London may have its days of being too big, too cold and too wet, but here our readers share their favourite things about the city they call home. From spots in London's best parks and hidden gardens, to seats in the capital's best restaurants and features of our city's top museums, as well as some of the more unusual things to do around town - here's a very personal picture of what makes London the greatest city on Earth.
Izzy Kawecka, 34, video publisher
One of my favourite places is The Victor Wynd Museum of Curiosities aka The Little Shop of Horrors in London Fields. It’s undoubtedly one of the weirdest places in the capital. The eerie collection of objects – from a stuffed flying dog to an authentic voodoo doll – takes you on a surreal journey back to Victorian London. And everything is for sale! So if you fancy making your house a little macabre or decorating your bathroom with a celebrity poo in a jar, look no further.
Discover other unusual and quirky things to do in London
Gemma Harris, 32, web developer
One of my favourite places Gibbon’s Rent – a little lane amid the hustle and bustle of London Bridge, and a space reserved for those seeking a quiet spot to enjoy their lunch. It’s lined with flowers, which you’re encouraged to water as you pass. Didn’t bring a book? No problem, there’s a library hidden in the corner. Just, please, keep it to yourself.
Explore further with our full London Bridge area guide
Yuan Zhang, 25, management consultant
The absolute stand-out date location in London has to be Wilton’s Music Hall, near Shadwell. It’s one of the last surviving music halls of nineteenth-century London and manages to blend the moods of a WWII French Resistance hideout, a Prohibition-era speakeasy and a cheap student hangout. What more do you want?
Read more details about Wilton's Music Hall and see pictures of it as it fully reopens after a four-year revamp
Daniel Kraus, 30, film and TV professional
Parkland Walk is a disused railway line that begins in Finsbury Park and runs all the way to Alexandra Palace, through Crouch End and Highgate. Truly beautiful, it lets you get away from the city, and find a few moments of peace.
Sir Ian McKellen, 76, actor
I love travelling west on the Thames Clipper which goes from the end of my street in Limehouse into town. The boat travels slowly enough for you to appreciate what you’re passing and London looms up either side. You can sit outside if the sun’s shining. You can get a drink. You feel as if you’re in Venice or Amsterdam. There are sailors working there, throwing ropes around capstans! It’s one of the hidden joys of London.
Joe Presley, 26, actor/waiter
London’s music scene has drawn me here since I was a teenager with a cheap guitar and a suspect haircut. I’ve enjoyed so much of it – from guerrilla gigs by The Libertines to the Amersham Arms in New Cross where the likes of Blur and Bloc Party cut their teeth. When I first moved here, a spot I was playing at an open mic night turned into a 12-strong-band version of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, with other guitarists, a horn section and a Rastafarian on bongos piling on to the stage. I knew then that I wouldn’t be leaving this city any time soon.
Find more great music in London and nightlife spots
Stephen Portlock, 47, writer
I am registered blind with little sight beyond light and dark. In spite of that, it’s hard not to be exhilarated when walking across Hungerford Bridge to the Southbank Centre. I still have vivid recollections, from when I could see well, of a magnificent view over the Thames and the architecture of the Royal Festival Hall. Today, however, I feel exhilarated by the rumble of the passing trains, by the weather over the river – be it rainy or sunny – and by leaning over the railing towards the water.
Milli Richards, 31, Wood Street Walls art collective
Visit God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow and your mouth will drop. It’s not just a warehouse full of beautiful bright lights and film props (though I can, and do, spend hours simply gazing). It’s also helped totally transform Ravenswood Industrial Estate, which now hosts a brewery, gin palace and a bakery in neighbouring units – you can even grab a beer and hotdog under the neon lights. It’s an institution – it makes Walthamstow what it is.
Melanie Luff, 23, online journalist
I live pretty close to Brick Lane and I’m absolutely obsessed with the bagels from the 24-hour bagel shop. Any time of day, any state of drunkenness or sobriety, they are always there for you – and they’re bloody delicious.
Read our full Shoreditch area guide for more things to do
Jamie Oliver, 40, chef and entrepreneur
I’ve always loved Borough Market. And although these days I don’t get down there for a good root about as much as I’d like to, I find every visit a complete joy. I’ve loved seeing it change over the years, but there are still loads of the old faces, especially among the greengrocers, and I think that’s what keeps the heart of a place beating. Always worth a visit.
Find more of the best food markets in London
Ellie Holland, 23, studio runner and blogger
London is loyal to its alternative entertainment, and I’ve fallen in love with the burlesque scene. From classic 1920s-inspired performances with shimmying and nipple tassels at Proud Cabaret City to the weird, wonderful boylesque and drag queen acts at the Wam Bam Club I thoroughly enjoy it all. Cellar Door in Covent Garden is now one of my favourite venues: you can watch burlesque in a club that used to be a public toilet that Oscar Wilde is rumoured to have ‘frequented’.
Discover more about London nightlife here
Sarah Richards, 39+, executive assistant, maker and blogger
I feel passionate about London markets and what they bring to an area: community and identity. Unfortunately, many of them are under threat. The fabric shops on Goldhawk Road will be closing very soon, along with Shepherd’s Bush Market, due to the redevelopment of the area. Without them London would be soulless.
Mary Berry, 80, food writer and baker
I’ve had two book launches at Claridge’s, and I just love that hotel. It has so much style and tradition, and it’s so beautiful! The people who work there are so welcoming and so much fun; my friends always get excited at the idea of going there.
Gjeta Gjyshinca, 22, software developer
I love Richmond Park, especially the view from Pembroke Lodge Gardens; looking through the telescope on King Henry’s Mound, you can see directly to St Paul’s Cathedral – peering into the heart of the city from miles away.
Visit some more of the major parks in London
Anna Wilczek, 29, e-commerce
I know it’s trendy to love Brixton, but there’s nothing I enjoy more then spending my day meandering around it. My ideal Sunday would start with breakfast and a bloody mary at SW9 Bar followed by book-browsing and dog-petting at secondhand bookshop Bookmongers, then an early film screening at the Ritzy and, to finish, a walk in Brockwell Park. Bliss.
Dara O Briain, 43, comedian and presenter
I adore living in London. There’s just something about it being one of the great cities, of which there are four in my estimation – Paris, Tokyo, New York and London. It’s gutting to hear people say, “I just can’t be here because I’m drained of energy.” But I’m not going to join this parade of people leaving. I adore it for the sheer ludicrous energy of the place, and the variety of stuff to do. The Emirates stadium I love. I have a season ticket, and you’re allowed to put your name on the chair. So mine just has “Dara O Briain… If not on tour”. Tragically I’ve been on tour so much I’ve not been back for two months.
Eimear Doherty, 25, MBA student recruiter
I love being part of the audience at the Union Chapel. It’s a beautiful building, with a cute bar upstairs where you can enjoy a pre-show drink and delicious food. My recommendation, as winter creeps in, is to visit for one of the Winter Warmers film screenings, where you can sip a hot chocolate while watching a movie by candlelight. But remember: chapel seats are not assigned, so get there early to reserve yours with a coat or scarf.
James Murphy, 45, musician and DJ
London’s one of the best cities in the world for coffee at the moment. I love Giddy Up and Allpress in east London, and Flat White in Soho. There’s Workshop on Clerkenwell Road and Monmouth in Covent Garden. I also really like Present, a men’s clothes shop in Shoreditch that serves coffee in the front. It was set up by Gwilym Davies who was a Barista World Champion – so he’s on it. I’m looking for quality. Quality is for ever.
Here's our pick of the best coffee shops in London
Caroline Gannon, 49, world music agent
I love St Paul’s Cathedral. Obvious? Maybe. But I had the privilege of lodging in the Deanery for seven years in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I shook hands with Prince Charles in the hallway, rescued a cat from the Stonemason’s Yard and served lunch to the king of a minor African state. It was the first place I lived in London, and I couldn’t have asked for a better start!
See more top London attractions to visit
Anne Ong, 28, learning & development
Somerset House always makes me think how lucky I am to call London home. During the Summer Series, when amazing artists take to the stage on balmy nights in front of that incredible backdrop, you can’t help but get goosebumps.
Visit Somerset House as part of this year's London Design Festival
Lily Middleton, 24, marketing and PR
I love London’s theatre pubs, where I’ve caught musicals that would put West End casts to shame, heartfelt dramas that have had me sobbing and even a political farce that was actually funny. A recent visit to the Drayton Arms left me speechless – there’s just something about being transported to another world from inside a London boozer.
Read the full guide to the best pubs and bars and London
Farez Rahman, 44, programmer
I’m into the subculture of rock climbers who hang out at The Castle Climbing Centre near Manor House. It’s a place where you can make lifelong friends with people who travel the world looking for adventure then come back to share it over coffee and bouldering sessions on a Sunday afternoon.
Stay active with the best gyms in London
Rosie Fickling, 29, children’s book editor and yoga teacher
I love the Thames at 5am. No one else is about, it’s just me on my bike, and the sky is that gorgeous sunrise pink. It’s almost quiet. It’s always breathtaking. If I could just be holding an expertly made flat white at the same time (you know the kind, with the pretty flower swirl and the creamy milk), it would be perfect. But it’s only 5am.
Read the highlights of this year's Totally Thames festival
Adam Buxton, 46, comedian and actor
I really love St James’s Park. I was at school very nearby and on summer evenings me and a few pals would buy booze and sit on a hill there and get pissed up like posh little tramps. I had a fondness for Malibu because it made me feel as though we were on holiday. After we left school I would still go back there whenever things got me down. I’d wander about listening to sad music and feel like I was in a film. Not a great film admittedly. If I cycle past St James’s Park now I still feel a little melancholy, and fancy I can detect a faint whiff of coconut.
Wander around the best and biggest parks in London
Sarah Taylor, 33, account director
Netil Market! It’s a little safe haven between the madness of Broadway Market and the hotbed of London Fields, but with all the fun, excitement and edge of Hackney’s finest.
Nuno Mendes, 42, chef
I love going to Arnold Circus, in the heart of east London. It has so much history to it. It’s home to the first council estate, which opened in 1896, and so much has continued to develop about the area since. I still find magic in this place, where true and unexpected beauty is just around the corner. East London has changed but I have changed as well – so we’re in alignment.
Take a look through some old East End photography
Amy McCullough, 25, charity officer
My favourite part of London is Deptford High Street. It’s the only place I know that has not one but two pie and mash shops (asking people’s preference is a surefire way of determining if you’re going to get along). There’s also a plethora of halal butchers, a tattoo shop, vintage clothing and market stalls, locals who kick off about plans for a new Asda, a secret nightclub, a theatre, a dance studio, an old man’s pub and stallholders who’ve been selling their plums for over 30 years.
Fancy some more of London's pie and mash shops
Steven Westgate, 21, student
If there’s something that I really love about London, it’s Chinatown. Why? Because its street food is so on point, as are the restaurants (Manchurian Legends is the best). I even do my weekly food shop there, because it’s the only place to get good dumplings to cook at home. My favourite thing about the area is the bubble tea from Chatime. I physically cannot shove enough tapioca pearls into my mouth to satisfy my craving.
Here's our pick of where to eat in Chinatown
Mel Jakel, 27, office worker
My happy place is the Wapping beach. It’s only accessible during low tide, but it always recharges my batteries admiring the amazing view of Canary Wharf. Beautiful.
Zooey Deschanel, 35, actor
There’s something moody about the greyness in London that I love – that happy-sad feeling. It’s a cool place. My family lived in Hampstead when I was eight. I always wished that I’d lived in the past, and when you walk across Hampstead Heath, it has a timeless feeling. It’s beautiful year round.
Matthew Sheehy, 26, cinema team member
St Dunstan in the East. Blink and you’ll miss this hidden gem. What was once an old church, destroyed by the Blitz, has now become a City worker’s hideaway. The roof is completely gone, exposing the inner garden of vivid flowers and lush green vines that creep their way across the blackened walls. Through the massive arch windows you can watch the normal world go by.
Uncover more hidden gardens and green spaces in London
Anonymous, 32, financial services
It is hard not to love the shit out of this city. Especially because I’m part of the world’s most exclusive secret sex society. But shh – I guard this secret with my life!
Check out the 20 sexiest things to do in London
Lexi Brown, 26, media planner
I love The Little Bread Pedlar at Spa Terminus for focaccia, spelt soda and sourdough loaves – way too tempting.
Stewart Lee, comedian
My favourite place in London is Brydges Place off St Martin's Lane, which is the narrowest alley in London. It always stinks and is usually running with streams of human urine. At its thinnest point it is 15 inches wide and it is hard to avoid splashing in all the urine.
I go out of my way in order to walk down Brydges Place whenever I am in central London as it makes me feel like I am in an exciting old city of yore and I always take visiting friends and relatives along it to show them the real London.
First dates, when i was young and single in the ’80s and ’90s, would succeed or fail based on my companion's enthusiasm, or lack of it, for the alley, which I always took them too, and which supposed could be described as a kind of vertical sewer. I saw a hedgehog running along Brydges Place in the early ’90s, amazingly, and it was drinking some of the urine which was still hot.
In the Britpop era I saw Neil Carlill of a band called Delicatessen urinating in Brydges Place and during grunge I saw one of the women from L7 squatting down in a doorway there. I really liked L7 but it would have been inappropriate to ask for an autograph. I imagine The Earl of Rochester probably urinated in Brydges Place too, back in the poetry days.
In about 1989 when I was really broke I found £12 on the floor in Brydges Place. I spent £10 on presents for my mum and my nan and gave the rest to a homeless man.
Last Christmas, when I was the fattest I have ever been, I was going along Brydges Place at night drunk, and it was quite a squeeze to get past all the urinating men without pushing up against their buttocks so I decided to lose weight and now feel a lot healthier.
Brydges Place has been good to me over the years. It's given me money, laughs and health warnings. We've lost the 12 Bar and all the cool record shops round Hanway Street. I hope Brydges Place doesn't get all gentrified and carries on stinking up the area.
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