The Cool Guide to London

The Cool Guide to London including free attractions, where to eat, bars and where to stay via www.dtravelsround.com

While in London, I was constantly looking for cool places to visit and experience. I like to think I found quite a few little gems, some you may have heard of, and maybe some new ones, too!

Sure, people visiting London tend to do the tourist things like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the West End and on and on … but some of the gems of London aren’t those attractions.

In fact, there are plenty of free places to explore (and, sure, they are likely in guidebooks).

I’ve rounded up some of my favorite free places to visit, walks to take, great restaurants and bars and even some hotels to add to your itinerary.

So, what’s cool to do in London? Why, hello, The Cool London Guide (as curated by yours truly) that includes all of the things to do in London that I love.

Free entry

London offers plenty of things you can do, entirely for free. So, pick a gorgeous day, put on some walking shoes, and go!

The park system

Richmond Park | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.com

Richmond Park

Packed with parks, including my favorite, the sprawling former hunting grounds of Henry the VIII, Richmond Park. This one isn’t as easily accessible as others in the heart of London, but pick a gorgeous day and go watch the famous deer roam and catch some sum. It’s also the largest park in the city, complete with water, plantations and events.

Hyde Park | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.com

In town, there are a number of parks to explore. Hyde Park is my favorite. While I wasn’t there to enjoy most of the outdoor activities — including swimming and boating — I did get to enjoy the spectacular scenery.

Free exhibit at Sackler Gallery | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.com

For some free art, head to either Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens to wander through the Serpentine Gallery and Serpentine Sackler Gallery.

The markets

Borough Market is hands down, my favorite one to stroll through. Eat your way through (OK, that costs money) or just go and people watch. This market is heavy on the food, and oftentimes you can even snag a sample. Be sure to check out the shop that serves up the black and white truffle olive oil.

Part vintage, part food, all awesome | Cool things to do in London | Old Spitafields Market via www.dtravelsround.com

Old Spitafield

Old Spitafields Market is another amazing market. This one changes depending on the day of the week, and ranges from vintage clothing to antiques to stalls hawking similar clothing items and jewelry. There are always plenty of food vendors camped out on the outskirts of this market, plus it is surrounded by restaurants. Even better? When it gets cold, the mulled wine comes out!

Cool things to do in London | Brixton Market via www.dtravelsround.com

Brixton Market

Brixton Market, located in the Brixton neighborhood, is another foodie heaven. Run by local traders, this is the place to sample food from around the world and pick up some fresh produce, too.

Cool things to do in London | Brixton Market via www.dtravelsround.com

Brixton Market

With tiny restaurants (we’re talking they can seat between 10 and 20, tops), little stalls selling fruits and veggies and cute little shops, it is the place to explore in the late afternoon.

Every weekend, Notting Hill is home to the Portobello Market. While there is something every day there, Saturday is the main draw when you can find souvenirs, antiques, clothing and food.

The museums

Many museums in London offer free entry (with a suggested donation). I could spend hours, jaw-dropped, exploring the stunning Victoria & Albert Museum (affectionately dubbed the V & A), which houses the most extensive collection of ceramics in the world (and a simply stunning garden).

Natural History Museum | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.comIn the same South Kensington neighborhood, there is also the magnificently beautiful Natural History Museum. Then, check out the Science Museum. This one is heavy on interactive exhibits and is an ideal choice for people traveling with kids (or want to feel like kids again).

Other museums offering free entry are the British Museum, the British Library, and the National Gallery.

The walks

Explore street art in Shoreditch | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.com

Simply walking around neighborhoods can deliver some seriously amazing looks at London life. My favorite place to explore is Shoreditch, located in London’s East End.

Explore street art in Shoreditch | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.com This hipster neighborhood — complete with pop-up shops and trendy and hip bars — is home to some famous street art. It’s easy to spend the entire day just wandering through this neighborhood, snacking, drinking and snapping pics of the works of art.

Or, head to Oxford Street to window shop. Another fantastic place to wander is Greenwich, home to the Greenwich Maritime line, as well as the famous Cutty Sark and plenty of gorgeous green space to picnic.

Where to eat

Thanks to the introduction from The Traveling Editor, my favorite spot, hands down, to dine is Franco Manca. This sourdough pizza restaurant, with quite a few locations across town, serves up cheap pies, quickly (think four minutes). Plus, its got both chili olive oil and garlic olive oil for dipping the thick crust. Bonus points go to this spot for its cozy vibe and organic wine offerings.

For Indian, head to the Tooting neighborhood. Most places here don’t serve booze, but thanks to off-license stores dotting the main drag, a quick run there gives you the chance to enjoy that spicy curry with wine.

Vegan cupcakes at Old Spitafield Market | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.com

I’d be remiss to not include the markets I mentioned above in this list. All of them have some sensational offerings (I dig the Egyptian food stall at Borough Market and the vegan cupcake stand at Spitafields).

Where to drink

Gordon's Wine Bar | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.com

The cavernous Gordon’s Wine Bar, located a quick walk from Big Ben, has it all: a wide selection of wine, snacks and indoor and outdoor seating. My favorite thing about Gordon’s isn’t any of that, it is the ancient cave lit with candles to sit and sip, too. It’s claim to fame is at 125 years, it is the city’s oldest wine bar. And, it is awesome.

I’m currently on a speakeasy kick, and Evans & Peel Detective Agency at Earl’s Court, is seriously kick ass. Get ready to go with the flow, though. Unassuming from the outside, you head down a staircase and are interrogated, assuming fake identities, before you can sip the cocktails or grab dinner. This spot requires a reservation or you can risk it and sit at the bar.

Ye Old Cheshire Cheese | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.com

Step back in time and head to Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, located a few minutes walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral, this is the oldest pub in London, rebuilt after the Great Fire in 1666. A sawdust covered floor, multiple bars, dim lighting and low ceilings create an intimate and festive vibe.

Teapot drinks at Art Cafe | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.com

For a night out, stop in at to the Arts Theatre Club in SoHo. With teapots filled with amazing cocktails and a speakeasy, old-time vibe, it’s got some serious atmosphere and ambience. It’s probably my favorite spot.

Where to stay

On a fluke, I discovered The Pavilion Hotel. In Notting Hill, this hotel features themed rooms.

The Pavilion Hotel | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.comLined with relics from the past, this townhouse-cum-hotel is seriously quirky. And, I love it.

Hotel Indigo in Paddington | Cool things to do in London via www.dtravelsround.com
Located in the Paddington neighborhood is Hotel Indigo, a swankier option and close to the Paddington Tube station.

The luxurious Sofitel St. James in London via www.dtravelsround.com

If you’re looking for an upmarket place to stay, try to Sofitel St. James, located in the heart of the city.

Tips for London

– If you’re staying in the city for more than a few days, purchase an Oyster Card and then get a week pass. It is cheaper than paying as-you-go for tickets and lets you ride the Tube, DLR, Overground and the buses.

– Check the weather before you go. London’s temperatures are fickle. One day it is hot, the next it is chilly and rainy.

– Download CityMapper to your smartphone. This app lets you figure out the best routes and transport options, and also provides the cost per route.

– London is a city of well-dressed people. Bring at least one outfit you can wear out on the town.

– Pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes. While the transit system is extensive, sometimes it is more fun to simply hoof it from spot to spot and check out the city.

London Resources

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About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The founder of Vegans, Baby, you can normally find her hanging out at vegan restaurants around town, exploring the beauty of the desert southwest or camped out at a coffee shop banging on a keyboard. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

17 Comments on " The Cool Guide to London "

  1. Abi July 6, 2015 at 7:20 pm · Reply

    Ah London. One of my favourite cities in the world. Even after all this time 😉

    • Diana July 8, 2015 at 8:22 am · Reply

      Me, too!! I wish I could live in London!!

  2. Jessica @ Green Global Travel July 6, 2015 at 8:26 pm · Reply

    This is such a great list! I really enjoy how you’ve included such a wide range of activities here– from parks to museums to restaurants. As impressive as London’s “main attractions” are, it’s always nice to experience the smaller things– like you said, there are lots of great gems in this city. I’ll definitely have to explore some of the places you’ve described here!

    • Diana July 8, 2015 at 8:21 am · Reply

      I hope you do!

  3. Ligeia and Mindy July 7, 2015 at 8:15 am · Reply

    What a thorough post! Those vegan cupcakes look fantastic! Can you believe that out of all the places we’ve been that we’ve never been to London?! I think we’ll have to rectify this soon. 🙂

  4. Federico July 7, 2015 at 7:22 pm · Reply

    An interesting city, London. Not a favorite of mine I must say, but I do like to stroll along the parks, and visit the historical monuments.

    • Diana July 8, 2015 at 8:21 am · Reply

      I didn’t used to like London, either. But then, something happened in 2014 when I ended up there. I fell in love with it!!

  5. Leah July 10, 2015 at 12:37 pm · Reply

    Great guide! I’ve only been to London briefly (as in layover brief) but I am itching to go back and explore it properly someday. This guide will come in very handy! Especially appreciate all the things with free entry 🙂

    • Diana July 13, 2015 at 5:47 am · Reply

      Wonderful! Let me know what you check out!

  6. Juno July 11, 2015 at 8:46 pm · Reply

    Believe it or not, I haven’t been to London yet. I’ll remember this post for the future! 🙂

    • Diana July 13, 2015 at 5:46 am · Reply

      Ah!! You must!

  7. Camels & Chocolate July 13, 2015 at 11:09 am · Reply

    I think I need to revisit London through your lens! It’s never been my favorite city, but this guide looks fun =)

    • Diana July 14, 2015 at 6:46 am · Reply

      I didn’t used to like London at all. But, one day, I just converted into a London Lover!

  8. Beth July 20, 2015 at 7:40 am · Reply

    Lovely London faves! 🙂 Miss my Brixton Market & Franco Manca dates with you! xo

    • Diana July 20, 2015 at 10:27 am · Reply

      I miss you, too!!!!

  9. Babes about Town October 12, 2015 at 6:16 am · Reply

    Great guide! I’m a London local and write about exploring the city and getting the most out of London when you have young kids. I always enjoy learning about new spots, like a couple of the ones you’ve mentioned (will have to check out the Pavilion Hotel, love the decor). This is without doubt one of the coolest cities in the world. Thanks for shining a spotlight on it!

    • Diana October 17, 2015 at 11:46 pm · Reply

      Thanks for stopping by! So lucky you are a London local. It is truly my dream city!! The Pavilion Hotel is so funky!!!

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