London From Local Eyes: Local Things to Do & Gems to Uncover

London is a special place to Luke and I.  It’s the first city I step foot in across the pond. It’s where Luke has lived for several months on two separate occasions. It’s where we got engaged.

It’s the city I have spent the most time in abroad (now it’s to the point that when I don’t go to London in Europe, something feels missing).

Local things to do in London

What’s funny is before I visited Luke in London to jump off our first European trip together back in 2013, London was not necessarily on my travel radar or bucket list. I pictured it as similar to the US, and with that, no new culture to experience. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is so much to be learned from the British. Incredible museums that so beautifully display the world’s history – I NEVER thought I’d see the Rosetta Stone in person! – delightful markets that offer up world-wide cuisine that is more amazing than you could ever imagine, scenic parks to stroll through, shopping that will make you feel like royalty, and more.

local things to do in London
Across from the St. Paul’s Cathedral on the Thames River

It just feels like England has existed forever when you look around, but at the same time, everything looks so new, and it is the cleanest city I have ever been to. After traveling there three times, I feel like I’m more interested in the local things to do than tourist sights (though those are a must during your first visit there!)

London should be a special place to everyone, because there is no where else in the world like it. It feels so enormous that you’d think you can never conquer it all.

But the author of Wandering Worldie, Rachel Houston  (who you may remember from our collab “Tallahassee Bucketlist” post) who just moved to London, begs to differ! She has been there since only July and has made a big effort to keep on her travel mindset and explore, explore, explore.

local things to do in London
The London Eye

Here, she offers up her American-in-England wisdom and shares tips for traveling to London. Here’s what to know about the local things to do in London and what to see from the eyes of a new-local:

Local things to do in London
Passing by Parliament
1) What are the key things to know about visiting London for a first-timer? 


RH: Two things come to mind immediately: One, download City Mapper or a similar app to get around on the tube/bus/overground – because it lets you know the different times you can expect transport and how long it will take you to get somewhere. Two, get a little familiar with the currency if you’re going to be taking out cash.
Screenshoting a cheat sheet online would be a good option, because their coins can definitely be confusing and if you plan on buying anything in markets, or on the street, you want to look like you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, you could get ripped off.


2) Of course, you’ve gotta see Big Ben and the London Bridge. As a now-London local, what do you think are some gems people may not know about that would make their experience better?
Local things to do in London


RH: It really depends on what you’re looking for! For markets and people watching I would totally recommend Camden Town. They have food stalls and a huge set up of different local stalls and stores. It’s really fun to hangout there.


For walking through parks and shopping I would say Richmond is gorgeous and much more local. They also have a massive park where wild deer roam around and you’ll always see people taking strolls!


Sloane Square is super posh, so I would say to go there rather than Oxford Street if you want a less congested shopping day.
Also, lots of tourists know about Windsor Castle since that’s where the Queen lives when she’s not reigning in Buckingham but regardless it’s somewhere I would recommend because there’s an amazing fudge shop that not only has delicious fudge BUT the staff are the funniest, most British people you will ever encounter and they’re really nice. Going in there makes my day, any day.


For specifics, I would say to go to designmynight or secretldn because they always advertise the latest and greatest going on in the city, from activities to fun promotions.
For example, the Saturday before Halloween Bud Light sponsored a pop up on Old Street (good place to go for night life) that gave everyone a free beer and allowed people to explore really creative and fun Halloween costumes before they sponsored a party at a bar that night! And up until Halloween (Oct 31) TopMan on Oxford Street turned their store into a “Stranger Things” real-life experience to promote the newest series release on Netflix! And there are things that go on like this all the time.


3) How do you see London differently as someone who lives there vs. before when you were a visitor? 


Local things to do in London
Buckingham Palace


RH: As someone who lives here now, I see how truly big London is. Kind of going off of my last answer, there is always something going on, and there is so much character stuffed into each corner of this city that I’m not sure how anyone could ever really know every nook and cranny.


When people message me and say they’re coming to London and what should they do, etc – it is REALLY exciting! But my first question is what part of London? Because a trip from Mayfair to Kensington, or Battersea to Marylebone could take WAY more time than anyone expects.


As a visitor I wanted to conquer the city, to know where everything is, and experience all parts – now as someone who lives here, I plan a whole day on the weekend to go and explore and see if I like that area because sometimes the commute to get there could take a quarter of the day.


4) When do you think are the best times to go?


RH: It depends on what you want in your trip! Going during the summer you’re ensured some beautiful weather, and everyone in the city has a pep in their step since it’s not raining all of the time.


Going during winter, London transforms into a wonderfully lit up Christmas spectacle so even though it gets dark at 4:30 PM, the lights around the city really make Christmas-time magical. So that’s also a beautiful time.


The times I would recommend to stay away from London are January and February – it apparently rains non-stop and if you’re a first timer that would be an awful experience.


5) What are your favorite go-to restaurants and bars?


RH: So I’m a huge brunch person, so my favorites for brunch have been Six Storeys at Soho and Mews of Mayfair. I’m also about to go to Bunga Bunga (for dinner) but I’ve heard their brunch is amazing too!


Mr. Fogg’s in Mayfair and Evans and Peel Detective Agency are amazing speakeasys, and those are both favorites of mine.
Nando’s is the Chick fil a of London. It’s not as good, BUT it’s addicting especially because it’s relatively good for you so pop in there and you’ll always have a conversation starter.
What are your London favorites?
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