Desiree’s London Wellness Travel Guide
After six weeks of near constant travel, I feel like I’ve just come in for a landing (literally).
I love travelling; in all honesty, from the age of seventeen it’s been such a constant in my life that without it, I don’t feel like me. When I was writing theEat More Plants, I didn’t accept any travel gigs for 10 months – which is the longest I’ve gone without getting on a plane in my almost six years of private practice. So I looked forward to the four trips I had planned for September and October; however, I missed out on a lot of weekend time with my kids and by my last trip all I wanted to do was stay in my pajamas and cuddle them to bits.
This weekend, I did just that. And went to Costco and caught up on two months’ worth of gardening and checked out Glow in the Garden at Van Dusen. I pretty much just had the most wonderful, grounding weekend with my family.
So naturally, I’m ready to digest my experiences and share my wellness-infused guide to London!
This was my first time visiting London in over a decade. The first time around, I was in university and my best friend and I crashed with her uncle and wandered the streets all day long because we barely had money to take the Tube. We walked, talked and ate a sandwich at Pret a Manger daily. So this trip was a wee bit different in terms of what I could accomplish – although, given the exchange rate, we definitely prioritized having delicious meals over buying anything material.
So where to go, what to see in London? Here are my top picks!
We stayed at The Pilgrm, which was a half a block away from Paddington station, making it crazy convenient if you’re arriving at Heathrow Airport or rail from somewhere else in the UK.
This is a budget boutique hotel that is stripped down but still feels like it has a soul. There is no room service or gym, but it has a great little lounge, and a coffee shop on the ground floor. Rooms are small but well thought out. Great toiletries, 24h pantries on each floor so you can grab a cup of tea. I wasn’t sure if I would like the location but it was an easy walk to Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, Notting Hill and even Oxford Street…I would totally stay there again.
I wanted to share another spot I found, Leman Locke. It is a wellness-focused aparthotel and they actually have on site yoga classes, a good gym and a 5k running club – all free to guests. I checked out the facility and it is super high design and artsy. It’s in trendy Shoreditch so it’s close to The City but further afield from the west side of town.
You know me, I’m a Lagree fanatic…and they actually have Lagree Fitness in London. I didn’t actually get to go because the locations didn’t work for me. If it’s your first class, it’s not too pricey…otherwise, it’s quite the treat.
If you want to stay fit on a budget, there is no better way than to pound the pavement. We probably clocked 10-15km a day just walking around but you could also lace up and go for a run! The banks of the Thames had tons of runners out for a lunchtime jog. There are so many parks in London, it’s easy to find a scenic route. Check out these great running routes via Refinery29.
There is so much good plant food in London…and not all of it crazy expensive. I’m just going to put a few of my picks here otherwise this blog post will be ten pages long!!
Essence Cuisine is a totally plant-based café in Shoreditch by Chef Matthew Kenney. I’m a total MK fan girl, so I had to go. It’s open for breakfast and when we went, we were the only folks in the place. The food came out and the portions were a bit small (but so were the prices) but so damn flavourful I could have cried. If you’re hungry, ask the server how much to order. If you’re a plant food geek, this one is not to be missed.
Borough Market is a wonderful open air fresh market/food hall that’s been in operation since 1014. No, that was not a typo. There is so much to eat and see. It’s also great if you have eaters of different stripes because the carnivore can get something they want…and the plant person can be extremely happy too. If the weather is nice, this is the perfect place to buy picnic supplies and head to the park at City Hall, which isn’t far away.
We went to Vanilla Black for a three course vegan (or vegetarian) tasting menu in celebration of my birthday. The restaurant is very warm and cozy and the food was absolutely delicious. If you want to splash out on a special meal, I highly recommend.
I braved the line at Dishoom after no fewer than five people recommended I try it. Inspired by the Irani cafes of Bombay, this place delivers…which is saying a lot coming from a Vancouver girl who knows her bhel puri from her chaat. We went to the St Martin’s Lane location.
If you’re a fan of Deliciously Ella, check out her jewel box of a café, The MaE Deli. Everything is gluten free and dairy free and really yummy. Super cute inside too.
Our very first meal in London was at Farmacy in Notting Hill. A gorgeous, plant-filled room with a varied menu (all plant based). Try the burger if you’re hungry. It was delicious! Full cocktail bar and a selection of wellness tonics (although I didn’t try one as they were oddly expensive).
When you tell a healthy Japan-o-phile that there is a Japanese inspired juice bar, she’s gonna go. Jusu Brothers is super cute. We had breakfast there and the pancakes were lavished with so much almond butter I don’t know how they made a profit on the meal. Worth trying!
Other Good Stuff
Art is an treasured part of my wellness practice. Not making it, mind you…I’m rubbish…but I love seeing art and spending time in museums. It helps free my mind and open my consciousness to other ways of thinking. It shifts me from a state of doing to a state of being. So all the free museums in London are a remarkable way to spend your time. My favourite is the Tate Modern, because I’m more interested in modern art than traditional, historical art. It’s a super cool space and there is even a free viewing deck so you don’t have to spend a bunch of money (because yikes, it’s expensive!) on the London Eye.
Okay, I know how weird this is gonna sound but guys, it’s legit awesome. If you’ve got some time and want a respite from the craziness of the city, check out Sound Sebastien Sound Baths. Imagine an hour of yoga shivasana, complete with hypnotic and enveloping sound vibrations from crystal singing bowls. There is nothing to do, the room is dark, you just have to relax and listen. Sooooo good. I visited at Good Vibes studio near Soho, which also seems like a great place to go for a yoga class!
Aaand…if the rain is getting to you, you can go for an infrared sauna at Glow Bar. They also have a cute café and all the fancy adaptogenic wellness-y stuff.
Whew! Okay, so that’s all the goodness I’ve got room for here. However, I’m now officially obsessed with Mapstr App. It’s a free app that lets you map all your recommendations in a few seconds and it was so easy to use while I travelled. If you download it, connect with me (@desireerd) for all of my recommendations, including my emerging Vancouver list! I have way more London recommendations that I could see in five days. They are all there.