London is my hometown and having travelled the world I can honestly say its one of the best cities I’ve ever immersed myself in. It’s is bursting at the seams with things to do and places to see, but also full of tourist attractions that are heaving with people most of the time. You’ve got to brave the crowds to visit unmissable sights like the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace, but where do you go to get the authentic experience? Where do Londoners go on the weekend to enjoy their city? All my favourite spots are now revealed and they’re perfect for families, couples or backpackers, because the best places are ones that anyone can enjoy.
Holland Park (West London)
Notting Hill and Portobello Road are on most people’s lists to visit in London, we can thank Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts for that. It’s one of my favourite places in London to walk around because the houses are gorgeous, there’s lots of independent cafes and shops to visit and of course the weekend markets are a vibrant as they were 30 years ago. When I’m in this part of town I always make sure to stop off at Holland Park for its stunning roses and manicured gardens. It’s a wonderfully calm spot away from the hectic streets of Notting Hill.
To get here take the central line to Holland Park or walk for about 15 minutes from Notting Hill.
Richmond (South West London)
This is a beautifully green part of the capital with plenty of cute neighbourhoods to explore, my favourite being Richmond. There’s cobbled streets leading to the green packed full of charming shops, a peaceful riverside area to walk along and Richmond Park for ample deer spotting. For great views head up Richmond Hill Road just near the Bridge, and back down through Terrace Gardens. Treat yourself to some excellent fish and chips at Quality Fish Restaurant, it’s the real deal. You’ve also got Kew Gardens and The Wetland Centre nearby if you fancy some more nature based fun.
To get here take the train from London Waterloo to Richmond, or its the last stop on the District Line tube.
Hampton Court Palace (South West London)
Most tourists head for the Tower of London for their history fix and for good reason, it’s awesome, but Hampton Court palace is also rich in history and gives you a chance to get away from the crowds and out into the leafy suburbs. There’s also an impressive maze that I challenge and child or grown-up not to love. If it was good enough for Henry VIII, it’s good enough for me. It’s right by the river Thames where it’s also possible to take boat rides, if you do this Kingston is worth a visit too. Hampton Court has some charming cafes and antique shops to explore for lunch and Bushy Park, another lovely Royal Park if the weather’s good.
To get there take the train from London Waterloo to Hampton Court which takes about 40 minutes.
Greenwich (South East London)
Greenwich is home to an excellent market open 7 days a week, the Royal Observatory where you can visit the meridian line amongst other interesting exhibitions, a wonderful park with views over London, the Maritime Museum and the Impressive Cutty Sark. You can easily spend a whole day exploring this area of London and I highly recommend that you do. It’s a spot popular with tourists, but to beat the crowds I love taking the boat from central London (Westminster or many other spots along the Thames) up to Greenwich. The views are spectacular and the novelty still hasn’t worn off. It’s also great value for money and you can use your Oyster card.
To get here take the DLR to Greenwich or the Cutty Sark.
While your in this part of town, take the Emirates Air Line cable car for more unbeatable views of London and a seriously fun ride for adults and kids alike. You can use your oyster card on this service too and it’s a very cheap way to enjoy London from up high.
To get here walk from Greenwich town centre to the peninsular or take the Jubilee line to North Greenwich.
Hampstead Heath (North London)
Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill offer stunning views over London and the opportunity to take long country walks without having to leave the capital. It’s also home to the Ponds, a favourite spot for Londoners to go swimming come rain or shine. It’s free to use and anyone that dives in will swear by their therapeutic qualities. If that’s not your thing, head to one of the satellite neighbourhoods like Hampstead, Highgate or West Hampstead for a coffee and cake. Art 4 Fun is also a great activity for adults and kids to enjoy on a rainy day.
To get here take the tube to Hampstead Heath or West Hampstead on the overground line, or Hampstead or Highgate on the Northern Line.
To make your trip to London easier…
- Download an offline map to your smartphone like maps.me and pin all the places you want to visit onto the map. It’s also worth downloading the tube map as well so you don’t have to gawp aimlessly at the tiny one in the tube carriage. If you don’t have access to wifi these are both lifesavers.
- Buy an Oyster card and travel with this at all times, or check if your debit/credit card has contactless payment enabled as you can use this instead of an oyster card, travel costs exactly the same price.
- Download city mapper to use when you have a wifi connection to plan your journeys across London.
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