There’s nowhere quite like London. Nowhere with a history quite this rich, a cultural life quite this vibrant, individual boroughs quite this unique or architecture quite this iconic. That’s what makes London the urban playground it has become. The only problem is: there’s no way you can see everything that London has to offer in just one day. That’s why we are bringing you an alternative day out in London; one that doesn’t fall within the standard tourist perimeters.
So in true Stubble & Co style, we sent cyclists Lawrence Carpenter and Ollie Jones to Richmond Park with just a couple of bikes and two Roll Top bags for an urban adventure like no other. From the epic sights to some must-have microadventures, and a few foodie spots along the way, this is how to spend 12 hours in London… by bike.
The Start Line: Richmond Park
The sheer size alone of Richmond Park makes it almost impossible to describe as a hidden gem, but with so many people choosing to explore the hustle and bustle of Zone 1, this huge open grassland feels like an undiscovered piece of London. That’s what makes this spot the perfect place to start your 12-hour adventure, taking in the staggering sights of this 2,500 acre wilderness on your morning spin, past the herds of grazing red deer, getting lost amongst the long grass, cycling along the river and exploring the remotest corners before turning your attention to brunch.
Brunch Spot: Milk, Balham
Banana bread with toasted pumpkin seed tahini, Cackleberry farm eggs on sourdough, or The Convict for those seeking out London’s ultimate breakfast muffin. There’s a reason why Milk is probably the most popular eatery in Balham; a place that combines sun-soaked al fresco seating, artfully pared back interiors, crumbling whitewashed brick walls, pale wood furnishings, a salvaged 50s bathroom and plenty of plants throughout this unusually-shaped space. But above all else, it’s the atmosphere and the food that makes Milk a beacon for all South London brunchers.
Next Stop: Bouldering, VauxWall East
Fuelled by an Instagrammable breakfast and perfectly prepared coffee, it’s time to take in the sights of South London as you pedal past Clapham Common, through the bustling borough of Brixton and into Vauxhall for the first microadventure of the day: bouldering. Welcome to VauxWall East, a unique climbing centre set inside a Grade II listed school assembly hall from the 60’s and a great place to pull up for anyone looking for an alternative inner-city adventure like no other before stopping for a bite to eat somewhere famous amongst foodies.
Lunch: Borough Market
When it comes to discovering the tastiest grub London has to offer, there is one place that does it differently to everywhere else: Borough Market, one of the most unmissable destinations for locals and tourists in London. It’s an assault on the senses from the outset; a destination that sits in the shadows of one of Europe’s most innovative skyscrapers and yet a place that harks back to the past. Stop at Padella for an easy-going pasta place, sit on the curb with half-a-dozen fresh oysters thanks to Richard Haward, taste the best sandwich in London at the Black Pig (there signature honey truffle and parmesan pork ciabatta) or eat at one of the most original restaurant spaces anywhere in BAO Borough. This is a place for true foodies to explore.
Scenic Ride: London’s Iconic Sights
After fueling up on everything that grabbed your eye, it’s time to jump back in the saddle and experience London town’s main attractions as you head over the iconic Tower Bridge and round the medieval Tower of London, before cruising along the north embankment, the bright lights of London’s skyline reflecting off the Thames until you reach Westminster. This is where you want to gently pump your brakes and take in the defining landmarks of London’s history: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, before cycling past Buckingham Palace and up through Hyde Park, a Grade I-listed royal park that’s home to more than just green space.
Next Adventure: Paddleboarding, Little Venice
With the afternoon rolling on as you navigate the streets sitting on Regent’s Canal, it’s time to pull up at the Paddington Basin and experience inner-city London from a paddleboard. Joining Active360 for a SUP session in Merchant Square, this is your chance to escape the noise as you take in the winding waterways of Little Venice and the Grand Union Canal for a two-hour cruise past decorative houseboats, vibrant period properties and almost-hidden waterside views.
Grab & Go: Raoul’s Deli & Real Drinks, Maida ValeWith just a few miles left to pedal, there’s only one place to stop and fill your Roll Top with the finest foods, homemade specials and delicious deli bits – and that’s Raoul’s. Located in the centre of Little Venice, this thriving deli has become famous for its jute bags full of cold meats, artisan bread, specialist cheeses, wines, chocolates and freshly mixed salads of every kind. To top it all off, head just down the road to Real Drinks, here you’ll find a carefully curated selection of the best Craft Beer and other quality focussed drinks from small producers. If you're like us, pick up a few well earned beers here. Next stop: Primrose Hill.
Sunset Finish: Primrose Hill
The final push may be the toughest, but it’s worth every bead of sweat and exhausted breath because the views from the top of Primrose Hill are second. to. none. Sat on the northern side of Regent’s Park, this elevated spot is wonderful by day but something else entirely at night; the vast darkness of Camden’s parks contrasting brilliantly with the panoramic city lights.
Trust us, it’s one of those spots where you don’t want to look up or back until you’ve climbed all the way to the top, a moment that will make you realise just how special London really is. Now tuck in as you take it all in: the sights and twinkling lights, the setting sun, quiet euphoria and the 12-hour journey through London that brought you to this point. That’s how to experience an alternative side of this incredible city.
Thank you so much to our brilliant contributors Lawrence Carpenter and Ollie Jones for taking on this edition of ‘The Ultimate 12 hours in’ - be sure to follow them at @bikerlawrence and @olliejonesmod.
If you have any suggestions on where we should go next, then get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org