(Reuters Life!) - If you think London is the kind of luxury destination that will empty your wallet in seconds, then you’ll be delighted to know that you don’t have to be a billionaire to enjoy the best of the British capital. This city is also a jewel for the world class bargain-hunter looking for top food, culture and art on a staycation budget. Reuters correspondents with local knowledge show you how to get the most out of London on the cheap.
10 a.m. Contender for the best coffee in London, a brew from Monmouth Coffee Company is an ideal way to kick start the long day of exploration ahead. (www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk) Next nip across the road to London’s larder, Borough Market, stocked full of organic fruit and veg, artisan cheeses, bread, meat and fish. Browse amongst the gourmet goodies and graze your way round the numerous free samples. (www.boroughmarket.org.uk)
12 p.m. Work off brunch with a stroll to Southwark’s newly created Urban Physics Garden, an inner city oasis bursting with medicinal plants and herbs that heal. Be sure to try out the unconventional Serbian seesaws. (www.physicgarden.org.uk/)
Opposite is the Jerwood Space, the gallery boasts an exciting program of visual art exhibitions, showcasing emerging new talent. (www.jerwoodspace.co.uk).
1:45 p.m. Wander down to the Thames to explore London’s riverside cultural quarter, the South Bank. Theater enthusiasts should head to the thatch-roofed, oak-beamed Shakespeare’s Globe, a faithful reconstruction of the open-air playhouse originally built in 1599. Between April and October visitors can experience a near authentic, original ‘Shakespeare in performance’. Tickets for the pit, the open air free standing yard are a snip at 5 pounds ($8.15).Tours of the building and the Shakespeare exhibition are on all year-round.
Strolling along the riverside path, it’s hard to ignore the imposing Tate Modern, housed in a former Power Station, the center has succeeded in bringing challenging modern art to the masses. Inside, the vast turbine hall displays awe-inspiring site specific installations and the permanent collections feature work by the likes of Francis Bacon, Picasso and Mark Rothko. Check www.tate.org.uk for the schedule of free guided tours.
4:30 p.m. Stride across the pedestrian Millennium Bridge admiring views of the Thames. Next destination is St Paul’s Cathedral, Christopher Wren’s 17th century domed masterpiece. Visiting is free for worship purposes and you can catch the cathedral choir giving an Evensong performance at 5 p.m.
7 p.m. Da Polpo in Covent Garden is a great dinner destination. With a no-reservations policy just head down to the New York Italian inspired restaurant for a spread of Italian delicacies (dapolpo.co.uk).
Treat yourself to a glass of the house wine and soak up the atmosphere at Gordon’s wine bar. Every nook and cranny of the vaulted candlelit cellar is filled with chatter and in summer the crowd spills out into the Embankment Gardens. (www.gordonswinebar.com)
10 a.m. Let the aroma of freshly baked goods lure you into Brick Lane Beigel, an East London institution and thriving relic of London’s Jewish East end. Smoked salmon and cream cheese or salt beef and mustard fillings make a hearty budget breakfast. (159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB)
10:30 a.m. Fancy a spot of shopping? Shoreditch is a hotbed of cutting edge style and there are plenty of bargains to be had in its independent stores and vintage shops. Tucked away on Cheshire St is cavernous Beyond Retro, a one-stop shop for the fabulous clothes of yesteryear. (www.beyondretro.com).
12 p.m. For a quick post shop pep try Kiwi coffee connoisseurs Allpress Espresso who pride themselves on in-house roasting. (www.allpress.co.nz)
12:30 p.m. Head east to Columbia Road, a Victorian terraced street that springs to life on Sunday with the weekly flower market. Prepare to have your senses overwhelmed as you are met with vibrant foliage, exquisite blooms and the barrow boys bellowing out the deals of the day. (www.columbiaroad.info)
2 p.m. Peckish? Aim for Goldsmiths Row, home to a few economical eateries along with some more upmarket establishments. For a taste of traditional London fare visit F. Cooke’s Pie and Mash Shop. Established in 1900, the menu remains the same, steaming by the window is a vat of eels, choose from hot or jellied for a mere 2.50 pounds washed down with a mug of piping hot builder’s tea.
3 p.m. Choose to spend the remainder of the afternoon lounging on expansive, green London Fields or if the weather permits take a dip in the 50 meter-long heated lido.
Home to many of the capitals creative industries there is also an array of neighboring galleries to explore. Famous for championing the Young British Artists is the White Cube in Hoxton (www.whitecube.com), or try the Victoria Miro Gallery, stretched over nearly 3,000 meters (yards) complete with a charming landscaped garden, it is a breeding ground for exciting young artists (www.victoria-miro.com).
6 p.m. Thought vinyl was dead? Bustling Kristina records on Stoke Newington High St begs to differ. Peruse their collection of quality underground new and second hand records or stumble upon an in store gig. (www.kristinarecords.com)
For your evening meal follow the mouth-watering scent round the corner to Mangal Ocakbasi, the frontrunner in Turkish charcoal grilled lamb, chicken and vegetables. A popular spot, you may have a short wait to be seated but there is plenty of activity to hold your attention. A single chef adeptly manipulates row upon rows of kebabs as the ocakbasi grill plumes smoke into the huge extractor looming above. Grab a beer from the corner shop as the restaurant operates a BYOB policy (www.magal1.com).
8:30 p.m. The area has a handful of great traditional pubs to wind down with after dinner drinks. Prop yourself up at the Shakespeare’s horse shoe bar to sample their range of ales or head to the Prince George (40 Parkholme Rd, E8 3AG) popular with the hip kids and long term Dalston residents alike.
During the Summer months, it’s worth checking Dalston roof park’s events calendar, on top of the spectacular views, the green astro turf plays host to small productions by the nearby Arcola Theater, and there are outdoor film screenings and gigs (www.bootstrapcompany.co.uk). ($1 = 0.613 British Pounds)
Edited by Paul Casciato