Hidden Gems and Cheap Eats: VIVA’s 12 Hour Guide to London

Holly Harris | 26th January 2018


Planning on spending a day in London? Finding it difficult to narrow down your list of things to do and see? Here at VIVA we have created an itinerary for 12 hours in the capital.

Just over two hours by train or a four and half hour drive from Manchester, London is the perfect destination for a spontaneous day trip.

Whilst there is no right or wrong way to spend your day in the capital, we hope that this guide helps to narrow down which highlights to visit.

First stop: Chelsea

Image by Holly Harris

Image by Holly Harris

You have probably heard of Chelsea; whether that be from reality TV, football or the eponymous flower show.

Take a tube to Sloane square and stroll down the Kings Road; lined with posh shops and pretty little cafes, you really do feel like you’re in an episode of Made In Chelsea.

The area is synonymous with all things posh and high end, so head there if you enjoy the finer things in life. Browse the contemporary Saatchi Gallery or enjoy a pot of tea and tuck into brunch at Bluebird cafe.

If you’re looking for something a little more laid-back, grab a coffee to go at Joe & The Juice and head to Bywater Street, located just off Kings Road. The picturesque street is lined with pastel coloured houses – perfect for a quick photo shoot!

If you’re able to pull yourself away from the shops, head for the river and take a stroll along Chelsea Embankment and across Albert Bridge to Battersea park, a 200 acre green space to walk off that brunch.


11:00 : The Natural History Museum

From Battersea park, why not skip the tube, slow down, take in your surroundings and walk to you’re next destination – it’s only 11am and will take you no longer than half an hour.

Look out for South Kensington tube station, as just behind, you will find the Natural History Museum.

The Museum first opened its doors on 18 April 1881, and to this day, still remains a great way to learn something new and feel like a big kid again! Plus, its free entry!

All of the exhibitions are pretty impressive, in one hall a huge skeleton of a blue whale hangs from the roof above your head, in another, you’ll find yourself in front of a life size, roaring T.rex model.

13:00 : Lunch

After the museum, head towards Gloucester Road tube station and you’ll come across plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from.

If you’re stuck on where to go, the Pizza Express on Cromwell Road is very nice and posh.

Travelling on a Monday or Tuesday? If you have a valid NUS student card, you get 40% off your bill!

Pizza Express also have a range of other monthly discounts on their website.

14:00 : Piccadilly Circus

On route to Carnaby Street, it would be silly not to stop off at the typical spot for a ‘I’m in London so must get a photo in front of Piccadilly Circus’ photo opportunity.

A lot of people disregard the impressive statue that stands right in front of the massive billboard, so here’s a little background to it:

First, lets clear up the misconception of who the statue is of. Many people mistake the identity of the statue to be the Greek God of Love, Eros however, this is not the case.

In 1893, it was built as the Greek god Anteros, but the bow in his hand made the public assume it was cupid so has since been misconceived.

This tourist hot spot is not an actual circus…the name refers to the fact that it used to be a completely circular roundabout; so don’t be disappointed when you turn up and there are no clowns or acrobats.


14:30 : Carnaby Street

Image by Holly Harris

Again, ditch the easy option of the tube and instead, wander through quirky Soho towards Carnaby Street and loose yourself in all of the nik nak shops and various pop-up market stalls that line the streets.

Look out for the unmissable ‘Welcome to Carnaby Street’ sign, and you’re there – the perfect place to get your shopping fix!

This road of shops has maintained its fashionable reputation since to 1970’s and 80’s. Today, the 14 streets of Carnaby are home to over 100 shops with 60 places to eat and drink.

Looking for something a little more unique? Check out Brandy Melville, exclusively located in London in the UK or Pretty Green; clothing store of Liam Gallagher.


17:00 : One New Change rooftop

Image by Holly Harris

Image by Holly Harris



One New Change is definitely one of London’s hidden gems.

Located just behind St Paul’s Cathedral, it appears to be just an ordinary shopping centre but, if you take the lift to the sixth floor, it takes you to the ‘secret’ roof top.

There were only a couple of people up there and the views are amazing.

St Paul’s Cathedral stands right in front of the terrace; great for photos!

We would suggest going at dusk, if you can, as the colours in the sky as the sun sets reflects beautifully off the skyline.

There are a couple of bars on the roof too, so perfect for a summers evening or if you’re willing to grab a cocktail and sit beneath the outdoor heaters in the winter months – we did also spot some blankets too!





18:00 : Sky Garden

Image by Esme Lewis


Sky Garden…another one of London’s, not so top secret, secret locations.

If you’re unsure of where to find it, keep an eye out for the huge, walkie talkie shapped building – you wont miss it!

The buildings has a top-floor bar that boasts impressive view of the city. No wander it has become popularised by Instagram, it screams ‘photo op’!

The indoor greenhouse theme adds to the photogenic interior, whilst the view is said to be one of the best in the city; plus, its free!




Do make sure to book, as free walk-in entry is not guaranteed as it does get busy – public hours are 10am to 6pm on weekdays and 11am to 9pm on weekends.

It is recommended that visitors book their 90 minute time slot at least three days before their visit, this can be done here.


19:00 : Dinner

Time to sit down, relax and treat yourself to a large, well deserved dinner (you have been walking around London all day, so it’s allowed).


If you are heading home from Paddington station, check out these near by eateries:

Bills – Baker Street – 10 mins from baker (20% off with UNiDAYS or if you are in the Police, Armed Forces, Fire, Ambulance or NHS)

Zizzi – Paddington street – 10 mins from baker (up to 30% student discount with UNiDAYS)

Meat Liquor – Welbeck street – 15 mins by tube from Bakers st

Patty and Bun – James Street – 15 mins by tube from Bakers st


If you’re getting the coach home from Victoria Coach Station, grab a bite to eat here:

Leon – In the station (15% student and NHS discount)

Prezzo – Wilton Road – 10 min walk away (25% off with NUS and kids eat for £1 throughout January)

Côte – Sloane square – 10 min walk

Wagamama – Cardinal Walk – 15 min walk away

Polpo – Duke Of York square – 15 min walk


This itinerary is simply a guide, a helping hand on how to get the most out of 12 hours in the capital. What you do in the city is up to you! London is home to anything and everything, with thousands of different ways to spend your day.

If you’re looking for something more out of the ordinary, these walking tours will be right up your street:

With a selection of tours for everyday of the week – morning, afternoon or evening – from ‘Ghosts of the Old City’ to ‘The Beatles “IN MY LIFE” Walk’, you’ll be sure to find a theme that suits you.

Book via the website: www.walks.com