There aren’t many cities in the world that make me feel the way that London does. I love the buzz of the people (especially when the sun comes out!), the history that hides behind every corner and in every alley, the endless choices for delicious food and the many, many secret places that you can stumble upon and end up with a beautiful view of the city. So when my lovely friend Rachel suggested we have ‘A Very London Day’ on a sunny Sunday, I was certainly not going to say no. 20,000 steps and 10 hours later, beginning with a delicious brunch and finishing with a spectacular sunset from atop the London Eye I can say it was one of my most magical days ever.
Whether you’re a London old-timer or experiencing the city for the first time, this day long itinerary takes you to some of the most iconic places in London, guaranteed to renew or begin your love affair with the beautiful city.
Stop 1: Brunch at Berner’s Tavern (10 Berners St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3NP)
I was very lucky to stay at The London Edition hotel throughout my trip and had been dying to try the hotel’s restaurant ‘Berner’s Tavern’ the moment I stepped foot inside. Unsurprisingly, they have a great brunch menu so Rachel met me here in the morning so we could fuel up for the day ahead.
There’s something for just about every tastebud on this menu but I (of course!) opted for the burrata on toast – I can never say no to burrata if it’s on offer! This was complimented with a very refreshing dill, cucumber and gin cocktail – the perfect way to start the day.
Stop 2: Spitalfields Markets (16 Horner Square, London E1 6EW, UK)
After brunch we hopped on the Tube at Tottenham Court Road and took a 10 min ride to Liverpool St. From here we took our time meandering through the streets to get to Spitalfields Markets – I adore the mix of old and new buildings in this part of East London and stopped to take many photos along the way. Spitalfields Markets is huge. You think you’ve made your way through all the aisles and then walk through a little lane only to find an even bigger set of aisles to walk through.
Go in with a plan with the things you might want to buy for yourself or friends – I walked in with the aim of buying a Fedora-style hat (which I found!) but also walked out with some earrings, a set of four Jane Austen prints (they had me at Jane Austen) and some Argan oil. We also may have treated ourselves to a bite of Coconut Ice fudge – yum!
Stop 3: One New Change & Lunch at Wahaca (1 New Change, London EC4M 9AF)
From Spitalfields we walked through more beautiful streets of old and new buildings to the Walkie Talkie building as I wanted to show Rachel the beautiful Sky Garden on the roof – unfortunately it wasn’t as quiet as the last time I’d visited and they were all booked out! This is definitely a worthwhile stop if you can book in advance. So, with that change of plans, we headed to One New Change, a brand new retail and office complex right next to the stunning St Paul’s Cathedral (see what I mean by old and new?)
Our first stop was a spot of shopping at my #1 favourite London brand – Oliver Bonas – a store containing a mix of all my favourite things – candles, hand creams, note books, earrings and scarfs (as well as just about everything a rose-gold and geometric print loving lady could desire!) After Rachel dragged me away from the store it was time for a late lunch and this Californian gal was missing Mexican food, so we settled on Wahaca, a delicious Mexican chain by a previous Masterchef UK winner.
This place is affordable and delicious – we shared some guacamole, and then I opted for street corn and chicken tacos paired with a virgin mojito. We were talked into finishing our meal off with a scoop of salted caramel ice-cream (who am I kidding, do I ever need to be talked into this?!) and just trust me, you need to try this when you’re next in Wahaca!
Stop 4: St Paul’s Cathedral (St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD)
Before leaving One New Change, we took the elevator to the roof where we walked out to a beautiful rooftop bar, before turning the corner to an epic view of St Paul’s. Where has this view been hiding all this time?! For a sunny London afternoon it felt like no one was up there, so unless I just got lucky – this seems to be the secret place to gaze upon this beautiful building (and enjoy a G&T or two if you fancy!) I love that this rooftop places you at eye-level to the cathedral, and also looks over the rest of London – you can see the London Eye in the far distance to your right and the Shard to your left. Totally a must see before heading to St Paul’s itself.
I climbed the 528 stairs to the top of the dome last time I was in London so we opted just to marvel at this glorious cathedral from the outside, however if you’ve never done it before it’s worth every last huff and puff all the way to the top!
Stop 5: Millennium Bridge and the Shard (32 London Bridge St, London SE1 9SG)
From St Paul’s we headed across Millennium Bridge to get yet another view of the cathedral (honestly, I can’t get enough of it!) before making our way across the Thames, en route to the Shard. Once you’re over the bridge you’ll pop out right next to Shakespeare’s Globe. I’m still yet to make it inside, but it’s on my list for my next visit – hopefully Much Ado About Nothing will be scheduled!
We meandered past the Globe to London Bridge station where we stopped at a moving memorial to those lost in the London Bridge attack the week before. I’m so glad we got to stop here and read many messages of hope and cross-cultural love – this city has been through so much in 2017 but I continually admire the way everyone responds to these events.
From the memorial we walked to The Shard and headed up the ear-popping 72 levels to the top where we were greeted by a stunning 360° view of London. As we reached the top, clouds we beginning to set in over the city, but it didn’t stop our enjoyment as we looked upon the most iconic landmarks of London from the sky. There are no seats on the top two levels, so we opted to sit on the ground by a window and enjoyed the view with an elderflower soda from the bar on the 72nd floor.
Before heading back down, the security guard said “this may sound like an odd question, but have you been to the loo yet? You must go see it before you go!” I’m definitely a fan of fancy bathrooms but wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened the door – there right by the toilet was a view of the city! Certainly not something you experience every day when go to the bathroom! Make sure you check it out!
Stop 6: Ferry down the Thames towards Big Ben (London Bridge Walk, London SE1 3UD and Victoria Embankment, London SW1A 2JH)
After adjusting back to the ground level, we hopped on a ferry at London Bridge City Pier, bound for Westminster Pier and Big Ben. I’ve never been on the Thames before, and given how wonderful the weather was, it was the best way to see all of London’s famous architecture on both sides of the river, and also the quickest way to get to Westminster. You can use your Oyster Card to hop on and off these ferries, so there’s no hassle with tickets and the fresh air as your cruise down the Thames is sure worth it!
Stop 7: The London Eye
The last time I rode the London Eye I was 16 years old and remember thinking “wow, when will this end already?!” Shame on me! Either the weather must’ve been awful or I was a brat (likely the latter!) but I’m so glad I took a chance on The Eye again. After walking over the Westminster Bridge and getting just about every angle of Big Ben imaginable as the storm clouds closed in, we ran into the London Eye ticket booth just as the rain started to fall. I always find spontaneous and unplanned days are the best – this was a late edition to our schedule and we didn’t even look up timing, but as we were ushered out they closed the doors and we ended up being the last two to go up!
As our little bubble rose into the sky the rain cleared and the sun appeared from behind the clouds, casting an incredible glow over the city and making me fall in love with London even more (if that was even possible at this stage!) I took a Live 360 video from up the top (go watch it here!) and pinched myself twice – experiencing this sunset above my favourite city in the world (yep, there, I’ve said it!) truly felt like a dream. I certainly can’t promise the weather I had, but definitely don’t miss the experience when you’re here – I wish my bratty 16 year old self appreciated this like I did as a 26 year old!
Stop 8: Walk from The Eye to Embankment
Once we landed back on solid ground (for the second time that day, I’m glad Rachel doesn’t mind heights!) we continued to enjoy the sunset as we walked down the Thames and across the Golden Jubilee Bridge towards Embankment. As the sun set for the day, a busker played Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ as we strolled past – a truly perfect and quintessentially British ending to a magical day.
There are of course a million and one things to see and places to be in London, but this itinerary is a good start as you begin your London adventure! Next up, afternoon tea at Sketch and my favourite places to eat in London. What stops would you include on ‘A Very London Day’?