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Hoxton and Shoreditch remain my favorite parts of town to stay in (work bias), though I’m starting to get a handle on the options around Tower Bridge. Perhaps an obvious statement, but London is very large, and jumping from site to site can take a lot of time. As a tourist, I’d recommend picking a central location for lodging (likely more to the west of London City center/Tower Bridge Area, nearer to the major museums), prioritizing the cultural sites you most want to see, and filling in your dining plans around the neighborhoods you find yourself in. I don’t have a strong seasonal preference – the weather is unpredictable at any time of year, just be prepared for wet or cold.

Map view here.

Sites

  • **The British Library: Worth checking their exhibits – they vary, change regularly, and often are quite interesting.
  • **Dennis Severs House: I think I love this. It’s off beat, you’ll wait a long time to get in, but it’s a very interesting concept. 3D still lifes.
  • **Freemason’s Hall: A slightly offbeat museum in a grand building. Lots of memorabilia and a vaguely recruiting vibe.
  • ***The Geffrye Museum: Wonderful. Middle-class living from the 1650s on, with informative information and great examples. Love it.
  • **Ham House: pretty and odd/interesting. Best for a non-winter trip to see the gardens. House is a bit worn but has some interesting elements.
  • [shopping] **Harrods is my favorite of the big historic department stores. It will be crowded, but worth it for the interiors and Christmas market.
  • ***Imperial War Museum: Amazing – thoughtfully done, a huge collection, excellent space. 
  • ***The National Portrait Gallery: I just love this – a large and rich collection, with wonderful stories about the people (get the audio guide!).
  • *Natural History Museum: unfortunately, the museum equivalent of a subway station. It’s huge and grand (the most worthwhile thing is the central gallery with the whale statue), but the volume of crowds and sheer scale give this the feeling of Grand Central Station at rush hour. Not pleasant.
  • **Sir John Sloane’s Museum: Worth a visit. A very rich person’s home with amazing antiquities. Roman/Greek/Egyptian.
  • **The Tate Modern: great space. Permanent collection does very little for me, but check the shows to see if there’s anything of interest.
  • ***Virginia & Albert Museum: Excellent. Check the exhibits in advance (and reserve), but this is worth many visits for the free permanent collection. It’s huge, broad, wonderful.
  • **V&A Museum of Childhood: This is charming. I loved the dollhouses and clothing. Good gift shop.
  • ***The Wallace Collection is wonderful! It’s almost overwhelming to find this much quality in one place – particularly in such an elegant setting. Old masters paintings and armour, predominantly, but various other items at different size scales. Free entrance.
  • **William Morris Gallery: Very informative and interesting, with a lovely park behind. Very popular with children and families.

Lodging

Shoreditch & Hoxton Area:
  • **citizenM London Shoreditch hotel: my favorite hotel option when traveling alone. It’s really a squeeze for two people (tiny!) but the bed is lovely and the breakfast quite good. Hip.
  • **The Hoxton Shoreditch is fine. The public areas try very hard to be hip, punishingly loud. Breakfast is just okay and expensive. Rooms are small but the beds are comfortable. Prices can be reasonable (not cheap, but better than average during busy times of year).
  • The *Z Hotel Shoreditch is decidedly “functional” with minuscule rooms and a sub-par breakfast. I don’t love the immediate neighborhood, but it’s acceptable in a pinch.
Tower Bridge / London Bridge (City of London):

I’ve tried both sides of the river and prefer the south. The Dixon is the standout by a good measure, but the pricing can spike to fairly extreme dimensions and I keep searching for a good alternative.

North is convenient to the Circle line, but otherwise is just too car-centric. I initially thought it devoid of interesting dining options, but St. Katharine Docks are very cute and packed with restaurants; worth spending more time here to assess the options. I intend to try the Citizen M next; it’s typically reliable and could be a good option.

South of the river
  • **CitySpace Tower Bridge has furnished studio apartments at a pretty affordable rate (150 GPB on my spring 2024 visit). It’s all digital, no lobby, feels very anonymous. It was functional and comfortable enough, clean, lacking much personality.
  • **The Dixon, Tower Bridge, Autograph Collection: Quite nice – comfortable, smallish rooms with good light. Pretty dining areas. Convenient, walkable location.
  • *Residence Inn by Marriott London Tower Bridge: A very functional experience. Nothing much to recommend it by.
North of the river
  • *Cove – Cannon Street: Heating was broken in the first room, and asthmatic in the second. Apartments, no real hotel services available. Dingy hallways and no real view from any rooms (all windows north facing). Do not recommend. Restaurants in the immediate vicinity were sub-par.
  • *Leonardo Royal Hotel London City: a very perfunctory experience that would work in a pinch. I wouldn’t stay again, just too corporate, soulless. Bonus points however for the access to the original city walls – if you can find the entrance to the Leonardo, you’ll be looking right at the wall.
  • We also looked at the Leonardo Royal Hotel London Tower Bridge by accident (London City is much closer to Tower Bridge) and it’s a significant step down.
  • *Residence Inn by Marriott London Tower Bridge: A very functional experience. Nothing much to recommend it by.
  • *The Tower Hotel (Guoman Property): good location, pretty gross experience. So corporate, so tired, so just over it. It’s not exactly unclean, but they gave up trying to maintain this hotel somewhere in the early 2000s, and it’s not cheap.

Restaurants

Clerkenwell:
Fitzrovia:
  • **BubbleDogs: champagne and hot dogs. Sounds a little lame but the actual experience is great. Fancy setting. The kitchen at BubbleDogs: http://kitchentablelondon.co.uk/. Michelin-starred restaurant hidden in the back of the restaurant.
  • **Reverend J W Simpson: Cocktails only (and very good ones at that). Setting somewhere between charming and seedy.
  • **Salt Yard, 54 Goodge St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 4NA: Good Spanish tapas with an excellent wine list.
Islington:
  • **The Draper’s Arms: Pretty/upscale British pub. Great traditional food in a nice neighborhood.
Marlybone/Mayfair:
  • **The Duchess: a “we’re hungry and in the neighborhood choice” that worked out rather well. Clean, pubby, polite crowd, very good burger, decent salads. Not particularly differentiated, but certainly good enough.
  • **Fischer’s: Austrian sausage and snitzel. Great setting, decent food, indifferent service.
Primrose Hill:
  • **Greenberry: Excellent breakfast spot. Reserve in advance. Good brunch on Sat-Sun.
Richmond Area:

This is a lovely, very posh area with great grand homes, parkland, river views.

Shoreditch & Hoxton Area:
  • 8 Hoxton Square: Cute neighborhood place, nice atmosphere, good for a date. [now closed]
  • **Albion Cafe: Cute farm to table place with traditional British dishes.
  • ***Andina1 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, London E2 7DJ. Tapas, pisco bar and ceviche. Very good. 
  • **The Bike Shed Motorcycle Club: “a destination dedicated to Moto Culture and Moto people.” This is a nice spot – far larger than you’d guess from the outside, nice booths to sit in, food is a step beyond pub fair (good salads, fresh ingredients).
  • **The Breakfast Club: very popular, American-style breakfasts. Large portions. Expect to wait for a table.
  • **Bull in a China Shop, 196 Shoreditch High Street. Extremely hip whiskey bar, lovely dark interior, warm and cozy.
  • **Burger and Beyond. This is indeed a very good burger, and the tater tots are excellent.
  • ***Burro e Salvia, 52 Redchurch Street. Amazing homemade pasta.
  • **Brawn, 49 Columbia Road, Farm to Table Fare, nice setting. Slightly annoying kitchen setup, you have to pick up your own food.
  • **Caso do Frango: chicken with sides. Decent space, food is a little greasy but tasty.
  • **Cecconi’s: a really nice and civilized place for a drink, good Italian food.
  • *Ceviche, 2 Baldwin Street: not crazy about this. Food is overly salted and it’s really noisy.
  • *Crown & Shuttle: stick to the beer. Got food poisoning from the food. Outdoor seating area for sunny days.
  • *Crudo Cevicheria is okay, good cocktails and the (limited) array of food is better than you’d expect. It’s just a slightly sad spot, feels more like a takeout place than where you want to spend time.
  • *Gloria: this is a difficult one star rating – but I won’t be back. It’s a pretty and festive place, but the noise level is painful (deafening), the food just average, and the menu a bit odd (nothing in the right category, too hard to compile a meal that makes sense).
  • **Market Cafe, 2 Broadway Market. Casual and inexpensive with vaguely southern food. Very nice and quiet, good for a dinner on your own.
  • **Rök Smokehouse, ”modern Scandinavian,” Casual, all dishes inspired by cooking on open flames, very on trend a few years ago. 
  • **Shoreditch House (just below the Method office). Requires a person with membership. Good for drinks. Super pretentious!
  • **Tonkotsu: a newer Ramen place. It’s pretty solid, and when they say spicy, they mean it.
  • **Via Emilia, 37a Hoxton Square: Only serves food from the Emilia region, nice servers, good food. Only complaint is the chairs – stools only, hard on the back.
SOHO:
  • **La Bodega Negra Restaurant: rather good Mexican tapas. There are two spaces – an above ground cantina, and a speakeasy-style basement hidden behind a strip club facade. Festive.
Southwark / Borough Market / Bermondsey:
  • **Franco Manca Bermondsey: sourdough pizza and fancy Italian cocktails. Very cute setting, good for a date. Food is fine, not remarkable but certainly good enough.
  • *Gladstone Arms is a small pub/music venue. It’s fine for average drinks, can’t comment on the music, and serves Indian/British fusion food that I’d strongly guess is prepared elsewhere and reheated. Not my pick for food.
  • **El Pastor: Pretty good tacos! On the expensive side, portions are small, and drinks could be better, but overall this place is fun and the service is fast and professional. Borough Market location is quite loud.
  • **The Woolpack: Popular bar with a large back patio. Good fish and chips.
Spitalfields / Whitechapel:

This area is full of international food and interesting dining at a mix of price points. It’s not far from Shoreditch, and fairly accessible from the Tower Bridge area (though it’s a gritty walk, not sure I’d do it alone at night).

  • **The Culpeper: a nicer (if not the cleanest) bar, with a summer-time roof garden. Haven’t had the food yet, cocktails are good.
  • *Duck & Waffle: “Highest restaurant in London” – 41st floor, great views, very good southern food (expensive). Open 24 hours, requires reservation. Very touristy/hipster. Service not great.
  • **som saa: very good, legitimately spicy and creative Thai food. Higher-end setting (and prices), good service, hip and rather loud.
  • **St John Bread and Wine: Pretty much just what the name says. Very British food, unusual meats. Casual.
Tower Bridge / London Bridge:
  • **Flat Iron London Bridge: a London chain that specialises in steak. Reliable, nice setting, quality is good.
  • *Gunpowder Tower Bridge: tasty and rather fancy Indian food. Drinks are average and on the watered down side. I’d return for the food but the setting is very concrete/modern and extremely loud, a hard place to go with groups.
  • **The Horniman At Hays: A very large format bar in a former Tea warehouse. Fun vibe, good cocktails, limited food options.
  • **St. Katharine Docks Cafe: while a rather perfunctory dining experience, this is a great place to enjoy a coffee and watch the boat go through the lock.
  • **Santo Remedio (Tooley Street): pretty good Mexican. This is mostly tacos of the fancy, but the drinks are excellent, spicy salsa, good chips, nice and prompt service.
  • *Tower Bridge Kitchen is completely unremarkable. Avoid unless that is what you want (it’s why I went) – large menu with something for everyone, not too crowded, not too loud, clean, fairly devoid of personality. A good choice for tired kids or that night you just want to read your book in peace.

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