by Janis / 0 comments - Orginally published:10th November 2020

London a city of culture, cafés and quirky street names

Personally, I think London is one of the finest cities in the world. Perhaps I may be biased as I was born in London and worked there for 27 years.
However, London is so culturally rich and such a diverse city, with centuries of history flowing within every alleyway and mews.

With so much to see and do in London, you’ll be returning time and time again for an unforgettable city break. Even now that we live in Kent, Gary and I still plan a weekend in London every year.

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Ok, so I’m going to narrow down the choice of London’s markets to my favourites, as there are so many.

Although I must say that just strolling around the streets of London and stumbling upon an unexpected market is great fun.

Spitalfields Market has most definitely risen to the top of my picks as it has been transformed in recent years. Spitalfields is full of an eclectic assortment of collectables, gifts, clothing and some tasty food stalls.

It also has a curious mix of clientele; you’ll see many walks of life here from your bohemian to your local from the east-end of London.

A gift stall at Spitalfields market selling variety of unique lamp fittings from repurposed oil cans to antique car headlamps and other knick-knacks for a unique Christmas gift.
Unique gift in Spitalfields Market
A hat stall on Spitalfields market, selling a wide range of second-hand headwear.
You can never have too many hats at Spitalfields

Camden Market for its diversity is wonderful. Alleyways and winding tunnels brimming with crazy hats, graffiti sprayed clothing, stylish footwear and flamboyant frocks. What more could you want?
Ohh yes, I know, Italian gelato in the middle of January, Camden Market truly has something for everyone.

A mixture of pink, yellow &ed opened umbrellas provide a canopy over stores in one of the lanes in Camden Market
Discover Camden Market
An exotic looking stall selling gifts at Camden Market
Something different

If it’s some nourishment you’re after, then Borough Market will undoubtedly be on your list.

Word of warning, it gets pretty hectic on a Saturday although the energetic atmosphere is second to none. You’ll be spoilt for choice at Borough Market, grab your chosen delicacy find a spot on a wall and enjoy.

After lunch take a wander around some of the surrounding shops as they have some incredible bites, you can take home for later.

Last but by certainly no means least is Smithfield Market. This is London’s meat market which has centuries of history and covers almost 10 acres of floor space.

I love it all around this district of London as there are some fascinating and quirky stories to be told.

A street view to the Victorian main entrance, with it's cast-iron structure and stone cladding of Smithfield Meat Market in the City of London
The main entrance and Central Arcade to Smithfield Meat Market
The Fox & Anchor pub, a stone's throw from Smithfield Meat Market, Which is one of the few remaining early opening pubs that serve alcohol with a full English breakfast to the market porters
Fox & Anchor pub Smithfield
It’s one of the few places in London where you can grab a pint of beer for breakfast. Although to the market porters who work in Smithfield market it is a quick drink after work with your mates after a long hard shift.

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Well, I suppose London’s history may go without saying. Still, for Gary and me, it’s one of the primary reasons we continue to return to London. There is always something more to discover.
The ornate stone gateway entrance to Lincoln's Inn take at dusk under a blue sky
The entrance to Lincoln's Inn

London has millenniums of history, even as recent as 2010 timber structures were found on the south of the River Thames dating back to 4500 BC.

I find it incredibly fascinating to think of the ancient footsteps that have passed by before us.

An exposed section of London's Roman & Medieval city wall that used to surround the old city.
A section of the Roman London Wall at Tower Hill

If you venture to Tower Hill keep a lookout for the ruins from the historic 3rd-century Roman Wall which once surrounded the City of London.
And of course, we have the mixed and varied history of the Royal Family.

Visiting tips

The City of London can be very busy on a weekday, with visitors and the city workers. My Advice is to visit at the weekend, and the streets are deserted.

Even though London is England’s vibrant capital city, it most certainly has its fair share of beautiful parks and hidden gardens dotted around.

A few of the integral parks in London are The Regent’s Park which houses London Zoo, Hyde Park, Richmond Park, Primrose Hill and St James’s Park.

The war torn shell of a histroic church in London, with a Christopher Wren designed spire now houses a tranquil garden for all to enjoy.
The spire of St Dunstans in the East
The remains of the outer wall of St Dunstans in the East church which is now a public park in the City of London
St Dunstans in the East
However, I love some of the smaller gardens and parks, especially St. Dunstan in the East Church Garden, which has been created within the ruins of the church. Also, Postman’s Park is a delightful little oasis in the City of London, which has many heartfelt tales to tell.

We have a little book on our shelves that we sometimes delve into when we're about to hit an area of London.

Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different regions of London, it's a great resource to help you see what's hidden in plain sight.

Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves London.

Too often we pass through areas of London and take them for granted. It’s incredible if you dig a little deeper into a district, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll uncover.
A view of the Tudor buildings that stand at the edge of Charterhouse square.
The view from Charterhouse Square, Clerkenwell

Now each time we head back to London, we pick a new region find out as much information about it as we can and go and explore.

The neighbourhoods that we’ve recently visited and found out some really fascinating facts are; Clerkenwell, Smithfield, Westminster, and one of my favourites Temple.

Temple is just on the border of the City of London and the City of Westminster and also home to London’s legal district.

A tall white Georgian legal chambers building flanked on either side by brick chambers of the Middle Temple in London's legal district
Chambers in Middle Temple, London
Temple is a region you must visit on a weekday when all the Middle Temple and Inner Temple courtyards and clandestine alleyways are open. You can truly become absorbed into a world of things licit.
Another huge attraction of London is its diverse range of architecture. With ancient churches rubbing shoulders with skyscrapers and historic palace’s sharing the limelight with mirror-ball offices.
The modern 30 St Mary Axe, better known as the Gherkin, standing behind St Andrew Undershaft Church in the City of London
The Gherkin behind St Andrew Undershaft
The Lloyd's of London building in the City of London is an icon for films based in the financial sector.
Lloyd's of London - A modern classic
Over the centuries, London has certainly experienced its fair share of devastation and destruction. With the Great Fire of London in 1666 which brought an end to the ravaging plague, to the aftermath of two World Wars.

Like a phoenix from the ashes, London has picked itself up and dusted itself off and come back stronger and more resilient.

Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece of St Paul’s Cathedral is such an emblem and a torchbearer for the city, it stands proud dominating the skyline.

Where to stay in London

- Like us, why not splash out on a little luxury at Leonardo Royal London St Paul’s (formerly Grange St. Paul’s). A short hop from St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The view of the front of St Paul’s Cathedral from the south side on St Paul’s Churchyard in the City of London
St Paul’s Cathedral from the south side
St Paul’s Cathedral isn’t Wren’s only legacy he left for London. Sir Christopher Wren also designed Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Temple Bar, the Monument to the Great Fire and so many beautiful churches.

If you've yet to discover London and its ancient history, then let's start planning. I find these DK Eyewitness Travel Guides invaluable. They're extremely informative, easy to follow, and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more of those fascinating sites.

You can now grab a recently revised copy of this guidebook, so you won't miss a thing.

Ahh yes, the River Thames, the slice of London that is dear to my heart. As this where my father and grandfather worked for years as lightermen up and down the once-bustling River Thames.
Also, every day on my way to work, my train would pass over Southwark Bridge, and I’d be greeted with the magnificent view of Tower Bridge commanding the waterway below.

The iconic Tower Bridge, a stone's throw from Tower Hill tube station, on a bright sunny day with the Shard in the background.
Tower Bridge

I’m always drawn to water, so it is a pleasure strolling the banks of the Thames. Whether it is along the Southbank passing Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern or Gabriel’s Wharf.

Or on the north bank of the Thames taking in the Victoria Embankment Gardens and the Palace of Westminster, it is all delightful.

Tube Station Walks

We love to explore London on foot; a great way to break it into bite-sized pieces is to pick an underground station.

Why not browse our posts on tube station walks to find out what we uncovered in different districts?

London wouldn’t be London without its beautiful museums and theatres. They are always such a pleasure to visit.

If I had my way, I’d visit a London gallery every time we headed up to the capital.

With so many of the museums and galleries free of charge, there is no excuse to top up your culture levels, oh and make sure you wear comfy shoes.

The floodlit grand Victorian facade to the Science Museum after dark under a deep blue sky
The Science Museum

Some of my favourite museums are The British Museum, The Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and of course the National Gallery. Gary loves the Science Museum too, now, why doesn't that surprise me?
However, if you are treating yourself to a mini-break in London, I’m sure you’ll be taking in show or two. Strolling along Shaftesbury Avenue and around Covent Garden, you’ll be spoilt for choice, with some of the old classic performances still treading the boards.

Crowds exiting the Old Vic Theatre at night. The foyer is illuminated in golden light and the top of the theatre is floodlit in a cerise pink
The Old Vic Theatre
With London’s aeons of history, there are some weird and wonderful street names dotted around the capital. Often relating to its intriguing past or a fascinating back story of a trade that was once established in the area.
A sign for Austin Friars Passage, on the tiled alleyway, in the city of London.
Austin Friars Passage in the City of London

I personally think the names of the lanes and alleyways in the City of London are so quirky, and not one of them has the word ‘Road’ in them.

There’s a Poultry, an Austin Friars Passage, a Little Britain and a Huggin Hill to name just a few.

Explore London on foot

If you enjoy finding out a little more about London's districts, take a look at the articles we created for the different regions we've explored, all easily discovered on foot.
There are not too many cities around the world that can beat London at Christmas time. Thousands and thousands of twinkling lights were lining Oxford Street, Regent’s Street and Bond Street.
A view of the Harrods Department store in the evening decorated with hundreds of small lights and a pair of Christmas trees above the main entrance.
Harrods - the luxury department store
A beautifully decorated ornate entrance in London's Mayfair
A festive doorway in Mayfair

The elegant arcades around St James’s transport you to a happy place, where money is no object. Take a strong along Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly Arcade and The Royal Arcade, they are exquisite.
Then meander down New Bond Street, Cartier’s display is incredible. They have their shop front wrapped up in a striking red bow, just like a tempting Christmas present.

Skaters on the ice at London's Somerset house after the sun has gone down.
On the ice at Somerset House at Christmas
You can’t miss the displays along the River Thames at Christmas, and the charming wooden huts were tempting you with Glühwein and treats.
Ok, I admit this is a weird topic to pick for loving London. However, I do have a fascination with these ancient resting places. They hold so many incredible tales and history of folk from a mixture of backgrounds, from the rich, the poor, the famous, infamous and the unknown.
Impressive Victorian tombs and classically styled features of Brompton Cemetery, in London, have appeared in many movies.
Along Main Avenue of Brompton Cemetery

It’s specifically, the “Magnificent Seven”, London’s Victorian cemeteries that intrigue me. Established between 1833 and 1841 to alleviate the overcrowding in inner London’s churchyards. These huge resting places and catacombs were inspired by the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, yes, I’ve been there too.

So far, I’ve dragged Gary around Kensal Green, West Norwood, Brompton and Nunhead cemeteries. Only three more to go, Highgate, Abney Park and Tower Hamlets.

With London being such a diverse city, its restaurant and café scene is so varied. I think you could probably eat your way around the world in London.

I love some of the old traditional restaurants, one for a special treat if you like British food is Rules Restaurant.

Standing at the reception desk of Rules looking into the very traditional interior of London's oldest restaurant
Inside Rules Restaurant
Rules in Covent Garden is London oldest restaurant and was established in 1798. It’s beautiful inside, plush seating and attention to detail are second to none, prior to sitting down for your lunch or dinner head to the cocktail bar and indulge in your favourite tipple.
The stylish and historic Italian Franco’s Café on Jermyn Street, London
Franco’s Café on Jermyn Street
For a touch of traditional Italian in London head to Franco’s on Jermyn Street, their coffees are exquisite. Franco’s is believed to be one of the first Italian restaurants in London, and it’s such a treat to visit.

Your perfect accommodation

Have a leisurely browse through the wide range of options that offer. From a secret hideaway to an elegant luxury hotel.

It’s good to talk!

Please share with us your favourite spots in London that you love to visit.

Back onto history again, and it’s the lovely Blue Plaques you see dotted around London on the homes or buildings of someone of significance that had lived there.
Often these are for historians, artists, authors, heroines and heroes of our time. I find the stories behind some of these interesting people extraordinary.

A close-up of a historic Blue Place to the Jamaican Nurse Mary Seacole
The Blue Plaque to Mary Seacole

London’s blue plaque scheme has been in existence since 1866 and was the initiative of William Ewart MP. It is now run by English Heritage, and there are strict criteria before you can nominate someone.
The scheme is now only run within Greater London, although for a few years it was extended further in England. Although now the plaques are blue and round, they never used to be, you may also come across a few that are brown and possibly square.

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