Here are ten totally English things to do, see, eat and drink when you’re in London… Happy St. George’s Day old chums!
How else could you even dream of beginning a totally English day, other than with a full English breakfast?
I can’t decide between sending you to Smiths of Smithfield or The Breakfast Club, so I’m going to give them both an honourable mention and let you make your own mind up.
What’s important is that you begin your day with a giant plate filled with sausage, eggs, bacon, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, and whatever else the café is offering (hash browns, bubble & squeak and black pudding are always welcome).
Wash it all down with buckets of English breakfast tea.
If you’re in London, you have to go and see Buckingham Palace. And if you’re going to see Buckingham Palace, you have to go to see the changing of the guard. You know them.
They’re the famously sombre looking fellas with the big fluffy black hats who rarely crack a smile (I pulled every funny face I had in my repertoire at them when I first saw them as a child. NOTHING).
They do move about quite a bit during the changing of the guard though, and it’s a fascinating spectacle. This terribly British affair happens at 11:30 every day in the summer, and every second day in the winter.
It’s not somewhere I go to shop. It’s somewhere I go to gawk, and you’ll probably enjoy a good gawk too.
Harrods is just pure opulence, the epitome of British luxury. It has over 330 departments on 7 floors, with almost 30 different cafés and restaurants. It’s just another world.
You will probably see some expensive looking (and sometimes quite garish) cars parked outside, and some expensive looking (and sometimes quite garish) customers inside.
I bought a chocolate coin there once, I think it cost me nearly a fiver. If you need a reality check after your visit, head to Oxford Street – or better yet, Portobello Market.
This might just be my favourite thing that has ever come out of England. A hungry duchess is said to be the brains behind this tasty operation – apparently, she used to have finger sandwiches brought to her at about 4 o’ clock every day because she got a ‘sinking feeling’ between lunch and dinner.
Then she invited people to join her. Then a tradition was (thankfully) born. Feast on scones and clotted cream, little fancy sandwiches with cucumber and smoked salmon, thick wedges of fresh cake, while you all-but drown yourself in cup after cup of English tea.
Honestly, there are so many excellent places for afternoon tea in London that it’s really your own decision to make, but I have had it at the Montcalm and it was excellent; every bit as fancy an occasion as proper afternoon tea should be.
Spending time in Hyde Park when the sun is out is one of life’s – and London’s simple pleasures. Make it that bit more quintessentially English by heading to Serpentine Lake and hiring a row boat.
Boating on a summer’s day is about as English, and as romantic, as it gets. Think Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah in Sliding Doors, or Hugh Grant/Colin Firth and Renee Zelwegger in Bridget Jones (minus the big pants. Or with the big pants. Up to you).
Bonus points if you go to Speaker’s Corner too, to see where people like George Orwell, Karl Marx, and even Lenin used to go to blow off some steam.
If it’s summer time, and you’re in England, you really have to have Pimm’s lemonade. It’s like drinking Bordeaux in Bordeaux, Guinness in Dublin, or… Irn Bru in Scotland.
It’s a refreshing mix of chopped strawberries, oranges, lemons, cucumber and mint leaves, mixed in with a good generous splash of Pimm’s, topped up with lemonade, and served on ice (they say a 1:3 Pimms to Lemonade ratio is ideal).
It’s summer in a glass. It’s English summer in a glass. Find a place that serves it by the jug. This should be easy, because almost every pub in England will be advertising it on chalkboards from the moment the sun starts to appear in spring.
Sit outside in the sun with friends while you drink it. Perfect.
Big Ben is a London must-see, and with it comes the Houses of Parliament – both easily among London’s most iconic landmarks.
But don’t just stand outside taking selfies – why not get fully involved with a visit inside to watch the MPs in their natural habitat?
You can go inside to the public galleries in either the House of Lords or the House of Commons and watch big decisions getting made, and people getting told to ‘Calm down, dear’. It’s great fun.
One piece of advice – arrange this in advance, or be prepared to wait in line for some time. And don’t feed the MPs.
Take A London Black Cab. Because if you're in London, this is one of the most London things you can do.
No, I didn’t mean it like that! I meant with a spin on the London Eye, obvs.
The London Eye might not have the weight of history and tradition behind it that the rest of the English experiences on this list do, but it’s fast becoming as important and iconic as any of the historic buildings, the red buses and pillarboxes, the beefeaters and Burberry – and it gives you the chance to get an incredible view of something that is practically as English as the Queen herself; London’s incredible skyline.
It costs £29.95 (although you can get discounts for booking online), and it’s really worth it – the sort of thing everyone should do at least once. I think sunset is the best time to do it, to see the city begin to light up far below.
Ahhh the roast dinner. There is very little on this earth that will bring you as much comfort and joy as a well-cooked traditional English roast.
Whether it’s with beef, chicken, pork belly or lamb matters not a bit. The point is that it comes with a heap of seasonal vegetables, at least one huge Yorkshire pudding, the appropriate sauce for your meat, and a quite obscene volume of gravy.
Go somewhere like the Jolly Butchers, where the roast is amazing and you’ll have a superb choice of fine English ales to accompany it.
Roasts here range from £9.95 to £14.95, which is what you can expect to pay almost anywhere in London if you want a good roast dinner.
Flights to London
- Dee Murray