Travel: 5 Things To Do & See In London
Back in December, I acted on a spurt of spontaneity and tagged along with my sister to London for her work trip, where I spent about 10 days there exploring the beautiful cosmopolitan city with its rich culture and architecture dating back to the medieval times. I did most of the traveling in the day by myself as my sister was working and while there was definitely some anxiety having to navigate the huge city by myself, especially since I have not been back in the last 17 years, I did end up having an amazing time.
With the help of Googlemaps and a London Tube iPhone App, getting around London was a breeze and even though we were there during the Winter season and London is notoriously known for its gloomy and rainy weather, we were extremely blessed to have had days of sunshine and little rainfall during our stay there.
And now I have put together a list of 5 things to do and see in the capital city of the United Kingdom which I hope will come in useful for anyone planning a free and easy trip there in the future!
London is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites- the Tower of London, Kew Gardens, the whole area made up of the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church and the historic settlement of Greenwich. These historic sites are insanely rich in history and is certainly worth the visit for a few (or many) photographs as keepsake, just to say ‘I HAVE BEEN TO LONDON’!
Recommendation: Take the tube to Westminster Station where you will exit right in front of the iconic Big Ben. The exit is also alongside the Victoria Embankment where you will be able to snap a couple of photographs with the London Eye (tallest Ferris Wheel in Europe) as your backdrop.
After which, you can carry on by foot to visit the Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church which are all within walking distance. The timings for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace changes monthly so if you do want to catch a glimpse of the ceremony, dont forget to check out the exact timings here.
Shopping is a necessary evil on every holiday, whether it is to buy back souvenirs for the loved ones back home or to steal a bargain at homegrown labels. And for all you shopaholics out there, Oxford Street is London’s leading shopping destination and a MUST visit. Stretching for one and a half miles, from Marble Arch to Tottenham Tube Station, this street is home to many well loved and commercial brands such as Topshop, GAP, The Disney Store, Marks And Spencer, New Look, Forever 21, H&M and River Island. Selfridges & Co. which has been voted as best department store in the world can also be found along this street.
For more upmarket shopping or simply just for photos with Europe’s biggest department store, Harrods at Knightsbridge is another popular tourist destination. VAT refunds can be claimed for luxury items that are bought here.
Recommendation: Labels such as New Look, River Island and H&M are relatively cheaper here compared to Singapore even after accounting for the exchange rate. Primark at the beginning of Oxford Street offers a great bargain for all clothing, accessories and even shoes but dont expect fantastic quality for your goods.
London markets sell almost everything. From gourmet and fresh produce, to vintage clothing and antiques, these markets are simply a sprawling eclectic mix of stalls for you to find just about anything. Visit one of London’s oldest and largest wholesale and retail market- Borough Market to soak up the lively atmosphere of haggling and possibly discovering a treat or two at the bakery or street food stalls.
And as you wander around the market grounds, look out for friendly grocers who will offer you a bite or sample from their gargantuan wok of curry or paella.
Brick Lane Market in the Brick Lane area is another treasure trove for pre-loved items, antiques, handmade crafts and exotic pieces that cannot be found elsewhere. However, the market is only open on Sundays so mark your calenders if this large flea market is right up your alley.
Recommendation: Start your Sunday nice and early by grabbing a hearty brunch at popular brunch spot- The Breakfast Club, Spitalfields before exploring the rest of the area. Petticoat Lane (jumble sale for fashion and clothing), Columbia Road Market and Brick Lane Market are all just around the corner.
Read my review on The Breakfast Club, Spitalfields HERE.
Where do I even begin for food in London? I fell so in love with everything I ate during my stay but these are my few shortlisted ultimate favourites just for you…
Mediterranean-influenced bakery, cafe and restaurant, Ottolenghi, Belgravia has a gorgeous display of mouthwatering tempting treats and executes each baked good with pure perfection and design. It is the perfect place for cakes, pies and cookies. Seats in the cafe are limited though so takeaways are strongly recommended. Read more about it HERE.
Bill’s Restaurant Cafe & Store, Covent Garden offers an inviting and homely space to have one of the best tasting brunches in London. And before you leave, do a little shopping at their floor to ceiling pantry which includes homemade bottled jams and local produce. Read my review HERE.
And not forgetting the two front runners of the ‘Best Roast Duck in London’ contest- Four Seasons and Goldmine which are both conveniently located a few steps away from each other near the Bayswater Tube Station. If you are up for the challenge, do a roast duck marathon to see whose version you prefer by trying both restaurants.
In the mood for a little indulgence, One Michelin Star restaurant- Hakkasan at Mayfair offers a scrumptious Black Truffle Roast Duck with an accompanying hefty price tag. Read about it HERE.
World class entertainment in London comes in the form of musicals and plays by extremely talented casts. And just like how one cannot leave New York City without watching a Broadway show, one cannot leave London without stepping into a West End Theatre.
Recommendation: Buy your tickets from TKTS at Leicester Square for up to 50% discount on ticket prices. If you can help it, try to watch matinee shows on weekdays for the best bargain prices. Theatres are usually full house on weekends, with tickets being sold only at full prices.
Check out the Soho area for great pre-theatre dinner deals.
Recommendation: Burgers & Lobsters offers a stunning patter of bold orange-red coloured lobsters, salad and fries for only £20. The turnover rate is very high, making it an extremely convenient location to dine before your musical starts. Even if you were not watching a show, Burgers & Lobsters is still one restaurant you should check out. Read more about it HERE.
So that marks the end of my travel guide to London which I hope has been helpful. And do drop a comment below if you have any fond memories of London which you would like to share, I would love to hear about them :)