Yes, this blog is about interpreting, but it is also about culture. I am of the idea that interpreters should know as much of the cultures and countries they work with as possible. Luckily, that includes playing tourist every now and then.
It so happens that this autumn seems to be bringing loads of good friends in London’s way to spend a week or so touring around the British capital. From them, I got the idea to write a blog post about how to do the London essentials in 10 days!
Day 1: Classic Central London
Back in Piccadilly Circus, turn 90° and head towards Leicester Square (if you must, go into m&m’s World), Soho (La Bodega Negra serves great Mexican food), Chinatown (Jen’s Cafe is small but serves amazing dumplings made by this old Chinese lady right in front of you), and one of my favourite spots: Covent Garden.
Day 2: The Posh Spots
Further down the road (you may want to catch a bus here) is Harrods with its green awnings. Warning, Harrods is usually packed with shoppers and tourists, but its Food Court, the gorgeous designer clothes, and its Egyptian escalator are worth it. Enjoy!
Day 3: Tudor-ish London
Get yourself to Westminster (I love the Art Deco feel of St James’ tube station, which is only a couple of minutes away from Westminster) and go crazy with your photo camera. In a 360° turn, there are 10 Downing Street (where the Prime Minister lives and works), Horse Guards Parade, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament (did you know that Westminster Hall is the only part that survived the Great Fire and that they’re still finding old tennis balls from Henry VIII’s time among the ceiling beams?) and the famous Big Ben, which chimes on the clock throughout the day, and Westminster Bridge.
Once you had your fill, head down to the London Eye and the Southbank. There are many food trucks and cafes/restos where to lunch al fresco down the bank and close to the Southbank Centre. Under Waterloo Bridge, you can buy used books right by the river and, as you head towards Blackfriars Bridge, walk past Gabriel’s Wharf, the Oxo Tower, and the amazing Tate Modern (London’s museum of Modern Art).
Resist the temptation of crossing Millennium Bridge (one of the nicest ways to approach St Paul’s Cathedral, btw) and continue towards the Shakespeare’s Globe and one of London’s oldest and most famous pubs: The Anchor.
Day 4: The Square Mile
While you wander around The Square Mile, you’ll surely see or pass by The Ciy’s most iconic skyscrapers (the Gherkin, the Walkie-Talkie, the Cheese Grater), The Swan (London’s narrowest pub), The Jamaica Coffee House (London’s first coffee house), Guildhall with its schools of music and drama, and Leadenhall Market with its lead dragons, classic pubs, and corporate gents in pinstripe suits.
Told you! From A to B, you get to see a lot of Cs.
Day 5: A little of North London
Fairly in the same area, although not as within walking distance as in Central London, are Camden Market (famous for its international food area and the handcrafted objects on offer), Regent’s Park -with its beautiful open green areas, Queen Mary’s Garden (in classic English style), and the London Zoo-, Primrose Hill (which offers a fantastic view of London’s skyline), and Little Venice – houseboats included.
Day 6: Bloomsbury, etc.
The British Museum is an attraction in itself and home to the Rosetta Stone, the world’s oldest translation on record. Make sure to have plenty of time to visit the museum, since it will probably take most of your day.
Also in the area are Abbey Road Studios, together with the world famous zebra crossing.
Day 7: Museum Frenzy
Needless to say that you’ll need the whole day to even get a glimpse of what these museums have on display.
Day 8: Eclectic London
Tired? Today you’ll see first hand what a mixture of historical and architectural eras London is. Let’s go back to the Southbank and do the other half, from Southwark Bridge to Tower Bridge.
Right off Southwark Bridge, you’ll find Southwark Cathedral (one of the oldest ones in Europe) and, right under the railway bridge, another personal favourite: Borough Market. Borough Market is London’s food market, with stalls offering all sorts of food (and free samples!) and a gorgeous scenery to photograph.
Back on the riverbank, you’ll find the Shard, Hay’s Galleria (a nice place to sit down for a cup of tea/coffee), the HMS Belfast, London’s City Hall (which I think looks either like the Death Star in Star Wars or a neat orange peel), and, finally, Tower Bridge. See how many Cs?
Across the bridge is The Tower of London, home to the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and, next to the tower, St Katherine Docks.
Day 9: The “Wild” West
You cannot leave London without visiting the last classics in this long list.
Starting in Hyde Park, you can walk your way to Notting Hill Gate and Portobello Road Market (don’t even bother looking for the blue door and the travel book store, they don’t exist) through Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace while catching a glimpse of the Royal Albert Hall (home to the BBC Proms, every summer) and the Albert Memorial (which will surprise you in how different and unique it is, trust me) and passing past Marble Arch (once the facade of Buckingham Palace -bet you didn’t know that!) and Hyde Park Corner.
It’s a long walk full of Cs but, if the weather is nice, it’s totally worth it. Plus, you can enjoy an all-time English classic: picnicking in Hyde Park!
Day 10: Get lost!
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”
- The Londonist has loads of useful information about London here.
- Visit London has a good summary of the main things to do and see in town.
Photo taken by me during one of my walks around London, camera in hand.