Rich history, impressive architecture, a multicultural community and the Underground. London. One of my favorite cities in the world. After not having been able to visit the city for 8 years, it was time for another trip to explore the city and everything it has to offer. Traveling with a different mindset than 8 years ago, I now pay attention to other things than before. Vegan food, local shops and places where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
In this blog I’ll share what places I’d recommend to visit and to eat, plus I’ll give you some tips & tricks in regards to transportation.
My experience with London
I visited London for the first time when I was 13 years old. Together with my best friend Debbie we went to visit her family in the north of London and I remember being amazed by its greatness. Over the years I’ve visited the city a couple of times and back in 2014 I even lived in the city for 6 months to study International Events Management at London Metropolitan University. But due to events in life and covid, I had not been able to visit the city since 2014. So when my mother invited me for a trip to London, I was super excited!
So mid-June we took the train to London. This was our first time going by train instead of flying. In addition to being more sustainable, travelling by train is also just super relaxing. Especially if you want to do some work while travelling. We arrived at St. Pancras International (next to King’s Cross) and from there we took an electric taxi to our hotel in Shoreditch. It was also possible to travel by train or underground to Liverpool Street and walk from there.
The hotel we stayed in was Hub by Premier Inn in Shoreditch, Brick Lane. Premier Inn runs a “Force For Good” sustainability program which is at the heart of everything they do. We noticed this in the way how they made the rooms more energy efficient with the help of sensors and the fact that your towels are not changed every day. Other than that I didn’t really notice anything, but that might be because such programs run in the “background”.
Anyway, to get back to the area of our hotel: Brick Lane, Shoreditch. Brick Lane in itself is a nice, arty street to visit. There are all sorts of restaurants, many vintage shops and you can find graffiti art on every corner of the street. Staying in Shoreditch was actually a great decision, as the area has lots to explore but also because the hotel rooms offer a great value for money.
We arrived in London on Thursday and left to go back home on Monday. So what did we do in those four to five days? What did we explore and what would I recommend?
Places to visit:
London is a huge city and you’re usually only there for a couple of days. Knowing that you won’t be able to see everything the city has to offer, I’ve made a short list of places and sight I believe are definitely worth visiting. I have not included the main tourist sights such as Westminster Abbey, London Eye, The Tower of London and Oxford Street, but will recommend places that are nearby. This way you can maybe combine sights while being there.
I first visited this market when I was 13 years old and have been coming back every time I’m visiting the city. Camden Market offers over a 1000 unique shops, stalls, bars and cafes (Source: Camdenmarket). Many items are handmade or unique in its kind.
Camden Market is situated in historic former Pickfords stables. It has improved a lot of the years; the buildings are newly renovated and the facilities such a public bathroom are very well arranged. We went to visit on a Sunday morning and got there around 10 am. Not every shop was open by then, but it gave us some time to explore the area before it got crowded with tourists – something which I’d definitely recommend you to do!
From Camden Market you can also take a boat to Little Venice via the canals. It departs from the food court and you can buy a ticket online. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to go on this trip, but it seemed very promising.
Spitalfields Market is famous for its rich and diverse history of traders dating back all the way to 1197. Nowadays, the market is famous for its artists, goods, designer stores, outdoor events, street food and modern cafes, restaurants and bars (source: City Matters). We explored the market and came across amazing hand-crafted items such as jewelry, cards and art.
The architecture of the market is a beautiful mix between history and modern ages. Spitalfields Market is located in the East of London and it’s within a 5-minute walking distance of Liverpool Street Station. We visited the market a couple of times briefly, as it was so close to our hotel, but you can easily spend a day here.
Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park
Ready to take a break from the city and enjoy the beauty of nature? Go on a stroll through Hyde Park and visit the Kensington Gardens. At the gardens you can find Princess Diana’s Memorial Statue surrounded by a beautiful garden full of flowers. It breathes serenity and we very much enjoyed it.
V&A Museum (free entrance)
Another perfect place to relax is the Victoria and Albert Museum. From Kensington Gardens you can walk here through an impressive neighborhood filled with consulates and embassies. One arrived at the museum you can enter free of charge and wonder around. Most of the exhibitions at the V&A museum are free of charge, but some ‘special editions’ do require a fee.
Next to interesting exhibitions, you can also find a swimming pond right outside of the building. When we visited it was quite warm and there were some kids in there swimming. There’s a small café nearby where you can get refreshments to enjoy at this tranquil place in the middle of the city.
Other sights & places to visit
Next to the places I mentioned above there are a few others that I would recommend visiting. These are Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill, Borough Market near London Bridge and the Natural History Museum (entrance is free). And of course you can’t leave London without catching a glimpse of the iconic Tower Bridge!
You can easily get around London with the Underground, by bus, train or electric taxi. But there’s one way of transportation that’s even more fun: the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers. We took this boat twice, on Friday from London Bridge to Westminster and Sunday from Canary Wharf to Westminster. While the boat rides were only short, it’s impressive to see sights such as the Tower Bridge and London Eye from the water. Plus it’s a very easy way to go from A to B without being underground. You can find the route map here.
Places to eat:
The great thing about London is that it’s multicultural, meaning it offers all the flavors of the world! In this blog I only recommend a few places, but bear in mind that the city has so much more to offer.
Clean Kitchen Club (Camden Town)
I found this place while looking on Google for vegan breakfast places in Camden Town. The ‘club’ does not only cater for breakfast, but also for lunch or a quick dinner. The concept is great; they want to bring plant-based food to the mainstream. All food is vegan and their brownie (yes, I had a brownie for breakfast, next to my smoothie bowl!) is to-die-for. Plus their staff in Camden was super friendly, I think one of the most friendliest staff I’ve encountered in London so far.
Easy organic breakfast? Check. At Pure, a franchise spread across the city, it’s super easy to have organic vegan or gluten free breakfast or lunch. I visited the branch in Bank around 09.30 am, right after rush hour. The quiet had settled in again and we had a delicious smoothie bowl while watching the streets of Bank. I can definitely recommend this place if you’d like a slow start of your morning.
Plant by Deliciously Ella (near Oxford Street)
This vegan restaurant serves super yummy food! Situated not far from Oxford Street, this cute, cosy restaurant serves amazing vegan dishes that are one of a kind. Fun fact: Deliciously Ella is originally known for her healthy recipes, snacks and breakfast products. This restaurant is another way of making healthy food available for everyone.
The restaurant is popular and making a reservation is recommend. You can book your table here.
Thai O’Cha (Brick Lane, Shoreditch)
Fan of Thai food? Try Thai O’Cha on Brick Lane! The décor of the restaurant is very Thai, with dark wooden floors and Thai paintings on the wall. I had the mixed starter and the Pad Thai, both delicious. For me it tasted exactly like in Thailand and that’s a first! The staff was also very friendly and helpful; it felt like a real trip to Thailand.
Eataly (near Liverpool Street Station)
This is a hidden gem that is actually in plain sight at Liverpool Street Station. Eataly is a place where you can get ice cream, go for a coffee, do grocery shopping and where you can have great Italian food and wine. It’s not vegan, nor gluten-free, but food is fresh and organic for a very reasonable price (especially when you compare this to the Netherlands). We tried the restaurant upstairs on a Sunday and it was completely packed. I made an exception in my diet and tried the fresh baked rosemary bread and pizza. It was the best Italian food I’ve ever had! The staff was also very friendly and chatty, making it a great, relaxing experience overall.
Spitalfields Market (near Liverpool Street Station)
On this market you can not only do great shopping, but you can also have amazing food. There are food trucks and stands situated at the market or you can have dinner in one of the restaurants. I got a fruity smoothie at a juice stand and had a poke bowl for dinner at Poké House. Both delicious and I secretly wish we would’ve tried more of the food that is being offered!
Zala Levantine Gril (Camden Market)
When at Camden Market there’s one place you shouldn’t skip, it’s Zala. This Mediterranean restaurants serves amazing big pita’s with falafel. Super yummy and all freshly baked right in front of your nose if you sit outside.
As said, London offers many options when it comes to restaurants and cafés. We mainly tried to visited local places, but next to the list above, we also visited franchises such as Bar One at Leicester Square and Le Pain Quotidien in Notting Hill. These franchises also offer good food, often with many vegan options too. It’s just a matter of preference :-).
I hope that I’ve given your more inspiration on places to visit in London. It’s not a question IF you should visit London, but more a question of WHEN you’ll visit this amazing city. If my advice has helped you, please let me know in the comments or send @earthfriendlygiftbox a message on Instagram. But for now, have fun & enjoy!