Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect 24 hours in London itinerary! I was so excited to visit London and experience this London itinerary. True story: my parents lived in London in the late 1970s, before I was born. (Long before I was born, ahem.)
My mother told me that back then, the only food available in London restaurants was one moldy roast beef with a side of deflated Yorkshire pudding served by a toothless crone in a back alley. How far the London food scene has come since then!
We will spend the entire London itinerary eating our way through London via a food tour and a classy Michelin-starred restaurant. For the next stop on our London itinerary we’ll stop by the Museum of London and learn even more fascinating fun facts about this city’s remarkable development! So come on and have a butcher’s hook at maybe the best London itinerary you’ll find on this blog!
24 Hours in London Itinerary
Where Do I Stay?
London’s a massive city, so there’s a gajillion choices available for hotels for your London itinerary. I can recommend two different options for the budget-conscious traveler. (London’s extremely expensive, so we might all be a little budget conscious when we visit here.) I’ve stayed at and enjoyed both The Crescent Hotel and the oddly named 72QT.
The Crescent Hotel is located in a beautiful Georgian building right near King’s Cross Station. So if you want to go catch a train to Hogwarts, it will be easy to do that from here. You can get a great rate booking the hotel here.
72QT is right on Hyde Park, on the other side of the park from Buckingham Palace. Click here if that sounds more appealing to you. Both hotels do a nice free English breakfast, and 72QT will even toss in a couple of Latvian beers. (Not for breakfast, though.)
If you’d rather explore other hotel options in London for your London Itinerary, you can find about a billion and three excellent choices by clicking here.
24 Hours in London Itinerary
What to Pack?
London, as you may have heard, is on the rainy side. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of London. I hear they’re strong enough to carry a nanny up into the sky like a kite, but that could just be a rumor.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them to tea without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from the UK, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. UK electrical outlets don’t work with either American or European plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours: London Itinerary
Morning: East End Food Tour
Before getting cultured at the Museum of London on this London itinerary, I need to feed you! I’m from New York City, and like most New Yorkers, I tend to compare pretty much every place I visit with my adorable hometown. So I was excited to take Eating Europe’s food tour of the East End.
This neighborhood, which has historically been home to many immigrant communities, reminds me of the Lower East Side back in NYC. Of course, in the Lower East Side, we don’t have a place called The English Restaurant. There are a few other key differences, which I’ll be happy to share with you in…
approximately top 5: east end food tour edition
1) St John Bread and Wine
The tour began with some British comfort food classics. Our first stop was St. John Bread and Wine. This restaurant is the brainchild of offal aficionado Fergus Henderson. Offal just means animal organs like brains and kidneys. Some people think they taste offal, but I enjoy them.
Anyway, you don’t need to worry about offal on this food tour because we are just having cozy bacon sandwiches. They came with a house made ketchup, which our guide Emily told us had a special fruit in the sauce. What is it, Internet Stranger? I’ll never tell! And not because I forgot!
2) The English Restaurant
Speaking of English comfort food, our next spot was The English Restaurant for some bread and butter pudding. (A reminder to my fellow Yanks that in England, pudding is just a dessert and not necessarily milk based.) Emily advised us to leave a hole in the pudding so we could put lashings of hot custard on top. You don’t have to tell me twice! Warm custard on top of dessert is the greatest of all English customs in my book.
The English Restaurant is family owned, and it hasn’t been open terribly long. But the building itself dates back to the 17th century. I don’t think there’s a single building in New York City that is that old, unless you count the Hellmouth in the basement of Port Authority. So I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to wander around and enjoy the historic wood.
That hand telling you to dine upstairs is so classy! You can tell it dates back to the days when ladies were not allowed in the club.
What would an English food tour be without some classic English cheese? That’s why we turned into Androuet, which is a cheese shop with stores in Paris and London. The cheesemongers here were French, so they cracked wise about how they were being forced to give us English cheeses instead of their preferred fromage. But who can really say no to a fine Cheddar or Stilton?
You could really taste the difference between the processed Cheddar and this baby. Androuet’s Cheddar actually tasted a bit of grass, that’s how natural it was. It’s named for a village called Cheddar, which is where it was first produced. I need to go to there…to work on my night cheese.
Stilton, the blue, is a much stronger cheese. We were told that it needs to be made with pasteurized cow milk, or it’s not Stilton. I really want to know who makes all the cheesemakers follow these rules. Is there a Cheese Police? A Cheese Court of Appeals? A Cheese Supreme Court? Does England have Cheese Solicitors and Cheese Barristers? Do they wear wigs of Cheese?
4) Poppie’s Fish and Chips
One simply cannot have an English food tour without fish and chips. I loved Poppie’s because of its adorable retro decor. If you click on the link to their website, when you arrive, you will see Pop himself wearing a hat made out of a newspaper and looking every inch the cranky gentleman.
The hat’s not actually not made out of real newspaper because that wouldn’t be hygienic. But as fish and chips were traditionally served in a newspaper, Poppie’s prints its own clean, ink-free papers for the take-away fish.
The fish and the chips are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, just as they should be. Like any red-blooded American, I enjoy ketchup on my fries. But when in England, I prefer to shake some vinegar and salt on my potatoes instead. Basically anything you put on a potato tastes good. That’s the magic of the spud!
Poppie’s also puts Cockney rhyming slang on their newspaper wrapping. Cockney rhyming slang is a kind of slanguage that was popular among a certain element of London society once upon a time. It’s easy to learn and fun to practice! Trouble and strife = wife, butcher’s hook= look, and Rosie Lee = tea. I’d love to come up with a rhyming slang name for this blog, but I think Around the World in 24 Hours is too long to rhyme.
5) Pride of Spitalfields
This is a food tour, not a booze tour, but what’s English food without the humble pub? So of course we had to stop at a charming local called The Pride of Spitalfields. You know it’s authentic because they have rugs on the floor, mismatched chairs, and a pet cat. Also one of the suspects in the Jack the Ripper case used to drink here. It’s like Agatha Christie wrote a pub.
We were served some ale and some cider at room temperature. (They were in separate glasses.) Some Americans on the tour were really weirded out by the room temperature ale, but I say there’s no point in sweating small cultural differences. Some people spell color with a u, some people serve beer at room temp.
The tour had now brought us to the Bangladeshi community on Brick Lane, so that meant it was time for curry. Our dining destination was Aladin, which had a sign outside proudly proclaiming that it had received an award for best curry from Ainsley Hayes. (Ainsley Hayes is a British chef with a great accent and adorably demented facial expressions. Please Google Ainsley Hayes memes immediately, and then watch his show Ainsley Eats the Streets.)
I do not know if it’s the best curry in Brick Lane, but the spicy lamb and chicken tikka were pretty darn tasty in my book. Emily told us that chicken tikka masala had recently been voted the national dish of the United Kingdom. (The dish was invented in the UK, possibly in Glasgow, not actually in India.)
Apparently Prince Charles has eaten at Aladin, and you can tell the Royal Family is popular in this restaurant because of this massive mural featuring the Queen, her corgis, Big Ben, a double decker bus, Banksy, probably Sean Connery, London cabs, and two disembodied eyes. Are the eyes protecting London or planning to set the whole city on fire with the power of their mind? It’s really hard to tell from this picture.
7) Brick Lane Bakery
I was terribly confused when I heard Emily talk about a beigel (pronounced by-gull). In NYC, we love our bagels enough to spell them without the letter i. But the East End used to be a Jewish neighborhood, and the Jewish immigrants brought their bagels to London just the same way they brought them to New York City.
Here in London, they seemed more likely to serve the beigel with salt beef and mustard instead of lox and cream cheese. I know I should say NYC bagels are better, but I honestly feel there’s room in my tummy for both of these goodies, just like there’s room in my tummy for room temperature ale and spelling theater theatre.
8) Pizza East London
Our final stop was at a newer, trendier restaurant called Pizza East. This place showed how the East End had gentrified in recent years. Now we were served a small piece of chocolate salted caramel tart, something I think you’d have been hard-pressed to find in London back in 1670. But there’s one thing I’m sure of about British food. Whether it’s a bread and butter pudding or a salted caramel tart, those Brits know how to bake!
24 Hours: London Itinerary
Afternoon: Museum of London
Now that we’ve eaten our way through London history, it’s time on our London Itinerary to learn more about the city the old fashioned way: by examining the bones of its pets. And there’s no better place to do that than at the Museum of London.
Like most of your finer museums in London, the Museum of London is free and the docent tours are free. Plus it’s open every day, so even if you’re in London on a Monday, you’ll have plenty to do. At the Museum of London you’ll learn how London developed from a hunting ground for troglodytes into one of the grandest and most powerful cities the world has ever known, if you don’t take dental care into consideration.
three fun facts about london: museum of london
1) how old is london?
I mentioned that the Museum of London has daily docent tours for free. Each one is on a different subject. The only one available the day I was visited was on prehistoric London, which I wasn’t so sure I wanted to know about. Boy was I wrong! We learned about how there were Bronze Age settlements around London thousands of years ago. (Obviously it wasn’t called London back then. I imagine its name was something more like Ugh.)
During the Bronze Age, elaborate burial rituals began to develop. One of these rituals involved burying beloved animals like this guard dog. I sure hope that dog was already dead when it got buried!
At the end of the tour, our Museum of London docent said that examining artifacts from prehistoric settlements of London showed that London had always been a special place even before it was officially named London. I got a bit choked up at this terribly British show of emotion. (At the time I was visiting, London had recently been the victim of a terrorist attack.)
2) was it always called london?
The first people to truly settle London were the Romans. They called it Londinium, though no one is sure exactly why. The site was chosen in part because of its strategic location on the Thames River. (There’s a reason all old cities are on the water. Water is necessary for life, Internet Stranger! Go drink a glass right now.)
Class stratification was alive and well back in Roman London. Above you can see a Museum of London recreation of a lower class Roman home…
And this part of the Museum of London shows how the I percent would have lived back in Londinium. When I imagine life back in Londinium, I can’t help but visualize all the Roman peasants with Cockney accents even though I know it’s anachronistic. I must have seen My Fair Lady one too many times!
3) Is London Burning?
Eventually London grew into the megalopolis that we know and love today. The one problem is that the buildings, like the Rose Theater pictured at the Museum of London above, were largely made of wood. And all it takes is one little spark to bring the city down.
On September 2nd 1666 (the Year of the Beast), that’s exactly what happened. A fire started in Thomas Farriner’s Bakery on Pudding Lane. Of course the bakery was on Pudding Lane. Even giant, death-dealing British conflagrations have something cute about them.
Most of the exhibit in the Museum of London on the Great Fire of 1666 is dedicated to figuring out who started it. Spoiler Alert! It was probably not a cow. I personally think it was legendary architect Sir Christopher Wren because he profited the most from all the church building that needed to be done after the fire. I mean, I don’t think Wren actually did it. But if I were writing an alternate history novel about the Great Fire of London, he definitely would be the bad guy.
24 Hours: London Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at The Clove Club
This morning on our London itinerary, we learned all about classic British comfort foods and the foods of its many immigrant communities. Then we learned all about London at the Museum of London. But tonight on our London itinerary, we will learn about fine dining in contemporary London by spending an evening at The Clove Club.
This restaurant has a Michelin star and was recently ranked the 33rd best restaurant in the world by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, if you care about that sort of thing. I definitely do, otherwise why would I have looked up the information? I have better things to do that look up useless facts, Internet Stranger! Like I need to share with you…
approximately top 5: clove club edition
The Clove Club is a tasting menu restaurant, and like most tasting menu restaurants, it begins with an array of delectable snacks. The first was a punchy palette cleanser of mango gazpacho with almond milk and almonds.
Here we have an adorable crab tart served inside a giant crab shell. I like an hors d’oeurvre with a side of whimsy!
Now there’s a one bite of buttermilk fried chicken served with pine salt. You could do a lot worse than finding this fried chicken underneath your Christmas tree. Are you listening, Santa?
Batting cleanup is this ball filled with haggis. The Clove Club specializes in British fine dining, and what is more British than Scotland’s national dish? Some people think haggis tastes offal, but if you’re fine with sausage, I don’t see why you wouldn’t like haggis. I think a perfectly spiced haggis is a right treat. (I’m hoping this post will win me honorary citizenship to Scotland.)
As my grandmother always said, “Once the haggis is done, it’s time for the real meal to begin.” This first course is Cornish Mackerel sashimi with English mustard, cucumber, and elderflower. One thing I liked about The Clove Club was that they prepared classic English ingredients in surprising ways.
I’m sure Cornish fishermen never thought about turning mackerel into sashimi unless it was raining so badly that their flints were unable to start a fire. But it turns out that the flavorful mackerel is excellent served raw. “ARRR!” my imaginary Cornish pirate friend agrees.
This minimalist treat is raw Orkney scallop with Manjimup truffles, clementines, and hazelnuts. One of the reasons to experience a tasting menu restaurant is to check out a new ingredient, and I had never knowingly eaten a Manjimup truffle before. They actually come from Australia.
I know Australia used to be a British penal colony, so I suppose it counts as a local ingredient. Anyway, much like Lorelei Lee enjoyed finding new places to wear diamonds, I enjoy finding new places to find truffles.
For the soup course, I was presented with courgettes, chrysanthemum, and ham. (In the US we call courgettes zucchini. In the United Kingdom they use the French term. I don’t really understand that because France has been our ally since the American Revolution, and the French and the United Kingdom have only been allies, historically speaking, for about five minutes.) Anyway, I can tell the chef at The Clove Club has learned every Southerner’s secret to cooking green vegetables, which is just to add pig fat to everything.
Now things get a bit more substantial with Dover sole with green pepper hollandaise and Morecambe Bay shrimp sauce. I’m so happy to see that modern British restaurants are using their amazing seafood properly. Morecambe Bay is in England’s gorgeous lake district, and I can eagerly report that their shrimps are delectable. I also enjoy that the menu told me exactly which part of England all the ingredients came from. It’s a better geography lesson than I got at the Museum of London!
This course, which also looks like a modern art painting, is roast Old Spot pork with cherries, beetroot, and almonds. If there’s one thing I need to thank The Clove Club for, it’s introducing me to Old Spot pigs. These are a cute-as-pie breed of pig that live in Gloucester.
The meat was so full of flavor, I could almost have eaten the pork without any sauce at all and been happy. Although I must say, meat enthusiast though I am, it’s a little disturbing to read that the Old Spot pig is “unusually intelligent”. I hope when the pigs rise up and take over the world, they’ll remember that I said they were cute!
The next course was probably the most clever on the menu. You’re probably thinking there’s nothing especially clever about soup in a fancy glass. But this isn’t just any soup! First the waiter brought out some 100 year old Madeira for me to taste. “Have some Madeira, my dear,” he said. I enjoyed it muchly, but I’d be lying if I said I could taste the difference between 100 year old Madeira and 50 year old Madeira. All I know is that both are booze.
But then the waiter came and added a warm duck and ginger consomme to the Madeira, so I could see how different it tasted in the soup. It was as warming as a hug from a grizzly bear in July. More restaurants should take this approach to cooking with the hard stuff.
The final savory course was slow roast Lincolnshire chicken with smoked liver and artichoke. This felt like an old-fashioned Dickensian dish Mr. Fezziwig might enjoy. I’m sure he wouldn’t think smoked liver was offal.
The English geography lesson continues apace with the chicken from Lincolnshire, which is not far from Nottingham. So I assume that means Robin Hood himself shot this chicken for me. I eat this succulent chicken in the name of King Richard!
The first course was a gooseberry fool with fennel granita. A gooseberry fool sounds like an insult from a 19th century novel about a British girls’ boarding school. But a fool is just a British dessert made by mushing fruit and cream or custard together. The fennel granita is what brings it into the 21st century. I’m sure Tom Brown never once had fennel granita in all his meals at Rugby School.
Our final course is apricot sorbet with toasted almond, burned honey, and bee pollen. It’s a great idea to serve bee pollen with the honey. Of course they would go well together! They go together just like bees and honey! Also, I feel this is the portion of the evening when the wine pairings are starting to get to me. You can tell because my photo got super blurry.
Just like every proper tasting menu ends in snacks, each proper tasting menu must end with petits fours. Here we have one perfect chocolate, one perfect cake, and one truffle made with Fernet-Branca, a kind of Italian herbal liqueur. There’s even a card with a recipe for the Fernet-Branca cocktail with the truffle. Once again, The Clove Club is proving itself to be delicious and educational!
That’s a 24 Hours: London Itinerary
What would you do on your London itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in London right now? Do you plan on visiting the Museum of London with me to prove that Sir Christopher Wren started the Great Fire? And what will happen to the human race when the intelligent pigs rise up and overpower us all? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours on a London Itinerary.
If you want to add a London itinerary that includes the National Gallery, try this one. If you want another 24 hours in 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.