London is a city that feels almost like home – having studied there some years back and most recently, dad invested in a vacation home in Canada Water for the family. I flew into London from Kuala Lumpur via Malaysia Airlines, which offers direct flights to London twice daily. This to me, saves time and you won’t step out of the plane looking like a train wreck. Transits tend to do that to me.
Jien and I spent two days in London (I know, too short!) with my family before heading off to Florida. I find flying to the US rather tiring so this 48-hour transit is ideal because I get to adjust to the time difference before flying again. If you’re ever in London for a short trip/stopover, these are the things you can do to make the most of it:
Visit: Big Ben
This is a spot not to be missed when you’re in London. If you’re lucky, you’re able to spot this boy as your plane descends into Heathrow International Airport. It’s quite a sight when you’re up-close; a totally different experience from watching it from afar. For the uninitiated, Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock, or the clock tower as it’s commonly known.
The tower houses the second largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and remains one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom.
Visit: Tower Bridge
If the weather permits, walk over to Tower Bridge from Big Ben – it shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes on foot. Alternatively, hop onto the Tube and exit at either Tower Hill or London Bridge. Tower Bridge crosses the River Thames and is an iconic symbol of London. It is also fairly easy to spot (I call it the blue bridge) from you’re descending into Heathrow International Airport.
The present blue colour represents Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee – it was previously red and white.
Eat: Hawksmoor Air Street
There are four outlets altogether in London – Spitalfields, City, Covent Garden and Air Street, where the Hawksmoor is more upscale with wood panels, leather upholstered sofas and art deco on the walls. The steak is pretty decent; I personally like eating the ribeye but if you prefer flavour over fat, their tenderloin is worth checking out.
Visit: Portobello Road Market
Hands down my favourite market to visit in London, Portobello Market has a mind-boggling range of knick knacks and food items to choose from. The paella is good stuff and if you’re looking to shop for spices and oils, this is the place to do so.
Do get yourself some stuffed olives and red peppers – these are especially good and great for cooking. That is, if you can refrain from popping them into your mouth.
*Click here for details and opening hours.
Visit: Borough Market
Borough Market is known for its array of gourmet food items, from mouth-watering burgers right down to artisanal cheeses. Come here for the Chorizo roll, which is really delicious. There’s a perpetual queue at the stall but these guys work fast so you’ll get your fix in no time.
The market is open from Monday to Saturday, so do plan your day accordingly and check out what’s on offer. You won’t regret this!
*Click here for details and opening hours.
There’s just something about Harrod’s that I can’t get enough of – it could be the merchandises on display or the food hall, which I absolutely love. I come here mostly to suss out designer goods, and once I’m done, it’s straight to the oyster bar for a treat.
The delicatessen range is quite good here, so go and indulge in some. :)
Eat: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Possibly the most sought-after fine dining restaurant in London, it took me more than a month to get a spot for lunch. But the wait is worth it. The dishes are classic, refined to reflect the high standards of Heston, but not at all pretentious.
If you’re up for wine pairing, the in-house sommelier makes rather good recommendations. Read my blogpost here.
Eat: Balthazar, Covent Garden
Balthazar has become one of my favourite spot for brunch in London, ever since a reader recommended it to me. The place packs up rather quickly so go early to get a table or call them to book ahead.
Try the scrambled egg with Cornish crab as well as their Eggs Benedict. Coffee is just alright, so what I usually do is have tea and then head for coffee someplace else.
Experience: London Underground
London isn’t quite complete if you don’t check out the tube. You can either hop on from Heathrow Airport or use this mode of transportation to get around the city. It’s convenient and somewhat economical (if you don’t convert), so do get yourself an Oyster Card to make your trips hassle-free.
Eat: Kensington Creperie
This is my favourite spot for crepes (both sweet and savoury) in London. I’ve been coming here for years, ever since I was a student. The crepes are made to order and you also have the option of customising your own crepe.
My personal favourite for savoury is the Mona Liza, which comes with feta cheese, spinach, mushroom, bacon, egg and cheddar cheese. If something sweet is what you crave, La Belle Helene is quite commendable. That one has poached pear, almond and milk chocolate, topped with vanilla ice cream.
Malaysia Airlines offers direct flights to London twice a day, using the Airbus A380. The A380 has 8 seats in first class at the front of the lower deck, 66 business class seats on the upper deck and 420 economy seats across both decks.