I have the good fortune of being able to visit London on a fairly regular basis for my work. While this means I have to get up in the mornings and go to work, it also means that I get to spend time with colleagues who live, work and play in London and therefore know all the secrets of being a Londoner. I wanted to share with you the top 3 tips these locals have all shared with me over the last few years on how to see London like a Londoner and not a tourist – tips on where to stay, what to eat and where to shop.
Tip #1 – Where to Stay
When booking hotels, London can seem overwhelming with options – many of which are all priced into the hundreds (or thousands!) of pounds per night. My favourite areas to stay in are definitely all gorgeous, central areas that will have your pocketbook feeling much lighter than when you landed at Heathrow. My top picks are Mayfair (a little more residential with cute higher end shops like Jenny Packham), Belgravia/Battersea (one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the world) and West London (super hip and trendy). I like these neighbourhoods because they tend to not be crawling with the swarms of tourists looking for cheap hotels or business travellers who tend to stay nearer the financial district. If you’re not looking to fork over your entire shopping allowance for the trip on hotels, try staying near Covent Garden or Leicester Square. You can find slightly less expensive hotels that are just as central – if not more so.
Tip #2 – Where to Shop
Almost everyone who has been to London will tell anyone else who is going to London to go to Harrods. While if it’s your first trip I do recommend going to see what all the fuss is about, but no self-respecting local makes what can only be described as tourist filled journey to Harrods on a regular basis. If you really want to check out a department store in London, check out Liberty – a London institution on Regent Street since 1924 with a Royal Warrant delivering high quality goods. To truly shop like a local Londoner though, skip the malls and stores and head to a local market. Some of the best I’ve seen are the Columbia Road Flower Market (tip: market closes at 3pm, the closer you arrive to that time the cheaper the blooms are, including my favourite, peonies!), Portobello Road (go on Fridays if you can to avoid the watered down version of this antique gem in Notting Hill) and Borough Market (London’s largest market with delicious chorizo sandwiches from Brindisa)
Tip #3 – Where to Eat
Take a trip off the beaten path and head out to one of the up and coming neighbourhoods in London like Peckham to get a good idea of trendy eateries. If you’re new to the area, check out what Time Out London has to say and then be prepared to wait in line for ages to get into some of the newest and trendiest restaurants in Peckham – places like the Peckham Refreshment Rooms (a Barcelona inspired Spanish tapas eatery), the Begging Bowl (a thai style street restaurant) or, if you get the season right, Frank’s Café, a restaurant at the top of an old car park. Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame is just one example of celebrities who are often seen around the neighbourhood, so keep your eyes open!