First Steps into UK/Europe (part 1) - City of London

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I've only been talking about how I want to explore Europe, but it never happened because I'm always giving myself excuses (such as how expensive it is, how dangerous it could be, or how I'm too broke to do so...)

But this London trip came about because one of my best friends happened to be on an exchange in the UK during my school break. Coupled with an ongoing SQ flight promo, I thought that I could not possibly get a better chance (it's $1k for a return flight!!) or excuse to travel to Europe already. So yeap, I checked my available off days and booked a flight there!

I stayed in the city of London for only five days as I planned to cover other parts of UK/Europe as well. Personally, I feel that five days was more than enough time to cover most of London's popular attractions and some other. If you're short on time, I think three days would suffice.

Here are some of the places and attractions I covered in London! They are not listed in order of the days I visited them.

Victoria & Albert Museum

Hands down one of my favourite museums ever!! Out of all the museums I have visited thus far, the Victoria & Albert Museum (also widely known as the V&A) was such a visual treat. It's an Art and Design museum, but contrary to art museum stereotypes, it's not all just about paintings and sculptures. They also have fashion items, ceramics, textiles, glassware, furniture, photographs, historical artefacts and more. I remember there being mummies artefacts, country-segregated exhibitions, theatre galleries and Fashion displays. The museum is huge, and there's just too much going on to list it all.

The best part of it all? Entry to this British museum is free!! You only have to pay for the special exhibits, which even if you skip them, you'd still have a lot to see.

I'm not really a museum or history enthusiast but I do enjoy digesting random nuggets of information and appreciating art installations. I also love buying handmade crafts like art works and ceramics (I collect bowls for no apparent reason other than to admire them), as well as visiting some concept/aesthetic stores. V&A has all of that that I fancied, so it was amazing. 
If you like history or the performing arts, there's a section for you too. The V&A also has a cafeteria and a garden area that many visitors would chill at. I spent a total of about three hours here with a tea break.

You can also get really beautiful souvenirs here! They can be quite costly (from about 15 pounds for a pretty tote bag to 30 pounds for a printed scarf), but you won't really be able to find anything alike to what they sell out of the museum.

Address: Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL, UK
Price: Free Entry
Expected Duration: 1 to 3 hours
Opening Hours: 10AM to 5:45PM daily, except Fridays 10AM to 10PM

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum was just opposite the V&A, so it was easy to just drop in and take a look. Likewise, the entry to the museum is also free, but they do ask for donations for the museum's upkeep.

I have never been a very science person (other than when I was in primary school lolol) so the Natural History Museum wasn't as appealing to me, but the part where they featured some of the animal fossils or their skeletal systems was quite interesting??
One part of this museum had the "Night at the Museum" vibe haha. I spent about an hour here!

Address: Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW7 5BD, UK
Price: Free Entry
Expected Duration: 1 to 3 hours
Opening Hours: 10AM to 5:50PM daily

Boxpark Shoreditch

Boxpark Shoreditch is kinda like a container park area with some boutique/food stalls. A lot of youths are seen gathered here, with walls of street art! I thought that the container park was quite small with not much to do, but just down the road was a flea market (?) which made it shoreditch more interesting. The flea market mostly had booths selling fruits, vintage clothes and wares.

I don't think think it's a place that's worth making a trip down for, but it's near Brick Lane Market (which you should go), so you could just walk down the road to get a few pictures here! I happened to visit Boxpark Shoreditch and Brick Lane Market with Kelvin since it was in my itinerary on the day we decided to hang.

Address: 2-10 Bethnal Green Road London E1 6GY UK
Expected Duration: 1/2 to 1 hour
Opening Hours: Store opening hours varies

Brick Lane Market

There are so many food stalls along Brick Lane Market with all sorts of cuisine from all over the world, mostly with vendors selling food items that are representative of their ethnicity. If we hadn't already had brunch, I think we would've tried a lot of their stuff...

Brick Lane also has tons of vintage clothing stores here. If you love vintage shopping, this is going to be your favourite market. They also sell a lot of other random knick knacks and curiosities.

But we did save some stomach space for the highly raved Beigel Bake's Salt Beef Bagel! It costs 4 pounds, and the meat serving is huuuuge. It's good but... Not particularly special? I would eat it again though! Definitely worth the 4 pounds!

Beigel Bake also has many other options, such as salmon cream cheese and other cheaper alternatives.

Address: 91 Brick Ln, London E1 6QR, UK
Expected Duration: 2 hours
Opening Hours: Saturdays 11AM to 6PM, Sundays 10AM to 5PM, closed on weekdays

Tower of London / Tower Bridge

Have you really been to London if you've never taken a picture at the London Bridge?? It was only when I was planning my itinerary that I realised that the popular bridge attraction is actually the Tower Bridge. The London Bridge, on the other hand is actually much more plain and dull looking.

So yeap. Went all the way down to the Tower Hill Station (the nearest Underground station) just for photo's sake. There's also the Tower of London nearby which makes for some nice pictures too!!

Address: St Katharine's & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB, UK
Expected Duration: 2 to 3 hours if visiting the Tower of London
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 9AM to 5:30PM. 10AM to 5:30PM on weekends.

Westminster Abbey

Another photo worthy spot that London travel guides recommended, so I also took the Underground to Westminster Abbey just for pictures. The architectures is definitely beautiful, but around this time I got kind of tired of just travelling to attractions just for photos, so I eventually left out Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. The Big Ben was under renovation then so I didn't include it in my itinerary either.

Most of these attractions require an rather steep entry fee (Buckingham Palace is about 22 pounds), so if you don't intend to go for the inside tours, it might get quite tiresome to just visit one attraction after another just for photos. I wasn't going to pay to enter, hence the reason why Westminster Abbey,  Tower Bridge and Tower of London were the only things I covered. Okay la that's a decent amount right?

Alternatively, you can consider joining a tour or a sightseeing bus that would make covering all the top attractions easier than if you were to do so by public transport!

Address: 20 Deans Yd, Westminster, London SW1P 3PA, UK

Borough Market

Borough Market is a food and drinks market that has some of the tastiest treats. If you're looking to try different street foods or buy some local produce/condiments, this is the place to go. I had this amazing and filling duck confit salad here at only 6 pounds amongst other really attractive choices, and got myself some white cherries too!!

This is definitely a haven for food lovers. They also had many shops dedicated to selling spices and condiments, so it's a market that people who are into cooking will love. Definitely a must-include in your itinerary if you want a gastronomical experience!! What I wouldn't do to have that duck confit goodness again...

Address: 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL, UK
Expected Duration: 1 to 2 hours
Opening Hours: 10AM to 5PM daily, closed on Sundays

Oxford Street / Piccadilly Circus

Like Singapore's Orchard Road, Oxford Street is the place to go if you're into fast fashion. The brands are mostly labels like H&M, Topshop, Bershka etc. There's also a Primark here!! Never knew how much of a blessing Primark was (I've always heard fellow friends/acquaintances talking about them) until I've actually been into their stores... Like a cute top for 6 pounds? Or a quality sling bag for 10 pounds? Just take my money already!!

Convent Garden / Trafalgar Square

I honestly thought that Trafalgar Square and Convent Garden was... Okay. Convent Garden had some sort of market going on while I was there, and many booths were selling vintage collectibles and jewellery. Prices, however, were pretty steep so it was more like a window shopping experience. But if you love collecting these rustic items, you might want to drop by Convent Garden. I think that Brick Lane has cheaper options though.

London's National Gallery is located at Trafalgar Square. And guess what, Singapore's own National Gallery looks almost exactly like it. No surprise there.

Saint Dustan-in-the-East Church Garden

I came across this garden of an old church while I was on the way to Leadenhall Market (which is lined with restaurants and bars) from Borough Market. So I took a break here together with many other office workers that were having their lunch breaks there.
People often gather around grass fields just to chill, read a book or have a picnic. I like that about Europe.

Address: St Dunstan's Hill, London EC3R 5DD, UK
Expected Duration: 1/2 hour
Opening Hours: 8AM to 7PM daily

Maitre Choux

So Maitre Choux is in this list because I love eclairs and I was trying to hunt for some in London when I came across this shop's exterior. It immediately drew me to enter their store and nabbed four of their aesthetically pleasing choux pastries for myself. It's about 8 pounds per eclair.

Funny how I'm so reluctant to spend 22 pounds for a Buckingham Palace ticket, but did not hesitate once to splurge 32 pounds on a box of pastries. I'm sure I have my priorities wrong. But these are some damn good eclairs?!
The patisserie is opened by a three Michelin Star pastry chef, Joakim Prat, and they specialise in their tasteful sugary choux pastries.

Address: 15 Harrington Rd, Kensington, London SW7 3ES, UK
Opening Hours: Weekdays 8AM to 8PM, weekends 10AM to 8PM


Aside from covering popular attractions and exploring London's markets, I also went around the neighbourhoods of the places I stay at a lot. There's just this charm about alleyways and houses that I love, so I captured bit throughout my trip in Europe.

So that's almost all the places I covered in London! There were a couple more that piqued my interest, but due to time constraints and the inaccessibility of those locations, I took them out.

London has never really been on the top of my travel list, since I've always been more inclined to suburban or countryside travel destinations. I think that mainly has to do with the fact that Singapore is metropolitan as it can get, so during my trips I try to look for something different. That being said though, I'm still a city girl at heart so I doubt I can survive the non-city life for too long. I still need convenient public transport and wifi. The irony hahaha.

But now that I've been to London, I think I will be back. There are some places that I want to go that are not so touristy, and explore the other parts of UK while I'm at that. This time I only managed to cover Edinburgh (part of Scotland), and I loved it!! More Edinburgh visuals in the next postttt.

Check out my other travel posts:
▶ First Steps into UK/Europe (part 1) - City of London
▶ First Steps into UK/Europe (part 2) - Edinburgh, Scotland
▶ First Steps into UK/Europe (part 3) - Amsterdam Central
▶ First Steps into UK/Europe (part 4) - Windmills and Fishing Villages in the Netherlands
▶ First Steps into UK/Europe (part 5) - Bruges, Belgium

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