I moved to London two years ago and have been discovering it ever since. I have to understand exactly what he meant when in the 18th century Samuel Johnson said: “If you are tired of London, then you are tired of life.” There is always something new to see, to do & to eat in this town that is so big that it is divided based on the four directions: East, West, South and North. Those areas make the different zones of London. Zone 1 is the most central one with most things to do and see being between Zones 1 and 3.There are countless cultural and fun activities in London, such as visiting museums, parks and theatre, and going shopping.
The time of the year that you come might give a different vibe to your London visit. For instance, during Eid, the Muslim community does big family days at the park with bazaar sales. Also, during the winter holidays, Hyde Park turns into Winter Wonderland with a market and many family activities. It is worth checking Time Out, London for the latest events and activities before your visit.
The most popular spots tourists want to see in London are the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abby. You can visit all by getting off at Westminster Tube station and walking around.
Here are some more of my top picks for you:
• The British Museum I really like the different collections at this museum and I think it is a good idea to rent the audio guide. You can easily spend the whole day there. It is free, but there is an entrance fee for special exhibitions, but you don’t have to go to them. The rest of the museum will be enough to occupy you.
• The National Gallery: Being in the National Gallery is very humbling. I think I cried a little the first time I stood in front of the master artists’ works.
• The Victoria and Albert Museum This museum is really nice and it is favored by all of my artist friends. It has a good Islamic and Middle Eastern collection as well. It is also free, but with an entrance fee for special exhibitions.
• Leighton House Museum This museum is relevantly small, but it is an interesting one because it was owned by an English artist who appreciated the Islamic and the Arabic arts. There is an entrance fee.
• Hyde Park is the most known and the most touristy. It is always busy, though I think it is slightly overrated.
• Richmond Park is awesome and there are wild deer running around. I was amazed when I went there. Cars can drive in it too. Not in Central London, but worth a visit.
• Greenwich Park is a very nice big park with a children’s play area and it is further from Central London, so it’s very chilled out.
• Camden Town Market You can find all sorts of quirky and cute things in Camden market, but be aware this is where you might see unexpected fashion styles so be open minded.
• Brick Lane Market is similar to Camden in a way, but has its own vibe. It usually open on Sundays with many halal food stalls.
• Old Spitalfield Market is a nice midsize everyday and weekend market with many fashion and food stalls along with few restaurants. It is not as cheap, but the location is comfortable and central.
• Greenwich Market is a small local market, but it is something to see if you are already in Greenwich.
Big Retail Therapy:
All these places get really busy on the weekends and after 3pm. It is impossible to avoid the crowds unless you go on a weekday.
• Liberty This is a high-end English multi-floor boutique. Arthur Liberty established it in 1875. It is really classy and nice.
• Harrods is where most tourists go. Most food there is halal and there is a mini section for the Museum of Islamic Arts and the products that are sold in Qatar. It is very hard to get around with a pram, like most of London.
• Oxford Street & Regent Street are the busiest and get super crowded. You can find the high street brands and the luxury boutiques there.
• Westfield Stratford & Westfield White City: these are the only two big American style malls in London and they are both on the Jubilee line. One on either side of the city. Most brands are there and there are lots of halal food options as well.
Favorite Halal Eats in London:
• Alounk Halal Persian Restaurant
• Kish Halal affordable Persian Restaurant
• Dishoom Halal, Indian/Persian restaurant with four branches. They do really nice breakfasts – sells alcohol and non-halal choices
• Stax Halal, Organic American Burgers – sells alcohol
• Sticks n Sushi High-end sushi place with seafood – sells alcohol & other non-halal options. ()
• Square Pie for British warming food. Some branches do halal chicken and there are vegetarian pies too.
So many places and big chains offer halal options especially chicken, so just ask! Examples: Nandos, Pizza Express, Gourmet Kitchen Burger, Las Iguanas, KFC and Subway.
Afternoon tea is an absolute must when you are visiting London and you will be spoiled by choices.
• If you are after very chic and very top range afternoon tea experiences try the afternoon tea at Sketch
…or the Roosewood Hotel, but be warned it’s 45 GBP per person.
• For a lovely midrange afternoon tea you can try the afternoon tea at Browns
• For an affordable afternoon tea try LetoCaffe
…or Yumchaa Tea
It usually takes me an hour on public transports from one place to the other. Thankfully, public transports are mostly convenient and reliable. You can get around London by purchasing a daily paper travel ticket or buy purchasing a top up Oyster smartcard. Note that you can only use an Oyster or contactless payment cards. Cash is not accepted. For update transport routes make sure to check the transport for London’s official website: TFL.GOV. Other apps such as City Mapper and Google maps are very useful as well.
Hope you enjoy your visit!
For more London Spots checkout Esra’s blog: http://www.designeresra.com/london/
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