I feel like I’m taking on a lot to even begin writing this post. Once I got back home from our England and Ireland trip I quickly realized that London is probably my favorite city in the whole world. This is no shocker considering I’ve been obsessed with it since I could remember. I used to have aspirations of attending Oxford (get out of your laughs out now…) and I proudly hung the U.K. flag in my bedroom. I also watched What a Girl Wants religiously one summer and decided I would live that London life one day.
So it’s not a shocker that I feel like I’m unqualified to even write this post because I barely skimmed the surface of everything you can do in London. I’m already getting ready to book that plane ticket back there so I can go to all the places I didn’t have time for! I’m going to share with you what we did do along with other things we were told about but didn’t have the time to try! I’m also including all of the tips I learned along the way!
The London Tower
This is No. 1 for a reason. It was my favorite stop on our Day Tour of London and now I’m completely obsessed with the Tudor family. I just finished the book Three Sisters, Three Queens and if you’re into scandals (who isn’t?), I highly suggest reading up on this royal family. Everyone is familiar with King Henry VIII…well this is the place where he beheaded a couple of his wives. It’s a pretty spooky place. If it wasn’t a sunny day and full of tourists I’m not sure how long I would’ve lasted on the London Tower grounds.
Tip: Speaking of tourists, the place gets very, very busy. We even went during the off-season of tourism but it was on the weekend of Easter, which we quickly discovered they celebrate hardcore across the pond. Pretty much everyone has a long weekend and spends it with family. I would suggest getting there early (we went right after lunch) and getting in line for the Crown Jewels first. It seems like that is the place that fills up the quickest. We didn’t even get to see them because our tour guide said it would be at least a 45-minute wait, so we just explored all the other places.
But everything that we did see was amazing – the torture chamber, The White Tower, Ravens, it was all extremely interesting. It was hard to believe that the history you have been told happened on the same ground you were standing on.
The London Eye is sort of one of those things you have to do as a tourist. Now, I will say it’s not easy on your wallet and the entire experience only lasts about 30 minutes, but it’s pretty cool! If you’re trying to budget, I think you could skip it. If you’re going all out, then definitely add this to your list of things to do!
Tip: Book your ticket in advance online and take caution that the place gets extremely busy and it’s a very congested area when it does. It was one of those times that I actually didn’t like all the people. There were SO MANY people it was bit annoying. We ended up going on one of the last rides around 7:30 pm and it cleared out so much that I highly recommend going later if you’re not into crowds of people. See pic below.
One of Her Majesty’s homely abode… Buckingham Palace was so cool to see (even though I did feel like it was a bit smaller than I had anticipated, I for real thought it was Kensington Palace when we rolled up to it). We were supposed to go on the day that they did the Changing of the Guards (this is scheduled and doesn’t happen every day, so plan accordingly), but it ended up getting moved to the next day due to security. You know what, though? I think I liked it better the way that I saw Buckingham Palace because we went early in the morning around 8 am and there was barely anyone there! We could get all of the pics we wanted right up to the gate – which does not happen once the day gets going, that place gets really busy. Now, imagine it with the Changing of the Guards ceremony. Talk about a storm of people!
Tip: My tip here is like above, just get there early if you really want to spectate and maybe plan a different day to come back and watch the Changing of the Guards. I hear they play Katy Perry songs during it (seriously).
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Did you know that this is where Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married at?! You can literally walk down the “aisle” like she did! St. Paul’s Cathedral is breathtaking, it’s huge and full of so much art and history. We went on a guided tour that we purchased through Viator, but you can also go by yourself and rent a listening guide and walk through St. Paul’s on your own.
Tip: My only tip for this is if you are interested in going during an actual service, you can! Just check their schedule and join a Sunday service or a special chorus performance, I think they have those often.
I loved Trafalgar Square, there is always so much stuff going on. We were there on Easter weekend and they were doing a free play for everyone. It’s a cool place to walk around and just hang out and admire all of the statues and architecture. If this tells you anything how cool it is; I had no idea we were in Trafalgar Square and I took like 150 pictures then realized where I was. There was so much to look at!
Tip: Grab some food and take it Trafalgar Square for a picnic!
Boat Ride on River Thames
This is an easy way to see a lot of London in a fun way! Pro tips: You can use your Oyster card ( the same card you use for the train system) on some of the boats and I *think* all boats have food and drinks aboard. One we went on even had an option to have afternoon tea!
Tip: Try to go with a tour guide if you can (Viator has options) because then they will be able to point places out to you and tell you more history.
This place completely took my breath away. I seriously felt like I had a spiritual awakening when viewing this masterpiece. It’s the grave to many extremely prominent humans who have graced this earth and it’s also a place where someone like Princess Diana has had her funeral held. I was standing in front of the door that they carried her coffin in and I remember watching that on TV when I was little. We were only able to view the outside, but it’s at the top of my list for the next London visit.
Tip: Go early! This is a busy tourist spot. The doors open at a different time each day, you can find the times here. The day we went, we were there around 8:45 – 9 am and there was hardly anyone around. Right around 9:15 I looked back at where we were and there was a huge line! It fills up quick, so I highly suggest going right when they open. It’s a place not to miss.
The Tower Bridge
This is a place we didn’t get to visit (only saw it from afar) but I hear it’s really cool! You can walk at the top and walk over glass to see below!
Tip: Schedule your visit and book online ahead of time, this was partly why we weren’t able to visit because we couldn’t get in!
Visit London’s Oldest Wine Bar: Gordon’s
This was a place recommended to us by a friend and I’m so glad we were told about this gem! Grabbing a bottle of wine, or half (you can buy half a bottle!) then sitting outside on the large patio or if you’re lucky, find a spot in the inside, it’s an old cave-looking place. You’ll feel like you’re going back in time there. It’s fairly priced too, a glass is around 5 pounds and snacks are reasonable as well.
Tip: It gets pretty busy around 6 pm during the weekdays because of everyone getting off work and grabbing a drink. We went around this time and it was so busy that we had to make a makeshift table out of a lawn chair…
British Museum & National Gallery Art Museum
Sadly, this is one place that we tried to go to but the line was about 2 miles long (okay, that might be exaggerating just a tad) but it was so busy. The next time we’re in London, I’m waking up bright and early and getting my butt in line. This museum holds some of the most fascinating and rare things in the world – including the Rosetta Stone. This place is huge too, you probably won’t be able to see everything so map out your plan ahead of time.
Tip: All museums in London are free – YAY! They do, however, have tours and special events that you can pay to see and are usually still cheap!
Even though we were bummed about not being able to go to the British Museum, we just headed to the next museum we could find. That’s the beauty of them having free admission! You can go to all of them without spending a dime! We ended up walking through the National Gallery art museum, which did NOT disappoint! We saw art by Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Leonardo, Monet, among many others.
London Olympic Stadium Tour
For all you Olympic fanatics, this one is for you! You can still visit the grounds of the 2012 Summer Olympics! The stadium is now home to West Ham United soccer team and the tour is a little focused on them but they do a great job of focusing on the Olympics too. The tour was so great, it’s a self-guided tour with a mobile device and headphones to listen to different parts of the stadium to highlight Olympic moments and to explain what it’s used for now.
Tip: For any swimmer fans, you can visit the pool but it’s not part of the stadium tour. The pool is just a short walk from the stadium and it’s now a rec center and gym so you’ll have to pay just 1 pound to get in and see it. They also have little peddling boats outside too! There’s randomly a lot to do around there and there’s a huge outdoor shopping center close by too.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter
First, I just want to say one thing: If you are not a fan of Harry Potter, it doesn’t matter. This is still worth a visit. This tour was everything I thought it would be and MORE! I’ve visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando so I expected it to be similar but a bit on steroids. Well, it is! But even more intense than that! The tour will give you props galore (including major props like the house on Privet Drive, parts of the castle, and more). You will quickly see how much intricate detail the design team put into everything. Even books that will go unnoticed on stage have every detail imaginable. Another cool part: This is the same studio where the movies were actually filmed at too!
You could spend so many hours at this place. Just when you think you’re done with the tour you walk into a brand new section of the place. It’s amazing!
Tip: The Studio Tour is actually in Watford, so it’s about a 30-min train ride outside of London. You can book your train ticket in advance and once you get there, they have a Harry Potter double-decker bus to pick you up for a few pounds and it will bring you back.
This place feels like the Europen Times Square! There’s a ton of shops and places to eat here. We spent an evening walking around here and then ate at Masala Zone, a popular Indian restaurant in London.
Isn’t London just a beaut?!
I can’t wait to return.