Similar to Lexi’s longtime obsession with Paris, I’ve had a longtime obsession with London, even though I had never been. It probably (definitely) had something to do with growing up reading Harry Potter, and when I visited Edinburgh when I studied abroad, I loved the UK even more. FINALLY, I was able to make it to London the other weekend, and I legitimately almost did not get on that RyanAir flight back to Germany.
We were there for four nights and stayed in a precious AirBnB flat that was close to a tube station and about 10-15 minutes into the city center. We arrived super early to London Stansted via a cheap RyanAir flight and took a bus into the city. After figuring out there is a definite difference between the underground and overground trains and they definitely require different tickets, we made it to our flat. When we ventured back out, we spent the day wandering in and out of shops on Oxford and Regent Streets, and in and out of pubs in the SoHo area – partly to dodge the rain, partly to drink some pints.
The following day, we got up, got our nerd on, and went to take pictures at Platform 9 3/4s. And it was life-changing. Once we lived out our Harry Potter dreams, we took the tube to explore the Borough Market, which is an amazing outdoor market that just celebrated its 1,000th (!!!) anniversary. The Borough Market was like a slice of heaven for me and Lexi. It’s sprawled out, and the second you walk into it, you’re filled with different aromas – cheeses, fresh fish, wild game. It’s overwhelming, but in a good way. We spent the better part of the day walking around, looking at (and eating) what the different booths had to offer. We spotted a pub across the street that looked welcoming and popped in – we loved it so much we returned three times within the next two days and declared it our neighborhood pub. Because laying stake to a pub is a completely normal thing to do when you’re visiting a town for less than a week. That night we went to see Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre, which was once again, life-changing.
The next couple of days were spent seeing all London has to offer – the Tower of London, the London and Tower Bridges, we took incredibly tourist-y pictures in front of Big Ben and the Eye of London, had dinner with a spectacular view at the Shard, wandered through Notting Hill, and constantly wished we didn’t have to leave.
Barcelona and Sevilla are still two of my favorite cities, but London is absolutely right up there with them. It’s incredibly international, offers a variety of activities so you won’t bore easily, and the public transportation system makes all areas of London accessible.
One of my favorite activities in London was spending the evening at Jamie Oliver’s Recipease, which is primarily a cooking school, combined with a small cafe and shop. Lexi, my mom and I decided on a “filled pasta” lesson, which included a hands-on cooking lesson and ended with each person savoring their homemade creations for dinner. It was a unique and fun experience – we’ll do a post soon dedicated just to our night at Recipease and include the amazing, yet so simple, pasta recipes we learned!
I feel like I say this every time I leave a new place, but I really, truly enjoyed my time London and will be back soon. Maybe permanently – ya never know, right?
- Tourist Attractions:
- Tower of London: this was the only real tour we actually did. If you time it right, you can take a guided tour from an authentic Beef Eater who actually lives at the Tower. It’s a fascinating place, with history seeping out of its walls.
- Tower Bridge
- London Bridge
- Big Ben & Parliament
- London Eye
- Westiminster Abbey: we didn’t get to go inside because it closes mid-afternoon, so watch for that.
- Platform 9 3/4s at King’s Cross Station
- Hyde Park
- Buckingham Palace
- Les Miserables (or any musical/opera, really)
- Borough Market: MUST. SEE. Outdoor food market packed with some tourists, but also a lot of businessmen and women on their lunch breaks and/or looking for a pint at 5 p.m.
- Camden Market: We visited on a crowded Saturday afternoon, but it is truly a sight to see, and it’s like stepping back into the 90’s grunge scene, or Seattle. Markets with food and jewelry, clothes, souvenirs.
- Portobello Road Market: food + trinket market (lots of fur coats, too) on the weekends in Notting Hill, we made it just to the end
- Neighborhoods (Boroughs) + Streets:
- Oxford & Regent Streets: wonderful shopping (almost spent the whole trip inside the TopShop)
- SoHo: one of our favorite neighborhoods, right by Oxford/Regent Streets – a lot of pubs, some hipsters, colorful buildings, and more pubs. Also the heart of the LGBT community!
- Notting Hill: obviously, this is a must, if just to see the colorful houses
- Chelsea & Kensington
- Hammersmith & Fullham
- For more on London’s 33 boroughs, visit here
- Aqua Shard: wonderful restaurant on the 31st floor of The Shard with spectacular views of the city. Make reservations in advance. If you don’t have dinner reservations, if you go early, you can maybe get a spot at the bar to enjoy top-notch cocktails.
- Wheatsheaf: aka our neighborhood pub. Calls itself a “proper” pub, and we agree. Right off the Borough Market with cold pints and good tunes. The crowd is a nice mix of hipsters, businessmen/women, and at the time, 3 Americans who almost never left.
- Jamie Oliver’s Recipease (and all Jamie Oliver restaurants, there are a few)
- Pinx: Catalonian tapas restaurant, reservations recommended at the SoHo location
- San Carlo Cicchetti: posh Italian tapas-style restaurant in Piccadilly with authentic, handmade dishes. Reservations recommended.
- Underground tube: if you’ll be out late at night, they do not run 24/7, so you’ll have to take the buses or Uber/taxis. **Get an Oyster card if you’ll be in the city for longer than a day
- Overground trains
- Uber: use UberX, it’s the cheapest way to get around other than the metros/buses
- Taxis: the black taxis are the most expensive, but the drivers legitimately go to school to become cab drivers, so they are incredibly knowledgable.
Although this feels like one of the more in-depth city guides we’ve done, I still feel like it doesn’t even begin to capture all London has to offer. If you’ve been to London and have any other suggestions for our next trip, please let us know!