Mark’s Recommendations For London

Reecently, I’ve been averaging one request per week of things to do in London. I mostly blame Meta allowing business travel again. I figured I should write these recommendations down for the next time. Now, these are things that I enjoyed in London, and, as LBW keeps reminding me, I am not particularly normal.


The major museums all have astounding collections. The afterthoughts in their exhibitions would be the centerpieces in many museums. That being said, you should listen to the Stuff The British Stole podcast to better understand the colonial context that created the bulk of their collections. These museums are huge, and you should not try to see the entire collection in a single visit. Pick an area that is of interest to you, and spend two hours doing that small part in-depth.

  • British Museum - For the first visit, you should absolutely see the Elgin Marbles (stolen from Greece), and the Rosetta Stone (stolen from Egypt, with help from the French.)

  • Victoria and Albert - There is so much to see here, but for a first visit, do the “United Kingdom, 1750-1900” sequence. This is the British Empire at its height, showing off the fruits of their military, scientific, and industrial might. Every piece is a flex, showing effortlessly, how the British made the biggest and the best. The Persian and Arabic galleries are also great. The V&A Member’s Restaurant is a wonderful space, with good food. Unfortuantely, only members can go.

  • National Gallery - Every few years, I come back. It’s mostly to see the Arnolfini Wedding1.

  • Tate Modern - Each year (season?), the Tate commissions a large, site-specific installation in the main turbine hall. In 2022/2023, it’s Cecilia Vicuña’s Brain Forest Quipu. These installations reward immersion: you will need time to understand the artwork, and just as important, how we visitors interact with it.

Tourist Essentials For Some

  • Tower of London - I saw this when I was 12. I have not yet needed to see it again. The main attraction are where various historical figures spent the last part of their life before being executed (Henry VIII figures highly in this).

  • The London Eye - I remember when it was first built, and it was only supposed to be up for six months. It frightens me that twenty years later, it is still up. I still haven’t ridden it.

  • Shopping - In Soho and environs, there is Liberty, Selfridge’s, and Fortnum and Mason (Tea); in Knightsbridge, there is Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols.

The Odd Museums

Except for Dulwich Picture Gallery, all of these are easily accessible by Tube or Overground. Dulwich is a tube and a bus.

  • Sir John Soane’s Museum - I regularly recommend this museum, and most people report back that it’s a crazy place, and they loved all of it. It’s not too large, so you can see all of it in about an hour. Sir John Soane was a late 18th century / early 19th century architect, most famous for the Bank of England, and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. The musuem is his house, which has been preserved as he left it when he passed away. The home was donated to the British people, because Sir John disowned his son (and, by all accounts, his son also hated him with a terrifying passion.)

  • Museum of the Home - Four hundred years of the English upper-middle class living room. It’s a small museum, both physically, and in scope, but it gives the institution a startling clarity. The permanent collection is 16-odd living rooms, as they would have appeared over the years; the rotating shows are mostly about what “home” means today.

  • Wallace Collection - Once more, the story of the founder is almost more interesting than the museum itself. In this case, a Victorian bastard makes good. It has baroque paintings. It has Persian miniatures. It has suits of armor. It has a good cafe. It’s also in the heart of Fitzrovia..

  • Design Museum - At some point, I’ll finally write up every time the Design Museum made me angry, which is almost every time I’ve been there. Unfortunately, it’s not a “good” angry. It’s more “not a single mannequin in this room of fashion has human proportions” angry. But yet, I still occasionally go back.

  • Dulwich Picture Gallery - You walk in, and you think “this is an art gallery.” You see the exhibitions, and you think “yeah, looks like every other art gallery.” What’s important is this is the gallery they are all copying. Dulwich Picture Gallery was The first purpose-built art museum. It’s a small, amazing collection of old masters, and just a pleasant day out. There are some nice pubs in Dulwich that do a decent Sunday roast as well.

Within the M25

  • Walks - There are so many great walks in London, most even within the Capitol Ring (which is not a great walk, to be honest. You spend too much time in generic London suburbs.) Do not let a light rain deter you. Otherwise, you’ll never get outside.

    • Regent’s Canal - The Regent’s Park - Kings Cross is a great cross-section of London, with shopping and food opportunities at Camden Locks. The other direction (Regent’s to Paddington) is more residential. At that end, Little Venice is charming, although not as many food options as King’s Cross.

    • Thames Path - The stretch from London Bridge to Vauxhall is about three miles and gets you all of the iconic images of London.

    • Hampsted Heath and Hyde Park are the classic parks in London. Hampsted Heath has Kenwood House at the far end; Hyde Park has Kensington Palace, Royal Albert Hall, and the Musuem district.

    • Cemeteries - Highgate has Karl Marx and Douglas Adams; Dabney park has evocative, ivy-covered graves.

    • Richmond has Richmond Park, which has a protected view of St. Paul’s and deer.

  • Stately Homes: Ham House, Syon House, Osterly House are all within 20 minutes walk of a tube station.

  • Stately Homes (Further) Eltham Palace is an amazing example of art deco design. Also, there is a picture of Mah-Jongg, the pet lemur, that can’t be missed. Hampton Court is also a great day out.

Outside the M25

  • Thames Path - I walked the whole 180 miles, so I really like the Thames. But again, a nice morning would be a four mile walk from Henley-on-Thames to Marlow, and then lunch at the Hand and Flower. Hand and Flower is a two star Michelin gastro-pub; dinner is £150, and impossible to get reservations for. During the week, lunch is £50, and you can almost always get a reservation.

  • New River - The New River is neither new (1600) nor a river (it’s a canal), but it’s a nice walk. There are stretches (Islington) that you can get to by tube, and then parts farther out. .

Engineering Nerdery

  • Brooklands Museum - All of the airplanes are stranded there. They were flown in when there was still an airport, and then the airport was closed. The runway no longer exists. But they have a Concorde.

  • Museum of Water and Steam

  • Kempton Park Steam Engine

Three-story tall steam engine
Kempton Park Steam Engine, a working triple-expansion steam engine.


  • Central London - Bloomsbury Hotel or The Hoxton. Avoid the Edition.


  • Dishoom - If you go to London, and you don’t eat at Dishoom, have you really been to London? The main downside is that they don’t take reservations for less than six, and lunch and dinner can have a long line. Dishoom experts show up at 11:00am, have a bit of the surprisingly good breakfast menu, then at 11:30, order the daal off the lunch menu.

  • Hawksmore and Sunday Roast - If you there on a Sunday, make time for a sunday roast. The prime time is usually 1:30 - 3:30pm, but you can go a bit later. I’d suggest The Hawksmoor; my platonic ideal is the Seven Dials location, which is near Leicester Square. For Sunday roast, there is The Spainard’s Inn, which is just off Hampsted Heath. It’s one of the oldest pubs in London. If the weather is nice-ish, you can walk around Hampsted Heath, then get your roast.

  • Ikoye - The most interesting food I had in London was at Ikoyi. However, now that they have at least one Michelin star, the tasting menu is £300; I ate there when it was £50. I’m not sure the ROI is there now, but it’s definitely unique. places.

  1. Dear National Gallery of Art- Would it kill you to have an image that didn’t have JPEG artifacts?