for a solo trip or if you’re with someone you like being up close and personal with!
Theatre and stagey fun
Obviously my top recommendation for things to do in London is to go and see something at the theatre, you’ll know yourself what shows you fancy (but if you’d like any recommendations I’m happy to suggest things!) When I’m deciding what to see I use londontheatre.co.uk to see what all will be on, on the dates that I’ll be there for. I will also go directly to the show’s venue website and I check TodayTix to see where I can get sears for the best price. I love a bargain, I do, so restricted seats are often a good choice and probably not as restricted as you might think but I will always double check how do-able the restriction is on SeatPlan. This is a website that allows you to see each of the venues and photos of the view from each seat, vital in my seat selection. You should also check out TodayTix and enter some lotteries, it’s less commital and less expensive and you could end up with a great, cheap ticket to a show on the day.
There’s also loads of fun things to do if you’re dead stagey that isn’t actually seeing a show. I’ve done quite a few of the theatre tours across the city and I’d particularly recommend the National Theatre and Royal Opera House ones – both such diverse, clever venues.
If you’re looking for somewhere to grab a coffee and a seat for a minute but also have a burning urge to hear showtunes and be in a musical shrine, the Theatre Café is the place to be! I actually haven’t been since they moved to St Martin’s Lane from their Shaftesbury Avenue shop but that’s on the list for next time – they also do events all the time with West End professionals which is super fun!
If you’re looking for a theatre shrine where you can also have dinner I’d recommend the Phoenix Arts Club where you can have a theatre themed pre-theatre dinner with a side of theatre! Attached to the Phoenix Theatre (where the unbelievable Come From Away is playing right now) the Phoenix Artist Club also runs loads of events and cabarets so totally a great place to check out!
Things to do
I’ll restrain myself now and shut up about theatre, so if you’re after real world activities I’ve got you too.
Of all the museums, the V&A is my favourite (especially the theatre and performance art gallery – eek! I can’t help myself!). The Natural History Museum is also really cool, I personally found the Science Museum quite underwhelming. Apart from the strip of museums at Kensington, I also recommend the British Library – far more of an exhibition space really than a library (when I was there they also had a special Harry Potter exhibition), I also have a thing for modern art (it’s either cool or ridiculous which makes me laugh) so visiting the Tate Modern is loads of fun.
My absolute favourite bookshop in the world floats in London – Word on the Water is a bookbarge where you can pick up second-hand books in the sweetest setting ever. The bookkeeper is the nicest guy and can help to recommend books. This was actually the shop that inspired a novel called The Little Paris Bookshop which I loved when I was younger. This is an absolute must for any of my book-lovers out there, if you wanna know more you can read my post about it here.
Of course you know this exists but I will stress that if you love Harry Potter then a visit to the WB studios is also a must. You can definitely spend most of the day out there discovering all the tricks and secrets to how they created the films and being in the Great Hall is bloody magical. Again, if you’d like to read more about my visit there and see some more pics you can read this post.
Places to eat
For something a bit different and for a really good feed head over to Shoreditch and grab food from the stalls at Spitalfields Market. The Shoreditch area in general is realy cool as I outline in this post, there’s loads of different shops and markets and the streets are covered in really cool graffitti art so there’s always something to discover along the cute streets and Brick Lanes. I would definitely recommend spending a day in the area and just eat, drink and be merry.
Another fun area for trying different foodie delights is Kingly Court just off Carnaby Street – this is a courtyard with loads of restaurants, bars and great vendors to get a snack or a meal. I ate some of the most gorgeous cupcakes for here and I’m definitely heading back here for another couple rounds cause there’s still so many other restaurants in there to try! Again I detail this one a bit more in this blog post.
This recommendation is just a single restaurant: Duck and Waffle Local. It’s nothing fancy but as I’m a huge duck fan, it was my heaven. This is where my mum and I went before seeing The Book of Mormon and I honestly dream about that duck burger (not pictured cause I inhaled it too fast).
Places to drink
I’ve been to a few bars that offer you that little special something. The Vista Bar in the Trafalgar hotel is a place we visited because there was a Groupon voucher on where you can get drinks, and they also do tapas. It obviously has a great view over Trafalgar Square, and on the day we went it was the Queen’s birthday parade so we managed to avoid the crowds down below and got a perfect view to see the Red Arrows pass overhead which was pretty special – I talk about it more in this post.
Another tall building for #viewz is the Sky Garden. We went there for a meal which I’m not sure is necessary but it’s cool to just go up to the garden and look at the 360 views of London (pray for good weather!) I think that coming up here just for a drink would be a lovely time but they also have activities up there sometimes like yoga with a big city view.
Finally, The Blind Pig in Soho is a great spot and my personal fave thing is that they have a children’s literature classics themed cocktail menu – drinks inspired by Paddington, Whinnie the Pooh, James and the Giant Peach etc. Yes, it’s gimmicky, but it’s definitely my kind of gimmick.