We just got back from an epic trip to London and Iceland! While my body is still adjusting back to normal, my mind is racing with memories of all the fun things we did, ate and saw. Hopefully, writing through these memories will help you the next time you're in one of these beautiful destinations!
When we first started looking for places to stay in London for our trip, I asked a few friends which neighborhoods were lively with a bit of grit; where we could live among locals for a week? The almost unanimous response was Shoreditch, in the East London borough of Hackney. There's no shortage of things to do in Shoreditch with coffee shops, restaurants, bars, vintage and indie boutiques, Box Park (a whole pop-up mall comprised of shipping containers) and some of London's favorite markets (Columbia Road Flower Market, Brick Lane Market and Old Spitalfields Market.) Like most of London, it's extremely walkable and transit-friendly. It was so easy to get around the city it made my stomach hurt for all the possibilities here at home in Seattle!
I found a great Airbnb right on A10, one of the main thoroughfares in Shoreditch and just two blocks from The Ace Hotel London. Our host was super easygoing and communicative, and the flat itself was a beautiful one-bedroom with exposed brick and a private rooftop, about a ten-minute walk to the Old Street underground station. It was the perfect home base for a week of exploring London!
We spent Sunday night and Monday morning traveling, so by the time we got into our flat, all we wanted was a good, warm meal and maybe to get our bearings in our 'hood. Pho Viet 68 right across from the Ace answered our prayers because pho is the answer for any good meal, right? After dinner, we wandered around and fell upon half the stores and restaurants recommended to us by friends - boutiques like NikeLab, Goodhood, Sneakernstuff, and bars/restaurants like Nightjar, Strongroom, The Clove Club and more. We ended the night with drinks at the Ace - the first of a few nights to end there!
By far, the most recommended place of our friends and research was Dishoom, a very popular and reasonably-priced restaurant steeped in old Bombay café tradition. You can't go wrong with any meal at Dishoom - they offer a breakfast menu, and all-day menu and have a killer cocktail menu. Dishoom was so good we went twice! For breakfast, I recommend the bacon & egg naan roll, and for dinner, get the Black House daal with several helpings of their naan. Those dishes were insanely delicious! There are several outposts including one in Soho, but this one in Shoreditch was probably the most beautiful, complete with a veranda patio to die for.
East London Juice Co. just outside The Ace Hotel was our fuel for many of the jam-packed days spent exploring the city. Their menu of superfood smoothies, bowls, juices, elixirs, and coffees was truly like a slice of home in London. We had a good balance of healthy and not-so-healthy meals in London, thanks to places like East London Juice Co. and other quick stop-ins like pod and itsu. We need more healthy fast-food options like these in the U.S.!
Duck & Waffle sits atop the 110 Bishopgate building and offers sweeping views of London as well as a 24/7 menu! We just stopped in for drinks and appetizers one night, but the view and the elevator ride are worth it at any time of day.
Markets are aplenty in London - just make sure you check to see what's open when! Old Spitalfields Market was probably my favorite everyday market, with its mix of retailers like lululemon and Chanel in shops lining the plaza where indie vendors and food booths set up shop. There's a booth that sells naan wraps - that one was my favorite, although Poppie's Fish & Chips (another recommendation) also has a post. There are several pubs close to the market; we stopped into The Ten Bells across the street for a pint and for a little bit of Jack the Ripper history.
Brick Lane Market happens on Sundays. I loved the scene at this one; it reminded me most of Brooklyn Flea, only it was naturally woven into the streets, alleys and crevices of the old buildings along Brick Lane. There are little offshoots and sub-markets everywhere you look, and you can get a great meal at City Spice or Cinnamon (recommended by my friend Kelsi.) Stand outside either of these spots and you'll get dueling deals shouted at you. If you don't have a deal when you walk in one, you're not doing it right!
I struggled with jet lag and insomnia for the first couple of days, and though I know it's insane to work out on holiday, I really do think the class we took at BoomCycle helped cure my insomnia. Shoreditch has a few great options for gyms and workouts (I really want to try 1Rebel or Frame next time), but BoomCycle was the perfect 45-minute sweat sesh to get my body on the right time zone.
Phew! That was just the neighborhood we stayed in!