Having lived in the city for the majority of her life, Natalya (@natalyaschroder) is a London expert; splitting her time between the UK’s bustling capital and The Netherlands, she has kindly shared with us her local tips and top recommendations in London. From brunch on a barge to her favourite pub crawl route, keep reading for Natalya’s jam-packed whirlwind of a day in London!
What is a typical breakfast and where would you go?
As you can imagine with such a sprawling metropolis, London has zillions of places for brunch but I like to keep it local for breakfast. I live in Ealing Broadway, home to the famous Ealing Studios, which is rather far west London but has brilliant spots like the Moon and Maybe (cosy with outdoor seating), Farm W5 (organic local’s breakfast spot), and Charlotte’s W5 (a bit fancier). All of these offer fantastic veggie breakfast options and every millennial’s staple: avo on toast. More centrally, Farm Girl in Notting Hill is popular with West London foodies and is perfect for some breakfast before exploring Portobello market. In Paddington, Darcie and May Green offers a unique Australian brunch on a barge!
What is your favourite place to grab lunch?
For lunch we’re heading to Covent Garden! I love how buzzing this part of London is, there’s the Apple Market with independent stands, perfect for one-of-a-kind gifts, vintage shops like Rokit, and Neal’s Yard is a must-visit for its brightly coloured houses. I would grab lunch at Homeslice Neal’s Yard with friends and share one of their 20” pizzas. The menu is constantly evolving- ever had a Cauliflower Shawarma, Tahini, Pomegranate and Chickpea pizza? The queueing is worth it and you can put your name on the waiting list and have a wander around. Wild Food Café is next door is and is amazing for veggies. Alternatively, Seven Dials Market has recently opened just around the corner which is a very funky food court in a former banana warehouse. I recommend Pick & Cheese in the food market for its cheese pairings… on a conveyor belt!
My London lunch life hack for students/ travellers on a budget/ eco-warriors is to download the app “Too Good to Go” and collect fresh food from restaurants and cafes for a fraction of the price to avoid it going to waste! This is a fun cheap way of sampling new places while saving money and carbon emissions.
What is an ideal afternoon activity in a city like London?
The afternoon calls for two of life’s greatest pleasures- sunsets and drinks. In the summer, Dalston Roof Park and the Prince of Wales, Brixton are amazing for rooftop parties where you can dance through the day and into the hazy evening. Rooftop bars are an option year-round if you head to Bar Elba, Waterloo, which gets very cosy in winter and even has a mini ice rink!
But my favourite place for afternoon shenanigans has to be Peckham. Its collection of groovy pubs and bars makes it ideal for an afternoon pub crawl (in fancy dress obviously!) starting or finishing with the best 360° views of London at Frank’s Café which is on the roof of a repurposed parking lot! I love this place for its views, the art installations, and Peckham Levels which is just downstairs. It houses all manner of food stalls, bars and games and there is also a cinema (Peckhamplex) in the same building where all movies are £4.99 – unheard of in London. A good route for a pub crawl or just to explore is Frank’s Café, Peckham Levels, Rye Wax (record shop and bar), The Four Quarters (arcade and bar), Canavan’s, Bussey Rooftop bar and then Bussey Building (CLF Art Café) if you’re in the mood to dance!
Where is the best place to have dinner?
As a student, dinner is usually a casual affair for me and I’d often go for a cheap option like the meal deal (Duck Hoisin Wrap, Salt and Vinegar Squares and an Oasis in case you were wondering) and save money for going out-out to the club. If you don’t know about the meal deal, it’s the UK’s favourite bargain: a sandwich, a snack such as crisps or chocolate and a drink usually for under £4!
However, worthy of my student budget is Ichi Buns in China Town for the yummiest Japanese food and cocktails (lots of Wagyu beef if you’re feeling fancy) and one of those funny Asian toilets that has all sorts of features that I won’t divulge here.
I would say I’m more of a casual, marketplace vibes gal than a fine dining lady, so if you’re like me then Mercato Mayfair’s “cultural hub and sustainable community market” in a Grade I listed church, Mercato Metropolitano, Elephant and Castle (part of the same family) and Kingly Court, Soho will appeal to you.
In the evening what is the city like and where do you usually find yourself?
It’s alive and kicking! If I could choose one place that is especially lively, I would have to pick Soho for its ability to somehow always deliver an interesting evening.
In the evening I usually find myself in a park (weather permitting), which I’ll talk more about later, or preparing to go to one of London’s many clubs. XOYO, Shoreditch has never let me down and is usually enjoyed by groups with varying music tastes. Shoreditch is another area to explore, it has a bit of the cool-factor with the Boxpark (food and shopping space made out of shipping containers) and shedloads of pubs with street food. Corsica Studios in Elephant and Castle is another of London’s finest nightlife offerings, as is Oval Space. There is always live music, an open mic night or a pub quiz going on somewhere so this city truly has something for everyone.
In a busy city like London, is there anywhere to chill?
The abundance of green spaces is one of the best things about London in my opinion. I love walking through Central London and stumbling across ‘secret’ parks – they’re tiny and are the perfect place to stop and take a moment to breathe. Hyde Park is wonderful but very busy, nowadays I’m drawn by the Serpentine Gallery and the rowing and pedal boats on the Serpentine lake. However, Primrose Hill has a magic that you can only understand when you’ve enjoyed an afternoon on the infamous hill looking across at London’s glorious skyline. This is the place to people and dog watch and another amazing sunset spot.
Lastly, I’ve only ventured to Hampstead Heath recently, but I was blown away by the tranquillity and the feeling it exuded of being in a safe, still place far from London. The tube station is right opposite one of the entrances to the park but as soon as you start walking through you feel a sense of calm and this is only perpetuated as you reach the bathing ponds – undisputedly the crowning glory of Hampstead Heath. The Ladies’ Bathing Ponds and its surrounding secluded, shaded areas are adorned with women of all ages swimming, chatting, sunbathing topless (pretty radical for English prudishness) and reflects the air of acceptance and lovely female energy that is radiated by this gorgeous, whimsical place.
If you want more structured ‘chill’, go to a hot yoga/ Bikram yoga class to unwind and sweat out the city grime!
What is there to do for something fun and different?
The question is: what isn’t there to do!
You could go for a game of crazy golf at Junkyard Golf, go bowling at Allstar Lanes, explore markets like Columbia Road Flower Market and Borough Market. There are often fun things to do by Southbank too. One of my most memorable evenings from last summer was an evening spent drinking wine and eating cheese and crackers on a grassy patch next to the London Eye, before walking to a silent disco show at the Underbelly Festival Southbank. Even if you can’t find anything online, Southbank is always lovely for its views of the Thames, Southbank centre, street performers, food stalls and the famous skate park! There are also countless museums and galleries, my favourites are the Saatchi, Tate Modern and Welcome Collection and obviously the Natural History Museum and The National Gallery are must visits.
Where is the best area to stay for young travellers?
Probably Brixton/ Shoreditch/ Camden.
What season would you recommend visiting?
I am a complete summer baby so I may be biased, but London definitely comes alive in the summer when the grey skies let the sun out for a boogie for a few blissful weeks. The quintessentially British ‘pub’ bursts into life with pub gardens overflowing with notoriously sunburnt Brits drinking jugs of Pimm’s – the nations most beloved cocktail. In the summer months, parks are packed with Londoners having picnics and lido’s are opened for refreshing swims. However, autumn comes a close second when the weather is still pleasant enough and at this time of year, I love walking around, especially down Regents Canal.
Is London best for family holiday/friends holiday/ couple holiday?
All of the above! I’ve experienced London with my family, family friends, my own friends, my friend’s friends and with a boyfriend and I’ve always felt that the city has different personalities depending on what company you’re with.