London

Here are my travel recommendations for London:

My FAVORITE area to stay is in SOHO. It's near the West End/theaters, covent garden, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, Piccadilly, Oxford Street/shopping, etc. The area itself has tons of great restaurants, and all sorts of great little gems of places - like Ally's favorite bakery - Crumbs & Doilies http://www.crumbsanddoilies.co.uk/ 

Airbnb-type company
This company seemed great! When I went to London, I ultimately I waited too long to book, and I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for through them. I was also looking for 9 people. But their places seemed really nice. https://web.onefinestay.com/london/

Harry Potter
If you want to go to the Harry Potter Studio tour, be sure to get tickets far in advance. Matthew, Juju and Andrew LOVED it. Ally and I, who are not so into Harry Potter, were bored. If you're not a huge Harry Potter fan I wouldn't go -or- make a point of watching the movies before you go so you really have an appreciation before you go. 
Andrew and the twins saw The Cursed Child when we were there and LOVED it!! I had looked online before we went and tickets were absurdly expensive. I stopped at the theater when we were there and got last minute tickets for about 150 pounds per person. It's a 2-part play so you either go to a matinee and night performance -or- on Thursday - Friday, you go those 2 nights in a row. 

 

Restaurant recommendations in no particular order. I loved all of these places, but I starred the ones I thought were the best.
  • Bone Daddies http://www.bonedaddies.com/peter-st-soho/ Yummy ramen place in Soho
  • Lyle's in Shoreditch - Lovely, hip spot and food was delish. http://lyleslondon.com/ - went when I went with Juju but didn't make it back the last time - maybe because it's a little pricey or just a bit out of the way for dinner and I was lazy. Probably a combo of the 2.
  • *The Palomar - might be my fave place in London. Went both times I was there. Low key and unpretentious but the food is amazing and creative! It was super happening with great energy, and again, excellent food.http://thepalomar.co.uk/food
  • *BAO - a hip, very small restaurant with amazing BAO buns - went both times, was pleasantly surprised at how amazing the food was the second time. I had remembered that it was good but had forgotten how good. https://baolondon.com/
  • *Dishoom - Indian - http://www.dishoom.com/carnaby/ There is lots of great Indian food in London. We happen to have chosen this place and we LOVED it. As with just about all the places we went in London, it had great vibe also! Would definitely make a point of going back next time i'm in London. We also went to this place Hoppers https://www.hopperslondon.com/ which has Sri Lankan food and was voted #1 restaurant in London (or something like that) a year or 2 ago. We thought it was good, but hands down like Dishoom much better!
  • Everyone also really liked Bonnie Gull's Seafood Shack. http://www.bonniegull.com/ Excellent food overall and fish and chips were delish. Service was great it's lovely little place in Soho. Not a must but I highly recommend.
  • Nopi - The chef, Yotam Ottolenghi is pretty hot right now. I thought it was good, but I prefer a more low key place. It's in SOHO so you can walk by and check it out. They also have a bunch of takeout places around the city. https://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/
I don't think I made a single reservation when we were in London. We would usually head out for dinner around 8:30 which is on the later side for London, put our names down and would usually get seated within an hour. There were 9 of us and we still managed this. I don't think there was ever a situation that we didn't get to eat where we wanted to. The only place were it was questionable was Hoppers - which I don't recommend anyway. They claimed that their kitchen was closing but even still, we hung in and waited and eventually they sat us. I didn't go back to Lyle's this time but if you're going to go there, I would make a reservation. It's also a little off the beaten path so you don't want to shlep out there to find out they can't seat you. 

 

Markets/department stores: 
  • Borough Market - I went with Juju and we LOVED it! We went back last summer and I liked it, but for some reason it just wasn't as fabulous as I remember. I think it still gets high ratings and a lot of hype. Worth looking into and deciding for yourself. 
  • Spitalfields market - Juju and I split some of the best falafel I have ever eaten (though I'm no expert). I thought it was fresh and delicious and, if I remember correctly, they had a bunch of different toppings and ways you could get it. It also happened to be one of the best food deals we found in London. The rest of my family got different things from the market and everyone was happy. After Spitalfields, we took a walk down Brick Lane, a colorful street with a large Indian population that I'd say is on the edge of cool and definitely worth a stroll down. We stopped for bubble tea at a place called Quaker Street Bubble Tea Cafe which Ally claims is the best bubble tea she's ever had.
  • I also think the food hall at Selfridges is worth a visit. They have all sorts of exotic things from mangosteens to a hundred different varieties of jerky, a huge chocolate section and a large grocery section with tons of British and other products and also some restaurants/places to sit for food. The whole first floor has fun little things like a cute stationary section - can't remember what else but I know I like this place and will make a point of at least popping in the next time I'm there.
  • Harrods also has a food hall which is great, but Harrods is way too stuffy/stodgy for me. I guess Harrods is someplace you kind of have to go though and I'm sure you'll find yourself in that part of the city. It's in Knightsbridge, which is a really upscale/fancy part of the city. My favorite gallery - The Saatchi Gallery, is not too far from there. I make a point of going teach time I'm in London because it's always a wonderful surprise to see what sort of crazy exhibit they're showing. 
  • Liberty of London is a department store in Soho. It's been around for forever and they have all sorts of fun prints. I think it's kind of iconic, but don't quote me on that. It's super expensive but worth 5 minutes. 
I didn't put any of the major sights in this email because I'm sure you'll find all that stuff in your guide book. Quickly some of my faves/opinions are:
  • The Churchill war rooms/museum is amazing. Get tickets in advance. I also went to the Imperial War museum which I thought was good. I can't decide if I didn't like it more because Ally was having a miserable time and was rushing me or if it was just only OK.
  • The British Museum is pretty vast. Both times I went I literally popped in a saw just The Elgin Marbles and The Rosetta Stone. Make sure you read the story of the Elgin Marbles. I remember the story of the rosetta stone was interesting too, but the Elgin Marble story stuck with me more.
  • If you're going to go to the Tower of London (which you probably will), I highly recommend watching The Tutors and/or reading up on it before you go. That show gave me a whole new appreciation for it, and I'll definitely go back next time I'm there. When I went without any real knowledge of it, I found it boring and overrated. 
  • I love walking along the South Bank. There is a nice promenade with tons of action, great people watching, etc.
  • The changing of the guard: When I went with Juju, my mother had booked a Changing of the Guard Tour with this guy Matt Gedge. Rather than just standing there with the rest of the tourists, he had us in on all the action with each stage of the ceremony. It made it a much more interesting and fun experience! Here's a link to the tour company: https://funlondontours.com/
There is obviously a ton more to do. If you have any specific questions about a particular sight, definitely reach out to me! 

                                
Falafel sandwich from Spittalfields Market            Brick Lane

Harry Potter Studio Tour