If you’re planning a trip to old London-town, especially for the first time, you’ll have no doubt turned to trusty Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet just to get some ideas on what to do and see. And, if you’re anything like me on my first visit, you were more than a little overwhelmed with what popped up. There are well over a thousand ‘things to do’ listed on Tripadvisor, with over five hundred being ‘sights and landmarks’ while around three hundred are museums. Woah. I know I shouldn’t be stunned by those numbers as I know there is an almost neverending array of things to do here but still, woah.
With so many options, I was left scratching my head a little when Travelex asked me to come up with my ultimate ‘day out in London’. They gave me a handy Multi-Currency Cash Passport, $150 of my home currency (or the currency of our twangier neighbours) which converted to around £80, and told me to go wild!
How could I fit in all the sights, all the museums, all the food?! Well, the answer is, I can’t, and as I’m assuming you don’t need me to tell you to keep an eye out for the stunning Houses of Parliament and Big Ben or Westminster Abbey, or mention that most of London’s famous museums are free, I stuck with what I know and love best, the food, but I still snuck in a sight or two along the way! Here’s what a certain someone and I got up to on an unusually mild winter’s day…
Maltby Street Market, Ropewalk
If I had to pick something that Londoners are obsessed with right now, I’d pick street food. So I could think of no better way to start our #TravelexTourist day than to jump on both that bandwagon and grab a bite to eat at Maltby Street Market, a compact but perfectly formed market in Ropewalk. Being ever so indecisive, I like to survey all the stands before choosing what to part with my pennies for, and let me tell you, this felt like the longest walk ever as I wanted everything. Waffles, oysters and champagne, steak sandwiches, fresh juice, doughnuts, peanut butter smoothies… I wanted it all!
After some dithering by me, we agreed that any good weekend breakfast should involve eggs and smoked salmon so we chose the almost-too-cute-to-eat egg-shaped Taiwanese waffles covered in salted caramel sauce from Dhan, incredible smoked salmon from Hansen & Lydersen, and in honour of upcoming Burns’ Night, a haggis scotch egg from Finest Fayre! All three were delicious, in fact, everything looked delicious and we are already planning our next visit back which may also involve the Bermondsey Beer Mile; for all those craft beer fans out there, the breweries open their doors on Saturdays so you can pop in for a bevvy or two!
Spent: Dhan waffles – £5, Hansen & Lydersen smoked salmon – £3, Finest Fayre scotch egg – £4
Perhaps the most famous of all the food markets in London, your guidebook has already told you that it’s a must visit for any food fanatic, and I won’t disagree with it there but be warned, it is manic! Especially in the weekends which is why we weren’t planning on visiting but as it was on the way, we did stop in to grab a hot drink, a cuppa tea for a certain someone and a hot chocolate for me, to warm our hands as we wandered on.
Spent: tea and hot chocolate – £5
Sir John Soane’s Museum, Holborn
En route to our next stop, we walked along the Southbank and across Millennium Bridge; even though I have walked this way so many times, the view never gets old. I love seeing the contrasts in the London skyline, new and old mish mashed together… pretty much the epitome of London! But I digress, we continued power walking up Fleet Street, very tempted to stop into Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, Punch Tavern or even The Tipperary (all very old, very quaint, and rather cool so definitely recommended for that classic pub experience) but managed to be good and continue onto Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Sir John Soane was a leading architect in his day, his most famous work being the Bank of England, and a keen collector of art and other interesting artefacts. When he died, he left the house and all the treasures inside it to the country with the stipulation that everything would be kept exactly as it was at the time of his death… and that agreement continues to be honoured today! After our visit, we stopped for a quick refreshment break at The Ship Tavern just round the corner, a classic English boozer!
Spent: Sir John Soane’s Museum – free, two half pints at The Ship Tavern – £4.70
With our beers downed, we made our way to Soho; once home to all things sleezy and sex in London, there’s still some of the sleeze but mostly an incredible range of restaurants for all tastes and budgets. For our late lunch, I booked us into Arbutus, a one Michelin star restaurant just to prove that you can do fine dining on a budget! Many Michelin star restaurants do really reasonably priced lunch set menus, and the one at Arbutus is no exception; only £23 for two courses or £26 for three which is an absolute bargain given the quality of the food!
Spent: a two course lunch from the set menu, shared carafe of wine, service – £35/pp; this would have been a little bit less had a certain someone also ordered from the set menu but as he was paying for his own lunch, I’ll let it slide.
Crosstown Doughnuts, Soho
We walked off lunch by wandering round the streets of Soho and Chinatown; it’s always frenetic and there’s always something going so I love soaking in the atmosphere! Naturally, I have some sort of magnetic pull towards food shops and magically ended up in front of Crosstown Doughnuts; handmade, fresh, gourmet doughnuts… I could not resist! We took home one of their lamnuts (yep, it’s a lamington doughnut) and one of their peanut butter and berry doughnuts for a late afternoon snack.
Spent: Crosstown Doughnuts – £7
Dip & Flip, Tooting
Absolutely knackered and stuffed to brim when we arrived home, we hadn’t planned on anything more than a fridge and pantry raid for dinner but a few hours later the tummies were rumbling again. Since I still had a couple more pounds to spare (I’m as surprised as you are) we decided to brave the less than 200m walk to our newest local eatery; Dip & Flip, a burger restaurant where everything always comes with a side of gravy.
Having been less than impressed by some of the other burger chains, we were a little skeptical but I’m happy to report our fears were unfounded! I love my spice so went with the green chilli burger while a certain someone went all out with the Dip & Flip burger which includes a slice of roast meat dunked in gravy. The burgers were big, messy, and absolutely delicious with fresh ingredients and really juicy patties – we will be visiting again!
Spent: two burgers, fries, extra dunking roll, two beers, service – £17/pp; I didn’t quite have enough left over to pay for both our dinners so again, a certain someone had to stump up a little cash for his meal.
So there you have it, my day out in London, just scraping in at around £80… of course you can have an amazing day out in this fine city for a lot less, or a lot more – that’s one of the best parts about it! The Travelex Multi-Currency Cash Passport was really a breeze to use… it took me all of 15 minutes to pick it up from one of their branches, the helpful staff explained how to top it up and how to use it and I was away laughing.
Thanks to Travelex for asking me to be a #TravelexTourist for the day, even if I had to pretend I was Australian while I was getting the card, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!