A Trip to Europe: Where to Find the Best Specialty Coffee in London


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Regardless of where in the world you are from, London is an exciting destination for a vacation, business trip, or other travels. As a coffee lover, it has plenty of cafes available for you to get a morning cappuccino or pour-over so there’s nothing to worry about there. It’s the capital of Britain in terms of politics, culture, and economic activity. It also is home to attractions like the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

London is an easy city to get around with a total of five international airports as well as the high-speed Eurostar rail link. You can reach more than 50 countries with a flight of fewer than three hours and hundreds of cities have a direct link to the city. That means if you’re visiting London, you can visit other exciting places without much trouble at all. The river Thames goes through the city and there are many river buses and cruises that offer a fun way to view the city.

Curious about diversity in the city? There are more than 200 languages spoken in the city as well as a huge swatch of communities and cultures. The city also has a history that goes back thousands of years and boasts a total of four World Heritage Sites including the Maritime Greenwich, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London.

Those who love the outdoors will appreciate that the city has so many open spaces and parks. There are also thousands of restaurants, including many manned by celebrity chefs. London is the top shopping spots in Europe with great locations at the London market, West End, and Westfield Stratford City.

London is also an excellent spot for families with children as there’s plenty to do for people both young and old. The Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are two top spots that also happen to be free to visit. As far as lodging goes, there are many options ranging from hostels for backpackers, 5-star hotels, and cozy bed and breakfast establishments.

Today, we’re going to look at what you need to know when spending time in London. We’ll also go over the top spots to grab a cup of coffee, so you are ready to take on your day, no matter what it involves. First, we’re going to go over what you need to know while you start planning your trip, so you’re ready for the city once you make it there.

Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting London 

London is a city that is constantly undergoing change, so every time you visit, you can expect to see something new and interesting. While this is exciting for a visitor, it can also be a bit overwhelming at times. This is especially true when you are in the process of planning and booking everything you want to do while visiting the city. The tips below will offer insight into what you need to know to have a great time.

London Might be Larger Than You Think 

London is a huge space with millions of people running around on an average day. Those who are staying for only a few days should seek lodging in the area that you are most interested in exploring. This will save you lots of time traveling across the city, which can get boring and annoying after a while. Traveling in London can easily add hours of transport time, so be aware of where you want to go, how you are going to get there, and how long it will take you.

Grab an Oyster Card 

If you do need to do a lot of traveling across the city, you want to be sure you have an Oyster card. This will save you both time and money when getting from one place to another. This card is free with only a tiny refundable deposit and you can get it at any Tube Station to preload. When you use the card, your travels are discounted and there is a maximum you can spend per day. After a few trips in a single day, all of the rest will be entirely free.

Consider Walking Instead of Taking the Tube 

Another trick for easy travel in London is to realize that sometimes walking is a better option than heading on a bus or taking the tube. For example, if you want to get from Covent Garden to Leicester Square, it takes less than five minutes when walking. This is going to be faster than heading down under to grab a tube, plus it’s entirely free.

Watch for Low-Cost Airports 

If you want to keep to a low budget, it’s worth considering all the airports available to you. Sometimes you can get a much less expensive flight through Easy Jet or Ryan Air. These carriers focus on lower prices and often will save you money by having you land in Stansted than London City or Heathrow. Stansted is about an hour by bus into the city, but if you don’t mind the travel, you can easily save cash on your flights.

Free Coffee is Possible 

Those reading this tend to be big coffee lovers, so this tip is just for you. If you stop into a Pret coffee shop, you have the possibility of being chosen for free coffee. The barista gets to chose, so it’s at random, but it’s always nice to get something for free. But if you aren’t into chain coffee, that’s okay, too. We’ll share some of the best spots to get a coffee later in this article, although you may not get it for free.

Art Galleries and Museums are Free 

Want to enjoy the city without spending a lot of money? Tons of museums and galleries are completely free to visit. These include big names like the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the British Museum, just to name a few. You can easily spend a day wandering through most of these establishments and learn more about the history of the city. Donations are accepted but not required.

West End Shows Aren’t Always Expensive 

If you are into theater, you’ve likely heard of West End. Those who aren’t too picky about what to see can visit the TKTS Booth in Leicester Square and get discounted tickets for whatever hasn’t sold out that day. Not only that, butthe booth will also give you the best seats they have or choose the seats you want of available tickets. It’s a great way to fill an evening without spending a lot.

Discounted Fare Available for Some 

Are you a student? Under 26? Over 60? If any of those things apply or you are traveling with your family, it’s likely you can grab a discounted Railcard when you visit a train station in the city. The card gives you 33% off of tube and rail travel during off-peak times for an entire year, which is a great option if you plan to spend a while in the city or visit numerous times.

Tipping isn’t Essential in London 

If you are from the United States, you’re probably used to tipping for all sorts of services, but that isn’t how things work in London. Tipping is appreciated, but it isn’t expected. Even a 10 or 15% tip is appreciated at a restaurant and nobody expects a tip for cocktails. You also won’t be expected to tip when you grab a tab, although rounding up to the next pound is always a good option.

Touring London Can Be Cheap 

You’ll quickly realize there are a lot of buses across London where you can get on and off as you like, but many of them tend to be expensive. Those who want to save some cash should consider getting on a red London bus. If you want to see the city, think about taking the number 453 from Marylebone Station which goes by Regent Street, Leicester Square, Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, Downing Street, and Big Ben. The best part is you can jump off whenever you want to explore by foot.

Make Sure to Try Fish and Chips 

Anyone coming into London has to try a plate of authentic fish and chips. It will help you feel like a true native. However, it’s not as easy to find as you might think it would be. One of the most popular spots to get this dish is at Poppies in Shoreditch where you can be sure to get a quality meal. The mail comes with plenty of salt and vinegar and will have you coming back again and again.

Stay Away from Oxford Street on Saturday 

Shopping on Oxford Street is something many tourists want to try, but it’s best to go on a weekday in the mid-morning hours. If you show up on the weekend, the environment can be pretty overwhelming. There is no space to walk and the tube often closes since the crowds are so large. Stick to other days of the week so you can focus on shopping rather than simply getting around.

Save Money by Renting a Bicycle 

As long as you have a credit or debit card and don’t mind navigating the streets on your own, you can rent a bike in London to get around. Have an afternoon to spend relaxing in the city? Hit up one of the many cycle bays in the city and rent a bike to head across the city. Not only will you save money and time, but you can also see the area in an entirely new way.

Notting Hill is a Great Spot for Dining 

Notting Hill tends to be overlooked in favor of the exciting East End but try to avoid letting that happen to you. This spot of London offers some of the best restaurants in the city if you want to visit somewhere new. Stop in one day for brunch and enjoy organic, local fare or something you can’t find in other neighborhoods. No matter your taste, there will be something you can enjoy.

Know Where to Stand in Tube Stations 

Before you head into a tube station, it’s important to know that it is customary to stand on the right. The tube stations often get pretty busy and don’t have as much space as you might expect. If you are going to stand, stay on the right. Those who want to take the stairs should use the left. While it’s unlikely someone will say something if you do it the other way, you might see a few stares.

Everyone Should Try a Sunday Roast 

If you are going to be visiting London, or the United Kingdom in general, for the first time, you should certainly try a Sunday roast which offers beef, chicken, or lamb, along with a ton of vegetables, stuffing, and gravy. This is one of the most delicious traditional British meals you will find in the country. Have Yorkshire pudding to go with it to really create a tasty meal.

You May Want a Local Sim Card 

While you can find free wireless Internet in London, it’s not always the best quality. Apple, McDonald’s, and Starbucks tend to have excellent connections, but you probably won’t be spending all your time at those locations. It might be a smart option to grab a local sim card for the Internet allowance and to make calls for a lower price.

Be Sure to Pack an Umbrella 

The weather in London is very unpredictable, so you need to be ready for anything while spending time in the city. You should bring along an umbrella or a raincoat for the days when the showers start to fall from the sky. It’s an excellent idea to check the BBC weather forecast each morning, so you have a better idea of what to expect.

Londoners Are Friendlier Than You Expect 

The people who live in London may not always look like the friendliest people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make great friends in the city. You can meet lots of people and go on all sorts of adventures if you put yourself out there. Once you sit down at a bar or a coffee shop and start talking, you’ll find out just how fun and exciting these people can be.

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Where to Get the Best Coffee in London 

London is a world of independent coffee shops and artisan roasters who make some of the best coffee drinks you could ever imagine. Whether you want silky smooth Italian espresso or a unique hip beverage at your table, the city offers just what you have been waiting for. We’ll share some of the top spots to stop in for a coffee and what you can expect.

Wired Co. – West Hampstead – 194 Broadhurst Gardens 

If you happen to be in West London, you might find that it hasn’t risen to the same heights as East London when it comes to specialty coffee. However, if you know where you need to look, there are plenty of spots to get your fix of caffeine and a few pastries to go along with it. Wired Co. is one of the top options and it’s located just around the corner from West Hampstead Station. The café offers wooden tables that are usually full along with benches by the window. We recommend trying a macchiato made with Climpson & Sons beans or cold brew if the day is warm. If you’re more in the mood for a meal, give the toastie with beans, cheese, and Worcestershire sauce a shot.

Coffee Plant – Notting Hill – 180 Portobello Road 

Want somewhere simple and no-frills that offers a great coffee beverage? Coffee Plant on Notting Hill is a great option. It started out as a magazine publishing and coffee roasting combination establishment. The magazine no longer exists, but coffee still flows out the door into the hands of locals. This isn’t a tourist hotspot, but the locals know to come here to get the best espresso shots in the area. You can also easily stock up on fair trade and organic coffee beans.

Jacob the Angel – Covent Garden – 16 ½ Neal’s Yard 

This is a hip spot in Neal’s Yard that is small but popular due to serving excellent coffee and great grub. The owners are the siblings behind the Barbary and the Palomar, so they have coffee in their blood. The spot offers whitewashed brick walls along with a counter that doles out tasty treats. One of the top options is the coconut cream pie, which often makes its way to Instagram in the form of photographs. However, the coffee from Square Mile Coffee Roasters is also fantastic.

Bar Italia – Soho – 22 Frith Street 

For those of you who want the authentic Italian coffee bar experience, Bar Italia is one of the best spots you can visit to find it. This spot has been in business since 1949 and is family-owned. It offers super strong espresso along with aproned waiters who are more likely to shrug than stop to chat. The café is open from 7 am to 5 am, which means you can grab a cup of coffee most of the day. Sit at a table outside to people watch and enjoy a lazy afternoon.

Caravan – Exmouth Market – 11-13 Exmouth Market 

Caravan has been a hub of Exmouth Market for almost a decade and serves Antipodean style coffee that New Zealanders will be excited to see. Each cup is built with care to ensure the best quality possible from the selection of beans to roasting and measuring. Caravan has seen a lot of success and has other locations around London, including those in Fitzrovia and King’s Cross. However, this is the original and well worth visiting.

Clerkenwell Grind – Shoreditch – 2-4 Old Street 

The first Grind opened on Old Street back in 2011 and since that time the coffee house has added nearly 10 cafes to its roster. Each of them has an interior that might make you think of Los Angeles with stripped back environments, white granite bars, and letterboard signs outside the door. One of the best Grinds is the one mentioned here which is found inside of an old warehouse. It has gray concrete walls and white marble tables along with pink velvet seating on one of the walls. The space is split into a café and a restaurant. Later in the day, the café turns into a bar and the wireless Internet is turned off.

Lever & Bloom – Bloomsbury – Bying Place 

Okay, the first thing to know about Lever & Bloom is that it’s not a shop. Instead, it’s a coffee cart painted in a bright red that sits on Bying Place in Bloomsbury and is open no matter what the weather. While you can only order takeaway drinks and pastries, the environment may remind you of a neighborhood café. The barista knows his customers by name as well as their orders and his business partner offers pastries that nearly always sell out. The ghriba, which is a Moroccan almond cookie, is a favorite of the regulars and made with matcha.

Prufrock Coffee – Farringdon – 23-25 Leather Lane 

Prufrock has been around for a long time, well before everyone has posting photos of their latte art on social media. The coffee found here has won several awards and the menu goes well beyond espresso drinks, although those are available too. There is a weekly changing list of filter coffees available at the brew bar. Those who want to have brunch should try the field mushrooms with aioli and Graceburn cheese while those who want a snack will enjoy the almond croissants. The best coffee on the menu is likely the filter coffee over ice, no matter what the weather is like outside.

H.R. Higgins – Mayfair – 79 Duke Street 

H.R. Higgins has been around since the 1980s and is run by the third generation of Higgins on Duke Street. It’s also a spot you might pass right by if you didn’t see the bicycle right outside with flowers in a basket. The café offers quality fresh ground coffee and the staff is educated in roasting, making, and tasting it. The baristas are friendly and deliver milk heated to the proper 60 degrees for the best-tasting drinks. This is a spot where you can get precise service but without the pretentiousness found at some cafes. They also offer a loyalty card which you will want to snatch up.

Allpress Espresso Roastery and Café – East London – 55 Dalston Lane 

Allpress is a mainstay in New Zealand that came to London in 2010 with a café located on Redchurch Street. When the lease was up five years later, it was so popular that the owners choose to move it to a larger space, while the original location was made into a small espresso bar. This location on Dalston offers everything from silky espresso to fruity filter coffee, tasty cold brew, and fresh ground beans located right by the roasting station. If you’re hungry, the breakfast platters and sandwiches are also quite good. If the day is warm, sit out in the front garden to sip your morning coffee.

Hara – Haggerston – 13C Downham Road 

Love filter brew coffee? Meet Hara where you can get the best version of it in the city. It that doesn’t get your feet walking in the shop’s direction, maybe the other tasty treats on offer will. The location offers vegan and vegetarian brunch options like mushrooms on sourdough and buckwheat pancakes along with homemade sauerkraut, kefir, and turmeric tonic. Those who want something a bit sweeter will find a large selection of pastries from the Dusty Knuckle down the street.

Pavilion Café – Victoria Park – Old Ford Road 

If you are taking a walk through Victoria Park, you will come upon the Pavilion Café near the lake in a domed pavilion environment. No matter how the weather is, you can expect to see locals enjoying powerful lattes made with Square Mile beans which were roasted in Walthamstow. There is also an all-day brunch available with dishes like homemade sourdough, sticky cardamom buns, and the Sri Lankan breakfast. If you want simple baked goods and coffee for takeaway, where are also locations on Columbia Road and Broadway Market.

Yeast Bakery – London Fields – 356 Westgate Street 

Yeast was started because of a single man’s quest to offer the best croissant on earth. The croissant is soft and flaky and made with Normandy butter, but we will leave you to decide if it’s the best one available. The founder also went on to create Danish pastries, cinnamon swirl pastries, and sourdough pastries, which are sold at many restaurants. However, if what you’re after is coffee, there are plenty of options there too. The coffee comes from Climpson’s Roastery right nearby and is prepared with precision. One of the top options is a double espresso paired with a kouign-amann.

Attendant Coffee – Shoreditch – 4 Great Eastern Street 

Want to visit a coffee spot like no other? The original Attendant Coffee was born in a gentleman’s toilet in Fitzrovia and is known for offering fantastic coffee that the café roasts on their own. While the flagship store is fun to visit, this location is larger and more central to most travelers. This café is full of light with copper light fixtures, a green tile bar, and enough space to spread out. Try the flat white but pair it with some of the food on the menu like the banana bread with sticky berry and elderflower compote. Weekdays offer a chill space for working while the place comes alive during weekends, especially near brunch.

Origin – Shoreditch – 65 Charlotte Road 

Origin is a little shop right off of the hustle and bustle of Old Street and a popular destination for daily coffee drinkers. The shop is outfitted in a very East London style with clean lines and concrete floors but manages to keep a neighborhood feel to it. Baristas greet customers by name as they come in and the coffee is poured with care to ensure you never get a bad cup. While this is an area with lots of fantastic coffee, this is one of the top options to stay away from all the busyness of London to enjoy your favorite beverage.

L’atelier – Dalston – 31 Stoke Newington Road 

It’s easy to miss this shop located on Kingston Road because it has no sign to let you know what it is there. However, those that find it are in for a treat. During summer days, the windows are pulled open and you can see a stream of people coming in and out. Whether it’s the winter or a weekend, this is a place that is filled with people. The interior is interesting with vintage radios and TVs, neon signs on office cabinets, and other unique furnishings. The coffee is some of the best in the city and the food menu is just as good. You can try a list of toasted croissants or choose from a wide selection of toasties including duck with fig and ricotta or cheese and onion.

E5 Bakehouse – London Fields – 395 Mentmore Terrace 

As you can likely guess by the name, this is a spot that has some excellent baked goods. However, it also serves up some powerful java for residents and visitors alike. If you want a snack with your cup of coffee, try the chocolate drizzled coconut macarons or the Scandi cinnamon swirls for a great combination. You can look behind the glass front counter and see the bakers doing their work to make batches of sourdough bread and other foods. We recommend picking up a Hackney Wild country loaf to enjoy back at your hotel room.

The Gentlemen Baristas – Borough – 63 Union Street 

This family of coffee shops began in 2014 in Southwark and has since moved out to Fitzrovia, Flat Iron Square, Poplar, and Vinegar Yard due to the great coffee served at each location. However, one of the most popular spots is located in Borough only a few streets from Borough Market. It boasts a green façade with cozy rooms and exposed brick. You’ll take in a chalkboard menu along with plenty of fresh pastries. You can grab a table in the back and order one of the single-origin coffees from places like Kenya and Brazil along with a slice of sourdough toast with homemade peanut butter.

Blackbird Bakery – Peckham – 134 Queen’s Road 

If you are interested in some of the best sourdough in the city, Blackbird Bakery is one of the best chains south of the river. There are several locations including East Dulwich, Crystal Palace, Balham, and Queen’s Road Peckham Station. You will find the counter is covered in all sorts of tarts and cakes including carrot with cream cheese frosting or lime and courgette. Everything you order is made fresh and the croissants are packed with layers and larger than you’d expect. The coffee is roasted locally and ground fresh for the best taste.

F Mondays – Brixton – Windrush Square 

F Mondays is not a café, instead offering a coffee truck that is only open on Mondays. However, that doesn’t mean you should seek it out for yourself if you want some fantastic coffee. If you really want to check out a café there is one on Windrush Square, but both locations open at 8 am and offer great coffee, pain au chocolat, and smiles to start your day off right.

The Coffee Jar – Camden – 83 Parkway 

This is a tiny coffee shop located far enough away from Camden Market that you can usually find a spot to sit by the window, even on a weekend. The spot is cozy with dark wood and a countertop covered in pastries and treats. There is also plenty of food on the menu like smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels. The coffee itself is made with Monmouth beans and your drink will come in crockery. If it’s warm outside, there are benches outside where you can enjoy an iced latte served in a mason jar.

But First Coffee – Harringay – Quernmore Road 

This little spot is a community hub and a fantastic spot to learn more about the area. It opened just a few years ago and is right near Stroud Green Library and Harringay Station. There are planters and benches all around the place and it offers a respite from the hustle and bustle. The coffee is made by Ozone and the atmosphere is perfect for kicking back with a coffee and a cinnamon roll along with a newspaper.

Wrapping Up 

Now that you have information about all the best coffee shops in London, you can be sure your trip will be smooth sailing all the way through. Use the tips earlier in the article to plan your trip so you can enjoy your vacation or business trip to the United Kingdom. Have a good time and enjoy all the fantastic coffee!

Bonus Questions

1. Where can I study in London on a Sunday?

You can grab a cup of coffee and study Ozone Coffee Roasters. If that isn’t for you, consider studying at Barbican Library, the National Art Library, or the TY Seven Dials Café. The BFI Reuben Library is another excellent choice.

2. How many coffee shops are there in the UK?

Across the entire United Kingdom, there are about 25,000 coffee shops available. These include everything from major chains like Starbucks and Caffe Nero to independent cafes, and non-specialist coffee houses.

3. Who has the most coffee shops in the UK?

The largest number of coffee shops in the United Kingdom are associated with Costa at over 2,000 shops. There are nearly 900 Starbucks and over 600 Caffe Nero installments. As such, you can expect to see Costa Coffee around quite a lot.

4. What is London known for?

Big Ben, officially known as the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster, is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Other attractions include Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey.

5. Is London safe?

London is a very safe city, but taking precautions is never a bad idea. If you need to get in touch with the fire department, an ambulance, or police officers, you can call 112 or 999. The Met Police website will keep you updated about any major incidents happening in the city.

6. What kind of food is London known for?

Some of the most famous British foods include fish and chips, bangers and mash, roast beef, shepherd’s pie, English breakfast, ploughman’s lunch, Yorkshire pudding, and cottage pie. Bread and butter pudding is a popular dessert.

7. What transport is used in London?

With an Oyster card, which is an electronic ticket the size of a credit card, you can get access to the London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground, Tramlink, National Rail, and London Buses in the city as well as nearby areas.

8. What is the culture of London?

London is known as the cultural capital of the entire world, although there are other cities that argue with this. The city is known for its festivals, museums, music, engineering, and other forms of entertainment. It has a huge nightlife with lots of theatres.

9. What does a full English breakfast consist of?

When you order a full English breakfast, you can expect a plate piled high with bacon, your choice of eggs, grilled or fried tomatoes, fried bread or buttered toast, fried mushrooms, and sausages or bangers. This will come with either coffee or tea.

10. How old is London?

London was originally founded by the Romans and went by the name Londinium. The city is around 2,000 years old and is the largest city in all of Western Europe. It also happens to be the largest financial center in the world.

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