Christmas in London: Weekend breaks for less than £100
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Any idea how easy it is to plan a fabulous holiday weekend in London where you can eat, drink, shop and make merry for less than £100 per person? Just sidestep those expensive temptations and devise a tube tour that focuses on great dining deals, bargain shopping, free exhibits and a cosy cheap hotel.
Arrive early (and hungry!) in London at King's Cross Station for breakfast at Patisserie Valerie on the corner of Caledonia and York. This exquisite French-style bakery serves pancakes with Mascarpone cheese drizzled with maple syrup for about £5. Get a gingerbread latte or hot chocolate for the road (£3) and hop back on the tube to Pritchard's Road (Stop W) in Hackney.
Walk a few blocks to Broadway to visit London's most authentic Christmas market open on Saturdays from 9pm to 6pm. The open-air booths, tidy little shops and sidewalk cafes capture the spirit of the season and offer rock bottom prices on everything from vintage clothes to fresh bread. Just hope the London Weather holds.
When hunger pains strike, look along Broadway for one of Londoner's favorite street vendors called Eat My Pies. For under £5 you can feast on hand-held meals like veggie and meat pies, pasties, wraps, sandwiches or even Scotch eggs.
After lunch, cross Westgate Street to visit London Fields, site of the Saturday Farmer's Market to admire the seasonal produce stands and sample homemade relishes and wines. Warm up at the Pub in the Park where they serve homemade bread with butter (£2) and proper pint (£3.75 at happy hour).
As evening falls, hop on the Underground at the London Fields Station for a short ride to Moorgate where you'll walk around the block to Silk Street. In this prestigious neighborhood is the Barbican Art Gallery, home of the "Rain Room", one of the most unique interactive exhibits in the world!
The exhibit runs from the 4th October 2012 to 3rd March 2013 Prepare to stand in line a while, but this free attraction well worth the wait. Walk down fascinating Moorgate Street to the Central Line station to hop the Tube to the Oxford Circus station to discover a hidden treasure appropriately named Gem (10 Beak Street, Soho). Relax in the Moroccan atmosphere as friendly servers bring cheap cocktails and pints (£4.50) that you can sip while devouring a traditional stone-baked pizza (£8).
After dinner, walk past the Golden Square to the Piccadilly Circus Station to proceed to your final destination for the evening, the charming Chelsea House Hotel* (96 Redcliff Gardens) at the Earl's Court stop.
Snuggle into your lovely double room with private facilities and sleep well knowing your accommodations only cost £35 per person and includes a complimentary breakfast.
After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, tuck your gear in their luggage room and prepare for some major sightseeing. A quick ride on the underground to South Kensington Station brings you to the Natural History Museum and Science History Museum, two of the many free attractions in this neighbourhood.
Once you've had your fill of wonders, head to the Sandwich Shop (54 Gloucester Road), a casual student hangout that serves generously filled sandwiches and delicious homemade pasta dishes, all for under £5. If you arrive after 4pm, prices drop to £1 for pre-made lunches.
After lunch, take a stroll down to Gloucester Road Tube Station where you'll hop back onto the Piccadilly Line for the finale, Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland. Free to enter, once inside you'll find charming stalls and shops where you can splurge any remaining holiday money on gifts, ornaments and keepsakes.
Warm up with hot cider at the Fire Pit and fish & chips at the Star Tavern, each less than £5. As evening falls, take the subway back to Earl's Court to collect your bags at the Chelsea. Ride to Kings Cross Station to depart for home with a smile of satisfaction realizing how little it cost to have an amazing holiday weekend in London!
Travel Notes: A One-Day Travelcard will cost £7.70 per person for Zones 1-4 which will cover all the areas mentioned. All prices based on November 2012.
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