I am continuing the 'London lovers' series where I ask other Belgians, who also have a special connection with London, to list their top five places in the city. In #3 I present you the favourite spots of one of my best friends, Laura (24), who is studying in London at the moment (yes, I'm jealous, haha!).
I am Laura Rosseel and I am currently studying at London School of Economics and Political Science. I am following a one-year law Masters, deepening my knowledge of international corporate law. I have been absolutely in love with London since I came here first, about 10 years ago now I guess. The city is so vibrant, open and nothing’s impossible or unimaginable. The countless temptations of the city do keep me from my studying, but well, I’ve got some time ahead to rectify that... I am a coffee lover (indeed, I’m in the right place, new original coffee shops seem to be mushrooming everywhere in London), I like strolling around and taking in the atmosphere of new places, and I love love love the Thames (my absolute favourite route for running or walks). Every day seems like an adventure here, because there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see something new or discover a new place (also one of the reasons why I adore London). It was hard to limit my top places to 5, but especially for LIYO-founder Daphne, a dear friend of mine, I’ve selected the ones I think are the nicest and least obvious to recommend to visitors (so go see the Big Ben, go to all the amazing markets, walk around in Soho and Covent Garden, but I want to add some options for a less stereotypical visit).
Fleet River Cafe
This cafe has become one of my favourite places around school. It’s a lovely independent coffee shop, serving great coffee (surprise), mouth-watering cakes (try the carrot cake!) and have a daily selection of amazing homemade quiches and salads for lunch. I walked past it in my first week and since then I can proudly call myself a regular. It’s a great alternative for a short break from the library or when I want a slightly better coffee than LSE offers. If you walk in at first it seems quite small, but if you continue down the stairs they lead to two more areas with more seating space (small tables with random funny chairs, a long cosy common table, some very comfy sofa’s – something for everyone’s taste). Staff is very friendly, and did I say the cakes are incredible? Absolute must-go if you’re in the neighbourhood of Holborn (or study at LSE).
www.fleetriverbakery.com / 71 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3JF
Leighton House Museum
This 19th century private estate of artist and intellectual Lord Leighton is not like anything I’ve ever seen before. A professor of mine recommended it as being the most beautiful place he’d been to in London. It is an exceptional place, built entirely to the wishes of Leighton and filled up with his artwork and interior pieces he brought from many journeys to Syria, Damascus, Egypt and other places. Because it was custom built to suit his needs and wishes, including a first floor room with an enormous window to let in enough natural light to work on paintings, it is hard to compare it to any other building in London. Information sheets throughout the house tell you a little bit more about Lord Leighton’s academic life, his personal life (although he was a very private and introvert person), his artwork and his journeys (quite impressive for that time). It is the very combination of so many types of art and interior decoration that I found fascinating, the fact that this house represents the slightly eccentric taste of this (very fascinating) man. The house is located in the west (near Kensington) and often accommodates special exhibitions as well.
www.leightonhouse.co.uk / 12 Holland Park Road, London W14 8LZ
This was the first stand up-comedy show I attended in London (and the second in my life, so I can't say I'm a comedy expert) but I've had an absolute blast. Mondays at Camden Head are coloured by four buzzing British blokes improvising till you cry with laughter (I literally had to wipe away some tears). And most surprisingly, you don't have to sell an organ to be able to afford one of their shows (cause let's face it, entertainment in London can be ridiculously expensive). After the show you can contribute whatever you feel you can miss (after deducting the price of your last pint in the pub).
Tip: get there between 7 and 7.30 PM to ensure you get in. The show starts at 8, but it's quite popular and places fill up quickly. Comedy at Camden Head entertains you 7 nights a week, so far I can only vouch for Monday Impro night, but I will be checking out some other nights!
www.angelcomedy.co.uk / 2 Camden Passage (off Essex Road), London N1 8DY
Chelsea, Albert Bridge and Battersea Park
As my favourite area I would definitely pick Chelsea. I live in Pimlico, right next to Chelsea, and discovered this lovely neighbourhood just by strolling around. It houses the Saatchi Gallery, which has some interesting and out-of-the-box type exhibitions, there’s a little farmers market every week, but other than that there isn't anything in particular you have to visit in Chelsea. It does not have many landmarks or anything, it’s just an incredibly nice neighbourhood to walk around. There are lots of independent shops and bars, particularly many interior stores. The entire area is well-kept and is defined by the cute little white or coloured houses that make West London so loveable.
When you cross the Thames you get into Battersea Park, a lovely place for a sunny day, and my absolute favourite running spot. It’s less crowded with tourists and more with locals (as is Chelsea), one of the reasons why I prefer it to some of the more central London parks. The icing on the Chelsea cake is Albert Bridge (leading to Battersea Park): it’s elegant, romantic, and it even has a lovely pier to walk on.
The roof of Temple tube station
A hidden gem of Central London I would call it. When you get to Temple station, and you walk to your left when leaving the station, there are some stairs leading you to the roof of the tube station. There are a few benches directed towards the water and you have a view on the London eye, Big Ben etc. As it is easy to walk past, it’s always very calm up there. Ideal for a lunch-break in the sun, or just to catch your breath. Recommendation: sunset view (it closes in the evening though, so this is more a winter sunset place)...
I hope these recommendations will allow you to discover some new places in London and enjoy some of the experiences I’ve had in my brilliant year in this city.