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My must-do London Guide

There really is no need for me to write a London Guide. The Internet is pretty full of them to be honest. So then why did I choose to? Because I have discovered since returning home that we did a lot of stuff that my friends didn’t know about, and even if you take away just one or two alternative things to do in London, then it will make both of us happy!

Of course, I also wanted to show off the incredible pics that I took of London while I was there last week. I’m so happy that my photography has improved dramatically in the last five years, but I only usually realise it when I compare my latest photos of a place with my older ones. Like my favourite London pics from 2015, for instance.

Keep reading for my review of the Canon EOS R

I’m sharing what I absolutely loved in London in this trip, as well as my favourite photos from our six days there. We walked over 80km in that time, covering a lot of ground! This London guide will reveal some of my favourite places to eat, galleries and museums to visit, and where to wander for some exceptional views of the city.

Where I ate in London

I have a few rules when travelling overseas when it comes to eating out. Firstly, you need to do some research. Look for the absolute best restaurants in your favourite cuisine, and if the prices scare you, then search for the next few down. I don’t necessarily make a booking at the places I want to eat at, but it gives me a good sense of which areas they’re in and whether or not I’ll need to queue for a table.

Alessio and I usually try to eat our meals outside of the ‘regular’ dining hours so we can easily find a seat at the more popular spots. So we’d start the day with a coffee and pastry at the incredible Workshop Coffee at The Pilgrm (I actually wish we’d stayed at this hotel rather than the place we did). Beautiful decor, unpretentious service and I discovered the life changing magic of the French pastry, the Kouign-amann. Made with 30% butter and 30% sugar, there was no way this pastry wasn’t going to be devilishly delicious, and thank goodness we were walking as far as we were each day to burn some calories.

Kouign-amann (pronounced 
[ˌkwiɲ aˈmãn]pl. kouignoù-amann) is a Breton cake, described in the New York Times as “the fattiest pastry in all of Europe.”

Wikipedia

My favourite eating experience of the entire trip had to be Broadway Market in Hackney (East London). This is definitely one of the lesser-known markets and it only takes place on a Saturday, but the vendors are all set up to deliver delicious wares, and even the cold couldn’t put us off. We had an exotic mushroom and truffle risotto, a crab cake in brioche from Finn + Flounder, and then grabbed a cosy table at Franco Manca to share a delicious sour-dough Margherita pizza.

What I found so refreshing about Broadway Market was that it was far less ‘commercial’ than other London markets I’ve been to. There isn’t only food on sale, you’ll find clothing, vintage items and bric-a-brac. Broadway Street also has a great selection of bookstores, coffee shops and restaurants to peruse during your time here.

Definitely stop in at ArtWords Bookshop – it’ll break your heart how beautiful all the books are (and that you can’t lug them all back in your suitcase.

While we’re on the topic of markets, Alessio and I also visited Borough Market. Don’t make the mistake we did and go on a Sunday when it’s closed (rookie error right?). We went back on a Tuesday, which was great! I’ve only been on a Saturday before and it’s usually heaving. It was lovely to wander around without the crowds and get a real chance to look at everything. Not all the vendors are open during the week though sadly. We tried our first Scotch Egg (delish!), and then took a turn through the seafood isle and ate an ENORMOUS pair of oysters that were a steal at £2.50 (about R45 each).

While most of our meals were eaten in pubs (they really do offer some better prices), we did enjoy a few spoils along the way, including:

🥄 Oysters and champagne in the Selfridges Food Hall – £££
🥄 Breakfast at Dishoom King’s Cross – ££
🥄 Dinner at Bill’s Soho – £££

What we did in London

In between all the eating and walking, we saw so much on this trip! We wanted to cover as much of the city as we could on foot. One of favourite parts of travelling to another city is simply walking around at our own pace and seeing what we find along the way. We generally have an end point in mind, but it doesn’t matter too much if the route to get there is a little wobbly!

The Tate Modern is always top of my list when I visit London. I love the permanent modern art exhibitions, and am always curious to see the current installations. This time, my favourite piece was ‘Babel’, a sculptural installation by Cildo Meireles that demonstrates the noise of the surrounding airwaves by broadcasting hundreds of frequencies at their lowest volume through analogue radios. The low rumble is rather striking in the dim surrounds of the exhibition chamber, and is an iteration of the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. It’s confusing and fascinating all at once!

Babel at Tate Modern. Strangers for scale.

London is always going to be an expensive destination. The cost of living is high, of course, but also coping with the ZAR/£ exchange can be an exhausting task. That’s why I love the Sky Garden! It’s completely free, you just need to make a booking (and stick strictly to your slot), and you’ll get to see the whole of London from up high.

I’ve done it twice and have had completely different experiences depending on the weather. There is a small cafe at the top, and a fine dining restaurant if you’re looking for that, so it means you can’t take any drinks or food up with you, but the prices are pretty London standard.

The impressive indoor Sky Garden spans a few levels of the 20 Fenchurch Building, colloquially known as the ‘Walkie-Talkie’.

The huge glass panels reveal a 360-degree view over London, while informative decals tell you which famous city landmarks you should be looking for.

If you don’t get a chance to book, walk-ins are generally allowed before 10am and after 9pm every day. But this is totally dependant on how busy they are on that particular day, so it’s much better to book your place in advance. Be prepared for airport-style security scanners.

There is no better walk than across London Bridge and along the Southbank. We actually turned this into a monster walk and started our route at Paddington Station and then made our way to the Tate Modern. You already know I’m a big fan of walking a city, so this for me was heaven!

I’m just going to share some shots Alessio and I got while walking around and in no particular order. London’s centre is surprisingly compact when you start walking it. Our walk took us about 2,5 hours in total and we caught a tube back!

If you’re going to be in London before 24 February 2019, then it is well worth your while to visit the Video Games exhibition at the V&A. The museum is absolutely worth a visit on its own, but the special Video Games exhibition concentrates on the design elements of gaming, how they’ve developed in the last 30 years, and how this design has largely been unrecognised.

It is an absolutely fascinating deep dive into the world of video games across different platforms and the intensive process that goes into each game’s development. The exhibition ends with old-school arcade games that you can test out!

One of the arcade-style games at V&A’s Video Games exhibition.

I will admit that the main driver for our visit to the Natural History Museum was to get a photo of the giant whale skeleton that I’ve seen all over Instagram.

But I was also surprised by the incredible geology exhibitions! If you’re into rocks, minerals and crystals like I am (for healing or otherwise), then I would highly recommend a visit here! There are halls and halls covering the subject and even a shop selling some incredible pieces, including rather rare Bismuth.

Whale, hello there…

We also had an incredibly special experience at The Shard. I have never been up before, so it was a first time for both of us. What made the experience extra-magical though was that the timing was perfect to catch the first snow of the season while we were on the open roof deck!

Everybody basically transformed into children and were shouting with sheer delight as the snowflakes fell on us. We managed to book our tickets at half-price on a website special for £15 each, but I think if you’re going to visit the Sky Garden for free, then The Shard may not be worth paying full price for (unless you can time snow, of course). The drinks are crazy expensive at the top here too, so don’t expect refreshment unless you’re feeling like Rockefeller.

One of my favourite mornings spent in central London was with Neil from @mumhad1ofthose walking around the Barbican Complex. Made up of two parts, a residential estate and an arts complex, the Barbican was constructed between the 1960s and 1980s on a bombing site that was devastated in World War II.

The brutalist architecture was so reminiscent of some of Joburg’s inner city structures that I almost felt at home. The complex is huge though and the preservation of its buildings does make you feel like you’ve stepped back 40 years in time!

And finally, something I haven’t seen written about anywhere else, The Monument. Standing tall over it’s surrounds, for £5, you can climb all 311 steps of the spiral staircase to get one of the best views over central London.

It’s exhausting and you’ll be breathless at the top, but it’s really worthwhile if you’re a fan of aerial views!

The Gherkin from The Monument.

My verdict on the Canon EOS R

For my trip, I took along a loan unit of the Canon EOS R from Canon South Africa. I got to test it out for six days so I feel I can give a decent review on the camera. I usually carry a Canon 6D, so will use that as my base of reference.

The Canon EOS R is the first full-frame mirrorless camera from Canon. The reason I was keen to test it out is because I want to a lighter camera to use in general. My back just doesn’t survive carrying the heavy 6D body and lenses. While the body is about 500g lighter than my current gear, I was honestly disappointed by how bulky the camera is. It still weighs about 1,3kg with the 24-105mm lens, so not really the solution I was looking for.

That being said, after getting used to shooting with the mirrorless viewfinder, I fell in love with the EOS R as a camera. It’s slick, sexy and as you can see from this post, the quality of my images is superb.

I struggled with the settings for the camera quite a bit. All of the buttons can be customised, but as it was a loan unit and I was travelling, I never got a chance to get this far. I was forced to shoot in aperture priority so as not to spend too long fiddling with buttons when we were on the move.

Would I replace my Canon 6D with this camera?

Absolutely, in a heartbeat! But I was hoping for something that is lighter and easier to travel with, so unfortunately not the camera for me right now! I am taking a closer look at the Canon M50, but think I also might hold out until later in the year when Canon release new models. 

(Please don’t talk to me about Fuji, I’m not a fan)

Travel & food blogger helping adventurous South Africans find their next escape.

Comments (3)

  • This is brilliant- especially love your technique for choosing where to eat, definitely implementing this on next holidays! I find I always end up doing mostly the same things when I visit London, now I have so many fresh ideas – like the walkie talkie, had no idea you could go up there and I actually stayed in Hackney 2 years ago on a visit, did not know about that market (tho tbf I had no time for exploring unfortunately). Re – the Barbrican, we had a friend who lived in there years ago, very modernist /utilitarian inside the flats and semi open plan living – kitchen, which I’m sure must have been very modern at the time it was built

    Reply
    • Thanks Louise! That’s high praise coming from yourself! And yay for new things you didn’t know about! I definitely had residential fantasies at the Barbican, thought of all the mid-century pieces that you could fill those apartments with and pretend you lived a few decades back. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the apartments still have all of their original fittings!

      Reply
  • Interesting feedback on the Canon mirrorless camera. Looking forward to see what they come out with next.

    Reply

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