Local Expert Recommendations – What to Do in London
Need a little help figuring out what to see and do in London. England’s capital has an enormous range of possible activities, so we understand that you could find yourself a little paralysed by choice!
That’s why we’ve asked Russ Willey from Hidden London if he could give us his expert insights on the some of the more obscure attractions on offer. Read on to learn more about what’s best to eat, see, and do.
Which local snack would you recommend to a friend?
Jellied eels from F. Cooke.
- F. Cooke, 9 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH
Which city sight-seeing tour would you recommend?
I'm not a fan of bus tours unless you're very short on time. Better to investigate some of the many excellent guided walks on offer in London.
Which cafés would you recommend to a friend?
Soho isn't the 'dark heart of the West End' that it once was, but it's still a bastion of individuality and eccentricity. Bateman Street's Milkbar serves great coffee and tasty food, but more importantly the ambience is quintessentially Soho.
In other London coffee shops there's often some businessman doing financial projections on his laptop. But in Milkbar, I once overheard two young women working on a film script that one of them set down on paper, using a portable typewriter that she withdrew from her backpack. You can't get much cooler than that!
Miles away from central London, the Ace Cafe has a unique place in the history of motorbiking and British rock 'n' roll.
- Milkbar, 3 Bateman Street, London W1D 4AG
- Ace Cafe London, Ace Corner, North Circular Road, London NW10 7UD
Which museum would you recommend to visit and why?
In addition to the must-see attractions like the National Gallery and British Museum, London has an unbeatable selection of specialist collections, ranging from the Fan Museum (Greenwich) to the London Motorcycle Museum (Greenford).
Which of them you choose to visit will depend on your personal preferences and perhaps on your budget. But there's one museum, Wellcome Collection, which should interest everyone because its focal theme is "What it means to be human". And admission is free.
- The Wellcome Collection,183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE
Which landmark would you recommend to visit and why?
Alexandra Palace is north London's crowning glory, even if it hasn't fully recovered from its last ruinous fire.
- Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY
Which local pub or bar would you recommend to a friend and why?
I'd suggest one of London's many historic hostelries. At least a dozen different public houses can (or at least do) claim to be the oldest in London, depending on various complicated criteria and on whether you're willing to believe everything you read – which you probably shouldn't! I won't attempt a definitive verdict on which is the most ancient pub of all, but one of the oldest and quaintest is the Seven Stars.
- Seven Stars, 53-54 Carey Street, London WC2A 2JB
What souvenirs would you recommend to buy?
A beautiful reproduction of one of the London Underground's many classic posters – available from the London Transport Museum shop.
- London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB
What local delicacy would you recommend to try?
Although I wouldn't call it a 'delicacy', pie and mash is probably the capital's most definitive dish – especially in the East End and inner south-east London. Some of the few remaining purveyors focus too much on value and not enough on quality, but Goddards gets the balance right.
- Goddards at Greenwich, 22 King William Walk, London SE10 9HU
What is your personal recommendation for a London activity? Something maybe only the locals know?
London is one of the world's greenest cities and there are glorious parks, woodland and gardens in every direction. Everyone knows the central Royal Parks, but these can get crowded in high summer, so it's worth considering a trip to the suburbs to have more space to yourself. Often, there's the opportunity to see a historic house too. My personal favourites include:
- Osterley Park (west)
- Ruislip Common (north-west)
- Kenwood (north)
- Clissold Park (north-east)
- Valentines Park (east)
- Danson Park (south-east)
- Morden Hall Park (south)
- the enormous Richmond Park (south-west)
Do you have any more recommendations? Things only known to locals?
Forming a ring around what is now inner London, the so-called Magnificent Seven cemeteries are:
- Kensal Green
- Abney Park
- Tower Hamlets
- West Norwood
Read more expert recommendations from our London-based travel blogger, Flora Banks.