Everybody that has lived abroad for a while probably recognizes this scenario: Friends, family and other interested parties want to visit you, great! (you will probably also quickly realize that some cities and places have much greater attraction than others when it comes to visitors). While being abroad it is always nice to have people over course. For your guests a visit to you is seen as a nice city trip and most people want to go explore the city (obviously!). However a city only offers a limited number of attractions that all tourists want to see, so eventually you end up with something that I dubbed as my visitors routine: a more or less set program which you can always do as soon as you have people over in your city.
When I lived in London I realized I lived in a popular destination for my friends, resulting in many visits, yeey! All friends seemed to come with a guidebook or list with items they wanted to check off in London. The most common items on the list were:
Big Ben, parliament etc.
- Tower of London
- experiencing a pub
- and the infamous I want to explore the city as a local….
So I would like to share with you my visitors routine which I developed over the course of my visitors. A note beforehand, many of my friends did not come to party, so unfortunately I have extremely limited insight into the party scene in London…
Depending on the arrival time of the person Friday night would usually be pub night. In London you have many so called gastro-pubs; hip bars that serve really good food. In West Hampstead, the area that I lived, I can recommended the Black Lion, a pub with a great atmosphere and fresh and local food for good prices. Additionally they have an amazing winelist to choose from as well. The Alice House is part of a chain of smart looking bars and serves amazing burgers with massive homemade fries. A really good restaurant is the Wet Fish cafe, I have never been here myself, but the place looks always busy and comes with good recommendations. If you just want to go for a quick bite the Banana Tree restaurant is a good option with good authentic Asian dishes that can be shared.
One of my favorite things to do in London is the Borough Market around London bridge. This market is the biggest in the weekend and is filled with a combination of locals and tourists and sells the most amazing food, and especially lunch options. Usually I would leave the house between 10 and 11 and a good please to start is then the Tower of London (metro stop with the same name). The tower of London is a massive tourist attraction but non the less interesting to see. From the tower of London you can cross the tower bridge towards the other side. It is a nice walk past the waterfront and cute shops towards the Borough Market for a good lunch break. I especially love the outdoor restaurant if you descend the stairs from London Bridge tube station on your left side (the one with the massive queue) and the chorizo sandwiches on the outskirts of the market. But if you look around there are many more places selling interesting sandwiches, fish, meet and other food.
Most people want to go to a musical, and the best way to get tickets is to go to the discount boots on Leicester Square. There are heaps around and all usually have slightly different prices so its worth to shop around slightly. In the area around Leicester Square and Covent garden there are many quite boutiques and heaps of shoe stores, and makes definitely a good area to shop. Once you are done shopping and want some pre-dinner drinks there is Be at One cocktail bar, where there are 2 cocktails for the price of one before 7 o’clock on Saturday.
There are many nice and affordable restaurants in the Covent Garden area which are conveniently located in the neighborhood of the theaters. Two of my favorite musicals are We Will Rock You and the Lion King with amazing music and decor, and I can highly recommend them both. After the musical there are plenty of bars to have a drink.
For me (and many other locals and tourists) Covent garden is the ideal brunch place on a Sunday morning. Around the market halls there are many cute cafes (le pain quotidien is one of my favorite). But the thing that sets Covent Garden apart is the number of street artists in the area: musicians, magicians and everything else you can think off. This creates an amazing atmosphere in the area. From Covent Garden you can walk easily to Tottenham Court Road tube station, which is at the end of Oxford Road. The best Primark store of London is also here, and makes for a very good shopping session! Once done in Primark you can easily stroll along Oxford Street.
For dinner I can recommend Byron Hamburgers, a chain of restaurants all around London. Each restaurant has a different interior and feeling, but they have in common that they all serve great burgers. Finally I would usually finish a weekend in an old fashioned London pub for a finishing ale as a perfect ending to a full and fun weekend with friends in London!