City Insider: London

Ever wish you knew the inside scoop before visiting a new destination? Now you can! We’ve reached out to our favorite locals and tour guides from all over the world for their insider tips. In the City Insider Q&A, they’ll let you in on the spots that should be on your must-see and do list!

Val Blackburn LondonName: Val Blackburn

Occupation: Tour Guide

City: London

Website: BritMovieTours.com

Twitter: @britmovietours

Facebook: BritMovieTours

YouTube: BritMovieTours’s channel

Short Bio: Hi I’m Val. I’ve been a London tour guide for a few years and like to tell people that I have one of the best jobs imaginable: I’m paid to talk about things that I’m interested in. I love being able to chat with a diverse array of people and share little known secrets about London. The best way to describe me is as a talkative, enthusiastic nerd (in his Father-of-the-Bride speech Dad said that if there had been an Olympic event in talking, I would have found a place on team GB!). My main passions are history, literature and films, so you can see why working for a company that specializes in TV and film location tours keeps me happy.

Best way to get to/from airport: On the fastest train with the least amount of changes.

Best way to get to/from train station: The underground. As much as Londoners like to complain about it, it’s by far the best way to get around London.

Favorite 5-star hotel: The Rookery. This is a 4-star hotel, but trust me on this.

5 places visitors must see:

  1. Wallace Collection
  2. St. Batholomew the Great Church
  3. Somerset House
  4. Borough Market
  5. St. Paul’s Cathedral

Best local newspaper/recommended reading (for finding out what’s going on about town): Time Out London

Favorite fine dining restaurant: Roast (Borough Market)

Favorite casual restaurant: La Lanterna, SE1 2BH

Best place to get a coffee: Monmouth Coffee, Borough Market or Covent Garden

Favorite bar/lounge: The Angel Pub, Rotherhithe, SE16 4NB (go upstairs or onto the balcony and you’ll see why)

Best music venue/place to see live music: Shoreditch area.

Favorite museum: Wallace Collection

Most popular local food: Fish ‘n’ chips—eaten with fingers out of the paper

Best “locals only” spot: Postman’s Park, Little Britain, EC1

To live like a local, you must have this experience: Buy an Oyster card.

Local/native fruit or dish to try: Jellied eels (once is enough!)

Most popular local drink: London Pride (beer)/Pimm’s with fruit (only in summer)

Movies/TV shows filmed in your city: Bridget Jones’s Diary; James Bond; Harry Potter; Sherlock Holmes; and many more!

Best souvenirs to buy/ goods to bring home: An umbrella (you’ll probably use it whilst you’re here)

Biggest tourist trap/places to avoid and when: Leicester Square—most of the time; Oxford Circus/Oxford Street—Saturdays

Best smartphone app(s) for your city: Tube Buddy

Best travel tip: Instead of walking down the main, busy street, use the side streets (as long as it’s safe/not night). They aren’t crowded and that’s when you find most of London’s secret spots and hidden gems.

Comments

  1. This is a great addition to your site!!!!

  2. Best app for London has to be City Mapper. Invaluable!

    Also, no one drinks London Pride but tourists.

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