Tuesday, 6 February 2018

9 Things to Do in London for Tourists

It's midweek and I decided to spend my time more productively. I've slacked off a week from contributing some food ideas due to my busy schedule. I decided to make up for it today with something slightly different from food. Here's some of the key highlights of my last London trip to give ideas to anyone travelling.

1. Go for an Afternoon Tea with your +1 or friends/family

In London, there's 3 kinds of Afternoon Tea you can try. The first is the typical walk-in parlours where you don't need reservations and still can enjoy wonderful cakes. The one shown in the photo is from Peggy Porschen cakes. While there's no reservation required, be prepared to queue. If you enjoy taking pretty food photos like me, this place is highly recommended. 

The second kind of dining experience is very similar to the third. It's basically afternoon teas that require reservations. This is split into two kinds. Quirky afternoon teas or traditional afternoon tea. The one I tried was the B-Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour. You get to have your afternoon tea in a London red bus. It's a classic. The tour covers the key attractions of London and the service from the on-board staff is really awesome. This isn't to say that the food is cliche and gimmicky. In fact, Brigit's Bakery has a dine-in outlet in Covent Garden and the menu is the same. The quality of the food is definitely worth the money. I can attest to that. I'd like to try the traditional afternoon tea in London during my next visit. 

2. Wear your Cultural Hat and Visit Museums

Museums sound boring if you aren't particularly into art or history. I share the same sentiments most of the time. However London is known for being a home to many famous artists and also its cultural heritage. There're many museums you can visit and a good number of them are free. Given that I wasn't that into museums, I enjoyed the free to visit cultural venues while passing my day waiting for Vain Pot to end work. Unlike the museums back home, the exhibits here along with the architectural sophistication of the buildings make it worth the trip. It's quite an eye-opener even if you know nothing about appreciating arts or the historical significance of these venues. 

3. Go for Day Tours and Visit Castles

London offers a wide selection of day tours. My personal take is that castles are a must see because there's a living monarchy in the United Kingdom. The photo you see here is the Windsor Castle, the home of the Queen of England. Aside from this castle, there're many more interesting castles to visit with amazing landscape views. If you are into photography, it'll be a pity if you miss visiting a few. It's also these astounding architecture in Europe that is tempting me to invest in a better camera.. okay, I'm lying. It's because I'm going to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United versus Arsenal during my next London visit. 

4. Visit the Biggest and Oldest Toy Store in London

Hamleys in the oldest and biggest toy store in London. It has been around since 1760. Stepping into
Hamleys, it's a eye-opening experience compared with other toy stores I've been. First of all, there's staff playing toys everywhere in the shop. There's also a huge toy variety. The best part is, watching the sales staff giving demonstrations on the flying drones to the snapping balls to boomerangs, you really really want to own one of these toys yourself and be a kid again. Visitors of the stores are invited to try out most of the toys on demo and parents watching their kids have so much fun will also feel an urge to buy some toys. It's really an awesome experience.

As a tourist, experiencing the store on the consumer front is only one aspect. I see Hamleys also as a museum for toys with lots of photo-worthy toy displays. Lego royal family, WWE championship belt to crown jewels... it really brought out the kid in me and I actually bought a toy from the store!

5. Watch a Musical

London has many musicals which has gained global acclaim like Phantom of the Opera and Wicked. It's almost a pity if a visitor of London leaves without catching a musical. The musical I watched during my recent visit was Lion King. It's my first time watching a full-fledged animal character show on stage. I must say, the depiction is really good. The service at the theatre is also praise-worthy. They have ushers directing you to your seats and guiding you through the process if you are late. I've never experienced anything like that back home in Marina Bay Sands. Be warned, the show starts on the dot. Do not dally or you will miss the grand opening.

6. Challenge yourself to book Duck and Waffle at earthly hours

Booking Duck and Waffle, the 24 hours brunch place overlooking London, is an eye opener for me. I tried booking many weeks ahead. I tried different days and couldn't find a day where I can have a proper brunch meal at 11am, lunch time or dinner time. I ended up making a booking at 630am. That means leaving my home at 5 plus in the morning to eat breakfast. 

By the time I left the restaurant, I was treated to sunrise. Duck and Waffle is obviously famed for its duck and waffle dish. They serve brunch food at affordable prices even though I would say the food quality is decent at best. That said, patrons get treated to an astounding view of the London Skyline while enjoying your food. Try not to go in threes though, they don't like to offer window seats to people going in odd numbers.

7. Visit Harry Potter World

I do believe that Harry Potter World is a must visit for both Harry Potter fans and non fans alike (even if you haven't watched the show before). It's just an eye opener to see how such a massive production is filmed. I'm the one who knows nothing about Harry Potter prior to visiting. I enjoyed myself.

This particular set was what caught my eye and piqued my interest to visit initially. Looking at the set, it changed my perspective on how films are made and gave me new insights into cinematology.

The other part I enjoyed most was drinking the butterbeer and eating butterbeer ice-cream. Knowing nothing about Harry Potter, my initial thought was why they would serve beer in a place filled with kids. I even saw kids lining up for the butterbeers. Turns out that the butterbeer isn't real alcohol, It's butterscotch soda with a layer of ice cream on top. Butterbeer ice cream is basically caramel ice cream. I'd say it's an awesome visit despite knowing nothing about Harry Potter before the trip. It'll be best if you go with a fan so that they can give you some context for some of the scenes.

8. Eat Michelin Star Food

I visited Barrafina during my last trip. It is touted as the best Spanish Tapas in London. I don't have other experiences to compare with but I agreed that my experience at Barrafina was good. Before my trip there, a number of friends who have been there before told me to give it a visit. They mentioned that the Michelin Star food there is cheaper than in Singapore. Honestly, it's still pricey. But I think the presence of chefs with renowned reputations are more compared to back home.

9. Eat Fish and Chips

One classic dish if you must find one to associate London with is Fish and Chips. In my opinion, the type of fish that should go with every order is the Haddock.

There were two fish and chips I shortlisted. The first I tried was Golden Chippy's at Greenwich. It was voted the No.1 Fish and Chips on Trip Adviser.

The next one I tried was Poppy's Fish and Chips. It's probably the most highly recommended place online. Visiting Poppy's really seem to validate that point. The restaurant is full. I tried the Haddock for both places and to be honest, they tasted equally good. The sauce selection is wider for Golden Chippy's and they offered to refill my chips for free. On the other hand, I think I enjoyed the chips better at Poppy's. I'd say if you go to London, it's probably one of the must trys. It's indeed different from the Fish and Chips back home in Singapore.