22 of London’s Best Pubs: Perfect Places for a Pint

Even after countless trips to London and three years of living there, every time I’m in the big smoke, I somehow find it even more beautiful and interesting.

Full of iconic buildings and historic landmarks, there’s a timeless, yet energetic, vibe.

Like any major city, there’s no shortage of ways to fill your time. If it’s your first time traveling to London and you only have a few days to see what the city has to offer, these are the 10 things you can’t miss doing.

While there’s no shortage of museums to visit, shops to browse, or parts of the city to explore in London, one of my favorite can’t miss activity?

Hanging at a pub with a pint.

I love a good British pub. Whether it’s spending a summer afternoon sitting in a pub garden with a pitcher of Pimms, or sipping mulled wine next to a fireplace in the midst of winter, pub culture is a quintessential part of visiting England.

You simply can’t go to London without popping in a few pubs for a pint. Even better if there’s a game on to enjoy.

There are a ton of pubs across the city, but when I lived in London, the below were my go-to’s, which I still recommend to visitors time after time.

22 of London’s Best Pubs, Perfect for a Pint

  • The Ten Belles (Tower Hamlets): Known for being the watering hole of a few Jack the Ripper victims, this place is a go-to for day-drinking outside, or after work in summer. My favorite time to drop in? After a Jack the Ripper walking tour in October- spooky vibes in the most excellent way
  • The Commercial Tavern (Spitalfields): A quirky neighborhood pub, great for after-work drinks. Everything about it cues ‘classic British pub’
  • The Culpepper (Tower Hamlets): Cute pub with small roof terrace, ideal for spring, summer or early fall. If you’re not a huge beer or cider drinker, The Culpepper is also known for its cocktail menu, enter: goblet-sized G&Ts
  • Churchill Arms (Kensington): The plants on the outside of this pub make it a must-see, especially in the spring and summer when it’s covered in dozens upon dozens of flower baskets. It’s no less impressive in winter though, when the outside is covered in miniature Christmas trees. And while the decor is impressive, the pub itself is also know for its bangin’ Thai food
  • Windsor Castle (Kensington): Cozy pub with a lovely beer garden for summer evenings, a great place to stop after an afternoon lounging in Hyde Park
  • The Champion (Notting Hill Gate): The epitome of a perfect local. Cozy booths, plenty of options on tap and crispy chips (fries, for my Americans)
  • The Harp (Charring Cross): Great selection of beers & plenty of space to sit upstairs. My favorite time to visit The Harp is around 4/5 pm on Thursdays/Fridays during the spring, summer and early fall. With the after-work crowd, it’s a hopping place- prime street drinking
  • The Horseshoe Inn (Southwick): Located behind The Share, the Horseshoe Inn is a reminder not everything in this part of south London is newly constructed. It’s the kind of pub that drips with charm of days gone by, and there’s a great garden and sun terrance for those summer days
  • The George + Ye Olde Cock Tavern (The Strand): A stone’s throw from one of London’s most visited areas (Covent Garden), The George is known for its photogenic facade. Down the road from The George, don’t miss Ye Olde Cock Tavern, London’s skinniest pub. Dating back to 1549, Londoners of all types, including Charles Dickens, have enjoyed a drink here.If you’re going to sip a pint in London, may as well do it in a classic English atmosphere, right?

  • Princess Louise (Holborn, Covent Garden): A good old fashioned Victorian pub. Love coming here for a pint whenever I’m in the area

  • Coach & Horses Pub (Mayfair): Dating back to the 1770s, The Coach & Horses is thought to be one of the first properties built on Bruton Street. Even if you don’t know it’s history, its skinny shape with a timbered facade stands out among the area’s modern buildings. My favorite time to visit? After a night spent walking around Soho + Mayfair, browsing the holiday lights
  • The Albert (Westminster): Much like Coach & Horses, The Albert immediately stands out for it historic charm in a sea of modernity
  • The Spice of Life (Soho): One of the city’s most visually arresting pubs, Spice of Life was built in the 19th century and has everything you could possibly ask for in a pub, including gargoyles.  Spice is also known for being a musical hotspot over the years, hosting acts from Bob Dylan to The Sex Pistols
  • The Three Greyhounds (Soho): Behind The Spice of Life, you’ll find The Three Greyhounds, a pub with a Tudor facade. Built in 1847, the pub is named for hunting dogs that used to roam the area before Soho was modernized. I love recommending The Three Greyhounds to visitors for its curb-side appeal – walking up to it really makes it feel like you’re in England
  • Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (Blackfriars): In the heart of the city, the atmosphere doesn’t get much more historic. Rebuilt right after the Great Fire of 1666, the pub is known for its literary associations, regular patrons included Charles Dickens and Mark Twain
  • The Holly Bush Pub (Hampstead): The best way to end a day out at the Heath? A pint at the Holly Bush, a charming pub tucked away down a side street
  • The Crown and Anchor (Covent Garden): The perfect spot to pop in after a mid-afternoon show in Leicester Square, I’ve always loved this pubs beautiful red tile and flowered exterior
  • Brewdog Shoreditch (Shoreditch): Not a pub in the traditional sense, but a great selection of craft beers and must-visit for beer lovers

Many of the above pubs are in East London, if you’re in that part of the city, a few other pubs I love: The Crown & Shuttle, The George & Vulture, The Princess of Shoreditch, and The Eagle.

Not into pints, but in the mood for a night out in London town?

Legend has it British bartenders introduced cocktails to London after making them for American passengers on Atlantic cruise liners. One thing is for certain, there are world class mixologists in London.

London (and the United Kingdom, by nature) may be famous for its pints, but if you’re visiting and need a break from beers and ciders, these places are worth spending time (and money) at:

  • Nightjar & OrioleTucked away behind a (nearly) unmarked door off the Old Street roundabout, this speakeasy-style bar is one of my favorite hangs in London. Divided into historical eras, the menu seems never ending. Bonus: Late night, there’s live jazz. And, Oriole is the sister bar to award-winning Nightjar, serving up cocktails made with ingredients from all parts of the world.
  • Happiness ForgetsAn unassuming basement bar with great drinks. Located on Hoxton Square in the heart of Shoreditch, there are plenty of awesome restaurants and bars nearby
  • The Mayor of Scaredy Cat TownHidden behind a fridge door at The Breakfast Club’s Spitalfields location, you’ll find quirky variations on classic cocktails. Brunch, then speakeasy? Sounds like an ideal Saturday afternoon
  • Callooh CallayAgainst the back wall of the ground floor main room, there’s a wardrobe that leads to a hidden bar. Getting in without a reservation can be tough, but the drinks are worth it- simple deliciousness
  • Mr. Fogg’s Tavern: Full of weird artefacts and delicious tipples. Classically British in every way
  • DisreputeNewly opened member’s only bar in Soho, the cocktail list is killer. And, what’s not to love about a bar where the drinks are described via a story vs. ingredient list?
  • The American Bar at the Savoy: Recently named the ‘World’s Best Bar’, the bar is over 125 years old and is, in my opinion, one of London’s top places for a fancy drink. Because this place isn’t perfect enough, there’s also usually a live pianist in the evenings
  • Duke’s Bar: Famed for popularising the martini, the classic drink is made table-side here via trolley. They’re so strong, and good, the hotel only allows two per guest
  • Evans & Peel Detective Agency / Pharmacy: Get ready to state your case or be prepared to tell the doctor what ailment you need taken care of for entry into these bars. The Detective Agency is one of my favorite speakeasies in London- great ambiance, character and wonderful drinks. I haven’t been to the Pharmacy yet, but we’ve got reservations for a night with the ‘doctor’ at the end of November

Have you ever enjoyed a pint in London? Which pubs are your favourite? 

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The Best Day Trips from London to See More of England

London is a world class city.

Filled to the brim with attractions- from parks to museums, to cocktail bars, pubs and incredible restaurants, there’s no shortage of things to do in London town. There’s so much, it’s more than anyone could manage in a lifetime. Even living three years in the city, there’s loads I didn’t get around to doing or seeing.

As great as London is, there’s far more to England- gorgeous coastline, quaint countryside, craggy cliffs, and historic castles- to see.

If it’s your first time in England, I’d plan on at least four days in London, and perhaps 1-2 day trips- a great week long jaunt to the United Kingdom. Even with three years living in London, I didn’t have time to make it to all of the places I hoped to visit in England- let alone Wales or Scotland.

But, that’s also the beauty of the country- endless beauty and places to adventure.

The below picks were some of my favorite day trips I took while living in London, and are often ones I recommend to others visiting the UK.

Most are easily accessed from the capital, within 1-2 hours on a train. If you leave early morning, then return in the evening, you’ll have plenty of time to explore.

10 Day Trips from London to Explore More of England

Bath

For me, Bath is the most beautiful city in England. No where else I’ve visited has blown me away the way Bath did.

From the moment the train pulled into the station, I was breathless- the color of the stone buildings contrasted against the green countryside and blue skies, love at first sight.

Bath is a city of culture, history and gorgeous architecture. As one of England’s most picturesque towns, famed for its Roman baths, Bath draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. On my first visit, I planned a day trip, but I’m already dreaming of returning for an entire weekend in summer, or during the holiday season to shop the Christmas markets.

From London, Bath is easy to get to, direct trains run from Paddington station and take ~90 minutes. Summer is peak time to visit, but I chose to go in early September. The weather was perfect- 60 Fahrenheit and sunshine.

Rye

Rye is quintessential England, it feels like stepping back in time. Before I moved to London, Rye wasn’t on my travel radar. But, after finding a few London bloggers to follow, I quickly realized Rye was the picture perfect English seaside town.

Tudor architecture. Narrow cobblestone streets. Flowers blooming. Pints of cider. Leisurely afternoon tea. Fields full of sheep. English seaside towns. #HeartEyes

Perched on a hillside overlooking the sea, Rye is one of England’s prettiest towns. Centuries ago, Rye played an important role in defense of England’s coast. Today, it’s an adorable town to wander for a day or weekend.

Located south of London in East Sussex, it takes about an hour and a half to get to Rye from St. Pancras station if you take the high-speed trains. I only went to Rye for a day, but if you go for the weekend, there are a few cute adorable places to stay in town.

Cambridge

No doubt, Cambridge is one of the UK’s prettiest cities. Famous for its university, the second oldest uni in the English-speaking world, Cambridge is a city rich in history.

From coffee shops and tasty eateries for brunch to gorgeous colleges, and an unbelievable chapel, Cambridge is incredible. I loved walking its tiny alleyways, browsing bookstores, and popping into pubs for pints.

My favorite part of the day though? Punting.

Our guide shared great facts and stories about the colleges as we floated past their backs. Plus, it’s a  wonderful way to see architecture, like the Bridge of Sighs, you may miss otherwise. In many ways, it’s hard to believe Cambridge is a college campus- it seems too beautiful for students.

Oxford

Oxford was my first day trip outside of London when I moved across the pond.

I chose Oxford as my first day-trip outside the city, in part, because of how many Harry Potter scenes were filmed there (#NerdAlert). It also helped Oxford is only an hour from London, making it easy to explore and head back to the city in time for an evening out. 

I adored Oxford- beautiful shops, cool cafes, pubs with gardens, a magnificent underground library, and absolutely stunning college campuses.

Oxford is known for having some of the greatest universities in the world, only the best study here. Founded in 1167 by French scholars, it became England’s first university. If there’s one college that conjures ‘Oxford’, it’s Christ Church. Coming to Christ Church was one of my main motivations for visiting Oxford- several of the college’s rooms were used in the filming of Harry Potter.

Whatever your motivation for visiting, if you’re like me, you’ll find Oxford hard to leave- it’s that beautiful.

The Cotswolds 

Visiting the Cotswolds has been on my travel list since I saw The Holiday years ago. Villages that look like they’re straight out of an English novel surrounded by rolling hillsides? Sign me up.

Once I realised I could explore Northern Cotswolds towns by taking a train from London and then a local bus around the area, I picked a weekend in May and started planning the day.

If you aren’t familiar with the Cotswolds, they’re an AONB, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which runs through five counties- Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Wiltshire. An area of picturesque villages dotted throughout rolling farmland, it’s easy to see why so many visitors flock to the Cotswolds yearly. As for the name, ‘Cotswolds’, it means ‘sheep enclosure in rolling hills’.

Each town in the Cotswolds is like a fairy tale village, full of charm.

The best way to explore the Cotswolds is by car, you’ll be able to easily come and go village to village. If you don’t want to rent a car though, you can still explore different villages, you’ll just need to be mindful of the bus schedule- some stops only happen every hour or two.

On our visit, we took a train (~1.5 hours) from London to Moreton-in-Marsh return. From there, we took buses to Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton, Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter. I loved the Cotswolds so much, I’m eagerly anticipating another a venture back one day to explore the southern region.

Whitstable

Whitstable in Kent was on my day trip radar since a friend went during my first summer in England and raved about the fresh oysters and sandy, seaside pints.

With trendy restaurants, delicious chippers, seaside pubs, charming, historic homes, a cool harbour area with a farmer’s market, and plenty of gorgeous, local shops, Whitstable is the perfect escape from London.

Margate

Margate, a colorful, salty, quintessential British beach town.

An old amusement park, sandy beaches, cute pubs, cool modern art museum, plenty of ace vintage shops, and endless Mr. Whippy. An A++ day by the sea.

With direct trains running hourly from King’s Cross, getting to/from Margate for a day seaside is easy. On my venture, it only took about an hour and a half each way.

The Seven Sisters

Heard of the white cliffs of Dover? The white cliffs at The Seven Sisters are said to be whiter and more scenic than Dover.

If you’re ready for a day of hiking, take the train to Seaford. If you’re not driving to The Seven Sisters, you can catch a train to Seaford, Eastbourne or Brighton (which is slightly further away). From any of those stations, you can hop on the coastal bus to the entrance of the park, Seven Sisters County Park.

There’s a trail along the cliff side that you can safely follow. Eventually, we made it to Birling Gap, where we treated ourselves to a Mr. Whippy, and watched swimmers for a bit before jumping on a bus back to the park entrance.

All in all, a gorgeous day on the coast.

Windsor Castle

The first time I visited Windsor Castle over 10 years ago, it was a cold, blustery January day. I don’t remember much from that visit, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. I recall thinking the town of Windsor was adorable, but when I visited Versailles in France a few years later, I recall being blown away by the opulence and grandeur.

I’ll blame the British weather for my first impressions of Windsor, because revisiting the castle and town with my sister during early August exceeded all of my expectations, and left a lasting impression on me as Versailles did.

As the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, Windsor is a must-see for all royal family fans. It’s the Queens official residence, and she’s known to spend time there when she isn’t working.

If you’ve ever wondered what a royal palace looks like in person, Windsor is the place to see it. Castle tours are offered via multimedia, don’t forget to grab a headset on your way in. If you listen to all of the prompts in the State Rooms, Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, St. George’s Chapel, and surrounding grounds, the tour could easily take a few hours to complete.

The castle may be the highlight of Windsor, but there’s much more to do if you’re visiting for a full day or even weekend. The town itself is full of restaurants, shops, tea shops and plenty of souvenir stands. And of course, quintessential British pubs, with quirky charm everywhere.

Hever Castle

A fan of the Tudors growing up, I was fascinated by the legacy of Henry VIII and his wives. On my first visit to England, touring Hampton Court was a must.

Having crossed a second visit to Hampton Court off my ‘London to-do’ list last summer, I set my sights on another Tudor related escapade- visiting Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.

Open year round, the castle offers plenty of activities for visitors- you can wander the castle, explore all of the beautiful gardens, lose yourself in a maze, practise archery or catch a joust.

The castle grounds are so idyllic, it’s hard to believe they’re the backdrop to a sequence of events that changed the course of England’s history. Of course, I’m talking about Henry VIII breaking from the Catholic Church and marrying Anne Boleyn.

The castle itself is everything you’d want in a castle- moat, drawbridge, maze, extensive gardens, and a Grand Hall.

The gardens, in particular, were one of my favourite parts of the visit.

In Boleyn’s time, the gardens were nice but it wasn’t until the Astors took over ownership that they were really transformed. Simply put, the Italian gardens took my breathe away. At the far edge of the gardens, there’s even a picturesque lake you can rent boats to paddle around. Talk about tranquil perfection.

Have you ever been to London or taken day trips around the English countryside?

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15 Coffee Shops in London I Love

A GUIDE TO THE BEST CAFES IN LONDON

No one could ever accuse London of lacking coffee shops- thousands occupy the city. A self-proclaimed cold brew fanatic, London’s love affair with caffeine has only intensified my love for the Big Smoke.

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Whether you’re visiting or living in the Big Smoke, these are the best cafes in London, my favourite places to savour coffee-

Monmouth Coffee Company: In my opinion, the best coffee in London. Monmouth is my go-to for at-home cold brew beans and a flat white or latte on the go.

Ozone Coffee Roasters: A touch of ‘coffee snob’ vibes, but the flat whites are good enough, it’s worth it.

Grind (multiple locations): Love a place that’s versatile, Grind excels at breakfast (don’t miss the sweet potato cakes or flat white) and does excellent espresso martinis in the evening.

Prufrock Coffee: The best pour over I’ve had while living in London. The rest of the espresso menu doesn’t disappoint either.

The Attendant: Housed in a former Victorian Toilet (from the 1800s), grabbing a brew here feels special

Department of Coffee and Social Affairs: Bean options for espresso, and yes- great flat whites.

The Gentlemen Baristas: Smooth espresso makes for a great flat white.

TAP Coffee No. 26: Strong Scandi vibes and great coffee. Need I say more?

Monocle Cafe: Is this place a bit trendy? Yes, but they serve buns from Fabrique (the best!) and usually have a nice hot tea or other beverage on offer if you’re in the mood for something different than coffee.

Farm Girl Cafe: Cute and healthy breakfast eats. The coffee is good (there’s better in London), but their fun lattes make it worth a stop in- think: rose and tumeric lattes.

The Wren: Situated within St Nicholas Cole Abbey, there’s no arguing having coffee here means enjoying it in a beautiful setting. And, all proceeds benefit the Abbey so you can feel good about your cup, too.

Kaffeine: Excellent coffee and beautiful decor. Need I say more?

Cabbie Coffee: Often found in Camden Market, coffee served from a refitted black cab makes a great market perusing brew.

Host Cafe: A church turned coffee shop, this cafe is inside an ornate Gothic church. An independent cafe, it’s run by the Moot community with the goal of opening up the church to the public. The building is one of the oldest churches in the city dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Paper & Cup: A cute cafe with lots of books to browse, good mochas and all of the pastries, somehow, I always find myself in Paper & Cup on Sunday mornings when I’m near Colombia Road Flower Market.

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Have you ever visited London? If you’re a coffee fiend, where did you find the best brew?

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Where to Find the Best Views in London

It’s no secret I love a good view.

In any place, finding a view from above is usually fairly high on my list of things to do while visiting.

London is built for great views. With plenty of tall buildings, historic streets and cascading hills in parks, you’ll have no shortage of options for a bird’s eye view of the city.

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6 Views of London I Love

The Shard: Hard to miss in London, as the city’s tallest building, the panoramic views over south London (and beyond) are insane. The viewing platform at the tippy top will set you back £30 for expansive views of the city.

On a budget?

Do as I like to, and visit Aqua Shard, one of the buildings bars for almost the exact same view (a few floors lower), and have more control in what you pay by choosing whether you want tea, soda, beer, wine or a cocktail. Reservations for Aqua Shard are recommended (make them on Shard’s website) if you’re visiting in a large group or at a peak time (sunset). Most times I’ve been there,  it’s mid-day, and I usually only go with 1-2 other people, so no issues getting a table with a great view if we’re patient and wait a few minutes for people to leave.

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London Eye: Set along the Thames River, the Eye offers great views of Westminster and St. Paul’s. Is it touristy? Yes. Is the view good enough to make up for that? Depends. Visiting once mid-week with my sister, it wasn’t too bad but on the weekends, there’s usually a lot of people queueing to see the view. As cliche as it may be, there’s no denying the view is spectacular.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral: On my first visit to London over 12 years ago, I visited St. Paul’s and climbed 528 steps to the top. I have a few photos from the visit, but none of them are great quality and I could barely remember the inside of the cathedral or climb/view.

London’s skyline has also changed so much since that visit, I knew I wanted to see the view (and the inside of the cathedral) again before setting off for sabbatical. The view from the Golden Gallery is outstanding. Unquestionably one of the top views of the city.

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Tower Bridge: Another faint memory from my first trip to London, I vaguely recall walking along the top of the bridge after touring the Tower of London.

So glad I returned before leaving the city. The views of the Thames are incredible, and getting a behind the scenes look at the engine room, plus walking stories atop the bridge is a pretty cool way to spend a few hours.

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Sky Garden: Tucked away inside a thirty four story building, Sky Garden is equal parts relaxing and stunning. A lush garden with a soaring view of the London skyline? Yes, please.

Best of all, it’s free. Book tickets in advance via their website to reserve your time slot and ensure entry. There’s also a restaurant at the top, but it’s only available by reservation.

Every so often, there are also events happening in the garden, which you can typically get tickets to on Fever. In December, I attended a festive night with carols, Christmas tunes, mince pies and mulled wine. So fun!

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The Tate Modern: The Tate is one of my favourite museums in London and free to enter. Their modern art exhibits are always interesting, and it offers a beautiful view of London from the 5th floor cafe.

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Finally, if you’re short on time and on a limited budget but want to see beautiful views, walk along the Thames.

I’d recommend starting near the Bank station-

  • Walking down to the Tower of London
  • Crossing Tower Bridge
  • Walking toward the Shard
  • Passing through Borough Market
  • Then, making your way to the riverside
  • You can walk along the river for a while, passing Shakespeare’s The Globe, Millennium Bridge, The Tate Modern and St. Paul’s
  • Eventually, you’ll reach the London Eye, which is across from Parliament, as well as nearby Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace

It’s a lot to see and will likely take you a few hours (rent a bike if you want to be quicker), but a free way to see a lot of London’s historic and iconic sites on foot.

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If you’ve been to London, where are your favourite places to see the city from above? 

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Looking for Banksy in Bristol

A GUIDE: ONE DAY IN BRISTOL

Back in early November, I was itching to get out of London for a day. Discussing day trip options with friends, Bristol came up- friends knew people there, and in our group of six people traveling from London, four of us hadn’t been before.

I understood Bristol to have a reputation for being a creative and culture hub, big on street art (hello, home of Banksy), and also modern- it was recently named the UK’s best city to live in.

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I was excited to spend a day in the city, but didn’t have expectations for what we’d see or do. That said, I was elated on our train back to London after having spent the day wandering the city in search of colourful homes, street art, great food and craft ciders.

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ONE DAY IN BRISTOL

If you’re planning on spending time in Bristol, these were a few of my favourite activities:

  • With lauded maritime history, Bristol’s harbour is a happening place. We visited in November, but I’ve heard on sunny summer days, the harbour is magic – sailboats gently gliding through the water, and rays of light reflecting off the surface
  • Home to Banksy, you can still see some of the artist’s original works around the city. A few of my favourites we tracked down: Well-Hung Lover, You don’t need planning permissions to build castles in the sky, and Girl with the Pierced Eardrum. If you have time and want to see more local work, take a street art tour- Google to see tour options, most happen daily/semi-weekly
  • Sip coffee in some of the city’s cool cafes– Society Cafe and Full Court Press Speciality Coffee were two places I liked. The Florist was my favourite coffee place (I hear they also do great cocktails) for its atmosphere- the decor is very Instagram (and relaxing). If you go early, it’s relaxing to be surrounded by such nice interior design. Nearby The Florist, don’t miss Pinkmans for their great pastries and doughnuts. Coffee + doughnuts, is there a better way to start a Saturday?
  • The region of England Bristol is located in is known for its cider production. Of course, we had to try regional varieties while in Bristol. First up, The Stable for sampling ciders (found a Rhubarb one we loved) and pizza. Then, Muddock Cafe for an afternoon snack and more cider tasting- loved this place for its deck that overlooks part of the harbour. Our favourite spot though was the final one we visited, The Apple. What’s not to love about a floating cider barge? So many local varieties and great chips to munch on- a dream come true
  • Although cider is the mains how in Bristol (in my opinion), we also enjoyed Hatchet Inn for pints in a historic pub, King Street Brew House for craft beer, and The Milk Thistle for speakeasy cocktail vibes
  • Meander The Christmas Steps for Victorian England vibes
  • Pop into Bristol’s Cathedral, near a Banksy piece (…Castles in the sky) to be awed by English architecture
  • Peruse the stalls of the Harbourside Market, near The Stable, as you’re wandering town
  • Climb up to Redcliff Hill for great views of the city and to admire a row of beautiful pastel homes

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I only had one day in Bristol, but I’d love to return someday to see and do more than we had time for. If you’ve been to Bristol, what would you recommend to visitors as a must see or do?

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Celebrating Colombia at London’s Annual Orchid Festival

Last year, I wrote about visiting Kew Gardens as a day trip from the city to relax and revel in the beauty of the orchid display. 

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Each year, Kew puts on an orchid festival. Returning for the 24th year, this year’s show was taken over by 1,100 species of orchids representative of Colombia.

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Kew Gardens used to be the private playground of the royal family, but was transformed into a botanical garden in the 1840s. Now, Kew is home to over 30,000 plants spread across lawns, greenhouses and flower beds- it’s the largest and most diverse collection of living plants anywhere in the world.

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This year’s orchid show reflect’s Colombia’s diverse landscape- from tropical beaches to snow-capped mountains.

In addition to revelling in the beauty of the show, I learned Colombia is home to 4,270 species of orchid- the most in the world.

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Meandering the conservatory, I was amazed- colourful arches of flowers, a ‘carnival of animals’ made up of blossoms and a cascade of colourful hanging vandas meant to represent Colombia’s famous rainbow river, Caño Cristalesm.

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I’m so glad we returned to see another year of the orchid festival- it was truly breathtaking.

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Have you ever been to the Kew orchid festival? Or another similar festival where you live? 

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A German-Style Christmas Market in the Heart of the UK

Last year, I visited Christmas markets in Munich and Nuremberg, and fell in love with traditional German markets.

German Christmas markets are like stepping back in time, usually set outdoors in charming town squares. Each market has dozens of wooden booths filled to the brim with crafts, food and drinks.

Nowhere is the yuletide celebration more evident than at German Christmas markets. It is, after all, the country where a lot of present day holiday traditions started.

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This year, I’d hoped to return to Germany to visit more markets, but decided to save for a trip to Tromsø instead.

So, when friends invited me to visit them for an annual trip to Birmingham to peruse the largest German-style Christmas market outside Germany, I jumped at the chance. Especially when I saw the train fairs- less than £10 return from London!

Arriving in Birmingham late morning, we stopped at Faculty for coffee and then hit the market.

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Bigger than any German market I’ve been to, the Birmingham one feels like endless wooden stalls.

Over 5 million visitors visit the market in Birmingham each year. Interestingly, it started in an attempt to bring a taste of traditional German markets to Britain to inspire British visitors to head to Germany for the real deal.

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Bratwurst, steins of beer, gingerbread, ornaments, nutcrackers and tons of other trinkets are available to feast upon and purchase. It’s a jolly good time.

We wandered the stalls for a while, but then set our sights on the gluhwein (mulled wine) stalls. Like at any German market, you put down a deposit on a mug and then only pay for refills of hot wine. If you return the mug, you’ll get your deposit back. Otherwise, you can take it with you as a keepsake.

After a few mugs of gluhwein, we headed to The Stable for festive cider and ales (I tried a orange cinnamon cider with nutmeg), and pizzas to share.

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Before I knew it, it was time to head back to London.

Was visiting the market worth it? I had lots of fun, in part because I was with such a great group of friends.

The Birmingham market has elements of a traditional German market, but nothing compares to the real deal. If you can, book yourself a trip to Munich, Frankfurt or Cologne- you won’t regret the Christmas cheer.

Have you ever been to a Christmas market in Germany or elsewhere in Europe? 

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Festive Tipples at Miracle, a Christmas Pop-Up Bar

A few years ago, I remember hearing about a Christmas pop-up bar in the East Village of New York City.

Called Miracle on Ninth Street, the bar inhabited an empty store front. Turns out construction of a new cocktail bar, Mace, had fallen behind. And, instead of pushing through to finish as soon as possible, the owners decided to open a Christmas cocktail pop-up.

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In its first year, people swarmed Miracle. I went twice with friends- that’s how much we loved the wintery cocktails and Christmas cheer.

I’m always a fan of seasonal drinks, but Miracle really took it to the next level- the entire place was dripping in kitschy decor, it looked like something you’d find in your grandmother’s basement.

The next year, Miracle returned with Mace transforming to a holiday hideaway for the month of December. This was the year Miracle also started trialling expansions in the US, equipping other bar owners with what they needed to make its holiday cocktails and suggestions for how to decorate to ensure guests felt like they were in an all-time Christmas party.

The following year, I visited Miracle in New York and the pop-up location in Pittsburgh. Loving both of them and prepping for a move to London, I hoped Miracle would consider expanding internationally someday.

This year, I finally got my wish. After missing out on a year of Miracle festivities last holiday season, I was ecstatic to see an opening across the pond.

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In early December, we visited Miracle’s London location on a Saturday afternoon. Reservations were fully booked up, so we hoped for walk-in availability and got lucky with two seats at the bar.

Hidden atop the mezzanine of a restaurant in Covent Garden, walking into the London version of Miracle really does feel like entering a winter dream. You’ll walk up snow covered stairs shroud in silvery branches to enter what reminds me of a living room- a giant Christmas tree in the corner, tables in the middle and tons of decor, including stockings and lights strung all around.

With Christmas hits bopping over the speakers, it’s hard to not immediately find yourself in a festive mood.

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Sliding up to the bar, we perused the menu- I was happy to see some of my favourite Miracle classics, like the Bad Santa and eggnog cocktail still on the menu. Keen to try something new, we ordered the Christmas Carol Barrel (Aged Rum, Aquavit, Amaro, Pumpkin Pie, Demerara Syrup, Lime, Vanilla, Angostura Bitters), and And A Partridge In A Pear Tree (Reposado Tequila, Pear Brandy, Mezcal, Spiced Demerara Syrup, Lime, Egg White, Club Soda, Angostura Bitters, Cinnamon).

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Next up, a Christmapolitan (Vodka, Elderflower, Dry Vermouth, Spiced Cranberry Sauce, Rosemary, Lime, Absinthe Mist) and a Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! (Sweet Potato, Barbados Rum, Cachaca, Trinidad Overproof Rum, Dry Curacao, Marshmallow Oregat, Lime), and two naught shots (Bourbon, Cinnamon).

Sipping our holiday tipples, we bopped along to holiday tunes and revelled in the simple cheer of it all.

As long as its present in a city I’m in, Miracle will always be a part of my holiday traditions. There’s just something so genuinely fun about Christmas cocktails.

With over 90 locations worldwide, if Miracle isn’t in a city near you now, hopefully it will be for the next holiday season.

Cheers to Christmas!

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Candlelit Christmas Carols in London

Carols by candlelight? In a striking cathedral in central London? Yes, please.

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On my last Friday night in London this year, I decided to skip the pub and instead, headed to Southwark Cathedral to hear some of my favourite festive songs in an unbeatable atmosphere.

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Like many cathedrals in England, the cathedral itself is incredible. Dating back to 1220, Southwark Cathedral is the oldest Gothic church in London.

Our seats for the performance were in the transept, in front of the organ, which meant we had a great view of the carollers from the side and heard the hauntingly beautiful sounds of the organ up-close. The carollers were men and boys from the Cathedral Choir.

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Almost two hours in length, the first hour was Messiah (Handel). The performance were was incredible. The way the sound echoed throughout the cathedral was spectacular.

After a short intermission, during which delicious mince pies and wine were available, we headed back into the cathedral for the second half of the performance, which was a mix of hymns and carols. During the hymns, the audience was encouraged to sing along, which was a nice, lively touch.

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If church carols during the holidays sounds like something you’d enjoy, London has plenty of performances to choose from. At the top of my list for future holiday seasons are Westminster Abbey, the Royal Albert Music Hall and St. Paul’s.

Have you ever been to see Christmas carols in a cathedral? 

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A Very Merry Christmas in London

Christmas in London is magical. Twinkling lights, gorgeous decor and wreaths at every turn, mulled wine and plenty of holiday activities have made London my top city in the world to celebrate this joyous season in.

Planning to be in the big smoke for the most wonderful time of the year?

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My favourite activities for a very merry Christmas in London

Do a walking tour of the Christmas lights in Soho and Mayfair, key streets: Regent’s Street, Oxford Street, Seven Dials, Mount Street, New Bond Street, Piccadilly, Carnaby and Marylebone Lane. Don’t miss hustle and bustle of Oxford Street or the angels on Regent’s Street. Carnaby Street, tucked away between Regent’s Street and Oxford Circus, is one of my favourite places to see lights, and there are a few really great restaurants and bars in the area- Disrepute is a lovely 70s-esque speakeasy.

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And, if you’re after Christmas shopfront decor, the facades of these places are always at the top of my list of places to check out to get in the holiday spirit: Seven Dials, Cartier, Moyses Stephens, Neill Strain Floral Couture, The Ritz London, The Royal Arcade, Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart, The Ivy Chelsea Garden, George, Clos Maggiore, Leadenhall Market, Tiffany & Co., Lavender Green Flowers, Annabel’s, Henrietta Hotel and the staircase in Fortnum and Mason, plus its outside windows. Tip: Most of these places, plus so much else, is in Mayfair and Chelsea.

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Visit Kew Gardens, where a sparkling trail of twinkling lights awaits. The entire path, over a mile long, is wow worthy. Bonus: There’s prosecco and mulled wine available throughout the trail!

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Wander the seasonal market pop-ups at Southbank, Winter Wonderland (so many rides and games!) and Winterville (less manic than Winter Wonderland). Winter Wonderland, albeit touristy, is practically a cultural institution. If you’re visiting, reserve tickets for games/rides in advance to avoid long waits in line.

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Spot the city’s spectacular trees-

  • Outdoor favs: St. Pancras International (giant tree!), Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square (a gift to London by the people of Norway)
  • Indoor favs: Claridges and The Ritz

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Go ice skating at the Natural History museum, Tower of London or Somerset House. Pro-tip: Somerset House was featured in the film ‘Love Actually’, and is one of the city’s most iconic rinks.

Shop London’s iconic stores and take home a few British treats, like brandy butter, Christmas pudding, Christmas crackers, yule log, mini mince pies and Cadbury. Liberty, Selfridges, John Lewis, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason are all excellent options for shopping, and usually beautifully decorated. And, if you can’t get enough of the department stores, head over to Covent Garden to admire the festive decor and do a bit of shopping in pretty boutiques.

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Stroll through London’s markets- Borough Market (don’t miss the Christmas puddings, gingerbread men and mulled wine), Maltby and Camden are a few of my favorites for seasonal treats and festive feels. Columbia Road is also beautiful this time of the year with holly, evergreen trees and metallic branches.

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Enjoy a warm pint or mulled wine at the pub. I’ve loved pub culture since day one of living here, but with holiday decor all around (hi, Churchill Arms) and no shortage of warm drinks, cosying up at the pub on a Sunday afternoon is practically mandatory. Bonus points if there’s a roaring fire, like at The Blind Beggar.

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Fancy a festive tipple? This year, Miracle, the festive Christmas pop-up bar that got its start in New York years ago ventured across the pond the London. A themed menu of drinks, hopping Christmas tunes and no shortage of cheesy holiday decor make this place perfect for a few December drinks. Many of London’s other cocktail bars, like Aqua Shard, have seasonal tipples on the menu. And, in Aqua Shard’s case, also offer a spectacular view of the city below.

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Peruse London’s neighborhoods to see how residents decorate for the holidays, spoiler: no shortage of stunning wreaths. A few of my go-to areas:

  • Chelsea – The side streets and squares off King’s Road
  • Belgravia – Elizabeth Street is a can’t miss
  • Notting Hill
  • Marylebone
  • Angel in Islington

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Listening to the sounds of the season with carols at Westminster Abbey or a jazzy take on classic Christmas tunes at a SkyGarden concert.

And, activities I didn’t get around to last year but are high on my list for future holiday seasons:

  • Attending Christmas Day service at St. Pauls’ Cathedral (if I’m in London)
  • Seeing the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House, or candlelit carols in the days right before Christmas
  • Spending at day at Blenheim Palace near Oxford, I’ve heard the Christmas light trail is incredible
  • Grabbing tickets to see a movie with the film score done by a live orchestra at Royal Albert- this year, they’re doing Home Alone, but I won’t be in London the weekend it’s happening
  • Admiring Hogwarts in the snow, I loved my first visit to Warner Bros Studios and am excited by the thought of seeing the sets decked out for the holiday
  • Visiting Winterville (if it’s around in years to come year)- smaller than Winter Wonderland, I’ve heard it’s an adult playground for games and festive drinks
  • Stepping back in time at a palace- Kensington Palace or Castle Howard in York

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If you’ve ever spent Christmas in the capital, what’d you enjoy the most about the season? 

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