It’s nearing the winter holidays and the most frequent question I get from friends is, “What would you recommend for sight-seeing in London?” London is indeed a top holiday destination for many Singaporeans who wish to spend winter in the UK. It is also a popular stop-over city for those who intend to tour Europe as well. I consider London to be my second home as I had spent close to 2 years studying, living and most importantly, touring the city centre. Well, you are in for a treat as I recommend some of the itineraries (i.e. walking routes) one can consider when visiting London.
A trip down to London wouldn’t be complete without visiting the iconic tourist attractions sites like Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and many, many more! But how do you plan your trip to maximise your time and fit them all in at the same time? Check out the following itineraries I recommend!
1. Southbank route
1. Southbank route– Estimated 5km
(London Bridge Tube Station >> Tower Bridge >> City Hall >> Borough Market >> Shakespeare’s Globe >> Millenium Bridge >> Tate Modern >> Southbank >> Waterloo >> London Eye >> Houses of Parliament)
Beginning your journey from London Bridge Tube Station, take the exit towards HMS Belfast and head straight for the Tower Bridge. The walk along the river allows one to take in the beauty of London’s skyline and this walk will take approximately 10 minutes. Along the way, one would pass by the HMS Belfast which is part of the Imperial War Museum. It is open to the public for viewing with the purchase of an entry ticket. The riverwalk is also one of the best spots to take a photo with the Tower Bridge.
Instead of crossing the Tower Bridge, I would personally recommend a separate visit to it as the Tower Bridge itself is definitely worth a visit up. Head back towards the London Bridge Tube Station along the same route but consider stopping to admire the unique design of the City Hall. The City Hall is the office of the Mayor of London, currently Mr Sadiq Khan, who has been in position since 2016. One can pay a visit to the City Hall at designated timings listed here.
The City Hall is unique in that its facade is that of a geometrically modified sphere, which was designed to minimise carbon dioxide emissions, save energy and control heat efficiently. The main attraction is the middle circle ramp which circles around the building from the top to the bottom, through the viewing gallery.
Fun Fact: The City Hall was featured in Emma Watson’s individual movie poster for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Take a walk back to the London Bridge Tube Station, head for the Borough Market and be prepared for a feast! Borough Market is the one of the most frequently visited food markets in London, known to house international cuisines and food stalls catering to diverse tastes.
Borough Market is also one of my favourite places to hang out at and where I visit monthly. Some must-tries I would recommend include La Tua Pasta, The Exotic Meat Company, Scotchtails, Monmouth Coffee Company, Richard Haward’s Oysters and Bread Ahead. Another restaurant, Padella, situated just outside the Borough Market offers one of the best pastas I have tried in London. The pries can be unexpectedly affordable as well.
One thing to note is that while the Borough Market is fully open from Wednesday through Saturday, it is closed on Sundays. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the market is partially open, as only the permanent food stalls are open for business.
Besides ready-to-serve food stalls, the Borough Market is also famous for their fresh products. For instance, you can be treated to a wide selection of olive oils, truffle oils, pâté, spices and powders, and fruits. Here, fresh fruits in season are cheaper than those you would find in grocery stores.
When you are ready to continue the tour, head out of Borough Market and towards the river bank. The next destination along the River Thames is Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. Catching a Shakespearean play in the Globe threatre is definitely one of the things you have to do whilst in London. You can head directly to the box office to inquire about available tickets on that day, or alternatively, choose to challenge the standing ticket at £5 each.
Continue along the river and the next bridge in sight would be the renowned Millenium Bridge, located right in front of Tate Modern Museum. Just across the bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral comes to sight. Tate Modern is a modern art gallery, known for its gallery of international modern and contemporary art exhibitions. With its recent expansion, Tate Modern now offers a panoramic view of the River Thames from its 10th floor. Entrance is free, and the compound is accessible via stairs and elevators. This offers a great opportunity to catch a view of the River Thames and its surrounding.
Fun Fact: Millenium Bridge is named as such as it opened in 2000, welcoming the new millenium. Known to many Harry Potter fans, it is featured in beginning scenes of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince as the Death Eaters tore the bridge down. The bridge has also made an appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Take another 1km walk along the river bank and you will arrive upon Southbank, a bustling little area in Waterloo. Southbank may not be one of the top tourist attraction sites to visit in London but it is home to international art venues such as the National Theatre, BFI IMAX theatre and The Southbank Centre. BFI IMAX theatre offers the most extraordinary IMAX movie experience and is also the main hosting venue for the annual London Film Festival, organised by BFI. Occasionally, BFI offers movie tickets to students at prices around £5.
Fun Fact: Along Southbank there is a skatepark, Undercroft Skatepark, open for avid skaters. Tourists with a keen eye may recognise this place as a set location in Season 1 Episode 2 of Sherlock, “The Blind Banker”, where Sherlock — played by Benedict Cumberbatch — frequented in search for clues to the mysterious symbols.
Less than a 500m walk away, you would approach London’s famous icon The London Eye. During the Christmas season, Southbank would be really crowded as people love to frequent Christmas markets along the river. There, you can enjoy mulled wine in the chilly weather, take rides and enjoy performances in a temporary tent set up during the festive period. Beside the London Eye, there are other attraction sites like the SEA Life London Aquarium and The London Dungeon.
For those who are well-informed of London’s geography, the London Eye is just opposite from the Houses of Parliament, which can be reached across the Westminster Bridge.
Here one gets a clear, unobstructed view of the Houses of Parliament, together with Big Ben and Westminster Bridge across the River Thames. As seen above, Westminster Abbey can even be in sight, all captured in a single photo.
To conclude this tour, here are some of the important things to note for this route when planning for your own trip:
- Check for the opening hours of the City Hall and Borough Market if you are interested to stop by.
- The walk is mostly along the riverbank hence during cold seasons, remember to bring extra clothing for warmth. London’s weather can be pretty unpredictable, do equip yourself with waterproof clothing, umbrellas or raincoats.
- Choose light and comfortable shoes for walking.
Adjusting to personal schedules
With these itineraries, one can easily navigate and maximise time to enjoy London to the fullest. Each route is about 5km but duration would vary according to one’s preference. For instance, one can enjoy Southbank route and opt to begin City of London route from Somerset House to Tower of London within one day. Alternatively, these two routes can be completed on two separate days too.
Voila~ I welcome all to London with the following three itineraries, which would be updated regularly here on our website.
These itineraries are bound to excite any first-time tourists in London, hoping to get the most out of the trip. Alternatively, tourists who are stopping over in the city for just a few days can greatly maximise thier time along these walking routes. Yet I have to say, these are definitely not all that London has to offer. Stay tuned as I continue to update travel itineraries for London.
This vibrant city is my second home and I cannot wait to revisit the city again! Have fun during your holiday in London!