8 Unique Neighborhoods & Markets To Explore When You Visit London
London is an ever-changing magical city. You can visit the place a hundred times and see, feel, and experience something entirely different with each adventure. I am self-proclaimed London lover, after spending four beautiful months there and barely scraping the surface of what the city has to offer.
Over my many years perusing the blogosphere, I’ve noticed a lot of redundancies in guides to London for first timers. Go see the Elizabeth Tower (commonly known as Big Ben, which is actually the bell), view the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, go shopping in Covent Garden. These kinds of guides online are a dime a dozen. Yes, you should go see those main attractions. They are each part of what makes London the beautiful metropolis that it is (and also what attracts so many tourists!).
However, there are other facets of the city. Wrinkles alluding to the city’s mystery and allure, ready to unravel with each turn taken and alley explored. These are the spots I hope to inspire you to include in your first trip to London. These are the places I hope you’ll sprinkle amidst your inevitable trips to Tower Bridge and Hyde Park.
Tucked away within the alleys of Covent Garden, exists a colorful alcove of little shops. It took me an hour or more of wandering aimlessly to finally find Neal’s Yard and after my first time I struggled to find it again. Visit soon because it’s quickly becoming more well-known and less of a hidden away gem.
Vintage shopping, peaceful canals that’ll trick you into forgetting you’re in London, huge markets, and an abundance of worldly food options… this neighborhood will leave you unsure of what to eat and what to buy!
Chances are if you’ve looked into where to go on your visit to London you’re heard the name Borough Market tossed around here and there. That’s because this is the prime market to visit on Saturday and Sunday mornings for the best food and produce. Premium cheese, handcrafted jams, ostrich meat sandwiches, and so many different ethnic food options! (Photo here)
Portobello Road Market
A street that thrives the most on early Saturdays, Portobello Road is the largest antiques market in the world. The vintage clothing and jewelry are enough to entice me, but one will also find and endless array of food trucks and tables, and mazes of vendors to get lost within. Not to mention it’s located in one of London’s most colorful neighborhoods!
Banqueting House, Palace of Whitehall
Though this isn’t a neighborhood or market… I just feel the need to include this as a unique place to visit in London! Prior to the great fire of London, the Palace of White Hall was where all of England’s monarchs resided. It was Europe’s largest palace (1500+ rooms!!). Today, only the banqueting hall remains and it’s certainly a worthy sight to see. Sir Peter Paul Ruben created a masterpiece of a ceiling within the hall and if you visit today you can get horizontal on a bean bag chair, put on headphones, and take an audio art tour while you view all of the corners of the ceiling. Plan your visit here. (Photo here)
Kensington and Chelsea
Eat and stay, drink and play in London’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Here you will find endless pristine white buildings, photo-worthy shop fronts, and cute cafes. Last time I stayed in London, I opted to book my accommodation in this area and absolutely loved wandering the streets and eyeing all of the little shops.
It amazes me how many visit London never go south of the river! I lived just a few streets away from the Southbank for 4 months and loved every second of it. There is an endless array of outdoor food markets, book markets, street entertainment and nice views. Once I stumbled upon an outdoor food & beer market and spent the next two nights eating and drinking my way around the stalls!
It was quite a while before I learned about the coolness of Shoreditch. In London’s east end, it’s one of the hippest places to live and shop. Small building container boutiques, trendy pubs, unique cafes, and so much history can be found here!
The intention of this blog post is not to steer you away from the usual London tourist spots nor claim you will dislike them. My intention is merely to shine light on a few neighborhoods and markets that I would have enjoyed knowing about the first time I landed in London!