Hey Travel Lovers!
I’m so excited to share about my trip to London and my recommendations for going over there. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment with them. Always happy to help!
Quick backstory on the trip before I dive in to my recommendations for visiting. I went to London for about 10 days with a group of fellow students from my school. We went to learn about Brexit, the culture, and see some amazing historical sites. Although I stayed in London for majority of the time, I did get a chance to take a day trip to Bath which I’ll talk about later. That was really the only chance I had to explore outside of the area so this post is mainly focused on what to do if you’re taking a quick trip to London.
Also, I tried to link as many of my recommendations with the place to buy the tickets online. Hope it helps!
Things To Think About Before Leaving
I’ve been lucky enough to travel and live overseas so the travel basics were pretty easy for me. If you’re interested in learning more about those “travel basics” to bring for your trip, I’ll be writing another post about that soon. So, make sure to follow!
That being said, here are some London specific things that I wish I had thought through or known.
- London is CRAZY expensive. Prepare to spend a lot of money on food. There are some fast food places like McDonald’s that you can go to, but I didn’t see a ton of them.
- Print off a map of the underground (or “tube”). If you’re staying in London for more than a few days, I HIGHLY recommend using the underground. It’s convenient and easy to use once you get the hang of it. There are stops close to all of the big sites.
- Bring really really good walking shoes. There is a lot to see in London. The tube will get you close to where you need to go, but you’re going to still do a lot of walking on a daily basis. I averaged about 6 miles per day.
- Buy an oyster card for the underground. Just like you can buy a pass for the subway in NYC, you can load money on a pass for the underground as well. If you’re planning on doing a lot of traveling around the city, I’d recommend putting about £40-£50 on the card. If you end up needing more, you can easily add more money at one of the kiosks located at all the stations. You can also use this pass for the red double-decker bus.
- The wind in London is…intense. While we were there, London had 54 mph winds. That was one of the worst days, but it was decently windy the rest of the time. We found out that we came during a storm so my experience won’t always be the norm, but make sure and check the weather if you go. If you see windy, know that it is WINDY. See below for an attempted picture in 54 mp winds.
- If you can, bring a credit card that doesn’t charge extra for use overseas. A lot of banks will charge an extra percentage fee off of transactions made overseas. Also, make sure to let your bank know you’re going over so they don’t freeze your card! If you have Discover, London doesn’t have a lot of places that actually take that card.
Historical Things To See in London
Now all of these things you have to pay to see except Buckingham Palace. However, I personally think they’re worth it.
- Westminster Abbey. Our group was able to have a tour guide for this visit, but they also provide audio guides. There is so much history there from the coronation chair to the burial place of Isaac Newton. You can’t take pictures inside, but you can take pictures when outside and then when you walk through the corridors leading to the inside of the cathedral.
- Buckingham Palace. You can’t go inside the palace, but it’s pretty cool to stop by and say that you saw it. This is only on the list since it’s easy to get to and one of those things that you just have to see. ALSO, the changing of the guard does not happen every day. If you’re hoping to see this, make sure you look up the days that it does occur.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral. This cathedral has been rebuilt multiple times and dates all the way back to its founding by, you guessed it, St. Paul. I put this on the list because it shows a darker history of London and how they’ve been able to rebuild each time. You also cannot take pictures inside.
- The Palace of Westminster. This is where the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet. You can take a tour through the building and walk right up to where Winston Churchill gave many famous speeches. This entire palace is over the top ornate. My jaw dropped in every room I went into. You can also book a spot to get tea there with a view overlooking the Thames.
- The Tower of London/The Crown Jewels. This was hands down my favorite spot. I expected it to be…a tower..but it’s actually a fortress located on the Thames river. It has multiple buildings and also hosts the crown jewels. If you’re into history, I’d block out about 2-4 hours to stay there and really see everything. It’s also right next to the Tower Bridge where you can take an elevator to the top and walk across.
- The British Museum. The museum does not charge an admission fee, but does ask for a donation. It houses an unbelievable amount of artifacts including Cleopatra’s mummy, the Easter Island Statue, the Rosetta Stone, and so much more. I only had about 30 minutes to go through it since I got there late and it closes before 6pm. You could easily spend hours here. The neat thing about this museum is that you can go right up to majority of the artifacts and touch them if you want (don’t…but you could…). It made me feel like I was stepping back into history.
Other Things & Places To Visit
- The Mousetrap play by Agatha Christie. If you enjoy the theater, I really recommend seeing this. It is the longest running play at I believe 67 years. It’s located in a fun part of town that’s close to some nice restaurants. It’s perfect for a night out.
- The Pubs. This is a great place to experience the culture. The people there are incredibly friendly and it’s so easy to strike up a conversation with them. I highly suggest going at least once if you’re interested in learning about the culture. Also, great drinks! If you can, go when there’s a football game on – it’s a fun atmosphere.
- If you like cigars, go to James J. Fox. It’s the world’s oldest cigar shop. You can sit in the chair that Winston Churchill would always sit in and even buy his favorite cigar. I didn’t go, but a few of my guy friends went and raved about it.
- Take a train out of Paddington Station and explore. It’s easy to use and it’s cheaper than going with a tour bus group to places like Bath. You also get a chance to see the countryside as you ride out.
- Camden. This is a super touristy spot. It’s a fun place to visit and pick up cheap souvenirs. It is a bustling little town with a few different markets. They also have a canal through it. If you’re lucky enough/if you like this sort of thing, you may be able to see a boat lower in the lock.
- The City of Bath in Somerset County. Bath is a World Heritage site as it has the best preserved Roman remains in Northern Europe. The city is beautiful and full of life. It’s perfect for a day trip. While there, go to the Roman Baths. It is a well preserved Roman site that dates back to 60 AD. You take an audio guided tour through the site and can also see preserved ruins of the Temple of Aquae Sulis that was also on the site. Highly recommend going here.
- Harrods. Located in Knightsbridge, London, this department store is glamorous from its’ design to the items it houses. I couldn’t afford to buy any of the designer goods they are stocked full of (330 departments), but it’s fun to walk through and just take in – also, it’s free!
There are plenty of other things to do in London. I was not able to check everything off my list, but those are just some of my recommendations that I was able to get to while there.
Overrated (in my personal opinion) Things
- The Globe Theatre. I’m a huge history buff so I was excited to go there. I found out while there (maybe it’s common knowledge) that it was rebuilt in 1997 so it was very new. The tour was good if you want to learn about the history, but that’s about it. I only took the tour there so I can’t speak to the plays. If you go in the winter, the shows take place in an indoor theatre, but if you go during the warmer months, you can see them in The Globe.
- The Sherlock Holmes’ Museum. It’s £15 to go visit and less than 20 minutes to get through. Instead, you can go take pictures outside of 221b Baker Street (they have a door you can walk up to) and get your Sherlock Holmes fix.
- The London Eye. Now I didn’t actually ride it, but I went to where it was located for some pictures. Personally, it wasn’t worth the cost as I was able to see plenty of London from the top of Tower Bridge and just walking around. I had this last on my list to visit and by the end of the trip, I opted against going because I felt like it wasn’t worth it.
- Big Ben. Now Big Ben isn’t overrated, but right now it’s under construction until 2021 so you can only see the face of the clock.
That’s all I’ve got! There are a ton of other things to see and things that I didn’t get a chance to get to in the 10 days that I was there. You can spend so much time in this city and never get bored. I can’t wait until the next time I can go. Hope my recommendations help you out! And have fun!
Until next time,