I can proudly announce that I finally got a bit situated in London! As I said on my previous post, I could never remember where I stayed, which neighborhood was that party, what was the direction for Mayfair (where I once went to a wedding at the beautiful Dartmouth House), etc.
But look at me now! Even naming this post as a cardinal point. Well, well, well, this is the new me. The new ‘this is my London’ me: I never want to stay “central” anymore! Central London, where the vast majority of tourist sights are: Trafalgar Square, Soho, Camden Town, Hyde Park, Kings Cross, Marble Arch, and so on. Although these are beautiful places, the idea of being in the middle of it all is now overwhelming, for two reasons: there are crowds everywhere, and you walk around this massive area trying to see it all – and it might be just too much.
So this time we stayed 4 nights in Shoreditch, and it was perfect! Explored the east side of London, as well as an afternoon at the lovely Hampstead region on the north side.
Was 4 days too much? Too little? Well let me run you on what I did and you can decide for yourself:
Day 1 – Arrival and Hampstead
We landed and went straight to our friend’s house in Hampstead. The poor limo driver almost got his long fancy Mercedes stuck on the small streets around Holly Mount while we were lost looking for the address. We came across the legendary The Holly Bush – a historic pub that could be on a Tudor kingdom movie scene – and remembered our friend mentioning that place as being by his doorstep, so we unloaded bags (and baby, stroller, etc) and walked down to his cute house. His flat that, I must say, was one of the highlights of our trip: the small living room fits no more than a love seat and a vinyl player; then my husband had to hunch while heading downstairs to the kitchen. I was afraid my hips wouldn’t fit the narrow and short staircase. Upstairs, a meditation room (two yogi occupancy max), and one more level up is the bedroom, with the added bonus of a rooftop accessible by a stepladder. The little residence was once home for a (very short) cobbler.
Outside, a walking tour guide explains that the alleyway was once some kind of horse stable. Wait, what? I know, I don’t know if that’s correct. I highly recommend you to do this Hampstead tour and tell me more about it later.
We then went to a Sunday Roast (because, literally, this is what you do) at the 18thcentury house that nestles The Wells Tavern. We sat outside enjoying sun and beers until the skies quickly changed (because this is what London does) and started drizzling. The inside tables were already all taken. Evidently, this place is also a staple in the neighborhood.
Cruising High Street I felt that this must be one of the best neighborhoods in London. It has this traditional character of a little British village, only with a high-end lifestyle and within one of the biggest cities in the world.
We never made it to Hampstead Heath Park, but I did get a text from a friend that invited me to swim at a pond there. So that is a thing, apparently.
For a proper self-guided Hampstead walk, see this wonderful post I found.
Tipsy from one or two too many, we got another cab and headed to our hotel in Shoreditch. (£20 for the ride)
Ace Hotel – upon entrance, my first thought was “is this the 5-star hotel we decided to book last minute? Oh God’. It was just too boutiquey, too trendy, and too young for a 5 star. A friend later said it right: boutique hotels should have its own star classification. But it was, after all, a good choice for our first night stay. Husband had drinks at the fashionable lobby bar while I fed and got our 3-month-old daughter ready; later on, he put her to bed while it was my turn to catch up with a bestie downstairs. At night, the lobby was a total party (for a mom), and a warming up spot to partygoers that later lined up to go to rooftop Afro House party happening that Sunday – next day was a bank holiday.
Newborn parents alert: I had insomnia and heard music beats until 5am.
Perhaps Ace Hotel is not for us.
Day 2 – Shoreditch on a bank holiday
After my sleepless night with the sound of beats, I was traumatized and afraid that staying in Shoreditch was a mistake. The fact is: it is a party and a loud neighborhood. So don’t stay here on weekends if you want to avoid that.
We woke up, moved to our new crashpad – cute find at a reasonable price – and went to Shoreditch House, a members-only club with a delightful restaurant by the rooftop pool (plus other floors full of interesting people, bars and spaces). I wont talk much about it since you can’t get in without a member, but I’m hereby showing off the fact that I was there. (#bejealous)
The matter-of-fact is: what to do during a bank holiday in Shoreditch, but pub crawl/drink all day? Well, that’s what we did. There are too many options, but here are some pubs I went and totally recommend:
- Dirty Bones – we came across this corner pub and liked it so much that we went back there on a second night. The white bar that takes up most of the room makes the ambiance feel clean, but all the stools around it force people to half-stand, making it a party vibe. Plus the DJ helps (!). At the same time, one can choose to sit at the living-room couch or armchairs by the fireplace, or get a proper table and have a great meal to accompany your craft beer. The best surprise: there was an infant changing table at the women’s loo (the worst part: it was on the 3rd floor reached by a narrow staircase – not easy carrying baby and supplies!).
- The Owl & Pussycat – the place to be if looking for somewhere buzzing with people. Just a good old pub, but always busy with customers flowing to the street and making it a nightly bloc party.
- Callooh Calley – great cocktails on a dark mysterious vibe. Try the ‘Through The Looking Glass‘ (Fords Gin, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Lemon Sherbet, Cucumber, Franklin & Son’s Tonic).
- Boxpark – not quite a bar, definitely no pub, but this container pop up combines shops, easy bites, and, obviously, a bar and quite a party. It was packed this bank holiday. A bit out of the British experience, but totally Shoreditch these days.
- Dishoom – again, not a pub. But this Indian + Iranian restaurant is probably the best place to be (and eat) in Shoreditch. Expect to wait in line, or, if you are lucky, at the bar, for about an hour to get a table. I am NOT the kind of person that waits in line for a restaurant, but we manage to get ourselves at the bar right away (perks of having a baby!) and the place is gorgeous, plus the food is quite divine as well. Worth it!
And… well, there are a million of other options. Let me know your finds for the next time?
Day 3 – Walk to London Fields and Hackney
Next day we woke up and had a great breakfast at Barber & Parlour, another amazing spot that I highly recommend. Serving breakfast and brunch, it’s also a great spot to bring your laptop, do some work, or have a coffee. BTW it’s located at the Electric Cinema, a novelty movie theater with bar that I definitely want to experience next time.
Then we walked to Hackney, passing through Hackney City Farm (an actual urban farm), then Broadway Market (the street market actually happens on Saturdays, but all week long there are interesting shops and restaurants to explore), and stopped at London Fields’ Pub in The Park, an old favorite of mine. This time, though, a weekday, the bar was empty, which was very different than the Sunday visit I once had in 2012. I still loved it!
In Hackney’s Mare Street you’ll find a more metropolitan experience, with shops like Marks & Spencer and my favorite: Primark!
Need a dinner idea? Try the Thai food of Busaba. The calamari was delicious, the service was horrible, but they gave us a round of beer acknowledging that. Won my heart!
Day 4 – Spitafields and Brick Lane
It’s like we left the best for last. After bailing on friends that were going to V&A Museum because we it was gonna be a 40 min car ride (but a couple days before we also gave up on going to TATE Museum, which was walking distance), we decided to check out the Spitafields Market. Getting there, omg I almost cried. Not because of the market itself, which is nice with all shops and restaurants at an old building, etc etc.
But there was this ballroom ‘pop up’ happening, with an old timers’ band playing while couples of all ages – mostly the golden years – in the middle of the saloon. It was so classy, so lovely and so incredibly delightful to see all those couples spinning around the room with the sound of Blue Moon and other classics. This Tea Dance happens on Spitafields Mkt on Wednesdays, lunchtime, during summer.
We got back walking the Brick Lane, the infamous street that holds a Sunday Market, full of edgy, weirdos and, thus, interesting people. On a Wednesday afternoon, we could admire the street graffiti, the vintage shops, and marvel what the nightlife looks like here. Although it was little that I saw, I now love Brick Lane.
Oh Gosh – did I really write 1600+ words for this tiny trip? Who would possible read this? Oh well that’s the beauty of blogging: no rules! Hopefully you just scrolled down and checked out some links. Makes me happy you got to the end!
Lesson learned on this post: East London might be what you want to do next time you’re in Meghan Markle’s new hometown. ♥