One of my favourite quotes of all time is from the 18th-century writer, Samuel Johnson: “a man who is tired of London is tired of life”. It’s a quote, and a sentiment, familiar to many Londoners – and one which I thought of regularly when I first moved here as an 18-year-old. I would be filled with a sense of endlessness as I navigated the streets, this city seemingly limitless in its possibilities.
It took me a long time to feel I knew this place, but no time at all to feel at home. That is one of the many wonderful things about London. Now, almost five years to the day since I returned to the city of my birth, I am leaving it.
Yet I am not tired of London – and certainly not life. My reasons for leaving are multiple, but mainly it’s the pull of a long-held desire to work in mainland Europe, hastened by Brexit. Unlike many who become weary of London’s expense, I think the premium you pay to live here is 100% worth it. But I don’t want to just accept that this is the peak of human happiness; precisely because I love it so much, I have to go. There is so much more to see. I am spilling over with it.
And so partly for sentimental reasons, and partly to ‘put to paper’ what I’ve carried in my head these past five years, I wanted to compile a list of my favourite spots in the city. There are so many places I’ve been; I notice that all of my most memorable are north of the river. Perhaps when I return, I need to dedicate more time to the south, where I spent the first few years of life. But for now…
I’ve written a whole post about my love of city farms. Visit them all if you can!
A charming, pedestrianised road near Farringdon, I’ve spent many a happy Sunday wandering here. I’d recommend the restaurant Caravan for its great coffee.
I once stumbled upon this area between Euston and King’s Cross. It feels suddenly, quietly Dickensian among the chaos.
Many students who live in Central London never make it out this far, but Victoria Park is probably my favourite of them all. I love going for a stroll or a run here, watching people walking their dogs, or getting lost in its vastness.
I’ve covered, enthusiastically, the places offering my favourite cuisine in the city.
There’s an amazing outdoor space called Swan Wharf, with a cafe serving great food called The Plough. I love it because it’s right next to the canal; the surrounding area is known for supposedly having more artists per square metre than any other European city. It feels quiet, industrial, and spacious, reminding me a lot of Berlin.
My life changed when, fresh out of my bachelor’s degree, I was hired to work with the Stoke Newington Literary Festival. I had never been to this part of London before, and it made me realise that it’s still possible to have that village feeling even in a big city. Stoke Newington is adorable, full of independent coffee shops and with the fantastic Clissold Park nearby.
Just my favourite-looking street in London.
My other favourite street.
Dalston Curve Garden
Definitely one of the best discoveries of my time here. The Dalston Curve Garden is a community initiative, tucked away off the bustling Kingsland Road, and sells pizza, homemade lemonade, and cakes. There are beanbags and benches and a lovely chilled-out vibe – there are blankets for colder weather, and you can stay as long as you like. It’s really one of a kind, and I desperately hope it survives.
I’ve been lucky enough to live very close to this lovely street for the past year. Every Saturday they have a spectacular (if unaffordable) food market, which draws people from all over without feeling touristy. I’d recommend the Turkish-run Broadway Cafe for their delicious in-house gozleme, a kind of flat bread filled with spinach and cheese, which costs £3 and fills you up for hours.
I once wrote about a lovely wintry Sunday spent wandering around Highgate. It’s got such a pleasant village feel, and spectacular views of the city if you know where to look.
My Village Cafe
This friendly, hippie cafe in Camden serves great vegetarian food and is full of board games.
Free bookshop, the Kindness Offensive
Up near Camden Road is this bookshop, perched on a corner and housed in what used to be a pub. Run by the charity the Kindness Offensive, you can walk in and take up to three books, free, and drop off old books yourself. I once volunteered with this wonderful charity and they’re very special people. Plus: they have a very cool ‘magic bus’.
London Fields lido
I’ve been so fortunate to live five minutes from this lovely outdoor swimming pool. It’s heated, so stays open in winter, and is situated within the lovely London Fields park.
Lee Valley river
A few summers ago, I cycled up the Lee Valley towards the town of Cheshunt. It makes you feel you’ve escaped London for a while, surrounded by fields and nature, and makes for a lovely cycling day out.
I wish I’d discovered this place sooner – only in these final few months have I been hanging out at Ziferblat. Run by volunteers, you pay for time spent there rather than what you consume. There’s a kitchen where you can help yourself to cake and coffee, and a truly special community vibe. It’s situated near Old Street.
Russell Square Gardens
Many a memorable day was spent here during my first years of university. Russell Square will always hold such a special place in my heart.
Natural History Museum
My favourite museum in London. I have very strong memories of my parents bringing me here as a child; the dinosaur collection used to terrify me, but to this day this museum remains a wonder to me.
Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Situated right next to my university this year, LSE, Lincoln’s Inn Fields was a firm favourite for my friends and me when we needed to relax. There’s a cheap coffee place offering student discount, and on hot days people spilled from their offices into the park, filling it with warmth and bustling contentment in the sun.
I’ll end where I began: staring out across Waterloo Bridge as a girl, this was the place where I felt most in awe of the city. I knew I wanted to be here. I once wrote about which bridges in London have the best views, and Waterloo wins by far.