Three years ago, London had caught me completely off guard: I had come to see the places that I had been familiarized with through all those countless English textbooks, but hadn’t expected to fall so hard for the artsy hipster London, the pretty stoops, and, oh — the coffee.
Back then, I kept thinking that Steffen (aka the boyfriend) would love London as well, so I had been plotting to return with him ever since.
Last winter, I finally got him the flight tickets for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to hear what he thought of London. And of course, I wanted to come back to drink as many coffees as possible and to hunt down all the street art.
As we only had less than three days in the city over a holiday weekend, we didn’t get to do everything I had hoped for, but it was definitely enough time to convince Steffen that London is pretty awesome and to reaffirm my love for it.
But revisiting cities is always a little tricky when it comes to blogging: I have already written about my (rather cliché touristy) time in London quite a bit and I don’t like repeating blog posts about sightseeing, even though my travel style (and my photography equipment!) changed since 2012.
Besides the touristy things Steffen and I obviously had to do though, I also discovered a few new (and a few “old”) features to love about London that I wanted to write about anyways. Interestingly enough, most of my London weekend highlights this time around centered on food and beverages — I seriously have no idea how this happened, but I hope you don’t mind:
This food market dating back to the Middle Ages was ranking very high on my Don’t-Miss-In-London-This-Time-List, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed: Too many delicious food options to count, and the prettiest (Instagram-ready) arrangements of fresh fruit, veggies, and juices I have ever seen.
Naturally, Steffen and I had a little drama over what foods to try (this happens to other couples too right?), but there was just too much delicious looking food to choose from. We opted for fresh-made, crab-filled pasta in the end and were sad that we were too stuffed to try anything else after. (Lesson learned: If you want to try as much as possible, go easy on the carbs.)
The Natural History Museum
I had never seen real dinosaurs skeletons before and I was SO excited to finally see some in real life. Also, Steffen is not the biggest museum fan, but our conversation regarding the Natural History Museum did go like this: “Do you want to go to the Natural History Museum?” — “Nah, I don’t know. History? Meh.” — “But they have dinosaurs…” — “What!! We’re so going!”.
Take notes: This museum is the perfect museum for anyone and everyone (read: especially guys in their late twenties with the mentality of a five-year-old when it comes to dinosaurs).
The Natural History Museum ended up being the only museum I saw from the inside this time in London, but the giant animated T-Rex alone was worth it. Plus, the museum building looks like Hogwarts and is crazy photogenic! (I swear next time I’ll finally check out all those other great museums!)
Walking Central London
Walking and aimless wandering are my favorite ways to get to know a city, but considering how huge London is and how little time we had, I wasn’t sure if this could work in London as well.
However, on our first day we walked from Tower Hill all the way to Westminster and made detours for any major sight close by. From the Queen’s Walk and crossing both the Millennium and the Tower Bridge, walking past St.Paul’s and the Royal Courts of Justice, feeling the sensory overload that is Piccadilly Circus and feeling royal in front of the Buckingham Palace, to meeting Mr. Big Ben and Lord Nelson, we basically saw every important sight in Central London by foot on our first day.
We walked over 20 kilometers that day (I kid you not!), but it was the perfect way to spend the first day in London — and to work off all the calories were stuffing our faces with.
Realizing how walkable Central London is and how much you can see on the way, was definitely a highlight on this trip, even if I was revisiting the sights I had seen on my last trip. (Honestly though, I don’t think London sights ever get old.)
The (Fried) Comfort Food
I don’t really know why, but British food has a horrible reputation. I’m convinced the food is not as bad as its reputation, but as a no-meat-eater I’m probably the wrong person to ask. Still though, eating in London (even/especially as a pescetarian) is fabulous, because there is no option that doesn’t exist.
Aside from all the international dishes, I (re)discovered my love for English comfort (pub) food: Fried fish in any shape, mushy peas, and French fries. If there’s anything the British are excellent in, it’s apparently frying stuff. (And if you’re a long time reader, you know that fried stuff makes me happier than anything.)
Pubs and Beers and Ales
Actually, I’m not much of a beer person. Or, at least I wasn’t until a few years ago. I would only drink beer when all other drinks were out and I’d usually pour coke or lemonade in it to get rid of that nasty bitterness.
Over the last years though, I learned that there is a beer for literally any taste. Traveling has helped my beer appreciation a lot: I toured a brewery for the first time in Amsterdam, celebrated my birthday in Bruges with mussels and craft beer, and visited my first microbrewery in Madrid.
After Steffen and I had had such a great time just strolling and stopping for beer here and there in Luxembourg City earlier in May, we wanted to stick to our new-found, ahem, travel style in London as well.
As I hadn’t really cared for beer abroad before, I had no idea that English pubs have so many beers on tap and that you can try all of the ales before deciding on one. Granted, I still don’t get why anyone would enjoy a beer that tastes like cilantro, but other than that: Drinking beer in London is super fun! Also, English pubs are the best!
Shoreditch and all the Street Art
I loved the street art in London last time, but I don’t think I really looked out for it and barely took any photos of it. This time however, Steffen and I made an effort to walk through Shoreditch with open eyes to spot Banksy, ROA, Space Invader, and everything else that caught our eye.
I was a little disappointed when the murals I was hoping to see were overpainted, but then again — street art is probably only this fascinating because it could always be gone the next day. Hunting down (unexpected) street art in Shoreditch is definitely something that belongs on a weekend in London itinerary though. And whereas Steffen was not at all impressed with the white-washed fancy facades of Kensington, Shoreditch was the neighborhood that really convinced him to like London.
Brick Lane Market
Brick Lane blew me away last time and the Sunday food market is even better than I remembered. Last time I didn’t even have a clue what foods I was looking at and I just chose to eat the first thing that looked familiar. As I only slowly (but steadily) warm up to international food, this time I could at least tell the difference between a dumpling and kimchi — and was even more impressed with the variety of international foods pleasing every possible dietary restriction at Brick Lane street food market.
I might need another few years (of experience in eating spicy food) until I’ll actually dare to try all that funny looking international food, but I can definitely appreciate the smells, looks, and colors now. And I’m already looking forward to coming back to London and spending another Sunday at Brick Lane market, because were else could you get Cuban stew right next to Slovenian cake?
All the Coffee
No surprise here: I came to London for the coffee, and coffee I drank. I had my favorite flat whites at Nude Espresso (also great for breakfast!) in East London and Leyas in Camden. But obviously, I haven’t tried nearly enough and I’m already writing an imaginary list of must-see-coffee-shops for my next trip to London.
In the end, after less than three days in London, I felt just like I did last time: A weekend in London can never be enough, but I can’t wait to come back soon. There is still so much food to try, so much street art to find, and there are still so many great views to take in that I’m sure it won’t take me long.
What’s your favorite thing to do in London on a weekend?
PS: We kept our Oyster Cards (even though we could have gotten the deposit money back) as a promise that we’d come back to London very soon. Hopefully it won’t take us another three years to make it back there again!