Everywhere I go, I’m thinking of New York — after all, it’s the greatest city in the world.
Whenever I travel to a city that’s new to me, I compare each neighborhood I stroll through to another in New York. These comparisons aren’t qualitative — if I were constantly grumbling that New York’s subway system is better, I’d never leave my block. But this habit helps me contextualize my world within the greater world.
If a neighborhood I visit has similarities to familiar NYC blocks, I can better plan my trip. For example, I’m rarely on Manhattan’s Upper East Side or in Midtown’s famed Times Square, but I know the ins and outs of every niche downtown sub-neighborhood. So, when traveling, I know to avoid the tourist traps — maybe take a quick peek and get out of there — and aim to visit younger, artist-filled neighborhoods that remind me of Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn.
The latest city to get my treatment was London — one of the most thrilling, cosmopolitan cities in the world. The diversity of neighborhoods, people, and experiences is really only rivaled by New York itself.
I’ve been visiting London since I was a kid, but on recent trips — sans family — let me prioritize my own interests. While I’m still a long way from being an expert on the city, I’ve learned my way around and can confidently make recommendations for visiting friends based on what they like to do, see, and eat.
Once you’ve seen Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Parliament … then what? London has so much culture to offer. Here are some spots that line up perfectly with any New York tastes:
If you miss the Old Gansevoort Market … Try Borough Market
New York is in constant flux, which is its charm, but sometimes good things vanish too soon. If you remember the old Gansevoort Market in the meatpacking district — there’s like a Warby Parker there now or something — you’ll remember it as the more eclectic alternative to Chelsea Market. Full of fine food and unpretentious vibes, London’s Borough Market is a wonder of irresistible food stalls that will call out to any foodie.
If you love Sundays in the West Village … Explore Notting Hill
Like the Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant movie of the same name, Notting Hill is a must-see. Although this quaintly colorful neighborhood is a popular destination, that doesn’t diminish the experience. Amble along its pavements to ooh and ahh at the gracious buildings, or hit the Portobello Market on a Saturday where bustling crowds shop and haggle in world-class vintage, fashion, and antique markets.
If you love Broadway shows … Head to the West End
London’s first-rate theatres are a must for lovers of all things drama. The West End district is just as busy as Times Square and Broadway but much more eclectic. Take in the splendor of a show, then explore the neighborhood and its surrounding attractions — like the exciting alleys of Convent Garden, or head down to Soho for unique shops and delectable eateries.
If your favorite museum is the New Museum … Go to 180 Strand
If you like contemporary art that’s smack in the middle of fast-paced, creative neighborhoods, visit 180 Strand. The gallery space is home to the freshest art shows. Check their calendar to preview their exhibitions, then head on over to Somerset House which is only a quick walk for more art and a most stunning public courtyard.
If your favorite museum is the Guggenheim … Go to the British Museum
Say you’re as much a fan of iconic architecture as art exhibitions themselves, time to marvel in the glory of the British Museum. As you enter, you’ll be greeted by two giant spiral staircases and skylights expansive enough to rival Frank Lloyd Wright’s spectacular Guggenheim building … but not quite.
If you’re usually found on the Lower East Side … Head to Shoreditch
Manhattan’s Lower East Side is a young, thrilling neighborhood. Shoreditch feels refreshingly similar. Full of trendy young people flaunting tiny tattoos and buildings plastered with vibrant murals, simply wandering around people-watching and taking in the scenery could fill your whole trip. Highlights include Brick Lane — a street packed with history and vintage markets — and then there’s Boxpark, a trendy shopping, and food mall.
If your favorite night out was at Bossanova in Brooklyn… Go to The Village Underground in Shoreditch
It’s no secret that NYC’s best places these days are in Brooklyn. If you miss summer nights at Bossanova or frequent the Brooklyn Mirage, or anywhere else with giant Instagramable disco balls, The Village Underground is a must-visit for one premium night. This hip club will guarantee a fun night of hip hop, blues, fine music, flashing lights, and actual DANCING.
Looking for movie nights like the Metrograph? … Try Electric Cinema
My preferred way to spend a chill night is in Notting Hill’s Electric Cinema. One of London’s oldest working theatres, it was home to the first Black-owned cinema in Britain. Any film lover will appreciate its vintage charm, the Edwardian façade, generous velvet chairs, blankets, and, of course, an exceptional mix of contemporary and classic film screenings.