Suggestions for repeat London visit?
February 18, 2016 8:38 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I are heading to London for vacation in a few weeks. Both of us have already seen the big sights on previous trips. We have some ideas about what to do, and we have some Premier League tickets we're very excited about, but we're looking for additional suggestions. We're also wondering where we should eat, and whether there are any good day trips we should consider.

We are planning to revisit some of the big things we liked, and will also be attending some soccer games as noted above, but we need other options to fill up the rest of our week!

I've read some of the previous threads on visiting London and found some great suggestions, such as looking for cheap same-day theater tickets. But we would love some other ideas, especially for indoor activities, since it may be gross outside while we're there.

We will be staying between Paddington Station and Hyde Park. Both of us have done plenty of international travel, and are comfortable using public transit to get around. We have pretty broad interests -- we enjoy museums, shows, just wandering around and people watching, generally nerdy stuff, and Tottenham Hotspur. We'll be there for 8 days.

More specifically, we would welcome suggestions on any of the following:

  • Where to find great Indian food
  • Where we can go for fancy/high tea (husband is pushing for this one!)
  • Where we should go for fish and chips
  • Any other restaurants/foods we should not miss - affordable places? a fancier place for a splurge?
  • Pubs where we can support Tottenham during an away game
  • Pubs around White Hart Lane that we should visit before or after a home game
  • Smaller/less well known museums, shops, or other sights we should see
  • Where to wander around and take in the scenery/people watch
  • Day trips that we should consider - bonus points if relatively easy/cheap, those tickets were f***ing expensive!

Thanks MetaFilter!
posted by Carmelita Spats to Travel & Transportation around London, England (27 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
If you haven't been to Sir John Soane's you must. Make sure they open the hidden walls in the portrait room.
posted by phunniemee at 8:42 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Annapurna in Chiswick is my all time favorite Indian restaurant. Not overly fancy but a nice ambiance and good food.

Take the Tube to the end of the line and get off in Richmond. It's a great place to walk around. Go to the top of the hill and have a pint at the Roebuck. If the weather is nice, you can drink it on the bench overlooking beautiful scenery across the street.
posted by cessair at 8:47 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fish and Chips- The Golden Hind on Marylebone Road.

The Churchill War Rooms are on my list for my next London trip.
posted by kimdog at 8:53 AM on February 18, 2016

When we were in London in 2009, my daughter and I went to tea at The Orangery. It was lovely!
posted by cooker girl at 9:00 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you haven't been to Slough, which is just up the railway from Paddington Station, I recommend it. Very nice modern architecture, some nice parks, and quaint views of the trains from various bridges.
posted by parmanparman at 9:03 AM on February 18, 2016

The Geffrye Museum is pretty cool!

If you've not been to the National Portrait Gallery before then that's one of my favourites, and even if you have the exhibits will be different - good for people-watching too.

Dishoom is pretty good for Indian food, particularly if you want to have Indian brunch (the fried egg naan is super good) - they're a small chain; there's one in Kings Cross, one in Covent Garden, one in Shoreditch, maybe others elsewhere but those are the ones I've been to.

Brighton is a nice day trip but probably only if you have decent (non-rainy) weather. You can get there in less than 2 hours from where you're staying, off-peak it's probably about £20 each for the train.
posted by theseldomseenkid at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2016

Seconding John Soane's, and while you're there, walk across the park and go to The Hunterian Museum - they're both smallish so you can do them together in an afternoon.

NOTE: do not go to the Hunterian if you are not cool with seeing a LOT of dead things (including people) in formaldehyde.
posted by greenish at 9:09 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Would second the Geffrye Museum and the Churchill War Rooms - enjoyed them both when we were last there.

As far as smaller/out of the way places go:

Thanks to lurking on Metafilter, I discovered 19 Princelet Street just before a 2007 trip to London. It just so happened it was open when we were there. It was fantastic - and even more relevant now in the context of human migration in Europe:

19 Princelet Street in Spitalfields is a unique cultural institution, in one of London’s smallest and most beautiful historic buildings. Its shabby front doors are rarely open to the public: beyond are secrets and suitcases, poems and potatoes, threads of history linking to today’s debates over migration, minorities and multiculturalism.

Their website says the last public opening was in September 2015, but if it seems interesting to you, you might want to try contacting them directly to see if you can luck out.

According to this comment, Dennis Seaver's House is an alternative...that's now definitely on my list of things to see on a return trip:

Dennis Severs’ House at 18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields is more than just a time capsule. It is both a breathtaking and an intimate portrait of the lives of a family of Huguenot silk-weavers from 1724 to the dawn of the 20th Century. As you follow their fortunes through the generations, the sights, smells and sounds of the house take you into their lives. It was Dennis Severs’ intention that as you enter his house it is as if you have passed through the surface of a painting, exploring with your senses and imagination a meticulously crafted 18th Century world.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:30 AM on February 18, 2016

Nerdy you say? Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing. Easily reached by train and not expensive.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:33 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Walk and eat your way through Borough Market. And then walk over to the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

highgate cemetry? (according to wikipedia they have tours).
posted by andrewcooke at 9:43 AM on February 18, 2016

Indian food: if you're vegetarian go straight to Diwani Bhel Poori on Drummond Street, near Euston station; meatier fare can be had at Tayyab's on Fieldgate Street or (my favourite), the Lahore Kebab House on Commercial Street, both east of Liverpool St station. If you want michelin stars and prices to match, go to Gymkhana in Mayfair. Avoid Brick Lane.

Afternoon tea: book ahead for either Claridge's or the Ritz (strict shirt-and-tie dress code at the latter). On a budget? Try the Tea Rooms on Stoke Newington Church Street. High Tea of Highgate was always wonderful when I went, but I haven't been in since it changed owners. Very handy for Hampstead Heath though.

Fish and chips is generally pretty awful in London, but I've always found North Sea Fish in Bloomsbury to be reliable (and is right next door to the shop from Black Books if you've seen the show). Poppies in Spitalfields is fine and slightly more of an attraction in itself. I've heard good things about Sutton and Sons on the Essex Road.

Pretty much any pub in central London with a tv will show Spurs away games and you'll be fine. In north London, Islington / Camden is generally Arsenal land, although outside of a handful pubs around Holloway Road and Highbury you'll find everyone mixes along quite nicely. The pubs near the ground really aren't the greatest. For the ur-Spurs pub experience, you will probably want to try The Bricklayers Arms (I've never been in as I only ever go to Spurs as an away supporter.)
posted by bebrogued at 9:47 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you like dead things in jars, the Natural History Museum offers backstage tours of the spirit collection. (I managed to get tickets on the day when I was there in November, but you might want to book ahead.) Giant squid! Jars from the Beagle expedition! Dermestid beetles in action! I've been saying since that it was the best 10 pounds I spent that trip for solid 'this is awesome'. (The museum itself is free.)

I also really enjoyed the special exhibit at the Wellcome Museum on Tibetan meditation and related topics. It looks like that'll be over at the end of February, but I still recommend the museum. There's a whole nest of Indian restaurants near there as well. (I went to two different ones with friends, as I was staying on Gower Street, the one whose name I remember was Lal Qila, and quite tasty.)

For affordable but tasty tea, there's a tiny little tearoom in the basement of a bookstore across the street from the British Museum called Tea and Tattle, with tasty things, and not nearly so expensive as many of the fancier places, while still being satisfyingly afternoon tea. Probably not worth a special trip, but if you're there anyway, recommended.

For larger things: I really also enjoyed my trip to Hampton Court, and most of it is sufficiently indoors to be fine in bad weather. (There's a short walk from the train station to the entrance.) They have an excellent free audio guide, and also some free tours of different sections.

The London Walks tours I did were both very good, and they have a bunch of highly specialised ones that mean you get about two hours of very interesting things to see, while walking. (They have a discount thing that's worth doing if you expect to do more than 3 while you're there.) Nice because you don't need to book ahead, just show up.
posted by modernhypatia at 10:04 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was going to make some suggestions, but then I realized you are Sp*rs supporters ;)

Seriously, lots of good advice here. I love the London Walks.

I have written a few detailed travel journals for various trips, including a few to London. I hope no one minds me sharing them here.
posted by terrapin at 10:16 AM on February 18, 2016

Walk and eat your way through Borough Market.

Was just coming in to suggest this. Not sure if it's still there, but when I was in London a couple of years ago there was a toasted-cheese sandwich cart in the corner of the market closest to Southwark Cathedral (on the far side from the river) that was amazing. I'd literally just come from breakfast and it smelled so good I had to get one.

I'd also suggest one of Yottam Ottolenghi's restaurants, either takeaway from the deli or brunch at the one in Islington. Nopi is more formal but also awesome. (More info here.)
posted by asterix at 10:51 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so, SO much to everyone for these excellent recommendations! Even the Arsenal fans!
posted by Carmelita Spats at 10:57 AM on February 18, 2016

High tea means 2 sweet and 2 savory dishes are served instead of 1 savory and 2 sweet.
posted by brujita at 11:03 AM on February 18, 2016

I love The Wellcome Collection - it's a great blend between sciencey curiosities and history and art.

It's almost opposite the British Library, which has great exhibitions and a wonderful free permanent collection.

As mentioned above, Highgate cemetery is worth a poke around.
posted by kadia_a at 11:04 AM on February 18, 2016

I can recommend the National Cafe afternoon tea (at the National Gallery). Not terribly expensive or posh but a really lovely authentic experience.

Also recommend wandering round the food halls of Harrods and Fortnum & Mason (downstairs - not the ground floor level which is tourist central). I give myself a budget of (say) £20 and spend hours trying to find the best combination of things I might buy.

Kew Gardens is worth a trip if the weather is halfway decent (plenty to see inside if not), and is just a short-ish hop on the tube.
posted by car01 at 11:13 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh eat at Bao in Soho! So delicious.
posted by heavenknows at 11:52 AM on February 18, 2016

Take the River Bus (it's a TfL service, so not expensive) along the Thames, from Embankment out to Greenwich for example. It's an amazing view of the city and you can stand out on the deck or sit in the bar and watch the city go by.

If you want amazing, affordably Indian/Pakistani food, the Lahore Kebab House is an institution. It's very much on the cheap and cheerful end of things - think bright lights, tile floors and plasma TVs playing Bollywood films or cricket. But the food is amazing.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:07 PM on February 18, 2016

I'm a big fan of the Imperial War Museum. It focuses on how people experience war - looks like there's currently an exhibition on how women experienced World War II.
posted by FencingGal at 1:27 PM on February 18, 2016

Much as I'm loath to help the Scum, I'd suggest:

Fish at Borough Market for fish & chips...they double fry their chips, and their fish is pretty great. Also their mushy peas.
Rasa (specifically Rasa W1 on Dering between Oxford Circus and Bond Street) make amazing dosa. I miss that place like crazy.

The Science/Natural History/Victoria & Albert Museums are all amazing...don't skip the V&A, though. There're some truly odd exhibits in there.

The Tate Modern is definitely worth it, and is quite close to Borough Market.

I'll second the Imperial War Museum, but I'll warn that Kew Gardens, despite being thoroughly amazing, is amazingly expensive.

Have a great trip, other than your games.
posted by Kreiger at 1:51 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Tate Modern is probably one of my favorite museums in England. I've also been to The Orangery mentioned above and would second it. Have you been to Speaker's Corner? It's been 16 years since I was there, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:17 PM on February 18, 2016

Colleagues of mine speak highly of Dishoom.

I took my mum to tea at The Wolseley which was really nice. The Fryers' Delight round Bloomsbury will do you some good fish and chips.

Slough is an odd choice for a day trip...I'd go with Brighton or Margate (has a great museum) if the weather holds.
posted by mippy at 7:57 AM on February 19, 2016

Coming back to mention that Betjeman wasn't wrong. Having worked in Slough for seven years, it's a shithole.
posted by Kreiger at 9:28 AM on February 19, 2016

Response by poster: Oh my goodness, I have to give my sincere thanks to everyone who posted in this thread! We just got back from our trip which included many of the recommendations in this thread, and it was FUCKING amazing!

Things we did and immensely enjoyed:

Churchill War Rooms
Hunterian Museum
Spirit collection - oh my god so cool!
V&A museum

We also visited and liked the Sir John Soane museum, but I would suggest that any future Mefites learn from our mistake and shell out for the written guide - there aren't a lot of placards to explain what things are, so a lot of it went over the heads of husband and me.

We also discovered that you have to visit Speakers Corner on Sunday...usefil to know for next time.

I had already done (and loved) the Globe and Tate Modern on a previous trip, so I can definitely second those recommendations as well.

Places we ate and enjoyed:

Borough Markets, NOM!! (though I couldn't find the cheese sandwich cart)
Golden Hind
Lahore Kebab House
The Wolesley for tea
Dishoom, which was my personal favorite meal!

Also, for atmosphere purposes, I would definitely recommend the Bricklayers Arms for any future Spurs supporters visiting White Hart Lane! It was mobbed when we were there (for the derby!), but an unforgettable experience for sure. There's also a bar very close to the stadium called something like "Tottenham No. 8" that we enjoyed.

We had trouble finding a pub that had the mid-week away game on, because there was a more popular fixture on at the same time. We later discovered that the Leinster Arms is a Spurs bar that's centrally located, so would recommend that for sure.

Everything else that we didn't have time to do/see/eat is definitely on my list for the next visit! Thanks again to everyone for the great recommendations!

P.S. COYS!!!
posted by Carmelita Spats at 7:30 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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