27. Celebrating British: THE London Tour for Visitors to Blighty

Last week London was named the world’s best destination by TripAdvisor, having already taken Lonely Planet’s ‘best city to visit’ title in October of last year. With the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics still to come, 2012 is likely to be a bumper year for foreign visitors to the city, if they can get out of Heathrow.

It’s more than likely that someone you know will be visiting London from outside the UK this year as a result. Yet I’ve always struggled when faced with that inevitable demand to “show me around London for a day.” My reaction is usually somewhere between unproductive cynicism (“how about experiencing some record-breaking April rainfall?”) and a distinct lack of imagination (“London Eye it is then”).

So, here are some ideas for impressing your visitors on their trip to London with a truly British experience.


London has no shortage of places to go for a good fry-up but the Breakfast Club is a good place to head for a chilled but filling start to your day of all things British. No all American pancakes or French toast here though please, the ‘full monty’ is a must.


After breakfast, make sure your visitor is properly in the mood for their day of Britishness with a stroll down Oxford Street which has been decked out with 147 union jacks for the Jubilee.

Nearby, you probably can’t find a more gentlemanly haunt that Savile Row. Again, budget will (obviously) dictate how much you can really experience the bespoke nature of this geographer’s dream of a business cluster, but Gieves & Hawkes has some nice accessories which are just about on the price boundary for a ‘holiday treat.’ Plus, here’s hoping you run into these guys

Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
If you happen to be hanging around with a teenage girl (I’m not judging) Abercrombie&Fitch is also, much to the chagrin of London’s chaps and chapettes, on the corner of Savile Row. Whilst this is in no way a British enterprise, your visitor will be able to experience Brits doing what they’re best at; queuing in an orderly manner. A&Fs unique currency exchange rate ($= £) may also provide some amusement/horror depending on whether you decide to make a purchase.

If you’re trying to impress (/loaded) you can’t beat The Wolseley. Although more European grand café than East End pie and mash it is some of the best food and service that London has to offer. A couple of whiskey sours here will set you nicely up for the afternoon, and the kedgeree and treacle tart will give you the energy to brave getting back on the tube.

Alternatively, right around the corner is Green Park with both Hyde and St James’ Parks not too far away either. All are perfect for a delectable English picnic if the weather is nice (or go when the weather isn’t so nice for the real British experience). You can go all out London here, although if you haven’t tried jellied eels I really wouldn’t recommend them. Similarly, soggy cucumber sandwiches, warm bucks fizz and questionable pork pies, whilst admirable attempts at authenticity, are not advisable.


A trip to a museum may not sound like the most thrilling expedition in the capital, but a visit to the Design Museum around the corner from Tower Bridge is certain to go down well with any lady visitors you have in the next few months. A collective female coo/gasp could be heard all across London last week when the Christian Louboutin exhibition opened there. It’s had some rather varied reviews but if you’re looking to impress a certain someone, it’s certainly cheaper than buying her a pair, right? It runs until July 9th.

For a manly activity, how about a tour of Craven Cottage, home to the hilariously nicknamed ‘Cottagers’ of Fulham FC (beware of something getting lost in translation here)? Aside from the truly bizarre
Michael Jackson tribute statue outside the stadium, it’s a charming old English football stadium next to the river and if you can’t get a match ticket, the stadium tour is hardly the worst way of spending a couple of hours.
 Afternoon Tea

The Henry Root in West Brompton is the place to head. “A wine bar with cake.” If you’re lucky, you might bump into someone from Made in Chelsea. Need I say more?

If your friend hasn’t had their fill of all things British yet, one of the quickest, cheapest and most pleasant ways of letting them take in London is to have a stroll over Waterloo Bridge. It seems like almost every tourist postcard has a photo taken from this bridge and it’s easy to see why. You can see Parliament and the Eye from one side, and from the other you can have a gander at St Paul’s, the City, the Shard and Canary Wharf in the distance. Afterwards, head round to One New Change for a drink at Madisons. It has a large outside seating area and the drinks are quite reasonably priced for a place with some of the best views in London.


You can’t really go wrong with a good English pub dinner, but for a final shot of Britishness head to Rules Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in London serving up proper beer in silver tankards and game from its own Pennine estate.

I’ll leave the evening’s choice of British entertainment up to you. Although it may be time to abandon the theme for your night out; necking 12 cans of Carling and passing out on a night bus home will probably undo all the good work you’ve done in giving your guest the British experience. God save the Queen.

Author: Fred Snowball


nomzam said...

London is a beautiful city for a perfect tour. Last year I was on london tour and that was the best tour of my life.

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