Destinations

An Insider’s Guide to London

Local DJ Phil Marriott and designer Rene Macdonald share their favorite spots in England’s capital city.

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EVERY CITY HAS shared spaces and well-known places. But each person’s map of their city is unique, a web of individual needs, tastes, and desires. In this series, we tap two residents to learn about the spots they love — the ones they return to and recommend — from the best morning coffee to the most breathtaking view.

For this issue, we bring you to London, the bustling capital and largest city in the United Kingdom. We talked to Rene Macdonald and Phil Marriott. Macdonald is the founder of Lisou, a women’s fashion brand specializing in boldly colorful silk clothing in classic, wearable shapes. Marriott is a broadcaster, DJ, and audio/video editor with more than 25 years of experience in the LGBTQ+ entertainment scene.

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Rene Macdonald, founder and creative director of Lisou

Food that exemplifies your city and best place to get it?

London is one of those cities where the diversity of nationalities means you can eat any cuisine the world has to offer. I love the South Bank for its food stalls and small, local restaurants like Mazi in Notting Hill.

Favorite secret spot in the city?

That’s a tough one, but I would say Brick Lane for vintage finds and spices.

Best thing to do with kids in your city?

London has so many incredible museums for children. I love the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. During this summer’s heat wave, kids ran through the outdoor fountains in historical courtyards.

Best bar or late-night spot?

Bar Italia is probably the most infamous for post-clubbing. It stays open until 3 a.m. and is full of interesting characters.

Best book/film/song about your city?

“Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks always puts a smile on my face.

Best place to buy a special gift?

Portobello Market is full of treasures and unusual antiques.

Best city view?

The Sky Garden in [historic financial district] the City is pretty spectacular, as are the views from Primrose Hill.


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Phil Marriott, broadcaster and DJ

Food that exemplifies your city and best place to get it?

Temple of Seitan in Hackney showcases the talent from the youthful and creative side of East London, reminding visitors that the city doesn’t have to be all about the big chains and corporate cash.

Favorite secret spot in the city?

Stave Hill Park next to Russia Dock Woodland on the Rotherhithe peninsula in South East London. Created from the old docks in Rotherhithe, this relatively modest natural area not only thrives with wildlife but gives you a great view of Southwark and the high-rise buildings on Isle of Dogs across the other side of the river.

Best thing to do with kids in your city?

Greenwich Park is one of the largest green spaces in South East London. As well as the observatory and planetarium, you will also find a bandstand, a children’s adventure playground, and entertainment such as puppet shows and workshops during the summer school holidays.

Best bar or late-night spot?

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern. This iconic London landmark was built in 1865 and has been known as an LGBTQ+ cabaret venue since the 1980s. As soon as you walk through the doors, you know you are going to have a wild night. I adored this queer safe space for years, and now I am a resident DJ there. Couldn’t be happier.

Best book/film/song about your city?

Probably an odd choice for some, but it has to be “An American Werewolf in London.” In the film’s creepiest scene, a werewolf stalks a city gent through the tunnels of Tottenham Court Road station. When traveling by tube, I often get spooked thinking of that memorable scene.

Best place to buy a special gift?

Tate Modern on the Bankside offers a great selection of treats for modern art and culture enthusiasts.

Best view of your city?

The Emirates Air Line [cable car] is inexpensive and gives you impressive aerial views of London’s skyline as you travel from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks.


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Our Contributors

Nina Renata Aron Writer

Nina Renata Aron is a writer and editor based in Oakland, California. She is the author of “Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls.” Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the New Republic, Elle, Eater, and Jezebel.

Zoë Barker Illustrator

Zoë Barker is an award-winning illustrator and artist based in Norwich, England.

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