Work trips don’t have to be all work and no fun, right? I had a week in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood and a few days in St. James’ neighborhood recently and it’s the first time in a while that I spent more than a few hours outside of working in London. I typically have to fly in/fly out and recover from jet lag, so I was excited that I’d have an extra day or two to wander around. Even though I’ve been to London a bunch, I hadn’t been a proper tourist in a while. I hadn’t explored the Covent Garden neighborhood, either!
Touristy Stuff: Covent Garden and St. James are both super close to major tourist attractions. I did a half-day walk from my hotel (Royal Horseguards) and wandered to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery, and the British Museum. All within reasonable walking distance and the museums are easy to spend longer in (I didn’t have that much time).
Covent Garden Market Building: A great central spot for shopping–and the streets around it are good for a wander–head down James St up to Long Acre and down King St for a variety of shops.
Oxford St.: Hit up the Selfridges and wander through the crowds on Oxford. Aaaand, Primark (aka Primani)–just follow the hoards of people with the blue bags.
Bond St.: Get fancy here.
Dishoom: Oh man. I have been wanting to try Dishoom the last few times I came to London and it didn’t work out. Gladly, this time, I had the time (and the patience for a very long line in the very cold weather). Was it worth it? Absolutely. The best Indian meal I’ve had in a long while. The black dal was certainly legendary, as was the fried okra, the curries, and the breads. An amazing selection of non-alcoholic drinks as well, which was a nice surprise. I appreciated the fact they let you into the bar downstairs after about 30 minutes of freezing outside. If you time it right with the theater crowds, the lines aren’t as long and you get a nice chai tea to warm you up.
Itsu: A healthy surprise–I had seen the chain all over and popped in for a quick lunch. A great selection of asian-inspired grub, including some hot soups/bowls. A great spot for a healthy meal, something I needed after a week of eating heavy British food.
Mother Mash: For me, a trip to London isn’t complete without a savory pie, and Mother Mash is pretty incredible. Cheesy mash? Yes, please. A variety of gravy? Yes. So much yes.
Battersea Pie Station: A decent runner-up in the pie competition, located in Covent Garden Marketplace.
Royal Horseguards: The hotel I was at for my conference was old school British fancy. Right on the Thames and next to Embankment tube station, the hotel is one of those classic British spots. Shockingly huge rooms, great location, and decent food (the high tea was lovely!). It felt like a nice escape from the crowds when I returned from a walk. Breakfast was classic “English” style buffet–I still can’t bring myself to eat baked beans for breakfast.
The Cavendish: A great find on the border of St. James and Piccadilly, this is a great modern choice that’s a good value and close to everything. The rooms are tiny but modern and stylish (if the walls are thin) and the location can’t be beat. Had a great view from the 11th floor. I skipped breakfast in favor of a good wander around town.