london buildings

A Guide to the Best Neighbourhoods to Stay in London

London is a sprawling metropolis, a huge city that stretches for mile upon mile on either side of the River Thames, where millions of people live and many millions more tourists visit each year.

London can be a challenge to navigate. Even if it’s not your first time visiting the capital, it can be difficult figuring out one district from the next and deciding where to base yourself during your stay.

The city has many different and unique neighbourhoods to choose between, from the high-class properties and expensive accommodation in the likes of Chelsea or Kensington, to the boutique and happening streets of Shoreditch or Camden. There’s somewhere to suit every style in the capital. To help you to decide, here’s our guide to the best neighbourhoods to stay in London.

Victoria

If you are planning on enjoying a really touristy trip to London, then one of the best places to stay in the city is Victoria. This is central London, and there are few other neighbourhoods that are quite so conveniently placed as this.

Victoria has excellent transport connections – numerous buses and trains connect you to the rest of the country, while London’s airports are easily reached too. If it’s your first time in London or you’re just looking to see the most popular sights, then in Victoria you are close to classic and iconic landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park.

You’re never more than a short walk away from London’s best places, and you can easily get to Westminster to see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben or cross over the River Thames to explore Southbank. You can see the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace, or stroll through the corridors and stately rooms of Kensington Palace. St James’s Park is always a beautiful place for a walk, particularly when the sun is out, while there are museums and art galleries to browse if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

buckingham palace london

Kensington

Kensington is the famous London district located close to palaces, museums and art galleries, and that’s known for its upscale accommodation and association with royalty.

This historic part of the city borders Hyde Park and is where you can find Kensington Palace, the royal residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge amongst other members of the Royal family. Don’t expect to find any budget accommodation here though, as this is the realm of London’s elite, although if money is no object then you can find an exceptional array of both hotels and serviced apartments in what is one of the flashiest parts of the capital.

In Kensington, as well as being able to rub shoulders with royalty, you would also be staying close to London’s best museums. This is where you can find some of London’s oldest institutions. You can visit the Natural History Museum to learn about the world around us and to marvel at the impressive dinosaur skeletons on display here. After that, head down the road to the Science Museum, where you can delve into both the history and future of science and technology. Finally, you can visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, which since the mid 19th century has been amassing the world’s largest collection of exhibits focusing on art and design.

Chelsea

South of Kensington, you can find the equally flamboyant and high-end streets of Chelsea. This is another of London’s most affluent areas, and you can expect to find a high level of accommodation here although, of course, you’ll also need to pay for the privilege of staying in this swanky part of the city.

In recent years, Chelsea was made famous by the reality TV show, Made in Chelsea, which follows the lavish lifestyles of the neighbourhood’s rich and young, and you’ll quickly find that this is a district of wealth and extravagance. You can enjoy some of London’s most elite bars, cafes and restaurants in Chelsea, as well as some of the city’s most high-end shopping.

The district is also incredibly close to central London, but it’s far removed from the crowds and a welcome escape from the chaos of the city centre and from the city’s most popular tourist attractions. If you can afford the price tag that comes with it, then staying in Chelsea is one of the best options for your trip to London.

Covent Garden

Another fantastically central location to stay in during your time in London is Covent Garden. It’s hard to pin down what exactly counts as central London, such is the city’s sprawl and size, but one of the centres for all things shopping, eating and entertainment is most definitely the Covent Garden area.

This is the perfect place to stay if you are visiting London to immerse yourself in its culture, as if you’re in Covent Garden then you are just a short walk away from iconic locations such as Leicester Square and the Royal Opera House. This is the best place for lovers of the theatre, movies and musicals, and you can spend your evenings enjoying the best of the city’s shows and performances, be it at the cinema or at the opera.

As the home of London’s most important entertainment institutions, Covent Garden also has a huge range of accommodation to go with it. You’ll find an impressive array of international hotels on offer, ranging in price from budget options right through to five-star establishments.

Across the district you have a fine range of dining options too, from historic pubs and taverns serving up traditional English pub grub and plenty of drinks, to fine dining and everything else in between. From Covent Garden, it’s easy to get to the rest of London’s most well-known sights and districts too, with Buckingham Palace just a short walk away in one direction and St Paul’s Cathedral just a stroll in the other direction.

covent garden

Shoreditch

Shoreditch is in London’s East End, and this happening neighbourhood has a very different look and feel to it in comparison to the likes of Kensington or Chelsea.

This is London’s so-called ‘hipster’ district, a place at the forefront of the city’s new trends, be it fashion, food or drink, and it’s always a lively, vibrant place to stay. If you want to be in the heart of London’s contemporary cultural scene, then this is the place to be.

Shoreditch has a great range of accommodation, and being located further out from central London you’ll find that the prices are much more reasonable here, especially given the value on offer. You can find excellent hotels at good prices, and plenty of bustling hostels filled with budget travellers.

Shoreditch is known for its nightlife too. If you are looking for a fun-filled evening, late night parties and great drink deals, then this is the place to stay. Every night of the week you can find something happening in Shoreditch, and it’s a fantastic place if you’re up for a few drinks.

Camden

Camden is also a neighbourhood that has a big reputation when it comes to being at the forefront of trends. This bustling part of London is a fantastic place to stay if you are looking to be immersed in both London’s multi-cultural atmosphere and contemporary culture.

Camden is known for its canals and its markets. The beautiful Regent’s Canal flows through the neighbourhood, and you can walk along its banks and enjoy the local pubs that line the waterway.

Camden Market is a dense collection of lively market stalls and shops, and you can find almost anything imaginable for sale here. The market is also home to some excellent food, from busy restaurants and bars to simple yet delicious street food vendors. You can find food from across the world here, from Jamaican Jerk Chicken to authentic Indian curries, reflecting the interesting mix of communities that call North London home.

Like Shoreditch, as Camden is a little further out from central London, you can expect to find cheaper accommodation here, including plenty of budget hotels and hostels. Camden also has a lively nightlife too and is well regarded for its music scene. You’ll find bands and musicians performing at local pubs and venues all through the week.

camden town

Bermondsey

Located on the south side of the Thames just over the iconic London Bridge, Bermondsey is one of the best neighbourhoods to stay in London if you are looking to be close to the action, but don’t want to spend a fortune.

Bermondsey was traditionally very much a working-class area, and it was historically a place of industry and factories. Much has changed though, and today many of the old warehouses and factory buildings have now been renovated and redesigned as flats, venues and even bars and restaurants, making this very much a revitalised place to visit.

The mix of old and new in Bermondsey is wonderful and you’ll find excellent boutique accommodation as well as budget options, while the area is never too far from central London and from some of the city’s best sights. You can easily walk to the fantastic Borough Market, where you’ll find some of London’s best food. You can explore old cathedrals, the Tower of London is just across the river, and there’s plenty more to do, too.

Notting Hill

One of London’s most famous areas is Notting Hill, the district made world famous by the film of the same name, which brought the neighbourhood to international attention in the 1990s.

Notting Hill is a great place to stay if you love colourful houses, charming cafes and enjoy both the vibrancy and creativity of London. You can explore filming locations from Notting Hill if you’re a movie fan, and you can enjoy the fact that the neighbourhood is far enough out from the city to make it an enjoyable place to stay, yet close enough to still get around easily.

On weekends Notting Hill is the site of Portobello Market, which attracts people from across the city, while once a year the neighbourhood hosts the epic Notting Hill Carnival, a celebration of the area’s incredible diversity, tolerance and multiculturalism that’s become one of the biggest events of its kind in Europe.

There’s a good range of accommodation too, including lots of guesthouses, B&Bs and boutique-style accommodation. Notting Hill can get busy when events are on, particularly the carnival, so make sure to book in advance if the dates of your trip coincide with this.

notting hill

Greenwich

Often overlooked, particularly by first-time visitors to London, Greenwich is a little further out from the centre of the city than other neighbourhoods you could stay in, but it offers you the chance to see a different side of the capital.

Greenwich is on the eastern side of the city, stretching along the south of the River Thames, and it’s one of the capital’s most historic destinations. This is where Greenwich Mean Time begins, where you can find the important Greenwich Observatory, and where you can explore the intriguing Cutty Sark Museum. You can stroll along the banks of the river or take the lengthy Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs under the Thames itself and connects both sides of the river together.

As well as the Cutty Sark – an old merchant ship that’s been beautifully restored – you can also learn more about Greenwich’s fascinating maritime history at the excellent National Maritime Museum, where you’ll be given an insight into the area’s long association with the oceans.

Greenwich is also home to the Millennium Dome, the iconic building that was constructed to celebrate the year 2000.  Today it’s one of London’s premier events arenas, where you can watch bands and shows throughout the year.

There are markets, pubs, restaurants and everything else you might need for your stay in London, and with an excellent range of accommodation available, from small family run B&Bs to international hotels, you might find that Greenwich keeps you in the city for longer than you were expecting.

To discover more about the culture, history and attractions of London, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic range of London tours

Garden Maze

These Are the Coolest Mazes in and around London

England has a long history when it comes to mazes. These mind-boggling attractions have for centuries amused, confused and baffled those brave enough to enter their twists and turns.

A maze is designed to confuse and to entertain, and they became popular amongst royalty and the rich in the 16th century. Indeed, many of the best mazes around today are still found in old country estates. Some of the best are found in and around London, including the iconic hedge maze at Hampton Court Palace that has been there for 300 years. It is undoubtedly a great thing to do whilst in London.

But in London, you can also find a new wave of labyrinths and mazes aiming to test your nerve and your intellect. Escape rooms are well and truly booming across the capital, while you can even enter the revered Crystal Maze, for an experience like no other.

Here are the coolest mazes in and around London.

  1. Hampton Court Palace Maze

Hampton Court Palace Maze is easily the most well known maze in the United Kingdom. Over the centuries it’s confused and baffled many an intrepid maze-goer with its high hedges and elaborate design.

In fact, as far as mazes go this one is legendary because Hampton Court Palace Maze has the distinction of being the oldest hedge maze in the world. It claims to be the most famous maze in the world too, and they probably aren’t wrong about that either.

The maze began life in the late 17th century, meaning that today it’s well over 300 years old. For centuries, people have been trying to find their way around the maze. It was originally designed for William III of Orange, the King of England at the time, and, in the beginning, only a select few royals and guests would have been allowed to enter this labyrinth.

It’s now open to the general public. While you can purchase maze-only tickets, you will want to explore the palace itself too, if you’ve never visited before. Hampton Court Palace is one of the most fascinating royal palaces, particularly given its association with the infamous Henry VIII and his many wives.

The maze has around half a mile of different pathways, all surrounded by expertly maintained hedgerows. It generally takes around 20 minutes to half an hour to reach the centre point from the entrance, but that, of course, depends on your maze talents.

green-tunnel Hampton Court

  1. Crystal Palace Park Maze 

Not the Crystal Maze – we’ll get to that one later – but the Crystal Palace Park Maze, which is one of London’s best, and easily a competitor for the title of coolest maze.

This is another legendary hedge maze. Although it’s not quite as old as the one at Hampton Court Palace, it still dates back to the 1870s and can claim to be one of the largest of its type in the United Kingdom.

It’s located within the lovely grounds of Crystal Palace Park and is a throwback to the Victorian Era. The Crystal Palace area was named for the Crystal Palace Exhibition Building, which formed the centrepiece of the Great Exhibition in the 1850s. The maze became another addition to the park, as it entertained and amazed the Victorian citizens of London, alongside life-size statues of dinosaurs that were also placed – and can still be found today – in Crystal Palace Park.

The maze is free to explore, and it covers an area of around 1,500 square metres, being 50 metres across in diameter. This is a true labyrinth of hedgerows, so be prepared to get lost time after time, as you turn the corner only to find dead end, after a dead end.

Crystal Palace Park is located in southeast London, an easy train or bus ride from London’s city centre.

crystal-palace

  1. Brent Lodge Park Millennium Maze

Head into the suburbs of London, west of the centre towards Wembley, and you’ll find the little known Brent Lodge Park Millennium Maze.

The maze was commissioned to commemorate the start of the new millennium in the year 2000, and for the past two decades, it’s been successfully confusing and frustrating those who enter its rows.

This is a modern hedge maze, but it’s one that’s really designed for kids because the hedges have yet to grow to the same high heights as those of Crystal Palace or Hampton Court. Tall adults can easily see over the top, which, of course, is perfect if you don’t actually want to get lost!

The twists and turns are still confusing enough to disrupt your sense of space and judgement though. Even if you can see over the hedges, you might still find yourself more perplexed than you imagined possible. Don’t be too confident when you start making your way through the maze!

Within Brent Lodge Park you can also find a range of other activities and sights aimed at kids, including the charming Hanwell Zoo, a conservation area where you can find exotic animals from around the world, including marmosets.

  1. Hall Place and Gardens

On the opposite side of London in the far eastern suburbs, you can find the glorious grounds of Hall Place and Gardens. This is a little known county estate that was eventually surrounded by the ever-expanding mass of London, but it’s still a welcome retreat from the outside world.

The maze here is a small affair – and in all honesty, it’s got nothing on the likes of Hampton Court Palace – but it is still a lovely place to visit, especially given the expansive grounds and gardens. You’ll also find that few people visit Hall Place, especially in comparison to Hampton Court Palace.

Hall Place dates back to 1537 and is an often-overlooked piece of history in the London suburbs. This is a heritage-listed house and it’s remarkably well preserved. Inside the house, you can find an eclectic collection of exhibits telling the tale of the house and the former lords and ladies who lived within its walls.

The gardens are the crowning achievement of Hall Place, and you can find some marvellous topiary hedges, shaped into the form of heraldic lions, as well as the beautiful maze.

  1. Blenheim Palace Maze

Take a day trip from London and head out west to Oxfordshire, where you can try out your maze navigation skills at Blenheim Palace. Jump on the train or take the bus from London to Oxford, then make your way into the countryside to one of England’s grandest stately homes.

Blenheim Palace is the home of the Duke of Marlborough and his family, although much of the estate is open to the public. The palace dates back to the early 18th century and its historic importance has led the estate to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The grounds are marvellous and the history held within the palace walls is fascinating, but the real draw of a visit here is, of course, its maze.

Within the vast grounds, you can find the Marlborough Maze, which could be one of the most complicated hedge mazes in the country. The maze stretches for at least two miles, covering many turns, dead ends and false routes towards its elegant centre.

There are even several viewing platforms that you can climb up for an overhead view if you get stuck, which is very common in this maze. When you’ve been wandering around lost for what seems to be an eternity, you’ll welcome a bird’s eye view of the maze!blenheim-palace maze

  1. Hever Castle and Gardens

Just outside London, you can find the historic grounds of Hever Castle and Gardens, which lies close to Tunbridge Wells in the county of Kent.

This wonderful castle dates back over 700 years to the 13th century, and over the years was the home of many infamous characters, including the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, the executed wife of Henry VIII.

There’s a lot of heritage waiting to be uncovered at Hever Castle but, more importantly, there are also two mazes to be completed. You’ll certainly get your money’s worth at Hever Castle, with a Yew Maze and a Water Maze.

The Yew Maze is a classic English hedge maze, and it dates back over a century to when the wealthy owner of the castle decided he needed some outdoor entertainment. It’s marvellously well trimmed, and you’ll need around half an hour to get from the entrance to the centre, and then to find your way back out again.

More impressive even than the Yew Maze is the fabulous Water Maze. This is about as unusual as it gets when it comes to the world of mazes, and the Water Maze at Hever Castle is often sought out by maze enthusiasts. Found on an island, stepping stones and walkways have been raised above the water and lead to a small stone ruin in the middle.

The aim is to get to the stone ruin without getting wet because if you step on the wrong stone you’ll unleash jets of water that can soak the unwary maze-goer. It’s an unusual maze concept, and it adds a whole new level of excitement to the game. Be sure to bring a towel though, and be careful taking your children over the water too!

  1. The Crystal Maze Live Experience

For many years, through the 1990s and now again in its rebooted form, audiences have been mesmerised by the eccentricities of the Crystal Maze, a TV show that forces teams to solve puzzles as they make their way through an exotic labyrinth.

The cult TV show had a huge comeback recently when a live version of the maze was created in London. Fans can now immerse themselves in a real-life Crystal Maze, and try to complete what could easily be the coolest maze in London.

Just like in the TV show, you’ll need a team of friends with you to complete this maze, and together you’ll need to work your way through the different zones while you complete the different challenges to score points.

Each zone has a different theme – Futuristic, Industrial, Medieval and Aztec – and each zone is faithful to the original. You’ll be timed as you enter the different rooms in search of the crystals, and at the end of the maze, you’ll even get to enter the famous Crystal Dome, as you hurry to collect the tokens needed to win the game.

The Crystal Maze has become hugely popular in its live experience form, and can currently be found in the West End. You will need to make reservations in advance though, and ensure that you’ve assembled the best team that you can to complete the maze!

live-escape-game

  1. Escape Rooms

Mazes, while being a lot of fun, might seem outdated to some, a vestige of the Victorian Era and of day’s past. But the spirit of the maze never gets old. It lives on, and the challenge and intrigue can be found in its most modern form in Escape Rooms.

Escape Rooms have surged in popularity in recent years, and the concept is very much the same as a maze, just with more narrative and with more problems to solve. Escape Rooms can be found all over London, and the concept is simple. You are locked in a room, or indeed a maze of different rooms, and you have to escape within an allotted time period. To get out, you have to solve clues and figure out puzzles, while navigating your way around the room, and any other rooms that might be attached too.

Escape Rooms have different themes and backstories, and you have to work as a team to get out. They are modern-day labyrinths, and they couldn’t be more fun. Plus, being inside you don’t need the sun to be shining to complete an Escape Room, as you might want it to be for an outdoor hedge maze!

While you’re in London, getting lost in mazes and seeking a way out from Escape Rooms, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic selection of London tours. As London experts, we know how to make your London experience truly memorable.

dimsum london

These Are the Best Places for Dim Sum in London

There’s not much that can beat a hot basket of fresh dim sum. Despite the fact that London is thousands of miles away from the south of China, where this iconic dish originates, the British capital can still serve up some of the most authentic dim sum outside of Asia.

The capital’s rich, multicultural heritage comes to life when you head out in search of dim sum, as London is bursting with dim sum goodness. This beautiful Chinese dish, which translates literally as ‘to touch the heart’, makes a hearty impression on all who try it. You can enjoy these simple, yet profound dumplings in many different ways. Whether you are after your dim sum steamed, fried, sweet or savoury, you’ll find just the right style for you in London’s many restaurants.

Start your culinary journey eating the best dim sum in Soho’s Chinatown, but save room because, across the capital, there are many more dim sum restaurants to indulge in!

chinese dim sum

Opium Cocktail Bar and Dim Sum Parlour

Our list of the best places for dim sum in London kicks off in Oriental style with the Opium Cocktail Bar and Dim Sum Parlour. This intriguingly named bar and restaurant is as curious as the name suggests, and it’s a fascinating venue that’s packed with both character and flavour.

If you can find your way into Opium, then it’s like taking a step back into 19th century Hong Kong, as you’ll be immersed into the world of the Far East. This is Speak Easy style, so the bar itself is hidden behind a nondescript door in central London. It’s quite literally like walking into a forbidden opium den.

The focus of this establishment is cocktails and dim sum. You’ll find a huge array of drinks on offer late into the night, and you can complement the masterfully crafted drinks with masterfully created dim sum.

dumplings

Hakkasan

Hakkasan is a worldwide chain of incredibly upmarket Cantonese restaurants found in such glamorous locations as New York, Dubai and Shanghai. The London restaurant is one of the most highly regarded, and it comes complete with a Michelin star.

Hakkasan serves up a beautiful range of dishes that take inspiration from southern China and, of course, dim sum is one of their specialities. The restaurant makes use of seasonal and local ingredients, ensuring that the dim sum you can eat in London is very different from the dim sum in the same restaurant in say the United Arab Emirates.

That unique flair gives the food at Hakkasan a truly local flavour, without losing sight of the Cantonese inspiration, and you’ll find that the menu and flavours change constantly through the year.

As well as excellent dim sum, you’ll also be able to order from their marvellous wine list and creative cocktail menu, both of which successfully fuse Eastern and Western tastes and inspiration.

Yauatcha

The same team behind Hakkasan set their sights on creating a culinary empire. In London, you can also visit the Michelin-starred Yauatcha, which is located in Soho and also keeps to the highest standards.

Whereas Hakkasan has a broader menu that delves into an array of Cantonese cuisines, Yauatcha is more focused and puts its energy into crafting the ultimate dim sum.

This is one of the best places to visit for dim sum lovers, particularly if you aren’t worried about price but are only focused on quality and flavour. The atmosphere is elegant and sleek, and the fusion of flavours, both traditional Cantonese and Western accompaniments, are seamless.

The traditional feel is added to by the extensive tea menu. Traditionally, dim sum is eaten alongside a hefty dose of hot tea, and you’ll find that Yauatcha serves up the heftiest and most varied doses of tea in the capital.

A. Wong

A. Wong is also one of London’s high-end Chinese restaurants, offering an exceptional glimpse into the true diversity of China’s culinary tradition. The restaurant is the work of Andrew Wong, a legendary Chinese-British chef who has been bringing traditional Chinese cooking techniques to contemporary London.

A. Wong is a standout from the regular Chinese fare in London and across the rest of the country. This is because it dares to stray from what has become traditional ‘Chinese-British’ cuisine, or the version of Chinese food imported from Hong Kong in the last few decades that the public now see as synonymous with wider China, even if that’s far from the truth.

Andrew Wong offers a ten-course tasting menu that shows the varied cuisine of the country, and not just the cuisine from one small part of China. As well as this tasting menu, there’s a beautiful dim sum menu that also takes inspiration from across the whole of China, rather than just the south, giving this restaurant a dynamic slant over many of London’s other Chinese establishments.

dim sum

Kym’s

Andrew Wong isn’t just stopping with his famed, Michelin-starred A. Wong restaurant though. He’s recently opened a new venture in the Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London. His new restaurant is simply called Kym’s, which was the name of his parent’s original Chinese restaurant in London when he was growing up in the city.

The original Kym’s was more of a greasy, Cantonese-style eatery that many Brits will be familiar with from that classic Chinese takeaway night on weekends that everyone has experienced on one too many occasions. While he took inspiration from this style of cooking, Andrew Wong also wanted to turn the Chinese culinary scene on its head in London, and the new Kym’s is very far removed from his parents’ restaurant.

Kym’s is as stylish as it is innovative, and you’ll find some of the best dim sum in London on the menu. Kym’s blends the history and heritage of Chinese culinary traditions with the more modern Chinese-British culinary scene and creates a wonderful fusion that’s quite unlike either of its primary inspirations.

Mamalan

Really authentic Chinese food can be difficult to find in the inspired, fusion restaurants of multicultural London, but one place that is serving up dishes that are as true to their origins as you can find in Britain, is Mamalan.

Mamalan takes its culinary expertise from the streets of Beijing. While you can now find it in two locations, in Brixton and Clapham, the restaurants haven’t lost sight of their first goals, which was to serve up street food from China to Londoners.

The owner’s parents ran small street stalls in Beijing, and this is reflected in the authentic quality of the dishes on offer today, thousands of miles away, in the British capital rather than the Chinese capital. You can find supreme, handmade dumplings on offer, produced in a distinctive Beijing style that’s hard to find elsewhere in London. As well as the gorgeous dumplings, Mamalans also serves up homemade noodles, as well as homemade bao buns too.

Ugly Dumpling

The creatively named Ugly Dumpling has quickly become a hit in Soho, thanks to its creative dumplings and dim sum. The aim of the Ugly Dumpling is to transform dumplings from a simple snack into an innovative London staple, and they aren’t afraid of trying new things and fusing together different culinary styles from both East and West to create something new.

This is where dumplings are taken to the next level. While they have the traditional heritage of dim sum at the core of their ethos, Ugly Dumpling does a great job taking seasonal British ingredients and taking advantage of London’s vast multiculturalism to produce dumplings that are quite unlike anywhere else in the city.

With the simple dumpling concept as the basis for the menu, Ugly Dumpling adds in unusual ingredients such as salmon, truffles or halloumi, ingredients you wouldn’t expect to find on your dim sum menu, but ingredients, that, for the most part, seem to work gloriously. Ugly Dumpling started out as a food truck, but despite moving to restaurant premises and setting up a more traditional shop in London, surprisingly, they’ve still managed to keep the prices mostly at street food level.

dumplings dimsum

My Neighbours the Dumplings

Equally well named and creatively inspired is the excellent My Neighbours the Dumplings restaurant in Hackney. These guys specialise in all things dumplings and dim sum, but they also specialise in Sake.

The focus is on all types of dumplings – not just dim sum – and you can choose from a wonderful menu that takes inspiration from across Asia and aims to showcase as much of the dumpling world to London as it can. The style of serving and eating though is distinctly dim sum, as you’ll be able to mix and match your dumplings, as they are served up basket style.

To accompany your dumpling selection, you can choose from the extensive Sake menu, and you’ll find Sake brands and Sake cocktails that you didn’t even know existed before you stepped into My Neighbours the Dumplings.

Ping Pong

Another of London’s unique dim sum restaurants is Ping Pong, and you’ll find that this contemporary dim sum and cocktail bar has eight different venues across the capital.

Ping Pong certainly takes top marks for its name, but you won’t actually find any Ping Pong tables here. What you will find though, are some of the best dim sum in London and a huge menu that’s perfect for sharing.

Order up a few baskets of dim sum, order a few steamed buns to go with it, and if you’re really hungry, you can even order fresh bowls of noodles or soup to accompany the dim sum feast.

Hutong

In Beijing, the Hutongs are a historic part of the city – small communities with narrow streets and heritage-listed houses that have stood unchanged in hundreds of years. That sense of tradition has been brought to London, and at the Hutong restaurant you can enjoy the cuisine of northern China, including excellent dim sum-style dumplings in a modern setting.

That setting is as superb as the food, because Hutong is found a world away from the streets of Beijing and high up on the 33rd floor of the iconic Shard building in London. This is where the north of China meets head-on with London, and it’s a beautiful fusion of food and culture that’s well worth the price tag.

asian dim sum

Bun House

Buns aren’t strictly dim sum, but they are from the same dumpling-inspired family. In London the best place to find some authentic Cantonese-style buns is at the Bun House.

It’s a simple name for a simple concept, and you can find a wide selection of buns from across Asia. The focus is on Cantonese-style bao buns, which you can find in ample supply on the menu, and in various shapes, sizes and with a huge range of delicious fillings.

Those filings are exquisite. You can find a range of choices that will leave you wanting to try everything on the menu, from traditional Chinese fillings to more modern London-fusion fillings.

Novikov

Novikov has a reputation for being one of the most expensive and exclusive restaurants in London. Equally, it also has a reputation for serving some of the best dim sum in London.

The restaurant might not sound particularly Chinese, but the Asian food served up in the swanky Mayfair establishment is world class. Novikov has two restaurants on the same premises, and you can choose from the Novikov Italian or the Novikov Asian restaurants. If you’re after the dim sum though, head to the Asian floor.

The food is undeniably expensive – in many ways you pay as much for the atmosphere and the chance to see celebrities and footballers dining as you do for the food – but the dim sum is undeniably excellent.

As well as the restaurant, Novikov has a renowned cocktail bar, where you can find classics and an array of fusion drinks. But just remember that prices are equally as high as the food!

If you’re visiting London in search of a dim sum feast, check out Premium Tours’ superb range of London tours. As London experts we can show you the best the city has to offer, including the most delicious places to eat dim sum!

cute london cafes

23 Cute Cafes in London You Need to Try

As any Londoner will tell you, the café culture in London is one of the best in the world. Whether it’s a rose-coloured latte, a chunky slice of toast or a full-on bottomless brunch, London’s cutest cafes have them all.

If you’re visiting the big smoke in the winter months, you might want to choose a cosy indoors spot, to warm up by a fire and watch the world go by out of the windows. In the spring and summer months though, nothing can be more decadent than enjoying a tasty treat in the beautiful fresh air listening to the birds and chatter around you.

London’s café culture extends from cosy nooks to spacious courtyards and pavement eateries. Here are our top 23 picks of London’s cutest cafes.

  1. Peggy Porschen, Belgravia

We’re sure you won’t find a list of London’s cafes without this institution being mentioned. The Instagram generation has made this place top of most people’s to-visit lists if you’re into all things pink, floral and delicious. With famous seasonal floral displays to the outside – including special displays for occasions like Valentine’s Day and Halloween – what’s inside won’t disappoint either. Tuck into cupcakes and biscuits, and choose from a massive hot drinks list – we’re sure you’ll love it all, except perhaps the inevitable queues. We recommend visiting early to enjoy this delicious London café.

  1. Aida, Shoreditch

Set within a pretty vintage clothing shop, Aida may not be as famous, but it’s an equally interesting, quirky and cute café. With a rainbow of speciality lattes to choose from, including Turmeric, Chai, Matcha and Rose, your drink can be as vibrant as your surroundings. The Aida team encourage a leisurely visit with newspapers and free Wi-Fi to enjoy, while you watch the world go by and soak up the cool Shoreditch atmosphere.

  1. Map Maison, Haggerston

A trendy café by day and cocktail bar by night, this is a cute and artsy place to while away the hours with great food and drink. Offering an exceptional bottomless brunch, visiting Map Maison will mean being surrounded by on-trend interiors including local works of art, changing floral displays, and eclectic and urban décor.

  1. Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, Bethnal Green

Yep, you read it correctly; this café is also a cat emporium. Home to a number of beautifully friendly feline residents to pet and make pals with while sipping your tea and enjoying a delicious morsel or two, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is a unique experience. Not one for those with allergies, this vintage-styled tearoom is definitely one to try out for a relaxed break from a busy day of sightseeing.

cat cafe london

  1. Farm Girl Café, Notting Hill

If you’re a fan of markets, this café is in an excellent spot just off Portobello Road, where the world-famous markets are held. Farm Girl Café is situated down a pretty laneway, complete with trailing florals and whitewashed walls to a cute courtyard setting. Great food, aimed more towards healthy eating options as opposed to some of the more sugary treats out there, this is a yummy and virtuous place to visit.

  1. Biscuiteers, Battersea

Set behind a quaint and traditional black-and-white painted façade, the Biscuiteers’ speciality is, as you might expect, biscuits! Baked in a huge variety of shapes and designs, all hand iced with intricately piped and stunning coloured icings, make sure to bring your sweet tooth and a decisive mind when you visit this cute London café, so you don’t spend all your free time trying to choose which one (or ones) to devour. The team behind the café also runs an onsite shop selling everything biscuit-related, and with biscuit-decorating classes also on the menu, you can even try to recreate your favourite.

  1. No. 197 Chiswick Fire Station, Chiswick

This café has a really nice, cosy neighbourhood vibe, with contemporary design and an urban, homely feel, which makes it easy to while away the hours in here. A delicious menu for all day dining, there is a cosy interior and fresh outdoor seating area too, so you will be sure of a comfortable and tasty visit, whatever the weather.

  1. St. Aymes, Connaught Village

Founded by a pair of interior designer sisters, this place is as beautiful as the menu is decadent. With a range of hot drinks, including a 23-carat gold hot chocolate, artisan milkshakes and afternoon teas amongst many other options, this is a must see for any keen photographer.

  1. Feya, Mayfair

All things whimsical and sweet, Feya has a floral ceiling display that makes you feel as though you’ve stepped into a different world when entering. We have it on good authority the food and drinks range are extensive and delicious, so is an excellent spot to take in the atmosphere of a lively central café in the city.

  1. Brickwood, Tooting

Cute and unique cafés with distinct neighbourhood feels, Brickwood cafés are found in various locations across South London. Think exposed brick walls, rough wood cladding and squashy cushions to sink into. There are breakfast options served all day, as well and sweet and savoury treats, an extensive drinks menu, and a casual atmosphere.

breakfast cafes london

  1. Kobo Café, Angel

Looking at the amazing array of sweet and savoury treats on offer here, you may be surprised to hear that Kobo Café endorses healthy and clean living. It provides lots of options for people with allergies, and sources organic, well produced, quality ingredients for its foods, which are handmade on site. A particular mention goes out to its great range of coffee and loose-leaf teas. This place is a true local’s gem!

  1. Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell

If you’d like to be transported to a tropical oasis for a tasty pit stop, this is the spot for you. With palm trees and ferns galore, pretty floral upholstered armchairs to get comfy in, and large expanses of window to watch the world go by, this place is open for casual brunches, lunches, afternoon coffee stops, and goes on well into the night…

  1. Riding House Café, West End

Serving an extensive breakfast menu from 7.30am on weekdays and 9.00am on weekends, the Riding House Café is a busy, bustling spot to soak up the creative atmosphere of the West End. With plenty of juices and smoothies on the menu, this is a great choice if caffeine isn’t your thing. Being on the doorstep of some of the best live performances the city has to offer, this is a great way to start the day and provide fuel for an exciting West End trip.

  1. Mabel’s, Covent Garden

With a fabulous neon sign stating ‘Love made me do it’, Mabel’s is a great spot for a spontaneous stop off. Colourful decorations and an eclectic country manor style inside a fairly tight space, makes for an interesting and good fun feel to this place. Brunch, lunch, afternoon snacks and late-night openings; Mabel’s has got it all.

covent garden cafes

  1. Federation Coffee, Brixton

A cute and quirky little café set in a covered arcade, Federation has seating indoors and out for their regulars and visitors alike. A particular emphasis on great coffee with snacks and meals that pair brilliantly, Federation is a friendly, local place, perfect to pop in when you’re in the area. They serve a great range of regular and special espresso blends from local producers across London, as well as some from further afield, to ensure there are delicious and different tastes for every visit.

  1. Elan, Knightsbridge

The Knightsbridge branch of Elan is an Instagram hot spot, with a floral feature wall that will make others pail into insignificance. An acronym for Eat, Live And Nourish, Elan is a well-established brand, with cafés right across the city. There are over 85 drinks on their menu as well as beautiful and nutritious snacks and meals, such as Acai bowls, which are a firm favourite on the food menu. Visiting these cafes won’t disappoint.

  1. Attendant, Fitzrovia

You may well initially walk passed this café, as it’s disguised in what was formerly a Victorian public toilet, built in 1890. Lovingly restored, its heritage is hard to miss once you’re inside, but this tiny and quirky café serves some great coffee, snacks and light lunches. It does get busy and you can’t make reservations, so get here early for a unique experience.

  1. Drink, Shop and Do, Kings Cross

Set in a beautiful old bathhouse, Drink, Shop and Do is a quirky space that hosts bottomless brunches and afternoon teas all weekend. Colourful decorations liven up the open space along with mismatched furniture, a friendly welcome, and drink choices galore to make you feel right at home here. They also host a range of fun evening events, including jewellery stamping, biscuit decorating and Lego building – strictly for over 18s only!

bottomless brunch london

  1. Outsider Tart, Chiswick

Run by a pair of Americans who found it hard to find baked goods as tasty as their home-baked treats when they first arrived in London, Outsider Tarts is a bakery and restaurant dedicated to all things American. Serving all day classics like cupcakes, brownies, muffins, pancakes and more, their brunch, lunch and dinner menus are jam-packed with tasty soul food. With a rainbow-coloured counter and plenty of rustic charm, this place is a must see when you’re in the area.

  1. Megan’s, Clapham

Offering all day breakfast items and bottomless brunches, Megan’s are popular spots with vibrant and beautiful interiors located across South and West London. Billed as one of the most romantic settings, each café has a distinctly unique design, offering alfresco seating and the same delicious food and drink menu. Any of their locations is a good choice, but we particularly love the Clapham setting, where you sit beneath the beautiful canopy of a real olive tree – amazing!

  1. The Larder, William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow

If you’re looking to get a totally traditional British experience from your morning coffee or afternoon tea stop, look no further! William Morris is seen by many as a leading figure in the history of British interior and textile design, and he was a leader of the British Arts and Crafts movement, born in Walthamstow in 1834. His fabrics are still in production today, proving his design prowess and ability to create designs that last the test of time. This little café offers an interesting visit, and with great teas, coffees and tasty snacks and lunches made from local produce to keep you going, this is a cute and quintessentially British experience.

best cafes london

  1. The Ivy Café, Blackheath

With their signature sophistication, the Ivy Café in Blackheath is a cute and beautiful café to stop off in and feel right at home. With a menu full of classic British fare for breakfast, brunch, afternoon teas and dinner, there is never a bad time to visit. Close to Greenwich Park – one of the largest open green spaces in South London – this is a vibrant part of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of central London.

  1. Sketch, Mayfair

If the idea of taking a trip down Alice’s rabbit hole intrigues you, Sketch might be just up your alley. Offering five different ‘zones’ – the Parlour, the Glade, the Lecture Rooms and Library, the Gallery, and the East Bar and Pods – you’re sure to be transported into another world of beauty and intrigue, accompanied by excellent food and drinks. Billed as perhaps the most beautiful restaurant in London, this place is on another level. Each zone is styled around its central theme, one of which is a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, offering afternoon tea, dinner and drinks. Reservations are a must, but if you have dreamt of being served a slice of traditional Victoria sponge off a hostess trolley, you know this is the place for you!

If you’re planning a trip to London to try some of these quirky and cute cafés, contact Premium Tours to discuss our range of London tours. Run by London experts, you’re sure to pick up more great food and drinks tips along the way!

Everything You Need To Know About Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is one of the most historic and important places of worship in London, because for centuries this has been the site of the coronation of the country’s monarchs.

The dramatic abbey has long held pride of place in Westminster, and every English King or Queen has been crowned inside its walls since William the Conqueror. Westminster Abbey has gone through many changes throughout its long and at times turbulent life, and the history surrounding the church is as long as its spires are tall.

Few other sights in the city have such a prestigious heritage. The abbey has survived for hundreds of years, through Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and even through the ravages of the Blitz.

It’s a grandiose London attraction to visit, and you can walk where Kings and Queens have stood, explore ancient crypts, marvel at glorious artwork and pay your respects to some of the country’s most historical figures in the cemetery.

It’s a must-visit London attraction. To help you to plan your trip, here’s everything you need to know about Westminster Abbey.

How to Travel to Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is found in central London, in the City of Westminster for which it’s named. This prominent location gave rise to the church’s importance to the British monarchy and public through history, as just over the road is Westminster Palace, which for centuries was a royal residence until it eventually became home to the Houses of Parliament.

The abbey can be reached easily using public transport – it’s inadvisable to drive into this part of London, due to lack of parking and congestion charges, to name just a few of the obstacles – with nearby bus and tube stops that are within easy walking distance.

The closest tube stations are St James’s Park or Westminster. St James’s Park is located on both the District and Circle lines, while Westminster is found on the District, Circle and Jubilee lines.

If you are exploring more of London, you can also consider purchasing a ticket for the hop-on hop-off buses that stop close to Westminster Abbey, as you’ll be able to travel easily between London’s best attractions, while learning more about the city while on board.

getting to westminster abbey

The Best Time to Visit Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London and, unfortunately, it’s always going to be busy. The queues at the entrance can be long, so always ensure you plan your day accordingly, leaving enough time to allow you to explore the inside fully and to avoid any disappointment. You can purchase priority tickets beforehand to allow you to skip the worst of the lines.

It’s best to arrive here early to be first in line, rather than later in the day when there may be the chance that you are turned away at closing time. There’s not a particularly best time of the year to visit Westminster Abbey, as you can explore no matter the season, however, be aware that summer is peak season in London and all the attractions across the city are always busiest between June and September.

Westminster Abbey is open to tourists from 9.30 am until 3.30 pm Monday to Saturday. On Wednesdays, there are also late afternoon openings when the abbey stays open until 6 pm. Services are held Sundays, when the church is only open to worshippers.

Tickets can be bought in advance online for £21 per adult, or on the door for £23, although prices are subject to change. There are discounts available for children and senior citizens. There are also separate tickets available for special events, which are often held on select evenings during the week.

A Brief History of Westminster Abbey

The location where Westminster Abbey is found has long been the site of important places of worship through London’s history. Archaeological excavations and research have revealed that there has been a Christian church here since at least 960 AD when the Saxon King Edgar ordered the construction of the first abbey.

The abbey was originally built for Benedictine monks, before Edward the Confessor built St Peter’s Abbey on the same site, which was to serve as his burial chapel in 1066. That same year, the Normans would invade England and take over the country after defeating Edward’s successor, Harold, at the infamous Battle of Hastings.

William the Conqueror was the first monarch to be crowned in the abbey when he held his coronation here in 1066. Little of these first religious sites remain however, as in the 13th century a new abbey was built in the Gothic style that you see today. The church continued to be the location of coronations, however, and every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned inside, while many have also been buried here.

Over the following centuries, additions were made and the abbey grew, even surviving the dissolution of the monasteries enforced by Henry VIII, when the king gave it official status as a ‘cathedral’ rather than an abbey.

World War II proved to be the biggest threat to Westminster Abbey, when German bombs ravaged the capital and the Blitz caused extensive damage to the historic church. Again though, it survived, and today it continues to be both a popular tourist attraction and an important place of worship.

westminster abbey london

Coronations, Weddings and Burials at Westminster 

Since William the Conqueror, the abbey has held coronations for kings and queens through British history, making this the most important church for the royal family in the country. The last coronation to be held here was that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, which to date is the only coronation that has ever been televised.

While coronations have been rare in recent years, the abbey has also proven to be a popular location for royal weddings. Countless marriage ceremonies have been performed here for the Royal Family, with many in recent years attracting huge crowds in the city and also being shown live on TV. The last royal wedding was between Prince William and Kate Middleton, held in 2011.

As well as celebrating coronations and weddings, Westminster Abbey has hosted many more sombre occasions, as royalty and important national figures are buried here. Within the grounds, you can find the tombs and the graves of many of the country’s most iconic historical characters.

visit westminster abbey

Things to See and Do at Westminster Abbey

The Nave

The central hallway of Westminster Abbey is known, as in most cathedrals, as the nave. As you enter from the western entrance, you’ll have the sight of this long, elegant hallway laid out before you, and you’ll be treading in the footsteps of the kings and queens who walked along the Nave to be crowned.

Tall pillars stretch high to the ceiling, and you are free to stroll through the nave and to admire the ambitious architecture of Westminster Abbey as you do so.

Westminster abbey

The Coronation Chair

In the nave you’ll encounter one of the most iconic sights within Westminster Abbey and one of the most important artefacts in royal history. The coronation chair is where monarchs sit as they are crowned, and it’s an incredibly historic piece of furniture.

The chair is wooden and was carved from English Oak in the late 13th century on the orders of King Edward I. As well as being one of the oldest items in Westminster Abbey, the chair is one of the oldest pieces of wooden furniture in the entire country that’s been in continual use since its creation. It appears a rather simple chair when you first lay eyes upon it, but the wooden structure hides a wealth of history in its cracks. Most notably, the chair was designed to hold the Stone of Scone, the famous stone upon which Scottish kings were crowned. In recent years, it was returned though to Scotland, after being held here for hundreds of years.

The Quire

Found right in the middle of Westminster Abbey, is the archaically spelt quire. This is the area reserved for the choir and for certain members of clergy during services and ceremonies, and it’s an important part of the church’s layout.

You’ll find the quire after the nave and before the high altar at the far end of the church. Westminster Abbey has its own resident chorus of choirboys who study and train at the Westminster Abbey Choir School, located within the grounds.

The Organ

To accompany the dulcet tones of the choirboys, Westminster Abbey is also home to an extravagant organ piece that is played during recitals. The pipes stretch high towards the grand ceiling of the abbey, and if you are here during a church service you’ll hear them in action.

The organ is a masterpiece of craftsmanship, as it was specially designed and built for the coronation of King George VI in 1937.

The Royal Tombs

One of the original intentions of Westminster Abbey was that it would serve as the burial grounds for English kings, with Edward the Confessor being the first to be entombed here in 1066.

Edward the Confessor’s tomb is still found behind the high altar, on display for all who visit Westminster Abbey to see, and his burial chamber became somewhat of a shrine when the English king was canonised. His effigy is found adorning the outside of the tomb and, as he was the first monarch to be interned here, he has pride of place in the abbey.

Many more royals were buried here in later years too. Behind the high altar surrounding Edward the Confessor’s Shrine, you can find several tombs holding the remains of famous English kings, including Henry V, who won the Battle of Agincourt.

The Lady Chapel

The Lady Chapel is an integral addition to the central area of Westminster Abbey, as it was built by Henry VII at the eastern end of the church to serve as his final resting place. The Tudor king built what was at the time one of the most lavish chapels in Europe and today you’ll be mesmerised by the glorious 16th-century architecture that’s been preserved here through the centuries since its construction.

There are over 30 royals and nobles buried under the chapel, with Henry VII having the most visible tomb and effigy. After he was interred here, many monarchs that followed his reign were also buried here, including Elizabeth I, James I and William III to name just a few. Oliver Cromwell was buried here for a time until his body was taken out after the monarchy was reinstated after the English Civil War.

lady chapel westminster abbey

Poets’ Corner

Westminster Abbey is not just the resting place of monarchs, because as early as the 1400s, poets and writers began to be given lasting memorials in the church, and many were buried here in recognition of their work.

Found just off the nave, Poets’ Corner is a microcosm of British literature, as you’ll see some of the country’s most iconic wordsmiths commemorated here. Chaucer was the first English writer to be buried at Westminster Abbey, but the tradition still continues today.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

To remember all those who fell fighting for Britain in wars across the world, you can pay your respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. During World War I, many soldiers fell in battle and were never identified, and many more were lost forever with no known graves or final resting places.

In 1920 an unknown soldier who was killed in France was buried in Westminster Abbey, on equal footing with the country’s kings and queens, to represent the huge sacrifice made by people from all classes and walks of life. It’s a moving tribute to loss and conflict.

The grave and plaque, found in the nave of Westminster Abbey, have since been the scene of many a commemoration, as memorial services led by royalty are held to mark important anniversaries, particularly those related to the First World War.

To find out more about visiting Westminster Abbey or to book one of our fantastic London tours, contact Premium Tours today.

tower of london

Castles Around London You Need to See

They say an Englishman’s home is his castle. Around London, you can find some of the most impressive castles built throughout the long history of England.

Some, like the Tower of London, were built for kings and for power, while others, like Highclere Castle, were constructed by wealthy noble families looking to make grand statements.

For history lovers, there are some great castles to visit within the city and the surrounding areas, from crumbling medieval ruins and Norman fortresses, to Royal residences and lavish country estates.

Here are our favourite castles around London that you just have to see.

1. Tower of London

The most iconic castle within London is the Tower of London. For centuries, the tower has dominated the skyline of the city, ever since William the Conqueror asserted his power over England in 1066 by ordering the construction of a fortress.

The Tower of London is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the country. Although the city has long since dwarfed the towers and keeps in size, it’s still a formidable structure, right on the banks of the River Thames.

The Norman kings and later English kings built much of the tower, digging moats and raising walls to defend what was, for many years, the primary royal residence.

Although the monarchy no longer live here, you can still see the Crown Jewels which are guarded within, while the Beefeaters, in their distinctive ceremonial outfits, today give tours of the castle grounds rather than defending the walls.

2. Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is one of the most important castles in England, as it serves as the Queen’s royal residence when she is staying outside of Buckingham Palace.

Located in Windsor, just an hour outside of the city, a visit here makes for a wonderfully easy day trip from London.

The castle was, like the Tower of London, built by the first Norman kings. Ever since the 11th century it’s been used as a palace by the monarchy.

Windsor Castle is one of the most impressive in the country. Despite being the Queen’s second home, you can still visit and tour through most of the grounds.

When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the sight of the castle ramparts ahead as you stroll down the Long Walk to the entrance. Inside, you can explore lavish stately rooms, learn about the different kings and queens who lived here, and admire the extravagant and extensive gardens.

Windsor Castle

3. Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle is hardly a ‘castle’ in the traditional medieval sense of the word, but more an elegant 17th century imagining of a traditional castle, built in the high fashion and style of the times.

This is a grand, noble estate, and the castle is the stately home and centrepiece. Although there have been country houses here for centuries, it was the Earls of Carnarvon who, in 1679, began the construction of the manor you see today.

It was a lavish statement of wealth and power, and the same family still own the estate today. Highclere Castle is best known for being the filming location of the hit TV series, Downton Abbey, which delves into the lives of British aristocracy. Few other locations in the country could have been quite so perfect as Highclere Castle.

The estate is located outside of London, just a few miles from Newbury. You’ll find that there are plenty of dedicated tours travelling here from the city, particularly given the popularity of Downton Abbey and ever-growing demand from fans wanting to see first-hand this aristocratic castle.

4. Colchester Castle

Located in the county of Essex now on the outskirts of the wider London region, Colchester is one of the most ancient towns in England, and is home to a castle that’s as historically important as it is impressive.

Colchester has a long history, and was an integral Roman settlement that for years was even used as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia. It’s always held a strategic location. When the Normans conquered England, they decided to build a stone castle in the town, to better control the areas leading to London.

William the Conqueror ordered an enormous keep to be built, which at the time would prove to be the largest in the country, larger even than the keep at the Tower of London. The Normans even used old Roman stones and bricks to solidify the walls, while the chosen location was, centuries previously, the site of a Roman temple.

Colchester Castle is the best and the largest surviving example of a Norman castle, as it’s changed little since its 11th century construction.

5. Warwick Castle

Although it might be a long journey from London, a trip to Warwick Castle can be one of the best days out from the capital.

Originally a wooden fort built by the Normans, the castle was constructed from stone in later centuries and was used to defend Warwick from potential threats until it was eventually turned into a country house in the 17th century.

Warwick Castle is found in a beautiful location on the River Avon. Due to many later extensions – the raising of walls, gates and tall towers – it’s one of the most quintessentially medieval-looking castles in England.

Today, the castle has become a huge tourist attraction, as not only has it been incredibly well preserved, but it’s also now home to a huge array of museums and attractions. You can find out what life in medieval England would have been like, while there are frequent stagings of mock battles on the grounds.

You might even catch a jousting tournament being held here by enthusiasts, while the enormous collection of medieval weapons on display around the castle is unmatched anywhere else in the country.

warwick castle

6. Dover Castle

Located on the coast, overlooking the English Channel, Dover Castle makes for an exciting day trip from London. This is one of the most dramatic castles in the country, as the stonewalls are perched on high cliff tops and the imposing keep rises from high.

The site has long been important, with archaeological excavations having uncovered Iron Age works and Roman lighthouses beneath the Norman-built stronghold.

The extensive stonewalls were continually expanded by successive kings looking to strengthen the English hold over the channel, and massive additions were made during the Napoleonic Wars to protect against potential invasions from the continent. Therefore today, Dover Castle can claim to be the largest castle in the United Kingdom.

As well as exploring the fascinating history behind the castle, and the battles that have taken place here, one of the best things about Dover Castle is its setting. You can enjoy sweeping views over the coast from the towers.

7. Leeds Castle

No, this Leeds Castle is not found in the north of England, but just south of the capital, by Maidstone in Kent.

That makes it a whole lot easier to get to from London, and it’s perfectly located to make for a pleasurable day trip. The castle is named for the small village of Leeds, which is in close proximity, and its rural setting makes this one of the most picturesque castles in England.

Leeds Castle is built on islands along the serene River Len, giving the structure an unbeatable aesthetic. The current castle is more of a manor house, dating primarily back to the 19th century when it was vastly remodelled, but some sections of moat and older medieval walls and gates still exist too.

The Normans built most of the original castle, but in later years it became a firm favourite amongst the English monarchy, with Henry VIII even going as far as to redesign it to make it more fitting as a residence for his wife Catherine of Aragon.

As well as delving into the history, Leeds Castle’s magnificent grounds are perfectly landscaped, and you can enjoy losing yourself in the vast maze that’s been created here and that’s proving enduringly popular with tourists.

leeds castle

8. Hever Castle

Just south of London is another historic English castle that played an important role during the reign of Henry VIII.

Hever Castle was first fortified during the 13th century, before it was transformed into an estate and country house by the Boleyn family from the 14th century onwards.

After divorcing his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, who had grown up at Hever Castle. The castle was passed into the royal line, but Anne Boleyn had the misfortune of falling foul of the king, who had his own wife beheaded on treason charges.

Hever Castle was then given to a later wife of Henry VIII, before changing hands several times through the following centuries. Now it’s primarily a tourist attraction, and you can explore the intriguing political tales left behind during the Tudor period and even see where Henry VIII slept during his days at the castle.

9. Berkhamsted Castle

In Hertfordshire you can find the crumbling remains of Berkhamsted Castle, once one of the most important castles in the Home Counties.

Today, there is little left of the castle except for a few sections of ruined walls, the moat and the hilly mound that formed the centrepiece of the fortification. It’s still great to explore though, making a real change from many other castles around London that have been redesigned and refurbished. In many ways, visiting Berkhamsted Castle gives you a more authentic insight into history.

The castle was built by the Normans, as they pushed out from London to control the rest of England in the 11th century, and was used by royalty and nobles for many more years.

Eventually though, the castle fell into disrepair and was abandoned entirely by the 16th century. The walls fell down, buildings collapsed and the stones were taken for construction work in the nearby town.

10. Mountfitchet Castle

Mountfitchet Castle is found close to Stansted. This Norman-era castle has been turned into a fascinating living history museum.

This was originally just a wooden motte and bailey fortification, constructed of wooden timbers surrounding a big mound. Little survived except the earthworks, but in the 20th century the castle was reconstructed in as faithful a way as possible.

As well as raising new walls, an entire Norman-era medieval village was created and staffed with enthusiastic actors who entertain and teach visitors about life hundreds of years ago.

At this museum, you’ll also find free-ranging wildlife, from pigs and chicken to deer and birds, alongside a fascinating toy museum and local tea room, making a trip to Mountfitchet Castle a great day out for everyone.

11. Severndroog Castle

Severndroog Castle is one of the smallest castles you can visit around London, but it’s definitely one of the most fascinating too.

The castle is located in Greenwich and, by any stretch of the traditional word, it’s not really a castle but more of an elaborate house. An Englishman’s home is his castle though, and this house was built tall, with a few turrets added to the roof for effect and extravagance.

Severndroog Castle was constructed at the end of the 18th century, and was commissioned as a memorial to Sir William James, who won several battles across India during the expansion of the British Empire across the subcontinent. His wife had the castle built in his memory and to enshrine his exploits.

The tall house, or folly, was built to offer supreme views over the countryside, but it has long since become part of a highly urbanised area of the capital, giving the castle an unusual dimension in London, and offering incredible views over the city instead.

It’s a unique place to explore, and it makes for a real change if you have been visiting Norman-built, medieval castles before this. The castle has some intriguing exhibits and you can climb to the rooftop to look out over the rest of London.

If you’d like to visit some of the castles in and around London, check out Premium Tours’ great range of out of London tours.

Vauxhall Bridge

London in August: The Complete Guide

Visiting London in August will see you in the capital to catch the last real month of summer. British summers are short but sweet, and August is a month of outdoor events and festivals that celebrate the diverse multicultural makeup of the city, while the sun is still shining.

You’ll quickly realise that August is a month that’s packed with festivals, as the city hosts everything from international music events to street carnivals and beer festivals. There’s a lot going on, and with a Bank Holiday in August, Londoners definitely make the most of their free time by enjoying all that’s on offer across the city.

To help you to plan your trip to the capital this summer, here’s our complete guide to visiting London in August.

The Weather in London in August

August usually sees London experiencing its second hottest month of the year, with temperatures similar to July but slowly beginning to fall again. The start of the month can see highs of 30 degrees Celsius, while the average throughout August will generally be in the mid-20s.

This is the end of summer though, and evenings will begin to get chillier, as the days begin to shorten. Towards the tail end of August, you can begin to expect rain, with more rain throughout the month than you will have seen in July. Enjoy the sunshine when it’s there though, because this is your last chance for much of the year in London.

London in Summer

Festivals and Events in London in August

August is full of festivals, and there’s bound to be an event to suit your tastes, whether it be beer, food, music or culture. The trouble you will have in London though, is deciding which events to attend, as many of the most high profile and best-known festivals are held at the same time over the Bank Holiday Weekend. You’ll be spoiled for choice, and there will be some tough decisions to make, but rest assured that August is a great time to be in London.

August Bank Holiday

August is beloved by Londoners because they are treated to a long Bank Holiday weekend at the end of the month, on the last weekend, which really then becomes the last long weekend of summer in the country.

There are a lot of options for your Bank Holiday weekend in London, and as long as the weather holds out you can join everyone else in the parks, enjoying picnics or BBQs. You can head to the beer gardens to drink in the sun, or visit one of the many festivals held in the capital over the weekend.

Notting Hill Carnival

The Notting Hill Carnival is one of the most famous and well-attended festivals held in London. Held in Kensington over the Sunday and Monday of the Bank Holiday Weekend, the carnival is a celebration of Caribbean culture, and represents the diversity within London, with many more minority cultures featuring too.

Notting Hill Carnival is essentially two long days of street parties, with colourful, vibrant parades taking over Kensington. You can immerse yourself in Caribbean culture, learn more about local migrant communities in London, and have one of the best weekends in the city. The carnival gets incredibly busy, with well over a million estimated visitors over two days each year. You can enjoy music and eat great food from around the world and, of course, you’ll find the parties carrying on well into the night.

Notting Hill Carnival

The BBC Proms

The world-renowned BBC Proms are in full swing throughout August, and it’s a great opportunity to catch a performance from the best international orchestras and composers in London. If you enjoy classical music, then the Proms are for you, but get in early to secure your tickets, because even though the concerts are held over the entirety of the summer months, they can still get booked out, particularly on weekends.

The Great British Beer Festival

As the name would suggest, The Great British Beer Festival is one huge festival devoted to beer. The event is hosted by CAMRA – the Campaign For Real Ale, an organisation devoted to the preservation and advancement of British ales across the country – and no one else could match them for detail and knowledge when it comes to beer.

It’s a great event where you can try new beers from the country’s best breweries, discover up and coming ales, and find out what’s on the horizon in the beer world. The festival is also home to the British Beer Awards, and the winners will be announced – and celebrated with plenty of beer drinking – during the course of the event.

Beer

Carnaval del Pueblo

Burgess Park in London is the site of Carnaval del Pueblo, a huge event that transforms the district into a Latin America fiesta on the first Sunday of August. It’s the biggest event of its kind held in Europe and attracts both Latin crowds and many more people from across the world who take part in the vibrant, colourful and loud festival.

It’s a wonderful celebration of Latin culture and yet another demonstration of London’s incredible diversity. You can enjoy music, great food, dancing and fantastic culture from across Central and South America.

Camden Fringe Festival

It’s not quite as famous as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, also held throughout August in the Scottish capital, but the Camden Fringe Festival is becoming increasingly popular with each passing year.

Throughout August you can find a whole array of comedic acts being played out across venues in Camden. Alongside a few established acts, it’s a brilliant place to discover new, up and coming performers and groups.

South West Four Weekender Festival

The South West Four Weekender Festival takes place over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August, and it’s grown into one of the most popular dance music festivals in the United Kingdom.

This dance music festival is held on Clapham Common, and you’ll find several stages and plenty of huge international names lining the bill over the long weekend. After the main headliners finish their sets, then the parties spill out into the nearby clubs to carry on until the early hours of the morning. If you love dance music, then this is the place to spend your Bank Holiday, but you’ll need to get your ticket well in advance to avoid disappointment.

Festival

Espresso Martini Festival

Espresso Martinis are a potent mix of coffee and liquor, and the drink has become one of the most fashionable cocktails in London in recent years. Coffee and alcohol lovers won’t want to miss the impressive Espresso Martini Festival, where not only can you drink endless coffee-based alcoholic beverages, but you can learn how to make your own too.

There are cocktail-making workshops, talks from industry professionals, and much more on offer at the Espresso Martini Festival, which is held over a long weekend in August.

London Mela

The unique London Mela festival is a celebration of all things South Asian in Southall Park. The festival attracts artists, musicians and performers from the South Asian community in the United Kingdom and from South Asia itself, and there are stages catering to the best music and dance from the region.

More than this though, the festival is the largest celebration of South Asian culture in Europe and features an incredible array of different foods and cuisines. If you are interested in learning more about the culture, then this is a great opportunity, and if you just love South Asian food, then there’s no reason to stay away because entrance is free. Get to Southall Park and gorge on food while you listen to great music.

Hampton Court Palace Food Festival

Hampton Court Palace is a former royal residence and has been the home of kings and queens through English history. These days the palace is open to the public, as the royal family no longer live here, and the vast halls and gardens of Hampton Court host regular events throughout the year.

One of these events is the Hampton Court Palace Food Festival, which is held over the Bank Holiday weekend in August each year. Set in the beautiful gardens of the palace, this is a foodie festival of epic proportions and you’ll be able to eat and drink all day long. You’ll find food on offer from across the world, as well as cooking lessons, demonstrations, and talks and appearances from some of the United Kingdom’s most well known chefs. The best part is the entrance costs no more than the usual ticket price to visit Hampton Court Palace; you just need to make sure you get in fast.

Food

Things to See and Do in London August

August is the month for festival lovers in London, but if you need a break or a change from the street parties, carnivals, and music and food festivals, then there’s plenty more to see and to do in London in August. Check out the city’s major sporting events, visit Parliament or Buckingham Palace, and explore the capital in the last of the summer sunshine.

The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament in Westminster close through August for the summer recess, when the MPs are on holiday. During this extended break, it’s possible to visit Parliament for a tour of the government building.

Most of the year, it’s only possible to tour on weekends, but when there are parliaments in session, it’s open to the public all through the week. See the different chambers where big decisions are made by the country’s leaders, and learn about the history of democracy in the United Kingdom.

Buckingham Palace

Just as the Houses of Parliament open during summer for visitors, so does Buckingham Palace, the iconic residential home of the Queen. The palace is opened up for guided tours, and you can visit the stately rooms and admire the grand opulence that the royal family live in.

It’s a rare opportunity to see how royalty really lives in London, and a very intriguing insight into their lives in the palace.

Buckingham Palace

Cricket

London has some of England’s most impressive cricket grounds, and August is the end of the cricketing season when international test matches can be found in full flow at stadiums such as Lords or The Oval.

Experience the quintessentially English sport of cricket first hand, as you join the crowds in the sun to watch the last games before the inevitable rain arrives to wash out the season.

Football

While the summer cricketing season might be drawing to a close in England, the football season is very much beginning, as the first games kick off across London and the rest of the country. You can catch matches across the city, but the most sought-after tickets are for the Premier League fixtures, which can sell out far in advance.

Ride London

Carry on the sporting activities by signing up for or spectating at Ride London. This is London’s most popular cycling event, as thousands of riders take to the streets to complete different sections of a course around the city, depending on how far they can ride.

The following day after the public event, one professional cycling race is held across the city and into the countryside of Surrey, before finishing in the city centre. As well as the racing, you can learn more about how to get into cycling and enjoy all things sporty over the weekend it’s held in August.

Outdoor Cinemas

Outdoor cinemas are incredibly popular in London throughout August, as the warm evenings and generally clear skies offer the last chance to watch movies in the open air. There are many great venues across the city, with rooftop bars turning into cinemas on certain nights of the week, and many dedicated venues purely devoted to the great art that is the world of outdoor cinema. Enjoy some great food, great drinks and great movies during a long summer evening.

If you’re planning a trip to London this August, check out Premium Tours’ great range of London Tours.

Summer park in London

London in July: Everything You Need to Know

July is one of the best months of the year to visit London, because this is the height of summer in the UK. July is one of the most happening months in the capital, as the sunshine and long evenings bring out the crowds to enjoy the unfortunately short summer months when they are at their best. Make the most of London in July, because you never quite know when it’s going to rain again.

There’s a lot to experience in London in July, from colourful flower shows set in royal palaces, to outdoor music festivals celebrating the summertime. You can hang out in beer gardens or make the most of rooftop restaurants and bars, or take to the parks to enjoy a picnic in the sun. London in July is quite simply glorious. To help you to plan your next trip to the capital, here’s our guide to everything you need to know about enjoying summer in the capital.

The Weather in London in July

July is one of the hottest months of the year to visit London, with almost perpetual sunshine, blue skies and hot weather. This being England however, things are rarely too hot, with temperatures only infrequently breaking 30 degrees Celsius during the odd heatwave that strikes the country.

Average temperatures will hover around 25 degrees Celsius, but you might want to pack a jumper for the late evening when the heat drops dramatically. Long days of sunshine ensure that things are busy in the capital and well into the night too, while you can also expect the city to be packed out throughout the month, as this is London’s peak tourist season.

London Park

Festivals and Events in London in July

London’s events schedule throughout July is a busy one, and you can find many excellent outdoor events being held across the city, from music festivals to food fairs. It’s a great time to experience the best of London’s unique culture, music and sports, as the city comes alive with the sunshine. Here are the best festivals to visit in London this July.

BBC Proms

Every year the Royal Albert Hall in London opens its doors to host one of the world’s biggest classical music events. The BBC Proms have been held since 1895, and it’s become of the most renowned performances of its kind, attracting music lovers from across the world to London in summer.

The event lasts eight weeks, and runs throughout July and August and into September, with the opening nights generally scheduled for the middle of July. There’s only ever a short window of time to purchase tickets for this popular season of music, so make sure you jump on the chance to buy if you don’t want to be disappointed.

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Hampton Court Palace is one of England’s most historic, former royal estates. For one week in July, the beautiful gardens are transformed as they host one of London’s biggest and best flower shows. Hampton Court Palace dates back to the 16th century, and was once the home of the infamous King Henry VIII. Today, it’s a place of history and culture, and while it’s no longer a royal residence, the grandeur and opulence are still second to none.

It’s the perfect setting for the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which is organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, which also runs the equally famous Chelsea Flower Show. This is the largest flower show of its kind to be held anywhere in the world, and it draws in crowds each and every day the doors are open. The event showcases flowers from across the country, but more than this it’s increasingly becoming a space to raise awareness about the natural world and the effect of humanity on the environment.

Hampton Court Palace

London Pride Parade

London is one of the most diverse cities in the world and the capital puts on the largest Pride Parade in England, usually on the first weekend in July. The annual LGBTQ event sees huge numbers of people descending on the capital to join the pride festivities, and it’s a great chance to get to know this side of the city’s culture and history.

The main aim of the event is to promote awareness of the Pride community in London and to showcase the talents and lives of people who identify as LGBTQ. It’s always a lively and fun day, with a huge parade being the highlight of the event. As well as the parade, you’ll also find other events being held across London during the run-up to Pride.

British Summertime Festival

The iconic Hyde Park becomes the scene of a huge outdoor music event in July when the British Summertime Festival is held to celebrate the onset of some of the longest days of the year. The weekend-long event has become a firm favourite on the capital’s summer music circuit, and it attracts huge crowds and huge bands. You can expect to see some of the top performers in the country and from abroad playing to a packed out Hyde Park.

It’s a great event, but make sure you get in early to secure a ticket, as they inevitably sell out quickly. You can expect great music, food trucks and lots of cold beers over the weekend that the British Summertime Festival is held.

Summer Streets by Regent Street

One of the best places in London to visit in July is the famous Regent Street, as the road is closed to traffic and becomes entirely pedestrianised every Sunday throughout the month. Alongside the usual Regents Street shopping experience, you can enjoy some unique events along the road, as summer is well and truly celebrated in style.

There are food markets, live entertainment and more shopping stalls than you could imagine. You can experience one of London’s most iconic streets without worrying about crossing the road, as people from across the city descend here to go car-free for their Sunday. Each weekend, there’s a different theme to the festivities too, ensuring that you can come back every day that it’s held in July to see something new.

Regent Street

Things to See and Do in London in July

Aside from the fantastic festivals and events that are held across London in July, the city has a great many more attractions to visit when you are in the capital. From classic sporting events such as Wimbledon to the opening of Buckingham Palace to the public, there are some great things to see and do in London in July.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is easily one of the best places to visit in London any time of the year, but in July something unusual happens, as the royal palace is opened to the public. From July through to September, visitors can book onto guided tours of the country’s most iconic building, and you have the opportunity to see inside the historic palace and to explore the staterooms.

You can see where the Queen of England lives, and where Kings and Queens have held residence for several hundred years. It’s a tour like no other in the capital, as you’ll enjoy seeing first-hand just how the royal family live their lives inside a palace that is usually closed off to outside eyes.

Swan Upping

Swan Upping is one of the most unusual things to see in London in July. This slightly bizarre event is perhaps the most English sight that it’s ever possible to witness in the capital, as an annual census takes place that counts and tags the number of swans that live on the River Thames.

It’s a royal event, as due to long-standing tradition swans are the property of the ruling English monarch, who has the power to grant rights over the animals to other subjects if they desire. The practice has become a well-attended event, as small boats are rowed along the Thames to round up the swans on the river before they are released again later. The Queen is usually present at the event, which sees much royal tradition and ceremony throughout the day. It’s a quirky, yet quintessentially English spectacle.

Wimbledon Tennis Championships

From the end of June through most of July, one of the world’s classic tennis championships is held at Wimbledon. The world-famous sporting event dates back to 1877 and is the world’s oldest tennis tournament. It attracts world-class talent, as well as crowds from not only across the United Kingdom but internationally too.

You can soak up the Wimbledon atmosphere in the sunshine, as you eat strawberries and cream while drinking a tall glass of fruity Pimms. The crowds are always lively, and while the knockout stages of the men’s and women’s tournaments can sell out quickly, you can get tickets for many of the other matches on the day. If you can’t buy a ticket, then you can still watch the games from the Mound, where matches are televised on huge screens and the atmosphere is always jubilant.

Wimbledon Tennis

The Cricket World Cup

2019 sees London hosting matches of the Cricket World Cup, the popular one-day cricketing event that sees the best teams from around the world competing for glory. The world cup is being held across England and Wales, however many of the most iconic cricket grounds – such as Lords and The Oval – are found in London, and it’s in the capital that the final will be played out at the end of the month.

Enjoy a classic English sport as the July sun shines down on the grounds, join the crowds as they cheer on their teams on the field, and drink more than a few cold beers as the tournament progresses through the month.

Zoo Nights

With the long summer evenings in full swing, London Zoo opens its gates well after the usual closing time to bring their famed zoo nights to the public. As well as being able to peruse the zoo’s many unique enclosures and see the animals after hours, London Zoo also puts on a great street food market that runs late into the night. You can eat and drink in the unusual confines of a zoo, as well as enjoying many other activities – mostly aimed at adults – such as animal quizzes, comedy acts and packed out bars, all of which delve into the theme of wildlife and the world around us.

It’s a wonderful way to experience London Zoo and to make the most of the summer while it lasts in the city in an utterly unique setting.

Pub Beer Gardens and Rooftop Restaurants

With beautiful summer weather all through July, it’s time to enjoy the sun in style, by spending quality time in pub beer gardens or in rooftop restaurants and bars across the city. Despite the usually cold weather the rest of the year, London still has a huge array of outdoor establishments. Many traditional English pubs have great beer gardens that overflow long into the evening during summer, while more and more rooftop bars are opening up in the capital.

Sit back in the sun or enjoy the long hours of daylight into the evening, as you sip a few cold beverages or sample some of London’s finest cuisine in a great atmosphere and setting.

Alcohol

Picnics and BBQs

As well as visiting beer gardens, rooftop bars and restaurants, July sees local Londoners taking to the city’s parks and green spaces when the sun is out to picnic the day away or to start up the BBQ. As soon as the faintest rays of sunshine are seen in the city, evenings and weekends will see parks across the city crowded with groups of friends or families making the most of the great weather.

Take a picnic or stock up on some meat for a BBQ, whichever you prefer. July is the best time of year to enjoy the outdoors when you are in London, and you’ll find that there are plenty of people with the same idea, too.

If you’re planning on visiting London in July, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic range of London Tours for a fascinating insight into the capital.

Vegan Pizza

15 Vegan Restaurants in London You Need to Try

Veganism is taking off like never before, and London is proudly at the forefront of the ethical eating trend that’s sweeping the world.

With more people than ever ditching meat and animal products during Veganuary, in London it’s easier than ever before to carry on the healthy eating practice throughout the year and to try new vegan restaurants any day of the week.

London is undoubtedly one of the best places in the country to find great vegan food, and more and more dedicated vegan restaurants are popping up all the time across the city, serving everything from burgers and pizzas to curries and pies. The fierce competition means that the quality and creativity of the menus are constantly improving too, and it’s not hard to be swayed away from meat in these imaginative vegan restaurants.

To help inspire your next culinary tour of the capital, here are 15 vegan restaurants in London you need to try.

  1. Temple of Seitan

The intriguingly named Temple of Seitan isn’t a restaurant dedicated to the dark arts; it’s a restaurant dedicated to the great art of crafting quality vegan food. This is a place that takes the concept of veganism to its modern conclusion, as they harness the energy and ethics of the vegan movement to draw in the crowds with their delicious meat-free alternatives to classic meaty dishes.

Their signature eats are vegan burgers and vegan wings, and if you doubted whether these generally meat-orientated dishes could ever be the same when cooked vegan, then a few bites at the Temple of Seitan will leave you in no doubt at all that they can, and that they can even be better.

Burger

  1. Filth

Filth is a new eatery that is taking the vegan scene in London by storm with their filthy vegan burgers. The restaurant is found in Shoreditch, a hotbed for alternative movements, and veganism has been fast to take root here, with great results too.

Leading the way is Filth, which offers some of the best vegan burgers in London, and is easily competing with meat chains for customers too. Their unique burgers are simple but effective and you can even enjoy some excellent vegan cheese, which allows the burgers to have that original American-style feel to them without the use of any animal products.

The restaurant also focuses on biodegradable waste, making this a truly ethical vegan fast food joint for the truly ethical eater in London.

  1. Club Mexicana

It’s hard not to love Mexican food, with the intense palette of spices, flavours and fillings that the cuisine offers having long been a favourite across the world. At Club Mexicana, you can now delight in the fact that it’s possible to find truly authentic Mexican food without the meat, a rarity indeed.

The food here is inspired by the vibrant street food culture of Mexico, which is transported to the streets of Camden. If you love tacos but hate meat, then this is the place to eat, because the restaurant fills their beautiful corn tortillas with all manner of vegan toppings and ingredients.

You can even try their tofu alternative to fish tacos, or dip into a big bowl of nachos swimming in delicious guacamole and salsa. Club Mexicana has only been around for a short time, but already they are cooking up food to rival the best Mexican restaurants in London, and they are completely vegan too.

  1. Mildreds Restaurant

Mildreds Restaurant has long been a firm favourite on the vegetarian scene in London, and with the ever-increasing popularity of veganism sweeping across the city, they also have a wide array of vegan dishes on their menu.

Mildreds Restaurant dates back to the 1980s, and few other vegetarian or vegan restaurants in London can really say they pioneered the new healthy eating and ethical eating trends of the last few decades in the same way that this place has.

They have several locations across the city and their menu has twists on dishes from across the world, with a range of choices from burgers to curries available to order. If you love the food, then Mildreds has even released a vegan cookbook with the best of their recipes so you can try your hand at cooking, too.

Salad

  1. Biffs Jack Shack

Another Shoreditch favourite is Biffs Jack Shack, an eatery that serves up what they call ‘filthy vegan junk food’. Aimed at the fast food loving generation that are now looking to make more ethical choices in life, Biffs Jack Shack could be the answer you are looking for if you want to be vegan but still eat ‘filthy’.

They are popular enough that they are opening more chains outside of Shoreditch, to spread their dirty vegan food across the capital. One of their best dishes uses Jackfruit to simulate the delights of fried chicken without the need for any chickens to perish in the making of it. You can delve into their range of crispy, jackfruit burgers or go for a basket of crispy fried jackfruit wings. On the side, you’ll get a heap of fries to go with it too, all drowned in a blaze of different vegan sauces.

  1. Vanilla Black

If your tastes are more refined than filthy fast food, you’ll want to book a table at the excellent Vanilla Black, a dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurant that has earned itself a reputation as a fine dining establishment without any meat being on the menu whatsoever.

Vanilla Black can get busy so you’ll need a reservation to enjoy an evening of serene vegan food here, but the wait and the prices are worth it to enjoy an array of unique dishes that can’t be found in any other gourmet restaurant in London. With their ever-changing and creative vegan and veggie options you’ll be amazed at what it’s actually possible to cook without using any meat at all.

  1. Manna

Hidden away in Primrose Hill in London, Manna has for decades been crafting beautiful veggie and vegan dishes for the hungry patrons of London.

Primrose Hill is, of course, an upmarket part of the city, and Manna caters to the higher end vegan looking for gourmet quality dishes that will both excite and satisfy the taste buds.

This is one of London’s oldest dedicated vegetarian restaurants, and with their new emphasis on vegan eating you can rest assured that the chefs at Manna know what they are doing. Alongside a great range of unique dishes from pastas to soups, they have a wonderful wine menu to complement the food.

Pasta

  1. Tibits

If you are looking for a casual dining experience but with quality vegan food to enjoy, then the Swiss restaurant Tibits offers the best of both worlds.

Tibits offers wonderful veggie and vegan food, for takeaway or to dine in, and the laid back, casual buffet style of their eateries is perfect for lunches or light dinners. The food is generally seasonal too, and you expect the menu to be constantly changing and refreshed throughout the year.

  1. 222 Vegan Cuisine

222 Vegan Cuisine focuses solely on producing quality vegan food in London. It’s one of the most popular vegan experiences in the capital, and you can choose from their range of excellent dishes, including such delights as quinoa and spinach meatballs, pumpkin noodles, and seitan medallions.

Given the gourmet feel of the food and the attention that goes into these vegan dishes, the restaurant is superbly priced for what you get. They even have a lunchtime buffet through the week where you can try as many of their vegan dishes as you can handle in one sitting.

  1. Wild Food Cafe

The Wild Food Cafe has proven so popular in Covent Garden that the restaurant is opening up more branches across London to meet the insatiable demand of the rapidly expanding vegan movement in the city.

Wild Food Cafe focuses on raw food, and everything on the menu is guaranteed to be sustainable and ethically sourced too. It’s the detail that goes into the dishes, alongside the ethos and motives behind the cafe that have made it such a success.

Here you can try such offerings as Raw Pizza and Wild Salad, with everything prepared with fresh ingredients on the day. More than just a cafe though, this is a community minded initiative, and you can find regular cooking and wellbeing workshops and events being held here too.

Salad

  1. Purezza

If you are vegan and you’re craving pizza, then head to Purezza in Camden to try some of the city’s best.

Originally based out of Brighton, the restaurant opened up in London after the roaring success of their sourdough pizza menu on the south coast. Even if you aren’t vegan, but love pizza, then you’ll enjoy their unique take on the Italian classic, with sourdough-based culinary delights topped with the likes of wild mushrooms or fresh courgettes. There are salads, macaroni sides, and even calzone in the menu too.

Few pizza joints do a good job at creating vegan options, but Purezza somehow meets the challenge and then takes it to another level. More than this though, the restaurant is genuinely interested in creating a more sustainable eating environment and they have a real focus on raw foods to try and meet this.

  1. The Vurger Co

Burger lovers with an equal love for all things meat free can rejoice, because The Vurger Co in London is taking vegan fast food to another level.

The Vurger Co is taking the classic burger and not only making it meatless but also making it into a uniquely sustainable meal. They have a great range of burgers, offering everything from black bean patties to portobello mushroom fillings, while if you want to go carb free you can even just order their burgers without the buns, in a huge bowl full of salad and greenery.

It’s fast food but it’s healthy, and you can eat in, take away or get your vegan burgers delivered to your home, meaning there’s really no excuse not to enjoy the meat-free lifestyle if you so desire it. Not only is The Vurger Co making vegan food more enjoyable, they are also making it much more accessible to mainstream Londoners.

  1. Cook Daily

Cook Daily are taking classic dishes and turning them into meat-free delicacies. At this wonderfully creative vegan and veggie restaurant in London Fields you can find a menu that takes inspiration from around the world, but with a particular focus on local English dishes too.

Here you can try a vegan chicken and mushroom pie, while if you are hungering for a full English breakfast, then the Tofu Full English is the early morning choice for you. They also have delicious curries, Asian-inspired noodle dishes and huge salad bowls too. The menu is great and even if you aren’t vegan you’ll enjoy their experimentation and their delightful, unique takes on your usual restaurant foods.

curry

  1. Farmacy

Found in the heart of Notting Hill, the relatively new Farmacy restaurant is already a hot topic in the city’s vegan circles.

Farmacy offers a huge menu, with excellent choices for both vegans and vegetarians that will keep you returning time after time to try something new and innovative. The restaurant is higher end but somehow still keeps things casual. If you love your health foods and ethical sourcing, then this is the place for you to eat, and to eat regularly.

  1. Spice Box

Spice Box in Walthamstow offers you the chance to cure your curry cravings and remain completely meat free. The Indian restaurant is completely vegan, and they offer a wide selection of spicy curries inspired by the cuisine of the subcontinent, and those classic British Indian dishes created closer to home too.

The restaurant started as a street food stand but proved so popular that they had to open a proper outlet to cater to the vegan demand for curry.

If you’re heading to London to sample its fantastic vegan restaurants, take a look at our fantastic range of London tours or contact Premium Tours to find out more.

Admission

A Guide to the Best Outdoor Cinemas in London

Nothing much beats watching a film in the sun or under the stars while you sit back in the great outdoors, enjoying a cool evening breeze or the heat of a summer day. That’s why London’s outdoor cinemas are growing in popularity, even while traditional cinemas are falling by the wayside. The city has a whole range of unique, outside setups to help fuel your movie addictions.

You can find outdoor cinemas popping up across London throughout the year – even in the cold depths of winter – but it’s the short-lived British Summer that brings out the best of cinemagoers and the best of the films.

You can enjoy time-tested classics hosted on rooftop bars or new releases shown in the grounds of historic estates, while boats on the River Thames are transformed into cinemas, and summer festivals see outdoor screenings playing to huge crowds in London.

The capital is a great city to be a film lover. Here’s our guide to the best outdoor cinemas in London.

Audience

  1. Rooftop Film Club

The Rooftop Film Club is one of London’s best and most popular outdoor cinema venues. Held in Peckham at the top of the Bussey Building, this is classic cinema territory. You’ll be treated to a movie-going experience that few others can match for atmosphere.

The Rooftop Film Club runs through summer, with several showings every week until it’s too cold to sit out under the night sky. A whole array of films are shown through the season, with everything from new releases to classics catering to the audience, meaning you can keep returning evening after evening to catch a different showing.

As well as the film, you can grab a beer at the rooftop bar, a few snacks, and enjoy the sublime sunsets and panoramic views over the city of London below.

  1. Nomad Cinema

Nomad Cinema is not only a fantastic outdoor cinema experience but it’s a charitable endeavour that sees the profits going to a great cause too, meaning that you can sit back and enjoy the film, safe in the knowledge that you’re also contributing to some good in the world.

Nomad Cinema is held at various locations across the capital, primarily through the summer season, but with the occasional showing through the rest of the year too.

With its pop-up concept, you’ll need to check the exact date and venue, as the beauty of Nomad Cinema lies in the fact that it’s an ever-changing event.

All the profits from Nomad Cinema go to help the South African charity The Sustainability Institute, which works towards creating a better future for rural communities across Southern Africa.

Popcorn

  1. Luna House Cinema

Luna House is one of the most respected outdoor cinema event organisers in the United Kingdom. They host screenings across the capital throughout the summer season.

The events are always in unique locations, with big crowds and huge projection screens and sound systems that create an epic atmosphere. The locations range from parks and estates to swimming pools and racecourses with new, more unusual venues being announced each year.

There’s great food, great drinks and you can catch classics and new releases at Luna House events. For the kids, the company even organise outdoor screenings of children’s movies during the school holidays.

  1. Floating Film Festival

If you are looking for one of London’s most unusual and entertaining outdoor cinema venues then the Floating Film Festival is for you.

At St Katharine Docks right on the River Thames there’s a floating pontoon stretching out across the water. It’s a truly beautiful location to host an outdoor cinema, as the waves lap gently against the pontoon. There’s a large canvas tent to protect you from any untoward English weather and you can catch some of the year’s most highly rated films in summer.

If you can grab a ticket for the evening shows, then you can enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Thames as you sip cold beverages and wait for the film to begin. The Floating Film Festival season is generally short, only usually running through July each year, but it’s one of London’s most unique outdoor venues to visit.

River Thames

  1. Backyard Cinema

Backyard Cinema holds events in different locations in London throughout the year, with open air cinemas in summer and cosy venues in winter.

The concept began one summer when some friends decided that they loved watching films in their back garden, and they had the bright idea to take their passion mainstream, believing that most other sane people also enjoyed the great outdoors and cinema together.

They weren’t wrong. From their humble beginnings, they’ve gone on to host not just classic open air cinema showings but more artistic and creative cinema shows too.

They’ve hosted such eclectic performances as space-themed cinema that immerses you into the world of science fiction while you watch classics such as Men in Black. They’ve had choirs singing in churches to accompany Shakespearean movies, and they host regular Christmas shows during the festive season. They never forget their backyard roots though and when summer comes around they undoubtedly host cinema shows in the great outdoors at some unusual and quirky venues across London.

  1. Film Four Summer Screen

For decades Film Four has been producing some of the country’s best film and television, from hard-hitting dramas to alternative comedies. Every year they host a massive cinema event at their Summer Screen festival in August.

Held in the majestic courtyard of Somerset House, the open air cinema plays for two weeks when the weather is at its best in London. The courtyard at the historic central London building couldn’t be a more fitting venue to experience the best of British cinema, and you’ll find a sold-out crowd every day there is a screening.

As well as the film showings, you have the chance to enjoy Q & A sessions with directors or producers, while big British actors and actresses can always be spotted in the seats too, making this one of the most hotly anticipated cinema events on the London calendar.

Somerset House

  1. Movies on the River

The iconic River Thames becomes the venue for one of London’s best outdoor cinemas every summer, as classic movies are screened as you cruise along the water.

You’ll pass London’s most well known sights as you’re given a tour of the city skyline, passing locations such as Westminster and Southbank, to name just a few.

You’ll watch the sunset from the river as you enjoy a fully stocked bar and plenty of food, with an almost party-like atmosphere guaranteed by the end of the film. Previous screenings have included the likes of Jaws, Dirty Dancing and even Love Actually.

It’s one of the best outdoor cinema events in London, but if you want to enjoy a sunset cruise with a classic movie this summer then make sure to snap up your tickets as soon as they are released, because it’s always popular.

  1. Secret Cinema

Secret Cinema takes the concept of attending a movie theatre to a new level, as you not only watch a film, but you are immersed in the film.

The idea behind these novel events is to merge cinema with live action. It’s part film, part theatre and you’re never quite sure how things are going to play out. Secret Cinema events are only announced shortly before showings and the locations are always kept tightly under wraps, only being disclosed right before the action starts.

The venues are designed specifically for each event and many have been held in the great outdoors during summer. One past event involved creating a replica of the town from Back to the Future in which the audience were literally immersed for the duration of the film.

It’s not for everyone but the shows always offer a unique take on classic cinema, with a fresh and creative approach that can’t be matched by more traditional outlets in London.

  1. London Bridge City Summer Festival

Every summer the London Bridge City Summer Festival welcomes crowds to its multitude of varied events, held at venues along the river between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.

One of the best festival events to attend is the weekly outdoor cinema. Held at the Scoop Amphitheatre, you can catch some classic movies in a beautiful setting. Enjoy the evening air along the river as you sit back and watch movies on the big projector. Conditions are basic, with concrete seating for all, but you can’t complain because this is the best free outdoor cinema in London. Get there early because although the amphitheatre can hold over 1,000 people, you’ll want your pick of the seats to get the best view.

The festival is more than just this one event though, and you’ll find much more going on by London Bridge throughout the summer, too.

  1. British Summer Time Party

For one weekend every July, the British Summer Time Festival takes over Hyde Park in London. This huge festival sees headline music acts from across the world playing to sold-out crowds packing out the grass in one of the city’s most iconic parks, for three days of music, eating and drinking.

While the festival is best known for the music, they also host outdoor cinema screenings through July, with several nights a week dedicated to movies. In the past, movie screenings have been free to attend with films on show ranging from Disney animations for the kids, to musicals such as Grease and classics from the past few decades for everyone.

Hyde Park

  1. Pop Up Screens

The organisers of Pop Up Screens offer a basic outdoor cinema experience, but one that through simplicity is proving to be exceptionally popular.

In parks and green spaces across the capital through summer, Pop Up Screens move their inflatable cinema screens from venue to venue. Tickets are cheap and there’s always plenty of room for more people, making it one of the most laid back and relaxed outdoor cinemas to visit in London.

They play classics mixed in with a few newer releases, and you’ll find that it’s an enjoyable place to kick back, have a few drinks and enjoy the summer evenings.

  1. Block Party Cinema

If you are interested in learning more about London’s minority communities and cultures, then attending a Block Party Cinema event is a great chance to see an alternative side of the city.

Their outdoor cinemas are pop up events, and they are hosted across London during festivals or in places such as Brixton or Camden.

The screening focus on showing productions focusing on minorities, but more than this you can also find a huge array of street food stalls from around the world, great drinks and great company too. Past shows include comedy classics such as Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America, right through to hard hitting, violent dramas such as the Brazilian cult movie City of God.

  1. Regents Park Open Air Theatre

Okay, so it’s not technically a cinema and you won’t be watching a movie, but the wonderful Regents Park Open Air Theatre is an open air event that will take you back through the ages to a time before movies.

The Regents Park Open Air Theatre is perfect if you need a change from the cinema but still want to be entertained on a warm summer evening. Before cinema there was only theatre and this is your chance to take things back a step, and to enjoy the classic, live action predecessor of the film industry, which is often overlooked in London today.

The theatre has long been a favourite during its summer run, offering great adaptations of Shakespearean plays and more modern, alternative productions too.

There’s a huge bar, a dining area and a great atmosphere during every performance at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre, making this the number one alternative to London’s open air cinemas.

If you’re heading to London to experience one of these fantastic outdoor cinema events, check out Premium Tours’ great selection of London tours so you can learn more about the city while you’re in town.