Three days in London – live it like an Olympian – day 2

After an action-packed day one, seeing the feat of engineering which is Tower Bridge and the home of the Queen, it’s time for day two. This itinerary will allow you to see a different side to the city, including the world-famous St Paul’s Cathedral and the formidable former prison, the Tower of London. You will also see a more modern edge, with the financial district the City of London as your starting point, then the 2012 Olympic Park and on to some of London’s trendy streets and cafés.

08.30 – St Paul’s and the City of London

St Paul’s Cathedral by Olivier BruchezStart the day at one of the great symbols of the British resistance during the dark days of the Blitz - St Paul’s Cathedral dates back to the 17th century and was never hit by a bomb during the war. Visitors can step inside to discover the interior, which is as architecturally impressive as the exterior. St Paul’s is on the cusp of the business centre of London culminating around Bank, and a wander around this area helps visitors unravel the historic as well as business heart of the city.

For a morning coffee and bite to eat, there are plenty of cafés on Cheapside or in and around the modern One New Change shopping complex, including celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen. Guildhall – the City of London’s town hall – is also worth taking in for its history and architecture.

10.30 – Tower of London

Continue east to the historic castle, former prison and royal fortress of the Tower of London, dating back to 1066. Its austere grey façade on the edge of the River Thames is haunting and demands a look around - you’ll learn a lot about Britain’s history here. Step out onto Tower Bridge afterwards to explore one of London’s prettier bridges and to watch the boats on the River Thames down below.

12.30 – Greenwich

Greenwich Park by Visit GreenwichNext make your way to one of London’s Royal Parks, Greenwich Park, one of many stunning and huge open spaces within Greater London’s geography. In the centre of the park and on a slight hill is the Greenwich Royal Observatory, the site of the Greenwich Meridian. As well the general kudos of standing on the exact coordinates of the Prime Meridian, the views over London from this spot are immense.

Have a late lunch while pottering around Greenwich centre itself, which has a distinct artisan village atmosphere. Greenwich Meantime (a London beer brewing company) runs a restaurant that comes highly recommended, as is the more quintessentially British Heaps sausage shop and café. The Cutty Sark - a ship dating back to 1869 - is another favourite attraction and you can even get aboard to explore.

15.00 – Emirates Air Line and Olympic Park

Olympic Park by houghtonbirdsThe Emirates Air Line is a cable car connecting one side of the River Thames to the other. Constructed primarily for the London 2012 Olympics, it’s now a very scenic transport method for London’s commuters. Depart on the Emirates Air Line from the Greenwich peninsula and enjoy the 10-minute journey to the other side. Continue by public transport up to the Olympic Park site. While it’s currently closed to the public, it’s worth having a walk around the perimeter and taking in the sheer size of the complex. Nearby is the Westfield Shopping Centre at Stratford, a must-visit for shopaholics.

17.00 – Vyner Street Art Galleries and Quirky Cafés

On your way back towards central London, stop off in Bethnal Green for a true flavour of London’s quirky art scene. Vyner Street is a nondescript, slightly rough-around-the-edges east London street that’s become synonymous with a trendy, if a little alternative, art scene. It’s common for scenesters to wander along the street with a coffee in hand, stopping off at the galleries that take their fancy. There are plenty of retro-kitsch cafés in the area too, such as Hurwendeki and E.Pelicci’s.

19.00 – Unseen Tours and Brick Lane

There are more tours available to tourists in London than there are bus stops (probably), yet few really succeed in helping you understand the soul of the city. Unseen Tours by Sock Mob, however, are London tours like no other. With one of the city’s homeless as your guide, you get an insight of the city from someone who has lived and breathed London streets. Powerful, eye-opening and ethical, the tour of Brick Lane and surrounding areas will be one of the best things you do in London.

Brick Lane 18-11-12 - 01  by garryknightBrick Lane is also home to innumerable of the city’s best curry houses, most of which are cheap and allow you to bring your own alcohol. Take you pick and enjoy your meal. For a bit of an alternative nightcap, the hidden, underground speakeasy - Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town bar - is the place to go. Accessed through the door of a Smeg fridge via a London restaurant, you need to book a slot in advance to have a hope of being let in.

Up for day three? Enjoy afternoon tea, shopping and museums on your last day in the UK capital.


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