Rachel Felder, author of Insider London, gives us a local’s guide to the capital’s best-kept secrets
For most people, London is synonymous with iconic landmarks like Westminster Abbey or Big Ben; for me, the city is immutably linked with its charming and distinctive neighbourhoods, especially the residential ones that aren’t very far from the centre of town and give a true sense of London’s warm and wonderful personality. Breakfast in one of those communities is an ideal way to start a day in Britain’s capital, surrounded by people who live nearby and fuelled by copious amounts of deeply brewed tea, of course. Two of my favourite morning spots are The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell – with its not-to-miss soft prawn omelette and spicy sambal – and Rochelle Canteen, tucked on school grounds in Shoreditch. On a busy morning, there’s nothing better than Beigel Bake’s fresh and marvellously chewy bagels, filled with smoked salmon and best enjoyed when on the go.
London is undeniably a city of culture, with the world-class museums you would expect. I especially love some of the quirkier, specialist institutions like Pollock’s Toy Museum in Fitzrovia or The Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey. The Geffrye Museum of the Home offers a fascinating glimpse into the way Londoners have lived for many generations; on a sunny day, relaxing on the large lawn outside is bliss.
Despite the city’s legendary rainy weather, its open-air markets are always bustling. For foodies, Maltby Street’s Saturday market is a haven of creative, delicious creations; on Sundays, Columbia Road in the East End gets packed with vendors selling colourful flowers from the around the world and shoppers buying them. It might be touristy but there are still great finds to be had on Portobello Road, while Camden Passage in Islington is also a great source, especially for antiques.
Although London has plenty of lavish places to stay, I’d usually opt for somewhere small and cosy like The Portobello Hotel in Notting Hill or Hazlitt’s in Soho. Nonetheless, for a moment of old-school grandeur, stop and unwind over a light lunch at a classic property like the Connaught or Claridge’s: it’s an undeniably fabulous way to startor end an evening in London.