Learn what to do in St. John’s Wood, a charming residential neighborhood in the Westminster Borough.
It is easy to completely skip over St. John’s Wood on a trip to London. The neighborhood is mostly residential, and tourists tend to focus on areas of the city packed with museums and historical sights. But! St. John’s Wood is a charming neighborhood where locals hang out and where tourists are only spotted taking photos at the famous Abbey Road intersection. St. John’s Wood is a perfect place to spend a few hours leisurely stroll though parks, visiting pubs, and just wandering around. After spending a full week in the neighborhood, here are some of my favorite things to do in St. John’s Wood.
What to do in St. John’s Wood:
Explore Regent’s Park
Although I love to explore parks by bicycle, bikes are not allowed in this park. The park has fields for sports, small ponds, and gardens. Regent’s Canal runs through part of the park and it is my favorite spot for running.
Learn How to Prepare Afternoon Tea
English food has a rough reputation, but Afternoon Tea is a treasure! What would possibly be better than an afternoon filled with hot tea, warm scones, finger sandwiches, and delicate pastries? I will be telling you more about the cooking class soon, but here is a link to more information.
Take your photo at the Abbey Road Crosswalk
Abbey Road Studios is the famous recording studio where the Beatles recorded, and the photo of the Beatles crossing the street that graces the cover of the Abbey Road album was taken just outside Abbey Road Studio at the intersection of Abbey Road and Grove Street. It can be crowded, I recommend visiting on a weekday morning. You can also go to the Abbey Road Studios gift shop that is beside Abbey Road Studios and and visit the Beatles Coffee Shop that is in the St. John’s Wood tube station.
Shop St. John’s High Street
The street has a number of high end retailers and a couple of second hand shops. Since the area is one of London’s nicer neighborhoods I would imagine the second hand shops might have some great stuff.
Stop into the Pubs
The pubs in St. John’s Wood are filled with locals, and the food is surprisingly good. The pubs are the neighborhood hangouts where bartenders learn your name and your order. The pubs somehow manage to be decorated with stuffed deer heads, dozens of black and white photos in gilded frames, tufted furniture, floral wallpaper, stone fireplaces, exposed brick, and crown moldings without it seeming like they are trying too hard.
Here is a ranking of pubs in St. John’s Wood:
- The Pub at The Warrington Hotel – My favorite pub! It is just beside the Maida Vale tube station, and it has a small outdoor patio in addition to a large space inside. They have a menu of sandwiches and classic British food ranging from sandwiches to roasts and fish and chips. This pub also serves brunch. Since it is attached to a hotel, expect to find a mix of locals and hotel guests. It is worth noting that this is one of the only hotels in the neighborhood. Just like the Duke of York, this is a pub that shows it age, but it a good way.
- The Duke of York – This is close to Lord’s, the cricket grounds, which makes it a popular spot. We went for their Sunday Roast and it was excellent. The term “Sunday Roast” refers not just to the meat, but the sides that come with the roast. This usually includes potatoes, a couple vegetables, Yorkshire Pudding (which is a pastry), and gravy. The Duke of York can be busy so it isn’t a bad idea to book a reservation. The Duke of York is exactly what you think of when you think of a British pub. It is old and cozy.
- The Ivy Café – The most elegant pub in the area. It is bright and airy and a bit more formal. The food is a mix of British classics (I had shepherd’s pie) and more modern fare. Even though the space is more formal, locals were walking in wearing workout gear. Their brunch is fantastic, and popular so you might want a reservation.
- The Clifton – This is a pub with serious history. King Edward VII used to take his mistress there. Even though the pub has a long history, a recent renovation gave the space a more modern look. The menu is more modern and trendy and less focused on traditional pub fare.
- Ordnance Pub – This is a little neighborhood gem where the bartender was greeting everyone by name and calling out, “See you tomorrow!” when people left.
- The Salt Room – Like The Clifton, this pub has a newer more modern look. It feels like more of a restaurant than a pub.
If you want to read more about pubs, read this blog post. But one very important thing to note is that you almost away order at the bar – even if you are ordering food. If you are unsure, just ask the bartender and they will tell you if you need to order with them or if a server will come around.
Admire the Real Estate
St. John’s Wood has some incredible homes. There are cute townhomes with decorated doorsteps and large detached mini mansions.
Each one seems more wonderful than the next! I was also amazed by the cars. We saw several Bentleys, Maseratis, and even a Rolls Royce parked right on the street!
The biggest most grand homes are hidden at the edge of Regent’s Park and over look Regent’s Canal.
What to Know
St. John’s Wood is just two tube stops from Paddington Station, so it is very easy to get to. It’s the perfect neighborhood to visit if you want to explore London like a local. A half day would be plenty of time for lunch, wandering through the park, a photo op at the crosswalk, shopping on the High Street, and then stopping by a pub.