London is my favorite city by far. I loved it when I lived there for a little bit many many years ago, and I've only loved it more and more each time I go back. I must admit... I've been so many times, but not frequently enough that I've been a bit of a creature of habit, always just going back to places I love.
I think it's hard to fall in love with London if you just go for a few days, and you don't know where to go. London is a much better city for locals than it is for visitors. Take your time with London. Explore all the different districts. And hopefully, you'll grow to love London as much as I do.
I'm just going to apologize in advance. I will probably overuse the word "love" on this post. But if there's a post that is deserving of it - it's this one. I LOVE Covent Garden. Each time I go to London, no matter how long of a trip, I try to spend one day in Covent Garden (from breakfast until late night). Covent Garden is basically central London, so if you're staying at a big chain hotel, it's not that hard to organize a day there. It's also super easy to get to by tube, by bus, and by walking.
(1) London has a fairly large Indian population, and with that, some of the most amazing Indian food. I was introduced to Dishoom from a former coworker, who happened to be working in London for a few months during one of my visits. He knew he wanted to take me to this place, because his relatives in India had heard about this place and told him he had to go! Yes, it's that good. Dishoom Covent Garden isn't the most well-known one (the Kings Cross one is the most elaborate one), but the line here is significantly shorter, the menu (both food and drinks) has my favorite things, and this one now takes reservations. Besides... the moment I take a sip of the cocktail... I really can't care less what the decor looks like. You MUST MUST MUST get the house black daal. My love for it is as close as to having a drug addiction as I've ever had. Everything else is also incredible. Just order what you like - grilled paneer, marsala prawns, lamb biryani - and sit back and enjoy. And their cocktails... dangerously delicious! You can have one... or you can have 3.
(2) & (3) I love shopping at Covent Garden... both for myself as well as for souvenirs. They have everything there... you just need to weave in and out of all the little streets. Rococo has been making British chocolate for over thirty-five years (https://www.rococochocolates.com/). It is delicious! They also let you taste-test most of their chocolate flavors. Cath Kidston is just a fun store to shop in. Do you need a small bag to put in your medium bag to put in your handbag? Probably not... but you will doubt that when you're inside Cath. Cath Kidston (https://www.cathkidston.com/en-gb/) is the definition of modern vintage patterns and it has developed into a globally loved quintessentially British lifestyle brand. I'm not sure anyone want a whole house full of Cath Kidston patterns... but in small doses, it brings such joy to the young, middle-aged, and old alike!
(4) & (5) I find that I drink a lot more coffee whenever I'm in Europe (and trust me... I drink plenty in the States). I also switch up my orders whenever I'm in Europe. I drink much more cappuccinos and flat whites. I think part of it is because their coffee shops are so incredibly beautiful! Monmouth Coffee and Jacob the Angel are two great, local, small coffee stops in the heart of Covent Garden. Make sure to check their operations time - this isn't Starbucks (they don't operate at all hours).
(6) & (7) Before I sat down to write this post... I had no idea what these markets were called. I just referred to them as the "Covent Garden Markets." Pretty sure I'm not the only one either... because even though it's not the right name, if you ask someone about the market at Covent Garden... this is where they'll direct you. I've now come to known these markets as the Apple Market, the Jubilee Market, and the East Colonnade Market. There are all sorts of shops (including high-end cosmetics, jewelry, tea) and stalls (with handmade local arts, jewelry, clothing, and everything in between). If you're looking for a snack, make sure you stop by Laduree for a macaron.
(8) & (9) I love having dinner at Covent Garden... because there are so many darn good options! Two of my favorites (I have yet to go to London and not eat at these places) are Le Garrick and Barrafina. I discovered these through two of my British friends. Le Garrick is good, unassuming traditional French food. You eat downstairs in what feels like an underground cave, surrounded by empty wine bottles and candles. It's probably a fire hazard... but you won't care the moment the Fondue de “Vacherin” pour deux (it's basically just a box of melted cheese) arrives at the table. The foie gras, the mussels, the duck... take me there now! Make sure you make reservations!
There are four Barrafinas in London; the original site is on Soho’s Dean Street, there are two in Covent Garden, Adelaide Street and Drury Lane, and a fourth in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross. Each restaurant has an open kitchen, a beautiful marble-topped bar where guests can sit and watch the chefs at work - my favorite is the one on Adelaide Street. The menus comprise authentic regional dishes from around Spain and there is also a daily changing specials menu unique to each restaurant. Order 3 dishes per person... do you need that much food... probably not. Would you want that much food... yes, 100% yes. Make sure you see what the daily specials are on the tiny chalk board (they'll hand this to you). Barrafina didn't used to take reservations (COVID might have changed things)... so go early, and if you have to wait, just stand on the side and starting drinking and snacking on olives!!!
(10) & (11) Will you be perfectly content after a day of shopping and dinner at Le Garrick / Barrafina... absolutely. Can it be further improved upon? Oh yes, my friend. Mr. Fogg's Gin Parlour and American Bar (at the Savoy Hotel) are two of my favorite bars.
Mr. Fogg's Gin Parlour is located upstairs, is extremely small, and you'll probably need a reservation to get into. You sit in what feels like an old-school English parlour (some drinks are even served from a teapot). It has over 200 gins, but you definitely don't have to go there for gin cocktails because all their cocktails are so, so good (trust me, I am not a gin drinker and this is one of my favorite bars in the world). Everything on the menu is incredibly named - The Gentlemen Thief, The Immortal, The Lover. There are other sister bars - so if you can't make it to this one, try to squeeze one of the other ones in.
American Bar was voted the #1 bar in the world. It is amazing. Located inside the Savoy hotel, it's not your typical sad hotel bar. Most of the patrons are NOT even guests at the hotel. The service is impeccable, and there's someone playing the piano at the center. Pending on when you go, the atmosphere ranges from loud and lively, to serene and classy. I've seen both, and I love both. The cocktail menu feels like you're eating at a 3 Michelin Star restaurant, and there's a story behind each cocktail. Talk to your server, they'll be able to recommend something that's perfect for you!