City guides United Kingdom England
A melting pot of cultures, eating out in London is an international affair. Renowned for its curries, there are hundreds of Indian restaurants to choose from, from upmarket Mayfair to the trendy Brick Lane. Visitors should head to Chinatown in Soho for Chinese, or Brixton for African or Caribbean.
A city synonymous with celebrity big name chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Yotam Ottolenghi, visitors to London can also sample some of the country's finest cuisine, but at a price. For a special gourmet evening out, it's best to head to one of the famous restaurants in Mayfair, Covent Garden, Soho or Chelsea, but diners should expect to pay for the privilege.
For the ultimate English experience, traditional fish and chips are the order of the day. Visitors should get their fish and chips wrapped up for take away and head to the nearest park for a greasy snack. If the weather is doing its usual thing they can head to a cosy gastro pub instead and sample some heart-warming English fare. Although London is home to some hugely impressive restaurants and chefs the city is probably still most famous for its simple pub grub.
Eating out in London is expensive but a lunchtime sandwich and soft drink shouldn't cost more than £8 and an evening meal at a standard restaurant, excluding drinks, can be had for £15.
London is not just a European shopping destination, but a global one. The city provides a myriad of shopping experiences, with no shortage of popular chain stores, designer boutiques, artisan shops, eclectic markets and interesting finds. Visit the renowned Oxford and Regent streets for big brands such as Gap, Zara, Topshop, H&M and United Colours of Benetton. Travellers shouldn't be put off by their loud exteriors; some shops are actually quite affordable with some offering frequent sales. Bond Street and Mayfair are suited to a more high-end shopping trip, where designer goods and luxury boutiques abound.
London is also renowned for its markets. Camden in North London has become one of the most visited attractions in London and is a haven for alternative sub-cultures, with stalls and shops selling outrageous retro outfits, colourful accessories and eccentric party attire. For an enjoyable weekend outing, Portobello Market is a gem (Farmers Market is in the vicinity). The Notting Hill market, made famous by the romantic Hollywood film, offers many attractive coffee shops, independent retailers and cheap stalls selling clothing, jewellery and music.
Foodies won't be disapointed with London's weekend markets. Borough Market adjacent to London Bridge is dedicated to gastronomy; visitors can sample homemade pate, buy fresh cherries, olive oil, sweet cakes and the like. Southbank Centre Market offering fantastic street food and multiple ethically minded eats, and Maltby Street Market, with its broad selection of delectable international food and drink, are open on weekends.
General groceries can be bought at the major English supermarket chains such as Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Sainsbury's.
The nightlife in London is some of the best in the world, offering pulsating dance floors at famous clubs and more chilled out and intimate music lounges and bars. Hardcore party animals will love the clubbing scene, complete with well-known local and international DJs, while the countless bars and cosy independent theatres feature an impressive mix local and international live music acts. London is arguably the best possible travel destination for lovers of live music, and on any given night there will be an international or local band playing in more than one of the many venues.
The West End in particular is home to many bars, clubs and restaurants, and Soho is one of the trendiest and coolest places to drink. This is also where most of London's gay bars and clubs can be found. The perpetually cool Notting Hill and Portobello Road areas still draw large crowds.
Those in the mood for a quiet drink and some conversation should head down to one of the many traditional English pubs scattered around this cosmopolitan city, where they can enjoy some of the finest ales, stouts, ciders, and malt whiskies on offer in the world. It's also often possible to combine pubbing and clubbing as many of London's bars these days have clubs and dance floors inside them, transforming them into miniature nightclubs and ushering in a new era for those 'heading down to the pub'.
The West End is also known as 'Theatreland' and those in the mood for Broadway-style theatre shows should head down to the Lyceum Theatre or the Queen's Theatre to catch a show or musical. And while in the area, culture lovers can enjoy an evening at Covent Garden watching the Royal Opera or the Royal Ballet, while lovers of classical music can sample the delights of Albert Hall. There is also plenty of fringe theatre outside of the West End with young professionals and amateurs performing anything from classic plays to cabaret. Common fringe venues range from well-respected miniature theatres to cramped rooms above some of the city's local pubs. Other non-commercial theatres include the world-renowned National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Globe Theatre and the Old Vic.