July 22, 2012

What to do in London, and what not to bother with!

Ah London, my home for five years back in the day when I was wide-eyed working tourist from New Zealand. So many things to do and see any day of the week. I still go back and find new places to visit as well as revisit some of my favourite haunts.

There is way too much to do for one visit, so if you’re on some time restrictions, here are my picks for some must-sees in London…

Top Shop London

Top Shop is right on Oxford Circus

London Shopping:

You can’t beat Oxford Street.

Take the Tube to Bond Street station and start at Selfridges. Don’t bother starting at Marble Arch unless you want to visit Marks & Spencers. If you’re in the mood to buy at Selfridges but don’t know where to start, book a personal shopper who will select clothes from all the over the store. This service is free but you’ll be expected to purchase.

Then shop your way down Oxford Street to Oxford Circus, popping into Debenhams – a department store with the likes of Jasper Conran, then on to the corner for H&M and Top Shop.

London Vibe:

Best vibe I love Covent Garden for its boutiques, bars and buskers. You’ll find markets selling produce and flowers and bars full of after-work hipsters. This is where I’d meet friends for a drink or dinner if I were you.

A settlement has existed here since the 1st Century when the city was known as Londinium in Roman times.

I used to say the London Vibe was on Carnaby Street, but it’s not as quirky as it once was.

High tea in London:

The Goring Hotel is where Kate Middleton got ready for her wedding to Prince William. This hotel is the overflow for Buckingham Palace so high tea here is more than just fancy cakes and teeny sandwiches, but your chance to hob nob with (near enough to) royalty. I had my best London high tea here. It’s spendy but you’ll never forget it!

Read my blog about the Goring high tea here >>>

Goring Hotel London

The fancy Goring Hotel exterior

London Monument

Get your stride on and leap up the Monument steps. Pic Joel Beachman

Best London Views:

The London Eye, especially as the lights come up, but you will have to queue.

Or instead of such a cliche’d attraction, climb 202 ft to the top of the restored Monument where the great fire of London started in 1666 and devastated most of the city. Great views from here for the princely sum of £4.50 and a little history lesson while you’re at it.

Best way to look around London:

And the cheapest way to look around and get your bearings of London is to take a bus in to the city, sit upstairs and look at the views. Take the #9 which goes through Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge (Harrods) and past the Royal Albert Hall. Or the #15 from Tower Hill Station, to the Monument, Mansion House, St Paul’s Cathedral, Fleet Street and Trafalgar Square.

Tour London

While away a few hours on a bus like a commuter

London Art:

Visit the Tate Modern (if you get modern art!) at Bankside in the old Power Station. The building itself is impressive and the collections within range from bizarre (like the contents of the artist’s wife’ bathroom rubbish bin) to gob smacking. The first travel story I wrote was taking the piss out of the Tate, but it is worth visiting for sure. You can read my Tate Modern story here if you like >>>

The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is worth it just for the architecture, but the collection of over 2,300 paintings from the mid-13th century to 1900 is breathtaking. It’s been here since 1842 – even that is impressive enough. Plus entry is free.

London Culture:

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre at Bankside is worth seeing. But be warned, a play takes hours so if you don’t have the time, just go for a nosey. Only the balconies are under cover so if the weather is dodgy it’ll be nasty. Another cool thing for  touch of culture is to find where some outdoor theatre is being held and take a picnic and a rug and sit under the stars. Of course, this also is dependent on the London weather. Ahem.

Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare's Globe

Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe

Most unusual thing to do in London:

Pop into a trial at The Old Bailey.

These courts are open to the public so if you have a fascination for how the British justice system is run or are just a bit bored in the city one afternoon, go have a look. I did this once to see the lawyers and judges with their horse hair wigs and robes and to marvel at the history of the place.

Did you know the Old Bailey is built over a river? You can also join tours and talks. Great for budding crime novelists and law students alike!

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio every week and a few newspapers and mags from time to time. I set off on this travel writing journey 18 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!)I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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