A day in London

| November 9, 2012 | 27 Comments More

Fortnum & Mason department store

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.

Portobello Road Market in the Notting Hill area

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.

Queen Victoria statue at Kensington Palace

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.

Green Park on a Saturday

Piccadilly Street

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.

Piccadilly Market at St. James’s

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? 

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Category: City Highlights, DESTINATIONS

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Toronto-based Mark Crone's first big trip was at age 7 to Germany. Since that time, he has been to over 120 cities around the world, including Dubai, Rio de Janiero, Cairo, Athens, Paris, London, and Rome. Mark’s Travel Journal is based on his first-hand travel experiences. Posts are written with a journal feel and include photos taken while in destination. Mark is also an avid golfer (in destination when possible) and skier.

Comments (27)

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  1. I love this. England has evaded me for far too long. I’m hoping to make it to Europe sometime in 2013. Will definitely bookmark this as a resource!

  2. Not a bad guide actually :) good tips! Can’t wait for you Pola to come over!! i shall show you around!

  3. we did london in 36 hours–it’s a whirlwind but totally possible! especially if you’ve been there before (or, you know, have a handy dandy guide like this one).

  4. London is a town where there is a never-ending list of possible things to do or see. I pity Mark with only 1 day! When I do the 1 or 2 day stops in cities I know, I like to go around to different spots I like along with some new ones (I do this a LOT in Paris, especially!). This is a good recap of not-to-be-missed London, Mark!

  5. avatar Anisha says:

    I love Portobello market – ’tis a true Londoner’s market (speaking as one). You got through a good amount in short space of time. Ideally, 6 months would do it, as with any major city.

    • Hi Anisha – thanks for the comment! I didn’t get to the market when I was in London, but after Mark’s post and your recommendation, it’s on my list for next time! I definitely want to go back to London, loved the city.

    • avatar Mark Crone says:

      I appreciate the stamp of approval from a Londoner. The Portobello Market was better than I could have imagined. I’ll be back!

  6. I hope to walk in the footsteps of this post someday as the tips and photos make it look like a fascinating day. It strange to see London so sunny, Mark lucked out with the weather.

    • Haha, good point about the weather, Ted! I was there in winter… Indeed it would be cool to retrace Mark’s steps, including the pubs… ;-)

    • avatar Mark Crone says:

      That day in September was “the last great day of summer” according to the BBC news that morning. I’ve been soaked to the skin from rain, seen a lot of cloud and been almost cold in London (but not quite- I’m Canadian).

  7. avatar Francesca says:

    I’m dying to get to London! But that’s not news to you, Pola :-) This is a great, concise guide, and I shall consult it again when I do finally get to London.

  8. Hope to make it to London again soon. I’ve only been once and it was for 18 hours! Beautiful pic of Kennsington.

  9. London is one of the world’s finest cities… 24 hours is hardly enough. I’ve been there close to a dozen times and I never tire of it… great city, just wish the dollar was equal to the GBP.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  10. You didn’t see Big Ben, Parliament, London Eye??
    I guess, one day in London is not really much to see everything…

    • Maybe from a distance, it’s hard to miss those. ;)) London is such an amazing city. I had two days there and hardly slept to see as much as possible, and I hope to go back and have a few extra days to not rush. And I need to make it to that Portobello Market that Mark recommends. :)

  11. avatar Adam Sommer says:

    London is a great city, and its hard to go wrong with any time spent there. Some things I like are: shop at Harrod’s (even if its just for lunch in the deli) its an amazing experience; take the tour of Parliment, may favorite touist attraction (free, though must be reserved in advance); visit the Tate Modern, also free.

    • Hi Adam – thanks for stopping by! I agree with you that you really can’t go wrong with activities in London. That city is so exciting and packed with attractions. I think next time I should check out Harrod’s…

  12. avatar Maaike says:

    I absolutely have a weak spot for the Southbank. A walk from Westminster to the Tower Bridge is a perfect stroll and features some amazing views. Another favorite of my is the Greenwich area.

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