During my recent trip to Paris, my friend Morgan and I had enough time that we could dedicate a day to seeing another city. While brainstorming, we brought up cities in France and Belgium, and then Morgan brought up London and a smile spread so wide across my face. We had both been before so I didn’t think of it as an option, but the idea of spending anytime in one of my favourite cities, no matter how short, made me incredibly happy. So we booked our tickets! Here’s a recap of the 12 hours we had in the lovely and lively London!
We arrived at St. Pancras Station and it was cold! So we decided to get breakfast and a hot cup of coffee at Costa before venturing into the city. Once we were finished eating, I reloaded my Oyster card and hopped on the tube towards London Bridge.
One of my favourite walks in London is wandering along the South Bank. We were trying to book free tickets to see the Sky Garden for the morning but unfortunately the one day we were in London, they weren’t offering tickets. Another bummer is I was really hoping to visit the Borough Market, but it’s not open on Tuesdays! Oh well, I will be back!
We ventured along the River Thames and I gazed upon Shakespeare’s Globe, as starstruck as I was the first time, until I realized it was almost 10am. Shit! We sprinted inside so we wouldn’t miss the tour. If you want to see the inside of the globe, I really recommend booking a tour. It’s not very expensive; 10 pounds I believe. We had a great guide who was insightful, funny, and made sure we had time to take pictures before the actors kicked us out to rehearse. Sadly, we couldn’t stand on the stage but I was still in awe of being in the Globe.
We continued along the South Bank towards the London Eye and Big Ben so Morgan could get pictures on her polaroid camera. This area of the walk is brutal because you are shoulder to shoulder with a massive cluster of tourists. I still haven’t been on the London Eye since it is quite expensive for a student budget.
Next, we took to tube to Covent Garden. It’s not that far but we were in a rush since we had to meet my friend Cat, from studying abroad, at 2pm. We decided to get food first and wandered to find some classic fish and chips. I found a restaurant online with good recommendations but it was under construction so we went to the place next door. We ordered passionfruit ciders with our meal (best part, so tasty). I wanted to shop around Covent Garden a bit but we only had enough time to walk around the outside quickly. If we hadn’t been so full I would have bought some cookies from Ben’s Cookies. They are so delicious; I had them on my last trip.
After a quick mosey, we rushed to the tube so we could meet Cat. From Covent Garden, we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. A quick look around and then we headed up Regent Street, when suddenly the ciders hit and we both had to pee, badly. Thank goodness the same thing happened at the same spot during my last trip, so I knew exactly where to go! *Insider tip* if you have to pee and you are on Regent street: on the side street at the corner of the Burberry Flagship Store, there is a Starbucks. It has two floors and the bathroom is on the second, so no one will know that you aren’t a paying customer! You’re welcome. ;)
For some reason, I’d never been to Carnaby Street before, so it was about time that I check it out! I love that area. It’s an eclectically colourful street in a major shopping area of London (surrounded by Regent Street and Oxford Street).
One of the best parts about Carnaby Street is gazing upon the most beautiful department store, Liberty, in person. It’s just such gorgeous architecture (mix of old and new). Of course the inside of the store is spectacular as well, but I cannot afford anything in it so we didn’t spend too long in there!
Walking along Regent Street just feels posh. We walked back past Piccadilly Circus again towards China Town to check it out. I wish it was dinner time, I could really go for some Chinese food. Also, I’m not sure if it’s just due to the Chinese New Year, but there were lovely lanterns all through the neighbourhood. It’s a great area to wander.
Running out of ideas of things to see in our limited time, we walked back towards Oxford Street to do some shopping. This is when the pain kicked in. I’d been wearing one pair of boots for the whole Paris trip and my feet were in so much pain,so for my day trip to London, I switched shoes. Unfortunately, the other pair of shoes were booties (that are normally comfortable but had a sole that was wearing away). Cobblestones were a nightmare to walk on. I was fine until this point in the day, then I started limping and could not wait to get to a store to buy some shoes.
Cat suggested we check out Selfridges, since I had never been. I thought great, it’s a department store, there will be lots of options! Blissfully unaware that there were indeed lots of options … of incredibly expensive shoes. Luckily, I found a TopShop shoe section and found some comfy flats for 20 pounds. The store was lovely though, once I was in comfy shoes my mind was clear to look around the shops.
After shopping around Selfridges, it was getting late, so we headed back to Carnaby Street to get some food, then parted ways with Cat and headed towards the train station. I had a great time catching up with her and it was so nice to reconnect with one of my friends from studying abroad. It’s the greatest perk of an international exchange. The fact that you could travel around the world and meet up with a friendly face or, in some cases, have a place to stay is surreal.
As much as I adore London, it’s a tough city to do in a day if you’ve already seen all the touristy things. When I was here last, we dedicated days to neighbourhoods like Notting Hill or Chelsea and we got the opportunity to experience the incredible nightlife (a way to meet locals as well). I love to feel like a local when I’m in London, so it really helps to have a place to stay and time to do non touristy things.
What would you do if you only had 12 hours in London? Let me know in the comments!