Travel Like a Local: London

After an undergraduate career at IUPUI, Lyndsey Jefferson, BA’12, moved to London to pursue a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A decade later, the city—known for its royal family, double-decker buses, red telephone booths, and tea culture—has become her home.

“I love the energy of [London],” Jefferson says. “It’s a mix of cultures and there is always something interesting to do. I also love the fact that the U.K., like much of Europe, has more social-democratic policies in terms of work/life balance, worker’s rights, and universal health care.”

Lyndsey Jefferson has lived in London since 2012. “I’m close to getting British citizenship,” she says.

Jefferson currently works as a digital editor at Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

“As part of the communications team, I interview experts on current affairs issues like inequality, tech and artificial intelligence, and climate change,” she explains.

When she’s not writing for Chatham House’s magazine, The World Today, Jefferson is taking walks along the River Thames, exploring London’s diverse neighborhoods, indulging in authentic Indian food, and watching live music at local pubs.

If you’re traveling across the pond, Jefferson has a few recommendations—spots for afternoon tea or a gin and tonic as well as the tourist traps to avoid.


Food and Drinks

What are a few of your favorite restaurants in London?
Lyndsey Jefferson: Dishoom is a contemporary Indian restaurant. It’s moderately pricey. One of my favorite dishes is the chicken berry biryani.

Spice Village Tooting serves affordable Pakistani street food. I recommend ordering the chana chicken (a curry with chicken and chickpeas).

Mestizo serves authentic Mexican food. They have excellent tamales and their taco trays are amazing.

Homeslice serves wood-fired pizza. They’re known for their 20-inch pizzas.

At Spice Village, traditional Pakistani dishes are prepared over hot stones and coal grills, as well as in conventional tandoori ovens.

Do you have any street food recommendations?
LJ
: Borough Market is your one-stop shop for all the best street food London has to offer. Make sure you try the duck confit sandwich from Le Marché du Quartier.

Where would you recommend going for high tea?
LJ
: Fortnum and Mason is famous for their high tea. I would also recommend Patisserie Valerie.

The Fortnum and Mason flagship store is on 181 Piccadilly. The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, named in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 2012, is on the fourth floor. Reservations are encouraged.

Which bars and pubs do you recommend? 
LJ: If you fancy wine, Gordon’s is the oldest wine bar in London and is a unique, subterranean spot near the Embankment.

London, especially the Bermondsey neighborhood, is known for gin. I recommend trying one of the gin flights or cocktails at Two One Four.

The Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown is a fun late-night option in Soho.

As for pubs, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of the oldest. The Founder’s Arms has a lovely view of the river and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Sherlock Holmes in Westminster is a fun spot for those visiting London for the first time.

Gordon’s Wine Bar was established in 1890.

Accommodations

What London neighborhood do you recommend visitors stay in?
LJ
: For a first-time visitor, I would recommend the King’s Cross and Angel neighborhoods.

Do you recommend using Airbnb or booking a hotel?
LJ
: I prefer Airbnbs for longer stays. As for hotels, I’ve heard positive things about the Hoxton in Holborn and citizenM Tower of London. The Tavistock Hotel, the Imperial Hotel, and The Corner are more affordable—and centrally located—options.


Sightseeing and Entertainment

Asked about must-see sights, Jefferson recommends a few:

  • See Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
  • Visit the Tate or the National Gallery
  • Catch a play or musical at a theater in the West End
  • Walk across Waterloo Bridge for stunning views of the city
  • Ride the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers from the London Eye to Greenwich
  • Take a day trip to nearby Oxford, Cambridge, or Bath
  • Buy tickets for the Warner Bros. Studios London: The Making of Harry Potter tour

Lyndsey Jefferson at King’s Cross train station. The Hogwarts Express sign and disappearing luggage trolley (a fun photo-op) can be found near the Harry Potter gift shop in the main concourse.

What tourist traps should people avoid?
LJ
: Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus are quite touristy. Get your photo, but keep in mind almost everything is going to be commercialized and overpriced.

London is known for curry houses, but a lot of spots on Brick Lane are tourist traps. Go to Drummond Street, or better yet, the neighborhood of Tooting for the best south Asian food the city has to offer.

The neighborhood called Shoreditch used to have an “alternative” vibe, but it’s pretty commercialized and a bit bland these days. Instead, check out neighborhoods such as Deptford and Peckham.


Navigating the City

What is the easiest way to get around London?
LJ
: Walk, if you can! Take the Tube if you need to go a bit further afield. It’s faster than driving, and you’ll feel like a Londoner. The Tube is clean, safe, and easy to navigate. I’d recommend using the CityMapper app, which gives you the best bus, tube, and walking routes.


This story is part of our travel series, Travel Like a Local, which features IU alumni living abroad. 

Written By
Samantha Stutsman
Samantha Stutsman, BAJ'14, is a Bloomington, Ind., native and a senior content specialist at the IU Alumni Association.