Guest contributor Mark Crone of Mark’s Travel Journal shares his ideas for exploring London if you only have 24 hours in the city.
Here’s the scenario. I’ve flown from Toronto to London on a Thursday night flight (about 6 hours 30 minutes). I’m walking straight into an all day meeting on Friday. At 9 pm, I’m in my hotel room and in bed for a 10-hour sleep. Saturday is my day to explore London. I’m flying back to Toronto on Sunday.
I’ve been to London a few times in the last couple of years, so there are a few things I want to do. Go to Oxford Street (the “high street”) for a little shopping, grab a quick “take away” lunch at Pret a Manger, drop into Fortnum & Mason to fill a jam order. I’d love to drop by the National Gallery, love to see a Premiership football game in person, love to drop by one of the many great museums in London.
There are many more things to see and do in one of the world’s great cities. I just don’t have time.
I do want to do something a little different – I want to spend my morning in one of London’s markets. There are a few to choose from, but my choice is the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. There’s a chance to see a variety of different things: clothing, antiques, household items, vintage cameras, food and more; and a chance to talk with locals and shop owners. It’s much bigger than I imagined. I walk the market for a couple of hours and make my way back to Notting Hill Gate.
Walking south through Kensington, I’m off to find Kensington Palace. I have an idea where it is, but don’t really know. Around a corner, down a tree-lined street, and lo and behold – there it is. It is magnificent in appearance and, with its grounds, makes you feel like you are in the English countryside. I wish I had time for the tour/paid access inside.
I hop on a bus, past Hyde Park, the Marble Arch, and onto Oxford Street – London’s “high street” on a Saturday with landmark stores like Marks & Spencer, Debenham’s, and more. It’s a lot of fun even for a guy that doesn’t shop. A quick look through some stores and I make my way over to Regent Street.
Time for some lunch. I pop into Pret A Manger on Piccadilly and grab a Crayfish and Rocket sandwich and a white coffee (coffee with milk). Then I walk across the street to Green Park and have a little picnic. As I go through the park, there’s another famous palace a few hundred yards away – Buckingham Palace. I take a couple of snapshots, walk down the Mall, and back over to Piccadilly.
A short walk past the Ritz Hotel is one of London’ best department stores – Fortnum & Mason. It is pure English, and the quality and style are second to none. I browse through the biscuit area and the jams, jellies, etc. and make my purchase. It’s a must-visit for me on every trip to London.
In my short list of things to see, I visit a second market (albeit a very small one) – the Piccadilly Market at St. James’s Church. The market has operated for 30 years, but feels like it could have been there since the Church was built in 1684. The vendors are exceedingly pleasant and have some interesting arts and crafts at a fair price.
On my way back to the Underground, I grab a Marks & Spencer “meal deal”. Back at my hotel, I’m in the pub to grab a couple of pints and watch a football game with my new English friends.
It was a great day in London.
Have you been to London? What are your favorite activities or places to see there?