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A Perfect 12 Hours in London

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Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to a perfect 12 hours in London. Now, I know some of you might be thinking that 12 hours in London is not nearly enough time to spend in such a large and marvelous city.

And you know what? You’d be absolutely right. But if you’ve got 12 hours in London, I absolutely want to help you make the most of it with this itinerary. We’re going to eat some of the best food in the city, we’ll take in some wonderful modern art, and we’ll end at one of the coolest restaurants in town. Let’s not waste any more time! After all, we’ve only got 12 hours.

12 hours in london

12 Hours in London

Where Do I Stay?

London’s a massive city, so there’s a gajillion choices available for hotels for your 12 hours in London. I can recommend my favorite choice for the budget-conscious traveler. (London’s gobstoppingly expensive, so we might all be a little budget conscious when we visit here, unless we are the King.) I’ve stayed at and enjoyed the oddly named 72QT

72QT is right on Hyde Park, on the other side of the park from Buckingham Palace, near Paddington Station. So you can go say hello to Paddington Bear’s statue in Paddington Station if you stay here. You can even leave him a jar of marmalade. Click here if that sounds appealing to you and you like saving money.

If you’d rather explore other hotel options in London, you can find about a billion and three excellent deals for every budget by clicking here. This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay during your plans for your 12 hours in London. With plenty of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

12 hours in london

12 Hours in London

Morning: London Bridge Secret Food Tour

So, I’d be lying to you if I said that London was always known for having an amazing food scene. Back in the 1960s, I hear that eating in a restaurant in London could actually give you scurvy.

Fast forward to today, and there are more amazing restaurants in London than you can shake a stick at. We’ll experience some of London’s best fine dining scene this evening, but we’re going to spend this morning on a London Bridge food tour, where we can have some British classics.

You can go ahead and book this amazing tour by clicking here. Then get ready to join me for…

Approximately Top 5: London Bridge Secret Food Tour

12 hours in london
1) BAP

Our first stop is at a little neighborhood spot called Brood for a delicious morning treat called a bap. I hope that you haven’t eaten breakfast this morning because you’re going to need to save all your room for this yummy goodness.

I keep thinking that bap must stand for something, like the BEC (bacon egg and cheese) sandwich that is so popular in my hometown NYC. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. A breakfast bap is a roll that’s filled with warm breakfast foods like bacon and egg, and it’s the perfect morning pick me up.

12 hours in london

I ordered the drink upgrade, which means I got to wash my bap down with a Pimm’s Cup. I’m used to having this refreshing drink in New Orleans, but we don’t put as much fruit in it as they do in the UK. I approve of the fruit, though, as it makes it seem more appropriate to be drinking alcohol for breakfast.

12 hours in london
2) Fish and Chips

It’s not a proper London food tour without fish and chips, innit? We headed over to Borough Market, which is one of the best markets in London, for some fish and chips.

These are made with haddock, which is caught fresh and fried every day. That way you know your fish and chips is going to be piping hot and delicious. (It’s okay to let the fish cool off a bit in your mouth, though.)

I do see ketchup being offered for the chips, and while I am ‘Murican and love my ketchup, when I’m in London, I do as the Brits do and put vinegar on my chips. It’s fun to try new things from time to time!

12 hours in london
3) Sausage Roll

After the fish and chips, we get some time to shop in Borough Market on our own time. This was fun because there are so many amazing stalls where you can buy foodie treats for you and your friends. Don’t worry about needing a refrigerator because there’s plenty of shops that sell things like jams and spices that are easy to take home.

Once your shopping is done, your guide will have a piping hot sausage roll for you. It really does seem like all English foods are just meat/fish with breading of some sort wrapped around it. Does anyone in England go low-carb? I really hope not!

You can tell this sausage roll is the business because there’s a bunch more sausage than there is roll. Nothing is sadder than biting into a sausage roll and getting mostly dough.

12 hours in london
4) ???

OK, this drink isn’t exactly a secret, but I don’t want to spoil it because it was such a funny surprise. We stopped by the old ship called the Great Hinde that belonged to the famous 16th century English explorer, Francis Drake. (It’s not the actual ship, but a re-creation.)

So we toasted this beauty with an alcoholic treat that Sir Francis Drake himself might have enjoyed. It’s made with honey, and it’s delicious. I’m not going to tell you the name, but you can probably figure it out on your own.

12 hours in london
5) Cheese Please

England doesn’t get as much positive press for its cheeses as France does, but I happen to think British cheese is delicious. We got to try a whole cheese plate at an adorable pub near the Francis Drake ship. Just feast your eyes on these beauties:

12 hours in london

We had a mild goat, a sturdy Cheddar, and a pungent Stilton. (I know some people don’t like the stinky blue cheese, but it really is delicious once you get used to the taste. And it’s even more delicious when washed down with a glass of cider–the boozy dry cider for adults, not the sweet kind.)

12 hours in london
6) A cuppa tea and some pudding

If you are in the mood for something sweet, never fear! Our final stop is for dessert. But there’s going to be a fragrant cup of powerful English breakfast tea to go with it. I know that some people take all tea black, and I like to have some tea without milk, but in this blogger’s ‘umble opinion, English breakfast tea should be taken with milk.

12 hours in london

And what goes better with English breakfast tea than a sticky toffee pudding? I always have to remind myself that American English and British English don’t meant the same thing by the world pudding. If you ask for a pudding in the United States, you’ll get something with a lot of milk in it, like chocolate pudding or rice pudding.

As much as I like our American puddings, I have to say that sticky toffee is the queen of puddings. Just look at all that rich sugary delightfulness! And our 12 hours in London is not even halfway over!

12 hours in london

12 Hours in London

Afternoon: The Tate Modern

I personally think that, even if you are only planning 12 hours in London, it’s basically a crime to visit the city and not see a museum. After all, there’s grillions of excellent museums in London, and many of them are free.

I’ve written about many of the best museums in the city, from the National Gallery to the British Museum, but today I’d like to take you to the Tate Modern for something a little, well, more modern. The museum is free, and admission includes free tours led by one of the knowledgeable volunteer docents.

I learned so much on this tour and would be delighted to share with you…

Three Fascinating Facts: Tate Modern

12 hours in london
1) What’s the most famous piece in the Tate Modern?

That’s subjective, of course, but some would say it’s this work above by the American artist Roy Lichtenstein. The Tate Modern purchased it for almost nothing, and now it’s worth a fortune. I wonder if that’s how the Tate can afford to let everyone in for free.

Our docent told us that Lichtenstein usually has one of two subjects: either war or a woman thinking about a man named Brad. So it seems like he is using a comic book style to satirize masculinity. Our docent also told us that Lichtenstein uses a machine to make all those dots. I wish I had a machine that would let me make art that is worth as much as an original Lichtenstein, but science hasn’t advanced that far yet.

12 hours in london
2) Is there any political art?

Oh yes, there’s tons of political art. We would expect that in any modern art museum. This piece is by a feminist artist who is famous for her colorful pieces celebrating sexuality. Some of us in the audience were wondering if it was a celebration of sexuality or a critique of the way women are sexualized by society, but the docent seemed sure it was a celebration.

You might be wondering what that helmet is doing there. Apparently it’s a reference to a Russian female cosmonaut. (I suppose I should say a Soviet female cosmonaut.) I wish I knew the cosmonaut’s name, but that wasn’t available in the docent notes?

12 hours in london
3) What is this?

Glad you asked, Internet Stranger! So first off, this is an Henri Matisse. If you know anything about Matisse, you know that this is one of his collages that he made by cutting out pieces of colorful paper. It was quite an innovative technique for his day.

However, Matisse wasn’t just cutting out random pieces of paper and gluing them together. Can you guess what image this is supposed to be? Well, unlike with our honey alcohol, I’m not going to leave you in suspense. It’s a snail!

Someone on the docent tour was able to guess that it was a snail, and I have no idea how. I assume they were already Matisse experts because this doesn’t look like any snail I have ever seen, but maybe I have been looking in the wrong gardens.

12 hours in london
24 Hour Treasure: Millennium Bridge

When you exit the Tate Modern, you’ll be just nearby the famous Millennium Bridge. Don’t miss the chance to walk across it! As you can probably guess, this bridge opened in the year 2000, so it is just a wee bit younger than the famous London Bridge.

As eye-catching as the Millennium Bridge is, you have to be a little brave to walk across it. It’s also known as the Wobbly Bridge because it wobbled so badly when it first opened that they had to shut it down for another two years before they could fix it. So it really should be called the Almost Millennium Bridge, in my opinion. And it just shows the dangers of rushing a bridge out to make a deadline.

12 hours in London

12 Hours in London

Evening: Dinner at Lyle’s

Lyle’s is known as a modern British restaurant, showcasing the best of British produce and meat. Although the English might not have developed as many cooking techniques as the French or the Japanese, they have access to some of the best foods in the world, and it was great to experience a restaurant that truly understands that.

At Lyle’s they just serve one tasting menu for the evening, so you don’t have any choices. But that means you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the meal!

12 hours in london

The first course was Maldon rock oysters with green tomatoes, cucumbers, and almond. The whole thing couldn’t have been more refreshing, and I loved the presentation on the bed of oyster shells. My only complaint is that all those shells made me think that there were more oysters, but sadly there were not.

12 hours in london

I enjoyed my 12 hours in London in the summer, and what says summer more than a beautiful gazpacho? This soup was chilled and served with a honeymoon honeydew melon that brought out the sweetness in the tomatoes. I never realized that honeydew melon could taste this fancy because it usually tastes like the option no one wants in a fruit basket.

12 hours in london

Next was the fish course: ray, peas, and cured mangalitsa. (Mangalitsa is a very cute breed of Hungarian pig, and I don’t suggest Googling it unless you want to feel really guilty about eating its flesh. I mean, I didn’t feel guilty, but I am a particularly heartless person.)

And when we speak of English produce, I’m not sure any type is more delicious than peas in season. Most people don’t eat a lot of ray, but it has a sweet flavor that goes perfectly with the saltier pig meat.

12 hours in london

Next we’ve got the meat course, and considering that it’s Welsh mutton, I don’t think it could be more British. This mutton was served with Borlotti beans and courgettes, which is English for zucchini. See how pink and bashful the mutton looks hiding under the vegetables!

I always like when a meat dish manages to stay light and summery, and of course courgettes always make everything taste more like summer. (I also like saying courgettes because it makes me feel like Queen Victoria.)

12 hours in london

The only decision you have to make during the meal is whether or not to order the cheese. I told the waitress that I wanted the cheese at the beginning, and she said to wait until then because I might be full. HAHAHAHA! I told her. I am never full. (I didn’t literally say that because I am not insane, but it’s still true.)

The two cheeses were the harder St. James cheese and the softer Winslade. Seriously, if you have the chance to eat English cheese, eat as much as you can. You’ll thank me later!

12 hours in london

After all that decadence, we ended the meal with a ricotta ice cream with fig leaf oil. I had never thought about whether or not figs have leaves or if you could make oil with them or not. But the oil added a bright quality to the rich ricotta ice cream. It was the perfect end to a perfect 12 hours in London!

12 hours in London

12 Hours in London

Tools For Travel

  • A cell charger so that you’ll be able to keep taking photos of your 12 hours in London
  • The best international travel adapter because if you’re American like I am, you’ll need one to be able to plug in electronics during your literary 12 hours in London
  • My favorite travel guide to London, including many of the places mentioned in this itinerary
  • The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds.
  • These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take you on a journey of self-discovery.
12 hours in london

That’s a Perfect 12 Hours in London

What would you do with 12 hours in London? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in London right now? Please email me at and let me know!

Note: Keep in mind that while this article is about what to do in 12 hours in London that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 12 hours in London. If you want to add a London itinerary, try this one.

If you want yet another London itinerary, it’s all yours. And if you want to add on other destinations in the United Kingdom, I’ve got you covered too, right here.

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