Polaroid of the week: Returning to London


polaroid of the week england london sunsetOn my way from New York to Sri Lanka, I stopped for a couple of days in London, the city I left in 2010 to travel the world. Back then, I would have never thought that it would take me nearly five years to return, because London has always been one of my favorite cites in the world. And even after traveling the world for nearly half a decade it remains one of the very few places I could see myself living in – in fact, there are only three cities in the world I’d consider settling down in: New York, London and Berlin.

Coming back after such a long time turned out to be a very emotional visit. I am not sure yet if I’ll write about it in more detail, but it caught me by surprise to be moved to tears by the view pictured above. I was nostalgic about rediscovering my favorite store brands, restaurant and coffee shop chains, and favorite foods. I was ecstatic to discover new things and that old habits were still in me (boarding the subway instinctively closest to the exit of the station, after many years of training to become as time efficient as possible), and that I’d forgotten quite a few things, including directions, which I still feel embarrassed about (I couldn’t remember the name of the street I lived on anymore, and still can’t!).

And like I said, it turned out that I had also forgotten how much I loved this city! When I made my way to the airport on a beautiful sunny autumn day I vowed that it wouldn’t be another 55 months until I return to London.

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The Six Best London Markets

london camden market

No matter where I travel, one integral part of sightseeing in a new city are markets. Be it a flea market, fish market or simply a fruit and vegetable market, I just love the atmosphere of a lively market, and seeing what is sold in markets in different countries. Last month, I hit up some of my favorite markets in Berlin, and I’ve written about markets in Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires and told you about my favorite markets in South East Asia and New York City. But I’ve never shared my favorite markets in London, which is the place I lived in the longest – which means there isn’t a market I haven’t been to in London, and it became a ritual for me to head out on weekends to pick up vintage clothes, unique gifts for friends, fresh flowers or just fruits and vegetables for the week, or just to grab a snack.

London MarketsRead on for the six best London markets I recommend you don’t miss on a visit to The Big Smoke – not a single one is like another and I love each one for a different reason – plus a few honorable mentions which, should you spend a longer period in the city, are worth a visit as well.

Borough Market

What started out as a local food & vegetable market right off London Bridge quickly turned into the city’s #1 gourmet food market, selling high quality fresh breads and pastries, cheeses, meats, fish and condiments like olives, nuts and other goodies. The market gained in popularity so quickly that it is basically impossible to make your way across the market without being pushed through the crowds, but if you visit Borough Market on a Friday or Thursday before lunch, you should be able to avoid the masses (do yourself a favor though and don’t go on a Saturday, unless you are willing to get up early!).


Make sure to come hungry, because not only will you want to try some of the specialty sandwiches (raclette!) or bratwurst, but the vendors also offer generous samples of Italian salami, French cheese, fresh muffins or homemade jam. If you are a foodie, you can’t leave London without visiting this market!

Where? Southwark Street (closest tube station: London Bridge)

When? There is a limited market operating Monday and Tuesday 10am to 5pm. The Full market is in operation Wednesday & Thursday: 10am to 5pm, Friday: 10am to 6pm, Saturdays: 8am to 5pm. It is closed on Sundays.

London Borough Market

Columbia Road Market

Columbia Road Market is actually called Columbia Flower Market – and is easily the best smelling market in London. Every Sunday, flower vendors line up along Columbia Road and sell an array of flowers and plants that makes every person with a ‘green thumb’ or simply adores flowers, very happy indeed. Thousands of flowers make the quaint Columbia Road shine in a blaze of colors. I have traveled all over the world but I have rarely seen a market that compares.

Visiting the Columbia Road Market makes for a lovely Sunday morning stroll through East London, and can be combined with brunch in Shoreditch or a stroll through Brick Lane Market (see below). Make sure to also check out the galleries, vintage shops and boutiques on Columbia Road while you’re there.

Where? Columbia Road (closest public transport: Hoxton or Shoreditch High Street on the London Overground)

When? Sundays 8am – 3pm.

london columbia road flower marketPortobello Road Market

London’s best known market has been going strong for decades now, turning Portobello Road into London’s busiest street each and every Saturday, rain or shine. The market was originally founded as an antiques market but has since added clothing, souvenirs, art, vintage clothes and even household cleaners to the mix. Towards the end of the market (close to Ladbroke Grove), you’ll find fruits, vegetables and other fresh produce and when I lived in Ladbroke Grove, I would visit the market every week to shop for inexpensive groceries. I was never able to resist the giant olives, cheese vendors and fresh French baguettes. If you’re in town on a sunny day, I’d recommend picking up some snack food and heading to Kensington Gardens afterwards for a picnic.

Where? Portobello Road (closest tube station: Notting Hill Gate, Ladbroke Grove)

When? Every Saturday from 9am to 6pm

London Portobello Road MarketBrick Lane Market

Brick Lane Market is my favorite place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon in London. This massive flea market in East London stretches all the way down Brick Lane and also includes Cheshire Street. As East London has become more and more trendy over the past decade or so, the market has also seen a huge growth in visitor numbers, so I recommend you go early. You can find all kinds of second-hand goods here, vintage clothes and antiques, but also toys, all sorts of knick knacks and even home decor.

There are tons of food vendors here, too, so you don’t have to go hungry. And let’s not forget about all of the amazing curry houses that made Brick Lane famous in the first place – you won’t regret stopping for lunch at any of them. During the warmer months, there are live bands and other entertainment along the street or in places like the Truman Brewery. Street art lovers take note: Brick Lane is also home to some of London’s finest street art.

Where? Brick Lane (closest tube station: Liverpool Street Station and Aldgate East)

When? Every Sunday from 10am to 5pm

London Brick Lane MarketPetticoat Lane Market

Another amazing Sunday market (you could basically spend all Sunday exploring different markets!), Petticoat Lane Market specializes entirely in fashion. The market was established over 400 years ago by French Huguenots who were selling petticoats there. Even though the street name has long since changed, the market has kept its original name and is a paradise for fashionistas. There is no fashion article that you won’t find here – from belts, buttons, underwear, leather, jeans and work clothes, this market sells anything to do with clothing. Bring enough cash, because you’ll most likely buy much more than you plan on buying! The rock-bottom prices here never cease to amaze me.

Where? On Middlesex Street (closest tube station: Liverpool Street Station, Aldgate or Aldgate East)

When? Every Sunday from 9am to 2.30pm

petticoatlane marketCamden Lock Market

Another one of London’s markets that has become way too commercialized over the years. When I visited Camden Market for the first time a decade ago, the market still had an edgy, in parts almost grimy feel to it, but the more it has gained in popularity, the more it was cleaned up by the officials. While it has become cleaner and more organized, it has also lost most of its edginess – that being said, Camden Market is still my absolute favorite market in the world. I have yet to find another market that I love equally as much and that combines vintage, food (oh the glorious food! Do yourself a favor and come with an empty belly!), jewelry, art, music and amazing gifts. London Camden Lock MarketIf you happen to be in London during the week, you’ll be able to shop in a much less crowded environment on a weekday morning. If you’re not a fan of crowds, I’d recommend staying away on the weekends or otherwise go to the market super early. But make sure that you do go: this is the one market that should absolutely not be missed on a visit to London.

Where? Camden High Street (closest tube station: Camden Town or Chalk Farm)

When? Every day from 10am to 6pm


These are only a few of the markets I love in London and ones that I frequented dozens of times. I could go on and on, also introducing you to Leadenhall Market, Brixton Village Market, Covent Garden Market, Greenwich Market, Spitalsfield Market and Broadway Market… your options for markets to attend in London are nearly endless. A quick weekend trip to London is one of the easiest things to do these days with the large number of budget airlines and trains connecting London to mainland Europe.


If you are based in the UK, cheap coach operators offer tickets for as little as £1, but even from Germany or France there are always bargain train or flight offers available. It has never been easier and cheaper to visit Britain’s capital for a quick shopping trip – and no shopping trip would be complete without a visit to the city’s awesome markets!
Best London Markets

Have you been to London? What are your favorite markets? Share in the comments below!


Best Markets in London

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How to Visit London on the Cheap

London guards

London is rumored to be notoriously expensive and the British Pound Sterling is usually very strong, making it more expensive to visit this exciting metropole for almost any nationality. Most visitors struggle to keep their costs low when exploring England’s capital, but there are a few secrets to traveling to London without spending thousands of dollars. In today’s post, I am sharing my best travel tips to visit London on a budget:

  • the cheapest way to get around London
  • what sights you can see for free in London
  • the best free walking tour in London
  • how to save money on paid attractions in London
  • how to eat and drink on the cheap in London
  • the cheapest luggage storage in London

london on a budget

How to visit London on a budget

Know how to use public transportation in London

Public transportation will probably be your biggest expensive while you’re in London, but there are some ways to save money on buses and subways. First of all, pick up an Oyster Card instead of paying for single rides each time – trust me, you’ll need one. There is a £5 deposit for the card itself, but you’ll get it back when you leave and return the card.

Get an Oyster Card in London

You have two choices when you buy an Oyster Card: you can buy a daily or weekly travel card, or you can simply add money to the card. That way, the ‘pay as you go’ version, is cheaper if you don’t plan to take a lot of trips during the day (but if you are staying not right in Central London, it’s very likely that you’ll be using public transportation every day). With the Pay As You Go version you’ll pay only £2.40 per ride instead of the full £4.90 fare for a single ticket.

If you opt for the Pay As You Go option, your daily fare will be capped at £7.20 (in Zone 1 & 2, Central London), which is the price of a day ticket. A day is counted until 3am the next morning, by the way. If you’re wondering how much money to put on your card: £20 will usually cover a return journey from Heathrow plus travel around Central London for one 1 or 2 days. If you are planning to stay for 3 to 4 days, put £30 on the card. If your card runs out, you can always put more on it. If you’re spending an entire week in London, your cheapest option is the 7-day travel card (£36.10 for zone 1 and 2).London tube

Off-peak vs. on-peak fares in London

If you don’t want to get an Oyster card, it is still possible to buy (paper) travel cards – they are considerably more expensive though, with £12 for a day pass (compared to the £6.40 cap off with an Oyster Card). If you’re a late riser, opt for a off-peak travel card, which is cheaper than a normal travel card but only allows you to travel after 9.30am, however there isn’t a difference in all travel cards – for example you pay the same price for an off-peak card in Zone 1, but if you stay further outside and need a travel card that reaches until Zone 5, it does make a £5 difference. You can find all the current London transportation fares in this table.

London Buses vs. London subway (tube)

You can even save more money when you take the bus instead of the tube – and buses in London aren’t the grimy kind you’ve got in some U.S. city, but new, clean double-decker buses which connect the places that aren’t covered by the subway and train network, but some go on routes parallel to a subway route, and this is when taking the bus is cheaper. A bus ride with an Oyster card is £1.50, no matter if it’s peak time or not. Also: if you use only buses and use a Pay As You Go Oyster Card, your fare will be capped at £4.50, which means every day when you reach £4.50, you’ll ride the rest of the day for free.London on the cheap

Sightseeing by local bus in London

Also – taking the bus is a much better way to see the city, so if you’re not pressed for time, I recommend taking the bus whenever possible. While hop-on hop-off tours are a great way to see London, they can cost an arm and a leg! Instead, there are several London bus routes which pass right by the most iconic sights, which are all included in the price of your day ticket or Oyster card (though there are no headsets, so you might need to do a little background research yourself.

One of the buses that goes by many of London’s sights is bus number 9 and you can hop right on in Piccadilly Circus. The bus passes Trafalgar Square, Somerset House, Harrods, the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall in West London, and finishes at St Paul’s Cathedral in East London.

Another fabulous route for sightseeing is bus RV1 which runs between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway. You can get on it on either end and the route follows the Thames passing the South Bank with the London Eye, London Bridge and even goes right over the Tower Bridge.tower bridge

Most of London’s attractions are free!

One of my favorite things about London is that most of the city’s attractions are free – including its famous museums, such as the British Museum, the National History Museum or the Tate Modern. (A great way to spend a rainy day by the way, and there’ll be one of those most likely!).

In addition to the free museums and galleries, you can see many other things that are iconic London landmarks without paying a penny, such as:

  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Tower Bridge
  • Hyde Park
  • Portobello Road Market & Notting Hill
  • A river walk along the Thames
  • Changing the Guard & the horse guards
  • Big Ben
  • Camden Market and the canals
  • Primrose Hill
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Oxford Street (stick to window shopping though, or visit Primark)

Camden High Street

So while a trip to London can be pricey, if you feel like you have to do things like Madame Tussaud’s, go inside Buckingham Palace, the London Eye or the Shard for views (which you can get much cheaper when climbing the Monument in the City of London, by the way, which is only £3, or entirely free if you head up to Primrose Hill or Hampstead Heath).

Free Walking Tours in London

I love free walking tours – they usually give you a great overview of the city, allow you to get your bearings, and at the same time you’ll get some background info and insider tips. Tour guides love to share their knowledge of the city, so don’t be shy if you’re looking for recommendations for a certain kind of cuisine or just a good pub with cheap beer. When you join a free walking tour, you’ll also notice how close most of the city’s attractions are and that most of Central London is surprisingly walkable. I recommend Sandeman’s New Europe Royal London Tour, a 2.5 hour walk that covers Buckingham Palace, No 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, St James Park and the Horseguards, to name just a few stops. Notting Hill

The best inexpensive Airbnb Experiences in London

Visiting London on a budget means spending your money wisely, and if exploring London while supporting a London local sounds like a worthy cause to you, I recommend checking out Airbnb Experiences. There are hundreds of Airbnb Experiences in London, including private photo shoots, tango classes, chocolate tasting tours, pottery classes, LGBT tours, and lots of different walking tours, food tours and pub tours. To save you the time to scroll through all of London’s Airbnb Experiences, I compiled the cheapest Experiences in London for budget travelers. They include Harry Potter tours, history walking tours, a street art walk and a street photography experience, a British Royalty tour and a bar crawl:



Stay in an AirBnb

It’s not a secret that hotels in London can be pricey, unless you happen to stumble upon a great deal (I found a fabulous room at the Z Hotel Piccadilly Circus for only £50 on my last trip to London!), and this is a cost that can add up quickly, especially if your trip is longer than just a weekend getaway. On Airbnb, you can rent an entire apartment, but also a private room in somebody’s home. With that option, you usually only pay a fraction of the price you’d fork out for a hotel room. It may not offer the same comfort of a hotel room, but it offers way more comfort than staying in a dorm room in a hostel! Plus: You get to stay with a local who can recommend cheap eats and other money saving tips. It’s also a great way to see how Londoners live.

Note: Remember that public transportation in London gets more expensive the further away you stay from the city center – that’s something to keep in mind when you’re tempted to book that $21 per night room on Airbnb. A weekly travel card for zones 1 & 2 is £35.10, but a weekly travel card for zones 1 – 6 is £64.20 – that’s a big difference. Ideally you want to stay in Transport Zone 1 or 2, to avoid paying extra for the subway and buses, and it’ll also save you a lot of time – commuting out to Zone 5 and 6 can easily take an hour from Central London.



Cheap luggage storage in Londonsuitcases

If you’re leaving London on an evening flight and you’re staying at a hotel or hostel, luggage storage is usually not a problem. There, luggage storage is offered for free or for a small fee. If you’re staying in an Airbnb, however, luggage storage may become a problem, because Airbnb hosts might not be able to store your luggage for you after you check out – especially if a new guest checks in right after you leave.

Thanks to the Airbnb economy, several start-ups have decided to take on this issue and found cheap solutions for luggage storage. Here are the cheapest options for luggage storage in London:

    • LuggageHero (£6 per day)
    • Stasher (£6 per day, and £5 for any additional day)
    • BagBnb (£5 per day)
    • NannyBag (£6 for the first 24 hours, £4 for the next 24 hours)

How to save money on paid attractions in London

If you’re planning to see some of London’s attraction that aren’t free, consider getting a London Pass which includes over 60 London attractions, including a Thames River Cruise, the Tower Of London and Westminster Abbey. Tip: If you buy the pass through VisitLondon, the official tourist board, you’ll get a 10% discount on it.

If you only plan to visit one or two of the paid-for attractions, check online if they offer an advance booking discount. Most of the attractions offer it – the London Eye for example is 20% cheaper if booked in advanced.

If you’re planning a trip out of town on the train – to Bath or Brighton for example, you should also check out the National Rail website where you’ll usually find 2-for-1 offers for all major attractions (if you buy a train ticket). Train tickets should be purchased in advance, too, by the way: a ticket to Brighton is £22.90 if you buy it on the spot, but it can be as cheap as £11 if you buy it a few weeks in advance. This kind of travel requires planning, but it makes a huge difference on your wallet.London Eye

Cheap West End Theater Tickets in London

Theater is a fix part of many London visitors’ itinerary, and seeing a play in the West End is well worth the splurge. But don’t worry: Visiting London on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on experiencing a West End play or musical. The best part is that seeing a play or musical doesn’t need to be expensive – I’ve seen plays for as little as £20! Similar to New York, London also has discount ticket booths – head to the TKTS ticket booth in the afternoon to get discounted tickets for the same evening. The Guardian just published a guide on how to get the best deal for West End Theater Tickets.London views from Primrose hill

Eat and drink on the cheap in London

First of all: don’t ever spend water on bottled water when you are in London. The tap water in the city is perfectly fine and safe to drink, and not only will it save you some precious Pounds, but you’ll also do the environment a favor.

For a cheap lunch, head to Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Boots and pick up one of their lunch deals, which are as little as £3 and include a sandwich, a drink and an additional item (chips, fruit or something sweet). It doesn’t get any cheaper than this! If you prefer a hot lunch, head to EAT or Pret A Manger for a hot sandwich or a soup. You can get either one for less than £5. All of these places have several healthy food options.

When the weather is nice, it is always a great idea to buy picnic food and eat in one of the beautiful parks – nothing beats an al fresco lunch in Regents Park or St James Park. I highly recommend Portobello Road Market and Borough Market to pick up a quick yet scrumptious meal.

If you’re staying in a hostel with a kitchen, you can buy one of the cheap dinner deals that is offered by all of the supermarket chains for as little as £10 – this includes a starter for two, two main courses and even a bottle of wine! (Tip: If you splurge on the £20 dinner deal at Marks & Spencer, you get the best value for money with a starter, main, a side dish, dessert and wine).

If you prefer to go out, try to find a coupon for 2-for-1 meals or look for a pub with 2-for-1 meal deals. Bread selection at Borough Market

Use discount vouchers in London

Before buying anything, check if there are any discount vouchers for the activity, food or drink you’re planning to buy. For example, browse through Groupon for the latest voucher codes before you set off on your trip.

Discount vouchers are hugely popular in the UK and many restaurants offer meal deals or 2-for-1 dinner vouchers. There are also vouchers for supermarkets if you’re planning to cook for yourself, and it pays off to compare prices in the main supermarket chains (Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose) to see which one has the items you’re planning to buy on offer.big ben


How to Visit London on the Cheap

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How to Spend the Perfect Fall Weekend in London

london museum

After traveling around Europe for nearly three months this year, I came to the conclusion that London is still my favorite European city. I might be biased, having lived there for so many years, but I’ve also traveled to enough other places to be able to say that I don’t think any other European city can rival London in all the things it has to offer, in terms of culture, food, nightlife, markets, shopping, green spaces, things to do, theater, and areas for urban exploration. It was time for a weekend in to spend a weekend in LondonWhen I stopped in London this year I had the opportunity to show a first-time visitor around town – something I did on a regular basis when I was living in London, which is why I felt comfortable playing tour guide for my friend – and which is why I thought it was time to share my recommendations how to spend a weekend in London with you.

3 days in London – My itinerary

This is my suggested itinerary for three days in London – including the must-see London landmarks, afternoon tea, my favorite museums for some culture but also some cool street art spots, the best walks and my favorite green spaces, delicious food and evening activities.weekend in London

Day 1: Royal London and London’s most iconic sights

I usually start my London explorations with a walk from Victoria Station all the way to St Paul’s Cathedral, or if I’m not too tired yet, a little further into the ‘City of London’ to take in the views from the Monument and to finish with a pint in Leadenhall Market.

From Victoria Station, follow the signs to Buckingham Palace. If you’re really into the royal family, you can visit the palace during the summer months (tickets start at £20.50). But for most people it is enough to glimpse through the fence and snap some pictures of the guards in their fancy uniforms. The ‘Changing of the guards’, which takes place at 11.30am (daily between April and July, every other day the rest of the year) is a great spectacle to catch, and it’s free, so you might want to time your visit so that you can see parksFrom Buckingham Palace, walk over to Green Park and follow the lake until you reach the Horse Guards building, where you’ll encounter another typical London sight: the Horse Guards, as the name implies. From there, walk down Whitehall, past Downing Street, and you’ll reach Big Ben and the Houses Of Parliaments, across from Westminster Abbey. Cross Westminster Bridge and turn left onto the South Bank, where you’ll follow The Queen’s Walk along the river.


Here’s where you can stop for a ride on the London Eye (£19.35) or continue on towards Millennium Bridge, a pleasant walk that’s just over a mile long. Before crossing the bridge, make sure to check out the current exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London’s most famous contemporary art museum, which is housed in a former power station. It is one of my favorite contemporary art museums in the world. Heading up to the cafe is a good idea no matter if you’re a fan of modern art or not, because the views from up there are fantastic.


Once you’ve crossed Millennium Bridge you can decide if you want to pay St Paul’s Cathedral a full visit (tickets from £18.00) or just peek inside (well worth a peek, I say, even if you don’t want to pay for full access). If you’re not visiting the church, head further east until you reach the Monument, a freestanding  202 ft (62 m) tall column that offers probably the cheapest views over London at £4. The catch? You have to climb 311 steps to get up there, there’s no elevator to be found. However, for your effort you get a neat certificate that confirms that you successfully climbed to the millennium bridgeAnd now you definitely deserve a pint – and a short ten minute walk from the Monument, you find Leadenhall Market, a beautiful covered market dating back to the 14th century (and representing Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter movie!). Unless you’re heading there on a weekend, you’re also likely to encounter dozens of ‘suits’ there – people who work in London’s finance sector. Most banks have their offices in this part of the city, and bankers, like most other people, tend to enjoy an after work pint (or two). Mingling with them makes for an interesting experience though. There are also some restaurants in Leadenhall Market – if you’re looking for a typical British pub dinner, head to the Lamb Tavern.


Day 2: Notting Hill and Central London

Start Day 2 with breakfast in Notting Hill – Walk up Portobello Road and pop in to some of Notting Hill’s antique shops along the way, or simply admire the neat Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian architecture. If you happen to be in London over the weekend, I’d recommend heading here on Saturday when the famous Portobello Road Antiques Market takes place – but come early, it gets pretty crowded around noon.Portobello Road MarketThree of my favorite breakfast places right on Portobello Road are the Electric Diner, Egg Slut (next door) and Lowry & Baker (also great to just pick up a coffee). Another breakfast spot worth mentioning in the area is Granger & Co (by Australian celebrity chef Bill Granger – but reasonably priced). For an extended Notting Hill walk, I recommend turning right onto Westbourne Grove. Head back south on Garway Road until you reach Kensington Gardens, and go for a stroll in this beautiful park which is basically an extension of Hyde Park. If you are into art, I recommend stopping at the small Serpentine Gallery right in the park which has always interesting exhibitions (free admission). Walk eastwards through the park until you hit Marble Arch, the giant arch on the northeastern corner of Hyde Park.

Afternoon Tea in London

You might begin to feel hungry again, and now it’s time for afternoon tea! During my last visit to London I tried something different: Street Food Afternoon Tea, which had an interesting twist to it: instead of your usual mini sandwiches and scones, they serve mini burgers, mozzarella risotto balls, vegetable skewers and quesadillas, followed by scrumptious eclairs, macaroons, rice pudding and fruit tarts – all combined with tea, of course, which you can select from an exquisite tea menu. I tried the vegetarian version of the street food tea, but of course there is also one for carnivores.

In my opinion, afternoon tea has to be part of a weekend in London, and luckily there are dozens of afternoon teas to choose from. Among my all-time favorites are the Alice in Wonderland – themed Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea at Sanderson, haute couture Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley, or Fortnum & Mason for a very traditional version. Check out this comprehensive Conde Nast Traveler guide to the very best afternoon teas in London.

Afternoon Tea at the Arch LondonI loved the elegant yet cozy ambiance at the restaurant, and it is just the right thing to do before hitting Oxford Street for a little shopping spree. After some shopping on London’s most iconic (and busiest) street, you might want to get away from the hustle and bustle here. Turn right (southwards) onto Argyll Street (just after Oxford Circus) which leads to the pedestrianized Carnaby Street. Here you’ll find more independent shops, different from the big High Street chain stores, and plenty of options for a quick bite or drink.

Follow Carnaby Street all the way down to the end and you’ll find yourself right in the heart of Soho, which really comes to life after dark. If you’re a theater buff like I am, I suggest ending the day with a West End show. is a good place to start looking which plays have good deals, and you can find a comprehensive guide to finding cheap Westend theater tickets here.

If you’re not into musicals or plays, end the day with a drink or dinner in Soho. Places I recommend are: Franco Manca for pizza, Oka for sushi, Bao (to-die-for Taiwanese street food), Fernandez & Wells for tapas and wine, Princi for tasty Italian food, Busaba Eathai (Thai), and Yalla Yalla for Lebanese food, to give you just a few ideas. For drinks, check out the French House (great beer selection), the Lyric Tavern for a solid British pub experience, Mark’s Bar (underneath the Hix restaurant) for sophisticated cocktails, the Experimental Cocktail Club if you’re looking for a speakeasy experience (good luck finding it). If you want to fancy it up, head to Milk & Honey (reservations obligatory).3 day London itinerary

Day three: Markets and street art in East London

Day 3 is all about East and North London. If you’re visiting over a weekend, I’d plan to do this day on a Sunday. Start with a stroll through Columbia Street Flower Market (only on Sundays), or begin right in Brick Lane, where a massive flea market takes place every Sunday. Take your time and take in the street art around here, the flea market stalls, head into the Old Truman Brewery which is now filled with artsy shops and galleries.

On the southern end of Brick Lane you’ll find plenty of Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants which is what the area is famous for. Make sure to be hungry enough for a curry – here you’ll get the best curry in London. You may be overwhelmed by the large number of restaurants – I recommend consulting Tripadvisor or Foursquare before you decide which one to go to, or check out this rating of every curry restaurant on Brick Lane.3 day London itineraryAfter lunch, head over to Pettycoat Lane Market if you’re into fashion – you can find some amazing bargain deals here (note: also only on Sundays).

Street Art in East London

If you love street art, I suggest checking out some of East London’s cool graffiti scene (you will have seen some in Brick Lane already), but it’s a bit tricky to find all of the colorful pieces, which is why I recommend taking a free London street art walking tour (tipping mandatory!) with a local guide who will also give you some insights on the artists and East London in general. The tour runs five times a week at 2pm, online reservations are necessary. If you can’t make the tour, here’s an excellent self-guided street art walk through East London which includes brilliant pieces by famous street artists such as Banksy, Roa and Stiks.East London street art and Brick LaneSince this day is all about markets, you can’t miss Camden’s famous markets, which can be an all-day activity – it’s easy to get lost in the giant maze of different markets, all set around the locks of Regent’s Canal. Since I moved to London for the first time in 2005, the markets have become a major tourist attraction and some of them have also seen a revamp. And yes, it is crowded, but it’s still one of my favorite things to do in London, and the food stalls alone are worth the trip to Camden. If you’ve still got stamina after all the market strolls, head south along Regent’s Canal until you reach Primrose Hill. It’s a lovely walk and the views over London from the top of Primrose Hill are unbeatable (on a sunny day, that is!).3 day London itinerary

Tips for visiting London with little time and little money:

First of all: I wrote a detailed guide on how to visit London on the cheap – check it out!

– Pick up an Oyster Card, London’s transportation card. It is much cheaper to travel on public transportation with an Oyster Card – with it, a day ticket will cost you £6.50. If you simply buy a day ticket without Oyster card, it’s a staggering £12.10 (US$18.30)!

– If you are planning to visit a lot of the attractions that aren’t free, such as the Tower Of London, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace, consider buying a London Pass which is £75 for two days and 89 for three days. Here’s a good article that explains when it’s worth buying a London Pass and when it’s better to skip big ben– There are two local buses that pass most of London’s major sights and landmarks, such as Tower Bridge, Hyde Park, Tafalgar Square and Oxford Street. If you’re pressed for time, get an Oyster Card with a day ticket – at £4.50 (buses only) much cheaper than the hop-on hop-off buses that cover pretty much the same route. You can find a list of the best bus routes for sightseeing in London here.

– If it’s raining, head to the museums. The great thing about London is that most of its fabulous museums are free! My favorites include the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the National History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, but have a look at this list for more free London museums.


how to spend a weekend in London

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Polaroid Of The Week: A Perfect London Summer Day

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week england london kensington gardensAfter a week by the sea, I made my way up to London, deciding that I can’t leave England without at least a quick pit stop in my former adopted hometown.

Summer was in full swing when I arrived in Friday (a rare thing for London!) and I spontaneously decided to take some time off work and spend my Saturday like most other people this weekend, and like I used to spend so many of my London weekends: in the park (with a run though Hyde Park in the morning and a picnic in Kensington Gardens in the afternoon, where I snapped the picture above), with a bit of shopping (the madness that is Oxford Street seems less crazy when you’ve been away for a while) and last but not least: with a visit to the West End, where I saw Guys & Dolls, currently starring Rebel Wilson, who always makes me laugh, and it wasn’t any different in this musical. If you happen to find yourself in London before 21 August, I highly recommend it – look for cheap tickets on

My quick visit in London ended with some bubbles at the Searcys champagne bar in St Pancras with Becki, who I hadn’t seen since the NBE conference in Finland in January 2014, and was the perfect way to conclude a fantastic week in the UK. Next stop: Munich!

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Polaroid of the Week – Goodbye, London…



Saying Goodbye to London is definitely not easy for us! We’ve had three wonderful years here, experienced how different living East feels to living West. We explored more of the ‘Big Smoke‘  in that time than most native Londoners did in their entire life, and will miss our walks by the canals, the multi-cultural buzz of Edgware Road, the graffitis in East London, the vibrant markets, hanging out in one of the parks, a good ol’ Brick Lane Curry, Camden Market Food, riding our bikes along the Thames, chilling at the Southbank, stumbling over old-fashioned, traditional, typical English pubs, Soho’s independent cofffee shops, strolling around Abney Park Cemetery, and so much more…

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Goodbye 2010: Our year of travel in pictures

Globtrottergirls in Las Vegas

An amazing year is coming to an end – our first as full-time travelers! Rather than rattle off a list of everywhere we’ve been, check out our year in pictures, from the pre-trip ‘planning’ phase to the rather unexpected place where we are ringing in the New Year!

In January we made the semi-spontaneous decision to become digital nomads and to leave London, where we had been living since 2007.

In February, we packed up our apartment and a friend of Dani drove over from Germany in his van to pack up all our belongings and drive them to her hometown of Erfurt. She stored our stuff at her mom’s house and said goodbye to friends and family.

Jess did the same in March, home in chilly Chicago.

In April, we met again in Britain and spent one last ‘stay-cation’ in the seaside town of Brighton, before starting off the trip of a lifetime.

We started our adventure in Las Vegas, of all places…

…before heading to San Francisco up the Pacific Coast Highway in May, the first of many road trips to come.

June saw us exploring the Arizona desert during our Tucson house-sit, then three incredible canyons (Antelope Canyon, Canyon de Chelly and the Grand Canyon) in the north during one last road trip in the U.S.

We stopped in Los Angeles again in July…

…and from there we flew into Mexico City, where we started our Mexican adventure.

We spent August exploring Southern Mexico from Oaxaca to the Pacific Coast, San Cristobal, Palenque and the Yucatan.

In September we discovered the beautiful beaches of Belize

…and in October we began our two-month tour of Guatemala, which included Mayan villages, market towns, volcano climbing, the colonial town of Antigua and Lake Atitlan.

In November, we took a 2-week detour to El Salvador, where we found some rough Pacific beaches, hiked a volcano crater and visited colonial towns like  Suchitoto (pictured) and those on the Ruta de las Flores.

In December, we headed to Honduras, where we finished the ‘Maya trail’ by visiting the last of the series of Maya ruins at Copan. We’re ringing in the New Year at Lake Yojoa, before heading to Nicaragua to start of 2011!

Happy travels to all fellow travelers and happy New Year to all our readers out there!

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Off the beaten path on our perfect London day

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Friends and family have recently been asking us if we miss London, the city we lived for three years before starting our travels. While we wouldn’t trade life on the road right now for anything, the questions did get us dreaming about what our perfect day in London used to look like….

English novelist Samuel Johnson said, “Those who tire of London, tire of life,” – a timeless statement as true now as ever before. For those who live in ‘the Big Smoke’, loving London goes far beyond the ‘hotel and theatre London’, double-decker buses, afternoon tea, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, although these are a classic and essential part of London life.

Our favorite morning in London would start very early…at 6am in fact. We begin out on Regents Canal watching the sunrise on an early morning kayaking tour run by Thames River Adventures, which start by paddling past the celebrity residences of Primrose Hill, through the undisturbed canal waters which cut through the London Zoo as the animals wake up before ending up in the post-punk mecca of Camden Town. (For late-risers, Thames River Adventures also offers lunch time and sunset tours.)

Kayaking on Regents Canal LondonWe would finish up around 7:30am, and although it would still be a bit early, there is always something happening in Camden, where the tour ends. People watching here is priceless round the clock, but at this time of the morning, club kids are making their way home and the few ‘suits’ who live in Camden are marching to their City offices. Not us! We just love to grab a coffee and stroll through the mix of punk, bohemian shops and cheap markets without the masses, and then head over to join the dog-walkers and joggers on Primrose Hill, one of the best views over London (where some celeb-spotting is possible during the day).

London views from Primrose hillAt this point, we figure we would be starving, and so we would head over to the Breakfast Club near Angel tube station in the Islington area. There are a few Breakfast Club cafes around London, but this one is by far the most popular, so expect to queue. While we wait, we’d check out the nearby indie and antique shops as their doors just squeak open in the morning. The energy at this time is still fresh and friendly, before it gets crowded in the afternoon.

After our bellies are good and stuffed with British (The Full Monty, or a Cheddar & Marmite Toast) or American-style breakfasts (pancakes, french toast, eggs and hash browns), there is no question where we would walk it all off. From Angel station, we’d hop on the 73 bus which comes from central London and heads east to Stoke Newington Church Street. We’d be on our way to Abney Park. This part of East London is home to the struggling artists, future creative genius types who are as drawn to Abney Park as we are… Not actually a park, this is actually a cemetery, and a mystical, almost magical Victorian cemetery at that. The tombstones are fascinating and the spot is perfect for a long walk or total relaxation – and the best part is that tourists have yet to find this treasure, even though it was featured in Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black video.

Abney Park Cemetery LondonNow that we’ve relaxed, and Dani has taken another hundred pictures of the place, we would head down to the heart of East London – Shoreditch. We love to walk up and down Brick Lane and Shoreditch High Street and peek into all the trendy shops and bars that pop up here. If we’re feeling peckish, as the English say, we could grab a quick bite at the all-vegan Rootmaster restaurant, set in a converted double decker bus near the Old Truman Brewery. The OTB is no longer a brewery, but a trendy urban market where up and coming designers sell clothes, there are antiques and quirky gifts, plus various spots to eat. There are no chains here, and while money has started to flow in Shoreditch, this whole area is still (arguably) an authentic artists enclave…for now.

Brick Lane Graffiti Artist LondonWe also never miss the chance to stroll through Spitalfields Market, one of our absolute favorites in the city. Here there are some of the most amazing collections of everything you ever wanted for sale. New belt? The coolest belts are here. So retro you only listen to cassette tapes? You’ll snap up your favorite bands on tape here and records, too. On certain days, Spitalfields has huge collections of records, in fact, plus great clothes, even greater purses and bags, and merchandise both bargain and up-scale that you had no idea you even wanted. If we haven’t been sucked in to one of the many restaurants located in Spitalfields, the next place we’ll head to, without a doubt, is Brick Lane.

Brick Lane LondonBrick Lane has historically been London’s Indian and Bangladeshi enclave, and as a result is an excellent spot for some of the best Indian food outside of India. This street is right on the tourist path, actually, but we don’t care. The street is lined with dozens of great Indian restaurants, and each wants to get you inside. We typically barter for at least one free bottle of wine and hopefully at least a free appetizer before stepping through the door of any of the restaurants. You can’t beat free booze, and no matter where you end up, the meals will always satisfy, and usually for under 20 for two people.

After we’ve had enough wine to loosen up the dancing legs, Dani would probably want to go dancing. Being in east London we would head over to the Electricity Showrooms or the Hoxton Pony for dancing, 93 Feet East for clubbing, quirky Callooh Callay or the Bedroom Bar for a relaxing but intoxicating end to the night.

Brick Lane at Night LondonBecause we are right in Shoreditch, we could jump right on to the new East London Line and head to Canary Wharf. We really love the maritime feel of this side of London, how connected to the water the area is.

London Canary WharfWe cannot wait to go back to London for an extended visit, and with the many inexpensive flights to London we find online all the time, we might be back sooner than we’d thought…

Have you been to London? What are your favorite things to do in London? Share your tips and favorite places in the comments



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Five reasons to visit London in the winter

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London’s dreary, grey Autumn gives way to the clear, crisp Winter skies in the British capital. We spent three winters living here and came to visit London in the winter three times before moving there eventually. Although we would always prefer the beach and warm weather, we loved bundling up, drinking mulled wine and getting out and exploring our adopted city. Read on for the five reasons we think make London an excellent destination for the winter months.

london pub
Nothing better than a cozy British pub to warm up at on a chilly winter day!

1 The ice rinks

We love the ice rinks in London, all of which come with a pretty backdrop – there’s the ice rink right in front of the Tower, by the Natural History Museum, inside of the gorgeous Somerset House, one by the London Eye and one in Hyde Park, to name only a few. The ice rink in Hyde Park actually belongs to the huge Winter Wonderland that also has fun rides, a Ferris Wheel, and a Christmas markets with mulled wine and yummy food. You can find a full list of all London ice rinks here.

London Ice Rinks
Two of our favorite ice rinks: The Tower Ice Rink and at Somerset House

2 The Christmas lights

London has one of the prettiest displays of Christmas lights in Europe – especially on Oxford and Regent Street, where the lights have a different theme every year and huge festivities usually see the official lights switch on done by big name celebrities. In Greenwich, the switch on is accompanied by a beautiful lantern parade. Seeing London in a festive spirit is something truly special. Shopping under all these lights is so enchanting, even for Jess, who normally shuns shopping in general. We loved shopping under the Christmas lights and decorations around Oxford and Regent Street, and around Covent Garden, Carnaby Street and Duke Of York Square.London Christmas lights & Tree3 There are no crowds

January and February are the best months to visit London if you are not keen on the tourist crowds that tour London during the spring and summer months. Camden Market for example is almost empty compared to the thousands of people who walk through the Stables in the summer, and on a walk along the Southbank you don’t have to rub elbows with other tourists. You’ll have the museums almost to yourself on weekdays and attractions like the Tower, the London Eye or St Paul’s Cathedral have much shorter lines.

London parks in the winter
We love strolling through London’s parks in the winter months.

4 It’s cheaper

Not only will you miss the crowds in the winter months, but it is also much cheaper to visit London during the winter! Hotels have special offers, and deals for flights to London can be found everywhere! Even the most comfortable airlines, drop ticket prices considerably. There are also much more competitive groupons, 2 for 1 offers, and discounts for theater plays in the West End.

london greenwich sunset
A gorgeous winter sunset over the River Thames

5 It’s chilly, but pleasant

While it tends to rain a lot during October and November, the rest of the winter is usually filled with blue-skied days and lots of sun. Thanks to the mild climate of the British Isles, the winters are much warmer than in continental Europe or the East Coast and northern parts of the U.S. The first time I visited London in February, we boarded the plane in Frankfurt at -15°C and got off the plane in Heathrow at +15°C – a difference of 30°C! While sightseeing in cities like New York or Chicago in January is nearly impossible due to the cold temperatures, it is actually enjoyable to go for a stroll through London’s neighborhoods in the winter and ending your day in the warmth of the English pub, and it barely ever snows.

London Ice Bar Dani & Jess
A visit to the Ice Bar will make the outside temperatures seem almost tropical!

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My Top Three London Neighborhoods To Stay In

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When people plan a trip to London, I often get asked where I’d recommend they stay. Which neighborhoods are the best, the closest to the center, and the cheapest. I could talk about London’s many different neighborhoods for hours, and I have about eight that I absolutely love, but I narrowed it down to my top five places I think visitors should consider for their trip to London. Read on to find out which neighborhoods top my list, why I think they’re making for a great base and which types of travelers they are for.

london greenwich sunset
A breathtaking sunset sky over the River Thames

Before I start, a quick word on your choice of accommodation in London. There has never been a greater variety of places to stay at than now – from hostels to luxury hotels, vacation rentals and short-term lets, long-term rooms to self-catering apartments… the selection is sheer endless, and researching the perfect option can be overwhelming. Check out AirBnb for some amazing places to stay in – be it a room in somebody’s apartment (a great way for solo travelers to meet locals!) or an entire ‘flat’, as the British call their apartments. If you’re not using AirBnb yet – you can sign up here and get $20 off your first booking.

london museum
Greenwich – also one of my favorite neighborhoods, albeit not in my Top Three

Now on to my favorite neighborhoods:


Everyone who knows me knows that I need a little bit of grittiness around me – if a place is too pretty, too clean and too cookie-cutter, I am bored quickly. That’s why I love Kreuzberg in Berlin, Brooklyn in New York, and East London. There’s street art everywhere, funky bars, slightly chaotic flea markets, independent boutique and shops with a unique flair. Shoreditch doesn’t have any typical British sights (except for many many pubs, of course!) but here you’ll find the hippest people, the coolest restaurants and the most eclectic vibe.

This is for you if… you are looking for a neighborhood that is teeming with young people (you will spot hipsters here, yes), a fantastic bar scene, urban art and good transportation connections that bring you to Central London in only 15 minutes.

Brick Lane London
Street Art in East London

Notting Hill

I know, this one is pretty cliché, but there is a reason that there is a movie that focuses on this charming neighborhood – you can’t help but fall in love with this typical English and at the same time gorgeous area. Located in West London, Notting Hill has some of the prettiest streets in all of London; streets and mews (little alleyways) that invite to wander. On Saturdays, the famous Portobello Road Market flea & antiques market takes place here, but on all other days a stroll down Portobello Road is simply delightful. You are close to Kensington Gardens, one of my favorite parks in London, and you’ll have tons of cute cafes, cozy pubs and fabulous boutiques around here.

This is for you if… you want a truly British neighborhood experience with quiet, beautiful streets, lots of attractions nearby, and easy access to Central London (about 10 minutes on the tube).

London houses
Notting Hill – Colorful and pretty!

Camden Town

Much has changed in Camden Town over the past few years – while it was one of the grittier, even seedy neighborhoods in the early 2000s still, the neighborhood has been transforming into one of the most sought-after areas to buy or rent in. The massive Camden Market is a huge tourist attraction these days, but go a couple of streets away from Camden High Street and you’ll find some wonderfully peaceful streets with snuggish apartments and, one of my favorite places in the city, Regents Canal, which goes all the way to Primrose Hill and further down to Regents Park (a lovely walk). The pub scene here is glorious, and you are close to some marvelous lesser known sights such as Hampstead Heath (fantastic views over the city!), Abney Park Cemetery or Islington, another lovely neighborhood. The Northern Line brings you right into Central London in only 20 minutes.

This is for you if… you want to go shopping-crazy at Camden Lock Market, are not too fussed about the prettiness of a neighborhood, love cheapie pubs and a local flair away from Central London’s tourist madness.

London Camden High Street
The Iconic Camden High Street

Have you been to London? What are your favorite neighborhoods?

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