Two Weeks in London with Mum
My mum had never visited London until just recently. Her only reason to fly to the UK now was me, as it had been almost a year since I moved to London. When she arrived, she insisted that she would happily sit and drink tea with me for two weeks straight, but I was determined to show her how fantastic London is. I set about putting together the ultimate itinerary, showcasing my idea of a highlight reel of London.
This farmers’ market is a London institution. In one shape or another, Borough Market has been operating for over 1,000 years. Mainstays like seasonal fruit and vegetables vendors and butchers hawking fresh cuts of meat feature alongside bars, restaurants and trendy street food stalls. Entering through the stairs from Borough High Street, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by choice. There are stalls serving up everything from Indian, Lebanese and Spanish to Ethiopian, Thai and traditional British cuisine (yes, I’m talking pies). There’s something here to pique everyone’s interest.
Top tip: Bypass the mouthwatering stalls and beeline for Northfield butcher inside the market. They offer salt beef bagels and sandwiches slathered with mustard, layered with cabbage and salt beef and topped with a gherkin. There’s no other choice for a London newbie.
Walking through Hyde Park
In spring, Hyde Park is in full bloom with seas of daffodils and rainbows of tulips. As summer rolls in, lounging Londoners take to the grassy fields to catch sparse rays. In autumn, the park is an explosion of colour as the leaves change from green to every shade of red, orange and brown. Winter in Hyde Park is different again, but no less beautiful. The bare, twisted branches of the park’s birch, red oak and maple trees lend the park a more dramatic feel. Unaffected by the cold, a bevy of swans swim around the icy pond in front of Kensington Palace.
Top tip: Pick up a hot drink (a mulled wine is acceptable any time of day) from one of the park cafes and wander through the barren trees. End the day at contemporary art gallery, the Serpentine, to view their rotating free exhibitions and escape from the brisk wind.
A Day in Bath
A city steeped in history, Bath was founded in the 1st century AD by the Romans. Its natural hot springs led to its development as a spa town from the beginning, and those thermal waters continue to draw visitors today, particularly to the luxurious Thermae Bath Spa. Pop into the Jane Austen Centre, wander around the 2,000 year old Roman Baths, take afternoon tea at the Pump Room or simply spend hours walking through this UNESCO World Heritage city admiring the Georgian era buildings and distant rolling hills.
Top tip: Start your day in Bath with a hearty lunch at The Raven, where traditional British pies are served up with creamy mash and ale-based gravy. Make your way to the Roman Bath Museum to learn more about the city’s Ancient origins before heading to Thermae Bath Spa for two hours of pure relaxation.
Flesh & Buns Sunday Brunch
At this point, bottomless brunches are permanent London fixtures and none too difficult to find. However, with two Sunday brunch menus, at £39 and £46 per person, the Flesh & Buns experience effortlessly separates itself from the rest. You’re offered a cocktail on arrival, bottomless red wine, white wine or prosecco and unlimited Japanese hot and cold dishes over two hours. Satisfying and value-packed, it’s up there as one of the best bottomless brunches in London.
Top tip: Choose your preferred brunch menu before you arrive and keep an eye on the time; you don’t want to miss out on dessert!
Tower of London
The Tower of London has played an important role in England’s history, from its founding by invading Normans to its hosting of historical executions, like that of Queen Anne Boleyn. Constructed in 1066, The Tower of London has at various times operated as a prison and a royal residence. It is home to an expansive armoury, the Royal Mint, a public records office and, most famously, the Crown Jewels of England. Beyond the glittering diamonds, the true stars of the show are the iconic Beefeaters, who bring to life the history of the Tower in their tours of the grounds.
Top tip: Google says most people spend two hours at The Tower of London but many more could be lost wandering the corridors of this mammoth complex. Book online to save a few pounds.
Wandering through the British Museum
The British Museum houses an enormous collection of art and artefacts. Among its exhibitions are some of the world’s most historically significant pieces, including the Rosetta Stone (196 BC), Assyrian Lion Hunt reliefs (645 – 635 BC), the Gebelein man (3400 BC) and the Mummy of Katebet (1330 - 1250 BC). Collections from Africa, the Americas, Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, Asia and the Middle East are spread across three enormous floors. Be sure to wear comfortable footwear.
Top tip: To see the British Museum in its entirety would take a few days. If a few hours is all you have, be sure not to miss the Ancient Greek exhibit for the Parthenon statues and reliefs and the Egyptian exhibits for its expansive collection of mummies and sarcophagi.
Seeing Aladdin the Musical
Breathtaking sets, glittering costumes and an incredibly talented cast bring Aladdin to life at the exquisite Prince Edward Theatre. Forget the titular character, it’s clear who the real star of the two hour and thirty minute show is: Trevor Dion Nicholas with his vivacious and colourful performance of Genie. Including performances of Aladdin favourites, ‘Friend Like Me’, ‘A Whole New World’ and ‘Arabian Nights’, the musical is pure nostalgic bliss for mums and daughters alike.
Top tip: Book early to get the best value tickets. Check with different vendors as the prices do vary. To make a day out in London even more perfect, head to Rock and Sole Plaice for classic fish and chips before the show.
The Natural History Museum
London’s Natural History Museum urges visitors to “uncover the history of life on Earth, from the smallest insects to the largest mammals”. You can do just that in a few rushed hours at this monumental museum. It’s a museum that’s certain to impress well before entering a single exhibit. The stunning Romanesque building is one of London’s most iconic sites and worth a visit in itself.
Top tip: There are not enough hours in the day to pass through each of the halls of the museum. Be sure to stop by the dinosaur and earthquake exhibits and don’t miss out on the immense and ornate Hintze Hall.
Portobello Road Market
Every Saturday, the world’s largest antique market occupies colourful Portobello Road, bringing with it hundreds of eager shoppers and spectators. It’s not all vintage lace and shining silverware though, Portobello market also includes vendors selling the freshest fruit and vegetables, antipasti favourites, crisp pastries, french cheeses and delicious hot foods. With over 1,000 vendors, it’s worth braving the crowds, even if you’re not a true antiques fan.
Top tip: Start from Notting Hill Gate to see Portobello Road from beginning to end. If the heavens open up, take shelter at the Acklam Village Street Food Market, where tables and chairs are set up in a converted warehouse space.
Afternoon Tea at the Den at St. Martin’s Place
Is there anything more English than afternoon tea? Don’t let mum miss out on this UK staple. Settle in for a lavish tea session accompanied by petite savoury dishes and mini desserts, all served up on a stylish tiered stand. Don’t forget to leave room for the piece de resistance: golden scones served with traditional clotted cream and strawberry jam.
Top tip: Don’t miss the fun artworks on the walls, each one purposely imperfect.
A Fond Farewell
Despite her initial indifference to the city, it became clear mum had been wooed by London’s tourist delights. Within just a few days of a whirlwind tour of London, the city had a new fan in its midst. And with that, an even sadder farewell. London will happily have you back anytime, mum.