Jake and I visited London, England about 2 months ago. It was somewhere we had both been dying to go. London was the first leg of our Europe trip and it didn’t disappoint. As I mentioned in my full Paris guide blog post, it was my 3rd time to visit Europe and Jake’s first. Jake wanted to visit England because, unlike Paris, English is the major language. The history, traditions, architecture and culture are also amazing. I am a huge fan of the Royal Family, so London was a must for me. Since our stay in London was only 3 days, we mostly focused on the major sites. We had a blast and I cannot wait to visit London again someday. It truly is a beautiful city, and it is quite possibly my favorite city.
How to Get There/Transportation:
We flew into London Heathrow Airport and then took a taxi to the hotel. We were not able to get Wi-Fi, so we had to do a taxi. While taxis are very reliable/easy to locate, I do recommend Uber if you can get Wi-Fi. The prices are much more reasonable. Note: Make sure to put an actual destination and not just a district. I made the mistake of telling Jake to just put Notting Hill in the Uber app and we had to take another Uber to the areas we wanted to visit. Once our time was up in London, we took the Eurostar train to Paris. It was a great, inexpensive, and easy way to get there. The Hop-On Hop-Off Buses are also a great way to get around the city. Although we didn’t utilize them in London (only in Paris), it’s a quick way to see the city. If you’re going to a bunch of places that are too far apart to walk to and happen to be near the bus stops, buying a bus pass for the whole day (or for multiple days) can be cheaper than taking a bunch of Ubers/taxis.
Where/How Long to Stay:
We stayed at the Hotel Xenia, which is a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel. I received some points as a birthday gift and I cannot rave enough about this hotel. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted with champagne and coffee. After a long flight, it was much appreciated. The concierge also helped me book a reservation at The Orangery at Kensington Palace, which was amazing since there were no longer reservations online. The hotel is located in the Kensington area and was in convenient proximity to everywhere we went. I would highly recommend this area. The hotel staff went above and beyond. I will say the hotel room was basically a shoe box, but that’s common in Europe. I would stay there again! We stayed 3 nights in London and, while we did most everything on our list, we needed a few more days. I think at least 5 days would be the ideal amount of time.
Make sure to check out my Full Guide to Paris post here; my tips are pretty much the same. I will say London is a bit windier, so keep that in mind for dressing, that way you don’t have a Marilyn Monroe moment!
What To See/Do:
- Flower Cafes: London is known for its beautiful cafes with floral decor. I highly recommend Elan Café; they have several locations and we found the one by Harrod’s to not be as crowded. There are many other gorgeous cafes, but I didn’t want to drag Jake to more than one.
- Notting Hill: I did a full blog post here on this gorgeous part of London. Sadly we were not there on a Saturday because I hear the Portobello Road Market is amazing.
- Kensington Palace: I did a full blog post here.
- Harrod’s: Before going to London, my mom told me all about Harrod’s, and it 100% lived up to the hype (and then some). Harrod’s puts Macy’s in NYC to shame. It truly is that good. The huge department store is basically a museum. Although I didn’t buy anything (it’s very high-end) except chocolate and champagne, we had a blast looking around. There is everything from couture dresses to famous sports memorabilia. Apparently we missed it, but there is a food hall too. The place is so big, you could spend all day there and still not see everything it has to offer. We had some champagne at their champagne bar and had a blast exploring their chocolate room.
- Regent/Carnaby Street: Regent is a major high-end shopping area and Carnaby runs into it. We loved these two areas, especially at night. Carnaby was lit up and so gorgeous. There are so many great shops and restaurants in this area.
- Boat Cruise Down the Thames River/London Bridge: Our second day was extremely windy, so we opted for a boat cruise down the Thames River and it was amazing. The cruise takes off from a pier right next to the London Eye. I’m really glad we did it because we got to see a lot and the cruise had an indoor cabin, so we were shielded from the wind. Places we saw included the hospital Florence Nightingale worked at, Shakespeare’s Globe, Big Ben/House of Parliament, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. It also went under the London Bridge, which was honestly quite unremarkable. The Millennium Bridge and Tower Bridge were a lot more interesting than the London Bridge.
- Tower Bridge/The Tower of London/London Eye/Westminster Abbey: I grouped these together because they’re all pretty close to each other, especially the Tower Bridge/Tower of London and London Eye/Westminster Abbey. We saw Westminster Abbey as we drove to this area. I highly recommend a self-guided tour of the Tower of London. It was fascinating seeing artifacts, the best of which were the legendary crown jewels. It was one of the highlights of my trip. The Tower Bridge is around the corner too.
- House of Parliament/Big Ben/London Eye: Sadly Big Ben is under construction right now (and will be until 2021), so that’s a huge let down. We did see it from our boat cruise. We decided not to do the London Eye, but will probably do so next time.
- The Shard: This is a MUST do activity around sunset. Unfortunately we didn’t have reservations for the bar on the top floor (Gong), but we still enjoyed another bar that was on the 30th floor. I sipped some Veuve Clicquot champagne while enjoying a spectacular view of the Tower Bridge and many other amazing spots.
- Buckingham Palace/Changing of the Guard/Hyde Park: A visit to the Buckingham Palace grounds is a must. Hyde Park is right next to Buckingham Palace and is gorgeous.
Where to Eat:
- Borough Market: While I would highly recommend the market on a Saturday instead, we had a great experience going during the week. I think there would be a lot more going on on a Saturday. We went around lunch and had fabulous empanadas and mussels . It was fun walking around and seeing what the local vendors were selling.
- Any local pub: You must try some authentic fish and chips.
- Elan Café
- Peggy Porschen: the most beautiful bakery with amazing treats
- Tea at The Orangery at Kensington Palace
- Oka at Kingly Court: We discovered this after we spent a lot of money at another restaurant and were still hungry. Their sushi is so fresh and they had delicious cocktails.
- Harrod’s: I would recommend trying their food hall that we missed, as well as the chocolate room and champagne bar.
- Bunch of Grapes: This was a great local pub we found on Yelp.
- The Royal Mews: Where the royal vehicles are kept
- Sketch: This gorgeous café is all over Instagram. I’ve heard the food isn’t excellent, but that they do have great drinks and desserts.
- The Globe Theatre: Sadly it was not open when we went, but we saw this unique building on our river cruise.
- Actually See the Changing Of The Guards:(we thought we saw the real thing but discovered later that we didn’t)
- Ride London Eye: Apparently there is a package where you get champagne…sign me up!
- Piccadilly Circus
- Covenant Garden
P.S. I am so sorry this took me so long to get up. I was so excited when the weather finally turned warm after I got my other London/Paris posts up that I couldn’t wait to share some spring fashion!