By: Molly Helfend
Let me just say upfront, that London is one of the most expensive cities I have ever traveled to, so no matter where you go, you are most likely going to burn a hole in your pocket. That being said, it remains a city that truly captured my heart, in both the literal and figurative sense. Close-by to this megacity, Glastonbury, England emanates as the heart chakra of the world, therefore it makes perfect sense that London is the epicenter of the globe. Like a heart pumping blood throughout the body, London feeds the world with history and cultural diversity. I had the the privilege of living in Canterbury, Kent from September to April while getting my master’s degree and I took the train into London every week. Although the gloomy winter weather seems to bring the country into a grumpy slump, it never really stopped me from exploring, and there is still a special magic that will draw me back again soon. London is beyond eclectic and diverse with always something to do.
There is unlimited amounts of music and art to meander through. What I loved most was that it was one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. People from all walks of life and color live and travel here! I loved the rich conversations and cultures I immersed myself in. It is a humbling feeling observing the ancient architecture, as there is just so much history, both tragic and revolutionary. You truly can feel London’s pulse of energy as you skip through the puddles of rain (which I most definitely did after seeing some of my favorite bands).
Although I was not THAT impressed with the health and wellness scene, I still have to say its one of my favorite cities purely because I had such a great time solo traversing about, discovering pockets of beauty and civility everywhere. And, it’s a city that anyone would love, as you really can find any type of person here. I had no trouble finding my niche herbal enthusiasts or music lovers, while someone more interested in business or fashion, per say, can easily find their’s as well. I will never forget my moments alone traveling on the Underground tube, with my headphones plugged in, watching the fast paced motions of ever changing diversity, living their lives to my soundtrack of life.
Matthew Kinney does it again. A short precise menu of all plant-based food that is meat, dairy, gluten and refined sugar free. I must admit the architecture and seating arrangements are a bit uncomfortable, but the delicious raw food more than makes up it. Make sure to snag some kale chips and granola from the takeaway out your way out!
Sadly, one of the best raw food restaurants I have ever tried was recently shut down, but the owners are still teaching raw vegan classes, hosting private dining, raw vegan catering and more. They do sell items on website and have great prices for such high quality cuisine.
Great, artsy atmosphere with wonderful, affordable vegan dishes. It is located in an edgy Brixton neighborhood, serving a young and hip crowd. Check out their seasonal small plates or even just pop by for a look around and a tea.
Great for a trendy, nice night out with a high quality mediterranean style buffet dinner. This is definitely a restaurant you would see some famous Brits, so dress to impress! Really lovely food options and very dietary restriction friendly.
This is the place to get the ultimate vegan burger. Honestly, it is expensive, but worth the splurge. Buy either the Wulf Burger or Spicy Veg Burger.
Really well priced beverage menu. This Austrailian inspired health restaurant is right next to Portobello Road Market, so grab a drink or small snack and browse the stores. I have only tried their beverages, but I recommend getting the Hibiscus Matcha or Butterfly Matcha with hazelnut milk.
This is me and my godmother's favorite restaurant in Notting Hill, arguably London. Farmacy is completely plant-based and free from dairy, refined sugars, additives and chemicals. It’s so refreshing stepping out of eating traditional heavy english meals and find a restaurant that creates a balance of ease and health, without sacrificing flavor. We usually get a few plates to share, so I would recommend my favorites of the Macro Bowl and Farmacy Salad for lunch or the Bee Grateful and Protein “Omelette” for breakfast. Pretty much everything is incredible, including their raw dessert and tea menu.
Created by the well known health blogger Ella, her restaurant serves deli style healthy food with twists on English cuisine. Very friendly staff who seem like genuinely love working for this company. I love their Maples Sweet Potatoes with Kale & Almonds, as well as, their juice selection.
Renowned Israeli food, specifically Jerusalem inspired meals. Perfect for a nice dinner out with friends or partners. Make a reservation - they fill up quickly!
If the colorful walls and climbing greenery doesn’t make you fall in love, then their seasonal fresh raw organic food will. It really is hard to find such delicate, nutritious food in England, but I definitely tried my best to sniff out the best of the best when it comes to raw plant-based meals. Their Forgotten Ecstasy smoothie and Ayurvedic Super Salad are to die for!
Not sure if any of our readers know, but Ethiopian food happens to be my favorite type of cuisine. All the amazing flavors and colors are spread out on a beautiful plate of injera, made of gluten free teff flour. I tried as many Ethiopian restaurants as I could from small hole in the walls to larger family-owned storefronts and I really did love the traditional atmosphere of Zeret Kitchen.
London is renowned for having some of the best Indian and Punjabi food in the world. Tayyabs has some of highest quality Pakistani food and is a must go. Great prices with dietary restriction options. I recommend pretty much everything on the chef’s speciality.
This tapas restaurant is the perfect place to grab some drinks and small plates with friends before a night out. It won’t break the bank or make you feel like you are compromising on healthy food.
Such a lovely way to spend a relaxing morning, browsing quirky shops and munching on unique food choices in this modern Victorian covered indoor market setting. There are over 70 retail stalls and street food traders, selling everything from crafts and fashion to food and wine. Open seven days a week and be sure to check out Brick Lane for more vintage shops.
Classic creative spot was made famous by Amy Winehouse. It is the super diverse and young community that make this eclectic market especially special. There are over 1,000 vibrant spots to shop, eat, drink, dance and enjoy! I had good friends who lived next to the market, so I became a regular vegan falafel fan at Magic Falafel.
This is perfect for a family friendly and enjoyable Sunday afternoon to explore fantastic worldly cuisines from Europe, Africa, Asia and America. Browse the market stalls and then take a stroll along the Southbank River to see historic views on London. I fell in love with the street Indian food stalls here.
There is everything from vintage clothing to antique trinkets with a good mix of tourists and locals. One of the oldest markets in London, it really has an eclectic array of characters, items and prices. It feels like home to me because my godmother sells antiques here, so I got to know the atmosphere quite well early Saturday mornings, watching the sun rise, sipping tea with vendors and hearing everyone’s unique stories.
Great for a younger, hipper crowd looking for fun night markets and street food arenas. Dinerama is Storeditch’s street food market, which is definitely one of the coolest ones.
Go Out (I personally like going to see live music when I go out, but if you want to find pubs, just ask locals in the various districts you are exploring)
The is my favorite music venue in England. I saw the Babe Rainbow here and it was such a groovy, intimate show. Its such a hip, cool environment with brick walls and colorful wacky lights hanging around. Bands cover everything from indie, new wave, post punk to psychedelia. Also, extremely reasonable pricing for tickets, food and drink.
Daytime: a chic, quirky vintage store. Nighttime: a cosy atmosphere with bar and great live music.
Love this quaint bar nestled in Camden. I would come here after sweet Sofar Sound sessions at my friends’ flat. It has rustic welcoming energy and a bohemian vibe. My favorite experience was when we saw the most amazing jazz blues harp player that filled the bar with free-spirited jams. Come here to soak in eclectic art and find music off the beaten path.
Located by New Cross Gate, it used to be a proper local pub, but they changed it to a music venue. Locals are regulars, so it’s an interesting blend people every time. Bloody good time with down to earth people!
Nothing but blues baby.
My godmother is a world renowned antique dealer. You most definitely have to check out her shop in Essex or exquisite pieces every Saturday at Portobello Market and antique fairs across England. She easily has the best taste around.
Located near the Seven Dials, Neal’s Yard is a dreamy place unlike anywhere in London, where you are transported to an urban garden atmosphere of colorful buildings and health conscious shopfronts.
I love the concept of traveling with as little of a environmental footprint as possible. It’s important to support zero waste enterprises like this one that has all organic vegetables, breads, and cakes from local partners and make sure to bring travel containers and fill them with beans, rice, pasta, and spices.
Another great place for sustainable travelers to bulk up whole foods, gluten free and vegan available, as well as grains, tea, chocolate, kombucha, and household items. They even have a peanut butter making machine and chocolates and protein balls.
Best plant shop which used to be a neglected urban space
Although pricey, I think quality organic food is worth it. Daylesford is one of the leading organic bio-groceries in London with well packaged local products and seasonal fresh food. They also have an all day deli that offers ready made dishes to eat on the spot or take away, as well as a cafe that you can go to for breakfast or lunch.
Definitely my go-to health food store whenever I was on the go. They are completely organic and offer many health products from across the globe, including hard to find ones from the US. The have a delicious hot bar and drink menu, making delicious hazelnut milk matcha lattes and pitaya lattes for me.
An architect’s dream, you can wander the estate for hours. You are bound to find a couple of exhibitions that interest you, and one for free. It is the largest performing arts center in Europe, hosting events of dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts. It also has a cinema, 3 restaurants and a botanical conservatory.
A world renowned contemporary art gallery with international works and incredible curated exhibitions. General entry is free.
Modern art gallery that is hidden behind Old Street, in a renovated pre-war factory.
Great exhibition space and dynamic art gallery. It is a famous a landmark of Brutalist architecture.
Interesting exhibits and pieces, as well as free inclusions. If you have an interest in the cultural aspects of science and medicine, they have lots of books on these subjects.
Perfect escape from the hustle and bustle off the London streets, Kew is one of my favorite and one of the largest botanical gardens in the world. It has plants literally from across the globe and I was lucky enough to work here with my graduate university. Definitely worth a visit.
My favorite park, you can go swimming in natural ponds. It’s difficult to believe you are still in London and the ladies pond is specifically magical and wild.
Magical escape to go wild forage garlic and mushrooms.
This beautiful square has trees growing through the pavements and a quirky volunteer run vegetarian cafe that changes the chef every night. The area began in the 1980s by squatters who eventually planted all the trees in the streets, began the cafe and started a community garden.
Oldest botanical garden in England, housing 5,000 different medicinal, herbal, and edible plants. I would recommend going on a free tour and stopping for some tea at their adorable cafe.
Molly Helfend is part of the HOC team and is a writer, ethnobotanist and environmental activist. She graduated from University of Vermont in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Holistic Health and recently from University of Kent in 2018 in Canterbury, England with a Masters of Science Degree in Ethnobotany. She has worked for Urban Moonshine, Greenpeace and received her herbalism training with Spoonful Herbals. Her goal is to travel the world, researching plant-human interconnected relationships while continuing to educate about the transformational energy of life. Molly resides in Raglan, New Zealand and Santa Cruz, California.