12hrs is a very short time to see the best of any city, 12hrs in London is almost ridiculously little. Still, we accepted the challenge, and present to you our 12hrs in London guide!
Some weeks ago, we already explored the wild East End of the city (to read that guide, just click here), so now it’s time to visit some of the more iconic landmarks and places. Still, like always, we had to leave a lot of things out. We won’t visit the Royal Palaces. We are skipping over Big Ben. And we don’t stand in line with the other tourists at the Tower of London. Still, we will manage to see a whole lot of the British capital in this guide. We see great art in some of the world’s best galleries. We visit Hyde Park. There’s a stroll through Notting Hill, and a secret bar in the middle of China Town at the end. And yes, we even managed to sneak in a peek at the Tower Bridge, albeit, from afar.
Some beloved places didn’t make it into the schedule (because, really, how much coffee can you drink in a day?), but we will write about them on our blog. Just head over there and check the London section regularly if you have more time than just a day.
But now, without further ado, let’s spend 12hrs in London together!
9am // Citizen M
To find an affordable hotel in London is hard. Finding an affordable place to stay that also has great beds, beautiful interiors and friendly staff is almost impossible. But still, we managed. The mini design-hotel chain citizenM is one of our best kept secrets. They have hotels in Amsterdam, Glasgow and – you guessed it – London, and are expanding their portfolio right now.
All rooms look the same. And that is a good thing. The bed is a 2×2 Meters square of fluffy linen, movies are free (yes, all kinds of movies…) and the fast Wi-Fi just works. You can even adjust the lighting in the room to your mood with a touch pad. One thing if you are traveling with a friend: The bathroom is made our of opaque glass panels and is in the middle of the room. If you are very shy, you might have to come up with a bathroom schedule in which your temporary roomie takes a stroll through the hotel while you take a shower.
The lounge-y hotel lobby is always busy, and instead of a restaurant it features a self-service counter with pastries, some different meals, and drinks. Grab a snack and a coffee, and sit down in one of those fancy Eames chairs. We have a long day ahead of us, so you better enjoy your breakfast. Afterwards, make your way out on the street.
CitizenM is located Bankside, on the Southern bank of the river Thames. That’s not an area full of tourist, but it’s perfect for us. Our first stop is just a five minute walk away.
CitizenM // 20 Lavington Street // website
Pictures // CitizenM
10am // Tate Modern
Lets kick off our day with some modern art. Right around the block from CitizenM lies the famous Tate Modern. It functions as Britain’s national gallery of international modern art, and is the world’s most visited modern art gallery. Housed in an old power station right at the river, it draws crowds of art lovers, tourists, and school children alike.
You could easily spend a whole day here, and if you have more time in London, you definitely should spend some more hours here than we do today. The exhibitions are amazing, and admission is free!
Two big attractions of Tate Modern, the Turbine Hall and The Tanks will sadly stay closed for the remainder of 2013, but there is still lots and lots to see.
Tate Modern, Bankside // Sun-Thu 10am-6pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10pm // website
Pictures // Tate Modern
11.30am // Borough Market
London is all about that fantastic mix of the new and the old, something you’ll experience several times during our 12hrs. From the new world of modern art, let’s move on to something traditionally British, the markets.
Walk along the water towards both the Southwark and the London Bridge. On your way, you will pass Shakespeare’s Globe, a reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse that was originally built in 1599 and that was located about 230 Meters from the site of the replica. Soak in the sight, then continue all the way to the market.
Borough Market is one of London’s oldest and biggest food markets, and to us, it’s also one of the prettiest. Local vendors are selling fresh produce, and there are stalls that serve all kinds of tasty things. Walk around, wet your appetite, we’ll have lunch soon!
Borough Market // 8 Southwark Street // open for lunch: Mon-Wed 10am-3pm,
full market: Thu 11am-5pm, Fri 12pm-6pm, Sat 8am-5pm // website
12pm // Elliot's
There is a lot of food to choose from at Borough Market, but whenever we’re there, we end up eating at Elliot’s. The reason is very simple: Their food is just so good!
Everyday, the chef takes a stroll over the market and picks the freshest and tastiest ingredients he can find. And then, he turns them into the items on Elliot’s small but amazing menu. They bake their own bread, which is almost worth the visit alone. Their coffee is great, too. And the burger here is one of the best we’ve ever had. Trust us!
Elliot’s // 12 Stoney Street // Mon-Fri 12pm-3pm and 6pm-10pm, Sat 12pm-4pm and 6pm to 10pm // website
1pm // London Bridge Walk
There’s no better time for a walk than after lunch (since laying down is not an option on this busy day). So let’s continue our tour of London, lose some calories, and get a bit of sightseeing done in the process.
Walk up to London Bridge, it’s just a stone-throw away from Elliot’s, and head over to the other side of the Thames. To your right, you’ll get a great view of the iconic Tower Bridge. There’s also a mean looking World War II war ship moored in the river, the HMS Belfast. Snap some pictures for you loved ones at home – Tower Bridge, River Thames or war ship, whatever will be most popular with your folks – and make your way to the other side.
1.20pm // The Tube
No trip to London is complete without plenty of rides on the Tube. And no worry, we’ll use it extensively during the day. The oldest underground railway in the world is famous for its narrow tunnels and the crowds during rush-hour.
Right now, traffic shouldn’t be too bad, so hop on the Circle & District Line at Monument, go all the way to Victoria, and change there into Victoria Line. After one stop, you’ll be at Green Park. Alight there and walk to Dover Street.
1.45pm // Dover Street Market
From the outside, this shop might not look like much. But look again. The window displays are cooperations with well-known artists, and the shop itself and its interior almost passes as pieces of artwork itself.
Dover Street Market was opened by Rei Kawakubo, the founder of Japanese avant-garde fashion house Comme des Garçons. Naturally, you’ll find all the different labels that make up the Comme des Garçons-family here. They also sell other, high-end brands like Celine here. There’s a lot of staff on hand, something you’ll enjoy if you want to purchase something, but also something that might intimidate you if your wallet isn’t that well-endowed. No worries, they don’t bite. They might, however, ask women to put a cloth over their face when they try something on to prevent make-up stains…
Make sure you don’t just explore downstairs, there is a lot to see in this four story store. Take the elevator upstairs to the 4th floor.
Here, you’ll not only find the much cheaper Play by CdG line with its famous basic pieces like striped shirts, you also just reached our next destination.
Dover Street Market // 17-18 Dover Street // Mon-Wed 11am-6.30pm, Thu-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 12pm-5pm // website
2pm // Rose Bakery
This beautiful cafe was founded by Rose Carrarini and her husband Jean Charles, and has built up a cult following in both London and Paris, where they have several branches, as well. Rose Bakery is famous for its amazing cakes, and their Brownies regularly send us to chocolate heaven. If you’re two, start out by sharing one first. These things are massive.
The coffee and tea up here are really good, as well. Labour and Wait, a lovely shop we featured in our 12hrs in East London guide, sell a small selection of their sturdy household goods up here. Take a short break before our day continues, then leave Dover Street Market.
Rose Bakery // inside Dover Street Market // top floor, 17-18 Dover Street // Mon-Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 12pm-4pm // website
2.40pm // Hyde Park
Back to one of those iconic London places. The Royal Hyde Park lays in the middle of the city and is one of London’s biggest parks. Famous for its Speakers’ Corner, it attracts a pleasant mix of visitors. Families, tourists, and commuters on their jog to work carrying their office attire in tiny backpacks while running.
Soak in the scene and maybe even some sun as you walk through the park. Just follow the paths along the The Serpentine, a lake in the middle of the park. It leads you to our next destination.
If you’re lucky, you’ll still be able to spot a big, fiberglass statue in the middle of the water. That’s actor Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, in that famous ‘wet shirt scene’ from the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Hyde Park // Mon-Sun 5am-12am // website