Barcelona Travel Diary

Barcelona is such a beautiful city with lots to see and do. This blog post outlines a travel guide of my recommendations and experiences in Barcelona, enjoy!

Staying near the Magical Fountains

We stayed at Hotel Catalonia Barcelona Plaza, which is in walking distance to the The Magic Fountains. It has the most stunning rooftop terrace and swimming pool ūüėć

The hotel is close to the train station and numerous bus stops, so it’s super handy for getting around. Taxis are also quite easy to get as the hotel is located just on¬†Pla√ßa Espanya.

I would recommend taking a walk up to the Magic Fountains by day and night, the views and architecture are amazing!

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Barceloneta, a Foodies Dream

Barceloneta is a must when visiting Barcelona, the beach is beautiful and there are so many fab places to eat and enjoy a tipple in the sunshine. I think I could easily spend every evening there eating out. You can also have a peek at all the massive yachts docked in the harbour.

Foodwise, tapas every day, I loved patatas bravas, the prawns and calamari! Don’t forget the ice cold Estrella and sangria! When in Barcelona it’s a must!

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Dancing and Martinis at W

One evening we went to Eclipse at W for cocktails and dancing. W is located at the end of Barceloneta and the cocktail bar is on the very top floor, so the views are amazing – day or night! The music was unreal, we danced all night long and drank numerous Passionfruit Martinis – these guys can make cocktails!

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Walk that Walk

On one of our last days, I went on a walking tour around the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona with Sandemans New Europe Tours, it was one of my absolute highlights! Our tour guide Patrick, was a fountain of knowledge. He took us around everything there was to see in the Gothic Quarter, giving us a backstory to the history and culture of the city.

If you do go to Barcelona, I recommend going on some of the walking tours on your first few days, as you get to know your way around and your guide can give you lots of fab recommendations for places to go. The walking tours are free, your guide just requests you tip what the tour is worth – believe me, it’s worth it! I’m gutted I missed out on the tapas tour!

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If you want to take a day trip out of the city, I would totally recommend Sitges, a quaint coastal town 30 minutes on the train from Barcelona, it’s stunning! You can read about Sitges on my blog.

Jess x

Take me back to Sitges

Last June myself, my mum and sister were planning our trip to Barcelona for my cousin’s hen. We decided to make a bit of a holiday out of it and booked to go to the lovely coastal town of Sitges in Catalonia Spain for a couple of nights before meeting the rest of the hens in Barcelona.

Sitges has been referred to as the St Tropez of Spain, it is truly stunning! The cobbled windy streets, quaint architecture, great eateries, fab boutiques, gorgeous seafront, beaches and promenade make it the perfect holiday escape. It is 30-40 minutes on the train from Barcelona, so it is handy to get to, as well as the perfect day trip if you are staying in Barca.

Where to Stay

We stayed in the stunning Hotel Medium Sitges Park, located in the old quarter of Sitges in a Catalan modernist building. The hotel is only a five minute walk from the train station and down to the beach. The pool and outdoor bar area is fab! They make a great mojito!

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Source: Hotel Medium Sitges Park

Where to Eat

There are so many great cafes and restaurants in Sitges, not forgetting the numerous places to get gelato! We discovered Pizzeria Cap de la Vila on our first evening in Sitges and fell in LOVE! Honestly, some of the best pizza I have ever had and it was just a two minute walk from our hotel. We ate pizza there every day, perfectly accompanied by an ice cold pint of Estrella ?

pizza-sitges-jess-orr-travel-blogL’ Avinyet was a tapas bar a few doors down from our hotel. If you want authentic Spanish tapas that is truly delicious, I couldn’t recommend it more. Their hummus is also amazing!

When on holiday you just have to eat ice-cream every day! There are a number of great places to get gelato in Sitges. Gelateria Olivier was on our doorstep at Hotel Medium.

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Sangria is also a must when sunning yourself in Sitges! We couldn’t get a glass quick enough when we arrived ?

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The Beach, Promenade & Best Views

The palm tree lined promenade is stunning and the beaches are fab! For the best views, you have to walk the steps up to the ‘Parr√≤quia de Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla’, it is so beautiful.

sitges-travel-spain-jess-orr-lifestyle-blogIf you are planning on travelling to Spain, particularly Barcelona, be sure to include Sitges as a place to stop by on your travels, you won’t regret it!

Jess x

When in Berlin…

I booked a city break to Berlin back in November last year as a Birthday/Christmas present for my boyfriend. We went for 3 nights and 4 days at the end of January Рit was very cold and made Northern Ireland seem warm! Berlin is a city full of history, with plenty to see and do, I would recommend it to anyone as a European city break ? This blog will outline who we flew with, where we stayed and what we got up to during our stay.

Day 1 – Traveling to Berlin, Our Hotel & Lasagne

We flew direct from Dublin with Ryanair to Berlin Schönefeld Airport and stayed at the Novum Select Hotel Berlin The Wall. The hotel is only a couple of stops on the train from the airport and located beside Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall, the Topography of Terror and the Welt balloon. The hotel is four star, affordable, very modern and the rooms are fab! I got the best deal for the hotel on lastminute.com.

We arrived in Berlin in the evening, so by the time we arrived at the hotel we decided to grab dinner nearby at a busy looking Italian called Sotto Sopra – the lasagne was yum!

Day 2 – Walking Tour, Flea Market & Badfish

The only thing I had planned ahead of coming to Berlin was our walking tour with ‘Original Berlin Tours’. I thought it would be the best way to see the sights, hear a bit of history and find our way around the city. So we got up early on the Sunday morning, grabbed breakfast to go from Einstein Kaffee across the street from the hotel and got a taxi to our meeting point for the walking tour at One80 Hostel in Alexanderplatz for 10am.

I could not recommend the walking tour enough! We covered so much ground in 3 hours, seen so many sights and learnt a lot from our fab guide Paul (who just happened to be from Wexford, Ireland ‚ėė). Some of the features we covered included:

  • Alexanderplatz
  • Television Tower
  • The Berliner Dom
  • Lustgarten
  • Neue Wache Memorial
  • Book Burning Memorial at Bebelplatz
  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • Remaining Berlin Wall
  • Hitler’s Bunker
  • The Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe
  • The Reichstag
  • Brandenburg Gate

The walking tour is free, you just tip your guide at the end of the tour. Paul also gave us some great bar and restaurant recommendations.

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As it was a Sunday, our walking tour guide recommended we should go to the flea market on¬†Bernauer Stra√üe. There was a great buzz around the place, with stalls of bric-√†-brac, old vinyl, rails of shearling coats and denim jackets, street food, beer on tap and gl√ľhwein!

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gluhwein-berlin-jess-orr-travel-blogWe ended the day at a bar called Badfish for Angry Hour (aka happy hour), a NYC neighbourhood style bar, which had a load of great whiskey, craft beer, old fashioned cocktails a jukebox and Mario Brothers on Nintendo. Definitely worth a visit!

Day 3 – East Side Gallery, Burgermeister & Cocktails

We took ourselves off to the East Side Gallery, a must see in Berlin! The East Side Gallery is 1.3km section of the Berlin Wall, which is now a International memorial for freedom that consists of paintings from artists across the world.

Travel Berlin City Break - Jess Orr Travel Blog
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We then had lunch at Burgermeister, another recommendation from our walking tour guide. Probably one of the best burgers I have ever had!

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We made reservations at NENI a rooftop restaurant in the 25Hours Hotel behind Bikini Berlin (definitely worth a visit). The restaurant is stunning and the food it great. After dinner we went for cocktails in Monkey Bar, which is next door to NENI and looks over Berlin Zoo. We drank Mai Tais and watched the snow fall that night. If I was to recommend a cocktail at Monkey Bar, go for the Jungle Flake!

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We love finding hidden gems for cocktails, so after conferring with the BarChick app we found a speakeasy cocktail bar nearby called The Green Door, the drinks here are UNREAL!!! Did I mention it is one of the world’s best bars?!

Day 4 – Victory Column, Tiergarten & Currywurst

Snow was well and truly on the ground for our last day! We started the day off with breakfast at West Berlin, a great cafe close to our hotel and Checkpoint Charlie. We spent the morning and afternoon walking through Tiergarten and visiting the Victory Column.

Our trip to Berlin wouldn’t have been complete without trying currywurst, so we went to Curry 36 in Mehringdamm. It was good but I can’t say I could eat a lot of it.

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You can’t go to Berlin without getting some black and white snaps in a Photoautomat booth, which are located throughout the city ?

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When travelling in Berlin, be sure you are purchasing the correct train tickets during your stay, unfortunately we didn’t read all the information at the kiosks and got fined – the undercover ticket checkers take no excuses, even if it was an honest mistake.

I would definitely go back to Berlin, I think it would be amazing in the summer. Something that was so surreal, was being able to drink a bottle of beer while walking down the street!

If you are heading to Berlin, have a fab time and safe travels.

Jess x

My Dream 2017

At the start of each year I write a handwritten list of goals and wishes for the year ahead, which allows me to keep track of my myself and my bucket list, as well as helping me achieve something new. Some goals might be bigger than others and I might not get covering everything on my list, but you have to aim high. If your dreams don’t scare you, you aren’t aiming high enough!

Travel

Every year I want to visit somewhere new. I had never been to Spain before, until last year when I visited Sitges, Barcelona, Torremolinos and Mijas – all of which were amazing in their own way.

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This year I would love to to visit:

  • Berlin – which is already booked for the end of January ?
  • America – Miami & New Orleans
  • Rome

I also hope to get back to London, as well as meet up with my friends from University, wherever that might be, perhaps back in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Career

Come March 2017 I will have been at The Tomorrow Lab for two years, as their Social Media Executive, which is a milestone for me and I have learnt so much & worked with so many great clients. This year will see another year of working hard & developing myself and my skill-set.

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I launched jessorr.co.uk towards the end of 2016 & is something I want to focus on developing this year.

Below is an overview of some of the things I hope to achieve in 2017:

  • Get my Facebook Blueprint certification
  • Read four business, marketing & social media related books – first up will be Gary Vaynerchuk‘s ‘Jab, Jab, Hook’ & ‘#AskGaryVee’
  • Grow jessorr.co.uk by posting a blog post at least once per week and posting 3-4 times per week on my social channels
  • Keep finding ways at being better at time management
  • Get a good camera and learn how to take great photos

Relationships

Friends, family and relationships is something that is very important to me. As mentioned in my previous post, it is important to be a good friend because true friends are hard to come by.

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This year I’m going to:

  • Get better at keeping in contact with my friends & family
  • See more of my friends & family
  • ‘Always trust that the ones who are supposed to be in your life, will always find a way’ – a great piece of advice from Erika Fox from Retro Flame
  • Enjoy the little moments with my favourite people

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Health, Life & Wellbeing

One of the most important things in life is your health and is something many can take for granted. This year I am turning 25 (SCARY), over the past 2-3 years I have come to have a greater appreciation for my health and the need to take action to maintain a healthy balanced lifestyle. So this year I hope to do the following:

  • Look after my skin
  • Go to the gym/exercise regularly to relieve stress and get fitter and leaner – at least 2-3 times per week
  • Try out yoga or pilates – something I wanted to do last year and never did
  • Have regular checkups with the doctor & the dentist
  • Drink more water every day. I think I will invest in one of those motivating water bottles to help with this goal.
  • Eat well, but still allow myself to be indulgent when I want to be
  • Read more. As well as reading my business books, I also want to read 3-4 books that have nothing to do with business. Reading a book before bed will help me unwind as opposed to scrolling through my phone.
  • Go for more walks in beautiful places across Northern Ireland
  • Pamper myself more – have long bubble baths more often or a face mask to unwind & relax.

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I do have some more goals that I will keep to myself ?

I know YOLO is thrown about a lot, but it is so true! Life is to be lived and we should all make the most of it and every new experience we have. I hope you all have a fab 2017 & that you fulfil your goals & have lots of fun!

Jess x

Howard Street Christmas Dining & Cinderella

A festive season must, is getting yourself along to the local Pantomime. The Grand Opera House in Belfast never fails to disappoint. Myself and a couple of friends organised a festive evening of dinner and Cinderella panto fun at the beginning of December.

Howard Street Christmas Dining

There are a number of fab restaurants near the Grand Opera House which run a pre-theatre menu, perfect for when you are wanting to make a night of it. One of my favourite restaurants in Belfast is Howard Street and because it was a festive occasion we opted for their Christmas set menu.

Howard Street is of course located on Howard Street in Belfast City Centre, just around the corner from the Grand Opera House and Fitzwilliam Hotel, and a stone throw from the back of Belfast City Hall.

The decor is minimalistic but rustic and cosy, with high ceilings, exposed and open brick walls, leather seats and soft lighting. They always have the loveliest Christmas tree as you walk through the door.

The service here is great and the food is nothing short of outstanding – each plate looks like food art and tastes even better! Their signature list of cocktails doesn’t disappoint either – my personal fav has to be The Devil’s Slide!

As it was a weeknight, the Christmas set menu was £29.95pp for 3 courses. I opted for the following courses.

To Start

‘Warm Salad Of Irish Stilton Blue Cheese Fritters, Caramelised Onion, Salted Walnuts & Mulled Wine Poached Pear’

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For Main

‘Roast Turkey & Ham, Chestnut Stuffing, Creamed Cabbage, Roast Potato, Honey Poached Cranberry & Turkey Gravy’

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My friends also had the Escalopes of Salmon and Pork Belly for their mains, which were also delicious.

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Dessert

‘Sticky Toffee Bread & Butter Pudding With Christmas Pudding Ice-Cream’

(AMAZING ?)

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The food was as outstanding as ever! If you are thinking of going to Howard Street, I would recommend booking to avoid disappointment.

Cinderella at The Grand Opera House

We left with 5 minutes to spare to take our seats at the Grand Opera House for Cinderella, ample time really, seeing as Howard Street is so close by.

This year’s stars of the show were Gareth Gates as Cinderella’s handsome prince (I have to admit I was that girl who was team Gareth during Pop Idol, so I was a tad excited), alongside Belfast’s pantomime treasure May McFettridge, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother.

The Grand Opera House was packed and the show was fantastic, we didn’t stop laughing and smiling the whole time. There was something for everyone! May McFettridge was as brilliant as ever and the two ugly sisters were great craic!

If you haven’t managed to see it yet, the show is on until the 15th January 2017, I couldn’t recommend it more!

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Jess x

My Festive Favourite at Galgorm

Travel Galgorm Festive Retreat

I have been coming to the Galgorm Resort and Spa for their Festive Favourite offer for the past three years with my mum and sister. It is unreal value and a real treat at Christmas time!

For only £99pp, based on two people sharing you can enjoy:

  • An overnight stay in a superior guestroom
  • Use of the fab Thermal Spa Village
  • A 3 course evening meal with a bottle of wine
  • A hot chocolate and homemade mince pie turndown
  • Full Irish breakfast the following morning

They pull out all the stops at Christmas time, with their decor and a Christmas tree in every room?

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Galgorm Hot Chocolate Mince Pies

Feeling Welcome

The Galgorm is a top travel destination in Northern Ireland if you are looking for a quality hotel stay for relaxation.You are made to feel welcome from the get go to the end of your stay, being greeted by the lovely Maurice at the door in his tweed suit and bowler hat ?

Thermal Village & Spa

Their service is impeccable and without a doubt have the best spa experience in Northern Ireland…probably Ireland. My favourites in the Thermal Village have to be the:

  • Beltane hot tub & fire
  • Outdoor Celtic Sauna
  • River House – grab a rocking chair and watch the river run in peace and quiet
  • Outdoor heated pools
  • The Orangery – chill with a glass of wine in a swing chair and put the world to right
  • Heated stone chairs – grab a snooze on one of these bad boys before returning to your room

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Wine, Dine & Gin

The food at the Galgorm is great and they sure know how to feed you. With the Festive Favourite offer you have a choice of dining in Gillies Grill or the Fratelli Restorante. Your breakfast the following morning is normally served in Gillies Рtheir fry is one of the best!

If you are a fan of afternoon tea, definitely book in advance for Galgorm’s afternoon tea in the River Room, it is stunning!

Travel Galgorm River Room

If you are a gin lover like me, be sure to make a stop at their gin library for a very special G&T before or after dinner.

Galgorm Gin Library

You can check out Galgorm’s festive and seasonal offers here.

I hope to be returning for another Festive Favourite at Galgorm in 2017 ?

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Jess x

Eat, Drink & be Merry at Belfast Christmas Markets

Jess Orr lifestyle blog Belfast Christmas Markets

Belfast Christmas Markets

Everyone looks forward to the Belfast Christmas Markets returning each year. At this time of year Belfast City Hall is lit up to the nines, the beer tent is hiving and the cabins are offering up  tasty treats for all. The following details my highlights at the markets this year, after visiting last weekend ??

Baileys Hot Chocolate

Grab a boozy hot chocolate just to the right on your way in to the markets from the front entrance – you can’t miss it they have a lot of bottles of Baileys on hand¬†?

Mourne Seafood Shack

Mourne Seafood have a setup at the Christmas markets this year, offering up something different from the burgers and sausages.¬†I could’ve ordered everything on the menu! But with only having two hands this wasn’t quite achievable. We had¬†Salt and Chilli Prawns,¬†Salt and Chilli Squid, Piri Piri Fries and¬†Truffle and Parmesan fries – SO GOOD, definitely worth a try!

Toasting Marshmallows

An open pit fire for toasting mallows close to Santa’s grotto and the giant snow globe ??

Jess Orr Lifestyle Blog Belfast Christmas Markets The German Beer Tent

If you are visiting the markets in the evening, prepare yourself for a busy tent. But don’t let it put you off. Grab a stein…or a pint and if you can, a seat at the long tables. The atmosphere is great!

I’m not sure if they have it on tap this year, but if it is be sure to try a passionfruit or cactus beer ?

Dutch Pancakes

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You must join the queue for dutch pancakes! You will not regret it! These babies are devine, especially when there is Nutella involved ?

Melting Pot Fudge

Stop by the stall for some award winning Melting Pot Fudge, handcrafted by a Belfast family business called Blackthorn Foods. They have a fab range of flavours and you can pick up 3 bars of fudge for £5 ?

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If you’re visiting Belfast for a festive weekend, doing your Christmas shopping or on a night out, Belfast Christmas Markets is well worth visiting!

Jess x

 

A Trip to London

I have had the pleasure of visiting London at least once over the past three years, whether it be to visit friends, for work or as a stop-over when going on holidays.

There is so much to see and do in London and even more fab bars and places to eat and drink!

Shoreditch

While visiting London for a conference over the past couple of years I have stayed at the Z Hotel Shoreditch. The hotel itself is 2 minutes walk from Old Street tube station, so it is handy for travelling into the city centre and getting to the train station to and from Gatwick – definitely not off-central!

Jess Orr Lifestyle Blog Z Hotel Shoreditch

Source: theZhotels.com

The hotel has minimalistic, contemporary, urban styling, the rooms are compact but fantastic, with complimentary wifi and 48″ TV with Sky at the end of the bed. A jug of water is there for you every night before bed and sometimes they even have complimentary wine and cheese in the evenings ?

There is a Starbucks almost next door to the hotel, handy for a coffee run in the morning. Just 5 minutes walk from the hotel on the other side of Old Street tube station, you will find Lantana Cafe, which does the most amazing brunch! I recommend the french toast, corn fritters and their chai latte – unreal! You can find Lantana’s menus here.

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Across the road from the Z Hotel in Shoreditch is a speakeasy cocktail bar called The Nightjar, which I am dying to get to. If you plan on going, book well in advance!

I have heard great things about Boxpark in Shoreditch for shopping, eating and drinking. They also run a number of events and workshops daily. It is only 15 minute walk from the Z Hotel!

 

London City Centre

There are so many amazing places to see, eat and drink in London and of course I have not been to them all. But here are some of my recommendations:

Wahacas

Delicious mexican food, tequila and margaritas! I love Wahacas in Soho and their basement tequila bar ?

Liberty London

Even if you aren’t planning on purchasing, this department store is a must see!Jess Orr Lifestyle Blog Liberty LondonCarnaby

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A cobbled street hub for shopping and gorgeous places for food and drink in London’s West End and can be found just behind Oxford Street and Regent Street.¬†Jess Orr lifestyle blog London CarnabyRum Kitchen

This amazing Caribbean eatery is in Kingly Court in Carnaby, a great spot for a jerk lunch and a Mai Tai!

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Flat Iron

Being a lover of steak, I LOVE coming to Flat Iron! No frills, just flat iron steak, sides and sauce and for great value (Flat Iron Steak- ¬£10,¬†Sauce – ¬£1,Sides – ¬£2.50-¬£3.50). There is a Flat Iron just by Kingly Court, it doesn’t take bookings and can get very busy, it is worth popping by and getting your name on the list and going for a drink until your table is ready!

Oxford Street & Oxford Circus

A must for shopping, window shopping and most importantly TOPSHOP!

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Cahoots

A fabulous speakeasy in the underground abandoned Kingly Court tube station, which was once an air raid shelter. From the door, you will literally be transported to the 1920’s. The menus are printed on old newspaper and their retro cocktails are served in teacups, milk bottles and flasks. There is more than one cocktail that is served up with a digestive biscuit! To avoid disappointment, you’re best making a booking with the captain!Jess Orr Lifestyle Blog Cahoots London
Jess Orr Lifestyle Blog Cahoots LondonLondon Cocktail Club

I have been to LCC in Oxford Circus, where the theme is gangsters paradise with graffiti and clowns spray painted on the walls. The music is unreal and the cocktails are even better! They even have happy hour every Monday ALL DAY and Tuesday-Saturday 4:30-7pm. The bar staff know how to party and make sure you are partying too!Jess Orr Lifestyle Blog London Cocktail ClubThe London Gin Club

If you are a gin lover like me, this place is worth a visit. They have over 250 types of gin, all with their own unique garnish for serving in a copa glass.

Zelman Meats

I discovered this place on the BarChick app, well worth a download by the way to find fab places to eat and drink when you are on a city break. Zelman Meats is owned by the founder of Burger and Lobster. The venue in Soho is furnished with red leather booths and sultry lighting. It specialises in steak ? We had chateaubriand with black truffle and parmesan chips, washed down with a bottle of Malbec РAMAZING!

Piccadilly Circus

Worth a dander to see the Westend, neon lights and Shaftesbury memorial fountain.

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Artesian

On a stop off in London en route to New York a couple of years back, me and my boyfriend (being fellow cocktail lovers) took the opportunity to visit one of the best bars in the world, the Artesian at the Langham Hotel. It is well fancy! The decor is stunningly chic and the service is top notch, their Pina Colada Рthere is just no words!

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Burger and Lobster

They have burgers and they have lobsters and it is a great spot! There are 11 of these fab eateries in London, take your pick!

Jess Orr Lifestyle Blog Burger and Lobster London

Incase you haven’t noticed, I’m a major foodie and have a serious apprecitation for cocktails and great bars. There are many more places I wish to visit in London. I always love to hear recommendations, if you have any please do let me know ?

Jess x