I live about an hour away from London on the train, but it’s rare that I take the time to go. I promised myself long ago that it would be the first capital city that I would visit, as it was my own, and I stuck to that promise on my first visit in 2012. Since then, I’ve worked out my favourite sights, stores, bars, restaurants and museums, and like to think of myself as one of those pretentious home-grown experts of the city (joking of course!)
Considering my passion and interest in all things Asian, when I do visit London, the majority of my trip is taken up by visiting Asian supermarkets and restaurants, and bringing home with me snacks and ingredients to enjoy and cook with. My itinerary was similar this time around, and was even more encouraged by the meeting of my friend from South Korea who has just moved to London to study. With her, my sister and boyfriend, we experienced the Asian side of London, mostly through the eyes of my Korean friend, who is just as passionate about food as I am. It was a win-win for the both of us. I showed her stores that could only possibly enhance her quality of life in the city, and she could help me read some of the packaging and answer certain questions about Korean cuisine I had. We explored supermarket after supermarket, talking specialist ingredients and unknown snacks, with a bit of traditional London thrown in for good measure.
Although London is very easy to get around in via tube and bus transport, it is always an idea to just walk everywhere. It is in some cases faster, and you don’t miss out on the gorgeous city by waiting in tube lines deep underground. Here is a breakdown of our itinerary, and a guide to walking central London as opposed to hopping on and off public transport. A word of warning though – by the end of our trip, we’d walked nearly 20,000 steps, so wear good, comfortable shoes.
Tottenham Court Road Station to Chinatown
From here, we went to a close by coffee shop and continued along Shaftesbury Avenue towards Japan Centre, Piccadilly Circus, Leister Square and Chinatown.
Chinatown is an absolute pleasure to visit. The entire block has an aroma of meats and spices unique to this part of London and oozes authentic East Asian culture. Located just around the corner from the famous Piccadilly Circus, this compact area is perfect for a taste of the orient before heading off south towards Trafalgar Square. It is perhaps no match for the Chinatowns of New York and San Francisco, but is nonetheless spectacularly decorated and packed with all of your Asian cuisine and souvenir needs. Head to Oriental Delight to pick up Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Thai sweets and snacks, Chinatown Bakery for pastry goods and New Loon Moon for one of the biggest and diverse Asian supermarkets in London.
Trafalgar Square to Covent Garden
Although Covent Garden is pretty much right next to Leicester Square, we decided to walk down Whitehall towards Westminster and the London Eye. From here, a left turn from Westminster tube station and a long, straight walk along the Thames towards Strand. We ate at Kimchee to Go, a Korean fast-food restaurant, and without giving too much away here (I’m going to write a review of the restaurant separately to this post) it was INCREDIBLE! We also stopped off at the Shake Shack in Covent Garden for expensive (but worth it) cheese fries and milkshakes. From here, it is a simple case of going north again back up to Covent Garden, which will lead you to New Oxford Street where some great shopping takes place, including Centre Point Food Store, a Japanese and Korean supermarket!
The walk is by no means complicated, and your itinerary can always be altered to suit what you’d like to do. I basically wanted to complete a full circle of central London which incorporated all of the great sights, restaurants and bars we wanted to stop and relax in before carrying on with the walk. We definitely succeeded in making the most out of one day in London, and I can’t wait to do it all over again!
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