After living in London for four years, I find it terribly difficult to make a shortlist of things to do and see when in London, as there is SO MUCH! London is an enormous city, rich with culture and diversified by distinct neighborhoods that offer their own world and local markets, cafes, pubs and particular energy. Below are some shortlisted recommendations when visiting London for a just a few days – hope you love it!
Stay: I would stay in Notting Hill (for a classic London experience) or Shoreditch (east, more hipster/artsy vibe)
See/do: if limited for time, must-see neighborhoods are Shoreditch, Notting Hill, Covent Garden and Soho
Shoreditch: to explore the area, start at Spitalfields market, really great, nice boutiques around there as well, along the square and Brushfield St. Take Commercial St to Hanbury St to walk to Brick Lane, where you can enjoy the full stretch, tons of vintage stores, vinyl, the art murals and street musicians, etc. Go all the way the end of Brick Lane, and go left to explore Redchurch St and Old Nichol St, as they're two streets with beautiful stores. Dishoom Shoreditch (see food) is also in this area. Walk even further, and go to the Columbia Rd Flower Market (market is only open on Sundays)
Covent Garden + Soho: Covent Garden is in in the West End (known as the theatre district - if you can see a show, you should!) There are often street performers and live music. It’s comprised of a massive square/covered area with lots of boutiques and restaurants. After exploring Covent Garden, make your way up north to the colourful alley of Neal's Yard and Seven Dials, and then over west to Soho which is super eclectic and lively. Carnaby St, Oxford and Regent St are a must (although very crowded). Be sure to visit Liberty, a gorgeous department store
Notting Hill: get off at Notting Hill Gate and continue the walk up north on Portobello Road. At the cross road with Westbourne Grove, turn right to enjoy the lineup of beautiful boutiques (stores like Diptique, Sezane, Aesop, etc). Afterwards, take Portobello back all the way up, under the bridge to Golborne Road. Turn right to enjoy lots of nice stores and furniture stores. Lisboa Patisserie is often filled with locals, as they offer the Portuguese speciality, pastel del nata.
Suggested walk to see other landmark spots: London eye/Westminster bridge: if you go to Borough Market, afterwards you can walk along the Thames, towards Bedale st, and cathedral st by the big ship, and follow the path along the Thames. Keep walking (good 45 min walk) and end up past the London Eye, and Westminster bridge to see Big Ben. can then keep walking to st James park and Hyde park, behind.
St James’s Park
Bars / pubs
Shard - touristy, but def worth it. beautiful views of the city. Go for a cocktail at sunset
Churchill Arms – an iconic and really charming /cozy pub in Notting Hill that serves Thai food.
Commercial Tavern – beautiful pub with several floors in Spitalfields/Shoreditch
The Yorkshire Grey – charming and classic English pub in Fitzrovia with a fireplace
The Dove – waterside pub along the Thames, great pub food and charming with wooden ceilings and fireplaces
Monmouth Coffee - location by Borough Market and Seven Dials. Get a flat white! Best you'll ever have.
Flat White – in Soho
Soho Grind – in Soho
Hej – in Bermondsey
Jacob The Angel – in Neals Yard
The Good Egg - amazing brunch, but it's quite up north
Farm Girl Cafe Farm Girl Cafe - healthy brunch in center of notting hill.
Electric Diner - next to / part of the Electric Cinema. Big comfy booths. One of the very few spots that takes reservations
Egg Break - in notting hill, such a good menu
Granger & Co - Australian brunch in heart of notting hill
Afternoon tea is a classic experience that is lovely to do. All the hotels offer them – a fav bring the Firmdale line up, like the Charlotte St Hotel and the Covent Garden Hotel. They can be a tad pricey but worth it! An alternative is to go to Muriel's Kitchen in Soho for afternoon tea.
Borough Market by London bridge - huge outdoor food market with really good food from all over, speciality breads, etc. note - they are closed on Sundays. If you go here, it's worth walking to Bermondsey St, it's a charming street with lots of cafes and museums)
Maltby Street Market - outdoor food market. Close by Tower Bridge (note: market is only open on Saturdays)
Portobello Market – as noted above. Saturday is the main day with Friday being busy as well
Spitalfields Market – open 7 days a week – tons of different stalls featuring clothing, food, etc
Columbia Rd Flower Market – only open on Sundays
Dinner: London is well known for its Indian and it's soooo good!!!
Punjab - family run, really good traditional Indian restaurant in Covent Garden. Tends to be a wait but it moves fast enough
Dishoom - really good indian and beautiful décor. Their Shoreditch location is my favourite. You can book for brunch, or dinner. Expect to wait (a lot), so I would go early, get drinks and then stay for dinner
Memories of India - family run, good authentic indian fare in Kensington. Nothing special but just good food
GoPals – another great Indian spot in Soho
Darjeeling Express – fabulous menu and cozy spot in Kingly Court, in Soho. Currently massive wait for bookings as the restaurant is featured in Netflix’s Chef’s Table
Tsiakkos & Characol – Great little Greek spot, super cozy and family run. Only £25 for full meze. incredible value and it's delicious. North of Notting hill
Poppies: in Shoreditch for traditional fish and chips
Bonnie Gull - seafood restaurant, location in Soho
Blanchette - french small plates in Soho, beautiful interior and cozy
Yauatcha - dim sum (soho)
St John – innovative british fare
Bancone - great pasta in covent garden, currently the rave.