La Vie en London
September 4, 2008 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan some activities for our honeymoon in London and Edinburgh.

So, here are the details:

1. Going to be in London from Oct 15th to Oct 18th, then hopping a short flight to Edinburgh on the 18th and will stay there until the 22nd.

2. I have been to London and Edinburgh myself, but the future Mr. Santojulieta has not.

3. I don't mind a bit of touristy stuff, like the British Museum and Edinburgh Castle (which I personally enjoyed a great deal), but don't want to be stuck with solely touristy stuff.

4. We're very comfortable taking the tube anywhere.

5. We're also looking for things to do that would produce artifacts for us to bring home. (I'm not talking Indiana Jones type artifacts. I'm talking about going somewhere (that's not necessarily a gift shop) that will give me the opportunity to purchase some really awesome stuff to frame and put up on the wall or to display on a shelf.)

So, help me figure out some events to see or places to go. In a previous thread, someone mentioned that they'd gone to a burlesque show, which I think would be bitchin', but I don't know if any are playing (or more importantly, if any are good.) We don't want to be too overloaded with stuff to do, but I do want some good options.
posted by santojulieta to Travel & Transportation around London, England (19 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Ooh, what about great picnic spots and yarn shops? Any ideas about those?
posted by santojulieta at 6:06 PM on September 4, 2008

Camden Market
Hyde Park & Speakers' Corner
Design Museum
Tate Modern

That should do you for three days in London.
posted by rhizome at 6:42 PM on September 4, 2008

There are a few really fantastic second-hand/antiquarian book shops just west of the Grassmarket in Edinburgh. The Grassmarket is occasionally the site of a fun flea-market type bazaar, though I couldn't tell you much about its schedule. There are a bunch of restaurants and pubs there, though most of the younger set entertains themselves across the tracks between Princes St. and Queens St., so there's a bunch of clubs etc. over there too.

If the weather permits (and we are talking about Scotland in October, so don't get your hopes up), you should also check out Holyrood Park, site of Arthur's Seat, which offers one of the best views of Edinburgh available. You can walk to the top from the east end of the Royal Mile in 30 minutes or so.
posted by valkyryn at 6:46 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ditto on climbing Arthur's Seat. It's amazing--just keep to the main paths, when I was there my friends and I ended up going down the wrong side of the mountain and I slid halfway down...

If you can visit the Scottish coast, it is beautiful. May I suggest Tantallon Castle, located on the Firth of Forth? The beach along that area is a great place to pick up shells and stones. BUT: don't go to Loch Ness. Inverness is an incredibly boring town and the lake is pretty far from the nearest town.

In London, I would recommend Spitalfield's Market ( -- last time I was there they didn't have a website, but, there you go). I met a bunch of locals at London's gay pride festival, and it was the number one place they insisted that I make it to, and I was not disappointed. I came home with some sweet Beatles vinyl singles and some very fashionable clothes.

Also, the Tate Modern is pretty great too. Their collection is organized thematically, rather than by era, which I really enjoy as a museumgoer (the Detroit Institute of Art, my home art museum as it were, had their collections done up like this while their building was under rennovations as well).

I loved the time I got to spend in both London and Edinburgh and I am sure you will too. Congratulations on your impending wedding, and I am sure you will have a great time whatever you choose to do.
posted by Tesseractive at 8:15 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

If there are any Shakespeare shows on at the Globe theatre while you're in London (possible not, as I think the season focuses on summer), definitely go see one. My wife and I paid 5 pounds for tickets in the standing area and that is seriously the best 5 pounds I've ever spent in London. While it might seem a bit touristy, the shows are actually high-quality productions and seeing them on that stage is a remarkable experience.

I'd also second the Tate Modern, which I'm pretty sure has a great gift shop. While you're there, get a coffee and sit on the little balcony overlooking the Thames. A great place to watch London go by.

London also has wonderful, wonderful parks, which would make for a nice picnic spot except that it's possibly to be pretty cold when you're there.

For a lovely London experience, go and have high tea at The Orangery in Kensington Gardens. It's not too expensive and is a lovely way to spend a couple of hours. You can wander through the gardens before and/or afterwards.

To learn more about London, do one of the specialised walking tours (there are so many that there would have to be one in your areas of interest). It's a great way to see a different side of the city.

In Edinburgh, definitely climb Arthur's Seat, though remember it's probably going to be quite chilly indeed at the top.

Shopping-wise, check out Cockburn Street, which runs off the Royal Mile and has a number of quirky and alternative shops. Also explore the area around the Grassmarket, as mentioned above.

The Princes St Gardens are a lovely place to spend some time, a possible picnic ground for you.

Edinburgh is also a really compact city, so just explore on foot. Walk out to the water at Granton or Leith and you'll see plenty of real life Edinburgh along the way.

If you fancy a bit of walking, follow the Water of Leith Walkway between Roseburn and Canonmills, a picturesque route. If you want to get out of town, North Berwick is a scenic and simple daytrip. St Andrews is a little further away but also easily do-able as a daytrip on the train.
posted by puffl at 8:43 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's a nice pub on the other side of Arthur's Seat I think in Leith, called The Sheep's Head Inn.

The Sheep Heid Inn is in Duddingston, which is a long way from Leith. But it is nice.
posted by Lebannen at 12:38 AM on September 5, 2008

I'm from Edinburgh, and I live in London, so I've got a couple of ideas.

A cheap and awesome thing to do is to take a Thames Clipper boat from Embankment Pier to Greenwich for an afternoon. A single ticket is about £4.50 I think. They're fast catamarans, rather than the slow tourist boats, so it's about half an hour to Greenwich, right through all of the biggest landmarks in London. Also, there's a bar on board. Once in Greenwich, there's the Maritime Museum, the Observatory, the GMT line and tons of bars and restaurants.

I'd also heartily recommend a tour of Shakespeare's Globe theatre. Sadly you'll miss the end of their season by about ten days, but the visitor centre and tour is well worth the admission price. Go during the week and it should be quieter, although there will be big groups of schoolkids.

Take a walk up Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, which offers an incredible view across London, and is always nice to hang out and watch the guys flying the enormous kites. While you're in that neck of the woods, check out Highgate Cemetery, which is delightfully spooky, overgrown and surreal. We had a Goth tour guide, it was brill.

If you want a real curry, not the overpriced nonsense on Brick Lane, head to the Lahore Kebab House, which will do an incredible meal for less than a £20 a head. Bring your own booze, they don't sell it there. The area is quite industrial (lots of warehouse shops), but it's worth getting off the tourist track - get there before 8 to beat the rush.

For cheap drinks and ambience in Soho, head to the John Snow pub on Broadwick Street, site of the infamous final cholera epidemic in London and named after the doctor who essentially laid the foundations for modern understanding of disease and how it spreads.

Take a wander down the South Bank and visit the Waterloo Bridge bookstalls.

Get up early on a Saturday and go to Borough Market, and enjoy the odd feeling of sinking a pint of New Forest Cider and eating a wild boar bun at 7 in the morning. Get there ideally before 7 for the real market experience - after about 9 or 10 it's impossible to walk anywhere because it gets so busy.

Then, have a pint in the beer garden at the George in Borough, which I believe is the second oldest in London. Last time we were there there were some Morris Dancers in the courtyard.

Right, that'll do for London, time for Edinburgh.

Right, first of all, don't take a taxi from Edinburgh airport unless you've got a hotel booked in some really random place - take the Airport Express bus, which is £5 for an open return that lasts a month, has comfy (if eye-searing) tartan seats and loads of luggage racks. It will deposit you smack in the middle of Edinburgh, right next to Waverley Railway station. From here, if your hotel is more than a couple of minutes walk away, a cab will cost you £5 - 8 instead of £15 - £20.

Thirded on Arthur's Seat, it's a relatively short walk and an incredible view.

Also thirded on a wander around the Grassmarket, I love it round there.

If you go to the National Museum of Scotland, go up to the roof terrace - amazing view of the Old Town from up there. While you're around that neck of the woods, pop into the The Elephant House cafe across the way, famously where JK Rowling wrote her first drafts of Harry Potter.

Touristy-type things generally suck, to be honest, and are over-priced, but there are exceptions. Mary King's Close is worth a visit, if only for the gloriously over the top acting by all the 'resting' actors. And if you like that, a ghost tour from this lot is great fun, and a good way to get a fun tour of the Old Town.

For late night live music, try Whistle Binkies up on the Bridges, or if your tastes are more folk-inclined, try the fantastic folk nights at Sandy Bell's. If you liked tapping your foot, you may like to try ceilidh dancing - the Ceilidh Club's got you covered. Just remember, speed and enthusiasm will make up for mistakes and lack of understanding.

Finally, consider a day-trip out to North Berwick, which is about 35 minutes out of Edinburgh by train, and is gorgeous.

Have fun!
posted by Happy Dave at 2:03 AM on September 5, 2008 [6 favorites]

If your around central London in the evening check out Gordon's Wine Bar (Map): its a a candle lit, underground, Victorian wine bar (the oldest in London). It can get a little crowded, but it has a fantastic atmosphere, is inexpensive and will make you fell like you have got a slice of insider's London.
posted by tallus at 5:47 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, Gordon's! How could I have forgotten that! Gordon's is brilliant. It's dead hot when it's full though. Nice covered terrace thing out the side though.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:41 AM on September 5, 2008

i second a trip to parliament hill. a nice walk through the park and then you get an amazing panoramic view of London.

also, try visiting Brighton (about an hour train ride from London.) it may be a bit cold, but it is nice to see the coast and walk around a bit.
posted by slograffiti at 11:31 AM on September 5, 2008

Edinburgh has a pretty good live music scene - maybe see a gig (any gig) at Cabaret Voltaire, which is kind of like a cave. (Probably about £6 for a random gig by a non-famous band.)

Coconut Grove is a nice little Mexican restaurant, and it's just down from the Cameo, a lovely old independent cinema.

If you're looking to slur your words, Rose Street (behind Princes Street) is a fairly long street that's mostly filled with pubs - Dirty Dick's is one of the best, despite the name, and does pretty good food as well. The Brass Monkey is another great pub, which has a room round the back filled with cushions and a cinema screen that shows random selections of stuff.

You could check out the Scottish Parliament, which has 'interesting' architecture at least, though it's not universally popular. And the Meadows would be a nice spot for a picnic, though it becomes a bit of a dodgy area at night.

And I'm seconding the comment about walking round Edinburgh - most of the bits you'll want to see are within walking distance of Princes St., though there's a decent bus service as well.
posted by Kirn at 2:11 PM on September 5, 2008

You asked for suggestions for nice days out in Edinburgh, I've got a few, hope you like them (-:

(sunny #1, around 3-4 hrs)
1) take 23,27 buses from Princes St to Stockbridge, get off at the bridge, check out funky antiques shops, browse charity shops
2) (optional) walk up to visit Victorian glasshouses in Botanic Gardens
3) From the bridge, take the Water of Leith to the Dean Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art (45 mins), make sure to explore a tiny ancient conglomeration called "Dean Village" on the way
4) (optional) Have coffee and handbaked scones at Gallery cafe, visit gallery
5) Take free gallery bus back to Princes St.

(sunny #2, 5 hours)
1) Go to the Forest cafe and hire free bikes, or hire bikes elsewhere
2) Cycle along the Union canal for 2 hours - it gets really good once you left the city, and you get to see a lot of nice things (ok and one or two nasty outskirts, but these pass quick on the bike)
3) In the first proper village there is a restaurant on the bridge right at the canal, it's expensive but highly stylish and tasty, seems very authentic.
4) Cycle back (-:

(not so sunny)
*museum of childhood, brass rubbing (signs made to order) come to mind... here are all the museums
*see Anglican evensong in St Mary's cathedral between Haymarket and West End... usually round 5pm, they have a sign with the times outside. it has one of the UK's best church choirs although there are usually hardly more audience than choir (i go there only for the music, not the god business, and it still makes me sad).They're welcoming and open minded.
*Find a charity shop in Stockbridge, Newington or Tollcross and get a charity shop map off them... go on a spree! there are more than 20, some very funky ones too (-: good for weird rare items as collectibles possibly.
*You could have a nice cosy lunch at say, the Doric (fish mainly) opposite Waverley which have a great upstairs wine bar.. or at Henderson's cav-y, kinda Swiss level organic and down-to-earth restaurant, between Princes St. and Stockbridge. These are fairly budget things. If wanting to spend more cash, book a place at Hewatt's family owned restaurant in Sciennes Road or the national galleries posh roof restaurant.
* "Shopping with loads of cash" - just proceed from Princes St to George St. maybe starting at St. Andrews Sq.

Btw. pick up "The List" in shops and the free "The Skinny" in cafes, bars etc. for guides and event listings, lots of good gigs (Cab Vol is pretty wild btw man ;-)
Plus what everybody above said.
posted by yoHighness at 8:44 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also I want to favourite Happy Dave's comment 10 times.
posted by yoHighness at 8:52 PM on September 5, 2008

Oh, one final one for London - this one is top sekrit, so share cautiously. Go to London Bridge Railway Station. Find the signs for London Bridge Underground. Follow them down the escalators in the middle of the railway station and you'll come to an underground linking passageway that is lined with wee shops. Directly ahead of you at the end of this covered shopping bit, you'll see a door set into the wall. Most of the time it's closed and locked, but come along on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday and it will be open. Get there well before eight or you'll have to queue.

You've just found the Shunt Vaults, one of the strangest, most fun evenings to be had in London. Pay £5 to become a 'member', then... well, you'll see. Enjoy!
posted by Happy Dave at 1:23 AM on September 6, 2008 [5 favorites]

There are a few companies that run day trips from Edinburgh to the highlands- there's some really stunning scenery to behold.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 4:26 AM on September 6, 2008

Until Happy Dave mentioned it, I forgot about ceilidh dancing altogether. Definitely, definitely try to find a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee, approximately) that is happening while you're in town. An awesome, fun night out for a newlywed couple.
posted by puffl at 8:18 PM on September 6, 2008

The London Transport Museum has beautiful posters.

Seconding Borough Market. It's right by Southwark Cathedral, which is worth a visit, especially if you're a Shakespeare fan.

Time Out will have listings for what's going on in London, though you might not find out too much this far ahead.

Have a great time!
posted by lukemeister at 8:41 PM on September 6, 2008

The London Eye - obvious, maybe, but popular with couples. I'd recommend Covent Garden (quirky shops, food and street performers - quite touristy) or if you're into street art, Brick Lane is worth a visit - you can visit The Hookah Lounge for shisha, or head on to The Tea Factory for frangelico sours. Highgate is definitely worth a visit, and I've heard good things about The Horniman Museum. Soho is nice in the rain. Maison Bertaux is recommended - I broke up with someone there in floods of tears and the waitress came and brought me hot chocolate with a smile.

MrMippy, a Scot, loves Whistle Binkies. There's a fossil shop in the Grassmarket, and Cockburn St has some galleries and a photographic bookshop.

If you're after yarn, both cities have a branch of John Lewis right in the centre, a big department store with a large haberdashery, half of which is dedicated to knitting.
posted by mippy at 9:50 AM on September 7, 2008

Edinburgh has a small thing like shunt btw. (more circus and cabaret oriented)
posted by yoHighness at 11:19 AM on September 7, 2008

« Older Was I taken for a ride?   |   Best TV on DVD? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.