50+ Places to Go, See, Eat, Drink and Shop in London
Thursday, August 07, 2014
Guess what?! WorldCon and Nine Worlds are both in London! That's pretty damn awesome and, as a result of this consolidated awesomeness, lots of you are coming from non-London places to attend.
As your hosts, we want to make sure you leave the convention centre and enjoy the greatest city in the world.
We asked a host of Londoners to suggest a few of their favourite places in the city - chosen because they're fun, accessible, not-break-the-bank-expensive and very London-y:
1. Start your South Bank adventure off at the London Eye. Book your tickets early (the VIP tickets are well worth the price, since you don't have to wait in line with all the plebs) and go early in the day or at sunset. Be prepared for loads of tourists, especially if you go anywhere from 11 am to 6 pm.
2. Then amble east, past the South Bank Centre and the Royal Festival Hall, and enjoy the views. Eventually you'll hit the Tate Modern (you can't miss it; it's a gigantic red brick building with a super tall chimney-thing). Most of the exhibits are free, so wander around to your heart's content. Then pop up to the bar on the top floor for a drink and an unbeatable view.
3. Continue east along the south bank. You'll pass Shakespeare's Globe, which has a cool museum and an even cooler shop.
4. Keep going. The path will detour away from the river and suddenly you'll find yourself in a magical part of London. Walk past the Clink museum and turn right onto Stoney Street. If it's Thursday, Friday or Saturday, you've just found Borough Market, aka Disneyland for foodies. Go on Thursday or Friday and wander around the stalls, sampling the freebies and arguing with yourself about what you're going to wind up eating. You can go on Saturday, of course, but you'll be there alongside nine hundred thousand other people, so go early. (Like, 8 am at the latest.) Hot tip: Neal's Yard Dairy for all the finest cheese in UK.
5. For some non-south bank fun, hit the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square. It's free AND less crowded than its neighbor the National Gallery and much more interesting, being full of portraits of Henry VIII, his wives, his children, and everyone else who's ever anythinged an anything in the last five hundred years. Friday nights the museum stays open late and you can check out the galleries while listening to live music. It's great fun!
Rebecca Levene (Smiler's Fair):
Go swimming in Highgate Ponds
Eat in Brixton Village
The dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park. You can then browse the antique and second-hand shops on the Crystal Palace triangle and have some posh pub grub in The Alma.
The over-stuffed walrus in the Horniman Museum.
Eat a curry in Whitechapel (not Brick Lane) - try Tayyabs, but remember to bring your own booze if you want it.
Walk the Thames Path
Also, having an amazing Portuguese pastry at Lisboa Patisserie and then wander down the Portobello Road to browse the market and marvel at how everyone isn't white, unlike in Notting Hill.
Lavie Tidhar (A Man Lies Dreaming, Osama, The Violent Century):
Simpson's in the Strand (The Strand) - Sherlock Holmes' favourite restaurants and who can argue with the master? The dining room serves hearty British fare but, if your pocket isn't deep enough, head upstairs instead, to the plush leather sofas of the cocktail bar where you can relax while soaking it all in. Literally.
Davenport's Magic Shop (The Strand) - hidden underneath Charing Cross station is London's oldest and best magic shop, est. in 1898. Chockfull of all and any sort of magical apparatus, the staff will be happy to demonstrate the tricks - just make sure not to leave empty handed.
Beigel Bake (Brick Lane) - "You will have to pry this hot salt beef bagel from my cold, dead hands," Ben-Hur famously said, and he was talking about the (oddly spelled) Beigel Bake. It's a landmark and an institution, open 24 hours, a sole remnant of the East End's Jewish heritage, serving smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, cheesecakes and, of course, hot salt beef (don't forget to ask for gherkin and mustard!). Expect long but orderly queues on weekends - there's a reason everyone comes here.
Waxy O'Connors (West End) - the unassuming front hides London'd biggest pub, a literal hobbit warren stretching under the city - there's even a tree growing in the middle. Go up and down levels like Gandalf in search of a pint - which is never far away.
The Nell Gwynne (The Strand) - in contract to Waxy's, this is London's smallest pub, and one of the oldest, the haunt of actors, writers (well, I go there, anyway) and ghosts. Cash only, and watch your head when descending down to the loos.
Tom Hunter (Arthur C. Clarke Award):
Longitude Punk'd at the Royal Observatory
Digital Revolution at the Barbican
Disobedient Objects at the Victoria & Albert
Den Patrick (The Boy with the Porcelain Blade):
I love Charing Cross road, even though there are barely any bookstores now. There's Orcs Nest, Fopp, and Foyles though, and Taro on Old Compton Street, my favourite place for cheap (ish) noodles.
Kim Curran (Shift, Glaze):
The South Bank. Just wandering around there.
Taking the boat to Greenwich. (or from Greenwich, whatever. Get on a boat.)
The Wellcome collection.
Gordon’s Wine Bar – because it’s like something out of Harry Potter
The Cork and Bottle for British food.
St Paul’s Cathedral
The Old Operation Theatre
James Smythe (The Machine, No Harm Can Come to a Good Man):
Go to the Tate Modern.
Go and eat at Meat Mission and try the Monkey Fingers.
Basically: just get the fuck out of ExCel and see the city. There's a lot of it.
Glen Mehn (The Kitschies):
Cream tea at the National Gallery Café (off of Trafalgar Square)
The Horniman Museum & walrus
The secret garden on top of the Hayward Gallery
"London's living room" -- RFH/Southbank Centre
Cellar booze and pies at the Olde Cheshire Cheese
Outdoor swimming: Serpentine, Hampstead Heath
Rooftop bars: Frank's in Peckham
Walking on the sea of ToxOoze in Greenwich
Fine London breweries - Kernel and Redchurch
Fine dining in Brixton Market
Smithfield Market is where they executed traitors (including William Wallace!) and is now London's meat market. Smiths of Smithfield has a lot of floors - the ground floor is where casual dining takes place. They do huge fry-ups in the morning - try a 'proper' British breakfast with black pudding, beans and tomatoes. They do a great Bloody Mary as well.
If you're in the mood for something more exotic - St John is my favourite restaurant in the world, bar none. Delicious, simple, fresh, amazing dishes. Not cheap, however. And the chef is the proud inventor of 'nose to tail cooking', so be prepared for... surprises.
Forbidden Planet is great for the new books and comics. Goldsboro is where you go for your collectible books. And Notting Hill Book and Comic Exchange has the vast piles of unsorted, unknown second-hand stuff. There's a sort of walk-in closet that's packed with SF/F, more comics than you can shake a stick at and a basement that's so chaotic that they've sorted all the books by colour.
The Punjab offers great quality Indian food but not at silly luxury prices. The traditional Tandoori dishes are especially tasty, plus, lots of vegetarian options.