A short city trip to London was the perfect way to spend our first days of autumn. We experienced good weather, overcast but mostly sunny, which isn’t something you can take for granted in London. Since this was our second trip to London, we skipped the major attractions we had already visited the first time (Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park…). With our Oyster card ready, we embarked on a 48-hour adventure to discover the -slightly- lesser known sights of London.
Sightseeing tour from bus 88// Taking a bus in London is the ideal way to explore the city. You can actually see the city while traveling and it’s cheaper than taking the subway. Bus 88 takes a similar route than the more expensive hop on-hop off bus. This public bus will take you via all the major highlights of London (Tate Britain! Westminster Abbey! Trafalgar Square! Piccadilly Circus!) while you can sit back and relax. We took the metro to the end of the line, Windgate Square, to be sure we had a front view seat in one of those typical red double deck buses. I know, major nerd alert, BUT we got our front seat view and I was the happiest girl on earth.
Experience a musical// London is known for its long history in musicals. You simply can’t walk through the city and not notice all the billboards. My darling saw ‘The Lion King’ last year and he was literally blown away by how they executed the play. He couldn’t stop talking about it so I wanted to see it as well. Hence, on our first day in the city, we were queuing to get the last tickets of that night. Go to TKTS on Leicester Square to score last minute deals on theater tickets. Take note that for the more popular shows the discounts are close to non-existing. We bought tickets for the standing places which are the cheapest tickets available. We were still trying to maintain our budget in one of the most expensive cities in Europe J. The musical can’t be better described than the fact that you see your childhood dream come to life. Add this musical to your bucket list. You will do yourself a huge favor!
Discover a museum// Almost all the museums in London are (partly) free. So there is no better place on earth to explore different styles and types of museums than in London. This time, we choose to indulge in modern art at the Tate Modern. Tate Modern has a permanent collection which is free but for the temporary collections you need to get an entrance ticket. However, if you have a Eurostar ticket you can get 2 tickets for the price of 1. Other great options are the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the National Gallery.
Sunday morning at the Columbia Road flower market// On Sunday morning locals and tourists alike flock to the Columbia Road flower market. Grab a fresh fruit juice and wander around. The main flower stalls can be found on Columbia Road but in the alleys around this area you can find vintage shops, small eateries, and furniture boutiques. The market itself was actually a bit smaller than we had expected. However, this place is still perfect to spend a relaxed Sunday morning around flowers and good food.
Street art in Shoreditch// Shoreditch is the one of the prettiest areas to get lost in. You can find refreshing street art on almost every corner. This neighborhood is known for its graffiti-filled walls. You can find artwork of ROA, Banksy, and Shepard Fairey in this area amongst many others. Visiting Shoreditch again and again will never get boring because new art is added every week by known and unknown artists. Brick Lane is the most popular road, but you can find interesting pieces in every inch of this neighborhood.
Once again we used the beloved app Airbnb to book our stay. London is known for its high prices and once again it did not disappoint. The closer to the city center you go, the more cash you will need. We found a nice stay close to the Wembley stadium that was within our budget. The main aspects we looked at where cleanliness and accessibility to public transport. In London, you’re bound to take the public transport multiple times a day in order to discover different areas. With the subway only 5 minutes away, we enjoyed our time in London to the maximum without spending a triple digit amount on a room.
Indian delight at Dishoom// What better place to go to than a restaurant that was promoted to you by someone who used to live in the city. Although they already won me over at Indian curry, Dishoom is not your traditional Indian restaurant. With a characterful interior, surprising cocktails (rose leaves mixed with alcohol appear to be quite tasteful) and spicy food, this restaurant takes it to the next level. No wonder we had to wait 30 minutes for our table at 10 o’clock in the evening! This place is amazing and was worth every second in that waiting line. We went to their restaurant in Covent Garden, but they also opened venues in King’s Cross and Shoreditch.
Snack at the Lily Vanilli bakery// We stumbled upon this small but charming shop while visiting the flower market. After a hesitant check of the pastries, a fresh batch of sausage rolls arrived at the counter. The man next to us said that the best rolls of the whole neighborhood were served in this shop, so we had to try one. Although you can’t exactly call this haute cuisine, it was indeed very tasty! We will have to return to taste their famous pastries.
Lunch in Borough Market// Borough market was the best market experience we had while spending this short weekend in London. The market has been held at this exact location since the 13th century. Without a doubt, a lot must have changed, but the market was able to retain its charm. Located under a busy train line, Borough market is unique in its kind. People are squeezing amongst each other to reach the other end of the market while the place is filled with scents from all over the world. We enjoyed a delicious vegetarian curry and a reindeer burger, but you can taste food from Ethiopia, Brazil, Italy and everything in between at this market.
Stay: For 2 nights in London, we’ve paid 92€. This got us a spacious, private room with shared bathroom and kitchen. It was located outside the center, but with only a 5-minute walk from the subway this wasn’t a problem for us.
Eat: We’ve spent 110€ on food while being in London. The majority of that budget was spent in Dishoom, where we’ve paid 70€ for appetizers, two main dishes, and additional cocktails. The other 40€ was spent on Borough market and random snack purchases.
Do: We enforced the hardest budget rules on our activities while being in London. Must of the museums are free and just walking around London is already half the fun. Our two “splurges” where an evening at the musical for 80€ and excessive use of public transport which cost us 70€.
Total: In the end we’ve spent 350€ for 2 people on our 48 hour trip to London. Known as one of the more expensive cities in Europe, I’m pretty happy with the budget we’ve spent.
I’m already looking forward to the next time we visit London. What are your favorite activities in the city?