Violaine / London

11 years ago by

Here is Violaine’s London city guide! You’ve been asking for a London guide for a while and I thought you’d like to have my friend Violaine’s best spots. She is the fashion director of Velour Magazine, and she’s lived there for 9 years… The girl knows what she’s talking about !

How would you describe London to someone who has never been?

It’s big, grey, arty, busy, young with lots of parks and pubs and most importantly you have to get used to people saying “sorry” all the time for no reason, which leads to funny situations in public transports sometimes: Wait a second, why did I just say sorry to the crazy lady who stomped on my shoes?!

What is your neighborhood, why did you choose to live there ?

Bethnal Green in East London. I love it there because it’s situated between Victoria Park (feels like a village) and Shoreditch (the busiest area of East London where my office is). It means I can walk to work and on the week-end I can walk to the park and to the Flower Market on Columbia Road.

What are your other favorite neighborhoods and why?

I love Notting Hill as it has great vintage and antiques and apart from the week-end when it’s absolutely crazy, it’s not really touristy and really feels like the London you see in the movies. It has a great cinematic atmosphere.

This city is huge ! How do you get around ?

That’s the main problem in London. People stay in their area as it’s so difficult to get around. Taxis are very expensive, so most of the time going out in a different neighborhood feels like an adventure. My advise is live where your friends live!

High Street is really big in London, which stores are your favorite and how often do you go ?

I go to Topshop once in a while. I like Zara too but most of the things are too big for me… They do great pants so sometimes I grab a few pairs and have them tailored. They also do great shoes but I’m a size 2 and they never have shoes small enough for me! Zara, if you hear me?

And how about the department stores ?

Harvey Nichols is the best for browsing as they do great buying and the selection is not too overwhelming. They also have a great food hall on the 5th floor and on the ground floor the beauty brands that you can’t find anywhere else. Also, they have a Brow Bar where I get my eyebrow shaped for almost 6 years now. It’s the best place for threading! The staff is gentle and experienced, to give your eyebrows a clean natural look.

Your favorite spot to buy vintage?

London is one of the best cities for vintage. Hunky Dory on the corner of Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane is my favorite. The two owners travel all year round through Europe and have the best eye for 40s and 50s dressing. This era is the best for me because of the small waist.

They also have great antique jewelery in Camden Passage in Islington (no to be confused with Camden market which is still mainly for questionable tattoos and cyber/goth clothing) and Spitalfield market every Thursday for clothes and furniture.

Where can you always spot the fashion crowd?

East London is where lots of fashion PR companies have been relocating recently. It always have been the gritty part of London. (When I used to go out there 9 years ago when I moved to London I remember thinking how dirty it was!). But now it’s becoming the place where everything happens, where all the designers live and there’s even a Fashion Street!

Where do you meet boys (I am talking for my single friends) ?

Hmm that’s a tough one to answer without being all Carrie Bradshaw about it.. “I couldn’t help but wonder…Where can you meet men?” Haha To be honest, I’m still wondering. I met my boyfriend at Shoreditch House if that helps anyone ha!

Is everybody crazy about One Direction? Are you?

Hahaha No. I think they’re actually even bigger in America.

The one cool bar?

Like in NYC it changes all the time. At the moment I would say that I love Bodega Negra on Old Compton Street in Soho. The front entrance looks like any other peep show you’ll find in this street but you go downstairs and discover this super cool Mexican restaurant, busy and dark with a massive bar in a middle for delicious tequila cocktails.

The coolest club?

I like The Scotch in Mayfair. It’s a bit far for me to go to but this old member’s club that recently reopened, it’s the best club right now. Small space, great music, great crowd.

What is the one touristy place you still love to visit?

The Tate Modern.

What should I bring back from London? Is a Queen’s teapot the best option? I have to say I love them.

Haha yes. And Also some tea from Fortnum & Mason to put in it.

What joke should nobody make in the streets of London?

Never make jokes about the Queen. The English love their Queen. So I hope the teapot wasn’t a joke…

Whats the best way to have a full London experience? A beer in the streets after work?

If you come in for a week-end, you should definitely start with Borough Market in London Bridge and have lunch there then walk by the Thames all the way to the Tate Modern. On Sunday you can enjoy the Flower Market on Columbia Road and have a typical Sunday Roast at the Royal Oak, then walk back to Brick Lane for some vintage shopping. And I think you should definitely go to Harrod’s!

Where can you find the best fish and chips? And what if you want to eat healthy?

For the best Fish and Chips go to Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden. I’m not a big fan of anything fried but for some reason I can stomach theirs any day. When I eat out I don’t really look for anything specially healthy. If I want a salad I’ll just make myself one at home!

Do you have a favorite spot for a London staycation? Where do you go to escape the business of the city?

Hampstead Heath in North London is a great place to escape. It feels like you’re in the middle of the countryside.

What is your favorite restaurant?

For a date: The Rivington Grill in East London
For breakfast: The Breakfast Club on Old Street
For the best Pho: Cay Tre on Old street
For a fun dinner with friends: Pizza East in Shoreditch
To impress: Bob Bob Ricard in Soho

Where is the best spot for lunch with girlfriends?

The Albion on Redchurch Street.

A place for high tea ?

The Delauney in Covent Garden.

Where are you most likely to spot Will and Kate?

I have no idea.

Where do you get you hair cut ?

Hob Salon. Ask for Stan. He’s the one who cut my hair short the first time. Since then I never looked back. And he’s the only hairdresser I know that doesn’t talk when he’s cutting you hair!

Where do you get your nails done ?

I usually do it myself or at the Chinese place just down the road from me. But for pedicures I go to Cowshed Spa in Shoreditch House.

Where can we buy Velour ?

Selfridges, Harrod’s, Harvey Nichols and every bookstore.

Is there a hotel you recommend to your friends ?

The Covent Garden Hotel. It looks very French and… they do the best daiquiri!

More City Guides:
Joana / Rio
Rei / Tokyo
Laure / Miami
Dianna / New York
Lauren / Paris
Kate / New York
Anouk / Sydney 
Melodi / Istanbul
Luisa & Tine / Rome
Alexandra / Paris
Giorgia / Milan


Add yours
  • Génial ! Moi qui compte y aller pour Noël, j’ai une petite idée des endroits moins touristiques à aller voir.

  • Oh Garance, je t’en supplie, demande à Violaine où elle a trouvé son écharpe !?!
    Mille merci pour ta réponse, je suis pois POis POIS en ce moment!

  • Cette interview me donne des envies de voyage ! Merci Garance

  • Also in Paris everybody says “pardon”! (Violaine has got a beautiful scarf)

  • chloe (for now) December, 7 2012, 9:28 / Reply

    One of the best so far!! Really gives you a sense of how to LIVE there, not just visit. Love the “single ladies” shout out ;).

  • Si je peux rajouter une adresse pour un chinois:

    Stick & Bowl
    31 Kensington High Street
    London, Greater London W8 5NP,
    020 7937 2778

    Commander un crispy shredded beef, un truc de fou!!! C’est le top 2 des meilleurs truc du monde! (le 1 c’est un plat de ma maman) et ils sont les seuls à le faire comme ça.

  • Lots of great spots mentioned, however, can I also add Wimbledon Common, and Richmond Park great places that make you feel that your in the countryside for a minute or two. Richmond Park being right next to The Thames on a hill, so scenery is awesome. The Royal family, no you never joke about them, you just watch old reruns of Spitting Image.

  • She is so chic. I’m heading to London next year, so I will be taking this advice with me!

    If only Zara clothes were two “big” for me! haha.


  • I love London!!!! I lived there and it’s an amazing city!!!

  • Wow, really nice. Between Christmas and NYE I’m going to London for a few days with my boyfriend and this is just great! In may I’m going to Barcelona with a friend, and it would be amazing if there would be a City Guide about Barcelona by then!! xxxx

  • Hello Emma,

    I have a little bit of suggestions of places to visit in Barcelona if you want to take a look:
    What and where to eat:
    Gaudi’s architecture:
    All around Barcelona:

    Hope this helps.


  • My city <3

  • Completely unrelated to the topic but:

    I’m a size 2 also and shoe shopping is absolute torture!! I usually end up with beautiful shoes that don’t fit me properly or horrible shoes that fit me perfectly -very rarely do the two align! I’m so pleased to hear I’m not alone! Why does no one cater for us littlies? Except the kids section – which can sometimes hold great (and cheap!) finds!

  • Oh Violaine has said exactly the places I would. Although I would Primrose Hill!

  • Me too! Primrose Hill is lovely! And the Lancaster Hotel is nice too :)

  • Bonjour Garance,
    Je vais découvrir Londres au Printemps prochain.. enfin j’y suis déjà allée mais j’étais bien trop jeune pour m’en souvenir ! Je garde donc ton article et cette itw sous le coude et merci à Violaine pour tous ces tips et adresses ! Avec tout ça je devrais bien en profiter à fond cette fois !
    xxx à toute l’équipe

  • Vanessa la belge December, 7 2012, 10:40 / Reply

    C’est top!! Je comptais justement y retourner prochainement (en attendant d’aller à Tokyo, Sydney ou Rio…)

    Merci merci merciiiii

  • Ha! I’m leaving for London in the morning so this is great!

  • Comme je suis l’une de celles ayant réclamé à cor et à cri un guide de Londres, merci! merci! J’y suis allée deux fois déjà, d’accord pour Harvey Nichols (mais j’aime bien Liberty aussi), le Borough Market, le Tate Modern. La prochaine fois, j’explore l’Est et Brick Lane!

  • Interesting.. I didn’t find people saying sorry all the time when I was there. Actually, that’s is very Canadian.. saying sorry for everything.

    As for afternoon tea, may I also add my favorite place: The Milestone hotel. The scones are to die for. I’m not exaggerating here.. they are really to die for. I agree with her that Camden Passage is the best place for vintage and antique jewellery shopping. If you guys love Moroccan cuisine, Souk Madina in Convent Garden is the place!

  • Stephanie December, 7 2012, 9:23

    I thought exactly the same thing! I am Canadian and it is a definite Canadian tick to say “sorry” for everything. I have never noticed it in London.

    Thank you to you, Garance, and also Violaine, because the guide is great. London has always been one of my favourite cities, if not my favourite, but I don’t know it as well as she does. This guide will definitely come in handy. I also love her look/hair. :)

  • Really great interview. She make her job great. Have a nice friday.

  • I was living in London over the summer and I SO wish that I’d had this! I haven’t been to hardly any of these places; what a good excuse for a return visit! Merci beaucoup Garance et Violaine!

  • Love this place… :)

    Wish I had this guide 4 months ago.. but it’s saved with me for my next time, that i hope will come soon!!!

  • Charlotte December, 7 2012, 11:28 / Reply

    She’s one of my favorites, thank you for all the tips Violane!

  • Super City Guide! Je pars bientôt à Madrid… Aurais-tu des informations madrilènes?

    Théa Unknown

  • Great selections for London… I thought I knew London well… but some of these will be great adventures for me… xv

  • Aah this is so great! Now i wish i was in London xx

  • There are some great suggestions but what’s frustrating is that they are mostly concentrated on places in East London as I guess that’s where V lives!

    How about some N, S and W London suggestions:

    Other great museums to visit:

    The V&A, British Museum and one particular gem: The Wallace Collection (has a fantastic greenhouse to have tea in!)

    Great place to retreat within the city: Kew Gardens

    Great “only in the UK” high street stores: LK Bennett, Whistles, Hobbs, All Saints

    UK designer gems: Checking out Liberty’s “Best of British” display showcasing up and coming British designers or checking out the Dover Street Market for contemporary fashion in a unique setting

    I won’t start on restaurants but Time Out has great recommendations based on budget and cuisine

    And if you want to find Will & Kate, Kate is mostly spotted shopping around Sloane Square ;)

  • All Saints have shops in NYC…

  • this is awesome! thanks for this. bookmarking this now for future reference! *thumbs up*

  • I love London! It is my second home, considering my husband was born and raised there. I appreciate the city guide – some new places to check out when I next visit. And Hampstead Heath or Blackheath are wonderful places to go on a walkabout and ponder life.

  • Moi qui ne suis aller que 2 fois a Londres, voilà de bonnes adresses à garder précieusement!

    Et rien que pour cette magnifique coupe de cheveux, je partirais bien a Londres voir Stan. Ca me donne trop envi de recouper mes cheveux courts ;)


  • Please do an LA city guide! Or San Fran?! I’m going there in January and need your wisdom Garance!

  • Virginia December, 7 2012, 3:53 / Reply

    Er, we don’t all love the Queen. And London has one of the best public transport systems in the world, so we do travel all over. The rest is perfect. Thank you Violaine.

  • I agree Virginia. Londoners travel all over easily on the tube and buses. Also, for the best views in London, head south to Greenwich. Have breakfast / lunch in Royal Teas and head on up to the top of Greenwich Park. I must say this guide seemed to be the views of a visitor to London – it was all rather obvious – than a true Londoner! And we don’t all love the Queen!

  • Definitely agree!

  • Rachel April, 3 2015, 6:15

    I agree – transport links are excellent, it’s really easy to get around. While there are definitely benefits to making salad at home, there are lots of brilliant healthy places to eat out. I highly recommend checking out the Wild Food Cafe (Covent Garden), Mildred’s (Soho) and Nama (Notting Hill)

  • Finally!! Thank you so much! I moved to London while ago and this guide will be very helpful!
    Cool! Seems like I have a long list of cafes to go to! Mmmmm…..

  • Charlotte December, 7 2012, 5:29 / Reply

    Pour les salons de coiffure // for the hairdresser : ask for Egon the best hairdresser in London
    46 Cheshire St (close to brick lane and beyond retro)
    You can then go accross the street to the carpenters to eat delicious cheese board and snail ;)

  • Great London Guide and she has the cutest haircut! I visited London 2 yrs ago for my 30th and stayed in the kensignton area. cant remember some of the places i went but harvey nichols wasnt one of them :(. next time i go i will surely use this guide!

  • Garence ! tu as dans ta main l’illustration, tu visites un gars qui fait des superbes cahiers, tu as bâti des “city guide” de copines, tu vas voir les shows des gogos, tu fais des photos pas mal belle, tu as la connaissance ou la curiosité des… toujours nouvelles technologies,,, alors on rassemble tous ça et tu m’en donne plus … je veux une revue magazine … le soulier j’aime et la caresse de ta caméra sur un maquillage ou un tatouage plus et encore “city guide” avec lien de tout ce que tu as fais car c’est toi que j’aime tellement. Sois la première à nous offrir cela et revolutionne le “bloG ” et dessine dessine tout ça .

  • TOP ! I love London

  • Absolutely fantastic! Now all we need is a Berlin guide. Oh and I’m still so stoked about the Istanbul guide. Can’t wait to visit that city again! God, your travel posts make me want to dust off my backpack so badly. It’s high time this economic crisis starts bullying some other planet!

  • This was a great guide about London, the city where i’ve lived my entire life; however i definitely wouldn’t say that Londoner’s like to keep to their areas- one of the best things about London is the tube that takes you pretty much everywhere and anywhere within the boundaries of the city, me and my friends go exploring all the time! Our public transport system is one of things that i think makes London the best city in the world (although obviously i’m a little bias ;)- to anyone visiting don’t be afraid to let the underground take you away, you’ll make some brilliant discoveries :) but i have to say the Queen isn’t really that much of a big deal here…

  • nice! glad to see that I’ve hit most of those places during my year in London! The city is a bit difficult to get around if you want to go from one area to another, but buses + the tube usually does the trick. The night buses were essential. Cabs are just too expensive unless you’re travelling with your visiting mum!

  • Ah, and now you need one for Los Angeles. And Hong Kong!

  • I’m in love with Violaine’s scarf!I’m looking forward to a return visit to London. Nothing Hill is also my favorite area and I love shopping in Oxfod Street. Great interview!!

  • You have to add Portobello market on Friday morning’s, (under the flyover). Don’t bother on Saturday as it’s packed full of tourists and much less vintage. Golborne Road for great street food. Breakfast at Pizza East Notting Hill. (Green eggs)!
    Soho in London is amazing for so many little coffee places. Try Fernandez and Wells and Princi!
    Liberty is a great store. I prefer it to Harvey Nichols personally.
    I agree about British Museum and Wallace Collection and of course V&A.
    Oh, and Leila’s East London for amazing coffee and fried eggs with sage. Very cool and delicious. Only open towards the end of the week and weekend.
    Redchurch Street for some cool shops like Hostem for men. Scott would like that and have a coffee at Allpress.
    oh, and Brindisa in Borough Market for amazing tapas. Buzzing on Fridays… and while you’re there get coffee from Monmouth. That’s it from me.

  • what about tube? london is all about it! plus she lives in east london- the overground line is huge there! seriously, she made it feel like transport does not exist in london!!!
    plus what abt selfridges for beautiful things or just browsing?!!1
    i found this a rather poor guide

  • You have to ask a Londoner about London.
    This lovely lady has only been here 9 years ( still a tourist by true londoner standards)
    The city is too big and diverse to garner a full understanding in just 9 years
    This is illustrated very clearly with her attachment to East London, Bombed in the war
    with no parks and yes fast becoming the fashion capitol, but also widely written and talked about as having
    become a parody of itself. It’s so in it’s already out and over. A flash in the pan as we say here. The way north London was in the 90’s, only a true Londoner will tell you that……….

    Too narrow. And uniformed. Sorry but that’s the truth.

  • Someone seems a little pretentious! Please do enlighten us on what would have been some better suggestions.

  • Actually, I’d say that the best way to get around London is to hire a bicycle from the Bicycle Hire scheme (all you need is a debit/credit card). They’re everywhere and a total bargain for short trips (you pay a fixed fee of 1pound per day and then it’s free for trips under 30mins). If you know the city pretty well, you can get pretty much anywhere you want to within 15-30mins.

  • Thank you so much for this! I’m going to London for a holiday next year and this advice will be really useful.

  • Love reading the comments just as much as I loved the guide. It’s nice to find out about other spots that people recommend! And if you ever need a Prague guide, Garance, hit me up! ;)

  • It’s been about 5 years since I was last in London…and since I need to start pinning down 2013 vacation schedules in the next few weeks – perhaps a return is needed?

    There’s just something about fish and chips, mushy peas and tea that tastes far better when you’re in the UK.


  • I love these city guide posts! So informative and I feel like I can imagine the city itself. Thanks so much Garance x

  • Merci pour ce city guide! Il tombe au bon moment car j’y vais dans 3 semaines! ;-) Bon dimanche Garance. Mes amitiés!

  • PS, Malty Street and Spa Terminus on Saturday mornings is THE market to visit now! A few stalls that used to be at Borough moved here a couple of years ago and it’s really turned into a lovely place to shop.
    I agree with the recommendation for Leila’s in Shoreditch. Also for lunch during the week the Rochelle Canteen the other side of Arnold Circus to Leila’s. For great theatre, try the Menier Chocolate Factory. You can also eat there and get a great price for supper and a show. The magazine Time Out is free every Tuesday and is well worth picking up for ideas.

  • Un city guide directement dans mes favoris !


  • London is great! No doubt. But now that “you are” in Europe, you may want to go a bit east… Budapest is a great place, with a special ‘ambiance’. And a lot of stuff is going on on the fashion scene, too!

  • Steph à Berlin December, 9 2012, 7:21 / Reply

    très chouette et très détaillé !!
    mais… à quand Berlin, Garance ? :)
    bises enneigées

  • TC Wellesley December, 9 2012, 12:05 / Reply

    In the interest of linguistic accuracy, “high tea” is, historically, tea taken with a full meal, dinner or supper. The other is “afternoon tea,” or just “tea.”

  • This was a really useful post. Thank you. We’re hoping to go to London again in 2014. Hopefully, most of this information will still be pertinent.

  • Agree with everyone about the shocking dismissal of London’s transport networks in this ‘guide’. The transport here is AMAZING – tube, buses, overland trains, DLR, Boris bikes. Nobody gets a cab unless they are stinking rich or have had a few drinks and can’t be arsed to change twice on the tube to get home.
    Oh and we don’t all love the Queen! I have no idea where she gets that idea from!

  • I’ve lived in East London for two years now and I just can’t get enough of it, its funny because a lot of the places mentioned in this Q&A are places I go. There is such a vibrance in this area of the City. Can’t wait to read more of your interviews! Thanks!

  • When you come to New Orleans, can I PLEASE help you with the City Guide?!? Pretty please!

  • London swallowed up all the surrounding towns & villages as it grew so each area has a different character. Londoners get around a lot on the tube & buses (nice to see the city as you travel) and even walking.

    All the museums are great and the major museums are free. For the history of the city the Museum of London near Barbican Station is very interesting & children love it. Don’t miss the National Portrait Gallery.

    Harrods & Selfridges have improved their fashion & beauty a lot, Liberty has a different choice. Fenwick on Bond Street is good for mid price designers (top floor particularly). Dover Street Market & Browns in South Molton Street buy very well.

    I highly recommend Laurence Coste on Walton Street in Chelsea for beautiful semi-precious jewellery. Some she makes & some she buys in and she has a wonderful eye for colour & scale. I get so many compliments when I wear her jewellery.

    For flowers I recommend the stall at the junction of Old & New Bond Street. They supply many of the shops on Bond Street & the flowers are very good quality & well priced.

    For alteration First Tailored on Lower Sloane Street. Not cheap, but they will do major alterations very well. I have had clothes taken down several sizes (sale buys) and completely reimagined.

    L’Artisan du Chocolat is next door on Lower Sloane Street (also Westbourne Grove & Selfridges). They make the chocolate from scratch rather than buying the base chocolate in from the big manufacturers as many artisan chocolatiers do. The flavours are unusual & delicious.

  • OH Garance! This is why you are my best imaginary friend! I just moved to London and BOOM, the same month you do a London guide with a super cool girl!

  • Mais quand donc le city guide San Francisco. Je te donne 7 mois pour le faire.
    Yes ?

  • C’est pas si complique de se déplacer à Londres franchement…moi j’y habite et je ne reste pas cloisonnée dans mon quartier ! Il y a des arrêts de bus à tous les coins de rue et le métro est aussi pratique qu’à Paris! Les taxis sont chers oui mais le soir c très pratique pour une courte distance à parcourir et il y en a partout comme à NYC !

  • Tout à fait d’accord, les bus sont super! Et on peut se déplacer en vélo pour les distances pas trop longues aussi, c’est génial!

  • I honestly love the woman, and she does make me want to visit London!
    This is my illustration based on your stunning photograph, Garance

  • i like how your hair looks…..I didn’t like it when u first cut it ….i like how your dressed….I think u found a look..

  • Garance, il y a besoin d’un guide de Moscou, la ville plus intéressante du monde! <3

  • Hello Garance, ce serait sympa d’avoir un nouveau cityguide de Londres Thx !!

  • Voilà un article qui tombe à pic pour moi! J’ai hâte d’être à Londres l’an prochain!

  • As a born-and-bred Londoner, I have to say you’ve got it all wrong about the Queen! Please go ahead and make royalty jokes. (And what is a “Queen’s teapot”?!) But I’d say there are jokes that seem to be acceptable in NYC which sound racist to us Londoners – so the joke not to make in London is anything that you think might be a bit racist (if you want to think about it a bit more, compare the Asian characters on British TV to the embarrassing stereotypes in American sitcoms…).

  • paxton April, 3 2015, 4:13 / Reply, it’s not difficult to get an A -Z and just walk..or get a bus….after a life time in London I know….. don’t get the Tube (boring and crowded), don’t waste money on taxis… you get to know the little streets and short cuts and the best bus routes ( 73 and 139 are great ..also the 268…lots of others ..just do your homework on the TFL website) you take control of the city….and it’s ( 99%) safe and friendly and entertaining.

  • That’s interesting…I live in London, not very far from Bethnal Green and I travel everywhere by public transport: tube, buses, overground, DLR…in 43 years I have used a black cab maybe 3 times. I use mini cabs occasionally but it is mostly public transport. The tube does get crowded sometimes, but seeing as this is a city with over 9 million inhabitants it is not surprising.

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