If there ever was a city with more facets and contradictions to it, it’s London. In no other place in the world can you cross from one London neighborhood to the next and feel as if you’ve stepped into a different place or period of time. Among some of the most notable parts of London you will find Notting Hill, South Bank, Kensington, Camden Town, Soho, Chelsea, Thames, Westminster, Greenwich, Mayfair, Marylebone, Covent Garden and Knightsbridge. Even now after ten years of living in London and exploring the town, it continues to reveal itself steadily—layer by layer—as if the city wants you to know it a bit more before letting you into its core.
With Journy, you can peel back those layers and see the city like the locals do, juxtapositions and all.
Consider Portobello Road and Brick Lane markets. They are not 30 minutes from each other by Tube and yet they could not be more different. Portobello—with its colorful houses, classy shops and cherry tree-lined streets the likes of which George Orwell has lived on—is in stark contrast to the dark, industrial demeanor full of hipster shops and Indian restaurants of Brick Lane. Yet the two form part of London's identity without which it would not be the city it is today.
With so many different faces to a town, from bookish Bloomsbury to bohemian Brixton, every person can have a different vibe in this dynamic city. And with all the must-see attractions, it can be easy to hop from one tourist trap to the next. While we do recommend you see Big Ben, London Bridge, London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral and pop by Buckingham Palace for a chance to get a glimpse of the Queen (or the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle) leave a day to do London as the Londoners do by meandering and discovering some local favorites in a lightly trodden direction. You won't regret it.
Start at Bond Street Station and find the hidden entrance to St. Christopher's Place for a Turkish breakfast
Oxford street is the beating heart of London as well as a tourist mecca that all locals try to avoid so, while it sounds contradictory, start your day at Bond Street station on the West End of town. On the north side of the street, next to the H&M, you’ll see a little space in the wall between buildings about three feet wide. It’s almost impossible to notice with all the city bustle, but you might see people appearing and disappearing seemingly out of nowhere as if it were Diagon Alley or Platform 9 ¾. Make a sharp turn into the alley and watch as it begins to open in front of you, revealing the magical St. Christopher’s Place, a little square full of shops and restaurants. Check out Sofra on the northwest corner of the square: a classic Turkish restaurant with fresh Mediterranean takes on breakfast (think tahini and molasses). Don't miss the Sofra-style eggs. Sit outside to enjoy the scenery, sunshine (if you’re lucky!) and people going about their day.
Make your way through Marylebone for shops, markets, museums and more
Your journey continues through St. Christopher’s Place and on towards Marylebone High Street, voted the best street in the UK by locals. Here you’ll find the young, well-heeled residents strutting up and down whilst speaking any number of languages, as well as some of the best shops, pubs and restaurants in the city from Matches to The Kooples and the stunning Daunt Books. Make a left at Hinde Street and head towards Manchester Square to The Wallace Collection, one of London’s last remaining aristocratic "great houses" which is now a museum displaying the Duke’s impressive collection of paintings, armor and weaponry. Free entry.
After the Wallace Collection, head back to the high street and stroll at your leisure. Behind the Waitrose supermarket there's a farmers’ market on Sundays where you will also find the back entrance to Paddington Gardens and classic pubs such as The Gunmakers and The Marylebone. A cheeky pint at lunch is as British a tradition as any, and for some classic British fare to go with it check out The Prince Regent further up on the high street. If bangers and mash don’t suit your fancy, Natural Kitchen provides top rate organic food, coffee and snacks at any time. There's seating on the ground floor of this market-style shop and restaurant but also a dining room upstairs. The English Breakfast is a must at any time of day.
On Saturdays, just up Marylebone High Street from the Natural Kitchen is the Cabbage and Frocks market in the Marylebone Parish Church courtyard where you can find everything from furs to gluten-free brownies and other bespoke items at this small but picturesque locale. Grab a crumpet and head straight up past the church to The Regent’s Park, passing through the York Gate. At the park entrance on the right hand side you’ll find the Italian Gardens, and to the left a more traditional English parkland. However, it’s the Inner Circle where the most dramatic part of the park lies. The York Bridge takes you straight to the golden gates separating the Inner and Outer Circle of the park (see map at bottom for details). Queen Mary’s Gardens (with its winding paths), Japanese Island, Rose Garden, black swans and more will make you feel like you’ve fallen through the looking glass into a veritable Eden.
Pass the Rose Garden and follow the cherry trees down to the east side of the park and turn left to go north towards the zoo. You’ll be able to admire open spaces and the handsome, white terraced buildings that surround Regent’s Park. At the end of the park is Regent’s Canal (and a three-story floating Chinese restaurant). If you’d like to switch gears—literally—grab some Santander bikes and go canal-side north towards Camden Town Market.
Enter Camden—a food lovers' paradise—at the Pirate Castle, and end the day with live music
You’ll know you’ve reached Camden when you’re greeted by the Pirate Castle (where you can rent canal boats and kayaks) and begin to hear the lively sounds of foodies and smells of every kind of food emanate from the market. Here you can find cuisine from almost any culture, at rock bottom prices when compared to the rest of the city. Get lost strolling through the labyrinth that is Camden Stables Borough Market and discover the endless wonderful things you can pick up, such as rave clothing at Cyberdog (worth a visit even if it's not your scene), street art, army memorabilia, incense, vintage books and British red-coat military jackets. To finish off your day, wind down just up the street at The Lock Tavern Pub, which has a terrace, a great beer garden and some of the best burgers in London.
If you’re still buzzing from excitement (and a couple pints) there's no better way to end the day than with some trendy live music. The Roundhouse or The Monarch are a must-visits for every music lover. Everyone from Amy Winehouse to Pete Doherty and Madonna have headlined these nightlife venues, and no matter who is playing, you’re sure to have a classic and unforgettable boutique London local experience.
For an interactive Google maps route of this itinerary, click here.
Looking for a more complete guide to London? We've got you covered.