Helen Ochyra

Correspondent

  • London, England, UK

Helen Ochyra is a London correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide. Ochyra’s articles have been published in U.K. newspapers The Guardian, The Times and The Independent, as well as in a wide variety of international magazines. She has written guidebooks for Rough Guides and Michelin and an app called Quirky London. Aside from London and the U.K., Ochyra also specializes in writing about the U.S. and Australia. She lives in Enfield, North London, with her husband, Douglas.

  • On July 29, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    Where is the best outlet shopping in London?

    London isn't exactly a mecca for outlet shopping, with most of the best outlet stores located outside of the capital itself.
    That said, there are a few outlet stores for specific brands that are well worth a visit - and the best are on Chatham Place in Hackney. Try the Aquascutum Factory Shop at number 7-8 for tailoured suits, classics macs and cosy knits at up to 30% off, or head to the warehouse-like Burberry Factory Shop at number 29 for seconds and excess stock at up to 50% off. Just around the corner at 86 Morning Lane you'll find Pringle, home to Scottish knitwear and leather goods.
    If you don't mind a trip out of town the best place to go outlet shopping in the UK is Bicester Village in Oxfordshire, just an hour's train journey from Marylebone station. Here you'll find more than 130 boutiques from every top brand from Mulberry to Ralph Lauren, all offering up to 60% off.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best fine jewelry stores in London?

    Although there are jewellery shops located throughout London, there is one street where you can visit literally dozens of stores in one fell swoop. Hatton Garden is located between Farringdon and Chancery Lane stations and is home to more than 50 businesses selling jewellery.
    It has a particularly good reputation for diamonds and many a Londoners engagement ring has been excitedly purchased here.
    The street has the weight of history behind it too. The old City of London had certain streets - or quarters - dedicated to specific types of business and Hatton Garden area has been the epicentre of London's jewellery trade since medieval times.
    If you are looking for an engagement ring try John Lawrence at number 87b or Arlington & Co at number 11. Antique pieces can be bought from Hatton Jewels at number 100 while more contemporary designs are on sale at Ivan Dvorak at number 63-66.
    Once you're done shopping head to Ye Olde Mitre pub to celebrate. This tiny pub was reputedly visited by Elizabeth I and is located down the astoundingly narrow Ely Court.
  • On June 7, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best Indian restaurants in London?

    London is home to literally hundreds (possibly thousands) of Indian restaurants, from local curry houses dishing up classic curries to upmarket dining rooms serving Michelin-starred Indian cuisine. Here are my top three, depending on your budget:

    On a budget: Sartaj
    This traditional curry house in Seven Dials, Covent Garden serves all the usual British-Bangladeshi classics, from chicken tikka masala to bhuna, madras and jalfrezi. Order the "family naan" to get the biggest naan bread we've ever seen draped over a centrepiece on your table. You won't leave hungry.

    Midrange: Cinnamon Soho
    This is the third restaurant from Vivek Singh of The Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Kitchen and offers his perfectly pitched modern Indian cuisine in laidback contemporary surroundings. Start with the "balls" – a selection of crab, beef, potato, vegetable and scotch eggs balls with dipping sauces – before moving on to a main course of Tandoori chicken with cashew nut korma or the Laal maas, a fiery Rajasthani lamb curry. The wine list has some good choices and the cocktails are delicious.

    Splashing the cash: Quilon
    Michelin-starred Indian cuisine remains a rarity in London, but Quilon, near St James Park, has had its star for six years and continues to set the bar for upscale Indian dining. The menu of southwest coastal Indian cuisine features dishes such as curry leaf and lentil crusted fish, and pink pepper chilli prawns – delicious and quite unlike anything you'll have had elsewhere.
  • On June 7, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best spas in London?

    Spas are big business in London and every hotel worth its essential oils will have a spa of some sort – even if all they offer is a suite of treatment rooms. It can be a mind-boggling choice to select the best one for you, and prices can be steep. Here is my pick of the best, whatever your budget.

    Budget: Spa London
    This is probably London's best-value spa, with branches around town offering everything from thermal spa sessions to hot stone massages. The best of the bunch is probably Ironmonger Row Baths, set in one of the city's oldest Turkish baths. Here you can use the steam rooms, hammam, sauna, monsoon showers, plunge pool and relaxation lounge for 3 hours for the bargain price of £25.

    Mid-range: The Sanctuary
    This is the perfect place for a girls day out with affordable treatments and plenty of champers. Book for a weekday and you can have access to the full spa (koi carp lounge, exercise pool, spa pools, sleep retreat, heat and steam rooms) for just £75. Or buy an Ultimate Sanctuary Escape to add two 25-minute treatments, one 55-minute treatment, a two-course lunch, a glass of wine, scones and tea and a Sanctuary Spa gift worth £20.

    Luxury: Spa at Mandarin Oriental
    For all-out opulence, the Mandarin Oriental's spa can't be beat. Relax in the hydrotherapy suite with its range of massage jets before indulging in a treatment performed by London's best therapists. Try the signature therapy, a relaxing massage that combines oriental meridian massage with custom-blended essential oils or the Time Ritual which lasts a hour and 50 minutes and is tailored specifically to you (both £240).
  • On June 7, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best places to spot celebrities in London?

    London is a great place to spot celebrities, with many of them having a base in the capital and numerous events attracting A listers year-round. But there are no hard and fast rules for where to spot them – they are just people with normal lives after all!

    Keep your eyes peeled at all times, even just in the street, where you could spot anyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Kate Middleton out running errands, shopping or leaving the gym. Bond Street in the West End and the Kings Road in Chelsea are good bets.

    Although the celeb scene changes faster than your average London traffic light, there are also some restaurants and bars where you are more likely to spot a famous face. Head to The Ivy in the West End for dinner, where you could be dining next to George Michael, Elton John or Tom Cruise or Nobu on Park Lane, where Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Kate Moss have all been seen.

    The best celeb spotting bars are, sadly, members only (the Met Bar, the Groucho Club) but there's always the chance of seeing a minor royal at Mahiki in Mayfair and there are also plenty of pubs that attract a clutch of famous faces. In Camden try the Hawley Arms or head to Hampstead and the Duke of Hamilton.

    Finally, remember that many of the celebrities you might see in London are just going about their business and trying to lead their lives as normally as possible. It is the height of uncool to hassle a famous face over a pint so keep your autograph book and that mobile phone camera tucked away.
  • On June 7, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best historic hotels in London?

    London is home to some of the world's most famous hotels, with names that every traveller knows and admires. Many of these are historic hotels, which have been offering the great and the good bed and board for more than 100 years.

    One of the oldest is The Langham, which opened in 1865. Things have moved on a little since then and today you'll find elegant yet homely rooms and impeccable five-star service. Downstairs is Albert and Michel Roux Jnr's fautless restaurant Roux at the Landau and there's also a 16-metre indoor pool in the basement.

    The recently revamped Savoy opened in 1889 and was the first hotel in the city to have en suite bathrooms to every room. Today it offers river views from its sumptuous suites and some of the best hotel bars in London, including the stylish American Bar.

    Over in Mayfair, Claridge's (founded 1812, but rebuilt in 1898) has some of London's largest suites, decorated with timeless glamour. Here you'll also find one of Gordon Ramsey's most highly regarded restaurants and the 1930s-inspired Fumoir bar.

    And finally, there's The Ritz, which opened in 1906 and most recently hit the headlines as the place Margaret Thatcher lived out her final days. Many of its super-luxury rooms look out over Green Park and the Palm Court is arguably the very best place in town to take afternoon tea.
  • On June 7, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best historic hotels in London?

    London is home to some of the world's most famous hotels, with names that every traveller knows and admires. Many of these are historic hotels, which have been offering the great and the good bed and board for more than 100 years.
    One of the oldest is The Langham, which opened in 1865. Things have moved on a little since then and today you'll find elegant yet homely rooms and impeccable five-star service. Downstairs is Albert and Michel Roux Jnr's fautless restaurant Roux at the Landau and there's also a 16-metre indoor pool in the basement.
    The recently revamped Savoy opened in 1889 and was the first hotel in the city to have en suite bathrooms to every room. Today it offers river views from its sumptuous suites and some of the best hotel bars in London, including the stylish American Bar.
    Over in Mayfair, Claridge's (founded 1812, but rebuilt in 1898) has some of London's largest suites, decorated with timeless glamour. Here you'll also find one of Gordon Ramsey's most highly regarded restaurants and the 1930s-inspired Fumoir bar.
    And finally, there's The Ritz, which opened in 1906 and most recently hit the headlines as the place Margaret Thatcher lived out her final days. Many of its super-luxury rooms look out over Green Park and the Palm Court is arguably the very best place in town to take afternoon tea.
  • On June 7, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What is the weather like right now in London?

    Summer has finally arrived in London and the sun has been shining all week – and is set to continue. We had an exceptionally long winter and a cold spring this year so the sudden burst of warmth has brought everyone out with a smile on their face. The city is currently beaming!

    Throughout June, July and August however you can still expect some colder days and some rain – although not nearly as much as you probably think you should expect. It's always worth carrying an umbrella though! On cooler days Londoners are tenacious and you're sure to see us all shivering slightly in skirts and sandals and filling the pavements outside every available pub trying to soak any available sunshine in. And on hot days we'll all be filling the parks and guzzling ice creams like it's the last day of summer. Which, in this changable climate, always feels like a possibility.
  • On May 23, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best farmers markets in London?

    London is awash with farmers markets. From the farthest reaches of the northern suburbs to way south of the river, every part of the capital now seems to have one, although in some cases it can be more car boot sale than foodie haven.
    You can visit www.lfm.org.uk for a complete listing of London markets, but here is my pick of the ones really worth looking out for.

    Brixton Farmers Market
    Sundays, 10am-2pm
    This is a real community market and it has a warm and friendly vibe. It is also extremely multicultural, with English asparagus sitting alongside Caribbean pastries. The fruit and veg selection here is particularly good.

    Marylebone Farmers Market
    Sundays, 10am-2pm
    Try Adrian Izzard's unusual salad leaves, James Coe's outstanding beef and lamb, a mushroom sandwich from The Mushroom Table, or freshly shucked oysters from Simon Long at this outstanding weekly food market.

    Borough Market
    For lunch, Mon-Weds 10am-3pm, full market Thurs 11am-5pm, Fri noon-6pm, Sat 8am-5pm
    The farmers market to end all farmers markets, Borough Market is a mecca for foodies. Row upon row of stalls sell everything from fresh bread to fruit and veg, homemade curries to handmade chocolates, and there are top-notch producers from all around the UK exhibiting their wares. Come hungry!
  • On May 23, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best events this weekend in London?

    This coming weekend is a bank holiday in London and so most people will have an extra day off work on Monday. This is of course a great excuse for a party and consequently there are plenty of events and festivals taking place around the capital over the three days. Here is my pick of the best:

    Foodies Festival, Hampton Court Palace
    Now in its fifth year this food festival features pop-up outposts of some of London's best restaurants, a chef's theatre where you can watch cookery demonstrations, a BBQ arena, a children's cookery theatre and an entertainment stage with a programme of live music. And all in the grounds of one of London's most spectacular buildings.

    LSO in Trafalgar Square
    This free open-air concert by the London Symphony Orchestra takes place in London's favourite public space. Last year's inaugural concert is estimated to have attracted some 10,000 people so arrive early to secure a good spot. No glass or furniture is allowed.

    London Hoop Fest, Mile End Art Pavilion
    Probably the quirkiest festival taking place this weekend, this homage to all things hula hoop features hooping classes for all ages and abilities, circus and cabaret acts and a party on the Saturday night.
  • On May 23, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best wedding venues in London?

    London is home to some truly spectacular wedding venues and whatever type of ceremony you're planning, choosing an iconic London location will make this most memorable of days even more special.
    If you want something simple, book a ceremony room at one of the capital's registry offices. Marylebone Town Hall has several different rooms to choose from and the front steps with their towering columns are the perfect photo spot. This building also has a claim to marital fame – Paul McCartney married his current wife Nancy Chevell here in 2011.
    For something even more theatrical, check out Shakespeare's Globe on the South Bank. Both the Balcony Room and the Underglobe are licensed for weddings and civil partnerships and the backdrop to tying the knot couldn't be more London, with views across the river to St Paul’s Cathedral.
    Further along the Thames, it doesn't get much more imposing than the Royal Maritime College at Greenwich and here you can arrive by boat and even have your ceremony in the historic Painted Hall. London weddings don't get much grander than that!
  • On May 18, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best hair salons in London?

    London is packed with hair salons of all shapes and sizes. Some are mere holes in the wall offering simple cuts for under a tenner, others will charge you prices in the hundreds of pounds for a daring cut or perfect blowout.
    For an affordable cut and blow dry a good chain to look out for is Headmasters. There are salons all over town, from Balham to Bromley and Chiswick to Clapham, but the most centrally located can be found on Poland Street in Soho, less than a five-minute walk from Oxford Circus, and on Hanover Street in Mayfair – the chain's flagship branch.
    Service at all salons is friendly without being annoyingly chatty and the advice stylists give has a professional edge, with a clear understanding of how hair works and grows clearly underlying everything they do. Even better, prices are affordable, starting from around £40 and with plenty of offers. You can book appointments online too, and there are often time slots available even at the last minute.
  • On May 18, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best activities to do in London?

    London has activities aplenty but there won't be time on one visit to do everything. So, take your pick depending on how daring you're feeling.

    Not at all daring
    Go for a walk along the Thames, from Westminster Bridge by the Houses of Parliament, to Tower Bridge where you'll find the Tower of London. On the way you'll pass the Tate Modern contemporary art gallery, Gabriel's Wharf for lunch and the Founder's Arm for a pint of ale overlooking the glorious St Pauls Cathedral.

    A little daring
    Climb the Shard to the new viewing gallery, which offers expansive views over the city and surrounding area. You can even stand in the open-air section to get the sounds of the city, and the whole thing is glass from root to tip so there's nothing to interrupt the view.

    Pretty daring
    Take a seat on the Rib Tours London speedboat for the most exciting boat ride the Thames has ever seen. For 50 minutes you'll speed towards Canary Wharf and back again, getting a pretty good soaking in the process.

    Very daring
    Take a walk on London's infamous "dome", the O2 at Up at the O2. Climb the steep side of one of London's landmark buildings to reach the circular centre at the summit with views of Canary Wharf and Docklands.
  • On May 18, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best adventure outings in London?

    London may be known first for its cultural attractions, but there are plenty of activities to get the blood rushing and the adrenalin pumping too. And you needn't head too far out of town to try them. Here's my pick of the top three:

    Rib Tours London
    Climb aboard a speedboat at Festival Pier and head downriver at speed, passing underneath the bridges and clocking sights from the London Eye to the shiny new Shard. Look out for St Pauls as you pass beneath the Millenium Bridge and wait for the rush as you leave Tower Bridge and the speed restrictions lift. From here the driver really lets it rip and you turn this way and that, the sides of the boat lifting several feet in the air. Exhilarating – and a whole new view on London.

    Up at the O2
    Take a walk on London's infamous "dome", the O2, at Up at the O2. Don a "flight suit" and harness to climb up the steep sloped side of one of London's newest landmark buildings and look down on it from the raised gantry. At the centre you'll reach a circular platform and will be rewarded with views of Canary Wharf and Docklands.

    Go Ape!
    Swing through the trees at Trent Park where London's only Go Ape course offers you the chance to make like Tarzan. Clip on to the high ropes course and complete a series of aerial challenges such as rope walking and crawling through wooden tubes to reach the final zip wire – and speed back to earth with a bang.
  • On May 18, 2013
    Helen Ochyra answered the question: Helen Ochyra

    What are the best water activities in London?

    There's really only one answer to this question - it has to be a speedboat tour on the Thames!
    Rib Tours London operate from Festival Pier and offer a 50-minute jaunt first upriver and then down.  Board the bright orange boat outside Festival Hall and head straight for the Houses of Parliament, one of London's most beautiful buildings and best seen from the water, its numerous windows glinting in turn as you pass by, its towering Gothic turrets stretching away above you.
    From here the boat turns downriver, passing a different landmark every few seconds: the London Eye, the Tate Modern, St Paul's Cathedral. There's a great view of the City from the river, its ever-growing skyscrapers seeming all the larger from this angle. Spot the Gherkin and check on the progress of the burgeoning so-called Walkie Talkie building. As the City fades behind you, look out for Shakespeare's Globe on your right and the Tower of London on your left.
    On reaching Tower Bridge the speed restrictions are lifted and your driver will really let it rip, turning the boat first one way and then immediately the other, lifting several feet on one side as it turns. One minute you are several feet in the air, whizzing along past the buildings, looking down at the rest of the boat, the next down at water level, looking up at the other passengers. Exhilarating – and surely London's greatest thrill ride.
    Adults £29, children £19.50