Writing a guide to London is a never-ending story. Even if I shared only favourite local spots, I would write, write and write. I’m going to try and present at least a few places I got to love in my over two years of living in London. Come to the UK, visit these places and fall in love with this vibrant city.
Yo Yo Kitchen – The best regional food is served by people who come from the region and it’s no different with sushi. When it comes to London, I tell you, leave all the famous sushi restaurants in town centre behind and head to West Acton.
It’s easy to get there because the station is located at the west end of Central Line, which, yes you guessed that correctly, goes through central London. After a day of sightseeing, hop on the train and after twenty-something minutes, you’ll be in West Acton – home to many Japanese families with Japanese estate agencies, Japanese schools and Japanese football teams just around the corner.
Yo Yo Kitchen is located right outside the station on the left hand side, so you won’t miss it. It serves some of the best sushi I’ve ever eaten with the best prices I’ve ever seen. It’s made on-site by a Japanese chef, who’s worked in the best of London hotels and restaurants and served sushi to many celebrities. Yo Yo Kitchen also sells products to make your own sushi at home and Japanese sweets, like matcha cake (very sweet and creamy). While you’re in West Acton, it is a very good place to start exploring Leafy Ealing, called the queen of suburbs.
Family friendly Café And Parks
Parks and cafés are a very good match and London proves it well. Coffee culture has sprung up in the English capital in the last few years and, nowadays, it’s really rare to get a bad coffee. On the other hand, London’s parks haven’t changed much through the years and are their biggest asset.
As much as I love central London parks – Green Park, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and St. James’s Park – they get way too crowded. So again, leave Central London behind and head east to Brockley or west to Ealing and Hammersmith.
In Brockley, visit Hilly Fields Park and its lovely café, Pistachios in the Park. Most of their customers are mums with their little ones. The park gives a chance for a lot of running up and down hills, fun time at the playground, eating tasty food (ice cream!) and drinking delicious coffee.
In west London, go only one station after the aforementioned West Acton, to Ealing Broadway and visit Walpole Park. It has been recently renovated and it’s a pleasure to stroll there with a buggy or run around with a toddler. Lots of ponds, bridges, grass and trees to recognise. As in many of London’s parks, you’ll find squirrels to interact with. There’s a café in the park and though I’ve never tried it, I’m sure it’s great. However, if you want to choose a trusted spot, you won’t make a mistake by going to Electric Coffee next to the Ealing Broadway station. It’s an award winning café with children-friendly food and adult-friendly freshly brewed coffee.
Another park in west London worth visiting is Ravenscourt Park in Hammersmith. It’s a bit hidden, but very popular with locals. On a hot day, kids can enjoy paddling pool. There are different cafés in the park but, again, I haven’t tried them yet. I can recommend one right outside the park – W6 Café. Some of the ingredients they use come from their very own herb garden.
Victoria & Albert Museum isn’t a hidden gem, but I want to make sure to recommend it to you. Don’t be discouraged by its massive building and fame. If you don’t want to visit the whole museum, I recommend making sure you catch the history of fashion and Middle Eastern art. Both galleries are located on the ground floor, so you won’t even need to climb up the stairs. Both of them are also located next to the museum’s shop, which sells some of the best British handicraft.
If your kids get bored in V&A, straight after you can go across the road to the Science Museum and Natural History Museum. After a day of exhausting visits to the museums, enjoy lunch in South Kensington area. You’ll have a lot to choose from.
If you want to leave the children behind and add a little bit of spice to your life, make sure you try the wonderful Ethiopian cuisine in the heart of London. Addis in King’s Cross is one of the many Ethiopian restaurants in London and it provides the best Ethiopian experience due to its decorations. As the wife of a Ethiopian husband, I know Ethiopian restaurants in London pretty well. I think Addis is one of the best, when it comes to food, and the best when it comes to cultural experience.
The restaurant is located in the heart of London, a 5 minute walk from King’s Cross station. It’s not only a great place to eat, but also to start your exploration of the north part of the city. Angel and Upper Street are only a few minutes away and Regent’s Canal is right on its doorstep.
Addis restaurant serves traditional Ethiopian food. If you’ve never tried it before, I suggest you begin with doro wat – spicy chicken stew served with hard-boiled egg, kitfo – spicy half-cooked minced meat and one of the vegetable stew e.g. gomen wat (cabbage).
To enjoy being a tourist in London in a bit of a different way, get aboard one of the Transport for London’s river buses. They’re not as expensive as the tourist companies’ and the experience is as good or even better. The best is to choose the longest route from Putney, in south west London, all the way to Greenwich, in south east. The experience of cruising is great in itself and while seated aboard the river bus, you’ll be able to admire all major London attractions and pass under all the city’s bridges. You can’t miss such an opportunity!
London has some of the best charity shops, when it comes to clothes and furniture. It’s always best to visit those located in ‘posh’ areas like Hampstead, Chiswick and Richmond. You can read more about Chiswick charity shops in my e-book containing my choice of the three best walks in London (can be downloaded when you sign up for the newsletter on my blog website).
If I was to choose the best London charity shop, I would have a tough choice. There are some really good ones when you walk from Notting Hill Gate station to High Street Kensington, and there’s a good one just outside Hampstead Heath overground station.
I got to know London mostly by walking in different areas. Sometimes, a reason to go to a certain area would be a café I’d heard of, or an exhibition I wanted to see. On other occasions, I would go somewhere just because of its pretty name!
When you come to London, I suggest you spend as much time outdoors as possible. London museums are great, but save them for bad weather days and go for a walk. You may want to walk in central London, to visit all the main tourist spots, go to leafy suburbs in Richmond, Wimbledon or Forest Hill, or enjoy a mix of city and countryside in Hampstead. Whichever area you choose, keep walking! For more specific walk recommendations and routes, visit my blog
I could recommend many more places in London and I could keep writing about this absolutely amazing city I’ve lived in for more than two years. I got to know most of it on foot and I still keep coming to London to explore more of it. I share my experiences of city walks in London on www.walkandtalkuk.com. If you are planning to come to London, get in touch via [email protected] and I can recommend more places to visit, tailored to you and your family’s needs.
Joanna Sopylo-Firrisa, urban explorer and writer. Originally from Warsaw, Poland, currently living in Reading in Berkshire, UK and before that lived for over two years in London. Loves walking in the cities and thinking about life.
London Eye photo credit to Olga Talarska, Exhibition Road and The Victoria & Albert Museum by Joanna.
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