Towers, Jewels, and Markets

We had to start out our day with breakfast at Sky Garden. It’s a three-story glass dome with the highest public garden that provides a 360° panoramic view of London. There are couches and bar seats throughout the floor but we made reservations at Darwin Brasserie. I highly recommend reserving a table in advance because it is pretty popular – after all, entrance to Sky Garden is free so the place gets pretty packed. You can book a table in advance here. My friend and I shared the full English breakfast (which is a traditional staple) and their wild mushroom on sourdough with a poached egg. A full English consists of the following: bacon or ham, eggs, sausages, grilled tomato, mushrooms, beans, and toast. You can order either a la carte with their breakfast menu or take part in their brunch buffet.

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FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST AND MUSHROOM ON SOURDOUGH

Afterwards, we walked around the garden and went outside to take photos of the city view. The skies were a bit grey and there is actually a bit of an ongoing joke that the city has 640,000 distinct weather systems – one system per five feet squared of land. Basically, every two steps and you experience another weather!

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VIEW OF TOWER BRIDGE FROM SKY GARDEN
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DO YOU SEE SAINT PAUL’S CATHEDRAL?

TIP #1:
Tower Bridge Entrance Fee: £8.70
Tickets can be purchased online here

I reserved our tickets in advance for the Tower Bridge because they were promoting a discount. Tickets actually are cheaper when you purchase them online (they’re about £1 cheaper) so I would advise to book them online instead of at the bridge itself. The Tower Bridge is easily recognizable as an iconic symbol of London but it is actually a lot more contemporary than people think. London Bridge was getting too congested with traffic so there was a public contest for everyone and anyone to submit designs for a new suspension bridge.

The ticket we purchased was for the entrance to the walkway and exhibition where you learned about the history and construction of the bridge and you can take photos on the glass-floored section of the walkway! There is also a great view of the Tower of London as well. I liked the glass-floored sections of the walkway since you can see the cars pass through under you – it might be a little scary for those afraid of heights but I found it to be a great experience.

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ICONIC TOWER BRIDGE

TIP #2:
Tower of London Entrance Fee: £21.50
You can purchase tickets online in advance here

After the Tower Bridge, we went over to the Tower of London since they are literally right next to each other. As we all know, the Tower of London is home to the Queen’s Jewels. It is a historic castle that was militarily and strategically crucial in controlling the country. It’s also well-known for being used as a political prison during the 16th and 17th centuries, most famously imprisoning Queen Elizabeth I. I purchased tickets in advance since online rates are cheaper than purchasing at the gate – I advise to book them online and print them out.

I really wanted to visit the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels, which are kept in The Jewel House. The Jewel House has held this precious collection since the 14th century. You do have to line up to enter the house to view the jewels but it was most definitely worth the line. I actually found the rest of the Tower of London disappointing and went through a lot of the exhibits fairly quickly.

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GREEN TEA TAIYAKI ICE CREAM IN CHINATOWN

We decided to head over to see Leadenhall Market, which is a beautiful covered market that was used as Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. The market has an elegantVictorian roof with stalls, restaurants, shops and pubs. On our way there, we stopped by Chinatown to Bake 麵包屋 for some ice cream. A friend of mine who went to London a few months before me had recommended the taiyaki ice cream there. Taiyaki is a Japanese snack where it is a fish-shaped bread usually filled with red bean paste. At Bake, they hollow out the fish-shaped bread and put in soft serve ice cream! It is super cheap and super delicious!

TIP #3:
St. Paul’s Cathedral’s Entrance Fee: £18
You can purchase tickets online in advance here

Once we got our ice cream and checked out Leadenhall Market, we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognisable sights of London and its dome has dominated the skyline for over 300 years. The cathedral also has three galleries in the dome that you can visit. If you plan on going inside, I would recommend staying roughly 2-3 hours to see the different galleries and visit the churchyard.

Our final stop of the day was Camden Market. It’s an open market in Camden filled with unique shops, stalls, bars, and cafes. A lot of the unique shops do not allow photography so please be respectful and refrain from taking photos of their works and products. There is also a flea market across the street where you can buy shirts and sweaters and leather jackets. We actually saw a stall shut down by cops because they were dealing marijuana!

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PEAR NITROGEN ICE CREAM WITH WALNUT CRUMBS AT CHIN CHIN LABS

I got a few things to eat at various food stalls like bangers and chips and a pasty but what I really wanted to check out was Chin Chin Labs and the Cereal Killer Cafe. Chin Chin Labs was on my list for hot chocolate but they’re actually known for their nitrogen ice cream! I got their seasonal flavor, which was pear nitrogen with walnut crumbs (and for the more adventurous, fried mealworms on top). The Cereal Killer Cafe, located right next to Chin Chin Labs, is pretty much a colorful, nostalgic eatery with more than 120 branded cereals, plus a selection of milk and toppings. Their milk selection has very interesting flavors as well. You can check out their menu here.

WHAT WE MISSED

  • Fortnum & Mason’s: It is an actual tea parlour that serves afternoon tea; reservations can be made here
  • Golden Union Fish Bar for fish and chips

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