When I first moved to London, I couldn’t get enough of the sightseeing trail. From the Houses of Parliament to the British Museum, I wanted to see everything. But sightseeing is exhausting, and inevitably I found myself hungry. Not knowing any better, I usually found a touristy restaurant with disappointing food, only to discover that there was a great place nearby that I didn’t know about. To help you avoid my pitfalls, today I bring you A Lady in London’s guide to the best places to eat near London’s top attractions.
Buckingham Palace is one of London’s most beloved landmarks, but can be a bit of a no-man’s-land when it comes to food. Thankfully, it’s right near Belgravia, which has no shortage of restaurants and cafes that are perfect for a light meal or tea and cake. My favorite restaurant near Buckingham Palace is the Thomas Cubitt, a great pub with classic food like fish and chips and bangers and mash. It’s also near Peggy Porschen, which has the best cupcakes in London. If tea and cake are on the agenda, it’s the perfect place to stop.
After my first trip to the British Museum in 2007 I ended up at a crowded Subway on Oxford Street eating an uninspiring sandwich and wanting to cry. Little did I know that just up Rathbone Place was Charlotte Street, one of the best foodie streets in London. Now my favorite place to eat near the British Museum is Lantana, a great Australian cafe on Charlotte Place with excellent food and high quality coffee. If I need a drink afterwards, I love getting a glass of wine at the Charlotte Street Hotel, which has cozy chairs and a stylish ambiance.
South Kensington Museums
The Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Science Museum are three of London’s top attractions, and are all located next to one another in South Kensington. This is one of the few London neighborhoods where many of the good restaurants are in plain view. The pedestrianized area around the South Kensington tube station has some great offerings, my favorite being Le Comptoir Libanais. It’s my go-to for good, reasonably priced food in a fun, colorful atmosphere. The service can be dismal, but it’s still worth a trip. For coffee and cake, I like Le Pain Quotidien next door, and across the way Fernandez & Wells is great for sandwiches and a cheeky glass of wine.
Tower of London
When I’m at the Tower of London, I like to cross Tower Bridge to Bermondsey and explore Bermondsey Street, which has great cafes and restaurants. Jose is one of London’s most famous tapas bars, and is always a favorite for casual Spanish food. The beer garden at the Woolpack pub is perfect for post-sightseeing pints on sunny days, too. If I’m in the mood for something a bit more formal, Restaurant Story is just across Tower Bridge from the Tower of London, and is one of the best places to eat in the area.
Westminster and the London Eye
Over in Westminster, the famous attractions get no shortage of visitors. There are a lot of touristy places to eat around Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, but it’s worth seeking out better options. Just across Westminster Bridge in Waterloo, Scooter Caffe on Lower Marsh is one of the funkiest little places I’ve ever come across in London. It has quirky decor that involves no shortage of vintage scooters, and a great little terrace for sipping Pimm’s on summer afternoons. For more substantial fare, I like walking over to the South Bank Centre and having lunch at the outdoor food market behind the Royal Festival Hall. There’s street food there from all over the world, and there’s always something that appeals.
The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery
The National Gallery and adjacent National Portrait Gallery are right in the heart of central London, and surrounded by Soho and Covent Garden. While there are plenty of places to choose from, I like to head over to Dishoom if I want a fun Bombay cafe-style Indian meal. And if my inner American is feeling homesick, it’s nothing a little Shake Shack can’t cure.
Tate Modern and St. Paul’s Cathedral
The Tate Modern and St Paul’s Cathedral are two of London’s most visited attractions, and their position across the Thames from one another means that they’re close to the city’s most famous food market. Borough Market is a great place to graze after sightseeing, and if my legs are tired, I head to Brindisa, a famous Spanish restaurant on the edge of the market that has great tapas and good wine. If I just want coffee, Monmouth is arguably the most famous coffee shop in London, and it’s right in the heart of the market.
Madame Tussauds is one of the most famous wax museums in the world, and it’s just steps away from Marylebone High Street, one of my favorite places in London for dining and shopping. The street is the best place to find restaurants and cafes after a visit to the museum, and there’s no shortage of offerings. I love going to La Fromagerie, a famous cheese shop and cafe, to indulge my inner cheese lover. A friend recently introduced me to a secret little place on Moxon Street called Le Vieux Comptoir, too. It’s a wine shop with a great basement cafe, and we’ve whiled away the afternoon there indulging in champagne and sharing platters. If I want classic fish and chips, The Golden Hind is one of London’s most famous fish and chip restaurants, and is great for a casual meal after a day of sightseeing.