A visit to London is always exciting but the sheer size of the city means it can sometimes feel a bit daunting trying to decide what to do, especially if you’re only there for a short time.
I’ve been to the capital a fair few times over the years but never for a completely sightseeing-orientated visit – I generally go down for gigs or events and last year, I had to go down a couple of times to visit my company’s head office and I’ve also managed to sneak a few touristy things in during each trip.
My most recent visit was, again, for a gig. But unlike when I was younger and always took the overnight coach back to the north (not fun!), we decided to stay over which meant we had a bit more time to explore areas further out of central London, so here’s a little look at how I spent 30 hours in London.
The Crypt Gallery
Our first port of call was a building I’ve walked past numerous times but it never occurred to me that it held a secret within. St Pancras Church is located across the road from Euston Station and as well as being a place of worship, it also has a unique exhibition space – located in its crypt!
The Crypt Gallery is one of the most atmospheric arts spaces I’ve ever visited. It’s dark, creepy (it’s the final resting place of more than 500 people) and historic with nooks and crannies which are ideal for installations and pieces.
It doesn’t house a permanent exhibition; instead a variety of exhibitions and events take place throughout the year (a calendar on the website reveals what’s on when).
During our visit, it was the last day of ‘Vanishing Species’, a show focused on endangered animals from the UK and beyond. It included drawings and mixed media works – including a haunting model of a sloth hanging from the ceiling of the crypt.
A fascinating place to explore and I’ll be sure to check the calendar every time I visit London from now on.
Dukes Road entrance (off Euston Road), NW1 2BA – cryptgallery.org.
Our next port of call was a world (and two zones) away from the Crypt Gallery. We hopped on the tube using our contactless bank cards – this charges you the same rate as Oyster and also puts a daily cap on how much you can spend depending on how many zones you travel though – and made our way to Tottenham Hale in zone 3.
A short walk from the station, you’ll find yourself at one of the city’s most well-known breweries. With their vibrant and dynamic branding, Beavertown stand out from the crowd and each Saturday they open their doors to their brewery so you can sample their beers at their very freshest.
The brewery itself is a very large space and there’s plenty of seating dotted around across the two main rooms, as well as a good-sized outdoor space which has been decorated with plants and trees to jazz it up a bit (it is on an industrial estate after all).
Units 17 and 18, Lockwood Industrial Park, Mill Mead Road, Tottenham Hale, N17 9QP – beavertownbrewery.co.uk.
Our gig was in Kentish Town so we’d decided to stay nearby in a cheap (and pretty damn horrible) B&B. Although I’d been to neighbouring Camden before, this was a new area for me so I was keen to explore.
After checking into our nasty B&B, we headed off for food. We ended up in Pizza East, a contemporary spot with an industrial-style décor and delicious aromas aplenty coming from the two wood-fired pizza ovens. With plenty of veggie options, this was an ideal spot for us and we were also given a £5 discount for downloading and using an app (I think it was called Cake).
After grub, we visited a few pubs in the area and also stumbled across some very pretty streets.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the beer wasn’t too expensive compared to central London – and I even met a pub cat. Say hello to Nelson from Tapping the Admiral.
A chap at another table had brought in some Dreamies for him and let me feed him a few as the night drew to a close. What better way to spend an evening than with a cat!
The next morning, we decided not to risk breakfast in the B&B and wandered out to find somewhere to eat before visiting Highgate. We ended up in a little café named Bread and Bean which had some excellent veggie options and was definitely a better decision than eating at the B&B.
After eating, we headed over to Highgate Cemetery. A Victorian site which has become the final resting place of many of the great and good, Highgate is actually set across two sites which are separated by a main road.
East Cemetery is the most famous side and members of the public are able to wander freely throughout it, while West Cemetery can only be viewed on a guided tour. We’d decided to just visit the East side – although if you book on a tour for the West (£12) you do receive your £4 admission to the East back.
It was a beautiful place to visit; a peaceful refuge in a busy city. We saw plenty of animal life among the graves including local cats, birds and even a fox that made a quick dash across the path in front of us.
A map is provided on admission highlighting some of the more distinctive graves and the resting places of iconic figures from a variety of walks of life.
The most famous grave is that of Karl Marx. A huge monument to the father of Communism, it’s not one you can easily miss!
A fascinating and eerily-beautiful place to explore on a Sunday morning.
Swain’s Lane, N6 6PJ – highgatecemetery.org.
The Imperial War Museum
It’s been many years since my last visit to IWM – I had a quick walk through years ago when I had some spare time before a uni interview at the nearby London College of the Arts but didn’t get chance to explore it properly.
It’s a huge building with exhibitions focused on World War One, World War Two, modern conflicts and a separate space focused on the Holocaust which is only for visitors aged 14+.
There’s so much to explore with more interactive exhibits aimed at younger visitors, to displays with large sections of text for those like me who love to read as much as possible in a museum. Thought provoking and informative, and worth the trip to Elephant and Castle.
Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ – iwm.org.uk.
It might be one of London’s most iconic structures and although it’s somewhere I’ve viewed on numerous occasions, I’d never actually walked across it. As with most touristy things in London, it was super busy but that didn’t really detract from the enjoyment.
If we’d had more time, I would’ve liked to have gone up to the top where there’s a section with a glass bottomed floor. Maybe next time!
Before heading back to Euston, we took a stroll along the river and headed to Fleet Street. As the spiritual home of British journalism, it’s always somewhere I’ve been interested in visiting but I’ve never previously had the opportunity to.
Most of the news organisations that made the area famous have now moved onto pastures new (generally, larger sites further out of the city), but there are markers and signs showcasing the street’s history.
We had planned to pop into a famous pub, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, but sadly they close at 4pm on Sundays so all we could do was admire it from the outside. It’s one of the oldest in the city and includes the name of every monarch that’s ruled since it was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London. A very quaint looking pub – and one that’s on the list for my next trip now I’ve made a note of the opening times.
After this, it was time to catch the tube and head back to Euston for the journey back up north. An action-packed 30 hours!