A QUICK NEIGHBORHOOD GUIDE TO LONDON

Like most metropolises {yes, that’s a word}, there are so many neighborhoods to explore. Here in New York, I am having a hard time knowing what neighborhood I’m in, when I’m in it. And it’s not for lack of trying. But you walk around the corner, cross a side street, and suddenly BOOM, you have crossed from TiBeCa to Little Italy.

This, of course, was the case for London as well. I couldn’t write out a well-put-together, inclusive neighborhood guide of the city if I tried. Therefore, I compromised with myself and chose to write about some of ‘hoods’ where I spent the majority of my time in London. This way, anyone planning a visit to London can get a feel for where they may want to spend their holiday.

Notting Hill

Made famous due to the major motion picture featuring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, Notting Hill quickly became my most beloved neighborhood in all of London. And I’m not alone here. My most-used adjective when describing London last year, in general, was charming. And Notting Hill takes the cake when it comes to charm.

Every street is lined with pastel colored homes, blooming flowers of every kind, and then there is Portobello Road Market. If you haven’t added Portobello Road Market to your London itinerary, you are doing it wrong. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, but in this case, it’s simply a must. And Alice’s antique shop should be your first stop.

Notting Hill is a quiet area of London, but still bursting with life. It is a perfect combination of, well, everything you could ask for. You will find bookstores, pubs, and cute cafes including a favorite of mine: Farm Girl. Attend a movie at the Electric Cinema or select the freshest produce at one of the many markets.

You could spend an entire afternoon getting lost within the cobblestone streets taking photos. Notting Hill is the most photogenic of all the boroughs in London. If this is the route you take, make sure to take a picture with the infamous blue door as seen in ‘Notting Hill’.

Within the triangle of Westbourne Hill {you’ll know it when you see it} are boutique clothing stores and restaurants galore. And a beautiful outdoor flower shop that comes to life making grey skies a little brighter. There will be grey skies at some point during your visit, so you may as well purchase some flowers in preparation.

Westminster

When people think of London, Big Ben immediately comes to mind. Maybe Buckingham Palace. Westminster Abbey. The London Eye anyone? Lucky for you they are all within walking distance of each other. Westminster collectively holds some of the most iconic monuments in London. It is also huge, when comparing it to the boroughs of the city.

Walking down the mall to Buckingham Palace is a feeling unlike anything else I can describe. I may or may not have been listening to the Mulan soundtrack while doing it, but ‘Make a Man Out of You’ does a lil’ something something for boosting my confidence in any given moment. Don’t judge me. Okay, go ahead judge me hardcore. I deserve it.

Big Ben, the House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and the London Eye are all worth experiencing. This area can get extremely crowded {as you can imagine} and super touristy. This being said, keep your wits about you and don’t pay for that stupid selfie stick the vendors on the bridge will so willingly sell you.

St. Pauls Cathedral, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, Covent Garden and The Globe Theater area all part of Westminster. It’s the heart of London, and will easily steal your heart.

Chelsea

Oh, Chelsea. What can I say about this lovely borough. Expensive, but absolutely lovely. And that about wraps it up…

All jokes aside, Chelsea is a place to spend some monaaay. Alternatively, it’s a place to imagine yourself living for the rest of your life when you’ve made the ‘big time’. And finally, it’s a photographers dream.

I am disappointed I didn’t spend as much time in Chelsea as I would have liked. Unfortunately, it was towards of the end of my time in London that I made multiple visits to the inspirational location for the hit show ‘Made in Chelsea’. Speaking of MIC, head to ‘The Ship’ to possibly spot one of the cast members. I did! Obviously, that was not the point of my visit to the waterfront bar, but celebrity sightings are not unusual in the posh borough.

You will find adorable clothing stores, uber-healthy restaurants {check out Nell’s}, and some of the most fashionable men and women in London while strolling Kings Street.

Shoreditch

Looking for the trendiest neighborhood in London? Make your way to Shoreditch. This is a hipsters heaven. Unique coffee shops, alternative clothing stores, graffiti lined side streets, and one of the best markets in the city. I spent quite a bit of time in Shoreditch while living in London.

Brick Lane market was one of the first places I scouted in London. The street food on Brick Lane is cheap and delectable. Vintage clothing stops are a dime a dozen in Shoreditch so make sure you hit up a few if you are in the area. Record stores, warehouses with ethnic food vendors, and a boozy indoor mini-golf course can all be found within a few blocks of one another.

One of the highlights of Shoreditch includes Boxpark, a shipping container, pop-up mall. I purchased three pairs of sunglasses, hot cheetos {not a thing in the UK for anyone with an addiction like myself}, and the strangest smoothies I’ve ever tasted at Boxpark. Above the retail shipping containers are food vendors {also in shipping containers} and an outdoor patio with communal tables to enjoy the sunshine when it decides to reveal itself.

I can easily compare Shoreditch to Bushwick here in Brooklyn. Both neighborhoods are so… cool. And extremely gluten-free friendly! Which is always a plus in my book. The California hippie in me will always gravitate towards neighborhoods similar to Shoreditch and Bushwick. So sue me.

Camden Town

I will always hold a special place for Camden Town in my heart. I can’t really explain it properly without sounding absolutely ridiculous. But, Camden Market was the first location I ventured to on my own during my first weekend in London. It was the first place I brought, and used, my baby {aka my camera}. It was the first experience that made me realize just how special my time would be in this new home of mine.

You will find nearly everything in Camden Market.

From textiles, to sculptures, cronuts, souvenirs, bars, jewelry, views, boat rides, food trucks, a wig store, gluten free/vegan sweets, and a statue of Amy Winehouse.

And the walk leading up to the market will leave you, if not entertained, speechless. I re-visted Camden Market multiple times over the six months I spent in London, and discovered something new each and every time.

For example, the local bar that Amy Winehouse used to be a regular lies right around the corner from the end of the market. Regent’s Park is within walking distance from anywhere in Camden Town, which also includes the London Zoo, and connects you with South Kensington.

Another highlight in Camden Town is Primrose Hill, where I took a wine-based picnic to reconnect with a good friend of mine from New Zealand. Primrose Hill provides you with an entire skyline view of London, and shouldn’t be missed, especially around sunset!

SoHo

Honestly, and I don’t like to admit this, I travelled to SoHo more times than any other neighborhood in London. I didn’t mean to… but when you have a shopping addiction and you also have access to Oxford Street, shit happens. SoHo is a neat neighborhood that tends to attract mass amounts of people all the bloody time. And yet, it’s all totally justified.

You have the intersection of Oxford and Regent Streets, which are both worth at least paying a quick visit to. But yes, the crowds eventually become irritating and you will want to slip down a side street. Carnaby Street is great for a coffee break, or a speakeasy if you are into that kind of thing {check out my guide to London bars here}.

As you pass Carnaby Street, you will eventually find yourself at Piccadilly Circus, London’s version of Time’s Square {though I’ve now lived in both London and New York City, and there is no comparison to the city that never sleeps idea of bright lights, big city}.

Within a few short paces, you will find yourself on the West End {so dreamy}. If you are a musical buff like myself, you won’t want to miss a show. I attended a handful of incredible musicals while in London and in comparison to Broadway in New York, you can find reasonably priced tickets!

And finally, if you continue walking down the magic that is the West End, you will eventually find yourself in a foreign country. Or at least it will feel that way. China Town in London is second best {after San Francisco’s} of those I have visited in the world. I happened to find myself in the middle of the Chinese New Year celebrations as I ventured through the red and gold lined streets. I found the most ‘life’ in China Town.

I continue to write about London in the hopes that each afternoon spent on my laptop will somehow bring me closer once again, to the city I love so dearly. I am almost, absolutely sure you are all tired having to hear me word vomit how much London means to me. I have written a love letter, a poem, and too many diary entires to count. London is the one that got away. And I will do everything in my power to win her back.

I hope this guide was somewhat helpful in deciding where to spend your next visit in London. There are so many destinations not included in the neighborhoods in this guide including the British Museum, Wembley Stadium, Tower Bridge, Borough Market, and Kings Cross Station.

The Ultimate Travel Guide to London is coming up next!

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