An Innkeeper’s Guide to London

Travelers from all over the world venture to London, England for its rich mix of history and culture. Wander through the city’s numerous museums and art galleries, see a show in the West End theatre district, or walk in the paths of literary masters such as Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Dickens. Sports enthusiasts can watch a football (soccer, to Americans) or a rugby match, either in person or elbow-to-elbow with other fans over a pint down at the pub. No matter where you choose to go, you’ll be able to get there easily thanks to the highly navigable public transportation system. When you stay at a London bed and breakfast, you get the insider’s guide to the best of the city. These tips from local innkeepers will help you make the most of your stay.

Things to do

Alexandra Park

Although it’s the most populous metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, London balances its urban vibe with plenty of green, open spaces where locals and visitors alike can enjoy a breath of fresh air while surrounded by the beauty of nature. The Rose View Alexandra Palace Hotel suggests heading to Alexandra Park in north London. These 196 acres of parkland host a boating lake, ice rink, skate park, and pitch and putt course. Be sure to also explore Alexandra Palace, an entertainment venue located in the park that’s used for exhibitions, music concerts, and conferences.

The Cottage in the Woods recommends visiting Golders Hill Park in Golders Green, if not for the peaceful Mediterranean and water gardens, then for the variety of leisure facilities, including tennis courts, a croquet lawn, and the Golders Hill Park Zoo, one of two free zoos in London. It’s the perfect place to bring the family to learn more about the habitats and wildlife of nearby Hampstead Heath.

For even more fun in the park, the innkeepers at the St. Aldwyn say to visit Wimbledon Common for its stellar wildlife-viewing opportunities and the Wimbledon Windmill, home to the appropriately named Windmill Museum. While you’re in the area, be sure to visit Cannizaro Park, located on 35 acres of open land on the southern edge of Wimbledon Common. Cannizaro Park is a joy to visit throughout the entire year, but it is especially lovely during the spring, with the blooming of rhododendrons and azaleas, and during the fall, when the leaves of the birch, maple, and horse chestnut trees begin to turn.

Other unique outdoor activities, as suggested by the Barry House Hotel, include taking horseback riding lessons at Hyde Park Stables and joining Jason’s Trip (named after the authentic 107-year-old canal boat) for a tour of Regent’s Canal between Little Venice and Camden.

Hampton Court Palace Since England has a great architectural history, you should plan to spend some time admiring some of the palaces that have been restored and opened to the public. The White House Bed and Breakfast suggests touring Fulham Palace, the former main residence of the Bishop of London, for its combined use of medieval design and Tudor style, while Telegraph Hill Bed and Breakfast recommends visiting Eltham Palace, an exemplary example of 1930s Art Deco decadence. Although relatively newer in architectural style than Fulham Palace, Eltham Palace was built next to and named after the remains of the childhood home of Henry VIII. The St. Aldwyn says to visit Hampton Court Palace located in the borough of Richmond upon Thames in Greater London. The palace is known as a royal palace but has not been inhabited by members of the British Royal Family since the 18th century. Points of interest on the grounds include the celebrated maze, the historic tennis court, and the huge grape vine, often touted as the largest in the world.

Looking for more history and architecture? Telegraph Hill Bed and Breakfast says to take a guided tour of Nunhead Cemetery, one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries established in the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds. While Nunhead Cemetery is considered to be the least celebrated of the bunch, many of its features have been restored to their former glory and are worth a closer look.

If walking around an old cemetery isn’t your cup of tea and you’re looking for something lighter of heart, the proprietors of the Astors Hotel suggest taking advantage London’s global reputation as a major fashion capital by doing some shopping at Elizabeth Street or Sloane Street. Or The White House Bed and Breakfast recommends tapping into your creative side at the Pottery Café where you can paint your own pottery keepsake to take home at the end of your trip.

Where to eat

One of the best ways to get to know a city is through its restaurant scene, and London is home to plenty of places to taste the national foods of Britain, including fish and chips, chicken tikka masala, and sticky toffee pudding.
Chicken Tikka Masala

  • If you’re not exactly sure what type of food you’d like to eat but you’re sure you want ethnic food, then head to the artsy Camberwell district in south London and wander along Camberwell Church Street until you find something that sounds appealing.

    Notable restaurants include Angels & Gypsies (Spanish tapas), Silk Road (Chinese), FM Mangal (Turkish), Caravaggio (Italian), and Safa Indian (Indian). Or make a beeline for Chinatown for your pick of a wide range of authentic Asian cuisines. You can sip on bubble tea, slurp down noodles, or stuff yourself full of dim sum.

-Recommended by Sousa Guest House


  • Dalchini: This Chinese restaurant specializes in Hakka cuisine, also known as Indian Chinese cuisine because of its incorporation into the Indian culinary scene, and is known for its heat. Favorite dishes include the Hakka Chilli Chicken, the Manchurian Chicken, and the fiery hot Paneer Szechuan.

-Recommended by St. Aldwyn


  • Ganapati: Inspired by the home-style cooking and street food of south India, they offer a relatively small menu, but some of the starters and main courses are rotated out on a monthly basis in order to introduce variety to the folks who’ve made a point of becoming regulars.
  • The Telegraph at The Earl of Derby: You’ll find fine ales and fresh, locally-sourced food at this warm and inviting neighborhood pub in Brockley. With weekly trivia nights, poker nights, and open-mic nights, there will always be some entertainment to go along with your meal.

-Recommended by Telegraph Hill Bed and Breakfast


Sticky Toffee Pudding
  • The Victoria: Built around the same time as nearby Paddington Station and decorated in an ornate style, The Victoria is a popular Fuller’s pub that pours affordable drinks and serves traditional bar food. Order a plate of fish and chips and finish off the evening with a bowl of the sticky toffee pudding.

-Recommended by Barry House Hotel


  • Izgara: Head to this local favorite if you’re in the mood for Turkish food. Although the family-friendly restaurant highlights a good number of meat dishes, those who don’t eat meat can feel at ease thanks to the wide variety of vegetarian options on the menu. Whatever you order, though, be sure you leave room for dessert so you can savor a piece of their baklava.
  • Lavash: This family-friendly restaurant in contemporary in style and décor but completely dedicated to offering diners a taste of Persian cuisine. A popular dish for first-time visitors is the Mixed Grill platter, with its assortment of lamb fillet, chicken fillet, and minced lamb, all delicately marinated and spiced. For a truly authentic meal, order some lavash bread, as well. It’s baked fresh on the premises, so it’ll go straight from the kitchen to your table.

-Recommended by Cottage in the Woods


Fish n' Chips
  • O’Neill’s Pub: This is one of the best known chains of Irish pubs in the United Kingdom, and they’re typically located in unexpected or unconventional locations like as old churches or town halls. Because the pub is a popular spot for local young business professionals, the after-work crowd can get pretty big, so you might want to wait until later in the evening to sit down for dinner.

-Recommended by Rose View Alexandra Palace Hotel


  • Peggy Porschen Cakes: Looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth? Head to this boutique bakery in London’s Belgravia for cupcakes in varieties such as Strawberry & Champagne, Sticky Toffee, and Lemon Raspberry. Or, if you need a dessert that will feed more people, then select one of the layer cakes from the bakery.
  • The Thomas Cubitt: Another famous institution in Belgravia, this celebrated gastropub honors London’s legendary master building, Thomas Cubitt. For a more relaxed dining experience, sit in the bar area and dine on traditional pub food that has been elevated to the next level. For a more formal occasion, sit in the dining room and order from the distinctly British menu featuring dishes like Smoked Devon Lamb Neck and 28-Day Dry-Aged Castle of Mey Beef Fillet.

-Recommended by Astors Hotel


  • The Côte Brasserie:With a commitment to high-quality and seasonal ingredients, The Côte Brasserie offers a contemporary interpretation on the traditional French bistro. Enjoy classic favorites such as steak frites, moules marinières, and tuna Niçoise, as well as rotating specials based on the freshest ingredients available at the local markets. Be sure to end with one of the much-loved house specialties for dessert – the crème caramel or the crème brûlee.
  • The White Horse Pub: This pub stands as one of London’s iconic institutions as much for its stunning décor of Victorian grandeur as for its food. The menu features traditional British pub food with an elegant and modern spin, as well as dishes that have been influenced by regional European cuisine.

-Recommended by 41 Rosaline Road


Where to shop

While developing your strategy for exploring what London has to offer, don’t forget to add some of the local shops and markets to your list.
Shopping

  • Avenue Mews: This side street in the heart of Muswell Hills in north London hosts a creative community of vintage shops and art galleries. Stop by stores like Can’t Buy Me Love and Cha-Cha-Cha to see what treasures you’ll find in the clothing and housewares departments, and then visit theLOCALgallery to be inspired by the work of owner/photographer Matt Humphrey and of select local artists and photographers.

-Recommended by Rose View Alexandra Palace Hotel


  • Bayley & Sage: This gourmet market is the perfect place to stop for those who appreciate high-quality food. They stock over 3,000 lines of food, including more than 130 cheeses from the United Kingdom and Europe, fresh seasonal produce sourced from local suppliers, artisan breads and organic meat. They also have a prepared foods section where you can find sandwiches and salads prepared each morning in their kitchen.
  • Cath Kidston: Named after shop owner and designer Catherine Kidston, this store sells home furnishings and décor, with most of the products being made from her signature floral prints that are classified as “modern vintage” and invoke a feeling of nostalgia.

-Recommended by 41 Rosaline Road


  • Brent Cross Shopping Centre: This shopping center in north London opened in 1976 as the first stand-alone shopping mall in the United Kingdom. Renovated and expanded nearly 20 years later, the complex is now home to 30 restaurants and more than 120 stores, offering patrons access to clothing, shoes and accessories, books, DVDs, electronics, health and beauty products, housewares, and sporting equipment.
  • Temple Fortune: Temple Fortune is the name of the shopping district in the borough of Barnet in the area to the north of Golders Green. Designed with the locals in mind, this collection of shops might be the perfect stop if you’re looking to completely immerse yourself in your surroundings.

-Recommended by Cottage in the Woods


Farmer's Market
  • Peckham Farmers’ Market: If you’re looking for something low-key to do while in London over weekend, then consider strolling through the local farmers’ market. Chat with the vendors as you wander around the market examining the items for sale, including fresh produce, meat, shellfish, freshly pressed apple juice, jams and chutneys, and artisan breads.

-Recommended by Sousa Guest House


  • Connaught Village: Only a short walk away from Hyde Park and the famed shopping along Oxford Street, this charming village offers a pleasant mix of general and specialist retail. Choose from fashionable boutiques, fine art galleries, and eateries serving a wide range of cuisines from all over the world.
  • Marylebone High Street: A shopping street in north London, this area has been described by locals as “the hidden wonder of the West End” because of its relatively secluded location. This stretch of shops include a mix of boutiques and small retailers, all of which sell items of the highest quality that attract the likes of celebrities such as Madonna, Kate Winslet, and Cate Blanchett.

-Recommended by Barry House Hotel


  • London Food Co-op for a selection of organic, natural, and sustainably produced products or to Sainsbury’s for a wider variety of general food items and toiletries.

-Recommended by St. Aldwyn


Cashmere
  • Hawick Cashmere of Scotland: As one of the original manufacturers from the early days of the Industrial Revolution, this specialty shop sells cashmere sweaters and knitted accessories for women, men, and children from one of the leading European cashmere brands in the world.
  • Verónica Moncho Lobo: This boutique on Elizabeth Street in London’s Belgravia sells women’s clothing and accessories created by renowned designer Verónica Moncho Lobo. Her collections focus on “only dresses” in both classic and asymmetric cuts in combinations of luxurious fabrics such as chiffon, duchess satin, and organza.

-Recommended by Astors Hotel


  • The Allotment: This Leeds-based independent menswear boutique sells clothing, shoes, and accessories for the fashion-forward male.
  • The Hill Station: While known more for being a friendly and comfortable neighborhood café, The Hill Station is also home to The Hill Trader, a small pop-up shop that sells crafts, cards, clothing, and art produced by local artists.

-Recommended by Telegraph Hill Bed and Breakfast


Where to go for nightlife

To fully understand the intricacies of any city, you need to balance your daytime activities with some nightlife. Our innkeepers have come up with a list of must-hit spots to visit once the sun has set for the evening.

The following have been suggested by multiple innkeepers:

Picadilly Circus
  • Piccadilly Circus: Located at the junction of five main thoroughfares, this famous London landmark is the perfect place to gather and watch the world go by in one of the city’s busiest squares. The Circus is close to the major shopping and entertainment districts, including the Theatre District in the West End. It’s particularly known for its neon sign and video displays, much like Times Square in New York City, making the Circus a must-see spot at night.


Other venue suggestions:

  • Brixton Academy: Known officially as O2 Academy, Brixton, this is one of London’s leading music venues and has earned a spot on the must-play list for many musical artists. The building’s Art Deco interior makes it an architectural marvel, while the stage, framed by an elaborate proscenium arch based on the design of the Rialto Bridge, is the largest fixed stage in all of Europe.

-Recommended by Sousa Guest House


  • Socialite Bar: This trendy venue in the Muswell Hill area of north London transforms from a comfortable bar and lounge during the week to a popular nightclub on the weekend. Order from the comprehensive cocktail list and take advantage of the drinks specials on Thursday and Friday. Those looking to dance will want to pop by on DJ nights from Thursday through Saturday.

-Recommended by Rose View Alexandra Palace Hotel


  • Embargo 59: Those looking to dance the night away should head to this stylish nightclub in Chelsea with an obvious Cuban influence boasts décor featuring chandeliers, exposed brickwork, and a retro illuminated dance floor with mirrored ceiling. Take a breather from dancing and go upstairs to the rooftop terrace and relax in its laidback atmosphere with a heady cocktail and a cigar from one of the finest collections outside of Havana.

-Recommended by 41 Rosaline Road


Cinema
  • Greenwich Picture House: This cinema house is a favorite among locals for its plush red seats and the on-site bar that sells drinks you can bring directly into the theatre to sip on during the movie. The theatre screens a wide selection of movies, including independent art films and classic films. On certain days, they offer discounted tickets, so be sure to check the schedule ahead of time.
  • The Albany World Music Theatre: Nestled in the heart of Deptford, this performing arts center hosts a mix of theatre, music, dance, comedy, and spoken word acts in its four performance spaces, including its unique central performance space with a capacity of 300 seated and 500 for standing events.

-Recommended by Telegraph Hill Bed and Breakfast


  • Hampstead Theatre: This theatre, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, specializes in commissioning and producing new writing, supporting and developing the work of new playwrights. As part of this commitment, the theatre hosts regular Start Nights, where portions of new plays are performed in front of an audience whose members give instant and constructive feedback about what they just saw. Definitely buy tickets to a performance here if you’re looking to see performances by writers before they hit it big.
  • The Phoenix Cinema: This independent movie theatre in East Finchley is the second-oldest continuously-running single-screen theatre in the United Kingdom. The theatre and building are memorable for their vaulted ceiling and a large neon sign, but what makes the theatre truly special, however, is the fact that its run entirely by charitable trust, reinvesting its profits in educational work and maintaining the upkeep of the historical building.

-Recommended by Cottage in the Woods


  • Pasha Nightclub: This is the nightclub for those who want to see and be seen. Newly refurbished with a third room and a repositioned DJ booth, the club plays some of the best house, trance, and techno sounds out there.
  • Apollo Victoria Theatre: Opened in 1930 as a film theatre and hall for variety shows, this theatre has since become a venue for musical theatre beginning with The Sound of Music in 1981. The theatre’s design is heavily influenced by the Art Deco style, which translates to a nautical-themed interior with its decorative scalloped seashells and columns that burst into sculptured fountains at the ceiling.

-Recommended by Astors Hotel


  • New Wimbledon Theatre: With approximately 1,670 seats, this theatre situated on The Broadway in Wimbledon is the eighth largest theatre in London. The stunning Edwardian auditorium is decorated in both Gregorian and Italian Renaissance styles across all three levels of seating. The theatre was the chosen venue for the much-anticipated London revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats and currently plays host to numerous touring productions of musicals, ballets, operas, and plays.

-Recommended by St. Aldwyn


Events

While planning your trip to London, check the dates on the following popular events so you don’t miss them while you’re in town.

Flower Show

  • RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Britain’s most prestigious flower show, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The show runs for five days each May and sees 157,000 visitors yearly. Highlights of the show include the displays of avant-garde show gardens and smaller artisan and urban gardens. If you are able to attend on the opening day, then be on the lookout for the royal family, who make a point of attending each year.

-Recommended by 41 Rosaline Road

  • Notting Hill Carnival: Held each August Bank Day, this carnival holds the title as Europe’s largest street festival. At the roots of the festival are the Caribbean carnivals of the early 19th century celebrating the abolition of slavery and the slave trade. Join in the celebration and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of London’s Afro-Caribbean communities.

-Recommended by Cottage in the Woods

  • Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely considered the most prestigious. Held at the All England Club, the tournament takes place over the course of two weeks in late June and early July culminating with the playing of the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles Finals. Traditions include a strict dress code for competitors (typically all white), the eating of strawberries and cream by spectators, and the patronage of the Royal Family.

-Recommended by St. Aldwyn


Where to go for day trips

These day trips come highly recommended by multiple innkeepers:

Royal Crescent
  • Bath: Located less than 100 miles outside of London, Bath draws more than 1 million overnight visitors and more than 3 million day visitors each year. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the city offers some of the finest architectural sites in all of Europe, like the Royal Crescent and the Pulteney Bridge, as well as a diverse collection of museums and cultural attractions, such as the Roman Baths and the Jane Austen Centre.


  • Brighton: This quintessential British seaside town is an hour out of London on the southern coast of Great Britain. The town emerged as a popular getaway location for day-trippers coming out of the city in the 18th century. Today the tradition lives on with must-see attractions including the Brighton Pier, the Brighton Wheel, and the pubs hidden in the labyrinth of alleys known as the Lanes District.

Stonehenge
  • Stonehenge: Named one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe, the Stonehenge site hosts a visitor center with permanent and temporary exhibits that bring the story of the ancient ring of standing stones to life. You can also find a gift shop and spacious café.






Windsor Castle
  • Windsor Castle: The oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, Windsor Castle has been the home of British kings and queens for nearly 1,000 years and is currently the preferred weekend home of Her Majesty The Queen, Queen Elizabeth II. As a working palace, the castle is used regularly for ceremonial occasions and official state affairs. Daily tours of the castle are available except for when the Queen is in residence or when it’s being used on an official capacity. If you’re planning to visit the castle, then it’s a good rule of thumb to check for closures before making the trip.

More day trip suggestions:


Canterbury Cathedral
  • Canterbury: This historic cathedral city in the district of Kent in southeast England lies on the banks of the River Stour. Even though it was heavily bombed during World War II, many of Canterbury’s buildings remain intact and modern building is strictly regulated to preserve the historic ambience. Parts of the city have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey, St. Martin’s Church, and Canterbury Castle, a Norman castle built in the 11th century.
  • Oxford: This city in central southern England is known worldwide as a university town as it’s the home of the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the country and in the English-speaking world.

-Recommended by St. Aldwyn

  • The Cotswolds: This range of hills in southwestern and west-central England was designed an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966 and are scattered with picturesque towns and villages famous for their honey-colored limestone buildings. Of course, this means there is no shortage of things to do in the area, from touring the magnificent castles and ancient churches to admiring the historic homes and walking through the verdant gardens to exploring the art galleries and antique galleries.

-Recommended by Cottage in the Woods






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