London in a Day
March 30, 2009 4:02 PM   Subscribe

How Can I Match a Perfect Dublin Day with a Perfect London Day?

I'm landing in St. Pancras Station on Eurostar from Paris at 10:00 AM Weds. to see a friend's show at a gallery near the Tate Modern. I have to be back on the Eurostar at 8:00 PM.

My perfect Dublin day included self-guided James Joyce tour, Book of Kells, Trinity College Long Room, Queen of Tarts tea shop strawberry sponge cake blowout, a Top Shop stop near Grafton, Stag's Head Pub, a Fish in Chips stand whose offerings were like crack in a brown bag, then bed.

Interests: art, literature, strolling, parks, riversides, street food, and tea shops. Monuments and Must Sees not important. My Dublin day felt like quality and quantity. I usually travel very, very slowly, but I do have this day for the AM gallery visit in London, which will take an hour. Somebody said vespers at St. Paul at 5:00--my kind of thing if it's within a reasonable circumference of the gallery and St. Pancras. What can I do, given my predilections, limited time, while transporting myself either on foot or public transport in a small, choice section of London in the vicinity of the Tate Modern or St. Pancras? Thank you.
posted by Elsie to Travel & Transportation around London, England (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's only been two weeks since the last time I recommended this, but, since you specify art & literature in the vicinity of St. Pancras, it seems imperative to again recommend the rare books exhibit at the British Library.
posted by Zed at 4:36 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would start by walking from St. Pancras to the British Museum. All around there - St. P & Bloomsbury - is a lovely neighbourhood, lots of squares (little parks, not boring people) and you'll probably pass a good place for some tea. At the Museum, enjoy the building and court, have a look at the major treasures and then keep walking south - from there it is quite straightforward to cut a path through Soho and Covent Garden to Trafalgar Square and then the river, and then walk along the embankment to the Tate. Very interesting, pleasurable and rewarding, but very crowded, and predictable too. I'm sure others can suggest things more obscure. It doesn't sound though like it'd be worth you trying to venture too far into East London.

St. Paul's is directly opposite Tate Modern, a 10 minute walk or so away.
posted by Flashman at 4:49 PM on March 30, 2009

We did this bike tour last week on a brief London stay. Good guide, lots of sites and time in the park, starts right near a tube stop. It was maybe a little more touristy than you want but if it's a pretty day and like to be on a bike then you might love it as much as I did.
posted by quarterframer at 4:53 PM on March 30, 2009

this link might be helpful.
posted by Taurid at 8:52 PM on March 30, 2009

Here's some things I like to do in London (as a Londoner):

South Bank
- Walk across Hungerford Bridge towards South Bank (from Embankment)
- Take a trip round the London Eye (you might need to pre-book)
- Walk east towards South Bank Centre, National Theatre, etc.; check out the architecture
- Continue to Tate Modern; check out the current Rodchenko & Popova exhibit
- Lunch at Level 7 @ Tate Modern (not sure of your budget; the cafe here is cheaper)
- Cross the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul's
- Tour St. Paul's Cathedral

Greenwich & Docklands
- Tube to Westminster
- Walk to Westminster Millennium Pier
- Take a sightseeing boat to Greenwich
- Look around Greenwich town, Greenwich Park, Royal Observatory
- Lunch at Rivington Greenwich
- DLR to Bank through Canary Wharf (try and sit at the front of the first car on the train!)

City & East End -- for a Sunday
- Tube to Bank
- Walk north through the City of London towards Liverpool Street; check out the famous "Gherkin" building on the way
- At Liverpool Street, head east and look around Spitalfields Market
- After Spitalfields, back to Liverpool Street and take a bus (route 26 or 48) towards Hackney Road; get out at Columbia Road
- Check out the Columbia Road Flower Market; head for a traditional English Sunday lunch at the Royal Oak (you MUST book in advance for this)
- Walk off some of the big lunch by walking from Columbia Road to Brick Lane (directions); check out the Brick Lane bars and market

Soho & Covent Garden
- Tube to Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road; walk towards Old Compton Street
- Walk around Old Compton Street and surrounding streets
- Hang out in cafes during the day; people watching (try Bar Soho, Bar Italia, or Patisserie Valerie); check out the shops
- Walk over to Covent Garden; more shops, covered market, bars and cafes, street entertainment, etc.
- Back to Soho for dinner at Andrew Edmunds
- See a show at one of the theatres (I can recommend Avenue Q if you want something funny!) or an art film at Curzon Soho
- Post-theatre/post-cinema drinks at any of Soho's late bars (try Friendly Society)

Each of these options would pretty much take up a day for me. YMMV. In fact, you might not have time to do everything if you need to get back by a deadline for your train. But, these are some ideas, you can customise ;)

posted by Lleyam at 9:48 AM on March 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Now I can answer my own question. Thanks to all of you, the following is the perfect London day I had after I landed at St. Pancras yesterday morning bright and early Bought map, got coffee, planned the day, bought a one-day bus/tube pass.

--Walked from St. Pancras and did the Bloomsbury tour from the walking tour book I'd brought.
--Sat in Gordon Square where it was warm and spring-y and waited for the British Museum (free) to open.
--Visited the antiquities only.
--Walked to British Library (free), near the tube and visited just a few rare books and manuscripts.
--Took the tube over to the Tate Modern area where my friend's gallery was located. Just went to the gallery since I wanted to do other stuff.
--Walked over Blackfriar's Bridge and started on the Dickens' walking tour (but dispensed with the Fleet St. part--mildly regret not get to Ben Johnson's house.) Resumed the tour from Chancery Row towards Grey's Inn area. Since my previous Dublin tour included fish and chips, I had that in my head. Where to get some? There wasn't time to search or research "the perfect" fish and chips, so I stopped at a corner pub on Grays' Inn Road in Dickens territory where they had F & P on the blackboard outside. Ordered a plate and a half pint of Brit ale and happily consumed everything.
--Went to the Dickens' home on Doughty St. just off Grays Inn Road. Great, great experience. It was the end of the day, few visitors, lots of time to look at everything, including a short film of his life. Loved, loved, loved it.
--Caught a bus to St. Paul's Cathedral in time for glorious, beautiful vespers and late afternoon sun filtering into Christopher Wren's incredible dome.
--Looked for a bus to get me to Oxford Circus, aptly named, for some possible retail at Top Shop. Hated it. (I'm too old. What was I thinking? I think I heretofore I do not need to include cheesy retail on my otherwise perfect days. Mad that it ended the St. Paul's glow too early. Live and learn.)
--Wished I could find a small, cozy tea shop like Queen of Tarts in Dublin, my punishment for going to Oxford Circus at all. Fuggetaboudit.
--Caught a bus to St. Pancras. Had a glass of wine, looked around the beautiful station humming with happy travelers, and thought: Why is train travel so awful in the U.S? I feel as if I'm in a beautiful movie.
--Ate some chocolate on the train for "dinner." Didn't see London Bridge, Tower of London, Buckingham P. etc. etc. Didn't care. The day was perfect. Thank you.
posted by Elsie at 5:13 AM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Glad you had a good time. Top tip for next time -- Patisserie Valerie in Soho was close by when you were at Oxford Circus and it should fulfill your need for a cozy tea shop!
posted by Lleyam at 2:29 AM on April 3, 2009

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