My London Tourist Guide

Of all the things readers ask when they write to me, one of the most common questions is: “I’m coming to London on holiday, what should I see?”

This, as you might imagine, is a big question. London is a huge city with loads on offer. If you like museums, this list might not be for you. But if you like walking, water, music, food, drink and exploring London’s hidden gems, then there might be something here that tickles your fancy.

If I was a tourist in London, here are the top ten things I’d recommend…

1 – Visit Greenwich. It’s a world heritage site sat on the Thames with an impressive palace and royal observatory, plus the Queen’s House is fascinating. There’s also a cool market, oodles of ace pubs by the river and a sprawling royal park. I live there, so you might see me, too! You can catch the Thames Clipper water taxi from the centre of town, or just get the DLR/Tube. Find out more here.

As featured in: This London Love

2 – Walk around Soho / Fitzrovia / Bloomsbury. Top spots are Exmouth Market, Covent Garden for tourist photos, Waterloo Bridge for a great view of London. China Town is worth a visit, and then stroll the streets of Soho: Wardour St, Dean St, Frith St, Greek St and Old Compton St. It’s gay and it’s alive! She Bar on Old Compton St is lesbian, but the best gay bar is Friendly Society. If you want the low-down on LGBT bars, click here.

As featured in: This London Love & London, Actually

3 – Visit Camden. It’s home to some awesome markets and even better shops. The vibe is very hippy and stained with patchouli, like you’re perpetually stuck in 1994. Camden is also the music capital of London, so while you’re there, take in a gig at one of its many venues. The Roundhouse is superb, but the dodgy pubs with sticky floors are really where it’s at. Pay homage to Amy Winehouse in The Hawley Arms.

4 – Walk the Regents Canal. This runs from Paddington to Limehouse, and you can hop on and off at numerous points. Walk from Paddington to King’s Cross; from Islington to Broadway Market; from Dalston to Limehouse. Along the way, you can take in Little Venice, with its canals in suburban roads; Abbey Road, home of the The Beatles; London Zoo; Islington, especially Upper Street for great food; Camden; Hoxton; Victoria Park; and Broadway Market, famed for its eclectic shops & market. Find out more here.

As featured in: London Calling

5 – Take in a West End show. My favourites are The Book Of Mormon, Les Miserables or The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time. All three are brilliant. If you can get a ticket to Hamilton, take it! Steer clear of Harry Potter – the show is six hours long and you get a two-hour dinner break. No show should need a dinner break. Check out the latest here.

6 – Walk the Thames path. Good bits are Tower Bridge to Greenwich (2-3 hours); Greenwich to Thames Barrier (1 hour); South Bank to Putney (2 hours). Longer if you stop and gawp at architecture, or stop for a drink and/or food in one of the many lovely riverside pubs (recommended!). The South Bank on the Thames is also fabulous to walk along. Start from London Bridge and take in Borough Market (great architecture, fab food, be sure to get a coffee from Monmouth Coffee), then head past the Oxo Tower, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the Tate Modern, the BFI, National Theatre, Royal Festival Hall. Top tip: avoid the London Eye. It’s a terrible tourist attraction and very underwhelming.

As featured in: All I Want For Christmas

7 – Visit the National Portrait Gallery – my favourite gallery in the city. If you love portraits and photography, this is for you. Also, The Photographer’s Gallery just off Leicester Square is worth a visit, too.

8 – Visit east London with its myriad of great cocktail bars and restaurants. Start from Shoreditch, head up though Haggerston and Dalston, and end in Stoke Newington, home of the hip. Don’t forget to stop for Vietnamese food in Shoreditch; check out Dalston Superstore; and finish in style with some Turkish food in Stoke Newington. Find out more here.

As featured in: London Calling, This London Love & A Girl Called London

9 – Visit Notting Hill and Portobello market to pretend you’re Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant. Notting Hill has been sprinkled with magic London dust and is always worth a trip. It’s mega-close to Kensington High Street, too, which has some ace shops to browse.

10 – Visit Gay’s The Word bookshop. The only gay book store left in London, this is a must-visit. It stocks a good selection of lesbian books – including mine! – and the staff are super-friendly. Support the gay bookshop!

I hope you have a fabulous time in my home city. And if you do any of this list, do write and let me know what you thought! Email me at: mail@clarelydon.co.uk

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