If I could count up how many times I’ve visited London – the mighty big smoke – I’d say I was close to 100. Maybe a little bit more. From working in the fashion industry for many years, my job took me to London a couple of times each month. Mainly for photo shoots, press meetings, head office meetings, blogger meet-ups, events, you name it. Each time, I thoroughly enjoyed the craziness of the capital and the diverse range of people I got to meet.
I’ve also been quite often socially, heading down to London many times with my girlfriends, indulging in a day of shopping, eating, and visiting cocktails. Not to mention the occasional O2 arena concert and a fancy stay or two at The Hoxton Hotel for celebratory occasions.
But what about just being a tourist? Going down to London for just 10 sweet hours, playing the role of a real sight-seer and tourist in my home country?
Trains from Manchester to London take as little as 2 hours, but on this particular occasion I travelled from Stoke-on-Trent, which took a speedy 1 hour 40. Myself and my boyfriend decided to embark on a journey of seeing London as real tourists, exploring the main hot spots and learning more about our capital city.
So what would I recommend? Have a read below of how I spent one day in London…
River Thames City Cruise
The City Cruise boat trip along the River Thames may seem overly touristy, but I was genuinely surprised at how much I loved this activity. I thought I knew a lot about London, but when the cruise tour guide talks you through all the buildings, the history, the bridges and the key attractions, I realised how little I actually knew.
This is best enjoyed on a warm, sunny day, where you leisurely cruise the Thames from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge. You get to admire the London skyline, with the Gherkin building and the Shard as prominent views. There are also lovely pubs, bars, markets and developments to spy along the way. You can often get 2 for 1 tickets for this is you search on Google too! I think we purchased ours through Virgin Experience Days.
Although situated in the hustle and bustle of London, the Tower Bridge area is a mix of culture, history and modernisations which give a touch of tranquillity. You get all the modern, newer looking bars and cafes surrounded by grassland areas, contrasting with the old, historic yet beautiful looking tower walls surrounding the Tower Hall.
Walking around Tower Bridge is a great stop off after the City Cruise, perfect for grabbing fish and chips or a coffee, and having a bit of a wind down on the grass and a good old nosey around.
I’d heard about Borough Market lots of times, and I’m overly excited to have finally visited! If you like street food, freshly made smoothies and delicious authentic foods, you’ll love this place. We walked here from Tower Bridge and came in from the tube station end, greeted by the aroma of Chinese noodles, grilled cheese toasties and sizzling paellas. Amazing.
We spent a good half an hour just walking round and taking photos before actually selection our cuisine. You are actually spoilt for choice here, and no doubt you’ll chose your market stall and select your dish, and then 10 minutes later walk past one which gives you major food envy. From baked health foods to Ethiopian dishes, there is everything for the ultimate foodie.
I opted for a yummy pulled pork dish with a side of creamy mac and cheese, whilst my boyfriend opted for Chicken Pad Thai from a Thai stall. I could literally spend all day here, and I suggest you pay this place a visit!
Covent Garden is such a lovely place to visit due to its rows of boutique shops mingled in with all those popular chain stores. These all lead nicely to a huge outdoor and undercover market stall, with the main square filled with street performers, magicians and entertainers.
Browse the array of shops before touring the bespoke market stalls and grabbing a few minutes of street entertainment. Covent Garden is also packed with theatres and houses which play home to the newest shows and productions. Plus, it has the hip and happening, trend Soho on its doorstep, which we walked across to for a spot of dinner.
There are also many traditional London pubs which line the streets of Covent Garden. Perfect to sit back and enjoy an al-fresco glass of red wine!
Being from Manchester, I thought I’d experienced all of what China Town could offer. But then I stumbled across London’s China Town, and realised I was wrong. China Town in London is so much bigger and much more authentic, decorated with lanterns and cultural decorations which really give that traditional Chinese feel.
From walk-in all-you-can-eat buffets to fine dining restaurants, there’s a Chinese eatery to suit everyone. I also spied a new opening called Bubble wrap – a dessert style café serving up the funkiest waffle cones packed with ice cream, fruits, sauces and all sort of toppings. I’m assuming IT has only just opened because the queue was huge! But the ‘bubble wraps’ looked insanely delicious.
Adding to the friendly atmosphere and causal vibe of China Town, you’ve got talented buskers and musicians lining the streets, making it feel like a real celebratory place. I’d strongly recommend walking from Covent Garden across to Leicester Square and onto China Town, then meandering onto Soho. Weather permitted of course!
La Bodegra Negra
…And the place in question we meandered to was no other than La Bodegra Negra, an unusual Mexican themed restaurant that’s like no other. There are two La Bodegra Negra’s: the café and the restaurant. The café seems to have the better selection of food, if you’re into all your traditional Mexican foods. However the restaurant is the key attraction point.
The place is themed as a sex shop, where from the outside; you’d guess someone was walking into an undercover shop, or a dodgy looking bar. But when you walk in, it’s like a dark and dingy club, which then opens out to almost a cave type experience. The walls are covered with pop up cardboard décor, with hand-drawn market pen to create designs that are a little disturbing. You know the kinds… grave yards, skulls, quotes, old building… eerie with a touch of cool.
It’s also filled with millions of fairy lights to shed some light to the place. It’s certainly unique and an experience at that! I wasn’t overly impressed with the food but that was because I like a good old hearty meal, and La Bodegra Negra is more tapas style small plates. I’d recommend this for a lunch with a difference!
If you’re around the Oxford Street end of London indulging in a shopping spree, set your Google maps to locate The Attendant – a quirky, underground café that’s super tiny yet cosy. The walls are filled with graffiti, giving it an individual, edgy feel. You could possibly spend ages just reading the walls.
What I like about this café is that it’s an underground escape in the busy, bustling shopping area, where you can pop in and experience the best of home cooked food. Cakes and muffins are freshly baked, and soups are made in front of you packed with essential veggies. It’s just a super cool change of scenery to break away from the noise, letting you drink your latte and have a read of the walls!