Did you know I used to live in London?
(Of course you do. I talk of very little else. I miss that silly wee city)
As London is one of my very favourite places to be and very favourite things to talk about, I subsequently have a lot of Opinions about London and Things to Do in London.
I’ve shared these every chance I get – generally in a rambling interminable email. I’ve decided that, to save myself a wee bit of work, I’ll put these Opinions in a rambling, interminable blog post!
This is that post.
Get thee an Oyster card.
Yes, even when visiting. These cards are just SO handy. They work on both the tube and the bus, and provides a discount for both. And! Should you keep hold of your Oyster card from 2008, when you go to use it again in 2012 you may just find you still have money on it.
(that’s what happened to me)
Wear good walking boots/shoes/insoles. London is AMAZING for walking. Also, wear light layers. The tube is warm (no air conditioning and all of the bodies under the sun) and despite how frigid the air outside may be, shops and museums are well heated.
Camden Markets are very busy, but pretty damn cool. Make sure to explore the underground vintage stalls.
Greenwich Markets are underwhelming. I wouldn’t recommend them on a whirlwind tour but if you’re going out that way then they’re worth a look. Get off at the DLR (docklands light rail, connects from the tube, still works on Oyster cards) stop before the one that is actually in (Island Gardens!) Greenwich and walk through the wee foot tunnel which goes under the Thames. It’s just a tunnel. But if you enjoy the sense of possible doom that comes from walking under a river, then do it!
If you do go to Greenwich then look for the little Milkshake place. It’s green and there’s only one, it will make any sweet into a milkshake. My favourite is Turkish Delight.
Also, if in Greenwich, go into the Painted Hall as it’s pretty damn cool and is used in a lot of movies and such. AND it’s FREE! Free things are excellent value for money.
Avoid Spitalfields markets anytime other than the weekends. The guidebook I had said they’re always open but I went on a Thursday and deemed them terrible but my baby sister went on a Saturday and said they were great.
Borough Market is The Best for food, it’s very popular, go during Friday at any time during the day, or Saturday I find it’s best at 10am, after all the stalls open but before the main tourist hordes descend. Go there to eat breakfast or lunch. Buy something hot and eat it while walking around. Great venison burgers, egg butties, roast-in-baguette-s, brownies, Monmouth coffee.
Portobello Road is a classic but very busy. Antiques are the closest to the station, then food, then there’s sort of a t-shaped split and the sides have quirky clothing, army surplus, vintage and ephemera. Further on than that? It’s not that great.
Shop shop shopping
The main High Street shopping destination is Oxford Street.
If you DO go to Oxford Street, it runs from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch on the central line but is only really good from the Oxford Circus stop to the Marble Arch stop. It’s fine to walk but eh, if it’s busy or bad weather, just use the tube.
Regent Street – runs from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus and has some of the most beautiful buildings and much fancier stores. The Apple store is on Regent Street, as is Hamley’s. It’s a nice way to get in Piccadilly Circus and Oxford St in one trip.
Covent Garden! the shopping area is all little cobbled alleys and is amazing. MAC store, Coco de Mer, Urban Outfitters, Neals Yard! the ambience is possibly even better than the shopping. I took Craig here and even he liked it. He absolutely hated every time I dragged him to Oxford Street.
Overrated? I thought so.
Covent Garden Markets.
I’ve never been on the London Eye as it seems ridiculously overpriced. Would go on it if say, our parents came to visit us or something, but that all depends on if/when we get back there.
Buckingham Palace. Westminster and St Pauls are more impressive.
Mme Tussauds. It’s CRAZY expensive and, admittedly I only went around on the one day I worked there, but I didn’t think it was anywhere near worth it.
Harrods. I have been, would go again, but it’s not all that. I prefer Selfridges.
Teeny Museums I have known and loved.
The Garret – a very old operating theatre/medical museum
Sir John Soane’s Museum – formerly the home of the neo-classical architect Sir John Soane, now a museum stuffed with his collection of paintings, sculptures, classical objets, just … so much stuff. It has to be seen to be believed.
Big Museums/Galleries I have known and loved.
The British Museum is awesome and also free, the Great Hall is astounding, you can see the Rosetta Stone & mummies. Also: the nose of the Sphinx.
The National Gallery is oh just so great. Da Vinci et al, and pieces even, ridiculously, brought me to tears. It’s off Trafalgar Square. Too big to do fully in one go (thankfully I had the freedon to go … four times? Five?) but they have a map which has highlights.
Next to the National Gallery is the National Portrait Gallery, again free free free. Much smaller than the National Gallery and has more famous historical portraits than you can shake a stick at. But you shouldn’t. I don’t recommend shaking sticks.
The Tate Modern – a must. Definitely. It’s my favourite place in the world.
Whenever we had people come visit us from New Zealand we took them on this walk round the Thames, it seems to me to be an excellent way to see the sights.
(There are nice pubs along the way so you could always pub-crawl it too. But I could never recommend that. Not with my mum reading anyway)
Start at St Pauls tube stop and make your way to the Cathedral and walk round the front of it. Marvel. It’s my favourite building by in London. My favourite building in the World.
Walk round the side to the road, across the street is the London Tourist centre, and just near there is an alley way down to the Millennium Bridge. Walk across that and you’re outside the Tate Modern.
At this point, turn left, you’re heading towards The Globe. You can pay and take a tour round it which is very interesting, you can pay to see one of their productions, or you can just look at it from the outside.
Keep walking down that side of the Thames, (it’s best to have a map at this point because I don’t want to be responsible if you get lost) the walk takes you round by Borough Market (stop in for a Coffee and a sandwich if it’s a day when the market is open. The Shard is on the far side of the Market. It shouldn’t be difficult to spot
As you walk down, you pass the Scoop and City Hall (designed by the same gents who designed the Gherkin) and you come to the Tower Bridge!
Walk across and find your way to the waterfront where you can walk past the Tower of London and see Traitor’s Gate, follow the Thames back up towards St Pauls but keep walking. Keep keep walking.
You can walk all the way down to Westminster this way. Halfway there you walk along the Embankment, beautiful old buildings and the only Walkabout Pub I will ever set foot in (the Walkie is a NZ/AUS/SAFA institution in London. It’s relatively terrible. I would go in and ask for a snakebite (1/2 beer, 1/2 cider, blackcurrant cordial) which is the signature drink, it is … an experience.).
You will be able to tell when you hit Westminster. Those buildings are so iconic as to seem fake. You can walk across the Bridge at Westminster but really, this is where my trail ends and you can go wherever you would like.
There is so much of London there to see!
It was Samuel Johnson who said ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ I am not tired yet.