Recently, my friend Chrystal visited me in London for ten days. Being awesome (and probably WAY too trusting!), she let me plan pretty much every detail of her visit. And being very, very Type A, I probably got more joy out of planning the minutia than any reasonable person should, ever. It later occurred to me that it could be helpful to other London visitors to see the itinerary that I put together for her visit. Without further ado, here it is!
Many of the plays and one-off events were booked about a month in advance. However, there are many events happening in London all the time, that can easily be substituted. I always check a few key Twitter profiles to see what’s going on: @SkintLondon, @TimeOutLondon, @Londonist, @LondONtheInside, and @ToDoListLDN.
Saturday evening: Chrystal landed. We went to a house party hosted by a friend in East London.
Sunday: I was preoccupied this day with a hackathon, so we individually worked on things during the daytime. For dinner, we went to Dirty Burger in Whitechapel.
Monday: There was rain in the forecast, so we decided to try to stay fairly local. We went to Borough Market in the morning and got some Ethiopian food and tons of free cheese samples, then wandered west along the South Bank, ducking into Tate Modern briefly and stopping by Royal Festival Hall and the pop-up bars near the London Eye. We didn’t go on the London Eye though, because that is literally the most overrated thing you can do in London… Because I was feeling sore from sitting in front of computers all weekend, we dropped into an open yoga class at Triyoga in Primrose Hill. That evening, we caught a BBC Proms concert at Royal Albert Hall, courtesy of my incredibly multi-talented friend Sophie who sang in the choir that night!
Tuesday: We visited Greenwich Park. We took the bus out to where the Cutty Sark is parked, visited the Maritime Museum, the Painted Ceiling and chapel, and walked the University of Greenwich grounds. Grabbed lunch in downtown and wandered through Greenwich market. We peeked into the Royal Observatory (but didn’t pay to go in), and relaxed in the park and botanical gardens for a while. That evening, we watched The Crucible at the Old Vic Theatre, with Richard Armitage in the lead role. It was SPECTACULAR.
Wednesday: We walked across the Millennium Bridge and climbed to the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the morning. At £14 concession tickets, this was the only “tourist” attraction we actually paid for during the entire week. The view is spectacular and the climb is pretty exhilarating… 528 steps, no big deal right? Afterwards, we wandered west along the northern bank and took a shortcut through Somerset House, stopping by the tattoo art exhibit briefly. Crossing north through the courtyard, we headed to the London School of Economics campus, where we toured a few academic buildings and then headed to Lincoln’s Inn Fields Park, because the Hunterian Museum is situated on the southern border. Chrystal, being a medical student, was able to provide some really interesting commentary on the thousands of different human and animal specimens preserved in the museum. If you haven’t been to the Hunterian, it is FREE, do yourself a favor and go! We grabbed some dinner and dessert in Soho before heading to the Science Museum in South Kensington, which was hosting its monthly Lates. We got a bunch of free stuff from it :D
Thursday: We did some touristy sightseeing, heading over to Westminster to check out Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament. We ducked into the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom which is also in Westminster square, which lets you wander around inside for free. We wandered through the British Museum very briefly but it was packed to the point of being stressful to just locate the Elgin Marbles. We lunched at Great Queen Street, possibly my favorite gastropub in London. In the afternoon, we hopped on the DLR and went out to Stratford to visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. There, we hired a pair of cycles for £5 each and rode around the park – it’s massive, and it’s filled with all manner of interesting recreation equipment and little hidden obstacle course things. There’s a mini bouldering wall and an entire stadium devoted to BMX! Very cool – check it out when the weather is nice. On Thursday evening we went to the Shakespeare Globe Theatre to see Julius Caesar. Standing room tickets were only £5, and in some ways I find standing in the pit to be much more fun than sitting, because the plays are always very interactive with the audience. We got a couple of beers at The Anchor nearby after the play.
Friday: Chrystal took a daytrip to Paris. I basically laid in my bed and watched True Blood all day, because I’m bad at working on my dissertation. That evening when she returned, we grabbed pizza at The Yard in Shoreditch, and we were going to head to a rooftop bar but we were way too knackered. Good rooftop bars in the area, however, include The Queen of Hoxton (but it’s kind of crazy on the weekend) and the Golden Bee.
Saturday: Chrystal visited the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square while I had to work for a few hours that morning. Afterward, we met up for high tea at Soho’s Secret Tea Room, which is upstairs from a bar — but it’s not very secret, because there’s literally a sign on the street advertising “SECRET TEA ROOM!!” Still, it was delicious and we were so stuffed that we had to head home for an afternoon nap before heading to Crate Brewery in Hackney for a fun night out.
Sunday: We went to Caravan King’s Cross for a lazy Sunday morning brunch. Afterwards, we tried to walk off our impending food comas by heading over to the British Library, where the national treasures like original musical scores by Beethoven and Chopin and many priceless historical documents are housed. We then took a leisurely jaunt through Regent’s Park. Later in the afternoon we headed to the Grand Union Brixton to meet up with a friend who claimed that the Grand Union had the best beer garden in all of London. So far.. probably true!
Monday: We took a day trip to Brighton. There, my friend Serena, a Brighton native, played tour guide — taking us around the Pier, through all manner of quirky side streets filled with artsy jewelry shops, and of course, ChoccyWoccyDooDah, the famous confectionary that started in this seaside town. We wrapped up our perfect day at the shore with some cocktails and pints on the beach. We contemplated going to visit the Shard that night for drinks but were way too tired.
Tuesday: On Chrystal’s last day, I unfortunately had to work again, so Chrystal visited St. James’ Park and the National Gallery on her own. We went to Dishoom for lunch, then walked back along the bank, reversing the route we had taken twice earlier that week. We stopped into the Old Operating Theatre, which is now a small museum in the attic of a church near London Bridge. A quick dinner at home and a cat nap later, it was time for Chrystal to leave for her flight.
Some days were more jam-packed then others, but at no point did we feel rushed to get to the next activity. London is such a big and bustling city that at times it can feel overwhelming to try to experience it all. There were lots of things that we didn’t get a chance to do that I would have liked to do, like Richmond Park, Kew Gardens, the Victoria & Albert Museum, grabbing a drink at Sushisamba, and maybe a trip out to the Lake District or the New Forest (wild ponies!!!). Still, I hope that this detailed itinerary can give others an idea of what can reasonably be accomplished over 10 days in London. Happy travels!