9am // Citizen M To find an affordable hotel in London is hard. Finding an affordable place to stay that also has great beds, beautiful interiors and friendly staff is almost impossible. But still, we managed. The mini design-hotel chain citizenM is one of our best kept secrets. They have hotels in Amsterdam, Glasgow and – you guessed it – London, and are expanding their portfolio right now. All rooms look the same. And that is a good thing. The bed is a 2×2 Meters square of fluffy linen, movies are free (yes, all kinds of movies…) and the fast Wi-Fi just works. You can even adjust the lighting in the room to your mood with a touch pad. One thing if you are traveling with a friend: The bathroom is made our of opaque glass panels and is in the middle of the room. If you are very shy, you might have to come up with a bathroom schedule in which your temporary roomie takes a stroll through the hotel while you take a shower. The lounge-y hotel lobby is always busy, and instead of a restaurant it features a self-service counter with pastries, some different meals, and drinks. Grab a snack and a coffee, and sit down in one of those fancy Eames chairs. We have a long day ahead of us, so you better enjoy your breakfast. Afterwards, make your way out on the street. CitizenM is located Bankside, on the Southern bank of the river Thames. That’s not an area full of tourist, but it’s perfect for us. Our first stop is just a five minute walk away.
10am // Tate Modern Lets kick off our day with some modern art. Right around the block from CitizenM lies the famous Tate Modern. It functions as Britain’s national gallery of international modern art, and is the world’s most visited modern art gallery. Housed in an old power station right at the river, it draws crowds of art lovers, tourists, and school children alike. You could easily spend a whole day here, and if you have more time in London, you definitely should spend some more hours here than we do today. The exhibitions are amazing, and admission is free! Two big attractions of Tate Modern, the Turbine Hall and The Tanks will sadly stay closed for the remainder of 2013, but there is still lots and lots to see.
11:30 // Borough Market London is all about that fantastic mix of the new and the old, something you’ll experience several times during our 12hrs. From the new world of modern art, let’s move on to something traditionally British, the markets. Walk along the water towards both the Southwark and the London Bridge. On your way, you will pass Shakespeare’s Globe, a reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse that was originally built in 1599 and that was located about 230 Meters from the site of the replica. Soak in the sight, then continue all the way to the market. Borough Market is one of London’s oldest and biggest food markets, and to us, it’s also one of the prettiest. Local vendors are selling fresh produce, and there are stalls that serve all kinds of tasty things. Walk around, wet your appetite, we’ll have lunch soon!
12pm // Elliot's There is a lot of food to choose from at Borough Market, but whenever we’re there, we end up eating at Elliot’s. The reason is very simple: Their food is just so good! Everyday, the chef takes a stroll over the market and picks the freshest and tastiest ingredients he can find. And then, he turns them into the items on Elliot’s small but amazing menu. They bake their own bread, which is almost worth the visit alone. Their coffee is great, too. And the burger here is one of the best we’ve ever had. Trust us!
1pm // London Bridge Walk There’s no better time for a walk than after lunch (since laying down is not an option on this busy day). So let’s continue our tour of London, lose some calories, and get a bit of sightseeing done in the process. Walk up to London Bridge, it’s just a stone-throw away from Elliot’s, and head over to the other side of the Thames. To your right, you’ll get a great view of the iconic Tower Bridge. There’s also a mean looking World War II war ship moored in the river, the HMS Belfast. Snap some pictures for you loved ones at home – Tower Bridge, River Thames or war ship, whatever will be most popular with your folks – and make your way to the other side.
1:20 // The Tube No trip to London is complete without plenty of rides on the Tube. And no worry, we’ll use it extensively during the day. The oldest underground railway in the world is famous for its narrow tunnels and the crowds during rush-hour. Right now, traffic shouldn’t be too bad, so hop on the Circle & District Line at Monument, go all the way to Victoria, and change there into Victoria Line. After one stop, you’ll be at Green Park. Alight there and walk to Dover Street.
1:45 // Dover Street Market From the outside, this shop might not look like much. But look again. The window displays are cooperations with well-known artists, and the shop itself and its interior almost passes as pieces of artwork itself. Dover Street Market was opened by Rei Kawakubo, the founder of Japanese avant-garde fashion house Comme des Garçons. Naturally, you’ll find all the different labels that make up the Comme des Garçons-family here. They also sell other, high-end brands like Celine here. There’s a lot of staff on hand, something you’ll enjoy if you want to purchase something, but also something that might intimidate you if your wallet isn’t that well-endowed. No worries, they don’t bite. They might, however, ask women to put a cloth over their face when they try something on to prevent make-up stains… Make sure you don’t just explore downstairs, there is a lot to see in this four story store. Take the elevator upstairs to the 4th floor. Here, you’ll not only find the much cheaper Play by CdG line with its famous basic pieces like striped shirts, you also just reached our next destination.
2pm // Rose Bakery This beautiful cafe was founded by Rose Carrarini and her husband Jean Charles, and has built up a cult following in both London and Paris, where they have several branches, as well. Rose Bakery is famous for its amazing cakes, and their Brownies regularly send us to chocolate heaven. If you’re two, start out by sharing one first. These things are massive. The coffee and tea up here are really good, as well. Labour and Wait, a lovely shop we featured in our 12hrs in East London guide, sell a small selection of their sturdy household goods up here. Take a short break before our day continues, then leave Dover Street Market.
2:40 // Hyde Park Back to one of those iconic London places. The Royal Hyde Park lays in the middle of the city and is one of London’s biggest parks. Famous for its Speakers’ Corner, it attracts a pleasant mix of visitors. Families, tourists, and commuters on their jog to work carrying their office attire in tiny backpacks while running. Soak in the scene and maybe even some sun as you walk through the park. Just follow the paths along the The Serpentine, a lake in the middle of the park. It leads you to our next destination. If you’re lucky, you’ll still be able to spot a big, fiberglass statue in the middle of the water. That’s actor Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, in that famous ‘wet shirt scene’ from the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
3pm // Serpentine Gallery In Kensington Gardens, right in the middle of Hyde Park, lies Serpentine Gallery. One of London’s most loved galleries, it attracts up to 800 000 visitors each year. On display are works by different contemporary artists, and conveniently, admission is free (although they suggest that you donate 1 Pound to them). While the exhibition inside is well worth a visit, we are really here for the pavilion. Each year, the gallery commissions a different architect or artist to build a temporary structure in front of the gallery. In past years, these pavilions have been designed by icons of the design world like Ai Wei Wei, Frank Gehry, Oscar Niemeyer, Daniel Libeskind or Rem Koolhaas. In 2013, Japanese master architect Sou Fujimoto was responsible for the pavilion. His airy structure is beautiful and fascinating, and invites visitors to climb around on it. Go ahead, climb a bit!
4pm // Liberty London After finishing your visit to Serpentine Gallery, walk across to the other side of Hyde Park and find the Tube station Lancaster Gate. Take the Central Line to Oxford Circus for our next stop. Oxford Circus being Oxford Circus, you can easily drown in a never ending stream of shoppers and tourists here. The ‘Great British High Street’ is alive and well, and you can easily spend a couple of hours here perusing shops full of more or less affordable clothes. If you feel for exploring this side of London shopping, just skip ahead to the 6pm mark of our guide and join in again there. If you prefer to follow our suggestions, leave Oxford Street as fast as you can and head over to Regent Street. If you have only time to visit one of the famous department stores London has to offer, definitely make it Liberty! This shopping temple in the West End is one of our very favorite stores, and one of the most famous shopping destinations in London. In their beautiful building, they stock everything that’s something in the design world, from big brand names to still unknown local designers. Then there’s an amazing collection of skincare and make-up, a flower shop, the best perfume selection we can think of, and a giant selection of hats and scarves. Liberty started out as a seller of fabrics and carpets, and to this day, their selection of home goods and rugs is overwhelming.
4:30 // Lazy Oaf Some streets down from Liberty is a very different shopping destination, but one we love just as much. Lazy Oaf is a young brand from London that is known for their crazy prints. You could say their clothes are quintessential London design. Think watermelon booty shorts for girls, oversized T-Shirts with Minnie Mouse hands all over them and Batman shirts for the boys. Their designs are very young, but you’ll always find something in the brand’s small flagship store that you can wear even if you’re not 17 anymore. Also, have a look at their great greeting cards. We always stock up on them for the rest of the year.
4:45 // Supreme You either love or hate the hype that surrounds this skate wear brand from New York. Famous for their collaborations with super hip musicians and skaters, guys (and girls that are into oversized clothes) find caps, clothes and boards in their two-level London store.
5pm // Opening Ceremony Another New York City transplant. A ten-minute walk from Supreme, this American cult brand opened their shop in London in 2012 to much fanfare. They stock their own line, which boasts designs from playful to cutsy, plus a good selection of labels like Acne, Proenza Schouler and Patrik Ervell. Each year, the founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon (now also famous as the designers that made Kenzo cool again) pick a featured country whose designers they present to a bigger audience. Last year, it was Korea, and now they just announced that Belgium gets the honor this year. So keep your eyes out for some avant-garde pieces on the shelves. On our tour, you made it to Covent Garden now. This area of London is slowly turning into a veritable shopping destination. Walking to the Tube, you’ll spot some fancy shops and interesting boutiques, from Ladurée macarons to Chanel make-up. Explore a bit, then find the entrance to the tube. Warning: This stop takes you downstairs in elevators…
5:40 // Margaret Howell Take the Piccadilly Line from Covent Garden to Bond Street and change to the Jubilee Line. After just one stop, you’ll be at Green Park, your next destination. We have one more store on our to-do list. If you prefer to take it a bit more easy, head over to the cafe we feature at 6pm directly and take some more time there. But if you’re into shopping, take this last pit stop with us. Margaret Howell is famous for her classic and authentic pieces of clothing for both women and men. The quality of the garments is amazing, a fact that is sadly reflected in the price tags of the pieces. Still, you won’t find better everyday clothes with an artistic twist anywhere. Her items are well worth investing in. There’s beautiful home ware on display, as well. And if you’re lucky, you can spot the designer herself in her office in the store.
6pm // Monocle Cafe We know, it’s early evening already, but there’s always room for one more good coffee. For that, find your way to Monocle Cafe on Chiltern Street. Monocle Cafe is a lot like the magazine of the same name – a bit posh, aspirational, and very well thought through. The interior and the menu seem to be inspired by a beautiful mix of Scandinavia and Japan. Every napkin, every coffee cup, and every tray here fit together, and we wouldn’t mind stealing the cozy couches from the small area in the back and put them right in our living room. On the walls, the latest issues of Monocle are proudly displayed, and Monocle24, the magazine’s radio station, supplies the cafe with music and news. Hang out a bit, release your inner Tyler Brûlé (the magazine’s editor), and then get ready for some serious food shopping.
6:30 // La Fromagerie A short, five-minute walk takes you to Moxon Street. Marylbone, the area we are in right now, is much calmer and also posher than the shopping streets around Oxford Street. Here, you still find small, specialized shops that pay attention to all the important but often forgotten details. La Fromagerie and The Ginger Pig are two of those. The former is any cheese-lovers smelly paradise. There is a walk-in cheese room, closed with a sliding glass door to keep the smell at bay. The staff is extremely helpful and ready to answer every question you might have ever had about cheese. In the front of the shop, they sell vegetables and delicatessen, in the back, you’ll see a nice cafe.
6:30 // The Ginger Pig Next door, at the Ginger Pig, meat is the way to go. This old-school butcher shop sells high quality cured meats and freshly prepared dishes over the counter, and they offer butchery classes for curious visitors, as well. Even if the shop should be closed already, take a peek through the window.
7:20 // Notting Hill Find the Baker Street tube station and take the Hammersmith & City Line from there to Ladbroke Grove. But before you do so, look around for some fun Sherlock Holmes murals. After all, this is where our favorite fictional detective resides. Once you got off the train at Ladbroke Grove, you are in Notting Hill. And at yet another pop-culture landmark. It’s easy to see why the famous romantic comedy featuring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant was set here – it’s just so beautiful and romantic. Take a stroll down Portobello Road, and you can see the markings of the stalls of the famous street market on the pavement. No worries, you didn’t miss out by skipping this market, it’s overrun by tourists and some people claim it has lost a bit of its charm lately. (For our recommendations for other markets, have a look at our 12hrs in East London guide!). But Notting Hill still is super charming and lovely. Walk down some side streets, and you’ll see pastel colored houses and perfectly groomed gardens. If you feel for some more (window) shopping, consider these short recommendations. Couverture and The Garbshop offer some nice clothes. Couverture on the ground level is for the ladies, The Garbshop downstairs caters to the men. They stock great heritage labels there. Books for Cooks is for everybody who loves cookbooks just as much as we do. They sell every cookbook you can think of, from current bestsellers to editions of very obscure local cuisines from all over the world. Then there is of course the famous Hummingbird Bakery, which single-handedly can be thanked (or blamed) for the cupcake craze that invaded Britain some years ago. Their American treats are really sweet – and really, really tasty.
7:20 // Electric Dinner Time for dinner! Instead of wandering around even more, let’s stay in the neighborhood and enjoy one of the fun places to eat here. Electric Diner is adjacent to one of London’s oldest movie theaters (if you have a night to spare in London, definitely go there!). It’s charming, and cozy, and a spot where lots of locals eat. The menu features French and American staples, and the chefs in the open kitchen elevate these classic dishes to something modern and very tasty. Their honey-fried chicken with chilli and sesame seeds is great, as is the roasted bone marrow with beef cheek marmelade. At the bar, you can choose between 19 different beers from all over the world and tons of other options, so kick back and relax a bit.
9pm // Opium We’ve crossed London from the South bank of the Thames to Notting Hill, just this one time, let’s jump in one of those pretty black cabs and let’s end this long day on a comfortable note. Let the cabbie drive you right into the middle of Chinatown, you’re in for one last treat. On Gerrard Street, between Beijing ducks and waving lucky cats, there is a jade green door in one building. Knock on it, and wait a moment. The (very big and very friendly!) bouncer will open the door for you, and he will tell you to go up the stairs all the way to the Tea Parlor. On your way, you’ll pass signs saying “The Academy” and “The Apothecary”, and if you glimpse inside there, you’ll spot an abundance of Chinese medicine bottles filled with liquids. Upstairs, a member of the staff will lead you to your table and hand you Opium’s extensive drink menu. They also serve Dim Sum, but since we’ve already eaten, let’s just focus on the cocktails. That’s why we are here, anyway. Every member of the bartending staff created one of the specialty cocktails on the menu. They all feature one different, main spirit, and are mixed with homemade syrups and unusual Chinese ingredients. Some of the drinks arrive at your table in the medicine bottles we saw on or way up, some of them are poured into cauldrons for you or sprayed with fresh rose-water before you can taste them. If you can, pick one of the ‘smoking’ cocktails, if only for the funny sensation. Lean back in the cozy seats, enjoy your cocktail, and rewind. You’ve just spent 12hrs in London!