Last spring, I popped into London for just 36 hours before taking the train to Paris for my food + photography retreat. It rained like mad the whole time, I forgot my camera in my hotel room on the one full day I set out to explore (all photos here are regrettably from my phone), and I was horribly jetlagged. But, nevertheless! I dashed all over the city to see as much as I could. A whirlwind, for sure.
Despite the brief sojourn and its flurry of soggy shoes and inside-out umbrellas, I became pretty smitten with London from the get-go. I've put together a list of the places I stopped at in case you're planning a visit too, or, if you just enjoy living vicariously through these sorts of things. I'm completely obsessed with travel myself and always taking a look to see where others are going and making lists and dreaming big.
Also, note my wish list for next time at the bottom. My original list of places to visit was a little absurd for just 36 hours in a giant city. I tend to get a little hasty. I mean, can you really visit 23 restaurants and coffee shops on foot in that amount of time? Try as I might, slowing myself down and thoroughly taking in each place proved to be more satisfying. But, should you be going to London before I can get there next, consider stopping at those spots as well.
Ace Hotel in Shoreditch / With its hip industrial vibes and retro spirit, apparently this was a happenin' place to be in London's creative district on the East End. Loads of locals piled into the lobby or attached Bulldog Edition coffee shop to pull out their laptops and work during the day. The surrounding area is a hub for galleries, theater, and lots of good restaurants.
Taberna do Mercado / Located in the Old Spitalfields Market, this charming spot puts out the most exquisite Portuguese dishes. I walked here just after checking into my hotel, feeling a bit out of sorts after my long travels. They settled me right in with a cozy spot at the bar and brought me a glass of Quinta do Pinto and some sheep's milk cheese from Serra da Estrela. I ate eagerly (get the cod on toast!) and delighted in the cacophony of British accents around me.
Fernandez & Wells / I'd been eyeing this place ever since an imported copy of their cookbook got sent to the shop where I work in Seattle. It's the perfect place to stop into, whether you're looking for coffee and pastries to start the day, a little lunch at noon, or a glass of wine with a platter of cheese and cured meats in the evening. They have 6 locations throughout the city; I stumbled upon the one on 43 Lexington Street in Soho.
St. John Bread & Wine / I only had a chance to pop in for a treat from the bakery, but would have loved to stay for lunch or come back for breakfast the next day. It's located amidst the lively crowds and noise of the Old Spitalfields Market.
Lyle's / I rapped on their door the morning my train was to depart for Paris. It was early, and I don't know that they were expecting any guests yet. Perhaps I had their hours wrong? The bartender was making espresso for the chefs in the kitchen and kindly took me in, gesturing me toward a stool at the bar. "I'm sure we have something in the kitchen for you to eat," he said in his entirely charming British accent. Before I knew it, a slice of the most delicious breakfast cake I've ever eaten was placed in front of me. It was warm and crisp along the outside, surely fried in some butter a few minutes ago, and topped with a smattering of flaky sea salt. A cappuccino followed. I watched through the windows as people got on and off their buses, admired the stripped down but elegant dining room, and listened to the clanking of pots and pans in the kitchen as the day's work began.
The Clove Club / I was looking for the Tube station to head across town for dinner when I passed the Shoreditch Town Hall, just down the street from my hotel. I remembered seeing something about it in my Cereal guide book - that it was built in 1865 and a restaurant was now tucked inside. After peeking in and being welcomed by the hosts, I changed my plans and decided to stay put for the evening at the bar with a cocktail and a basket of buttermilk fried chicken coated in pine salt.
Workshop Coffee / From the pops of teal amidst the cheery decor to the charming aprons each barista wore, Workshop was just the spot to stop into for a cup of coffee. All 4 locations sounded lovely from what I heard; I visited the one along my path in Fitzrovia on 80 Mortimer Street.
Bulldog Edition / Located inside the Ace Hotel where I stayed, this was an opportune place to pick up a cup of their meticulously sourced Square Mile coffee and try their homemade granola. All of their fresh and cultured dairy products are made using traditional farming practices at Northiam Dairy, located southeast of London in rolling pastures not far from the English Channel.
East London Juice Co. / Oh, this little juice bar. I'll never forget it! Formerly called Lovage when I visited, it's attached to the Ace Hotel from the outside and you walk up to their window to order. I stood in the pouring rain waiting for my drink (umbrella still in my room...) and was drenched before I had hardly set foot in the streets, but it was just what I needed to get going the morning after my travels.
Tate Modern / An inspiring museum housing the works of some of the world's most prolific contemporary artists.
Old Spitalfields Market / A must! This giant covered market is filled with stalls selling all sorts of goods. There are shops and restaurants and loads of things going on too.
Wandering through Marylebone / I loved the cozy village vibes of Marylebone, despite its central London location. Take a walk along High Street and pop into shops as you wish, but be sure to visit Daunt Books - my favorite in the bunch. Meander off the side streets, too, to find a neighborhood full of utterly charming and craveable flats.
Daunt Books / Literature for days! An entirely welcoming bookshop. Edwardian in form, it has long oak galleries and brilliant skylights expanding across the ceiling. I climbed the stairwell to the loft and listened to the rain patter against them. Find it on Marylebone's High Street.
Margaret Howell / A shop filled with beautiful things much too expensive for me to buy, but inspiring all the same.
Aesop / A plant-based collection of skin, hair, and body products that are nothing short of amazing. Here, I had the best handwashing experience of my life - ha!
St. Pancras / An international train station in the heart of London dating back to 1868. Its Victorian design is stunning. And the interiors? Mesmerizing. It was here that I caught my train to Paris.