This week, both Stacey and Carley spent some time in London (sadly not together though!). As we knew we were going to be super busy and we both love London, we asked our blogger friends Laura and Sarah from Sprezzatura to write an introduction to London – and we love all their suggestions! As Carley visited the M&M’s store (and spent far too much money) and Stacey spent some time in Trafalgar Square, we can definitely recommend these things are a starting point for a trip to London! Thanks girls!
Welcome to Sprezzatura’s guide to London – our current home town and capital of the UK!
We are Sarah & Laura – a trans-Atlantic femme couple who have been living in London for going on five years. We blog over at Sprezzatura and live together in Fulham, Southwest London. We were really excited when we were asked to do a ‘Guide to London’ guest post for Carley & Stacey, as theirs is one of our favourite blogs!! Thanks so much, girls! We as a couple don’t just live in London – we LOVE it here. We love showing people around and experiencing all the city has to offer. London is jam-packed with things to do and places to see – and in this post we will give you an overview of our favourites!
One of the best things about London is that it’s accessible – by tube, train, bus or foot you can get around the city easily. In fact, when you are in the West End of London, you can walk to pretty much any of our favourite destinations within 20 minutes. And anything else you want to see, you can get to in 10-15 minutes by bus or tube! This list has been done by areas – so if you want to, you can walk to each location!
Covent Garden: The Piazza at Covent Garden has live entertainment daily in the open-air. The 18th century iron and glass fruit and vegetable market has gracefully evolved into fashion boutiques and other up-market stores. There are street performers, dancers and impromptu concerts happening most of the time, ideal for tourists or business people relaxing after the workday is done. Stroll down Long Acre, Floral Street and the cobbled Neal Street or visit the Royal Opera House. There are hundreds of bars, pubs and restaurants in the area – all fashionable, new, different and busy. Of course, there is a Nandos for us enthusiasts! From now until Easter, there are many giant Easter eggs painted by artists situated around the Piazza as part of the Big Egg Hunt in London – see if you can spot them all! Covent Garden is a great place to hang out, shop and meet people and is a must see if you are in London. Nearest tube stop: Covent Garden.
Carnaby Street: Known for unique independent boutiques, global fashion brands and award winning restaurants, cafés and bars, it is one of London’s most popular and distinctive shopping and lifestyle destinations. The street was a ‘60s mod hotspot (a great time for the UK, with the ‘60s music British Invasion!) and it still maintains a retro, alternative and fashionable feel. Well worth a visit if you like shopping, or at least window shopping! Time it just right and you’ll find street performances and celebrations – we happened upon a 1960s celebration and concert! Nearest tube stops: Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus.
M&M store: This 35,000 square feet store selling M&Ms products and merchandise is the largest candy store in the world (bigger than its counterparts in NYC, Las Vegas, & Orlando, Florida!). With a full sized London Red Bus by the entrance, an M&M re-inaction of The Beatles’ Abbey Road, and lots of London themed souvenirs, this is well and truly an Americanised version of a London tourist attraction. With four floors and a large range of M&M’s® chocolates and merchandise, including kitchenware, clothing, bedding, jewellery and glassware, they are tempting you to spend. It even has a giant wall of chocolate where you can create your own M&M’s® selection from over 100 choices! Seriously, we lose an hour in there each time we wander into shelter from the British weather. Even if you don’t like M&Ms *ahem, Sarah*, it’s well worth a wander. Nearest tube stop: Leicester Square.
Soho: As a lesbian couple, we simply couldn’t write a guide to London without mentioning the ‘gay area’ – Soho. As Londoners, though, Soho is SO much more than just gay – it’s artistic, interesting and the most colourful place in London. With lots of outdoor seating at coffee bars and restaurants (our favourite for people watching is Prix Fixe Brassiere – a great location and spectacular French influenced food!) you can watch the world go by for ages, into the late hours of the evening. As well as being home to burlesque clubs, West End Shows, concerts, it is home to some London-famous (perhaps world famous??) gay clubs and bars. We always enjoy a good night at Ku Bar (on our own but most often with some male gay friends), and we most recently went to the Candy Bar – London’s most famous lezzie bar and where the Candy Bar Girls British TV series was filmed. It’s definitely worth a visit, for the friendliness, music, and just to say you’ve been there! For fancy dates or special occasions, we always choose Kettners in Soho – it’s classy and beautiful, delicious and with a rich history of writers hanging out around there!! Soho is definitely worth a wander around, and you might even see us there! Nearest tube stop: Leicester Square.
London Eye: A personal favourite on this must-see list for us (Sarah’s favourite tourist attraction in London!). It’s basically a giant Ferris wheel, but you are enclosed in capsules and it’s much slower so you can fully take in the view. Take your flight during the day, the night, or (our recommendation) at sunset – this is a great way to put London in perspective (It’s also more than a little romantic!). We’ve found that most Londoners have never actually done it – and they are really missing out! On the Thames and with a clear view of so many of London’s great sculptures and sights, you have to do this at least once! Nearest tube stop: Waterloo.
Southbank: Stroll along the side of the Thames being entertained by street performers and amazing views and history – no matter the time of day and time of year! Located opposite the Houses of Parliament (Big Ben!) and within walking distance of Covent Garden, it’s the perfect destination for a relaxing walk and to stumble across something new. The packed programme of art, theatre, exhibitions, music, film and free events means South Bank is always great place to visit. In the winter months it holds markets and in summer it’s all about free films and food! If you like galleries you’ll also find the Tate Modern along here (and it’s free) and the Millennium Bridge, which is a great gateway to St. Pauls and the financial district. If you continue along the river, you will find Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and lots of historic pubs and hole-in-the-wall restaurants – eventually ending up at the Tower Bridge. This last strip is not to be missed – for singletons (or we suppose loved-up couples), take your date for a stroll along this strip at sunset. Both of us separately used to take our dates here when we were single, to end a romantic London evening haha!! With the amazing views and strings of fairy lights, it’d be hard not to score (romance points or a kiss or two, of course!) Nearest tube stop: Waterloo.
Trafalgar Square / National Gallery: Depending on when you visit you can either walk straight through a relatively empty square or be met by hoards of people! Trafalgar Square hosts so many concerts and free events throughout the year it’s always worth checking http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/art-culture/trafalgar-square/events – to name a few, there’s the St Patrick’s Day parade (next Sunday!), Gay Pride (World Pride 2012 in London – we’ll be there, will you?), screenings of significant events – oh, and the Olympic clock counting down to the opening ceremony!! Climb up by the statue of Nelson (he can see the sea from up there!) and get your picture taken on one of the famous lion statues (if you are more flexible than Laura, that is!) The National Gallery houses the national collection of Western European painting from the 13th to the 19th centuries. It is on show 361 days a year, free of charge, and is Laura’s favourite museum in London due to its wide variety of exhibits and art. Nearest tube stop: Embankment.
This is just a sneak peek into what is a truly great city but we promise that if you have an afternoon, day or weekend in the capital then these places are worth checking out. The mixture of free activities and celebrations is making London a wonderful place to be – the Olympic fever is truly evident and almost every weekend hosts an exciting event! As we said these places are all within walking distance of the West End, but if you are looking to stretch your legs a little further, or want more suggestions or opinions on all things London, head over to our blog and contact us – we’re happy to help and to make new friends!
Love, Sarah & Laura at Sprezzatura