London is a pretty polarizing city. When I've had conversations with friends about my recent trip there, they either remark on their new, impending plans to try to move across the pond or their overwhelming disappointment.
Once a member of the latter group, I've become a total London convert. I visited my sister while she was studying abroad there a few years ago, and after that my perspective completely shifted. It happened to coincide with a drastic improvement to the food scene and my conversion to a full-blown city gal, but I also think I gained an appreciation for its clean streets, great theater, and walkability.
After a recent vacation to London for a friend's wedding, I decided to put together a list of my favorite spots, from the best spot to grab classic afternoon tea to the worthwhile attractions. I'm not a big drinker, so unfortunately I won't be of much help when it comes to bars (though there are pubs on nearly every corner!). But what I lack in beer recommendations I make up for in caffeine suggestions! Here are my can't-miss, tried-and-true favorite spots in London:
Dishoom: Without a doubt the best Indian food in London—and anyone giving you food recommendations for this city will tell you so. The line can get long for dinner, so I'd advise going for breakfast (order the bacon naan and bun maska which are only available in the morning, they're truly heaven) or lunch to avoid crowds. I always order the house black daal and a chai.
Borough Market: A permanent food market worth crossing the river for. My go-to eats are the infamous Kappacasein grilled cheese and Bread Ahead doughnuts. It's closed on Sundays, so be sure to swing by any other day of the week (preferably Wednesday through Saturday when all the vendors are there).
Honey & Co.: I texted my sister for some recommendations ahead of this trip, and her one can't-miss was Honey & Co., so we immediately headed there after our flight landed. It was at a funky time (4 p.m., and we were starving but didn't want to spoil our 8:30 p.m. dinner) and this meal really came through. We ordered the sharing menu which came with falafel, bean hummus, labneh, and other various Mediterranean dishes that hit the spot without totally filling us. Credit to my sister for introducing me to one of the best meals in the city.
ROVI: This past trip, I had a free lunch and opted to take myself on a solo date to ROVI, Ottolenghi's latest venture. I asked my server for his top three recommendations from the small plates, and each one was better than the next. I had the burrata with raw courgette (a.k.a., zucchini), the tempura stems and herbs (unique and surprisingly delicious), and the asparagus (which was everywhere in London, but this one was particularly delightful).
NOPI: Part of the Ottolenghi empire, NOPI’s menu is colorful and vibrant, full of vegetables and seasonal produce. There's a table full of dishes when you enter the restaurant that will leave you salivating while you wait to be seated. They're open for every meal; I made a reservation for breakfast and loved the baked goods, shakshuka, and French toast.
Chiltern Firehouse: If you're traveling with your parents, this is an excellent dinner option (they have unique and memorable cocktails in a posh ambiance), but everyone raves about the brunch. The menu changes seasonally and the setting is stunning.
BAO Soho: A teeny, tiny restaurant that serves fresh, steamed buns. Swing by early to put your name down, or if you're more of a reservation person, you can make one at some of their other locations. It’s cozy and the perfect place to stop in if you're there in the winter.
Berner's Tavern: Berner's Tavern is the type of place you want to eat at if you're craving an upscale, ritzy brunch. You can't go wrong with the mushroom toast, roasted sweet potato toast, oat and chia pot, and waffles. And if you're there for dinner? The mac and cheese is a nonnegotiable.
Granger & Co.: I take pancakes very seriously, and when I find one that's memorable, I always try to return. The ricotta hotcakes are some of the best I've ever had, and they're served with a honeycomb butter that will blow you away. There are a few of them in the city, but I tend to gravitate towards the Notting Hill (for the walk through the neighborhood) and King's Cross (for the lack of crowds) locations.
The Palomar: A hip, modern Israeli restaurant where you can sit at the bar and order some share-plates. A great location to grab dinner with a friend as nothing on the menu disappoints.
Caravan: Thankfully, there are multiple Caravan locations because after your first visit you're going to want to go back. And luckily, the menu is so varied you'll be able to try something completely different from your previous meal.
Quality Wines: If you're looking for a lighter dinner of shared plates and some glasses of delicious wine, I found your spot. It's cozy and feels like a local restaurant you'd visit weekly if you lived in London.
BRAT wood grill & wine bar: I received multiple recommendations for BRAT, so while I haven't eaten there yet, I added it to the list because it's so well-reviewed. Semi-communal tables, a distinctly cool vibe, and delicious food? It's clearly the first place I'm stopping on my next trip.
Violet: This bakery gained notoriety when they made Harry and Meghan's wedding cake, but everything they make is noteworthy. It defines British charm, and they also serve lunch if you feel like making an afternoon out of your trip (it's a bit outside the city center). Pro tip: Grab some pastries for your flight home.
Fabrique Bakery: You'd think you were in Stockholm when you take a bite of the famous Swedish cinnamon-cardamom buns. If you're not a sweets person, grab a load of sourdough bread.
Said Dal 1923: A cozy chocolate shop with some of my favorite desserts in the city. The flourless chocolate cake and the caramel chocolate tart will leave you speechless, and an order of hot chocolate can be made of the white, milk, or dark variety. As a person who values sweets, this place is heaven.
Dark Sugars: A quaint chocolate shop in Shoreditch that makes some of the most delicious truffles I've ever tasted. I loaded up on gifts for family and friends (plus some chocolates for my flight home to make leaving a bit easier!).
Attendant Fitzrovia: An unusual café that was created in a disused Victorian public toilet and happens to serve some delicious coffee.
Kaffeine: I swung by Kaffeine twice for an oat milk flat white and loved it.
Ozone Coffee Roasters: I visited Ozone on a snowy morning and found it to be one of the most charming cafés I'd ever been to. The tables were crowded with people chatting or reading, and the cappuccino hit the spot.
Workshop Coffee: This was my sister's go-to café while she was abroad, and they serve strong coffee in an adorable, photo-ready shop.
TAP Coffee: Great coffee and a cozy atmosphere.
Origin Coffee Roasters: Loved my coffee so much, I bought a bag of beans to bring home.
Sketch London: That pink room you've seen all over Instagram. I haven't had the chance to visit, but friends of mine have relayed that it's worth it for the photos and the high tea experience, even if it's pretty expensive.
Claridge's Afternoon Tea: I'll start by saying I know this is also an overpriced experience—at $83, you'd think you'd be drinking liquid gold. But I've tried a few classic afternoon teas, and this was by far (food-wise) my favorite. The scones melt in your mouth and are switched out every 5 or so minutes so you can have them straight out of the oven, and the clotted cream with jam is still something I often think about. Grab a reservation as early as possible.
Bike around Hyde Park: I spent a fall afternoon on a public bike with my sister and rode around Regent's Park and through certain portions of Hyde Park. I can't recommend it enough.
Browse through Daunt Books: Near Marylebone? Pop unto Daunt Books to pick up a new read and to get a glimpse of the epic interior at the back of the store.
London Shows and West End Theatre: If you consider yourself a theatre person, it's worthwhile to peep the shows that are running during your trip.
Stroll through Notting Hill: Yes, it's as beautiful and charming as you've imagined.
Churchill War Rooms: You'll obviously see Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, and the London Eye, but I personally think you can't miss the Churchill War Rooms. Winston Churchill essentially won World War II out of this bunker in Westminster (which is untouched), and if you're a history nerd, you'll find it to be one of the more fascinating sites in the city.
Natural History Museum: I'm biased because my favorite museum of all time is the Natural History Museum in New York City, but I happen to think this is one of the more enjoyable cultural experiences in the city. Bonus: It's free!
Columbia Road Flower Market: Obviously one of the more Instagrammable places on my list, and I refuse to remove it because it's truly a delight. Since it's only open on Sundays, it can get extremely crowded, so go early in the morning or later in the day.
Kensington Palace: ...who doesn't want to see where Kate and William live?
Neal's Yard: Tucked away in Covent Garden is a colorful courtyard that houses some adorable shops and restaurants. I love swinging by to grab a bowl of porridge at 26 Grains and eating outside on the terrace.
Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: I honestly believe this is worth the trek, even if you aren't as big of a Harry Potter nerd as me (yes, I have my Hogwarts house in my Instagram bio). Hear me out: The majority of the filming for the movies took place about 45 minutes outside the city, and they converted it into a studio tour for all the fans to enjoy. You can grab a butterbeer, see the original costumes from all the main characters, and wander through the actual Great Hall. I constantly repeat that the day I visited is in my top five favorite days of my life.
Some other notables (that are definitely not under-the-radar): Tower of London, the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, riding the London Eye, the Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, and the Tate Museum.
ARKET: If Uniqlo and MUJI had a lovechild, it would be ARKET. They have a fantastic selection of minimalist clothing for men and women, chic home goods, and gifts to bring home from your trip.
Scribbler: I make a point to stop in Scribbler, a greeting cards shop, for a few reasons: 1.) I have a serious stationery addiction, 2.) They're the easiest and lightest keepsakes to transport home, and 3.) I always end up giggling to myself as I peruse the punny, clever, and sometimes inappropriate card selection.
Conran Shop: Interior design inspiration for every inch of your house.
Liberty London: Liberty is the kind of store that you immediately want to move into. Everything is beautiful, from the architecture of the building itself to the patterns on the fabrics they sell by the meter. It's also a great place to grab a keepsake or a special gift for a loved one back home.
Goodhood: A hip streetwear shop that curates their clothing, shoes, home and lifestyle goods to a tee. I simultaneously wanted to buy everything, but felt I wasn't cool enough to own any of it.
Pam Pam: A women's lifestyle store that specializes in sneakers. I found myself here for a half an hour, trying on nearly every shoe I laid my eyes on.
Dover Street Market: A luxurious department store that's wildly overpriced but very fun to browse through. There are a few in other major cities, but I recommend swinging by this location since it originated in London.
Where are some of your favorite spots in London? Have I convinced you to book a flight? Let me know in the comments below!