The Best London Gifts To Give (And Gifts To Bring Back From London For Yourself!)

The Best London Gifts To Give (And Gifts To Bring Back From London For Yourself!)

London either you love it or loathe it. I’m one of those people that love London, and I honestly can’t understand how someone wouldn’t love London. Do you know someone who loves London despite its obvious flaws? Here are some great idea for London gifts for every lover of London you might know. You can get some great London themed gifts which are not the tacky souvenir kind. And, you know when you shop for others, gifts to bring back from London for yourself may catch your eye. Here’s our curated list of cool gifts from London and about London.

London Gift Ideas for Architecture Lovers

In the London skyline chess set, we’ve got famous London landmarks in moulded acrylic stand in for the the usual pieces:

  • Big Ben = rook
  • The London Eye = knight
  • The Gherkin = the Bishop
  • The Shard = Queen
  • Canary Wharf = The King
  • Terraced houses = pawns

This beautiful set is perfect for people who love London and/or chess and/or design.

If you are looking for cool gifts from London, check out the London Skyline Chess set which has pieces based on the architecture of the city.

If you are looking for cool gifts from London, check out the London Skyline Chess set which has pieces based on the architecture of the city.

For the young budding architect lover, the Lego Architecture skyline building set has The London Eye, Big Ben, the Tate Modern, St. Pauls and Tower Bridge.  Other Lego architecture London gift ideas include the Buckingham Palace Landmark Building set and a Lego Creator/Lego Creator Expert sets of Tower Bridge and red London double decker buses.

My son loves this Lego Architecture set of London landmarks

My son loves this Lego Architecture set of London landmarks

This gorgeous book by a London resident artist, Modern London, showcases the best of London’s modern architecture for the last 100 years.

An architecture book with beautiful artwork created by a London resident

An architecture book with beautiful artwork created by a London resident

Buy These Great London Gifts Now!

London Themed Gifts for Book Lovers

Books about the city and its life make great London themed gifts.

London themed gifts for book lovers include aspects of the city’s history, cooking and entertainment.

London themed gifts for book lovers include aspects of the city’s history, cooking and entertainment.

Spitalfields is a really interesting overview of an interesting part of East London which has seen waves of immigrants, Jack the Ripper and now trendy hipsters.  Narrowing down the focus of the area even more, 18 Folgate Street is the history of a house in Spitalfields which is now restored as a museum.

Moving onto modern London, Together: The Community Cookbook was a project by the Duchess of Sussex (our very own American princess!) to fundraise for the inhabitants of one of the worst London tragedies in recent times – the fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017 which killed 72 people. These recipes are from some of the displaced survivors of Grenfell Tower and showcase the migrant history of London today with diverse recipes including Iraqi, Algerian, Indian and Russian.

Everyone who loves London appreciates its quirkier aspects. Here are three great options that go beyond the usual tourist information:

Fun Fact! (From London’s Strangest Tales) Did you know that upscale grocer Fortnum & Mason started off by recycling Queen Anne’s old candles?

These books are gifts from London, ideas where to go in the future for that London lover who will surely return.

Buy these London themed gifts for book lovers now!

London Gifts for the Home

We have wonderful memories of Regents Park (see the print below by Alice Tait) because we lived when the kids were young in St. Johns Wood near the famous Abbey Road Studios. Every time we left our house, we would run into tourists trying to recreate the famous walk across the crosswalk by The Beatles. Every single time. It was never-ending. I can tell you that got annoying very fast. We had to leave the neighbourhood before my impulse for vehicular homicide got the better of me.

These prints make great London gift ideas because they can commemorate a special place.

These prints make great London gift ideas because they can commemorate a special place.

Gin has had both a huge history in London and a new resurgence as a drink.  In the early 18th century, Londoners would drink about 1/2 a pint of gin a day leading to serious alcoholism and social issues as depicted by artist Samuel Hogarth’s famous engraving series, The Rake’s Progress. Then there was a lull in the popularity of the drink and now there are gin bars all over London. Gordon’s is the world’s best selling London gin but cool craft bottles of local gins make great gifts to buy in London.

Bottles of London gin make great London gifts

Bottles of London gin make great London gifts

Buy these London gifts for the home!


Cool Gifts in London for Map Lovers

You can buy great antique maps of London. This map below I bought as a present for my husband. I loved that this particular map contained all the illustrations of the buildings on the banks (including the Tower of London!) and the boats on the River Thames as well as the layout of the streets. You can see the old London Bridge which had buildings on it similar to what you find in the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence Italy today.

This antique map of London shows the Thames and the City of London during Elizabethan times.

This antique map of London shows the Thames and the City of London during Elizabethan times.

I bought this map in an antique shop off Bond Street but you can get much cheaper options which make great gifts to bring back from London.

I’ve gotten books for my son called Maps of London and Beyond and London: A History in Maps which has got maps showing how the city progressed. They are very cool to browse through to see how this dynamic city has changed through the centuries.

Maps of London don’t need to be expensive such as this postcard.

Maps of London don’t need to be expensive such as this postcard.

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The Best London Gifts To Give (And Gifts To Bring Back From London For Yourself!)

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5 Great Ways To Explore Paris As An Art Lover (+ See An Old Favourite Differently!)

5 Great Ways To Explore Paris As An Art Lover (+ See An Old Favourite Differently!)

Paris is just as much an art enthusiast’s paradise as it is a lovers’ destination. From the traditional to the avant-garde, the City of Lights has many interesting things in store for the art lover. If your love for the arts has brought you to Paris, consider visiting these spots which range from taking in modern street art, viewing Old Masters in the museums, staying in a luxury Paris art hotel, taking an opportunity to eat in the dark and browsing an art and design bookstore.

Paris Art Hotel le Bellechasse

Your exposure to the arts can begin with your accommodation at a Paris art hotel. The Hotel le Bellechasse, a boutique hotel in boho cool St Germain des Pres, offers 7 different art themes across its rooms. The interiors of this Paris art hotel are a beautiful display of Bohemian styles and Parisian neo-classicism. The hotel was designed by renowned French fashion designer Christan Lacroix who is well known for his theatrical flair.

Hotel Bellechasse is one of several hotels in Paris that has been designed by Christian Lacroix.

Hotel Le Bellechasse is one of several hotels in Paris that has been designed by Christian Lacroix.
(Image credit: Hotel le Bellechasse’s Facebook)

Street Art at Paris Oberkampf

In Paris Oberkampf is the district known for its vibrant street art sort of like Shoreditch in London. There is art everywhere, from building walls to metal shutters to street furniture. Like its British counterpart, Oberkampf Paris nightlife is also very popular spot. After getting your cultural fix, you can stick around and party late into the night.

You can find street art in Paris in several neighbourhoods.

You can find street art in Paris in several neighbourhoods.

Perhaps the most popular street art spot in Oberkampf is the Le Mur, which is a wall dedicated to showcasing the works of internationally renowned artists. The art on this space is changed every two weeks (to date 270+ artists have had their turn on this space). Check out their website to find out when the next installation will occur.  Crowds gather to watch each installation happen.

Eat in the Dark at Dans Le Noir?

… food is not simply organic fuel to keep body and soul together, it is a perishable art that must be savoured at the peak of perfection.

– E.A. Bucchianeri

If you’re in love with the concept of being fed the unknown, Dans Le Noir? will be an enjoyable experience. In this restaurant, you are forced to eat in the dark with no knowledge of what’s on your plate. No, not dimly lit like so many trendy restaurants but total pitch black darkness. The idea is to heighten your other senses in the absence of sight.

Experience a feast for the senses by dining in the dark.

Experience a feast for the senses by dining in the dark.

Reviewer Zach Brooke even jokes that it’s not a restaurant you ought to dress up for because of the many possible moments you could knock your glass over or spill food. In addition, he notes that the experience where you eat in the dark makes one realize how much the eyes play an important role in food, whether it’s cooking or eating.

Old Masters at the Musée du Louvre

The Louvre Museum is renowned for having one of the most extensive and impressive art collections in the world. There’s Michelangelo’s Dying Slave statue, Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People painting, and the Law Code of Hammurabi.

One of the most popular pieces that everyone wants to see in person is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. When my kids first saw the Mona Lisa they were surprised by how small the actual painting is – so outsize is its influence in modern culture appearing everywhere from high brow books to low brow memes.

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most famous paintings in the world.

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most famous paintings in the world.

The Mona Lisa arguably the artist’s most famous piece, though his other works are also noteworthy in their own right. Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings in general have a huge influence even outside the art industry, as they’re often subjects in other forms of media like films and video games. For instance, his works functioned as plot devices in the film The Da Vinci Code. Meanwhile, SlotSource’s Da Vinci Diamonds game heavily feature the artist’s portraits in its gameplay mechanics. Because of the prominence of such products, even non-artists are familiar with Da Vinci’s paintings.

Travel Tip! Expect the museum to be crowded especially around the most famous pieces, such as the Mona Lisa. Try visiting on Wednesday or Friday evening, as the museum stays open until 9:45 PM.

Prefer your art with less crowds? Sainte Chapelle houses a large collection of 13th century stained glass which has to be seen to be appreciated.

Art and Design Bookstore, Artazart

The unique offerings at Artazart makes it a must-visit art and design bookstore in Paris. You can find a curated collection of books and magazines on graphic design, photography, and other art-related topics. Aside from books, the store also sells polaroid cameras and prints.

Artazart is a well-regarded art and design bookstore in Paris.

Artazart is a well-regarded art and design bookstore in Paris.
(image credit: Artazart’s Facebook)

This art and design bookstore also holds monthly exhibitions in order to shine the spotlight on both popular and up and coming artists. After shopping for art and design books here, you can also stop by the Canal Saint-Martin, which is both a nice picnic area and a popular spot for street art.

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5 Great Ways To Explore Paris Through an Artist’s Eye

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Celebrating International Mushy Peas Day at the Best Fish and Chips in London

Celebrating International Mushy Peas Day at the Best Fish and Chips in London

In honour of the second International Mushy Peas Day, we visited a restaurant well-known for having one of the best fish and chips in London. After all fish chips and mushy peas are a classic British dish. It seems like something you either love or hate, like Marmite. My son loves mushy peas, my husband hates them. I think they just taste like a solid form of split pea soup. You can have traditional mushy peas or use them to jazz up other dishes like a burger or risotto.

Mushy Peas

So just when you thought they couldn’t come up with any more gratuitous holidays, November 9th is now the International Mushy Pea Day. I’m OK with celebrating food though (even the humble pea).

Fish and chips mushy peas - a classic British dish

Fish and chips mushy peas – a classic British dish

What is Mushy Peas?

First things, first. What is mushy peas? Mushy peas really are just that –  a glob of cooked peas seasoned in salt and sugar mushed together.

Mushy peas are a classic side dish in the North of England. They’ve earned their nickname of being Yorkshire’s caviar by accompanying many a fish and chips or pie meal. It’s the obligatory green vegetable bit that makes you feel better about all the fat and salt in the rest of the meal.

There’s an apocryphal story about Labour politician Peter Mendelson who was trying to shed his city slicker image and be one of the regular folk. Unfortunately, on a trip to Yorkshire he ordered fish and chips with a side of the “avocado dip”.  He has denied the story but the Peter Mandelson avocado story is just too good to disappear.
fish chips and mushy peas is a dish that you will find all over Britain

fish chips and mushy peas is a dish that you will find all over Britain

How To Make Mushy Peas

Do you know there are even mushy pea recipes that make mushy peas curry? The British have embraced and adapted Indian food totally. I like this simple easy-to-make mushy pea recipe for mushy pea curry that shows off the best of British Asian fusion food.

Making a mushy pea curry involves more than just adding curry sauce

Making a mushy pea curry involves more than just adding curry sauce

A traditional mushy pea recipe calls for dried marrowfat peas to be soaked in baking soda overnight and then simmered in salt and sugar until they form a green mush.  Appetising (to some). Here is the basic traditional recipe for mushy peas.

If you want to go non-traditional, you can use mushy peas to make burgers, risottos and tarts.  I’ve always loved risotto with peas so I am partial to this mushy pea recipe that adds a pea puree to risotto.

a mushy peas recipe for mushy peas risotto

a mushy peas recipe for mushy peas risotto

Why have avocado toast when you can have peas on toast? Here’s a cool variation on the ubiquitous millennial dish.  Can you blame Peter Mandelson for (allegedly) mixing up avocados and mushy peas?

mushy peas on toast is a less fattening version of the popular avocado toast

mushy peas on toast is a less fattening version of the popular avocado toast

Are Mushy Peas Good For You?

Well, it’s not bad. There are about 87 calories per 100 grams. It’s also low in fat but provides proteins and carbohydrates. Other essential nutrients include iron, zinc, potassium and fibre.

There are not many calories in mushy peas but lots of essential nutrients

There are not many calories in mushy peas but lots of essential nutrients

Go on. Have some mushy peas. Maybe they will be your new avocado substitute.

Best Fish and Chips in London

If you want to try a classic British dish, then fish chips and mushy peas are the way to go.  They are many options for fish and chips in London at many price points. Here are out three favourite options, including the obligatory cheap and greasy joint.

I am not big on deep fried food and/or anything wrapped in newspaper. My pores break out just thinking about it. So you know, the fish and chips have to be good to get a pass from me!

Fish and chips are Friday school lunch classic in British schools. Even my non-fish eating daughter was fine with Fish Finger Fridays (probably because there was hardly any fish in the versions she was served).

Seashell of Lisson Grove

Our vote for the best fish and chips in London goes to the Seashell of Lisson Grove located in Marylebone. It’s been around for 50+ years (e.g, supposedly Princess Di would send her driver to Seashell Lisson grovefor takeaway back in the day). There’s a take away and casual dining place on the corner of Lisson Grove as well as a fancier restaurant next door.

The Seashell of Lisson Grove menu has an extensive choice of fish.

The Seashell of Lisson Grove menu has an extensive choice of fish.

More Good Options For Fish and Chips in London

My friend went on a quest to find the most ‘authentic’ and best fish and chips in London. His methodology was simple. He asked every cab driver he met. The most recommended was The Fryer’s Delight (19 Theobalds Road, London WC1X 8SL) near Holborn. He loved it – basic, delicious and cheap.  Personally, I thought it was too greasy.

Another good option for a retro-cool ambience is Poppies Fish and Chips London which has outposts in three locations now. In addition to the original location in uber-cool Shoreditch, it’s also got outposts now if you are craving fish and chips in Camden and Soho. The owner has been serving fish and chips for decades in the East End before gentrification pounced upon this working class neighbourhood. Anyway, we didn’t choose the fish and chips in Camden because they didn’t serve mushy peas.

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How to make mushy peas, both as a traditional side dish and as a fresh take on old favourites

How to make mushy peas, both as a traditional side dish and as a fresh take on old favourites

Where to go for the best fish & chips in London

Where to go for the best fish & chips in London

In honour of the second International Mushy Peas Day, we visited a restaurant well-known for having one of the best fish and chips in London. Mushy peas go well with fish and chips; you can have traditional mushy peas or use them to jazz up other dishes like a burger or risotto. Check out these mushy peas recipes & ideas.

In honour of the second International Mushy Peas Day, we visited a restaurant well-known
for having one of the best fish and chips in London. Mushy peas go well with fish and chips;
you can have traditional mushy peas or use them to jazz up other dishes like a burger or
risotto. Check out these mushy peas recipes & ideas.

This site generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them at no extra cost to you. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.

Why Bodnant Gardens is a Must-See National Trust Garden in Wales

Why Bodnant Gardens is a Must-See National Trust Garden in Wales

If you are in the Conwy North Wales area in the spring, lucky you! Make sure you swing by the National Trust property, Bodnant Gardens to catch its famous Laburnum Arch in bloom. Planted during Victorian times, the Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch is a golden tunnel of blossom and sunshine. Also part of the Bodnant Estate, a stroll around the gardens should be followed up by a visit to the Bodnant Welsh Food centre.

Bodnant Gardens North Wales

It’s readily apparent to even the most casual visitor why these gardens are considered the best in Wales. If you enjoyed visiting the Italianate village of Portmeirion, then you will love Bodnant Gardens Wales as well.

Have a seat and smell the wisteria at Bodnant Gardens Wales

Have a seat and smell the wisteria at Bodnant Gardens Wales

Covering 70 acres, Bodnant Gardens has plenty of space to explore and to find your own private idyll. There are paths that meander through wildflower meadows, lakes, and woodland. The Bodnant Gardens are framed with distant views of Snowdonia National Park.

Woodland, wildflower meadows, Italian gardens. Bodnant Gardens are a visual feast.

Woodland, wildflower meadows, Italian gardens. Bodnant Gardens are a visual feast.

Stark and rugged Snowdonia is the exact opposite of this carefully-tended garden but both are beautiful in their own way. Located near each other, it is easy to appreciate both natural and man-made beauty in this little corner of North Wales.

The Bodnant Garden Centre is huge and sells some of the varieties of plants available. Sorry no nearly 150-year old Laburnum arches for sale. Not even a snow-globe version!

Rows of alliums at Bodnant Gardens North Wales

Rows of alliums at Bodnant Gardens North Wales

There is a manor house on the Bodnant Estate which is not open to the public. You know the Bodnant Gardens have to be something special for a house this impressive to not be the main attraction of the Bodnant Estate.

Pretty Bodnant House but it’s not open to the public.

Pretty Bodnant House but it’s not open to the public.

Even if you miss the Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch, there are plenty of other floral attractions during the year – daffodils start off the show in early spring and are followed by rhododendrons and azaleas. In summer, Bodnant Gardens is abloom with the best of British gardens – roses, clematis and hydrangeas. Then roll on the fabulous colors of autumn with the Acers.

In summer, the water lilies come into their own on the Bodnant Estate.

In summer, the water lilies come into their own on the Bodnant Estate.

Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

– Audrey Hepburn

Planted in 1880, the Bodnant Laburnum Arch has been a labor of love for many generations of gardeners. It reminds me of the Archignassio in Bologna where every scholar in that case (or gardener in this case) does their part to create something great that will outlast them all for the benefit of people far in the future.

The Laburnum Arch at Bodnant Gardens is a 55 meter golden walkway. The nickname for Laburnum is ‘golden rain’ because of the way it droops down. Laburnum foliage glows almost fluorescent yellow against the milquetoast blue of a British sky.

You can see why Laburnum is nicknamed Golden Rain.

You can see why Laburnum is nicknamed Golden Rain.

During the 2-3 weeks Bodnant Gardens’ Laburnum Arch is in bloom in late spring, approximately 50,000 visitors come to see the arched walkway. That’s almost a 1/4 of the 200,000 visitors the Bodnant Gardens Wales gets annually.

These Laburnum trees were planted in 1880!

These Laburnum trees were planted in 1880!

The Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch is supposed to be the oldest and longest in Britain. It takes 2 gardeners 5 weeks in January to prune the Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch to maximise its glory in spring. After the big show, 2 gardeners are needed to deadhead the flowers in July.

The vibrance of the Laburnum contrasts with the other colors of the garden.

The vibrance of the Laburnum contrasts with the other colors of the garden.

Bodnant Welsh Food Centre

After exploring Bodnant Gardens, the best way to cap off the experience is to visit the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre which is part of the Bodnant Estate. As we knew from our previous experiences in Wales, the Welsh countryside has really amped up its foodie credentials with great local restaurants and homegrown celebrity chefs.

The Welsh Food Centre is another foodie heaven devoted to locally sourced farm-to-table fare. It’s fairly comprehensive enterprise with the Bodnant Farm Shop, Furnace Tea Room, Hayloft Restaurant and Furnace Farmhouse.

The Furnace Tea Room is set in the old stables and perfect for a light lunch or afternoon tea.

The Furnace Tea Room with the Conwy valley stretching out behind it.

The Furnace Tea Room with the Conwy valley stretching out behind it.

The Hayloft Restaurant is a more formal experience for lunch and dinner. We went with our children for lunch and did not find it stuffy. The food was delicious!! And, my little fussy vegetarian child found a dish to make her happy.

A salad starter at the Welsh food centre.

A salad starter at the Welsh food centre.

In terms of Bodnant accomodation, you can stay at the Furnace Farmhouse. Dating the 18th century, there are 6 rooms available for rent. Like the rest of the Bodnant Food Center, the decor and amenities cater to modern sensibilities. Think  charming modern farmhouse style that’s discreetly luxurious.

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Why Bodnant Gardens is a Must-See National Trust Garden in Wales

Why Bodnant Gardens is a Must-See National Trust Garden in Wales

The Welsh Food Centre on the Bodnant Estate is a foodie’s delight | Bodnant gardens North Wales | #Wales #findyourepic #garden #foodie

If you are in the Conwy North Wales area in the spring, lucky you! Make sure you swing by the National Trust property, Bodnant Gardens to catch the famous Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch in bloom. Discover why you should visit Bodnant Gardens, North Wales, in the spring.

If you are in the Conwy North Wales area in the spring, lucky you! Make sure you swing by the National Trust property, Bodnant Gardens to catch the famous Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch in bloom. Discover why you should visit Bodnant Gardens, North Wales, in the spring.

 

This site generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them at no extra cost to you. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.

Conwy Castle in Wales (+ 10 Other Things To Do in Conwy) For Family Holidays in North Wales

Conwy Castle in Wales (+ 10 Other Things To Do in Conwy) For Family Holidays in North Wales

For a small town, you can easily visit Conwy for a weekend because there is so much to do in the area. For starters, the must-do Conwy attractions are the medieval Conwy Castle in Wales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Conwy Town Walls.  Among the other things to do in Conwy itself include both well-preserved medieval and Elizabethan merchant houses and the smallest house Conwy which has the distinction of being the smallest house in Britain!! The Bodnant Gardens National Trust property is a short drive outside the city walls. In North Wales, Conwy is in a strategic position (for both invading armies and tourists). Nearby there are the attractions of Snowdonia National Park and the Italianate resort town of Portmeirion. You will have plenty of options for things to do in Conwy for great family holidays in North Wales.

Conwy Castle in Wales offers dramatic views over the countryside

Conwy Castle Wales

Conwy Castle in Wales is the best sort of castle as far as many kids are concerned. It’s a huge crumbling wreck that they can explore. There’s no old-fashioned furniture and paintings to walk quietly through and so kids can let their imagination run wild.

Conwy Castle History

Castle Conwy is HUGE even if it is in ruins. It’s difficult to imagine how such a massive structure was created in just a few years.

Edward had good reason to worry – he did get trapped in Castle Conwy during a Welsh rebellion. Of course, to Edward just meant he should add another North Wales castle (Beaumaris Castle) to keep those troublesome Welsh down.

Peering down into the dungeon at Castle Conway in Wales.

Over the intervening years, Conwy Castle was alternatively ignored and then back in favour. The Castle played a part in the War of the Roses as the place where Richard II surrendered so that Henry IV cold come to the throne.

The numerous Conwy Castle towers are a fun climb for kids but I was done after one.

Conwy Castle was held by Royalists forces during the Civil Ward which was unfortunate when they lost the war. The forces of Oliver Cromwell made sure that the castle couldn’t be used for rebellion again by tearing down fortifications. The final ignominy came in 1665 when the last of its wealth was stripped leaving it in a ruined state.

As a big hulking ruin in a picturesque setting, Castle Conwy was beloved of artists. It had a history as a sightseeing destination long before it’s historical importance was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

Conwy Castle Facts:

  • In the late 13th century Conwy Castle North Wales and the Conwy walls together cost about £15,000 (about £45 million) to build.
  •  To put that amount in perspective, £15,000 in the 13th century is about 25X  the annual income of a wealthy aristocrat of the time.
  • Castle Conwy was built over 4 years and during the peak construction period,, there were about 1500 craftsmen and labourers working on it.
  • Dominating the landscape, the Castle is a rectangular shape with 8 towers and 2 barbicans.
  • From Conwy Castle you can see three sets of bridges crossing the river – the modern 1958 road bridge, the 1826 Telford suspension bridge and the 1848 railway  bridge. These bridges are all an integral part of the history of Conwy.

We clambered up and down and all around the Castle Conwy North Wales.

10 Things To Do Conwy

For a little town in Wales visit Conwy and you’ll have a choice of local attractions from the historic, man-made ones to the natural.

Conwy Historic Houses

One of the best things to do in Conwy is to walk around the little town and admire historic architecture. When you visit Conwy, history is all around you. You might as well embrace it!

When you visit Conwy the historic part of town is must-see.

Before the English, there were the Cistercians who had a monastery in Conwy. Considering they were a religious order who liked to be away from it all, they were probably a bit miffed when Edward I showed up with his troops.

Edward I suggested the monks move somewhere more peaceful. They left behind the Abbey church (now the Church of St. Mary) which was used by the English. Conwy was created as an English town.

Aberconwy House, on the High Street, is a National Trust property and another thing to do in Conwy. It’s the town’s only surviving medieval merchant house and has some interesting exhibits.

Fast forward a couple of hundred years to 1576 and Queen Elizabeth I who decided to move the reconfigure the Dublin to London postal route. Conwy was designated an official postal station.

Plas Mawr is an Elizabethan-era Merchant House that you can visit which is also located on the High Street. Honestly, the town of Conwy is THAT small. It was the home of the wealthy Wyn family in the 16th century.

Fast forward more to 1800 and after the unification of England and Ireland, London decided they really did need better mail service to Dublin. Unfortunately the River Conwy was known to be dangerous during bad weather. For example, on Christmas Day 1806, the Irish Ferry capsized and killed 13 of the 15 passengers on board. Thomas Telford built the first suspension bridge in 1826.

In the 19th century, Conwy thrived as a port town, part of the shipping lanes among Ireland, Scotland, Liverpool and even as far away as the Baltics.

Castle Hotel Conwy

Since 1770 there’s been an inn at the site where the Castle Hotel Conwy stands today.. Somewhere in the 19th century, the Harp Inn became the Conwy Castle Hotel. The grander Castle Conwy hotel doubed in size to take over a couple of nearby buildings, including a pub. The Castle Hotel Conwy changed designations from a mere Inn to the slightly grander-sounding hotel. Adding to its glory, the Castle Conwy Hotel also got the distinction of being an official stop on the Royal Mail coach service.

Although it looks older, the neo-Jacobean grand facade of the Conway Castle Hotel was created only in the 1890’s. The history of the Castle Hotel Conwy is intertwined with that of the town of Conwy. This hotel in Conwy has hosted Royal visitors and the architects of Conwy’s bridges as well as been the place for major town celebrations.

Smallest House Conwy

Located in Conwy harbour, the smallest house in Conwy is seriously charming and absolutely tiny. The four of us in our family couldn’t fit in there standing as my son found out when he hit his head on the staircase in the jostle.

Smallest House Conwy is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest house in Great Britain. It is only 6 feet wide and just over 10 feet high. And, in that height they managed to get in a sleeping loft! No vaulted ceilings here though.

Why would anyone build a house this small? Probably because they didn’t have a choice. The town is wedged in-between the sea and the city walls and space is at a premium.

There was actually a fisherman living in the smallest house Conwy until 1900. And he was 6’3” tall! He had a roof over his head, an outhouse in the rear and an easy commute into work.

Smallest House Conwy – one of the most popular things to do Conwy

The town authorities decided that the house was uninhabitable in 1900. A local newspaper took up the cause to save it when they undertook a search to see if it was indeed the smallest house in Britain. Today smallest house Conwy  is one of the biggest Conwy attractions in complete disproportion to its actual size..

Conwy Mussel Museum

One of the quirkier Conwy attractions is the Conwy Mussel Musem. This small museum  is also on Conway Quay and free to visit. Conwy has been a site of pearl fishing since the Romans stumbled into Wales.

One of the largest pearls found in the area was sent to Charles II’s wife, Catherine of Braganza (she who had the flower beds from Green Park in London removed to stop her husband picking flowers for his mistress). This Conwy pearl is still supposed to be in the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London.

Fun Fact! In the 19th century, Conwy would send over 4 kilos of pearls a week to London jewellers. Pearls didn’t start being more freely available until Mikimoto started cultured pearls in 1893. 

Conwy Suspension Bridge and Toll House

If you are looking for what to do in Conway with your National Trust membership, go check out the Conwy Suspension Bridge and Toll House. It was one of the first suspension bridges built in the world.

From Conwy Castle, you can see all 3 bridges that span the River Conwy lined up side by side.

Conwy Quay

Conwy Quay is a great place to just sit and absorb the town life around you. There are great views over the boats and the harbour and plenty of people-watching opportunities, too. The smallest house Conwy and the Mussel Museum are both located on the Quay.

Conwy Town Walls

Among the best things to do in Conwy is walk the medieval Conwy town walls which encircle the town. You can even walk most the way.

Little houses tucked inside Conwy town walls.

King Edward I also had the Conwy town walls built at the time he had his castle built. Conwy town walls are some of the best preserved medieval walls in Europe. These walls haven’t had the heavy restoration seen at Carcassone. They are great for kids similar to the city walls in Tossa Del Mar in the Costa Brava Spain.

In Edward’s day, the town walls were meant to protect Conwy, an English town. The Welsh were allowed inside the walls once a week to bring their goods to market.

Conwy Nature Reserve

Conwy Nature Reserve is a wetland run by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Created out of the landfill from a nearby road tunnel, the Conwy Nature Reserve is a great family walk where children can get muddy looking for wildlife, such as birds and frogs. There are three separate trails  at the Conwy Nature Reserve you can take (that range from a short 1/3 of a mile t o the longest which is 2 miles long).

Bodnant Gardens National Trust

We were lucky enough to visit Bodnant Gardens. a National Trust Garden when their spectacular Laburnum Arch was in bloom. And, it really was stunning. The Bodnant Gardens National Trust is good for walks on a nice day.

The Laburnum arch at the Bodnant Gardens National Trust property

Nearby, there is the Bodnant Welsh Food centre has excellent tea rooms and restaurant. It also provides accommodation at the Furnace Farmhouse.

Llandudno

Llandudno is the Victorian resort town across the estuary from the town of Conwy. There’s the ruins of Degannwy Castle which was a stronghold of the Welsh princes. Edward II was having none of that and stripped Degannwy to build Conwy Castle.

A sculpture; in Conwy Castle pays homage to Lllewylln the Great, one of the hero Princes of Wales.

Visit Conwy: The Practicalities

Conwy attractions range from very large to very small! In North Wales, Conwy is definitely a must-visit if only for the Castle Conwy. Yet, I feel if you miss out on some of the other things to do in Conwy, such as the smallest house Conwy and the Conwy town walls, you’ will miss out on some cool Conwy attractions. For a longer visit, here are some suggestions for accommodation in Conwy and/or restaurants in Conwy.

Check out the TripAdvisor Conwy reviews.

Accommodation Conwy

Accommodation in Conwy is limited as you can expect from a town this size.  There are places to stay in Conwy though that are outside the town walls.

In North Wales, Conwy has its historic town wedged between the Castle Conwy and the Conwy estuary.

Castle Hotel Conwy

Located where the old Cistercian Abbey used to be, you can’t get a more central location to stay in Conwy than the Castle Hotel Conwy. This four star hotel in Conwy has both single and double rooms and a whole lot of history.

Check out the TripAdvisor reviews for Castle Hotel Conwy

For the latest rates at Castle Hotel Conwy, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  expedia  

The Groes Inn

Located outside the Conwy town walls, The Groes Inn has been around since the 15th century. This historic coaching inn is the oldest licensed pub in Wales. The hotel is dog-friendly.

Check out the TripAdvisor reviews for The Groes Inn

For the latest rates at The Groes Inn, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  expedia  

Furnace Farmhouse

The Furnace Farmhouse is a four-star foodie’s delight. The accommodation is part of the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. It’s located past Bodnant Gardens and so further from historic Conwy. It’s an 18th century farmhouse with 5 bedrooms. Wake up at the Furnace Farmhouse to a breakfast served from the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. which is seriously good.

Check out the TripAdvisor reviews for the Furnace Farmhouse

For the latest rates at the Furnace Farmhouse, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  

Glan Heulog Bed and Breakfast

Glan Heulog Bed and Breakfast is a super-cute B&B in Conwy. Located outside the historic centre of Conwy, it is still a short walk into town. There are 6 bedrooms including two that can be joined to create a family room for four people

Check out the TripAdvisor reviews for Glan Heulog Bed and Breakfast.

For the latest rates at Glan Heulog B&B, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: expedia  

Pubs and Restaurants Conwy

Here are some great places to eat in Conwy. The pubs are dog-friendly and kid-friendly so that’s good for a sit-down when you need a break.

Bodnant Welsh Food Centre

The Bondnant Welsh Food Centre has both tea rooms as well as the Hayloft Restaurant and Bar. The Furnace Tea Rooms are set in the old stables and overlook Conwy estuary. It’s open for tea, snacks and light lunches. There’s a cookery school with both day and residential courses similar to River Cottage in England. Hayloft Restaurant is the fine-dining gourmet restaurant.

Fish at the Hayloft Restaurant – a great place to eat in Conwy

Castle Hotel Conwy restaurant

The Castle Hotel Conwy restaurant also serves local Welsh food. You can also have afternoon tea at this hotel in Conwy.

Fun Fact!   The Conwy Castle Hotel restaurant served lunch to a young teenage Princess Victoria in 1832 during a visit to North Wales.

Liverpool Arms

The Liverpool Arms is located on Conwy Quay. It’s got great views over the estuary and gets crowded thanks to that feature.

The Liverpool Arms pub is located in a prime position for observing life on Conwy Quay

The Albion Ale House

The Albion Ale House is a 1920’s pub that serves local beer. It serves no food (just nibbles). Why is on this list? It’s won a bunch of awards for being the best pub in North Wales. And, it’s now really rare to find a pub that just serves beer. You can find the Albion Ale House on Uppergate Street inside the walled town of Conwy.

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Conwy Castle in Wales (+ 10 Other Things To Do in Conwy) For Family Holidays in North Wales

Conwy Castle in Wales (+ 10 Other Things To Do in Conwy) For Family Holidays in North Wales

Conwy, Wales, is a great destination for a weekend away. If you’re wondering what to do in Conwy, look no further. The must-do Conwy attractions are the medieval Conwy Castle in Wales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Conwy Town Walls, but that’s not all. You’ll also find the smallest house in Britain and a lovely town all around. Discover the best 11 things to do in Conwy for some incredible family holidays in North Wales. #conwy #wales #northwales #uk #weekend

The must-do Conwy Wales attractions are the medieval Conwy Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Conwy Town Walls, but that’s not all. You’ll also find the smallest house in Britain and a lovely town all around.

This site generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them at no extra cost to you. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.

Portmeirion Village: The Italianate Resort Not To Miss in Portmeirion Wales

Portmeirion Village: The Italianate Resort Not To Miss in Portmeirion Wales

Stepping into Portmeirion in Wales was like crossing the border into a fantasyland. Impossibly pretty and somewhat unreal. I knew I was still in Britain (cloudy skies, chill in the air) but the colors and architecture of Portmeiron village were the pastel-candy hues I associated with the Mediterranean (and gelato!). Of course, Portmeirion Wales had to be the creation of a rich English architect. I can imagine Portmeirion Italian village is exactly Prince Charles’ cup of tea – pretty and traditional. Despite our misgivings, we were charmed by the idyllic location of the Portmeirion Hotel located on the edge of the water, the Portmeirion cottages sprinkled throughout the village and the little green Portmeirion train chugging through the woodland. You’d have to be a real grump not to be enveloped in this Italian coastal fantasy.

Portemeirion History

The grand vision of architect Clough Wiliam-Ellis, Portmerion village was built as an homage to his love of another coastal village, Portofino in Italy.  He wanted to show how to develop an area while still keeping it beautiful. Built over 50 years (1925-1975), the entirety of Portmeiion village is Grade II listed.

The Portmeirion entry free goes towards the upkeep of Portmeirion Village.

Lonely Planet listed Portmeirion in Wales as a top destination on its Ultimate Travelist for the entire world. It gets over 200,000 visitors every year!

Portmeirion Italian village in style, but the British crest lets you know where you are.

Frank Lloyd Wright (of Welsh ancestry) came to visit Portmeirion Wales in 1956. Needless to say, it is a very popular place for weddings and other celebrations in North Wales.

Somehow the pastel colors of sun-drenched Italy still works in somewhat grey North Wales.

Things To Do In Portmeirion Wales

You won’t run out of things to do in Portmeirion Wales. With its  its close proximity to Snowdonia National Park, even the most hard-core outdoors person will find themselves happily occupied. With so many things to do in Portmerion Wales both in the village complex as well as outside, Portmeirion in Wales is a great destination for a multi-generational holiday.

Check out the reviews for Portmeirion on TripAdvisor.

The Portmeirion map shows how convenient the whole site is.

Walks

Portmeiron in Wales is set amongst 70 acres of forests set with 20 miles of walking paths for communing with nature. In addition to the general walks, there are specific coastal walks and woodland walks, each of which would take you about 30-40 minutes.

Woodland walks in Portmeirion, North Wales

During the summer months a little Portmeirion train goes on a tour of the woodland.

The sweet little Portmeirion train.

Explore Portmeirion in Wales on your own and there are charming little treasures hidden for you to find in its woodland, like a Dog Cemetery and a Chinese Lake with its little blue pagoda.

Doesn’t this red bridge just pop amidst the woodland setting?

Fun Fact!  There are 70 varieties of Rhodoendron planted at Portmeirion North Wales!
Set on a peninsula near Snowdonia National Park, Portmeirion in Wales is blessed with a good micro-climate. The Portmeirion Italianate village, however, still does not get as good weather as the Italian Riviera!

The Chinese Lake at Portmeirion because Italian in Wales isn’t multicultural enough.

Food and Drink

There is a good array of options for eating and drinking at Portmeiron Italian village for both casual meals and fine dining. The Portmeirion Hotel restaurant is especially known for elegant meals. Kid-friendly options at Portmeirion restaurants include a pizzeria and gelateria.

In Portmeirion North Wales, it’s gelato not the usual British Mr. Whippy soft serve ice cream.

The Beach

There’s a gorgeous white sandy beach that is created when the tide goes out at Dwyryd Estuary at Portmeirion Wales. It’s great for kids to have a play. High tide times are clearly marked so you do need to be careful. Down by the shore as well is the Amis Reunis a stone boat that children can clamber around.

Portmeirion Pottery History

Portmeirion is famous for its pottery which was founded by Clough William-Ellis’ daughter, Susan. She set up Portmeirion Pottery in 1960 so that visitors to Portmeirion Italian village could purchase souvenirs of their visit. Pottery is a very English souvenir!

Charming botanicgarden teacups available at the Portmeirion outlet store.

Portmeirion Botanic Garden is one of Portmeirion Pottery’s iconic ranges and based on 19th century English prints. Portmeirion Botanic Garden is one of the ranges available at the Seconds Shop, a Portmierion outlet store near the entrance. This Portmierion outlet also sells some of the newer ranges by British designers like Ted Baker and Sophie Conran.

Fun Fact!  Portmeirion Pottery is now based in Stoke-on-Trent, the home of British pottery. It now owns other big-name English potteries, such as Spode and Royal Worcester.

Shopping

There are several small shops to visit including a small well-curated bookshop, a boutique, an art gallery, and a Welsh products store. You know Portmeirion Italian village is geared towards multi-generational visitors because there are lots of things a doting grandparent/aunt/uncle etc would buy for children.

All the fresh air and exercise means you deserve a cup of tea (in Portmeirion Botanic Garden cups naturally) and a scone.

Mermaid Spa

The Mermaid Spa has a full-range of wellness facilities and vegan, all-natural treatment options. It’s location gives a divine view over the estauary below.

A view of the estuary through the trees at Portmeirion in Wales.

Portmeirion Festival

Every June, the Portmeirion Festival turns the Portmeirion Italianate village turns into a festival fantasy land with Festival No. 6. The name for the Portmeirion festival comes from the British cult TV show, The Prisoner, which was filmed in Portmeirion.

Human chess is played at the Portmeirion Festival in a nod to a scene from The Prisoner.

The Portmeirion festival has musical gigs, arts and cultural events, family-friendly activities, and even a street food village. Everything at the Portmierion festival isn’t all clean-cut health and well-being though – there’s a rave in the wood for your hard-core partiers.

Portmeirion Accommodation

Portmeiron is a perfect place to stay since pretty much the entire village is either self-catering cottages or hotel rooms. Plenty of people visit Portmeirion for a day trip. If you stay in Portmeirion accommodation though you will have the run of the place long after the tourists are gone.

The hotels all offer parking. You definitely need a car to appreciate this part of Wales.

Accommodation in Portmeirion

You have two choices for accommodation in Portmeirion. Both four-star hotels in Portmerion Wales have family-friendly accommodation available.

Portmeirion Hotel Wales

The Portmeirion Hotel, is an adaptation of an old manor house. Portmeirion Hotel has a charming outdoor heated pool open in the summer months and a seaside location with a sandy beach by the main building. Hotel Portmeirion Wales is the brainchild of Clough William-Ellis himself.

Check out the reviews for Portmeirion Hotel on TripAdvisor

The rooms are spread out amongst the Portmeirion Hotel main building, rooms in Portmeirion village itself and Portmeirion cottages to rent on the grounds. The Portmeirion Hotel Wales can accommodate families in some of its accommodation. For example, the Portmeirion holiday cottages can accommodate groupss that range from 3-9 guests.

Portmeiron cottages are available to rent through the Portmeiron Hotel

The Portmeirion hotel restaurant is the acknowledged fine dining establishment for the village with its Art Deco interior.

For the latest rates at Portmeiron Hotel Wales, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  expedia.com  Hotels.com  

 

Portmeirion Castle

The Portmeirion Castle, Castell Deudraeth, is the modern version of historical Portmeirion accommodation (if that makes sense!). Castell Deudraeth Hotel is a Victorian folly that’s been converted to a contemporary-style hotel. The restaurant at Castle Deudraeth feels more like a gastro-pub and overlooks a beautiful little walled garden.

Check out the reviews for the Portmeirion Castle Deudraeth Hotel on TripAdvisor

There’s a mini-bus that runs from the Portmeirion Castle and Hotel Portmeirion because the Portmeirion Castle is accommodation near Portmeirion but not in the village itself.

For the latest rates at the Portmeiron Castle, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  expedia  Hotels.com  

Accommodation Near Portmeirion

Thanks to the compact nature of Portmeirion Wales, you may need to find accommodation near Portmeirion if the Portmeirion hotel options are booked.

Royal Sportsman Hotel is located nearby in Porthmadog which is 2 miles away from Portmeirion Wales. Rated a 3 star hotel, this accommodation near Portmeirion has 28 guest rooms.

Check out the reviews for the Royal Sportsman Hotel on TripAdvisor.

For the latest rates at the Royal Sportsman Hotel, here are a selection of hotel booking sites:  booking.com  expedia  Hotels.co  

Tudor Lodge is a family run guesthouse in Porthmadog as well. They have a range of rooms from singles to doubles as well as a separate cottage.

Check out the reviews for Tudor Lodge on TripAdvisor.

For the latest rates at the Tudor Lodge, here are a selection of hotel booking sites:  booking.com  expedia  Hotels.com  

Portmeirion Camping

Dina’s Camping, Glamping and Caravan Park is an option for you Portmeirion Festival goers who go the traditional festival camping route.

Check out the reviews for Dina’s Camping, Glamping and Caravan Park on TripAdvisor.

For the latest rates at Dina’s Camping, here are a selection of accommodation booking sites:  booking.com  Hotels.com  

You can find Portmeirion camping sites courtesy of this map from the Camping and Caravanning club.

Please note that there is no wild camping in Snowdonia National Park so stick to Portmeirion camping in legit places!

Visting Portmeirion Village

Owned by a charity, the Portmeirion entry fee charged at the entrance goes towards its upkeep. Portmeirion Village is open daily for visitors.

Exactly the architecture you’d expect from Portmeirion Italianate village.

You can buy day tickets (currently the Portmeirion entry fee comes to £11 for adults with a concession for children). Children under 5 go free. There are also family tickets (including a very progressive single adult family ticket option).

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Portmeirion Village: An Italian coastal resort recreated in Portmeirion in Wales

Portmeirion Village: The Italianate Resort Not To Miss in Portmeirion Wales

 

This site generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them at no extra cost to you. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.