For travelers who have never been to London before there are those “must see” iconic landmarks: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, and Tower Bridge to name a few. But, if you look past the crowds and tall buildings there is so much more history and entertainment to London.
1. Dr. Johnson’s House (17 Gough Square)
In the City of London, tucked between law courts and narrow cobblestone walkways, lies the former home of Samuel Johnson, writer of the dictionary that standardized our english language, A Dictionary of the English Language. In the courtyard across from Dr. Johnson’s House is a memorial to the writer’s cat, Hodge. “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford” – Samuel Johnson
2. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Tavern (145 Fleet Street)
This 1538 tavern (rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1667) was where many great thinkers and writers came to brainstorm, speak with locals and enjoy a cold lager. Some of the notable names include: Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, W.B. Yates and Mark Twain. Today it’s a bustling lunch spot for local lawyers and journalists. They have multiple rooms for dining and serve a variety of food from pub staples to fine dining.
3. Twinings Tea Shop (216 The Strand)
If you’re a tea drinker you’ll love exploring this gallery-like shop. Even if you’re not a fan of tea, it’s still worth exploring the glass cabinets telling the historical origins of tea and Twinings family history. They have numerous varieties of tea on display and for purchase – hot, iced, fruit and herbal. In the back of the shop, they even have a tasting area. Pick a flavor you would like to try, and they’ll gladly hand over a cuppa at no cost.
4. Street Markets
Walking through the markets in London is a great way to interact with locals and shop for local wares and food. I’d skip the pub for lunch and walk through the food stalls at Camden Market. I felt like Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain walking through the crowds of people and vendors. Vendors are constantly asking you to try their specialty as you walk past. You could get a meal just out of the samples. They had your typical pizza, mexican and curry, but they also had vendors with unique items like Turkish pida. Two other notable markets are Stables Market (part of the Camden Market circuit) and Borough Market near London Bridge.
I had to add this chain of pubs because they offer locals and tourists an affordable place to eat and drink amongst all the higher end pubs in central London. They serve cask beer and each has it’s own identity such as the The Wrong Un in Bexleyheath. Who can beat a full English breakfast for £2.99? We were surprised (but we shouldn’t have been) to see the seasoned local sitting at a high top with a near empty pint at 10:30 in the morning.