Let say, you have been to London several times. You have seen the obvious, well-known side of the city – its free entrance museums, the London Eye, the Queens’ Palace etc. But what you can do and see on your next trip to London? What else there is to be seen and experienced? What are the possibilities to explore London for not first-timers?
London Tips for Women
The good news is that there are many things. The bad, that they are too many! Here is a selection of what I believe will be interesting to the curious woman who wants to learn and see the city in-depth.
>> Find a Special Book
A very special way to make your trip to London memorable is to explore some of its numerous speciality bookstores. Here are some of my favourites so far:
Stanfords claims to be ‘the world’s largest specialist travel bookshop’. I have no idea if that’s true but you can dive into the universe of travel-related literature and guides and find something nice to bring back home. However, I found this bookstore not that interesting because it seemed to be too ‘general’ for my taste.
Daunt Books is another story. One of their shops (on Marylebone High Street) is a beautiful example of the Edwardian style. In its arched window gallery, you will find books arranged by country in different genres – fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and more.
Persephone Books is a very special, boutique bookshop. Located not far from the British Museum, on a quiet street between shops and cafes, this small bookstore is the dream of every girl who loves reading. Specialised in publishing and selling books of mid-twentieth century women authors, they carefully chose each of the 122 books in their portfolio.
Not only this bookshop has a much-focused interest but also some of their books look like pieces of art.
>> Try the Best Coffees in London
Forget Starbucks, Costa and company. Some of the best coffees in London are in:
>> Not Your Usual Afternoon Tea
You might think that I will recommend a good place for an excellent British afternoon tea? Well, not exactly. The address is 116 Knightsbridge, the Wellington Court; the name – Mari Vanna.
This restaurant located in the very heart of London offers everything you would like to taste in a Russian home. Its interior, as well as everything served here, is coming straight from the classic Russian traditions.
>> Follow the Steps of Shakespeare
For an in-depth cultural experience, join Context Travel on one of theirs well-researched and tightly structured tours. I went on a “From Shakespeare to the Globe: The Evolution of Theatre in London”, a tour that gives you a unique and thorough perspective of what London had been at the time of Shakespeare and how it changed to become what it is now. I especially enjoyed the spicy details about King James the Second and his actress-mistress.
The story says that she was not an actress at first. She was selling oranges in front of the theatre. But as she had a beautiful voice and bold individuality, she became the king’s favourite and a famous actress.
>> Go Back to the Glamour Times
To feel the atmosphere of Bell Époque in London, go to Harrods. Yes, it is a bit touristy and very crowded as the Londoners love coming here as well. But it is one of these special places in the city that transports you to the past.
Built in distant 1849 as a grocery, now the store features some of the most luxurious brands on its floors. But still, on the first floor where the food department is, you can enjoy a meal or drink and imagine being one of the ladies with fancy dresses and beautiful hats that were coming here at the end of the 1800s.
I similarly enjoyed visiting Gallerie Lafayette in Paris. These stores built in glamour times are still the live witnesses of an era that will never come back and to visit them make it possible to imagine what it was living in that time. Don’t you love travelling in time? I certainly do!
>> Stay in a Quirky Place
Experience London in its full quirky potential! There are places in the city that will make you both – save money and try something new.
This AirBnb apartment is in a loft warehouse and offers private rooms. The best part of it is the common kitchen-living room that is filled with light and shabby-chic furnishings and items. Good connection with public transport but you should know that the Overground station is just next. The noise is awful and if you can’t sleep in a noisy environment this place is not for you! (If you are not registered, use this link to gain credit for your first AirBnb booking).
Another, cheaper option is Kip Hotel. Located in East London, just minutes’ walk from the Hackney Central station, this hotel offers rooms with en-suite or shared bathrooms. It all depends on your budget. It is fair to say that you can get hostel prices and experiences in a luxury environment.
>> See Something You Can’t See Every Day
When visiting London, check what special events are held in the period of your stay in the city. Last time I had the chance to see a rare exhibition. For the first time shown in Europe, a selection of the works of the best Australian impressionists was shown in the National Gallery.
Well, that’s might be not your type of thing, but surely you can find something that interests you and is rare to be see/find/ experienced. Check Time Out (and their sections Today, This Week and This Month) to find this special event that you will enjoy attending. But also, when travelling around London, especially with the Tube, pay attention to the advertising boards.
>> See a Classic Movie for Less
You will find the Prince Charles cinema in Leicester Square. It is one of the last independent cinemas in London and screen … “everything”, as their site states. From new releases to old classics like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, you can enjoy a movie or two for a less. Especially if you buy a membership (that costs no more than 10 £ a year).
>> 5 Star Tea & Setting
And finally, if you want a real 5-star experience, go for an afternoon tea at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. The menu is quite comprehensive and the setting splendid. Though, if your budget doesn’t allow you enjoying this fancy experience, you can always please yourself with a stroll in Hyde Park and have a look at the hotel’s impressive building.
Can you add more special interest venues and activities for not first-timers in London?
Read also: 19 Quirky Things to Do in London