Two of the greatest cities in the world, London and New York, are often compared to each another in an argument that’s never resolved: which is the better place to be? Here, we make a case for London being the winner, and list 12 of the key selling points – from pop-up stores to themed bars, the Royal family to architecture – that we think might just tip the scale. Read on to find out what we love the most about London.
Whilst New York undeniably ramps up the winter décor earlier in the season than London, what with Thanksgiving, there’s something focused about the themed bars and markets that come to UK around the festive season. Year after year, the city becomes home to a new plethora of hotspots – you just have to look a little further than Winter Wonderland to find the best ones. For now, we’re in favour of the photogenic display and cheese fondue at Dalloway Terrace (which, by the way, is equally as beautiful in the summer months) and Christmas-themed Brixton Saloon, but come May, it’s Coppa Club’s riverside cabanas that we head for to embrace the change in season.
Ironic, maybe, but every coffee-lover knows that the right Australian blend tastes far superior to any other, and London is certainly a city that’s embraced this particular breed of caffeine fix in all its delicious glory. From independently run boutique locations to more established chains like Daisy Green, Granger & Co. and Grind, you’ll find a beautifully crafted flat white on just about every corner of the city.
Nowhere does ‘cosy traditional pub’ quite like England, and whilst those outside of the city might just be a touch more reminiscent of what you might see Cameron Diaz and Jude Law frequenting in The Holiday, there are definitely some great options positioned more centrally as well. Soho House members might know the Dean Street location for its beautifully British interior and roaring fireplaces, but those who aren’t a part of the club needn’t be deterred. Hampstead is home to a particularly good crop, namely The Alice House and The Spaniards Inn, but if you’re positioned farther south, then head to Dulwich or Wimbledon for the most authentic of British settings.
Inner city parks
Bear with us on this one, because we’re not trying to deny New York of the iconic space that is Central Park – it’s undoubtedly impressive – but what we’re saying here is that whilst there’s not something quite as vast as this in London, there’s a higher population of open spaces to escape to and each is as pretty as the next. Hampstead Heath offers a great hiking route without having to leave Zone 3 and St James’ Park is particularly picturesque in the summer. Music-venue-wise, there’s not only Regent’s Park but Finsbury in North London, as well as a hard-to-beat running route through Richmond. If you’re lucky, you might just spot a deer as well….
When it comes to architecture and landscape, both London and New York feature iconic, instantly recognisable buildings that are impressive enough not just to appeal to tourists but to stop locals in their tracks as well. There is, however, something unique about the style of building that can be found in the centre of London, and it’s our humble opinion that it gives the city a subtle lift above its US counterpart. Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral – even Harrods – are all completely individual in their style and aesthetic, and they boast hundreds of years’ worth of heritage that gives the city landscape a certain character that you simply can’t find elsewhere.
Pop-up fashion stores
Only the truly passionate will be able to stay completely up-to-date with London’s ever-changing catalogue of pop-up fashion stores, appearing overnight and setting up momentary residency in various vacant spaces across the capital. Each store offers something slightly different than its mainstay counterpart and is usually designed specifically to showcase a specific collaboration or collection, decorated in a way that’s often simply made for social media. This year alone, the likes of Rixo London, Maje and Reformation have brought something new to the retail landscape.
Not just for Christmas, outdoor markets offer a hub of culture, and added bonus? They’re free to visit – a rare and often welcome find in the centre of any city. Flower enthusiasts flock to Columbia Road in Shoreditch on a Sunday to pick up the freshest blooms in the business, and foodies have the option of Borough or Broadway market, both of which welcome local farmers as well as more established names. Borough is our particular favourite and Saturdays are the best time to visit. Expect a buzzing atmosphere, great street food and plenty of unique gift options that will ensure you’re the favourite come birthdays and Christmas.
All hail the London brunch interior in its ever-evolving splendor. Undoubtedly a phenomenon that’s been sweeping the globe, this is a city that’s leading the trend, not just following it, and we sure are glad to be a part of it. If you’re new to the area, then it’s worth doing a little research on where to go for poached eggs with a side of inspirational interior design – there’s something in just about every district. For rustic, exposed brick walls and worn wooden tables, head to Riding House Café or Village East, but if it’s millennial pink and marble that you’re after, then Grind is the one that you need, namely the Clerkenwell branch, which serves up a mean bottomless menu.
Any football fan will know that a trip to London should unquestionably include at least one stadium visit. With more football clubs in and around the city than in any other place in the world, it’s no wonder the grounds and pitches are of such a high standard. Wembly is the largest, boasting around 90,000 seats, but Emirates and the old Olympic stadium in Stratford (now the home of West Ham F.C.) are also well worth a visit if this is a sport that, like so many, you’re passionate about.
A hard one to pitch, because it’s all down to opinion and preference, but we’re in favour of the art galleries in London over New York’s equivalents. Why? Because you’d be hard pressed to run out of exhibits to visit even if you went to more than one every week. Free entry and an ever-changing schedule makes the Tate Modern on the Southbank a popular choice, but look out for exhibits in unexpected places – the Getty Images Photographers’ Gallery just behind Oxford Circus is small and unassuming, so if you’re passing through, then it’s worth popping in to have a browse of the current display. Discover Culture Trip’s favourite London art galleries here.
Okay, so this one isn’t technically very fair, but the Royal family is always worth a token mention in a comparative UK round-up, isn’t it? Instant brownie points. When it comes to traditional Britain, cast your thoughts to the tourist favourites: the changing of the guard, the Trooping of the Colour, tea towels with pictures of the Queen on them…. You get the gist. Just a glance at Buckingham Palace is enough to remind you of the country’s democratic history, and it’s definitely something to be proud of.
As with most forward-thinking cities, New York included, London’s directory of gyms and fitness studios is never-ending, but what makes it special is its diversity. From outdoor bootcamps to running clubs, low-cost gyms that do exactly what they say on the tin to those that specialise in one particular discipline and charge up to £30 per class, there really is no excuse for Londoners not to work out. We recommend trying a few before you commit, because each has its own individual perks, which shouldn’t be too tricky what with the discount intro passes that most offer and the option of Class Pass – the app that allows you to try a range of studios in one month for a single sweeping fee. Discover our favourite Class Pass classes here.