The various and diverse "villages" of London reflect the full spectrum of the city's residents. From exclusive, elite establishments to downright dingy dives, tourist-drenched terrain to homegrown habitations, there's something for every visitor. As Dr. Johnson said back in the 18th Century, "If you're tired of London, you're tired of life."
Battersea & Clapham
Home to hoards of trendy young things, this is the place to go for fun and funky bars and restaurants outside of central London. La Pampa Grill and Le Bouchon Bordelais are some popular options.
Bayswater & Paddington
Famous for its train station and the Peruvian bear named after it (the marmalade sandwich-munching Paddington Bear), this area is a good bet for affordable accommodation that's close to the tranquility of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens .
Bloomsbury, Euston & Fitzrovia
Bloomsbury is London's literary capital and a walking tour is the best way to discover the haunts of the city's verbose geniuses. A visit to the area is not complete without a wander through the hallowed halls of London's biggest tourist lure – the British Museum .
Reggae beats and spicy treats prevail in London's largest Afro-Caribbean community. Once a shabby, no-go area, it is now frequented by all kinds of people, including trendy, affluent types who hang out in the myriad of cool bars and happening clubs. The wonderful cultural diversity is visible in the bustling, popular market, and the famous Fridge nightclub.
Crowded streets spill over with shoppers and people-watchers who flock from far and wide to relax, rather than haggle, at the Camden Market . However, good restaurants like Gilgamesh , clubs like Monto Water Rats and a top comedy venue make Camden much more than a great grocery shopping stop.
Chelsea & Fulham
Darling! Chic boutiques, expensive restaurants, snooty aristocrats and models in slick sports cars haunt Brompton Cross, King's Road and Kensington High Street. The Earl's Court Exhibition Centre is always a hub of activity, and it's always a pleasure to cruise across the delightful Albert Bridge at night when it's all lit up.
The City of London & Square Mile
England's coffers are in the Square Mile; one of the few places where the streets might as well be paved with gold. Modern structures like the Lloyd's Building outnumber the more ancient edifices like the Bank of England and the Old Bailey . The City embraces the sacred in St. Paul's Cathedral and the everyday in Spitalfields Market and Leadenhall Market . Blackfriars Bridge was the site of the infamous 1982 murder of the Italian banker Roberto Calvi.
Clerkenwell & Shoreditch
This trendy area is flush with hip, sofa-laden hangouts, swanky restaurants and sleek galleries. Most of the action revolves around Hoxton Square , but East London is always booming due to its proximity to the city. Once favored only by struggling artists on the cutting edge, it's now a new media mecca with artists and savvy tech upstarts providing a vibrant mix.
Covent Garden & Holborn
There's been a clamp down on street performers, but the open-air party atmosphere still pervades in Covent Garden Piazza . The 18th-century former fruit and vegetable market has evolved gracefully and now houses fashion boutiques and other expensive stores. Stroll down Long Acre, Floral Street and the cobbled Neal Street or visit the Royal Opera House .
Docklands & Wapping
Heavily bombed during World War II, this area has become the incarnation of 1980s prosperity. Canary Wharf Tower dominates the skyline and the Canary Wharf area is one of the capital's greatest economic powerhouses. The Tower of London was a 16th-century prison where some of Henry VIII's unlucky wives were beheaded. No longer so unfriendly, visitors are able to view the fabulous Crown Jewels on the premises. Aftewards, stroll outside and take in the stunning Tower Bridge .
This is home to a beautiful active Benedictine Abbey, a large Polish community and the famous Ealing Studios where films like Shaun of the Dead and Doctor Who have been produced. Check out Charlotte's Place for a down-home atmosphere and a well-cooked meal.
Otherwise known as zero degrees longitude, Greenwich is the home of the term, "Greenwich Mean Time." Take a boat trip down the Thames for a romantic day out or visit the National Maritime Museum , the imposing Royal Naval College , Cutty Sark, and the Thames Barrier Park .
Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush & Chiswick
Hammersmith and "Da Bush," as the area is sometimes more affectionately known, is a great place to come for a meal or night out away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. A popular place for theater, you can choose from the cozy Lyric Hammersmith , the high quality London Apollo or the fringe-style Bush Theatre .
This neighborhood is a leafy suburbia with a charming village ambiance. Steeped in literary history, the homes of poets, playwrights and actors (past and present) are marked by endless blue plaques. An afternoon in Kenwood House or strolling on Hampstead Heath will keep you worlds away from the noise and bustle of London.
Hoxton & Shoreditch
This area is considered the base of London's hippie scene for the artistic and those interested in media. East London has seen a significant boom thanks to its proximity to the city. Specialty bars and pubs dominate this district.
Tony Blair's home ground and a yuppie playground, Upper Street is one long stretch of restaurants and bars. Seek out antiques in Camden Passage or stroll along Regent's Canal and find out what makes this corner of North London so spectacular.
Knightsbridge & Belgravia
The two reasons to shop in this area have to be Piccadilly Circus and Harrods . Down the road is the stunning Baroque Brompton Oratory , and be sure not to miss Kensington Church Street or Sloane Street.
Leicester Square & Piccadilly
Full of tourist frenzy, the Leicester Square is home to several bright multiplexes that are no strangers to star-studded film premieres. There is a plethora of bars, pubs and clubs that keep the punters happy. Stroll down Piccadilly and pop into Fortnum & Mason , take tea at the Palm Court in the Ritz, or shop along the sartorially elegant Jermyn and Regent Streets.
Maida Vale & St John's Wood
An intriguing juxtaposition of massive houses and council estates gives this area a diverse ethnic and economic feel. It's worth a visit if you'd like to see the canals and cafes of Little Venice. The venerable cricketing institute, Lord's Cricket Ground , also calls this district home.
Marylebone & Regent's Park
Harley Street is renowned worldwide for its medical consultants and cosmetic surgeons. A stone's throw from Baker Street is Madame Tussaud's and Regent's Park . Wigmore Street hosts virtuosos at the legendary Wigmore Hall while the private Wallace Art Collection is housed in Manchester Square. Elegant Marylebone High Street has tasty gastronomic venues, high fashion boutiques, and an Aveda Lifestyle Store . The beautiful interior of St James's Church, around the corner in Spanish Place, was restored thanks to John Paul Getty III.
This district is full of refined hotels where affluent foreigners stay. The impressive 18th-century edifices of Mayfair are inhabited by people of fabulous wealth. First-class shopping can be found along Bond Street and you can pick up a gem or two at Sotheby's .
Notting Hill & Ladbroke Grove
This supremely hip district offers designer boutiques, retro shops, heavenly delicatessens, and the antique stalls of Portobello Road Market . The world famous Notting Hill Carnival at the end of August brings a Caribbean flavor to the streets, with hip-swaying dance troupes and general revelry. Fantastic cafe life, decadent bars, and superb restaurants satisfy food-lovers. The gospel choir at Kensington Temple is well-known for its soulful, arm-waving harmonies.
This district consists of riverside pubs, rowing clubs, and wealthy stockbrokers. Nearby Barnes is a similarly bucolic, quiet and upscale residential neighborhood.
Richmond Park is one of Europe's largest parks. The 17th-century Ham House , Kew Gardens' botanic splendor and Palladian Marble Hill House are all excellent reasons to venture beyond the center of town. A boat from the pier to Hampton Court Palace makes for a fun day trip.
Soho & West End
This area is a vibrant combination of trendy and tacky. It leads a promiscuous triple life: a red light district, gay and lesbian nightlife hot-spot and a respectable drinking and dining area. Chinatown is vibrant and the area also offers a host of other cuisines: British, vegetarian, French and Thai. Many Londoners congregate here for Chinese New Year Celebrations, a very colorful, fun-filled spectacle.
Southwark, Lambeth & Waterloo
In this district, visitors can watch Shakespearean actors pace the boards at the marvelous Globe Theatre . The Tate Modern Gallery further boosts the South Bank's shining cultural program. Foodies may wish to enter Butler's Wharf - a gastronomic temple. Don't miss the London Eye (also known as the Millennium Wheel) near Westminster Bridge. The gigantic Ferris wheel offers unrivaled views of London.
Westminster & St James's
The British Empire was ruled from Whitehall , but now it only serves the United Kingdom. Not surprisingly, civil servants and politicians abound in the vicinity. Big Ben reliably strikes out the hour, loud enough to wake the old kings and queens from their tombs in Westminster Abbey . Visitors should definitely check out the A.W. Pugin-designed Houses of Parliament situated along the beautifully illuminated river, and take a stroll in St. James's Park and Green Park .
There's more to the Village than the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, although it does tend to dominate the summer months. There's a huge Common where you can ride horses or spot Wombles. You can also visit the Georgian Cannizaro House and the Wimbledon Windmill. This is where Baden-Powell invented scouting and Thomas Hughes wrote Tom Brown's Schooldays.
Londoners are spoiled with many choices when it comes to dining out. The cuisine of almost any country in the world can be sampled in the capital. Options include Korean, Burmese, Argentine, Vegan, Malaysian, Mauritian, Modern British and Hungarian — all in all, an epicurean feast! Food is a popular hedonistic pleasure, with restaurants emerging as trendy hang-outs, chefs becoming TV stars and cooking books turning into hot bestsellers. Naturally every area and every other road in London has a place to eat, but certain areas stand out among the rest.
This perennially popular neighborhood teems with great mid-range venues like Wagamama , everyone's favorite modern noodle bar, and Cottons — a favorite for Caribbean cuisine. The famous Jazz Cafe brings some great blues and an eclectic selection of music to the area.
Chelsea & Fulham
This area has a first-rate selection of restaurants catering to the area's wealthy clientele — but the variety is just as vast as it is in the rest of the city. Enjoy classy Thai food at Blue Elephant and join locals for authentic Italian at Chelsea stalwart La Famiglia . For some brilliant Modern British head to Bibendum and Bluebird . For the gastro-pub experience, join the Chelsea crowd at The Admiral Codrington and sample great, updated British grub like salmon fishcakes and warm liver salad.
Here the simple mixes with the traditional, the substantial with the stylish. Traditional English fare is the order of the day at Rules ; it always offers a refined and restrained dining experience. Another appealing venue is The Ivy , in the heart of Theaterland, where you can do plenty of celebrity watching. Charlotte Street, up the road in Fitzrovia, is also packed with superb restaurants, perfect for business and romance.
Upper Street is swarming with restaurants, bars and cafes; Modern British cuisine is very well represented. You can also find a range of other cuisines, from tasty Turkish at Pasha to spicy Indian at Masala Zone .
Kensington & Knightsbridge
Kensington Place is a good spot for lunch. Visit Julie's for a romantic evening, or try Clarkes for a contemporary and elegant experience. San Lorenzo on Beauchamp Place was Princess Diana's favorite spot for Italian and continues to attract many food connoisseurs.
Some great eateries, including the elegant Orrery (another Conran venture). For Irish cuisine, try the Ard Ri Dining Room above the O'Connor Don Pub. In St. Christopher's Place, a charming courtyard off Oxford Street, you'll find cafes, Italian trattorias and juice bars.
Mayfair & West End
In Mayfair, enjoy the Michelin-starred modern French cuisine of The Square , probably one of London's finest restaurants. Check out Indian favorites including the pricey Veeraswarmy and Chor Bizarre . If you seek relaxation, visit Momo , where you can sit cross-legged and enjoy succulent dishes from the Middle East.
Home to hip restaurants of all kinds. There is a vast selection of Italian places, like the snug and friendly Osteria Basilico . Tom's delicatessen is popular for weekend brunches, but be prepared for long lines. For something more exotic, try some Caribbean food, abundant at Carnival time at street stalls.
One of London's best-kept secrets. The hugely popular Greek restaurant Lemonia is perfect for families while Odette's suits intimate, romantic dinners and enjoyment of fine wines. Manna is a great vegetarian restaurant, and Sesame, the whole-food store, has a great cafe on Regent's Park Road.
Soho & Chinatown
One of London's top nightlife areas, there is an incredible concentration of bars, restaurants and cafes here. From Bar Italia and the trendy vegetarian eatery Mildred's to the very exclusive Lindsay House , you can find practically anything in just a few busy blocks.
Oxo Tower has the hype to match the buzz and a formidable view. Its West London counterpart, Thai Square Putney is an architectural delight offering both great views of the Thames and knock-out food to go with them. Terence Conran's Blue Print Cafe leaves a fine impression with views of Tower Bridge .
The City of London
There is a super vegetarian lunch venue in the crypt of St. Mary-le-Bow called The Place Below . Other options in the area include Futures restaurant, The Eagle gastro-pub and the Filthy McNasty pub if you want a drink. Stylish and formal restaurants like the trendy Smith's , are abundant.
Hotels are also a good bet for eating out, since they have a pleasant touch of luxury, tip-top service and tables that are often available at the last minute. Afternoon teas are an English tradition that cannot be missed — scones, clotted cream and leaf tea in silver teapots. The Dorchester and Brown's are among the great hotels serving tea from 3p.
You can even find good food at Internet cafes that mushroom all over the capital. Many public houses, besides pumping real ale, are being transformed into gastro-pubs. With such fabulous choice, standards are very high. London is truly terrific on a global scale.