A special guest post by Alex Johnson of World Reviewer.
There is nothing more discouraging for me, as a traveler, than arriving at my destination to find rain, snow, bitter cold or maybe even all three. When the weather outside is frightful and all you have with you are the thin layers that fit in your backpack, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to brave the elements and go exploring. London is notorious for being a cold and wet city but luckily there are plenty of things to do that will keep you warm and dry and still give you the London experience.
One of my favorite things about London is the colorful weekend markets with their great food, clothes and crafts. I thought nothing could ruin a market outing for me until I went to Portobello market on a grey and bitterly cold day that left me so chilled that even a steaming bowl of chorizo and chickpea stew from my favorite vendor couldn’t bring the feeling back into my fingers.
To still get the market experience without the frostbite, seek out one of London’s equally wonderful covered or indoor markets. Spitalfields market is one of the most famous markets in London and is held in a covered square that keeps shoppers and venders out of the weather. Come here if you’re looking to shop for clothing, art or design pieces. People come to Brick Lane to browse the bric-a-brac along the street’s edges, but it is also home to two indoor markets. The Backyard Market and the Sunday Up Market are held in the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane and feature vendors selling an amazing variety of food, unique but very wearable clothing and accessories, and backyard treasures. These were my favorites but other markets to consider include the Greenwich Market and the Brixton Village Night Market.
London’s museums offer a great retreat from less than perfect weather with their impressive buildings and warm galleries. Even if it isn’t pouring rain and sleet, the museums here are worth visiting as they hold some of the world’s best art, rare artifacts, and exhibits in history and science. Did I mention they’re all free? 🙂
Lovers of art will have a hard time choosing where to go among the many spectacular art museums. The National Gallery gives visitors a chance to see the works of Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo, Monet and Van Gogh up close, which is a completely different experience than looking at the print in your living room.
Other museums that shouldn’t be missed are the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern which showcase British art and international modern and contemporary art, respectively. The Victoria and Albert Museum has a something for everyone with 3,000 years worth of artifacts ranging from ceramics, to fashion to metalwork. If science and history is your thing you’ll love the Natural History Museum with its dinosaur skeletons, the British Museum and the Imperial War museum.
It doesn’t get much quainter and cozier than a British pub and when you’re looking for a place to dry off and warm up, there is no better place to go. You’ll be hard pressed to find what people think of as a “traditional British pub” because every pub is different with varying atmospheres, clientele, food and drink. Pubs are plentiful though and there is always at least one nearby.
So what should you order to get your cheeks rosy? You will undoubtedly see a decent selection of wines, liquors and imported beers but there are lots of other options too. Try a pint of bitters, hoppy ale that comes in a variety of strengths and flavours and is served at room temperature. Lager is a good option for those who like lighter, colder brews and if you like dark beers, you might want to order a mild or a stout. If you’re like me and don’t find beer particularly refreshing try a cider or a cider and black, which is cider with black current syrup.
Pubs have expanded their menu of crisps and peanuts to include heart-warming British fare. No pub is the same though, depending on the needs of the surrounding community, the hours during which food is served and the kind of food, being served will vary. Most pubs serve fish and chips (get the mushy peas), meat pies, and sausages with gravy but sometimes you can find such things as curries and stews that are sure to warm you up even in the coldest weather.
Guided tours are not normally the highlight of my trips; in fact, I avoid them if possible, preferring to explore on my own. So, it never ceases to surprise me how often I find myself talking about the guided tour of Parliament and how memorable it was. Not only does a visit to Parliament get you out of the cold for an hour and a half, it provides you with a really interesting look at the country’s government, politics and history.
We found the process of getting in very confusing, but in reality it’s quite simple. You can buy your tickets from the box office type system they have set up across the street and then you enter through the well-marked entrance that takes you through security. As part of the process they print an identification card for you, with a picture that wouldn’t look out of place on a wanted poster which we found very funny.
The tours are offered in a variety of languages and clearly explain the information so even the least savvy politicians like me understand and remain interested. The building itself is beautifully designed and decorated with artwork which will give you lots to look at while you are guided down the length of the building from the Queen’s entrance to the House of Commons.
About the guest writer
Alex Johnson is a contributing editor at World Reviewer. “World Reviewer is all about providing our readers with inspiration for their next holiday through recommendations and interviews with experts and travel enthusiasts alike. To help you get to your dream destination we also compiled a comprehensive list of all the best travel companies and specialists too. In just a little over three years World Reviewer has created the best range of experiential travel on the web from cooking courses in Tuscany to ballooning in Namibia”.
Read other Velvet Escape posts on London: