Insider London – what to see and do, where to eat and shop

Bright lights, big city – London will switch on your senses. Your tastebuds will sing. You’ll shop like a celeb. Your chin will be stroked at the finest art. London will leave you breathless, tired. Your feet may ache but you’ll feel alive.  

Its world-beating shopping, museums, galleries and grub are more than pukka – whether you’re a hipster or history buff, foodie or arty type, have 2.4 children or are flying solo.

London is a riddle, said writer GK Chesterton – jump right in with our guide to the best attractions, shops and restaurants

Need inspiration? What to see

Trailblazing, visionary, controversial, genius. The late Alexander McQueen is a bona fide fashion icon. And a V&A show dedicated to his work is the hottest ticket in town. 

The son of an East End cabbie, McQueen once said London is ‘where I get my inspiration’.

See some of his finest work at Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.

Spent too much time on the Tube? Suffering busy-street fatigue? Watch summer burst into life in one the world’s most jaw-dropping gardens – smack bang in the middle of London, who’d have thought it?

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is stuffed with plants so beautiful you can forgive them their tricky-to-say names.

Mummies from the tombs of ancient Egypt. Buff statues from the Parthenon in Athens. The British Museum is history – fascinating, gruesome, mind-blowing. The glass roof is really something, too.

Must-sees at the British Museum:

  • Lindow Man: Prehistoric man preserved in a peat bog sheds light on the way we once lived.   
  • Sutton Hoo Ship Burial: See helmets, weapons and jewels recovered from an Anglo-Saxon burial site.

Retail therapy – where to shop

London is serious about shopping. From designer labels to vintage boutiques. And the department stores are totally huge – no, really...


High street heaven 
One-and-a-half miles of super shopping
. Oxford Street boasts Zara, Uniqlo, H&M, River Island, M&S and the vast flagship store. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about the crowds, though. 2 stores to check out:

  • Topshop: Designer collaborations, an abundance of denim, and boutique ranges. Packed on Saturdays.     
  • John Lewis: 5 floors of furniture, fabric, fashion and tech. Say no more.

Vintage shops, one-off boutiques and homewares

Hipsters, creative-types and those looking for something a bit different can find a smorgasbord of sublime shops in the smoke. From east London warehouses bursting with vintage Levi’s and tattooed, bearded men to shops selling trendy homewares. 2 stores to check out. 

  • Blitz: One of the best vintage shops in London.Find scarves to match every outfit, vintage Swatch watches and battered Levi’s jackets.
  • Heal’s: From Scandinavian-style furniture to cookware and kitchen gadgets. A London homewares institution.

Market life. London has more amazing markets than you can shake a pair of vintage Levi’s at. They’re amazing for food, vintage clothing, books and antiques and quirky one-off stores. Our guide to London’s best markets – from food to fashion. 

Label lovers - designer shopping

Fashionistas can send themselves dizzy with designer gear – don’t forget the price tag though. 3 places for label lovers to check out:

Regent Street: Head Up West to splurge on – or merely gaze at - threads from Burberry, Lacoste, Hobbs, Calvin Klein and more.  

Liberty London: Totally unique and totally posh. This Mock Tudor department store looks like a stately home. It’s stuffed to the rafters with luxury goods. From the iconic Liberty print bags, fabrics and cushions, to Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood fashion.

Selfridges: A place to lose yourself for a few hours. From its rooftop golf course to the world’s largest shoe department. You’ll find every label worth its salt on the shelves too.  

 

Feeling hungry? Where to eat

London is big on food. From Michelin-starred restaurants to cafes serving an amazing full English. If you’re hungry, it’s a good place to be.  

An intimate dinner. Win some serious kudos from your date at The Ledbury. The décor is elegant, the service ‘just so’ and the food, well… it’s good. Think flame-grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, or Hardwick lamb with salt-baked turnips. 

A light lunch. Cool and unbelievably quirky – The Attendant was transformed from a Victorian public toilet into an awesome eatery. But don’t worry, the only smells you’ll find these days are those of totally yummy, locally sourced food.

Try a roast veg and goats’ cheese sandwich stuffed with ingredients from New Covent Garden Market.

International. Get your mates round the table and fight over little plates of heaven at Lebanese restaurant, Yalla Yalla. Think deep fried lamb and cracked wheat parcels. Totally scrumptious.

Street food. Super tasty, super cheap and super mobile. London’s streets, markets and squares throng with stalls and vans serving grub from the four corners of the globe. What’s not to like? Here is 1 of our favourites: 

  • La tua Pasta (Borough Market)
    Fresh handmade Italian pasta. Try ravioli or tortellini stuffed with seasonal ingredients or Italian sausage.

Pride in London

Be part of something special. 750,000 people from across the globe will be descending on the capital for the biggest 1-day event on the annual calendar - London Pride. 27 June is the date for your diary if you want to join the 3,000+ people marching through central London. This year’s theme is Pride Heroes, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself standing next to Freddie Mercury, Harvey Milk or Stephen Fry lookalikes.

The parade is just part of London Pride. Between 21 and 28 June the Pride Arts Festival will be taking over some of the city’s top venues, showcasing the best of the LGBT cultural scene, while live entertainment, sporting events and yummy food stalls are the order of the day at Pride in the Park on 28 June. 

Hidden London

St Dunstan in the East: This bombed-out church has grown into an enchanting public garden. Trees yawn through window frames and plants grow within its empty shell. Both serene and spooky.

Carpenter’s Arms: A proper old-fashioned East End boozer. The bar is made of reassuringly heavy dark wood, the lighting is low and the cask ale includes award-winning Suffolk brewer Adnams. 

Enjoy your trip to London.