As our capital eases out of slumber, it’s time to start planning what to do in London after lockdown. Parks, schools and offices are slowly reopening, and non-essential shops, cinemas and museums are poised to follow suit. Picnic mania may have hit the capital, but many of us are yearning for our restaurants and pubs, and let’s not even start with how much we’ve missed our hairdressers. So, as London rises and shines into a new socially-distanced dawn, here is how these Londoners will be spending their first day in the post-lockdown capital.
Visit some favourite London haunts
This post-lockdown Londoness needs to get her walking shoes back on, but first things first, I’m heading over for a cuppa and a slice of something naughty at the Swan, nestled inside one of my favourite places: Shakespeare’s Globe. Then it’s Southbank for a Thameside wander before heading over the Golden Jubilee Bridge towards Embankment and into Trafalgar Square. I won’t stop at Gordon’s for a gin and tonic, as tempting as it might be, but I will pop into the National Gallery for the long-awaited Titian exhibition. Walking through a ghostly theatreland, I will say a little Londoness prayer for our playhouses in the hopes that the lights will soon be switched back on. Finally, I will see J Sheekey’s bright red awnings, beckoning with the promise of a stiff Martini and some steamed mussels in wine and chili. I’ve missed you, London. It’s so good to be home.
Scarlett Roitman, Diary of a Londoness
Catch some of the best views in town
Although I’ve been lucky to be able to continue to explore London on foot and by bike during lockdown, something I really miss is looking down on the city from above. The Garden at 120 (Fenchurch Street) is a wonder. Since it opened in February 2019, it’s been a bit of a secret compared to the crowds at the Shard or Sky Garden. I’ve never seen a queue, there’s a lift and it’s free to visit. To cap it all off there’s now a lovely cafe, restaurant and free public toilets – a tour guide’s dream! I can’t wait to sit in the sunshine and watch London get back to its bustling, vibrant self.
Katie Wignall, founder of Look Up London and Blue Badge Guide. Usually sharing London’s history with locals and visitors, during lockdown, Katie has instead been running virtual tours and sharing London’s fun, hidden and surprising history. You can read more about her latest series of virtual tours here.
Sink into the green sofas at the Royal Academy of Arts
I have been escaping to the Royal Academy of Arts for more than half my life, a place I like to think of as my London club. I love going there alone but it’s a social space for me too – somewhere I meet up with friends or visit with my godchildren. My teen boys have grown up going to exhibitions at the Royal Academy. It was a lifeline when we moved into the countryside and I had two small children – I’d sneak into London on the train and indulge in a couple of hours wandering around an exhibition and drinking a coffee in peace in the Friends’ Room.
Even now, the RA is the first place I go when I come into London. I get there as soon as the doors open and write for an hour on one of the velvet green sofas in the Friends’ Room before feasting my eyes (and mind) on the exhibition of the moment. I’ve seen David Hockney and Modigliani, Picasso and Lucian Freud, Reubens and Ai Weiwei. It’s the place I go when I need to lift my spirits, to get a much-needed culture fix and to feel like myself again. Walking through the doors of the RA after lockdown will feel like coming home.
Clare Thomson, Suitcases and Sandcastles. Clare is one of the UK’s top family travel bloggers. If she’s not swimming in turquoise Greek waters or riding in a Vietnamese dragon boat, then you might find her roaming around London’s castles with her kids.
Tuck into coffee, cake and culture at the Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum is always my favourite place to seek solace. So many treasures to discover. Far flung travel being off the cards at the moment, I will head straight to the Cast Courts for a Grand Tour in two rooms. It has glorious copies of some of the finest art and architecture in the world. My wanderlust sated, I will wander to the glittering cave that is the jewellery collection. No visit to the V&A is complete without a mosey round the shop (oh, how I have missed museum shops). Finally, one last big decision: coffee and cake in the world’s first ever museum café on the ground floor; or up to the light and airy members’ room.
Catherine of Catherine’s Cultural Wednesdays. Catherine is a culture vulture par excellence. You will often find her in a museum, a bookshop or a café (or a combination of all three), munching her way through cake, of which she is a connoisseur. You can follow her cultured journeys on her blog.
Find the inner child at the Tate Modern
After all this, I want to head to a place where I have spent countless days for both work and pleasure: Tate Modern. Those concrete walls have welcomed me with dear (and some now sadly departed) friends, close family, first dates, and my ever-increasing brood. From skidding down Carsten Hollers’ Test Sites slides during a Christmas party, to fumbling through Olafur Eliasson’s rainbow fog with my kids laughing hysterically, I have many happy memories of joyful encounters with contemporary art. It’s somewhere familiar yet still able to surprise and delight – the perfect post-lockdown London outing.
Vyki of Museum Mum. Vyki is a museum curator and writes her award-winning blog with hands-on help from her very cultured Museum Kids.
Get a slice of Bombay in London
If I can’t get on a plane, the next best thing is a restaurant, as a dish can have the power to transport your mind around the world. Dishoom has this effect: it’s a slice of old Bombay harking back to Irani cafes of a bygone era. The breakfasts at this restaurant are a household Sunday treat. We like a Parsi omelette with chopped tomatoes, onions, coriander and green chilli served with fire toast or a full on Vegan Bombay – all the greasy spoon favourites accompanied with masala beans. The chilli cheese toast and okra fries are addictive, you’ve been warned. And if you’re a fan of daal, their 24-hour cooked signature dish is one not to miss. Is your mouth salivating yet? Mine is… Luckily there are a number of branches in London and now in Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
Sima of The Curious Pixie. Sima is a travel, culture and foodie junkie. She shares her adventures around the world with and without the mini pixies and is always on the lookout for the extraordinary in London and beyond.
Swan over to the Thames
The Thames is the lifeblood of London, the reason this city exists (Londinium, the original Roman settlement, was started here because of the need for fresh water). I would argue, it’s a tourist attraction all of its own – just think of the beginning sequence of Eastenders. I can’t wait to see these infamous waters again – from a riverside pub garden or atop a lovely hotel bar with views over this ancient waterway. From the swan sanctuary in Shepperton, all the way past the majestic Tower Bridge and beyond the Thames Barrier… I can’t wait to explore these riverbanks again.
Emma from Adventures of a London Kiwi. Emma is a travel, food and lifestyle blogger. She adds a dash of humour to all her expat musings.
Say hello to Her Majesty the Queen
To celebrate the end of London lockdown, I will start at the Houses of Parliament on the bank of the Thames and see how the restoration of Big Ben is coming along. From here, I can visit the statues in Parliament Square, including Churchill, Lincoln, Gandhi and newest recruit, Millicent Fawcett, a women’s suffrage campaigner. I might take a little loop around Westminster Abbey and then head up Whitehall, past the Cenotaph and entrance to Downing Street. Maybe the mounted sentries will be back outside Horse Guards.
At Trafalgar Square, I’ll check in with Nelson on his column who has certainly seen some tumultuous times in London over the years. From here I can pop into St James’s Park to see the pelicans sunbathing on the rocks on the lake next to Duck Island Cottage. Then I’ll stroll along The Mall with the impressive view of Buckingham Palace up ahead (the road surface is red to signify a red carpet.) The Royal Family may not be on the balcony, but I’ll look to see if the Royal Standard’s flying – that’s the sign that the Queen is at home.
Nancy from Map and Family. Nancy has lived in London for many years. She writes about trips with teens and older families on her blog as well as over-50s jaunts and tips for visiting London.
Meet up with an old friend
There’s something about being near to the River Thames that always makes me feel like I’m at home. It is the ribbon that links so much of London’s history and its 21st century vibrancy. I always take my visitors on a boat ride past these famous riverbanks. If I had to choose one section (and that’s hard!) it would be from Blackfriars Bridge to Tower Bridge. I’ll walk past Tate Modern and the bridge across to St Paul’s Cathedral next to Shakespeare’s Globe. I will then head downstream towards the Tower of London and Tower Bridge which lifts the spirits of any Londoner and visitor. To glimpse the golden top of the Monument to the Great Fire on your right, and the gleaming glass of the Shard on the other, is a delight to the senses. I can’t wait to see it all again.
Sue of It’s Your London. No one knows London quite as well as Sue. After 30 years of living here, she is still just as much in love with the capital, and you’ll often find her in a museum, a gallery, at a concert or at the theatre. Sue also organises bespoke tailored tours.
Hang out with ghosts of London past
As Big Ben stands tall amidst the London skyline, it looks down upon an epicentre of excitement, filled with hundreds of flashing lights illuminating landmarks as crowds wonder at these brilliant sights. Although these dazzling flashes of amazement have been turned into sorrowed disappointment as Elizabeth Tower remains covered in spiralling scaffolding, fear not fellow London fans! Westminster’s Parliament Square can still be an incredibly exciting place. Admire the statues of great figures throughout history, like Churchill and Millicent Fawcett or perhaps immerse yourself into the buzzing atmosphere, engaging in debates and philosophical discussion. This iconic sight, the heart of London and visited by fantastic people from all over the world, is certainly the first place I’ll be heading to when London lockdown is lifted.
Oliver Briggs of British Briggsy History Walks. Oliver is London’s youngest tour guide. You can follow him and his capital adventures over on his YouTube Channel.
Walk in Dickens’s footsteps
When I return to London, I will be heading straight to vibrant Covent Garden with its small shops, old pubs and magnificent red brick buildings that I love so much. Belgravia is another favourite area in which to wander with its elegant boutiques. My cultural stop will be at the fantastic Wallace Collection in Marylebone. Later, I will hop onto the tube, grab a copy of the Evening Standard and head over to Borough Market to walk in Dickens’s footsteps.
Nadia Adeline. A Sorbonne and Beaux-Arts graduate, Nadia lives in Paris where she is a greetings card illustrator. She divides her time between Paris and the city where her heart is: London. You can catch her on her Instagram page.
What is the first thing you plan to do in London after lockdown? We’d love to hear from you.
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Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)June 8, 2020 at 2:25 pm
Your wonderful post made me realise how much I have been missing London, Scarlett, and how excited I am to revisit again. I’m intrigued to visit some of the places I hadn’t heard of – like the Garden at 120 – and so very much looking forward to returning to old favourites. Thank you so much for inviting me to contribute. I’m longing for those green velvet sofas again!
ScarlettJune 8, 2020 at 2:58 pm
I, too, am longing to see the Royal Academy. Thank you for sharing your favourite with us, Clare, and see you on one of those sofas in the not too distant future.
Nancy | MapandFamilyJune 5, 2020 at 11:05 am
Lovely post Scarlett, and thank you very much for inviting me to join in. I’m missing many little London routines and am very worried for the businesses and institutions, small and big, that may be permanently affected by these strange times. Looking forward, as you say, to easing back into a new socially-distanced way of enjoying London.
ScarlettJune 5, 2020 at 5:22 pm
It’s such a worry. Let’s hope we both get back to the Old Vic soon, Nancy. Thanks for your wonderful contribution.