The Concise and Opinionated Guide to the City
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(All included info could be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Restaurants beginning to reopen – July 2020
There’s a glimmer of hope for London’s restaurants, shuttered for weeks during the worst of the pandemic scare. Some are now doing take-away and delivery, and the date for limited seating is imminent. While travel from the US to Great Britain is still banned, we are happy that things in London are beginning to come around. Hopefully we’ll have even more good news to report next month. Baby steps, we know.
“Clued In” Travel Update – June 2020
It’s finally happening… after months of essentially being closed to visitors due to the pandemic, some of our “Clued In” cities are beginning to welcome people back. Venice, Rome, and Florence can now be visited by outsiders. Barcelona, London, and Edinburgh are also coming along, though the latter will not be enjoying its usual Fringe and International Performance Festivals this summer (for the first time ever since their inception.) Paris will announce its opening soon, meaning visitors arriving there will not have to be quarantined for fourteen days. And if you are one of the first to visit these places, you will undoubtedly enjoy the place without crowds -something unheard of in the warmer months. Progress.
The next big turning point will be when the U.S. lifts its ban on international travel. The Clued In Travel Books will celebrate that one for sure! For now, one can certainly venture to one of our three domestic cities without hassle, namely New York, San Francisco, and Miami Beach. In just a couple more weeks, all should have dine-in options inside their restaurants. In the meantime, picnic, anyone?
Crisis Update – May 2020
London (and England in general) continues to practice social distancing and business closings. The data there continues to improve in regard to the coronavirus situation but the city is currently on lockdown with only essential workers on the job.
Dreaming of Travel – April 2020
We miss you London, and send our prayers and best wishes to all of our wonderful friends there. Take care, and stay inside as much as possible! We know we’ll be back there soon.
Taxi Clues for London – March 2020
Since some travelers are looking to avoid crowds and mass transit this spring, we’re providing at-a-glace info regarding official taxi cabs in London. While not as inexpensive, a taxi will make you feel more confident and get you where you’re going in style. And if your party is more than a single rider, it can be a great value. We always budget it in!
- Official taxis in London can be any color, but most are black.
- They have a sign on top of the vehicle displaying “TAXI” and have a working meter inside showing the cost as you go. If the vehicle’s sign is lit then it’s available for hire. For your own safety accept a ride from an unauthorized driver.
- Taxis can be hailed from anywhere, or can be found in taxi queues near popular areas and at all major train stations. Watch for ones with their taxi light on.
- The minimum cost is £3. Rides to the airport, or rides on Christmas or New Year’s Day, will come with a supplemental fee. (There are no fixed rates between London and the airports in either direction.)
- A taxi booked by phone (even by your hotel or restaurant) will also have a supplemental fee. This is normal so don’t panic.
- Some London taxis accept credit cards but ask the driver before you ride.
- No tip is expected but it’s polite to simply round up the amount on the meter.
Our London NTK – February 2020
Every so often, we like to add a Need-to-Know for our favorite cities. With a new year and new decade upon us, we thought you should know about an exciting new route from Eurostar trains, the same folks who offer the amazing high-speed Channel Train known as the “chunnel.” Officially beginning on April 30th, a direct route will run from London to Amsterdam, and it’s quite affordable! It’s one of the outcomes of the recent “Brexit” separation from the rest of Europe and will eventually go non-stop in both directions. If you want to be one of the first to ride, and visit the Netherlands during your upcoming London stay, you’ll need to book soon. Visit the Eurostar website for more info here.
A Shout-out to London’s Natural History Museum – January 2020
The incredible NHM in London is just a stone’s throw from Kensington Palace & Hyde Park and will definitely be included in our next edition. In the meantime, we want our readers to know about so we’re giving it a shout-out right here, right now. What a place! There’s an enormous blue whale skeleton right inside the grand hall but the architecture is so astounding that you might not even notice the whale. This place is great for families because adults will enjoy it as much as their kids. Don’t miss the exhibits showcasing dinosaurs, the oceans, and of course, outer space. Everything there is top notch, and you can even relax and regroup in their charming (but a bit scary) T-Rex Grill, or one of the other four restaurants that they offer.
Where to enjoy an amazing holiday dinner – December 2019
We love having a meal with a festive menu at holiday time, and in London that means the Jugged Hare Restaurant north of the Museum of London. Their special three-course menu will be offered especially for Christmas dining, but must be booked as soon as possible while tables are still available. Here are the main courses offered on their “Christmas Feast” menu:
Whole free-range Lincolnshire turkey, chestnut stuffing, bread sauce, roasting juices
Whole roast Tamworth suckling pig, apple, Boulangère potatoes, sage gravy
Whole roast fore-rib of Angus beef, roast marrow bone, bacon potatoes, roasting juices
Braised venison haunch, Dauphinoise potatoes, red cabbage, glazed onions
Whole Scottish salmon ‘en croute’, parsley potatoes, creamed leeks, chive butter sauce
Root vegetable ‘Wellington’, chestnuts, field mushroom sauce
Hampton Court’s Very Special Exhibit – November 2019
Have you ever wondered if Elizabeth I’s elaborate gowns were totally lost to history? Scholars recently discovered that one of her most famous was gifted to a Lady-in-Waiting who gave the main yardage from it to a church in England who used it for centuries as an altar cloth. The Virgin Queen can be seen wearing it in the famous Rainbow Portrait by Isaac Oliver (below.) A large, embroidered section of the skirt can now be viewed at Hampton Court Palace, but only through February 2020. This is a rare chance to see a piece of history up-close and examine its fine workmanship for yourself. It is the only surviving example from her incredible wardrobe. Amazing!
Visit a creepy London cemetery – October 2019
Our recommendations for travelers going to London in the fall are usually about new gallery openings, but our newest series of “bored in” travel books have inspired us to go in a spookier direction this year. Our upcoming Bored in London –Awesome Experiences for the Repeat Visitor has an entire chapter on chilling and thrilling things to do here and so we’ve chosen a special one to share with our readers…
A tour the city’s infamous Highgate Victorian Cemetery is the perfect thing to do around Halloween. After all, there’s nothing like a good haunted graveyard to send a chill up your spine. Apparitions with glowing red eyes have been reported, as well as the ringing of chapel bells from nowhere in the middle of the night. Located in a northern section of London, everyone from Karl Marx to George Michael is buried there. For history buffs, this is a must see and there are several guided tours offered. If you prefer an independent visit, check out their website. There are six other Victorian cemeteries in London but Highgate is the largest.
It’s the start of the social season in London – September 2019
There’s a lot going on in the British capital so if you’re planning to visit during the fall season, snag a ticket to something soon. We recommend Manon at the Royal Opera House, being performed by the illustrious Royal Ballet. It’s an amazing full-length ballet that’s completely different in style and choreography from the usual fare. As of this posting there are still tickets available.
In addition, the annual Open House London event is happening on September 21st and 22nd. It gives the more curious a chance to get inside many of the capital’s most renowned and secretive addresses. Even No. 10 Downing Street is taking part. It’s all free but for more information on how to get inside the best places, check out this website.
Stay in London’s Greatest Police Station – August 2019
And to do so, you won’t even have to get arrested. We’re speaking of course about the newest chic hotel in Westminster which is taking reservations now for a grand opening in October. Hyatt’s stunning £110 million renovation of the former Scotland Yard Police Headquarters has transformed the famous 1812 townhouses into London’s most anticipated boutique hotel. The Great Scotland Yard hotel will have design touches you won’t find anywhere else and will offer top notch dining as well as a whiskey bar. If you want to be one of the first, book soon.
In focus: “Red Farm” now open in Covent Garden – July 2019
We thought this day would never come… our favorite restaurant in NYC, the infamous Red Farm, has finally opened across the pond. Located literally around the corner from the Royal Opera House, this Russel Street location should fit the bill nicely when you need a lovely meal before or after the ballet or theatre. Unlike the ones in New York, the London location offers a bottomless-champagne Dim Sum brunch! So jealous.
Where to have a royal picnic in London– June 2019
Now that summer has arrived you may want to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors rather than be inside a cramped restaurant. Between London’s fantastic cheese shops and huge food labyrinths like Borough Market, there are plenty of places where you can put together a finger-food feast. British meat pies make the perfect picnic treat; pair them with a good wine and some little pastries from Paul and lunch is done! (Don’t forget the plastic cups.) We like St. James Park, which is right in central London and boasts a lake and palaces. You can even see Buckingham Palace from certain sections of it. It’s an official “royal park” but picnicking is allowed. In fact, it’s encouraged… you know, to keep the masses happy. There are a few rules but they are simple enough, like no erecting tents or cooking food on an hibachi. Also, the Queen asks that you keep any music to a lower volume and that alcohol is not given to picnickers under eighteen. And tidy up afterwards. Cheerio!
London Cheese Month – May 2019
London will once again celebrate its love for cheese with special tastings, talks, and events throughout the month of May, with a special focus on artisan British cheeses and Cheesemongers. Events include a raw milk cheese workshop, a cheese and wine pairing (tasting) by the Academy of Cheese, cheese-making classes, a beer and cheese festival at Paxton & Whitfield, a meet-the-maker event, and even a French cheese classification-training. And if you’ve never tried ewe’s milk, now’s your chance. For ticket and more information, visit the official website here.
In Focus: Where to brunch in London – April 2019
Dishoom is practically an institution in London. It’s hard to find true Bombay-style bistros anymore, even in Bombay! Lucky for you they’re open early and serving up some fine stick-to-your-ribs fare on Saturdays from 8am to 11:30am, and on Sundays from 9am to 11:30am. We know that might be a bit early for some of you partiers but trust us, it’ll wake you right up and give you the energy to get out and enjoy the rest of the city.
In Focus: Secrets of the V & A – March 2019
This month we’re featuring local sights that are lesser-known but which are a must-see in our very opinionated view. In London, that’s a difficult feat because everything is in fact well-known. Instead, we thought we’d let our readers in on some little-known items inside the amazing Victoria and Albert Museum. This place is gigantic and has so many interesting collections that you could spend the rest of your life visiting it and still miss things. When you go there, see if you can find some of our favorite items listed here…
We adore Henry VIII’s gorgeous writing box crafted around 1520. It’s harder to find than the velvet draped bed from the State Bedroom at Melville which was undoubtedly slept on at some point by Charles II. There’s a men’s shirt from 1540, which makes it the oldest garment in the museum. But for a truly impressive moment, find the Imperial Throne made for the Chinese Emperor in 1736. Need something more relatable? Find the oldest photograph in existence of a London street. Details and hours for the V & A Museum can be found in Clued In London.
Update – February 2019
If you’re heading to London and missed seeing the hilarious production (in New York) of The Play That Goes Wrong then you’re in luck! This award-winning comedy continues its run at the Duchess Theatre in central London. This wonderful performance work is a bit hard to describe but could be thought of as Monty Python meets Sherlock Holmes. Even so, that doesn’t begin to explain the antics of this show where indeed everything does go wrong. Don’t miss it! There’s a wide range of ticket prices and many performances a week to choose from. More details can be found at this website: London performances
In Focus: Where to shop the sales – January 2019
Like many stores in the U.S., England puts its best designer items on sale after the holidays. If you’re visiting London in January and have the urge to do some shopping (or just want to come home with one really special item) now is the time. The most expensive shopping street in London is New Bond Street, which runs north/south through the lovely Mayfair neighborhood. For those who are unfamiliar with London, this means that the chicest shopping can be found smack-dab in the city center, just northwest of the city’s main sights. This may be helpful to know even if you don’t plan on hitting the boutiques… being aware of this type of location also tells you precisely where a city’s most desirable neighborhood is. That’s usually where you’ll also find some of the best hotels, and some top-notch restaurants too.
In Focus: New Year’s Eve in London – December 2018
If you are one of the lucky ones who’ll be spending New Year’s Eve in London then you’d better start making plans now. This city embraces big celebrations and the last night of the year is no exception. From the local pubs to the big dance clubs, people here know how to party. We like to book an early table at the elegant Indian restaurant, Veeraswamy and then head over to the north embankment of the Thames, near the Westminster Bridge, to see the city’s fireworks. They are now shot off from the area of the London Eye. To be close you would need a ticket, but from the opposite side of the bridge you’ll be beyond the ticketed area. Free is a good thing, especially if you had an expensive meal!
In Focus: Autumn in London – November 2018
If you’ll be one of the clever travelers coming to London before the onslaught of visitors who descend upon it for Christmas and New Year’s then good for you. You may not have the opportunity to spend your actual holiday in this historic city, but you’ll get a taste of what this incredible place is really like for its local residents. Dine at the exotic newcomer near St. Paul’s Cathedral called Kym’s or finally see the musical, The Book of Mormon. If the perfect facial or massage is what you want, book with the best at the Bvlgari Spa. All will make for great memories, and before you go we hope you’ll grab a copy of Clued In London. It has info not found in other guides which is exactly why it stands apart from the rest!
In Focus: Special Event – October 2018
If you’re planning an October visit to London, come ready to eat! The city will be having its month-long Restaurant Festival and will feature top chefs from all over the world coming to cook up specialties in over 400 restaurants. Tasting menus, restaurant tours, and food events all over town will round out the festivities, just going to prove that London is officially now one of the great gastro-cities in Europe. For more information, visit their website here.
In Focus: The Black Friar Public House – September 2018
Wow. All you have to do is glance at a pic of the Black Friar to know this is a special place. Featured in Clued In London as part of our famous “pub crawl” it holds the honorable position of the finale. Here’s an excerpt:
If you’re not too drunk by the time you get to The Black Friar then take a moment to notice how absolutely gorgeous it is. Handpicked ales from the best breweries in Britain can be savored here, under stunning décor which looks properly old but in a royal kind of way. The friar sculptures are by Henry Poole. Superb!
For a truly historic pub visit, don’t miss it! Since there are no photos of it in our London guide, we thought we should share some here. Visit their website for more information.
In Focus: Cocktails with a view – August 2018
If you just crave a first-rate cocktail with a view, London’s Rumpus Room is the place for you. Situated at the top of the Southbank’s Mondrian Hotel, this is a rooftop bar that rivals the best in the world. London’s most famous landmarks surround you as you sip the night away. They even offer delicious bites in case you get peckish along the way. While they do accept walk-ins, it’s always best to book through their website (above.) Note that the indoor section is open late, but their outdoor seating is only until 10pm. The dress code is smart-casual so don’t show up in a tank top and shorts. You must be 21 or over to enter. Rumpus Room is open everyday except Sundays and Mondays but sometimes has private events. Call or book ahead to make sure!
In Focus: The Fielding Hotel – July 2018
This summer we’re featuring some of our favorite hotels and in London that means The Fielding. Located right in the heart of the Covent Garden neighborhood, this unassuming (and quite inexpensive) little hotel will put the city’s best shopping, restaurants, and theatre at your disposal. The simple but comfortable rooms even include complimentary passes to a great spa and gym just up the block. London can be expensive, and the British Pound never seems to give the US Dollar a break. For that reason, it makes sense to stay at The Fielding. In our humble opinion it’s the best location for the price of any hotel in London!
In Focus: Touring Buckingham Palace from 7/21 – 9/30 (2018)
It’s summertime, and on the third week of July the Queen will be going to her castle in Scotland. That’s great news for London visitors because her regular residence, namely Buckingham Palace, will open its staterooms for guided tours. You can buy entrance tickets for any day from July 21 to September 30 (ten weeks) and see the true royal opulence of the place for yourself. Why are we telling you this in a June update? Because the tickets will sell out! You can reserve them now at the official Royal Collection Trust website. Pip pip cheerio and all that sort of rot.
In Focus: : London Wine Week/ April 2018
London Wine Week is a seven day summer festival of tastings, pop-up wine bars, special dinners, and over one-hundred of London’s dedicated wine bars offering food pairings to try. Even the pubs will be serving wine! It will be held this year from May 14th through the 20th. To get the obligatory “Festival Pass,” just visit the official website here and pay a small fee. The pass will load right onto your smart phone gaining you entrance all of the week’s special events. There will also be master-classes, supper clubs, meet-the-maker evenings, and other parties. Sommeliers will create bespoke flights designed to showcase a diversity of wines. Don’t miss it!
In Focus: St. Patrick’s Day in London/ March 2018
Dublin, Ireland might be the only city that does St. Paddy’s day better than London. Londoners go all out on this one, way beyond sharing pints of ale in order to celebrate the March 17th holiday. It’s high energy, super fun, and great for anyone Irish or Irish-at-heart. There’s a splendid parade complete with dancers and floats, leprechauns galore, a spirited crowd celebrating in Trafalgar Square, and even a week-long calendar of events at many of the city’s pubs and nightclubs. Since the actual holiday falls on a Saturday in 2018, it will be better than ever and is set to be officially celebrated over three days, March 16-18. There’s even an Irish Street Food Market set up so you can enjoy some typical fare. (The Parade will run from Piccadilly Square to Trafalgar Square.)
Go ahead, join in a sing-along, don your greenest sweater, and make memories you will never forget in London this March. The airfares are reasonable!
In Focus: London’s pre-Lenten celebration/ January 2018
Yes, Venice has its Carnivale and New Orleans has Mardi Gras, but in London it’s all about Pancake Day! If you’re planning a visit there this year over Tuesday, February 13th (the day before Lent begins) don’t miss the famous Pancake Race, a charity event that’s free to watch where local politicians and members of the press compete in a race while flipping pancakes in a skillet. (We can’t make this stuff up.) In addition, many restaurants will be flipping them too, some with a true gourmet touch. We like the zaniness at My Old Dutch in the Holborn section, or grab some of London’s best pancakes at the Breakfast Club diner which boasts several locations throughout the city. Yummy!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from London, 2017!
We just adore Christmas in London and know you will too. Whether its a fine meal at The Jugged Hare, an evening of creative cocktails at Nightjar Bar, or a visit to the always intriguing National Portrait Gallery, the holidays are just shinier here! Find that perfect gift at Harrods or Harvey Nichols on Knightsbridge street, and don’t forget to pop into the fabulous Victoria & Albert Museum while you’re over there. (Remember, museums in London are all free!) Be sure to ring in the New Year like a local… head over to Trafalgar Square before 11pm.
In Focus: St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel/ November 2017
We love blogging about hotels that aren’t included in our concise travel books, and the perfect hotel for travelers coming between London and Paris by train is definitely the St. Pancras (Renaissance.) The only train station offering international travel in and out of England is the St. Pancras station, so anyone planning to take the “chunnel” train must use this station. Lucky for you, the gorgeous, old-world St. Pancras Hotel is just steps away from the station entrance. Think of the wear and tear you’ll save on your luggage; it won’t even cool off! Convenience and beauty, these are the reasons you stay here. (This hotel sits farther from the River Thames than we usually recommend but for those England to France train travelers, it really is terrific.)
In Focus: Halloween in London/ October 2017
When it comes to spooky, you don’t have to search far in this ancient city. The streets of London hold more secrets than a prostitute on Sunday. Even so, there are three fun activities we recommend you check out if you’re going Brit-side for Halloween this year.
A visit to one of London’s Victorian cemeteries is always a thrill, and you can take an official guided tour through many of them. Headless angels, crumbling tombstones, Gothic mausoleums, and secrets galore await you, especially at Brompton Cemetery. Visit their website for details.
If hanging out in a cemetery is too much for you, consider visiting a couple of haunted pubs. The Ten Bells (of Jack the Ripper fame) and The Spaniard’s Inn (from Stoker’s Dracula) are two of London’s oldest and are both hotbeds of paranormal activity.
If you’re really into such things, try the Dusk til Dawn Sleepover at Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace. England of the 17th-century will come alive around you, where witch-hunts, superstitions, and fear were the order of the day. Held on October 28th only, so click here for details. Includes dinner, a tour, haunted stories, and breakfast!
Curious Travelers, take note! August 2017 update:
Want to take part in an annual celebration of design and architecture? Make plans now to visit to London so you can catch the LONDON OPEN HOUSE. We love this mid-September weekend event because it allows visitors into usually off-limit places including some renowned homes and awesome buildings, quirky courtyards, and many other secret spots. And it’s all free! This year’s entries already include at least 832 different locations, like the Westminster Banqueting Hall (designed by Inigo Jones,) a Hindu Temple, an ancient Roman bath, the Queen’s Chapel in St. James Palace, and even #10 Downing Street! If you’ve ever wondered, Hey what’s behind that wall? then this is your chance to find out. Some sites will be open one day or the other (or both) so check the official website here for specifics. While there’s no charge, the more popular locations will require you to sign up beforehand. One weekend only: September 16 & 17
Where to have breakfast if you don’t like what your hotel is offering: July 2017
It seems to us that when in London, one should be havin’ a roasted brekkie. With that in mind, head on over to 72 John Street (a few blocks north of the Museum of London) and indulge at Apres Food. At around 12 British pounds or so, it’ll fill you right up Gov’ner.
In Focus: Summer in London 2017
Wow! Finding really great mixology in London is getting easier and easier. Gone are the days when the best choices were a list of ales. If you’ve already tried our favorite speakeasy Nightjar (in the Shoreditch neighborhood,) then take a car service to the summer pop-up bar at the Brunel Museum. This hot spot is called the Midnight Apothecary and is only open on Friday and Saturday nights from 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm, through September 30, 2017.
Update: London in June
Yes, the Brits go all out (or all off) for the London observance of World Naked Bike Day. To catch this spectacle, make sure to be near Regent’s Park on June 10th beginning at 2:30 pm. This clothing-optional event symbolizes unease regarding oil and automobile dependency.
If naked blokes on bikes are not your thing, never fear… June is also the month when London throws its biggest food festival. Also set in and around Regent’s Park, visitors sample savory and sweet fare from some of the newest restaurants in the capital, June 14th to 18th. There’s even entertainment offered. For more information on the Taste of London Festival, click here.
Update: Spring 2017
If the warmer weather in London is causing you to have some cravings for Spanish food, don’t despair. Brood eatery inside the south bank’s Borough Market has some yummy, authentic paella for take-away in cute little boxes. Snag an outdoor table or bench at the neighboring 800 year-old Southwark Cathedral and enjoy!
Update: March 2017
We believe that a visit to London’s National Portrait Gallery is always in order. There’s nothing quite like seeing a very famous painting hanging right in front of you, mere inches away. We especially love this one of Elizabeth I which can be found upstairs in the Tudor rooms.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Clued In Travel Books team!
In Focus: The Jugged Hare/ Fall 2016
The Jugged Hare restaurant has once again reset its menus to reflect the season. The rabbit is back, which means their delicious signature dish is being offered. As for their special additions, always based on what’s fresh and succulent in the market, the menu is featuring trout, new season lamb, crab, crayfish, artichokes, peas, peaches, and plums. And if you want one of their coveted tables for your Christmas dinner you had better contact them soon. Reservations have already opened up on their website. See the holiday menus on their website here.