Rugby Visitors Guide to London

Jug of Pimms on table

Pimms o’clock. Photo © imbeingerica

So, you’ve found yourself in London for that all-important match, and you have some time to kill on either side of your trip to Wembley.

Well, you may as well make the most of your stay and take to the capital’s streets with a view to explore all its hidden treasures.

With only a few days in the city, it’s only right that you avoid those standard tourist traps and spend as much time as you can visiting the top-quality (and less crowded!) markets, bars and hot spots.

So that you can say you spent your staycation like a real Londoner would.

If you’re interested in doing just that, then read on, sports fans…

1. Markets

During your time in the capital, you must, must, must get yourself down to sample some of the city’s finest home-grown produce.

With local farmers’ markets and Street Feast-style food festivals popping up in almost every corner of the city, you’re never too far away from fresh, ‘fashionable’, and well-made food.

People shopping in Borough Market, London

Borough Market crowd. Photo © imbeingerica

You do want to be able to brag to all your friends back home that you were able to sample some of the trendiest food in the world while in London, right?

Plus, a lot of the food markets  (like Borough Market in Southwark, Market Row and The Village in Brixton, and Greenwich Market in… Greenwich) have taste-testers and samples a-plenty.

This means you can basically wander the stalls and spend your time feasting on the freebie samples until your belly can take no more. It’s a great way to save some pennies in the day to keep the adventure flowing into the evening.

Borough Market, London

Free food to be had here. Photo © imbeingerica

2. City views

If you’ve only got a day or two in the city, you will definitely want to avoid all those overcrowded tourist spots, and ensure that you spend your downtime wisely.

To get some of the best views of the city, you need to go up.

(If you’re booked into a central London Travelodge, you’re always within a short Tube ride or walk of these views.)

View from Thames of Tower Bridge

The Shard and Tower Bridge. Photo © imbeingerica

Leave the Eye for the other out-of-towners, and instead head east towards Tower Bridge, where you can now ascend both the North and South Towers, and walk between both along a glass-bottomed walkway.

From your perch 46 meters above the traffic, you’ll have excellent views over St Katharine and Tobacco Docks all the way out to Canary Wharf and Stratford in the east.

View of Thames River, London

View over Thames. Photo © imbeingerica

While from The Shard on the Southbank, the 360-degree views of London are indescribable. Plus there’s a bar.

But if heights aren’t your thing though, make the outer boroughs of the city your friend for the afternoon. From Greenwich’s Royal Observatory you have excellent views of the Isle of Dogs and out to the City of London. Book into a hotel near the O2 for a Greenwich location close to transport links and the Olympic Stadium.

From Blythe Hill Fields in Brockley, near Greenwich, you’ll have a panorama of both the City and the Wharf.

Staying near Twickenham? From Richmond Park in the west, you’ll have some of the most exceptional views of the whole of London.

And deer.

You’ll definitely also get to see some deer. Take a picnic and make a day of it. There’s definitely bragging rights in picnicking with deer, I’m sure of it.

3. Big nights and bottomless brunches

It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a lads’ night out, a big night on the tiles, or hoping to sample of London’s finest ‘bottomless brunches’, because there’s a place to drink in London for everyone.

From ‘old man pubs’ to kitschy pop-up bars and hilarious bingo nights, there’s genuinely a night out in this town for every man and his dog (some genuinely come with their own dogs!).

London brunch

Big brunch. Photo © imbeingerica

If it’s dancing you’re after, you’ll be wanting Central London. If trendy cocktails in jam jars are more your speed, head east to Shoreditch and Hoxton.

Just after a cold beer in a pub with a king’s name and a decent jukebox? Try Camden in North London.

Want to watch the sports? Clapham in West London is your best bet.

And, with the recent introduction of boozy brunches to London, a happy afternoon has never been more acceptable – and affordable.

If drinking before five isn’t your cuppa tea, then just ask for a cuppa tea, an equally acceptable bevvy to be drinking alongside your sweet potato pancakes or vegan full English, or bowl of cereal,  if that’s more your speed. When in Rome…

4. Shopping (or not)

Don’t do it. I do not recommend it.

Shopping in London should be avoided at all costs.

But, if this isn’t a possibility, simply try avoiding the major shopping centres around the city, including Oxford Street. If you don’t mind being elbow-to-elbow with other shoppers, melting in the fitting rooms, and never able to ever find somewhere to sit down, then disregard my advice entirely.

If you’re after a quick bargain, something a little bit different, and knicky-knacky souvenirs to take home to the babysitter and dog walker, then try some of the City’s markets instead.

Flower market

Flower market. Photo © imbeingerica

Portobello Road in the west and Spitalfields and Petticoat Lane Markets in the east regularly host some of the country’s top designers and creators of not only clothing, but hair accessories and scarves, unusual sculptures and artwork, and much more.

If you’re after something uncommon that you won’t find back home, then these markets are where you’ll want to spend your time.

5. Tours

If shopping’s not your speed and you want to get as much as you can from the city, then I would definitely suggest getting involved in some of the city’s quirky walking tours.

From walks around the Royal Parks to Sherlock Holmes tours and Pirate Pub Crawls around the docks, there are some hilarious and ridiculous walking tours to participate in.

They’ll absolutely take you off the beaten tourist track, and have you leaving London with a richer knowledge of our fair capital’s history.

So that’s a pretty good start, don’t you think?

There are, of course, the more obvious of ways to spend your time in the city that you must do if you’ve not done them before.

Get on a London Duck Bus or Thames Cruise of some sort, head to Kew Gardens for an afternoon stroll, hire a Santander Cycle and follow the bike paths around the Royal Parks, hop on-and-off a city tour bus, eat afternoon tea in a posh hotel, go to the theatre, go see if the Queen is at home, do all of the Harry Potter things, all the museums, see the dinosaurs, etc, etc, etc.

But really, if you’ve only got a couple of days, then, do try and make the most of it! Most of all, have fun!