London is definitely a one of a kind place. We used to call it home and we still think of it this way, although we're not settled down there anymore. Nonetheless, we left a bunch of friends there, all of them patriots to their local London neighbourhoods. We thought you could use their advice on where to go to feel like a local, because we know it might be hard when you're visiting a big city for the first time and all that a guidebook tells you is to stick to the central areas or some highlights just out of the city.
Well, let us take you anywhere but central London, because the centre is definitely not where the coolest people hang out! With places across North, East, South and West London to eat brunch, have a picnic in or go out in the evening, all recommended by our Londoner friends (or us!), you will feel more at home.
So scroll down and discover where to visit whilst in London!
North London, Kim
Once a North Londoner, always a North Londoner.
This prophecy was given to me just before I made my move to London and all these years later, it still holds true. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in this city other than North London, and with its history, charm, and amazing eating spots, why would I ever have to?
In such a big city like London, a sense of community is important. Where you live or where you hang out, becomes like your own little village, and you can grow to have a lot of pride in it. I love the security of always knowing where I am in North London, or bumping into friends in coffee shops unexpectedly, or knowing secret places to impress visitors with. It makes this big, sometimes scary city, feel not so big anymore, and more like mine, and more like home.
My favourite brunch spots in North London:
The Blue Legume - Upper St, Islington
Breakfast until 4pm! Never were sweeter words spoken. Their huge range of brunch options means every appetite or food requirement is catered for, and their homemade hash browns and hollandaise is the stuff of dreams.
Granger and Co. - Granary Square, Kings Cross
Yes, it’s a chain but I don’t even care because it’s gorgeous. The ricotta hotcakes with maple smoked banana, honeycomb butter, and espresso mascarpone will actually make you cry. A bit pricey, but so worth it for a nice brunch - and you can always get your money’s worth by using all the Aesop goodies in the bathroom!
My favourite picnic spots in North London:
Hampstead Heath - Hampstead
Of course! No trip to North London is complete without a visit to the Heath. There are so many lovely spots for picnics, whether on the lawn of Kenwood House, with a view overlooking the city on Parliament Hill, or finding somewhere more secluded in the woods. It’s too beautiful.
Alexandra Palace - between Muswell Hill and Wood Green
The view from Ally Pally has to be the best in all of London. Don’t even try to fight me on it. The higher up and closer to the palace the better the view. If you feel adventurous you could climb the very steep hill to the top, or the W3 bus will drop you off right at the top.
My favourite bars & pubs in North London:
The Grafton - Prince of Wales Rd, Kentish Town
This is my local, so I’m a bit biased. But it has a super friendly vibe and is always packed full of interesting people to meet. Camden Brewery is right next door so they have all their beers on tap too. The food is top notch, and it’s also a cosy place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon, play cards, drink with friends, and just chill!
Bobby Fitzpatrick - West End Lane, West Hampstead
This place is super new but super good. Anything with the bi-line ‘Pizza and Cocktails’ has my seal of approval. Its main draw card is the cool 70’s décor, which is done to perfection, not wanky, just cool. But it also backs it up with really interesting drinks and bloody tasty pizzas.
East London, Nathan
My favourite brunch spots in East London:
The Barge House - Regents Canal
This is an easy one, a relatively recent discovery of mine is the Barge House on Regents canal. It’s not that I discovered the place, it’s that I discovered the much lauded menu item… Breakfast In Bread. Breakfast in Bread is effectively a full english inside of a hollowed out round sourdough loaf… that or any one of a number of options, salmon, chorizo etc.
You need to see it to believe it!
Dishoom - Shoreditch
Next up for breakfast, lunch and dinner is Dishoom in Shoreditch. Dishoom is generally amazing for any meal, a little off the cuff are their breakfast options. Go for the staple, a Bacon & Egg Naan Roll or one of their other deliciously spice infused egg based brekkies.
My favourite picnic spots in East London:
London Fields - Hackney
Sunny days in East London are spent in one of two parks, the one you choose depends on your mood. Hit up London Fields on a warm Saturday or Sunday and you’re bound to find a lively, music (and smoke) filled park bustling with energy and throwaway BBQs. If you have the patience you can also wait in line for the Lido (also known as an outdoor pool) to cool off. Don’t expect to be doing any laps, it’s more of a sardine can kind of situation.
Victoria Park - South Hackney
If London Fields doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then Victoria Park is your place. It’s large, it’s quiet and it’s picturesque. It has canals, ponds, pavilions and a pagoda, you’d be hard pressed not to find a location to roll out your picnic matt.
My favourite bars & pubs in east London:
Ridley Road Market Bar - Dalston
No questions here, from Thursday to Saturday, if you’re looking for a fun night, you need to visit Ridley Road Market Bar in Dalston. It’s best described as a tiki dive bar, and it’s impossible not to have fun here, especially with the bar serving doubles for £5. The only difficult part is convincing your friends to follow you down the fishy smelling Ridley Road… during the day it’s a market, and the bar sits directly in the middle of it, nestled between fish mongers and wig shops.
Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes - Shoreditch
Closer to Shoreditch and a little more sophisticated is Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes, aptly named because the building used to house a bag and shoe retailer whose signage is still prominent above the bar. There’s a ground floor which itself glass fronted exhibition space that transforms entirely every few months, and a candle lit basement level with exposed raw brick. Plenty of cocktails to choose from and if you’re feeling peckish some delicious pizza supplied by one of the local shops.
South London, Kathryn
My favourite brunch spots in South London:
Flotsam & Jetsam - Wandsworth
Flotsam & Jetsam has quickly become a firm favourite of mine, but it can also be appealing to families, foodies, and the fitness-conscious alike. They serve all day brunch and amazing coffee! And... in 2016 they also won a Time Out Love London Award!
Café Fleur - Wandsworth
Cafe Fleur is independently owned cafe serving a range of dishes from a full english with hash browns, avocado & eggs on sourdough, and creative vegan & vegetarian brunch and lunch menu. They also serve organic coffee, homemade juices and even prosecco & bloody mary’s, if you are wanting to make your brunch boozy!
My favourite picnic spots in South London:
South West London is famous for its commons and Clapham Common may be the most popular picnic park in London. If you are looking for somewhere a little bit quieter then Wandsworth Common is a beautiful green open space. You can also hire deck chairs and order Picnic baskets from the Althorp opposite Wandsworth Common.
Richmond doesn't need an explanation! It's simply beautiful!!! If you're looking into venturing out in the wilderness, but at the same time staying close to the city, this is the perfect spot.
My favourite bars & pubs in South London:
WC - Clapham Common
WC is an underground bar located directly below Clapham Common tube station. They serve wine and charcuterie in a 100 year old former public lavatory toilet. The cocktails are amazing too!
The Ship - Wandsworth
We all know the ship haha! The Ship is set in beautiful surroundings along the River Thames. There is an amazing waterside terrace perfect for a drink or two and even live music on a Sunday. They also serve British food classics in the inside restaurant and there is also an outdoor BBQ on the terrace!
Four Theives - Clapham
It has arcade games upstairs! The Four Theives hosts weekly comedy nights, quiz nights, live Sunday jazz, DJs and has a fully functioning Arcade upstairs. The venue itself is a beautifully refurbished Victorian palace filled with quirky decor and even has its own micro-brewery and they distill their own gin.
West London, Hanna & Zach
Although we currently are not living in London because we're travelling around the world, we've spent a good few years in the West part of this awesome city, and we've always been truly in love with our local world.
our favourite brunch spots in west London:
Proud Mary’s - Shepherd's Bush
About 10 minutes walk from Shepherd’s Bush tube station (central line), this place is a gem! Not only do they have a wonderful interior design but their breakfast menu is wonderful. Our favourite are fluffy blueberry pancakes!
Detour - Shepherd's Bush
...is located on lovely Askew Road where we used to live. They’re a kiwi run place with pretty delish coffee, friendly staff & yummy dessert options. They have a very chilled out vibe, are reasonably priced and they always have posters about markets and local activities so it’s easy to get to know about some local events whilst visiting them.
our favourite picnic spots in west London:
Furnival Gardens - Hammersmith
Definitely our favourite picnic spot. With the view on the river and cosy pubs nearby, it’s only 10 mins to Hammersmith tube. The afternoons here (when the weather is good!) are filled with lovely sunsets, which make ciders taste very good, and you can watch pretty living boats parked on the Thames just across the park. It’s a small and lively park and we’re not sure how many hours of fun we had there, but there were lots of them!
Holland Park - Notting Hill Gate
A short walk from Notting Hill Gate station on Central Line, this park has been surprising us with its many beautiful hidden places. There is the japanese garden, a few meadows to picnic on, giant chess to play with, and a lot of pretty flowers, fountains and peacocks! May be quite busy on Sundays, but nonetheless, there’s enough space for everyone.
Our favourite bars & pubs in west London:
The Chatsworth - Acton
Well...you may probably not know, but we assure you that all our friends would answer the question “What’s Hanna’s & Zach’s favourite pub?” with “CHATTY!!!”. We had fun there countless times and even though a bit further away from the centre (10mins walk from Acton Town station on Piccadilly Line), it is totally worth visiting the Chatsworth Bar.
To get what you need, the timing must be good! If you're up for :
having a massive night out with cheap beers and jaegerbombs, dancing until morning hours and making friends with all the locals (including lots of Aussies and Kiwis), head there about 11pm.
having a chilled out pint with live music and a delicious pub meal, visit on Friday afternoons or Friday evenings.
having a FREE BBQ when you buy a drink - Sunday afternoon is the one! Every Sunday afternoon, if you buy a pint, you have to collect a token which can be exchanged for a burger/sausage.
The Dove - Hammersmith
...is a wonderful place near Furnival Gardens, which we mentioned above. It’s an old English pub, which is very stylish, cosy and we absolutely love it although it may be a bit pricey for some (for us at the moment!). It has a beautiful balcony overlooking Thames river, and a glass conservatory where you can have lunch, dinner or an evening pint.