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!