I Heart My City: Pat’s London

No, we didn’t misspell our own name. The cover you’re looking at is from the dynamic team at National Geographic Traveller in the U.K.

We couldn’t think of anyone better than our counterparts across the pond to write this week’s I Heart My City guide to London. The insider tour comes courtesy of Traveller editor Pat Riddell. Check out his tips below, then divulge your own London secrets.

London is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is the London Eye— see all the sights from the city’s best vantage point in just half an hour.

When I crave authentic Italian food I always go to 500. Named after the Fiat Cinquecento, it’s extremely classy cuisine from guys who’ve worked with the best in London.

To escape tourists I head east to Hoxton and Shoreditch— although as they become better known for their nightlife, go even further east to Dalston or Broadway Market.

If I want to imagine I’m heading to Europe I go to St. Pancras International. The beautiful neo-Gothic station has been transformed in recent years with Eurostar trains departing for the continent.

For complete quiet, I can hide away in the British Library. Millions of books and absolute peace.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with a Pearly King — if you can find one.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from the Fox and Anchor it has to be the ham hock.

Selfridges is my one-stop shop for great clothes.

Locals know to skip Chinatown and check out the curry houses on Brick Lane or the Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road instead.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday morning. Bargains if you want them and a free, colorful day out.

For a huge splurge I head to Knightsbridge— Harvey Nichols, Harrods, designer boutiques, and plenty of plush restaurants and bars.

Jose Sousa/My Shot

 

Photo ops in my city include St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and Battersea Power Station and the best vantage points are by the River Thames.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Stephen Fry— erudite, cultured, witty and popular across generations.

The most random thing about my city is Camden. One of the most famous spots in London and almost wholly inhabited by teenagers, goths, and tourists.

My city has the most peculiar collection of men.

My city has the most multicultural, cosmopolitan, elegant women.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves hiring a bicycle and exploring.

My city’s best museum is the Victoria & Albert. Its design and arts collections cover two thousand years up to the present but it’s the innovative and inspiring exhibitions that really make it stand out.

My favorite jogging/walking route is around Regents Park. It gets seriously busy first thing in the morning.

For a night of dancing, go to Fabric. Now 12 years old, it remains one of the biggest and best clubs in London. Or, for live music, check out the Roundhouse. The former Victorian steam-engine repair shed is now one of the best — and most unique — venues in the city.

Brick Lane Beigel Bake is the spot for late-night eats. Cheap and always, always popular.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Time Out — it would take years to even touch on half the things listed.

You can tell a lot about my city from the season. It’s a happy, upbeat city in the summer; people are a little more brisk in the winter.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they’re not actually from London.

Hamstead Heath (Sze Ng/My Shot)

Trafalgar Square (Rick Wianecki/My Shot)

In the spring you should get tickets to a football match. Premier League games can be difficult but there’s plenty of other teams to watch.

In the summer you should have a picnic in Hyde Park.

In the fall you should kick the leaves around on Hampstead Heath.

In the winter you should find a cozy pub with a fire, order a Sunday roast and get friendly with a bottle of red wine.

A hidden gem in my city is Sunday UpMarket. With over 140 stalls selling fashion, accessories, crafts, interiors, and music, this is one of London’s cutting-edge markets.

For a great breakfast joint try Smiths of Smithfield in Farringdon. John Torode’s all-day bar/restaurant/café is a great place for a quick bite or a late brunch.

Don’t miss Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. One of the world’s leading botanic gardens, holding over one in eight of known plant species, but also a beautiful, tranquil place.

Just outside my city, you can visit Bray for a gastronomic pilgrimage. Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant attracts the attention but the Waterside Inn, now under the leadership of chef-patron Alain Roux, has been retaining Michelin stars for decade.

The best way to see my city is from a Routemaster bus. Take one of the heritage routes: 9 from Olympia to Aldwych; or 15 from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill.

If my city were a pet it would be a cat — independent, carefree, sleek, stubborn and gregarious.

If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live (where?) Melbourne. I spent a year there in the late ’90s and my brother’s been there for two years — beautiful city, beautiful weather, beautiful people…

The best book about my city is London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. An epic roller coaster of a book which defines the city a growing, changing, thriving organism.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “London Calling” by The Clash for, er, obvious reasons.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the Science Museum. It’s a fantastic learning experience, of course, but its interactive, hands-on exhibits makes it an essential visit.

Notting Hill Carnival could only happen in my city. Every August London shakes off its traditional reserve, embraces the summer and readies itself for three days of Caribbean-inspired street parties.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it might have all the history, culture, heritage, architecture and arts but it’s a living, breathing entity, always changing and adapting.

Tell us about your favorite spots in London. Leave us the details in the comments section below.

Want to see your city on Intelligent Travel? Copy and paste our list of fill-in-the-blank questions into an e-mail, fill in your answers, and send your responses (with any photos, videos or links) to IntelligentTravel@ngs.org.

[Photos: London Sights]

[London Guide]

Comments

  1. john
    January 15, 2012, 9:07 am

    london is the best

  2. sara nathan
    Acton.London
    January 4, 2012, 6:08 am

    If you want cheap, cheerful, fresh, tasty food in the West End – before or after the theatre in jolly gemutlichkeit surroundings, then Gaby’s Deli in Charing Cross Road is the place to go.

    But only till May 1st as the landlord, the marquess of Salisbury, plans to evict Gaby after 45 years of fab falafel and stunning saltbeef to make way for some clone chain restaurant.

    See facebook “Save Gaby’s Deli” or twitter@savegabys for details and how to campaign against this vandalism.

  3. Rizki Ramadhani
    Tangerang, Indonesia
    January 3, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Nice