LONDON ON THE LIGHT

Written by root. Posted in FEATURES

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Published on November 07, 2016 with No Comments

Enjoying this world-class city for almost next to nothing.

Words EMMA RAMSAY

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Big Ben seen from the London Eye. Credit: Visit Britain

 

 

London to every traveller almost always conjures up a mental picture of a pinched pocket. But if you know where to look, the city has plenty to offer the traveller on a shoestring budget.

When it comes to food, London is a collaboration of different cultures and a melting pot of great cuisines from around the world. The markets are the best place to not only experience this but also source for cheap eats. You can explore London’s oldest market in Southwark, Borough Market, that has great options for international cuisines and takeaway options. There are Moroccon salads, chocolate cakes, sandwiches, meat pies, falafels, fruits and gourmet lunches ready to go if you’re in a hurry. The Veggie Table for instance preps some of the most luscious vegan and vegetarian burgers, using locally-sourced legumes, beans and vegetables, before whipping them up into sumptuous creations.

Of course, a London trip will not be complete without experiencing a traditional English afternoon tea. But do it with a twist. With the Afternoon Tea Bus Tour, guests can mix a London sightseeing tour while nibbling on finger sandwiches, macarons, scones, mini quiches and pastries. The best part is they also offer gluten-free, vegetarian and halal menus upon request. The bus, a Routemaster nonetheless, passes some of London’s iconic landmarks, including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Royal Albert Hall.

For more options on cheap eats, Bayswater seems to be popular with backpackers and budget-conscious travellers. Here is also where neighbourhoods are filled with halal eateries, from Chinese noodles to Middle Eastern fare, and more. Bayswater is also the place for a comfortable dig without breaking the bank. La Suite West Hyde Park, designed by Anouska Hempel, is a stunning designer residence. A former 19th Century building, this has been turned into a stylish abode with rooms that have Japanese accents but done modern. The elegant garden terrace is popular for taking tea or sipping any of their chic alcoholic-free mocktails, especially when the weather’s balmy. Its RAW restaurant now offers vegan afternoon teas including a menu that will make meat-free lovers happy. The rooms themselves are stylishly dark with wooden accents, with slatted shutter slides, a sleek marble bathroom and a private terrace in the bigger rooms.

For sightseeing, not many cities offer as many world-class museums as London that can be explored for free. At the top of the list, kids and adults alike will have a field time at The Natural History Museum. The arresting Alfred Waterhouse building is home to over 70 million plant, animal, fossil, rock and mineral specimens. Come face-to-face with dinosaurs and other sealife, and don’t forget to enjoy the museum’s open-air Ice Rink for a limited time this year end for a bout of skating fun under the stars. With its fairy lights and a fairground carousel on site, this certainly is an enchanted place to be this season.

The British Museum, opened in 1759, was the first national museum and remains free for all to visit. Here’s where visitors can marvel at past civilisations and admire ancient artifacts. Come over and see if you can spot the actual locations used during the filming of the third installment of Night at the Museum.

Meanwhile, for lovers of modern art, Tate Modern is the ultimate powerhouse on the subject. Spread over seven floors of a former power station, its permanent collection offers heavy-hitters such as Cezanne, Matisse and John Singer Sargent. Now, there’s even more reason to visit with the opening of the new Herzog & de Meuron-designed, 10-storey Switch House extension. Home to the Tate Modern Espresso Bar (Switch House, Level 2), a 150-cover Tate Modern Restaurant (Switch House, Level 9), and Viewing Gallery (Switch House, Level 10), try not to miss the chance to explore these communal spaces and seek the panoramic roof terrace that overlooks the London skyline.

To catch the freshest London vibe, head over to Shoredith, a gentrified neighbourhood that is both low-key and cool. Walk around the area and soak up its laidback scene that boasts of hip cafes, quaint shops and vibrant art-and-exhibition areas. Boxpark is a neat pop-up mall concept made up of containers with indie fashion labels. Just around the corner from it is Spitalfields Market where you can see the young crowd selling anything from organic produce to artisanal everything and fashion. As the day winds down, head over to Brick Lane Road, an area famous for affordable curries, vintage shops and other bric-a-brack stores. Don’t leave without grabbing a cup of insanely chocolatey hot chocolate from Dark Sugars. At the store, this liquid gold drink is amped up with chopped milk, white and dark chocolate for a finishing touch, making the end result simply luscious. If the drink is a bit too much, browse around the shop for handmade truffles flavoured with cardamom, ginger and chili. Or simply ask for samples.

Round off your whirlwind London on a shoestring with one final bow. Tour the city on, get this – public bus. That’s right. Forget the touristy, four-frou set-ups. For only £1.50 using your Oyster Card, you can catch the No 11 from King’s Road in Chelsea to glimpse at the chic streets of Belgravia and marvel at the uniformed late Georgian estate of terraces, crescents and squares. Then get ready your camera as the bus takes you pass Big Ben and Parliament House in quick successions, before rambling through the Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street, Mansion House – the official residence of the Mayor of London, and ending at Liverpool Street station.

Royal Brunei Airlines flies London daily via Dubai.

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