This is an article in the 36 Hours In… series. To find more in the series, head here.
London is one of the world’s great cities. It’s an iconic place, with landmarks that most people would recognise. It really feels like you’re in the thick of things, that important decisions are being made all around you.
But London is also a place that has so much more to offer than the major sites. Yes, you can visit Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, but that’s not really London, if you know what I mean. The best thing to do in a city like London is to get away from the tourist traps and see (and taste!) it from another angle.
I’m fortunate enough to have lots of friends living in London, and on my brief visit there in mid-2016 I was taken to many spots that I otherwise wouldn’t have gone to. So this 36 hour itinerary is made up of things that I did on my short – pretty much exactly 36 hour! – visit to London.
36 hours in London, United Kingdom
London has an epic food scene. Whatever you want to eat, you can find it in London. One dining trend I really like at the moment is where a bunch of small restaurants are opening in a kind of shared space – there are a number in our hometown of Auckland, and Kingly Court in London is similar.
Kingly Court is in the Carnaby/Soho area of central London. It’s a space with lots of fantastic-looking restaurants which aren’t overly expensive. It’s a great start to a weekend in London to have a delicious dinner and some excellent drinks. We ate delicious Middle Eastern-style kebabs with flat bread and hummus at Whyte and Brown – a restaurant that pretty much only serves chicken!
If you haven’t guessed already by reading this blog, we’re a bit obsessed with finding great food spots when travelling. In London, one of the best foodie locations is Borough Market in the suburb of Southwark. Yes, it’s touristy, and yes, it’s crazy busy, but MAN is there an awesome selection of food there! There are probably close to a hundred stalls in the market, selling everything from fresh fruit and veges to Ethiopian food to craft beer to meat to cakes and pastries.
Can you believe that Borough Market is over 1000 years old?! It celebrated its 1000th birthday in 2014. It’s also one of London’s largest markets.
Head to Borough Market for breakfast – the coffee shop Monmouth, just outside of the main market entrance, is justifiably busy. Their coffee is downright delicious (go for the iced coffee if it’s a warm day). Head into the market for food – you’ll have difficulty choosing what to eat for sure!
After breakfast, wander west along the South Bank of the River Thames. You’ll be able to see lots of landmarks from there including St Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge (go east to see Tower Bridge), the Tate Modern, and eventually Big Ben, Westminster Palace, and the London Eye. That’s your hit of tourist sights in one morning!
Get out of the tourist area and head to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for some nature time. London has an excellent bike network called Santander Cycles, but everyone knows them as Boris Bikes. It’s super easy to rent a bike, and it’s cheap too! Ride around the park, past canals and through forested areas. You’ll forget you’re in the middle of London!
You can drop your Boris Bike off at any of the stations. Find a drop off point near Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick, on the Lea Canal. Crate Brewery and Pizzeria is an awesome place to spend an afternoon or evening, drinking craft beers, eating glorious wood fired pizza, and listening to some tunes.
Crate Brewery also operates the Alfred Le Roy canal boat, which is pretty much a floating cocktail bar! Meandering down the canal gives an interesting perspective of a part of London not many tourists visit. The cocktails are great too. Make sure you go on a nice day as in the rain it would be a bit yuck!
This morning is the peak of your London food experience. We recommend that you don’t have breakfast as you’ll soon be full to bursting point!
One of the best things I did in London was a food tour in the East End with Eating London food tours. We ate a range of cuisines at simply delicious places, ranging from typical English fish and chips to Jewish bagels and Sri Lankan curry. But it wasn’t all about food – we also got a history lesson between food stops. It was a very informative and tasty tour!
After the food tour you’ll want to walk it off for a bit. You might want to walk around the area the food tour covered (Brick Lane, Spitalfields, and Shoreditch), where you can find some cute boutiques, street art, and more excellent food (if you can fit any more in!).
Wander towards the Thames and pass the famous Gherkin building. Stop off in Leadenhall Market, a pretty indoor market. There are lots of restaurants in here but it’s just worth passing through to see the building – it’s so pretty! If you keep walking towards the Thames, you’ll end up opposite Borough Market.
There – we’ve brought you pretty much full circle. We hope you enjoyed this London itinerary – it’s so fantastic having friends in different parts of the world who can act as tour guides when you visit!
What’s your favourite thing to do in London? Do you like visiting places off the beaten track in a city? Share your thoughts in the comments below!