London Calling: How To Explore England’s Capital In Just 24 Hours
London takes more than 24 hours to really explore, but the tight-for-time can take in a highlights reel - St John Restaurant, The American Bar, Tate Modern, Duck and Waffle - in just one day.
London is like a country unto itself. The Roman wall and St Paul’s Cathedral harken back to the city’s long and storied past, while soaring skyscrapers such as The Shard place it firmly in the future. Brexit might be making headlines around the world, but London is as exciting as it’s ever been.
This is a city that is unexpectedly enormous — to try and walk from one end to the other will take all day. There’s innumerable things to see and do, so many that you’d need years to tick them all off your list. Play it smart, though, and you’ll be able to get the London experience in just a day.
8am: Breakfast at Duck and Waffle
You could pay good money to see the city from the top of the London Eye, but why not kill two birds with one stone and get a side of (top-notch) breakfast served with your view? On the 40th floor of the UK’s third-tallest building, Duck and Waffle does exactly what it says on the tin: duck confit with fried duck egg and maple syrup, piled on top of a waffle. While you’re taking in the view, indulge in a bottle of bubbles or a Bloody Mary — Londoners like nothing more than a boozy breakfast, so why not? It’s open 24/7, so if breakfast isn’t your thing, you can take in the sunrise with bacon-wrapped dates or spicy ox cheek doughnuts.
9:30am: Tate Modern
Descend back to street level from the lofty heights of Duck and Waffle, and mosey down to London Bridge. Take an obligatory snap of Tower Bridge and cross over to the south bank of the Thames. From here it’s a short walk to Tate Modern, passing by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, with St Paul’s Cathedral to your right.
Housed in an enormous former power station, Tate Modern contains Britain’s art collection from 1900 until the present day, as well as international works by artists including Andy Warhol, Picasso and Braque. The gallery’s cavernous Turbine Hall forms the centre of the structure, and regularly hosts pop-up installations — currently, giant swings hang from the ceiling.
12pm: Lunch at Mercato Metropolitano
A 20-minute walk or 10-minute Uber away, in the burgeoning area of Elephant and Castle, Mercato Metropolitano is a market space housed in a former paper factory, with a variety of local and Italian producers. A pizza-maker from Naples, gelaterias, charcuterie sellers and plenty of wine merchants all combine to create authentically Italian feasts in the heart of London — without the crowds of the eternally popular (and no less delicious) Borough Market.
1:30pm: Ride a Bike
Boris Johnson is a controversial figure in London, but one great legacy he did leave are ‘Boris bikes’ — aka the red Santander cycles you’ll see spread across the city. Pick one up around the corner from Mercato Metropolitano and head towards Westminster. Soak up the view of the Houses of Parliament before heading over the river to the Churchill War Rooms. It was from this bunker that Churchill himself commanded much of the war, the fear of enemy air strikes driving him underground.
3pm: Shop in Marylebone
Head away from the crowds of Oxford Street, and you’ll find that perennially chic Marylebone holds some real shopping gems. Daunt Books is perhaps London’s best-loved bookshop; all oak fittings and stained glass windows, it’s worth visiting just to check out the building itself. The area is also home to an assortment of independent boutiques, as well as department store Selfridges and a host of antique and vintage stores.
6pm: Dinner at St John Bar and Restaurant, Smithfield
Going strong since 1994, St John is the stomping ground of legendary chef Fergus Henderson, who redefined the way Britain eats in the modern age, thanks to his commitment to ‘nose-to-tail’ eating. Book a table in the restaurant, or just pop into the bar section and try to nab a table. While dishes such bone marrow toast and terrine remain iconic, the ever-changing menu also usually contains Henderson’s incredible take on Welsh rarebit: a concoction involving heapings of cheddar melted into a concoction of Guinness, mustard powder and butter, grilled on toast (the bread baked in the on-site bakery, no less).
9pm: Cocktails at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel
Ernest Hemingway got boozy here, as did Marilyn Monroe. It’s the place where the dry martini was invented, and it was recently named the best bar in the world. And though this institution has been around for some 125 years, it’s constantly creating cocktails for the modern age. Settle in for a few drinks, revelling in the history and elegance of the place.
11pm: Stay at Covent Garden Hotel
You could just check into the Savoy, but for something a little more modern, the Covent Garden Hotel is a sure bet. Owned by designer Kit Kemp, its 58 rooms are quintessentially British, with quirky touches like pinstriped wallpaper and clashing prints. It’s on Monmouth Street, one of London’s quaintest, but its facilities blend old world with new: it boasts an on-site gym and state-of-the-art cinema, classic library and drawing rooms, fireplaces and in-room luxuries such as RikRak by Kit Kemp toiletries.
(Lead image: Bone marrow toast at St John. Photo: Facebook)
Published 31 October, 2017