I absolutely LOVE London and think it to be one of the most exciting cities in the world. Not long before I moved to the UK in 2014 I found my old travel journal from when I backpacked around Europe when I was 19 and the first line of it said something along the lines of “Oh my gosh I love London. I am definitely moving here one day!” My two years in the UK is very quickly coming to an end and so when Travelex recently set us a challenge to plan the best day possible in London with $150 AUD and I knew I was up for it! The worst part of moving to the UK (in addition to the rain) was seeing my poor Aussie dollars whittle down ridiculously fast with the value of the Australian Dollar and so I knew that I’d learnt a few things along the way that would help to make this day in London amazing!
We headed straight to the Travelex counter located on Oxford Street in BHS where we picked up our Travelex Cash Passport. With today’s exchange rate our $150 Australian dollars turned into £76.08 and off so off we went cash passport in hand! Our first stop was to top up our Oyster Cards (the daily cap if you are going between zones 1-6 is £11.80). For those of you new to London Oyster Cards are free (you pay a £5 deposit when you get your card but if you return if when you leave London you get the £5 back) and they are certainly the best way to get around London.
Our first stop was Camden Town to visit the Camden Lock Food Markets to pick up some brekkie (or more like brunch by this time) and coffee! It’s a beautiful part of London, there is AMAZING street food at seriously cheap prices and we love strolling along the canals.
We jumped on the tube and headed across to trendy Notting Hill to visit the Portobello Markets which are famous for a number of reasons; antiques, the gorgeous pastel coloured terraced houses and the film, Notting Hill which was filmed nearby! Portobello Road is actually the world’s largest antiques market and it is SERIOUSLY popular with both tourists and locals alike. I loved the gorgeous coloured houses and Dan loved checking out the antique cameras!
After exploring Portobello we jumped on the tube and headed across to Borough to the famous Borough Markets. There was so much fresh, delicious produce and food and we loved strolling around the market enjoying all the food smells and tasting lots of samples. It was still a very chilly day so we picked up some delicious spiced apple mulled wine to help us warm up whilst we wandered through the market. I can’t recommend Borough Market more highly for a huge variety of delicious food and drink at seriously reasonable prices!
After strolling around the markets and ensuring we’d seen (and smelt) all the amazing food we finally decided on lunch! Dan went for a German Bratwurst Sausage and I couldn’t go past delicious pad thai! Mmmm it was so delicious! Afterwards we stopped by the sweets stall and Dan got a chocolate pastry and I chose a box of macarons which we enjoyed later in the day in Hyde Park! They were so mouthwateringly good.
We then strolled across Millennium Bridge to St Pauls Cathedral checking out Tower Bridge and the sites along the way. As we stopped on one of the Bridges and were admiring all the amazing sites Dan pointed out something that really resonated with me. He said that whilst you are strolling the streets you are so closed in and could really be anywhere in the world but once you are standing on one of the bridges you really do feel like you are in London as you can literally see all the iconic sites which make London so famous all in one!
We then jumped back on the tube from London Bridge to head to Hyde Park where we hired our Santander Cycles, which are more affectionately known as “Boris Bikes” (which only cost £2 for 24 hours – BARGAIN)! We cruised through Hyde Park (stopping to eat the delicious macarons that we picked up at Borough Market) to Buckingham Palace. From there we wandered through Regents Park around the Lake (you can’t ride your bikes through some of the parks so we walked them) and jumped back on our bikes to cycle to Westminster! We then docked our bikes and strolled past the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben until we reached the Thames.
We wandered along the Thames and took a few snap of the London Eye before jumping back on the Tube to head to London Bridge to go up The Shard!
The View from The Shard is London’s highest viewing platform at the top of Western Europe’s tallest building & offers the most incredible views over this incredible city. The 360 degree views of London over two platforms that are two stories apart in height are absolutely breathtaking. It’s sheer height and 360 degree views make it the best views of this incredible city. I think the views are better from The Shard rather than the London Eye.
England is known for its temperamental weather and whilst we had perfect weather, a lot of people unfortunately don’t get the same clear skies that we did! I love that The Shard offer you the opportunity to rebook your tickets for free if you visit on a day when the visibility is poor so you don’t miss our on the experience simply because of the weather!
We loved the views from the Shard but visited a little too early for sunset and so we decided to watch it from one of the Bridges as it set behind the London Eye and Big Ben and it was such a beautiful sunset!
As soon as the sun started to drop so did the temperature! We headed across the Bridge in search of a nice, warm pub for a drink and dinner to warm us up! We stumbled across the Winter Festival at Southbank which we couldn’t resist stopping in to check out. There is always something fun and exciting going on in London with pop ups everywhere! We saw the Rekorderlig Cider Lounge with real live fire pits outside and knew this was our place to warm up! It was amazing – I love finding exciting things like this that you didn’t even know existed! We had a drink, enjoyed the music and relaxed by the fire until it was time for dinner.
We’d decided to have dinner at a very typical, traditional English Pub and opted for The Ship Tavern, a pub in Holborn that has been a part of London history for almost 500 years! The pub was wonderfully warm with a crackling open fireplace and we had a delicious meal! I couldn’t go past a fish & chips which is a very typical English meal, and Dan had a traditional English Ale which he loved. You can’t visit London and not have a meal in a pub!
We hadn’t planned it but our day in London also coincided with the Lumiere London light festival which was taking place over the weekend. Lumiere was a free light festival which was held for the weekend in over 30 locations across London! We strolled through Piccadilly, Regent Street and Leicester Square to check out the installations there which were really interesting!
We had a really busy day in London and didn’t really stop all day and surprisingly we didn’t even tick off half the things we wanted to do (and were still exhausted by the end of it). We had an amazing day exploring London and it goes to show that there is no limit of ways to spend your time exploring this wonderful city. We’d also planned to visit a museum (or two), do some shopping on Oxford Street and perhaps stop somewhere for a typical English afternoon tea! But that is the beauty of London, you will never get bored and the best way to immerse yourself in London is by strolling around and stumbling across places you never even knew existed!
How did our day turn out cost wise?
Not surprisingly we managed to spend all our money, though at one point we were having so much fun strolling around markets, enjoying free activities and eating street food that we wondered how we would ever spend it!
Here is our break down of expenses for our day*:
Oyster Card (Zone 1-6 Daily Cap) – £11.80
Camden Coffee & Breakfast – £10.00
Lunch & Mulled Wine at Borough Markets – £11.00
Hiring of “Boris Bikes” – £2.00
The View from The Shard – £25.95
Fish & Chips in a Pub for Dinner – £15
*(I should note that the above only paid for my day’s food & activities –
Dan paid basically the same himself for his day in London).
Thanks to Travelex for sponsoring our day in London.
Our opinions are as always, our own.