London advice!
September 19, 2022 2:56 PM   Subscribe

After carefully planning a November trip to Portugal - guess what, it's going to be London instead! Going to stay in 2 different hotels (because I like to get a flavor of 2 different places) and I'm looking for which 2 neighborhoods I should stay in. Thinking very close to some good pubs or restaurants as it will be dark quite early and after museums will head back to neighborhood for food and drinks. I'd love to hear of two different but awesome areas to stay that are near the subway. I'll be there during the Lord Mayor's show, which I guess I'll find out what that is when I get there? Nov 6 to 14 are my dates. Hoping for any recommendations for great food in interesting settings, historic places and homes, theatre, and castle-y stuff and are up for any day trips to a quaint village or pretty nature. Any advice very welcome so I have a direction to start my planning! Assume I know mostly nothing about London.
posted by beccaj to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We stayed at an Airbnb in Soho just before the pandemic and liked that neighborhood a lot. The Tube makes London extremely accessible, but Soho is especially central. (I'm sure you've heard of Picadilly Circus—that's on the literal edge of Soho.) Central to what? Well, it's London, so you're close to world-class almost everything. Tons of restaurants and cocktail bars worth visiting.

One place I highly recommend is Yotam Ottolenghi's Nopi.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 3:53 PM on September 19

Borough Market - great food and location
posted by shoesietart at 4:54 PM on September 19

If you haven't seen the question I asked a few months back, it is an absolute bonanza of cool things in London.
posted by minervous at 5:25 PM on September 19

I stayed in Sussex Gardens in Westminster, and I loved it. Paddington station was practically next door, as was Hyde Park and a lot of little pubs and cafes. There was also a supermarket nearby, which was nice for getting late-night snacks for the room.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:24 PM on September 19

Eat at Dishoom at least once for breakfast and dinner each.
posted by mhoye at 6:51 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]

I love London in November! Make sure you go to Hampstead Heath during daylight hours, it is so wintry and atmospheric - I love it. There are lots of good places to eat around the Heath, my favourite is the South End Green stretch (closest station: Hampstead Heath overground station, or Belsize Park tube station on the Northern Line). The brunch at Dominique's is delicious, or you could get a take-away hot chocolate from The Nook and then wander into the Heath.

Another November-y favourite is Highgate Cemetery.
posted by unicorn chaser at 12:27 AM on September 20

I'm not well placed to advise on where you should stay, but I can suggest a few things that may not have turned up in previous London threads:

Do you like fireworks? You're arriving one day too late for Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes Night) proper, but if you're going to be around by 5pm on the 6th, you could still go and see some fireworks at the Battersea Park Fireworks Family Night (you'll need to book; check the date carefully).

Londonist has you sorted for castles you can visit in a day trip from the capital: castles in Kent, castles in Essex, castles in Sussex. Do check transport directions though - some of them are trickier than others to get to without a car.

You could also go looking for vanished castles in London itself, if you wanted an excuse for a walk around the oldest parts of London (where you'll find Roman remains side by side with shiny modern buildings). Come to that, if Roman remains and walking appeal to you, this self-guided walk is pretty great.

Finally, back to Londonist again. With the same check-how-to-get-there caveat as for the castles, here's a long list of day trip suggestions, some advice on tea rooms in Kent and in Essex, and some seaside trips in Sussex. From that last one, Rye leaps out at me: it's not actually quite on the coast, so it's a slightly odd inclusion, but it's charming, it's quaint, it has a castle, and it's quite small but not so tiny you'll have seen it all in ten minutes.

Probably a good idea to do any train trips outside London on weekdays, by the way; trains are more likely to have engineering works at weekends, and smaller places don't necessarily have much open on a Sunday anyway. (My town also has a lot of shops closed on Mondays; not sure how common that is.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:45 AM on September 20

I liked staying in Notting Hill for a combination of quiet and very good eateries, plus decent transport access. Especially good if you're planning on the Portobello Road market, it'd let you get there extra early.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 4:24 AM on September 20

For two different locations, I would suggest that Soho & Shoreditch offer contrasting takes on London nightlife. Shoreditch is pretty close to the City of London where the Lord Mayor's Show takes place, and not far from the Tower of London if you want to see that. Soho is good for major London attractions like Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. Both are well located by tube.

If you want to experience the London that Londoners live in, then a zone 2 destination that takes your fancy is probably right - Hampstead, Islington, Battersea/Clapham, Peckham, Hackney, Fulham all offer very different takes on a local neighbourhood but will have plenty of places to eat, drink and socialise in the evenings.

Interesting day trips. Windsor & Eton, Marlow, Henley, Brighton, Oxford, Cambridge, are all accessible in a day and offer different but very attractive versions of England outside London. Villages are harder by train. I would look at the places on the Chiltern line from Marylebone to see if any take your fancy (Midsomer Murders is filmed around there, so it can be quite chocolate box-y). Alll of the places I've listed are within the broad commuter belt from London so are definitely achievable in a day.
posted by plonkee at 4:27 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]

Lots of opinions here which are very good. I want to add another opinion to reframe some of your initial assumptions:

Most of London especially in Zone 1 and Zone 2 (check the London Underground map) is very walkable and has great access to public transportation. Everywhere in Zone 1 and 2 would be near some form of tube station, and definitely near to some bus stop or the other.

Walking around or using the public transport in late evening/ early night is generally not an issue for safety, and I say this as a woman walking by myself (of course, there are the few highly-publicised incidents, but in general, walking around at night in London is much safer than the other places I have lived in, as everyone walks, it's not just a last option!)

There are not many 'black holes' in the terms of public transportation for Z1/ Z2 London, the few I can think of are perhaps Chelsea near the river. But there will be a bus of some sort, and yes, Londoners of every economic class use buses a lot.

Literally any restaurant/ tourist attraction in Zone 1 and Zone 2 would be a a maximum of 45 minutes away by public transport. So I would recommend choosing two neighbourhoods and not worry too much whehter it's near a tube station.
posted by moiraine at 5:40 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]

I asked a similar question a few years ago and got lots of great advice. If you decide to stay near Camden town, there are some locally relevant suggestions!
posted by Drosera at 6:21 AM on September 20

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