This past January, I visited London for the first time. In typical British fashion, I took the tube from the airport to my hotel – which was quite the process, though one that I became incredibly familiar with in my time there. Immediately after climbing the stairs and entering the city, I fell in love with everything around me.
I found that London is a city full of romantic walkways, top-class entertainment, relaxing parks, and incredibly kind people that made me want to stay and explore for years on end. There is so much to do and see, which makes it the perfect travel destination!
How to Get to London
Getting to London is relatively easy via direct flights from most major cities. Be on the lookout for Heathrow Airport, though Gatwick and London Stanstead are both major international airports that you may see, as well.
Traveling around London is easy via their local train line called the London Underground, or locally referred to as the “tube.” To get on the train, I recommend purchasing a Visitor Oyster card, which is what you will use to get on and off the train at each stop. Your Oyster card can be purchased at most major retailers or at a machine within most train stations.
Another alternative would be to use London’s world famous black cabs. We only recommend taking these black cabs, rather than any other cab companies you might see, because they are licensed and can be hailed in most major areas of the city.
When to Go to London
There really is no bad time to go to London, as there are certain benefits to almost every point in the year.
The most affordable times to travel to London are January through mid-March and October to mid-December, as it’s considered the off season for the tourist spots. Though March through May is when the temperatures are mild and the city’s parks are green and blooming. Late Spring and Summer is peak tourist season, which means that the city can feel relatively expensive, but the nice weather means that the city comes alive all hours of the day.
Where to Stay in London
St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London: This hotel was originally opened in 1873 and it has a deep historical presence. Now a Marriott Hotel, you can stay in one of the beautiful modern rooms and enjoy the hotel’s dining, spa, and fitness center. The hotel is in a central location which makes it perfect for visitors on the go.
Where to eat in London?
Black Sheep Coffee: Busy days full of exploring always call for a good cup of coffee. While on my trip abroad, I found a quiet place that provided a quick escape from the morning traffic. I went to the location near King’s Cross, which is the perfect stop to grab a hot (or cold) drink and a light snack before taking the tube to the next destination. I recommend the banana bread, it was quite delicious!
National Portrait Gallery Restaurant: After exploring the beautiful galleries of the National Portrait Gallery, I recommend heading upstairs to the Portrait Restaurant. The small dining area is seated in front of several large windows that give a beautiful view of the city – the view is especially lovely in the evening hours. The menu offers a more sophisticated taste that is perfect for a special occasion, however, there is also an Afternoon Tea menu for a midday pause If you’re looking for something more casual.
Tramshed: Located in the heart of London’s East End, Tramshed is the perfect place for foodies and art-lovers alike. I won’t say too much, but there is a rather interesting art piece featured in the center of the restaurant’s dining space. *wink wink* Tramshed offers a variety of options on the lunch and dinner menus, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free entrees.
The Best Shopping in London
Covent Garden: Hop off the tube and enter into a shopping experience like no other! I spent a few hours in Covent Garden shopping around in just a few of the many stores. The best part is, you don’t even have to buy anything to enjoy the beautiful outdoor setting and window displays! Every store imaginable is located in Covent Gardens, from makeup to ties to shoes. Grab a to-go tea and explore the shops all day!
Where to Adventure in London
British Museum: Every history buff (and cultural enthusiast) needs to see the many collections housed in the British Museum. Said to hold artifacts of over 2 million years of human history, this museum is definitely an all-day event. A few highlights from my visit include seeing the Rosetta Stone and having high tea in the upstairs cafe. Admission is free, which is the perfect excuse to check it out!
King’s Cross: Harry Potter fans must check out The Harry Potter Shop and Platform 9 ¾ located in the heart of King’s Cross. You can even get your photo taken, wand, scarf, and all! I also recommend checking out the other stores located in the station. I found a neat stationary shop and picked up a few postcards to send to friends and family.
Shoreditch: Shoreditch is a trendy and artsy area of London that is packed full of pubs, stores, and restaurants. Exploring in Shoreditch could easily be an all day affair, especially because it is known for its night scene. I recommend visiting The Bike Shed Motorcycle Club, which is an interesting take on American biker culture.
The London Eye: Without a doubt, the best view of London is from the top of The London Eye. I recommend buying tickets online to avoid long wait times and upcharges. I went during the afternoon and the view was fantastic. Take lots of pictures with your camera or phone, you will not want to forget that view!
Buckingham Palace: You can’t visit London without seeing the Buckingham Palace! It is such a rich piece of cultural heritage, which makes it the perfect must-see. While on your way to a museum visit or Trafalgar Square, I would make a quick stop to see Buckingham Palace, as it’s a pretty quick stop, unless you decide to stay for the sure-to-be-crowded changing of the guard. Fun fact: The flag on top of the building signals whether or not the queen is in the palace. A Union flag flying means that she’s not at home, while a Royal Standard flag flying means the ruling Sovereign is in the palace.
The Tower of London: The Tower of London (pictured below) is the perfect way to spend a late afternoon. I recommend buying tickets online before your visit to avoid some of the crowds. Your one-time admission ticket provides entry to The Crown Jewels, all public areas of the Tower of London, the Yeoman Warder tours, and various Children’s activities, so the whole family can stay entertained for hours!
Create a great life!