My London Little Black Book
As a Londoner I often get asked for recommendations for what to do when visiting the city. Here’s a list of my favourite places to shop, eat and drink coffee.
The photos in this post were all taken from the official website of the various venues mentioned. All the photos are copyright of the venue mentioned, unless otherwise noted in the caption.
The most beautiful art shop in London is Cornelissen. It looks like something out of Harry Potter. It’s also right next to the British Museum, so I would recommend visiting both at the same time.
Cass Art is a chain of affordable art shops that can be found all over London. The flagship store is in Islington, but I also often pop into the Soho store, and there is one next to the National Portrait Gallery.
If you are exploring East London then Cowling and Wilcox and Great Art are in Shoreditch are also both were a visit.
Choosing Keeping is an independent stationery shop that stocks a wide range of supplies for painting, calligraphy and bookbinding. It’s a beautiful store and a great place for finding more unusual brands and products.
One of my favourite places for coffee is Notes coffee shop, which is just opposite the National Gallery. My husband and I are often in Charring Cross due to the large number of book shops and guitar shops so we get coffee here regularly. They’ve also just opened a shop in Kings Cross.
Another favourite coffee shop is the Grind chain. You can find the coffee shops in Soho, Shoreditch and Clerkenwell. The Clerkenwell cafe is definitely the prettiest.
Saint Espresso, in Islington, and next to Baker Street station both do great coffee.
Kaffeine in Soho also do great coffee and light meals. I had a butternut squash and gruyere tart there which I still think about fondly.
I love brunch at Café Miami in Hackney, everything on the menu is delicious and it’s such a sweet little café.
Bourne and Hollingsworth in Clerkenwell is a classic for brunch, although you definitely need to book ahead. The interiors are absolutely beautiful. Also if you’re going mid week they have a great lunch time set menu.
I love lunch at Blanchette in Soho. It’s such a beautifully quaint little French restaurant, and it does delicious French style Tapas. They also have a great lunch set menu. My top tip for eating out in London is always look out for a lunch set menu as they are often very good value.
Another favourite is the Ivy Café in Marylebone. The Ivy group have restaurants all over London, but my favourite is the Marylebone café as it’s cosy and intimate, and one of the more affordable ones. Top tip, order the zucchini fries. The Ivy Cafe is also know for it’s beautiful exterior decorations, especially at Christmas.
Brasserie Zedel is great for a reasonably priced classic french food with beautiful interiors. This vast underground restaurant feels like you’re stepping back in time. I highly recommend the tarte tatin.
For a quick and cheap meal in London Franco Manca is my go to. They make great sourdough pizza have branches all over London.
Daunt Books in Marylebone is a beautiful bookshop, and the rest of the street is lovely as well. They also have a shop in Hampstead.
I love Foyles on Charing Cross Road. It’s huge, it has almost every book you could possibly be looking for and it has a lovely café as well.
There is also Hatchards in Picadilly, the UK’s oldest book shop.
Museums and galleries
One of the best things about London is it’s incredible range museum galleries, almost all of which are free to enter.
The V&A is one of my favourite museums in London, it’s absolutely vast and so inspiring. The café is also beautiful.
The Wallace Collection is one of my favourite places in London and a true hidden gem. It’s famous for its beautiful interiors, stunning artwork and ever so Instagramable pink courtyard cafe. I recommend going straight to the café and ordering a pot of tea, it comes in lovely cast-iron teapots, and then exploring the rest of the house. Entry is free and it’s a great place to sketch.
The Tate Britain is definitely my favourite out of the two Tates. The classic architecture and the serene atmosphere appeals to me. I love the permanent collection and they have some great exhibitions.
The Fashion Textile Museum have some great exhibitions. This summer I’m looking forward to their exhibition on Peruvian textiles.
The Night Jar is a underground speak easy style bar in Old Street. It’s pretty small so it’s worth booking in advance, especially if there is live music that night. Cocktails here are fun and inventive. If you want to drink a cocktail from a giant seashell or an edible waffle cup this is the place. It’s sister bar The Oriole is also lovely.
The Ned is an absolutely beautiful hotel and former bank which has been lovingly restored to its 1920s glory by The Soho House Group. They have regular live music on Sundays and often there is swing dancing. It’s lovely to have a drink and have a little dance, there are lots of pros so even if you can’t dance it’s nice just to sit and watch. There is something lovely and old-fashioned about complete strangers coming up to you and asking for a dance. I’m a terrible dancer but I normally have a go.
The Dandelyan is part of the Mondrian Hotel on the South Bank. It is without a doubt the strangest hotel I’ve ever been in. It’s kind of like walking into a giant art installation. The bar is decked out in trendy pink and green serves experimental cocktails.
I love the Charlotte Street Hotel, it’s very old school with a bit of a twist. The rooms are beautifully designed by Kit Kemp. Every room is a total delight. I’ve been here for the afternoon tea and cocktails, but I’d love to have the opportunity to stay.
I’ve been to the Leman Locke hotel as part of an event with WeekendIN, which means I’ve had a chance to eat at the restaurant and see inside the bedrooms. It’s almost like a studio flat with calming pastel minimalist decor. It’s perfect if you’re in London for work, or just want to stay somewhere that feels more like a (very trendy) home.
The Hoxton have hotels all over the world now, but the original in Shoreditch is a classic. Ive been there many times for coffee and events, there’s always something going on at The Hoxton. The location is great and the rooms look lovely.
I hope this list is useful. Let me know if there’s anything else you would like to see added to the list. I’m probably going to add new places as I discover them.