The Southbank London

Summer is over but you can still enjoy London! Here is how to do it in 10 days.

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 and enjoying London to the fullest.

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


You can start in Piccadilly Circus, do some little window (or actual) shopping up Regent Street (don’t miss out Hamleys, the oldest and largest toy store in the world), and come back down enjoying the quietness of Liberty and Carnaby Street.

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


Get to Trafalgar Square after breakfast and enjoy spending the morning in the company of beautiful art in The  National Gallery. Perhaps you can treat yourself to lunch  in the gallery’s turn-of-the-century style Cafe.

Now that you replenished your energy, walk across  Trafalgar Square and into The Mall towards Buckingham Palace (in my opinion, the best way to approach the palace). Once you’ve taken all the mandatory pics, you can enjoy a stroll across St James’s Park and Green Park (they are one next to the other), walk past The Ritz and Fortnum & Mason (alleged creators of the Scotch Egg and famous for their hampers and afternoon tea).

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

Westminster Palace - Parliament

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

The Gherkin London
The Gherkin

Did you know that there are no streets called “roads” in the old City of London? That’s because the word “road” originally meant “where the king (royal) walks” and Londoners didn’t want anything to do with the king based in Westminster.

So, we’re crossing the river today and heading towards The City (a.k.a., The Square Mile). You can either start in St Paul’s Cathedral, Somerset House (a little closer to the river) or in Monument (the exact spot where the Great Fire of 1666 started, right in the kitchen of the king’s baker and where now there’s a -well- monument) and make your way to Liverpool Street and the Old Spitalfields Market (across from which is The Ten Bells, one of the pubs from where Jack, the Ripper, followed and murdered a couple of his victims. Oh, and where Jamie Oliver once recorded an episode for one of his shows).

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

Regent's Park London
Regent’s Park

Let’s get out of the traffic and the hectic pace of one of the world’s busiest cities and head a little north. 

King’s Cross train station is home to the famous Platform 9 3/4. Yes, it’s inside the station and you can have a picture of you about to dive into the wall and then spend a few pounds in the adjacent gift shop. St Pancras Station is another striking building to photograph, which is next to The British Library and its impressive Treasure Room.

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.

Abbey Road Studios London
Abbey Road Studios

As you work your way back to Central London, it’s worth devoting a day to Bloomsbury, home to The British Museum and, once, the Bloomsbury Group, which counted Virginia Wolf, John M. Keynes, and E. M. Foster among its members. Of course, there are countless book stores in the area, there’s also a Farmer’s Market, the BT Tower is within sight, and Russel Square offers a response as one of London’s oldest squares, if not the first.

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

V&A Museum London
V&A Museum

Get yourself to South Kensington Station and what is  locally known as “the museums”.

One next to the other, you’ll find The Victoria & Albert  Museum (London’s museum of Decorative Art and my  personal favourite – I love its sculpture room and  its gorgeous and very strange cafe), The Natural History  Museum (with its impressive entrance hall, Dippy, and a 1,300-year-old sequoia), and The Science Museum, where you can see a replica of the Lunar Module from Apollo 11.

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

Borough Market London
Borough Market

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 ShardHay’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

Portobello Road London
Portobello Road

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!

Mount Street Gardens London
Mount Street Gardens

You have done so much and seen a lot. Now, leave your  fate to serendipity, pick your favourite spot, put the map  away, and enjoy!

You never know what you’ll find around the corner – such  is the magic of London town.

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”
~Samuel Johnson

Useful Resources

  • 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 by MCL – One of my favourite spots in London, packfull of cafes, food trucks, exhibitions, concerts, events… and tourists!

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