Recommended itineraries to plan your holiday in London– Part III: Shopping

Previously, I have introduced that there are three routes one can consider when planning a holiday in London. These routes which I highly recommend enables one to maximise one’s travel time in London and cover most of the icons in … Continue reading

Recommended itineraries to plan your holiday in London– Part II: City of London

Previously, I have introduced that there are three routes one can consider when planning a holiday in London. These routes which I highly recommend enables one to maximise one’s travel time in London and cover most of the icons in the city.

1. Southbank route

2. City of London route

3. Shopping route

For instances, the Southbank route for along River Thames to cover London icons like Tower Bridge, City Hall, Borough market, London Eye and Houses of Parliament.

Here is the second walking route I recommend for a glimpse into the English history and other historical buildings in the City of London.

2. City of London route– Estimated 4km

(Tower of London >> Monument >> Sky Garden >> Leadenhall Market >> Bank >> St Paul’s Cathedral >> Fleet street >> Royal Court of Justice >> Somerset House)

This route takes one through one of the most bustling areas of London: Bank area, where the financial and economic hub of London is located in. Beginning with Tower of London (exiting at Tower Hill Tube Station), this fortress stood against time and has been playing an important part in the English history. For instance, one of the more well-known figures in English History, Anne Boelyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, was beheaded in the Tower of London. Since then, Tower of London became a prison to house significant criminals.

The Tower of London is open to public for visit and the ticketing office is located right around the corner. It is now home to the Crown Jewels of England and houses exhibits and artefacts like calvary armour, catapults and torture tools.

Enter Great Tower Street and head towards Monument. Just around the corner of the Monument Tube Station is The Monument to the Great Fire of London, erected to commemorate the Great Fire of London of 1666. The monument itself is open to ticket holders to scale its great height via stairs. The view of River Thames from above is spectacular too.

A street behind Great Tower Street, along Fenchurch street is where one should head to for a free viewing platform at the top-floor garden of 20 Fenchurch Street. At Sky Garden, one can really sit back, relax, and enjoy the view of London along River Thames with a cup of beverage.

Go around the garden and one will be rewarded with a free, 360 degrees viewing of the surrounding area of the building. This is one of my top recommendations to anyone visiting London. Booking is free and time slots are open from 3 weeks beforehand.

As compared to View from The Shard which requires at least £16 advance booking, Sky Garden is F.R.E.E.! Such a splendid view from such great height AT NO COST!

Located near the Sky Garden is Leadenhall Market, a famous and well-preserved Victorian marketplace. Cheeses and seafood are served with class in the building while one appreciate the continuing existence of the historical site amidst the modernity in the neighbourhood. Previously, I have tried a cheese tasting experience at Leadenhall Market and it was one of my finest dining experience in London (Im a great cheese-lover here!).

Fun Fact: Leadenhall is also a film location for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where Hagrid led young Harry into Diagon Alley for his very first time. The site was also featured in Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Exit from Leadenhall Market and turn into Cornhill Street. Around this area, one can spot the Lloyds Building and Leadenhall Building located opposite of each other. These two architectures juxtapose each other and the viewing experience is pretty memorable– Lloyds Building, a stainless steel building designed with Bowellism architecture which leaves pipes, elevators, ducts and others on the outside of the building to clear interior space, while Leadenhall building is a distinctive wedge-shaped glass skyscraper.

Londoners are fond of nicknaming buildings according to appearances and these buildings are no exceptions. The Lloyds building is known to be the “Inside-Out building” while Leadenhall building is known as the “Cheese-grater”.

Proceed towards the Bank Tube Underground and the majestic Bank of England appears to sight. Other major international banks are also located in the vicinity. Down Cheapside (which I beg to differ about the name), St Paul’s towering high dome structure would come into view. Upon reaching St Paul’s cathedral, turn around to enter from the front, through the side doors.

St Paul’s cathedral is one of London’s most prominent icon. Its dome structure is one of the highest in the world, ranked together with Florence Duomo and Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica. Doors open at 0830 every day and photography is not allowed in the cathedral. Entry fees include rental of audio guide, and access into temporary exhibitions, crypt, and up into the galleries for viewing.

Upon entry through the side door on the right, one can peep around the corner to observe a very unique staircase, Dean’s staircase, also known as the Geometric stairs. Designed by the famous architect Christopher Wren (who also designed St Paul’s Cathedral, Royal Naval College in Greenwich, parts of Hampton Court Palace etc.), construction of this staircase relies on pure mathematical calculations to place each step upon each step against the wall, without any other extra support. Watch the stairs spiral up towards the ceiling of the structure and be mesmerised.

Fun Fact: Needless to say, this staircase attracted the attention of film producers to feature it in movies. One example is in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as the stairs featured in the film leading to Professor Trelawney’s Divination classroom.

Head straight up into the three galleries and at the very top, in the Golden Galleries, one can be rewarded for the climb with one of the best panoramic views in London too!

After a few visits to St Paul’s, I strongly recommend joining the guided tour in St Paul’s. The guided tours provide a more intimate feel as the guide introduces corners around St Paul’s which are included in the audio guide tour. In addition, the guided tour grants special access down to the bottom of Dean’s staircase for viewing.

To head back towards Central London, continue your walk along Fleet street where many buildings were listed Grade I, protected and preserved for historical value.

Along Fleet street, one can observe the unique medieval castle-like building of the Royal Court of Justice.

For those who love British tea or were thinking of what to get back as gifts, Twinings shop is located right opposite of the Court. There, one can select special London edition tea packaging as gifts. Moreover, the shop sells varied flavours which may not be easily found in supermarkets or in Singapore. So do seize the opportunity to get them during one’s visit.

The flagship shop also presents part of Twinings’ history through the exhibitions of their collections. One can also arrange for a timeslot for afternoon tea, a quintessential pastime enjoyment to do in London.

Proceed further and one would reach upon Somerset House. During Christmas season, ice-skating at Somerset House is THE thing to do in London, circling around the christmas tree in the middle of the tink. In the summer, Somerset Houses organises varied summer events, inviting renown artists and singers to organise an open-air music festival. Do catch these events if you happen to visit London then~

To conclude this tour, here are some of the important things summarised:

  1. Remember to pre-book one timeslot for Sky Garden. Tickets can be shown on one’s smartphones
  2. Climbing up the Monument and St Paul’s Cathedral might be quite a tedious scale for some. Hence do remember to wear comfortable shoes
  3. For some who find it tiring to walk the entire distance, one can consider boarding bus #15 which ventures through from Tower Hill/Tower of London, past St Paul’s Cathedral and onto Fleet Street towards Royal Court of Justice, Somerset House and then ending the route at Charing Cross Station.

 

Adjusting to personal schedules

With these itineraries, one can easily navigate and maximise time to enjoy London to the fullest. This route is about 4km 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.

1. Southbank route

2. City of London route

3. Shopping route

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!

Plan your holiday in London with these recommended itineraries– Part I: Southbank

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

2. City of London route

3. Shopping 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.

View from above down into the Chamber

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 PastaThe 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:

  1. Check for the opening hours of the City Hall and Borough Market if you are interested to stop by.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

1. Southbank route

2. City of London route

3. Shopping route

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!

Exploring German cities– Part I: Traveling to Aachen, a city bordering three countries

Beginning our tour in the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) region of Germany is A for Aachen. WHAT TO DO/SEE Once the center authority over most of Europe, Aachen is now a quiet university town, home to renowned technical university RWTH Aachen. … Continue reading

Summer Thriller with Korean Dramas

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