As a Londoner who quarantined outside of London and who now is living in a weird, quiet version of what the city used to be, I miss London just as much as you do! I miss meeting friends at the pub, trying the latest and greatest restaurants, and exploring new things to do (and sharing them with you on Instagram, of course.)
If you want some London in your life during lockdown, or just until you can make it back over again, here’s a (very) comprehensive list of things to watch, virtual experiences to take part in, books to buy, and drinks to make.
*Some of the links in this article are affiliated, which earns Love and London a commission if you make a purchase after clicking. Thank you for your support.
Virtual London Experiences
Let’s start with virtual experiences that are London-themed.
Virtual London theatre
Many of London’s world-famous and off-West End theatres are providing free show recordings to the public. Each theatre is doing this in different ways, but most are offering the recordings online for a limited time for you to enjoy.
For example, Shakespeare’s Globe has the live recording of Macbeth on its Youtube channel, that you can watch for free, until secondary schools reopen. There’s also an audio description version for those with visual impairments.
The National Theatre is showing free full-length plays every Thursday, available for one week only on their Youtube channel. Past shows included A Streetcar Named Desire and Coriolanus, starring Tom Hiddleston.
Like I mentioned, theatres large and small are sharing show recordings for you to enjoy for free, so check this What’s On Stage article which is updated daily to find something to watch.
PLEASE be sure to make a donation to the theatre or their associated charity when you watch these free pieces of art, as the arts need major support right now, and should be valued more than ever. You usually have to pay for tickets to see these shows so I’m totally going to guilt you into making a donation and not being a freeloader. Got it? Fab.
London virtual tours/ London history lessons
You can still have some London-y experiences virtually. There are quite a few tour companies that are offering virtual tours and experiences, in order to give freelance tour guides some work, and honestly, it’s being done in an effort to survive as the tourism industry has been hit so severely and will be for years to come.
So if you book in for a virtual experience, you get an hour or two of fun and education, while also helping to provide work and revenue to a business that really needs it. If that’s not a win-win, I don’t know what is.
Let’s start with our friends at Devour Tours. They have a ton of free and paid content and experiences to watch, led by knowledgeable tour guides and city experts.
Their free experiences are hosted on their Facebook page, and then go to their website to book experiences like “How to Pair Cheese and Wine like a Parisian”. For London fun, book into “Discover England’s History Through 10 Dishes” hosted by Shabby, head London tour guide. She’s a fantastic storyteller. You also get sent a PDF with recipes for some of the foods talked about, and a discount on the Devour Tours cookbook that I’ll mention again later.
Walks also has some experiences for London and other cities around the world. The London ones are very history and tourist-attraction focused, like a breakdown of the Changing the Guard ceremony, and a tour of the Tower of London. Plus if you book one of their very affordable virtual experiences, you get a $25 Walks voucher, valid for use over the next two years.
Virtual London Pub Quiz
Also, if you like trivia, we hosted two virtual pub quizzes that you can still watch on our Youtube channel. The second one is below, to get a taste of it, but it’s best watched on a TV so you and your quarantine buddies can play along together.
London-y artistic releases
I feel like this is a great time to do things you used to love, but usually never have time to do like painting, or colouring, or drawing, or sleeping…
You can combine your artistic preference with something London-y for extra fun and nostalgia.
London Colouring Book
I love colouring because it’s relaxing, keeps my hands busy so I don’t mindlessly scroll social media, and I barely have to use my brain to do something fun and creative.
Off of that love, and our community’s need for London-y things, I teamed up with London artist Jen Darr from Jen and Jennifer to create the London Colouring Book. The community fully funded it before it was made, so we made sure that people actually wanted it and that it would at least cover our costs to make.
Our goal had been to sell 70 but we pre-sold 120! It’s still available for you to buy now, and it’s digital, so you get it instantly in your inbox. Just print it or use your tablet and stylus to colour it.
Painting and Drawing
I haven’t found any London-specific painting or drawing courses yet, but why not sign up to two free months of Skillshare Premium, do some of their art classes, and then paint or draw a London-y scene?
You’ll make something that you’ll hopefully cherish for a long time, or that you can give to someone as a gift.
Do something with your travel photos
Have you already been to London? I bet you have a ton of photos from your trip sitting on your memory card or phone, but you haven’t done anything with them besides post a few to Instagram way back when.
If you’ve got some free time during quarantine, use it to finally organise your travel photos and then do something with them besides occasionally peruse them on a teeny little screen.
Back up and organise your travel photos
Take this time to, first of all, back up your travel photos to a cloud service like Google Photos or Dropbox. This will ensure you have those photos forever, even if you lose your phone or your laptop goes bust.
But before you upload them to the cloud, take the time to organise and curate them. You don’t need 10 similar copies of the same shot, as it wastes cloud space and is honestly just annoying to browse through. So get to deleting those duplicates and less-than-amazing pics.
Order photo prints or canvases of your travel photos
Something I did back at the beginning of lockdown was FINALLY print some of my travel photos! Ugh, it’s taken me soooooo long, I’ve had empty frames sitting in my room for months. When I head back to London, one of the first things I’ll do is put those pictures in their frames and hang them on my walls.
While you’re organising your photos, I suggest adding your absolute favourites to a file called “to print” so once you’re ready, you can get them printed quickly and easily.
I printed mine with Snapfish, they were delivered right to my house, and Snapfish do this weirdly good deal that you get 50 free prints a month here in the UK, with Snapfish US having a similar deal. It ends up being so cheap since you only pay for shipping.
Make a photo book of your London trip
Another nice option for making digital photos into something tangible is to create a photo book. They make for a lovely addition to your coffee table, and it’s nicer to show someone your trip through a book than just showing them pics on your phone.
Snapfish also make (reasonably priced) photo books.
Add London to your home decor
Since I’ve been stuck inside, I’ve been going crazy with researching and thinking about interior decor (you’ll clearly see this on my Pinterest account). Are you the same? Well, since London is your happy place, then why not infuse London into your home decor, in subtle or not-so-subtle ways?
From Etsy shop ChinChinPrints
London pieces on Etsy
Etsy is a great place to start looking for London-themed home decor, as you can find very unique and mostly non-cheesy pieces. Plus, extra points to you for supporting small businesses and artisans.
When you do a London search on Etsy, you’ll see tea towels, prints, mugs, book ends, signs, and lots of other cute options. The London prints are stand-outs for me, and some of them are digital, so you can print them yourself saving you some money and shipping costs.
We Built This City
You might have seen in a few of my videos that I recommend We Built This City as my favourite shop in London for souvenirs.
Well, they had to shut their physical shop, but you can still order their stuff online, and they ship worldwide and are also offering a 25% discount off their entire online shop at the time of publishing this.
Pick up some very cool and funky prints and other London-y items made by London artists.
Do some London shopping
I’m sure, if you’ve been to London already, that you have some favourite shops that you wish you had done a little more spending in. Or, if you haven’t been to London yet, I imagine you have a must-visit list for shopping (maybe some of the shops I mentioned in the 3-Day London Itinerary?)
A lot of indie shops in London are shipping their stuff worldwide, so do a little research and browsing so you can pick up some new, “this is from London” items while supporting a small biz too.
For example, Ragyard, a family-run shop in Notting Hill, takes vintage and old clothing items and upcycles them into colourful and unique statement pieces. Find out more about the shop and how they make their pieces in this video.
See some other shops that are super underrated in London…
Cook London-y foods
Whether you like it or not, I’m sure you’ve been cooking a hell of a lot more recently (for me, I do not like it.) So why not make some Londony meals? Whether you want to make some classic London or British dishes, or you want to emulate a meal you had at one of the city’s many amazing restaurants, there are quite a few cookbooks to help.
Devour Tours Cookbook
As mentioned before, Devour Tours have created a digital cookbook that will help you make London classics like Dal Tadka and Pea and Ham soup, as well as recipes from other cities and countries around Europe. You could choose one city to focus on for each meal, or have a European feast and make a smorgasbord of international dishes all at once.
Cook like London’s most luxurious restaurants
Some of London’s most famous and luxurious restaurants have one or more cookbooks to help you bring their cuisine home with you. These cookbooks are also beautiful, so if you’re like me and you love cookbooks but tend to never use them, just pop them on your coffee table for some aesthetic pleasure and to relieve the guilt of the money you’ve spent on books you’ll never use.
Cook dishes from London’s best mid-range restaurants
Below are cookbooks from some of my favourite mid-range restaurants in London.
St. John is an absolute London institution, as they really pioneered the nose-to-tail eating concept back in the nineties, making sure that no animal would go to waste if it was killed for food.
Have you ever queued up for pasta restaurant Padella, near Borough Market? Chef Tim Siadatan heads up both Padella and Trullo, a north London Italian restaurant specialising in Pugliese cuisine and known for being one of the best Italian spots in the UK. Pick up his cookbook Trullo for both bold and authentic Italian recipes.
Dishoom has been one of the most-loved restaurants in London these last few years, because they deliver unique-but-delicious Indian street food in a relaxed atmosphere with a not-so-crazy price tag.
If you’ve already dined at a Dishoom, I’m sure you’d be keen to have some of their dishes at home…
One of the first restaurants I’ll go back to when the lockdown lifts and it’s safe to dine out is Ottolenghi’s Rovi. It’s a low-waste restaurant that, while not soley vegetarian, focuses on doing amazing things with veg. Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are known for having fairly difficult recipes, but for anyone with minimal cooking skills (like me) then pick up Simple and pretend you’re at one of his many amazing restaurants around the city.
Drink like a Londoner
In addition to eating like you’re in London, you can drink like you are too. Here are some easy, classic drink recipes that are common in London or were even invented here.
Gin and Tonic
Gin is the most favourite spirit in Britain, but you haven’t really had it until you’ve gone somewhere a bit more upscale, where you get a quality gin that’s paired with a speciality tonic and complemented by the correct garnish (it’s not usually lime).
To see how they make a proper G&T at Mr. Fogg’s in Covent Garden, up in their Gin Parlour, watch this video…
Londoners love a good Pimms Cup in the summer. It’s such a yummy, refreshing drink, and it’s the official drink of Wimbledon, the world-famous tennis tournament. Pair a Pimms Cup with strawberries and cream and you ma’am are experiencing a quintessential British summer.
The primary spirit in a Pimms Cup is Pimms, which is… well… an alcohol that’s uncategorised. It’s mixed with the UK version of lemonade, which in other parts of the world might be considered a lemon soda. Then you add a ton of fruit and pop it in a jug!
To find out how to make Pimms Cup, watch this How to Drink tutorial.
If you’ve watched our Youtube video with SandyMakesSense showing you some of the best coffee shops in London, you’ll know that the Espresso Martini was invented in London in the 80s, when someone famous asked the founding bartender to “make me something that will wake me up and f* me up”. Damn.
Although this drink is not a favourite of mine because I react to caffeine the way a four year old would, it makes for a sexy after-dinner drink or pick-me-up at brunch.
How to Drink has two great ways to make it without needing an espresso machine.
Keep planning your London trip
London will open up for everyone eventually, so take this downtime to do lots of research to help you see the more local side of London.
Our website is chock-full of info to help you plan your trip, as well as our Youtube channel that has hundreds of videos about London, like the one below.
We also have a ton of content about all types of London topics on our Pinterest account.
Or if research isn’t your thing and you’d rather a London expert plan your days for you (in a flexible way) then grab the 3-Day London Itinerary. If you get the 2020 version and your trip ends up getting postponed to after the 2021 version is available, you can just shoot us an email and we’ll give you the newer version of the itinerary.
Ok at this point I think you have quite enough options for how to keep London alive in your life. For some reading to help you with your trip planning, check out the articles listed below.
More London Planning Tips:
- How To Keep Planning Your London Trip (Even If You Don’t Know When You’ll Visit)
- What to Pack For London: A London Packing List
- How to Use Your US Phone in London (or any phone really)
Pin this to your London Pinterest board….