Jess Dante knows all about love and London. It was love for her (now) husband that brought her there 5 years ago, and Love for London that’s made her stay. What started with a blog of the same name is now a community of travelers around the world, most of whom are visiting London for the first time.
Newcomers usually find Jess through her YouTube channel, where she talks about how to eat, sleep and breathe London. To date, Jess’s YouTube page 66,000 subscribers and close to 9 million video views.
As a born and raised New Yorker, she’s all about helping unseasoned travelers live their best lives in London before they even get there. She’s covered everything from navigating the city’s bike hire system and how to find a flat to unveiling major London faux pas we’re all (probably) guilty of committing.
Viewers usually find a kindred spirit in Jess, which has prompted Dante to create other ways of interacting with her community. Through in-person meetups, photography services, a newly launched podcast series, and weekly YouTube videos, Jess interacts with her audience in ways her blog never could.
We caught up with Jess to get the inside scoop on where we should go in London Town, and what must-see spots we’re missing out on.
What Surprised You Most About London?
The culture is one. The UK and the US are very similar in some ways, and very different in others. For example, there is a lot of slang I had to get used to like “cash point” for ATM, “quid” for dollar, and “jumper” for sweater.
I also love that London is beautifully diverse and that Londoners appreciate that. You can experience pretty much every culture and its cuisine in London, which make staycations really fun.
Another thing I noticed was housing size. Coming from New York, I’m used to city apartments being small but suburb houses being larger and more spread out, with a garage or garden. In the London suburbs, the houses are smaller and more compact. There aren’t really driveways, either.
What Made Your See YouTube As A Means To Reach A New Audience?
I realised that I personally was watching YouTube all of the time, but not reading blogs anymore, and I knew that I felt more connected to video creators than bloggers, and therefore knew I could build trust easier by doing video.
A few years ago I attended a blogger conference and was really impressed by a presentation on creating video content. The Contiki rep speaking said that there’s not enough people doing travel content on YouTube and that if I was thinking about doing it, I should do it now. He also encouraged me to shoot video right here in London.
Once I realized that I didn’t have to travel to shoot video, a YouTube channel seemed more attainable. Lots of people want to go to London and don’t know how to make it happen. I thought, ‘hey I already live here and can help them out.’
Overall, it was a great creative process because I quickly learned that I liked producing video way more than writing.
How Can People Visiting London Get That “Local” Perspective?
When I first moved to London, I really didn’t know anybody so I started going to events around town. Some were blogger-focused but others weren’t. By getting out there and attending these events, it forced me to use public transportation, which then helped me get to know different areas in London.
Even though experiencing London is now part of my job, it’s accessible to anyone. I always encourage people to start by going away from the major tourist attractions.
A lot of times, if you stay in Zone 2—like Notting Hill or Camden—you’ll feel more local. Neighborhoods like Covent Garden and Soho are great for sightseeing, but few Londoners can afford to live there. Zone 2 is going to give you a more local feel because people actually live there.
Any Neighborhoods You’re Obsessed With?
Shoreditch is definitely picking up locally but many travelers still don’t know about it, and it’s great!
Notting Hill is another really special area, although few people go beyond Portobello market. Weekends are packed with people but if you visit on a weekday, you’ll appreciate it much more.
What Prompted You To Create A London Guide?
The 3-Day London Itinerary is a flexible, comprehensive itinerary that helps people to experience the best bits of London in their first three days, without having to spend hours researching and planning, as the city is so big! It's a good mix of the classic London icons, mixed in with locally-loved things to do and fabulous places to eat along the way.
I wanted it to be something that you couldn't find online, and it includes a digital map to put on your phone so you can easily know where you're going next when you're out and about in London.
Coolest Neighborhood Nobody Is Talking About, Yet!
Brixton is becoming a popular food spot, you can find lots of different cuisines alongside the restaurants and supermarkets that cater to the African and Central American communities that have lived in this area for so long.
Queenswood in Battersea Square. Great food, elegant modern decor, and good coffee.
Favorite Traditional Pub
The Windmill on Clapham Common. It has a great outdoor space for when the weather is nice, and the restaurant area has a great menu, including one of the best Sunday Roasts I've ever had.
Leather Lane Market is one of my favourites for lunch (it's only open 12-2:30ish on the weekdays.) Such a great mix of affordable and yummy food. When the weather is nice, everyone who works nearby grabs some food and eats at the garden on Gray's Inn Road.
Biggest London Travel Hack People Might Not Know About
Bookatable and Opentable sometimes have lunchtime deals for restaurants during the week, even Michelin-starred restaurants. For example, the Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel is cheaper and comes with a cocktail when you book through Bookatable. Always check those sites before booking anything directly with a restaurant.
Most Instagrammable Street
The row of red telephone boxes, alongside a statue of a ballerina, next to the Royal Opera House. Everyone always loves when I post that one!