London is one of the greatest cities in the world, and the best time to enjoy it is when you’re young, free and full of the joys of spring.
There are many amazing places to stay in London, neighbourhoods to explore, characters to meet, cinematic streets to stumble upon, history to absorb, flavours to feed on, drinks to be drunk and we don’t know if love is all around, but art definitely is.
To help you find your bearings Plum have narrowed down the best places to stay by cardinal points, wherever your compass takes you, you’ll have a blast.
As a general rule of thumb, stay as centrally as possible. The burbs, the sticks, the goonies - whatever you want to call them, they’re the same the world over. For reference, the burbs in London are anything and anywhere beyond Zone 2, and we’re being generous! Do not underestimate the sheer size of London, it is v a s t and whilst every nook and cranny has its charms, everything YOU want to see is within a 6-mile radius of Oxford Circus.
Here's where to stay in London when you're a young adult:
Islington is home to the busy shops of Upper Street, the pubs and bars down Essex Road and the quintessentially London thoroughfare that is Camden Passage. Behind the main drag you’ll find streets of grand Georgian houses offering a sneak peek at how the other half live.
"Keep walking north from Angel until you get to the 100s. From there on you’ll find some of the finest independent shops in London"
Upon arrival, Upper Street seems less than inspiring; you’ll find the usual suspects (Accessorize, The Body Shop, Starbucks) A LOT of estate agents and a sprinkling of not-so-special restaurants. Don’t be put off - keep walking north from Angel until you get to the 100s. From there on you’ll find some of the finest independent shops in London.
Stroll down Camden Passage and have a look at the antiques market (Wednesday - Sunday) for a mish mash of retro clothing, mid-century collectibles, Victorian bric-a-brac and historic European militaria at Hearts & Daggers. Pop into Annie’s for some of the finest vintage fashion in London, famed for her one of kind Art Deco wedding dresses and costume jewellery. Grab a hearty lunch at the Elk in the Woods and carry on the design trail at Modern Times for surprisingly affordable 20th century homeware and decor. Next door you’ll find The African Waistcoat Company where Callum Robertson throws a colourful spin to his traditional Savile Row tailoring with a huge range of hand woven Yoruba fabrics. Before you light your torches in the name of cultural appropriation, appreciate the intricate weaves and expert craftsmanship; they make a dapper addition to any young gentleman’s wardrobe.
"Scattered amongst lovely eateries you’ll find one of our favourite souvenir shops; Lost Property of London breathes new life into salvaged textiles from all over town, including London Underground’s Lost Property and turns them into beautiful eco-luxe handbags."
Scattered amongst lovely (tiny) eateries like Oldroyd and Chinese Laundry you’ll find one of our favourite souvenir shops; Lost Property of London breathes new life into salvaged textiles from all over town, including London Underground’s Lost Property and turns them into beautiful eco-luxe handbags. For more unique London gifts venture over to Search & Rescue, Future and Found or splash out on some British art at the Cross Street Gallery.
Evenings in Islington are slightly more reserved than in neighbouring King’s Cross or De Beauvoir, so if thumping club nights aren’t your scene, you can enjoy casual drinking at The Albion or The Hemingford Arms. Catch the finest in contemporary dance at Saddlers Wells, theatre at the Almeida or laugh yourself silly at The Bill Murray comedy club. Cosy up to some romantic cocktails at The Four Sisters, 69 Colebroke Row or Hoxley & Porter and close the night with a midnight movie at Screen on the Green.
Staying in Islington is perfect for window-shopping, people watching and a (rose tinted) sense of real London life. You’ll find yourself 10 minutes away from the centre of town and near enough to party east without having to wake up to all those beards and concrete tower blocks - unless of course that’s what you’re after, in which case…
Are you a hipster? Be honest.
When you see a hipster, do you enjoy a good gawk and mock?
Either way, Dalston is the place for you!
"Dalston has a character of its own, some truly beautiful homes and it truly comes alive at night."
Although not much to look at in the harsh light of day, it has a character of its own, some truly beautiful homes and truly comes alive at night. The current postcode of choice for London’s city boys, trustafarians and techie hipsters, the vibe is young and fun. If you just rolled your eyes, scroll down to South of the River.
When you meet anyone in Dalston, Shoreditch or London Fields you’ll notice they fall into one of two camps; i) newbies who praise east London on an evangelical level or ii) dreary oldies that claim it’s all over and hark on about its early 90s heyday. Ignore both sides and make the most of what is genuinely worth the hype.
Whilst everyone is at work in the day, explore Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane, take a self-guided tour of the area’s impressive street art, notice the ever changing cityscape and visit some of our favourite shopping spots for memorable gifts to self.
Concept stores are a dime a dozen in east London, but some really do stand out way above the rest. Let us save you the footwork and recommend Thethestore (re-opening June 2017) which has something to intrigue everyone, Triangle, a haven for minimalists, Goodhood celebrating all things Nordic, Japanese and generally cool, LN-CC, quite possibly the most intimidating shop east of Sloane Street and Modern Society which has best of simple design classics, as well as a café to rest your feet.
If this is all getting a touch too pretentious, take a time out and treat your sweet tooth to something adorably and deliciously macabre from Monster Supplies in Hoxton.
Drinking and Dancing
"Rest your soles and get ready to go out, but don’t leave it too late"
This what Dalston does best, so rest your soles and get ready to go out, but don’t leave it too late because (sadly) you’ll find most London bars close around some time between midnight and 2am. Have an early dinner at Brawn, Duke’s or any of the (even numbered) Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road and then take your pick from the many bars in and around the area, there is a place to suit all tastes.
Down some drams at Black Rock, soak up Victorian splendour at The Natural Philosopher, impress your date at The Gibson, catch up with friends at Happiness Forgets, try to get yourself into Nightjar, keep it casual at the Ridley Road Market Bar, pick a night at The Moth Club, sweat it out at the Discount Suit Company, drown your sorrows at High Water and if you like live music with your liquor, head to Servant Jazz Quarters or Kansas Smitty’s.
Late Night London
At the risk of sounding like the aforementioned oldies, the London club scene isn’t what it used to be. It’s becoming increasingly impossible to have an even remotely late night out, so go see the sunrise before they shut every last late licence down! The Superstore is open til 3am, The Nest, Basing House and Visions go til 4am and, old faithful, La Cabina won’t send you home before 5am.
South of the River
"Foodies can eat their way around the world in less than a square mile"
Brixton is one of the best places to get lost in London. You’ll find everything from the exquisite to the bizarre and foodies can eat their way around the world in less than a square mile. The influence of the area’s Afro-Caribbean community gives the place a relaxed, island vibe; yes the UK is an island, but it doesn’t quite feel like it, Greenland is also an island after all. Brixton is a homely neighbourhood, rich in flavour and colour; conveniently only 15 minutes away from Oxford Circus and 20 minutes from chichi shops of Chelsea and the museums of South Kensington.
Once you’ve paid your respects at the David Bowie memorial venture into Brixton Market. Start your days right with coffee at Federation and if you need something more substantial have a proper breakfast at Burnt Toast. The market is full of treasure troves; from pristine second hand furniture at Brixton Retrograde, ethical fashion at The Keep to the hidden Santeria shops selling incense to banish hexes and ritual candles to bring you all which you desire, whatever works!
"Less dive-y than the east, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants with great drinks and bars with great food"
Brixton has great nightlife; more relaxed than the west end, less dive-y than the east, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants with great drinks and bars with great food - our favourite! The Courtesan serves up Chinatown quality dim sum with killer cocktails. Three Eight Four and Seven do perfectly paired tapas and tipples. Change your perceptions of British food at Shrub & Shutter and have a proper Sunday roast at The Crown & Anchor. Dance it all off at Beast of Brixton and Phonox, and if you’re hungry again after, grab some jerk chicken at Refill, they’re open 24/7 – the ultimate rarity in London!
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in London during one our elusive summer heat waves, cool off with a swim in the Brockwell Lido, one of last public outdoor pools in London, it completes Brixton’s beachy vibe. Find your perfect home here.
"Soho has it all; art, theatre, history, shopping, eating, drinking – London’s very own beating heart."
We’ve saved the best for last - Soho!
We can’t say enough great things about Soho. You may not have the quietest nights sleep (you will actually), but you won’t have time to sleep with all of London’s glory at your doorstep.
Soho has it all; art, theatre, history, shopping, eating, drinking – London’s very own beating heart. Wake up to blissfully quiet mornings and have the winding streets all to yourself. Start leisurely and caffeinate at Termini, brunch at Jackson & Rye or go continental at Princi before it starts heaving from around noon onwards.
At lunchtime, when Soho is in full force, you can retreat to The Photographers' Gallery for the largest public photography collection in London. A blend of historical archives and new talent, the gallery is a serene spot in an otherwise chaotic part of town. Another space for respite from the crowds is the iconic Liberty, our favourite department store. Liberty is a showcase of highly coveted things from designer fashion, cult beauty, edgy jewellery, unique homeware, an enchanting florist and, of course, their famed fabrics found in the haberdashery on the third floor. A pleasure to shop in - it’s free of the blinding neon lights, deafening music and apathetic staff other establishments favour, the soft focus gives the building a glow, the quietness is soothing and the staff are just right (said Goldilocks), present and attentive when you need them and invisible otherwise, they posses the sixth sense of retail.
Of course, you too will need some lunch eventually and the choice in Soho can’t be beat. Check out the latest chef in residence at the Sun & 13 Cantons, share a clay pot of noodles at Kiln, savour the best of British produce at 10 Greek Street, go beyond falafel at The Palomar or wrap it up at Le Bab.
"Fashion designers can lose themselves in the historic cloth stores of Berwick Street as DJs dig around the record shops on the other side of the road."
Spend your afternoon browsing Carnaby Street and draping yourself in the finest threads from Machine-A, Other, Reign, Oi Polloi or Dover Street Market, stopping for some tasteful London gifts at We Built this City. Fashion designers can lose themselves in the historic cloth stores of Berwick Street as DJs dig around the record shops on the other side of the road. Round off the afternoon at The Society Club bookshop where you’re likely to be welcomed the lovely Modesty; old, blind, a bit stinky, she is a Soho institution (she is also a bulldog btw.) Shop (and dog) owner, Babette, is mother figure to many of Soho’s lost souls and a hero to the area’s homeless whom she single-handedly looks after with coffee, cake and endless compassion.
You are in London and it would be a great shame to skip afternoon tea, the fancy hotels of Mayfair do it big, but the Dean Street Townhouse does it best. The plush, velvety darkness of their Georgian dining room comes complete with ink bone china and naughty ‘lady garden’ wallpaper. Simply sitting there is joyous enough, the fact that food is scrumptious is just a bonus.
"Soho nights are loud, cosy and boozy."
Soho nights are loud, cosy and boozy. You’re surrounded by all the west end shows, but for the laugh-out-loud wittiest in performing arts see something at the Soho Theatre. Glam it up with dinner at Sketch or try some of London’s finest curries at Dishoom, if the queue there seems endless, head over to the equally wonderful Kricket or Hoppers. Get your Instagram on at the Lights of Soho neon art gallery/bar, exchange sultry glances at Disrepute, a sexy hidden homage to 60s style and decadence or go further back to the 1940s at Cahoots, a surprisingly fun vintage bar good for swing dancing and old fashioned sing-alongs.
For a genuine insight into Soho debauchery blag your way into Gerry’s. Probably the most budget member’s club in the world, it is always full of the famous and the infamous alike. You never know who you’ll meet at Gerry’s, but you’re guaranteed to leave a little worse for wear and with a damn good story.
Wherever you decide to make your nest, it will be more than memorable! Just be sure your roaming is on; London doesn’t have nearly as much free Wi-Fi as you’d hope or expect. Pack your trendiest trainers; your feet will thank you. Don’t wear wellies, even if it’s pouring, you’ll look a fool. Download Uber for when you really just can’t another step. Whatever your budget is, double it. You won’t regret a single penny!
NEXT JOURNAL: UNUSUAL HOMES TO STAY IN LONDON
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