The neighborhood of Clerkenwell is one of London's most historic areas - it's now also one of the city's best places to live.
Roughly bounded by the tube stations of Farringdon, Barbican, Old Street, Angel, and Kings Cross, Clerkenwell is an incredibly central place to live - you can walk into the City, cycle into Soho or the West End, or (if you fancy a mini-break to Paris) St Pancras International is one stop away from Farringdon station.
If you're just in town for a weekend, then there's a couple of really good hotel options - the Zetter Hotel is in the heart of the action on Clerkenwell Road, whereas the Malmaison is tucked away in picturesque Charterhouse Square - the perfect place for an illicit weekend. If you're staying a bit longer, then consider renting an apartment through Airbnb - often less expensive and a great way to find the local groove.
One of the great things about Clerkenwell is that getting home in a taxi will usually cost you around £10 from anywhere, but public transport is really the way to go. Pick up an Oyster card for access to London's tubes and buses, but more importantly embrace the bike hire system - the area is well served by docking stations and it's the quickest and easiest way to get around.
First job is to orientate yourself to the neighborhood so set yourself a quick walking tour. Start at Sadlers Wells theatre - renowned for dance productions; wander downhill and stop at St John's Gate - this dates back to 1504 when the Monastic Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem provided medical assistance during the crusades; on to Smithfield Market - still a working meat market and early mornings it is a rammed with trucks unloading their cargo of carcasses and butchers hauling meat in every direction; final stop is West Smithfield where you can find a memorial to William Wallace - the Scottish patriot who was hung, drawn and quartered in this public square.
Ready for a coffee? One of the strengths of this neighborhood is that they take their coffee very seriously. Much of the credit for this can be given to Australian and New Zealand operators that have brought the Southern Hemisphere's no-nonsense approach to coffee and brunch to the appreciative residents of Clerkenwell. The Clerkenwell Road area is a good place to start, with Workshop Coffee Co, J&A Cafe, and Modern Pantry all within spitting distance; Dose on Long Lane is small but great; and Caravan on Exmouth Market not only roasts their own coffee but also does really great food.
This area also has some quality restaurants which means you never have to wander too far from your door. Book ahead for the famous St John, or if you can't get a table call in a for drink and a bar snack; Vinoteca is the best wine bar in London - let them guide you as to which wines to match with their specials of the day; The Eagle is London's original gastropub and it's still one of the best; Comptoir Gascon is serving traditional food from Gascony - very hard to go past the cassoulet; and if it's date night then book a table at Bistrot Bruno Loubet - seductive and sexy cooking at its finest. After dinner head to the Zetter Townhouse - a cocktail bar that you could happily move in to, incredibly professional bar staff serving up drinks creations from industry pin-up boy Tony Cogliaro.
It's neighborhoods like Clerkenwell that make London one of the world's greatest cities.