Things to do on a day out in the City of London and seeing ‘The Big Smoke’ through different eyes.
Map of the City
One thing we wanted to do when we returned to our hometown was explore London, the capital city, the heart of the country and top of the list for many visitors coming to England. So we made sure we kept some time free for a day out in the City of London.
It’s the place where I had worked for over 8 years but shamefully without appreciation. Not seeing past the crowded trains and tube lines and stressful journey to my various workplaces.
I wanted to come back and embrace what London should be, I wanted to see it through different eyes and view my town as a tourist.
Tourists in London are to Londoners a rather funny sight. They pose for pictures outside strange objects, a phone box brings much joy to visitors, yet is something that every Londoner would briskly walk past and not even acknowledge. It is just a phone box after all.
London Phone Box
Tourists have a habit of getting in our way when we are rushing to our very important roles and trying to get even more important tasks done.
They are smugly enjoying a picnic lunch outside St Paul’s Cathedral or lounging in Hyde Park while we are gobbling down our ‘grab and go’ sandwich as we have to be back at the desk in half an hour and it’s already taken 20 minutes to queue up and buy the damn sandwich.
The City of London
They leisurely stroll along the Thames with cameras and maps, taking in the views of the architecturally masterful bridges and buildings, pausing for a coffee along the Embankment while we would rush along, running late, adding to the stress of getting where we need to be.
We don’t look up, we’re just simply on our mission to get to work, where we then spend the next 8 hours inside our building and then rush out the door at finishing time to try and beat the clock and get home at a record pace. London for Londoners is rarely enjoyed as it should be.
Under the Millenium Bridge with the newly built ‘Shard’ in the distance
I wanted to change that. I know that London is a fantastic place, packed full of things to see and do. There are more museums and art galleries than you can imagine. There are bustling street markets a plenty and green spaces and parks are in abundance. You can float down the Thames on a barge, jump on an open top red bus, ride a giant Ferris wheel or pay a visit the Queen.
London buses and old buildings
Bistro cafes and coffee shops mingle among Michelin stared restaurants and some of the world’s best can be found here. We have whole streets dedicated to theaters and taking in a London show is a great way to spend an evening. London is home to top hotels, schools, universities and hospitals. It is a place full of diversity and variation.
St Pauls Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge
You can find pretty much anything you want in London without even looking too hard. Whether it is a Nepalese banquet or a Moroccan feast that you’re after, some Turkish mezze or perhaps a taste of Ghana, you can find it. If you fancy an American milkshake and fries at 4am, no problem.
From cocktail bars to pie and mash shops, from underground gigs to world class music venues, London is calling.
There is a great mixture of old and new in London. You don’t have to look far to see a bit of history just a stone’s throw from a stunning contemporary glass structure. These are all the reasons I wanted to experience the city as it should be and give it the time that it deserves, to soak up the intoxicating vibes.
So for our day in London we did just that. We went to the London Museum, posed for pictures by Tower Bridge, had a picnic lunch at St Paul’s Cathedral, enjoyed a coffee on the Embankment, walked along the Thames and over famous bridges, sat in the shadows of the London Eye and ate an Indian Curry at Brick Lane, a street famous for its curry houses and a thriving Asian community.
By the iconic Tower Bridge
By the end of the day I wanted more. I wanted to come back the next day, to try out the many food stalls and eateries along the river and to go to the parks and monuments we ran out of time to see, however our tight schedule didn’t allow for this. We barely scratched the surface of getting under London’s skin and there’s a whole lot more waiting for us next time.
J under the Millennium Bridge
A round up of our day in London and some recommended sights and activities:
First up we took a train to Liverpool Street station and walked down London Wall to the London Museum which is free entry, as are most of the big museums and galleries in London. We then sat outside St Paul’s Cathedral and ate a picnic on the grass behind the main entrance. For a good view over the city you can go inside the cathedral and climb the stairs to the top, however entrance is 16 GBP per adult which we thought was rather pricey.
St Pauls Cathedral
From the cathedral we walked down towards the Millennium Bridge, crossed over and then walked along Embankment towards Waterloo.
Along this walk you take in the Tate Gallery (free entry) and the Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, book in advance for tickets to an open air Shakespeare show. Tickets start from just 5 GBP. Continue walking along the Embankment and eventually you will reach the mighty London Eye. (Standard tickets for the 30 minute rotation costs 19 GBP per adult)
The London Eye
Going on from the London Eye you will then find yourself at Westminster Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Cross over the bridge and once on the other side of the river, you are then not far from Buckingham Palace and St James’s Park.
We took some extra time and walked to Tower Bridge, one of London’s iconic sights and met a friend for coffee. Tower Bridge is a 10 min walk from Millennium Bridge but in the opposite direction.
Design Cafe – Cool location for coffee with a friend
We then finished off the day catching a train back to East London to meet up with friends for a curry dinner on Brick Lane. Brick Lane is a short 10 minute walk from Liverpool Street Station.
Brick Lane street sign
All in all our day out as tourists in London went down a treat. I now know what all the fuss is about and saw my hometown from a whole different perspective. It turns out being a tourist in London is rather fun.
Pet Friendly Hotels in London:
Sacha El-Haj – 8 Miles from Home