Great Britain is in the midst of a few crises. Brexit has been polarizing the populace, J.K. Rowling has been creating a bit of a mess in the Wizarding World, and Meghan Markle is making all the haters furious by… well, living her best royal life. But despite all the turmoil, London has remained the same bustling and lively tourist destination. As someone who loves British drama (shoutout to the BBC for their quality programming), I decided to visit London the week before studying abroad in the Netherlands. I hopped on a cheap easyJet flight and found myself entranced by the magic of this urban wonderland, where castles meet glass skyscrapers and people from all over the world converge. The moment I arrived, I couldn’t wait to return, and I believe you’ll feel the same if you check out some of my favorite spots.
UC Berkeley students will feel right at home in Camden. It’s funky, lined with street art and is full of cheap knickknacks and quirky people wandering up and down. The market itself has an array of cool jewelry and art stands, so there’s really no way you can get bored. There are some tasty food stalls at the center where you can get everything from Mediterranean to Colombian treats. Lastly, don’t miss the Amy Winehouse statue, where you can pay tribute to the music icon.
House of MinaLima
For all of you Potterheads, the House of MinaLima is a must see. This gallery and store was opened by graphic designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who are the powerhouses behind the art and graphics of the Harry Potter movie universe. Every Daily Prophet, Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes product, letter and art in the background was designed by their team and helped shape the Wizarding World as we know it. They’re still making some amazing art for the “Fantastic Beasts” movies, and luckily for us, their house gives tours for the public to enjoy! The guides have insight into the little quirks of the movies and can give you a deeper insight into the magical world that they had such a big hand in creating.
Soho’s Secret Tea Room
Located right next to the House of MinaLima is Soho’s Secret Tea Room, which is a reasonably priced tea shop where you can stop by for some high tea or some little treats! It’s a cute little pink room with an impressive array of teas to choose from and a super nice staff. As the name suggests, it takes a little while to find, but it’s totally worth it. We’ll keep its location a secret, but to help you out a bit, you may want to find a nice bartender who can tell you where it is!
While we’re on the topic of food, London does a great brunch, and I have two spots that I absolutely loved. Syrup of Soot is located right down the street from the British Museum and will take you back to Victorian times with the old-fashioned wallpaper and old photos on the wall. The staff is super friendly, and the food was just as good. A personal favorite was the ham and cheese sandwich with an egg in a hole on the top! HALF CUP, located near King’s Cross, was another favorite. It has a trendy atmosphere with a knack for Insta-worthy presentation. But the food isn’t just pretty, it’s super tasty and filling as well, so don’t miss out! I’d recommend the Parma Ham pancakes, a savory twist on everyone’s favorite breakfast.
Once again, Potterheads, today is your lucky day! And Muggles, have no fear, this place might be of some interest to you as well. This magical, do-it-yourself bar is the potions class of your dreams. You’re given robes and a wand and led into a room filled with twinkle lights and other wannabe wizards getting tipsy off of honey mead and whatever concoctions they’re stirring up with their wands. It’s about $40, but if you’re into it, the price is totally worth the experience you’ll have. After you make your drinks, you can order some other magical drinks that change color and even light on fire. You’re guaranteed to have more fun than Harry’s date did at the Yule Ball.
This royal park, located next to Kensington Palace, holds a multitude of surprises. The beautiful gardens and small forest of trees are a calming escape from the big city. But humans aren’t the only ones who find some refuge here; birds of all breeds hang out in the ponds and trees, including swans and green parakeets. Keep wandering and you’ll find a beautiful memorial fountain to Princess Diana, as well as many other memorial statues.
Natural History Museum
This spectacular museum is a host to a magnificent collection of fossils, stuffed animals, bones, rocks and information about the natural world. And better yet, it has free admission! In addition to the incredible exhibits, there are some magnificent rooms, such as the impressive Hintze Hall, with the massive “Hope,” the blue whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling. What excited me the most, however, was the escalator in Earth Hall, which brings you up into a giant metallic orb, lit up by red lights. It puts into perspective how small we are in this universe, which is terrifying, but pretty thrilling at the same time.
London has a magnetic pull that’s impossible to escape. Whether it be its diverse and international population, the quaint British shops and restaurants, the tourist traps or its rich history, the city constantly has you wanting more. London has captured my full attention, so although I had to say goodbye, there’s no way it’s forever.