Home of the royals….love Will & Kate. London is magnificent, historical, charming and everything I imagined. Bustling city streets, cute little black cabs, bright red double decker buses, picturesque red telephone booths, fish & chips, high tea with scones, and a plethora of pubs. London you were amazing (see the view from the Shard above)! Here are some of my favorites:
Big Ben / Elizabeth Tower Houses of Parliament
Iconic and always reminds me of the Peter Pan movie. Beautiful tall golden clock tower, it was under construction when we went in the summer. Walk over the bridge to get a closer view of the ornate architecture. It used to be open to climb up the clock tower to see the Big Ben strike (needed prior security screenings and approval), but I think this remains closed while the structure is being worked on.
Houses of Parliament / Palace of Westminster
Going along with Big Ben Clock Tower, next to the iconic structure is the Palace of Westminster. The seat of the two parliament houses of the United Kingdom, House of Lords and House of Commons. Also under construction with Big Ben when we went, but still such a gorgeous sight to see. I think you can tour the building if you set up reservations in advance.
London residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom. I didn’t get to see the Queen or the Royal Family while I visited, but did catch a glimpse at the changing of the guards ceremony which was neat. Someday I’ll have to come back to tour the palace when I have more time.
Giant iconic ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames 135 meters tall and 120 meters in diameter. Has a pretty view of the city and is sponsored by Coca Cola.
Thames River Cruise
We went on a City Cruises river tour down the Thames. Super neat and would recommend it! It’s available in a ton of different languages (it’s live commentary in English and recorded audio in other common languages). The whole tour took us about 70 mins each way (10 mins from Westminster to London Eye, 30 mins from London Eye to London Tower and 30 mins from London Tower to Greenwich). The best part is cruising underneath the Tower Bridge which is such a cool experience. Some highlights you’ll see along the way are the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben Clock Tower, London Eye, Millennium Footbridge (Harry Potter made this more famous), St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tower of London and Greenwich Park. They sell food/snacks/drinks onboard and they have several different departures from the piers (Westminster, Tower, London Eye, Bankside and Greenwich) depending on where you are located. River Thames is the longest river entirely in England and second longest in the United Kingdom at 215 miles flowing through Southern England.
Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. This is one of the most beautiful bridges I’ve ever seen. It was awesome seeing it from all different angles: if you get the chance walk across the bridge and also take a river cruise underneath the bridge like we did. The bright turquoise blue details were unexpected and eye catching.
Tower of London
The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. You can take a tour inside the grounds which is pretty cool. They also have the cutest most adorable gift shop that I bought way too many souvenirs from and spent way too much time in. They had the best presents for all my friends and family.
Kensington Palace & Gardens
Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. They had a really neat Princess Diana exhibit when we visited in the summer. The golden gate right outside the palace was super grand and incredible.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London. Go to the top of the world famous dome to the Golden Gallery for breathtaking views of the city skyline.
95 story glass skyscraper with one of the best and highest views of all of London. Offers 360 panoramic views for up to 40 miles from the observation deck viewing platforms.
Home of some of the best broadway performances in the West End of London. Some of my all time favorite broadway shows are Wicked and Phantom of the Opera.
National Gallery / Trafalgar Square
The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, in Central London. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. My favorite artists Van Gogh and Monet had some famous paintings here that I loved seeing including Sunflowers, Wheatfield and Waterlillies. Trafalgar square was under construction when we visited in the summer so the fountain was coned off sadly. One of my favorite museums (liked it better than the British Museum) and it reminded me a lot of the Met in NYC.
350 acres of lush greens and basically like the Central Park of NYC for London. It is the largest of four Royal Parks that form a chain from the entrance of Kensington Palace through Kensington Gardens. Serpentine River flows through Hyde Park and is so pretty.
Mentioned already above this is the crooked bridge famous in the Harry Potter movies.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theater
In the London Borough of Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames. Will have to go back someday to see a performance here.
Not as hyped up as the Tower Bridge, but still an original classic landmark. Box girder bridge built from concrete and steel. Neat to see once on the River Cruise along the Thames. Does anyone else have Fergie’s “London Bridge” song playing in their head?
Corner between Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street and one of the busiest corners in London. Has a beautiful fountain in the middle of the ground as a meeting point. There’s lot of cool stores and eating places around here.
Royal Church in the center of London. Where Prince William and Kate Middleton had their royal wedding ceremony. The grounds were stunning!
One of the royal parks of London. Saw this through the River Cruise mentioned above. The Royal Observatory is neat and you can see the Prime Meridian line here.
Harrods is a luxury department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London. One of the most famous department stores in London, it’s huge with many floors and fun to check out.
Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour
Some say these are cheesy and touristy, but I think it’s fabulous. We got to see everything very quickly. Super convenient because it drops you off right in the front of all the famous landmarks. They travel around so often (seems like I’d see one stop every 5 minutes) so it was very easy to spend as much time as we wanted at each place and get on to our next destination. Highly recommend doing The Original Tour. There’s an audio recorded guide giving you highlights and historic facts of each place which was very interesting and it was super fun to ride on the double decker bus.
Fortnum & Mason
My favorite tea brand in all of London. Their packaging is to die for and perfect for gifts for friends and family. My mom absolutely loved their teas. And for those in the States, they now sell this in Williams & Sonoma!
Miscellaneous London Sights
The double decker buses are so fun and loved seeing the beautifully decorated English pubs lining all the quaint streets. The little mini black cabs were funny to see since I’m used to seeing our obnoxious bright yellow ones in the States. Also love the cute red telephone booths on some of the corners.
The London Underground is a public rapid transit system serving London and some parts of the adjacent counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. Loved using the metro to get everywhere in the city, it was super easy. I recommend purchasing an Oyster Card if you will be traveling a lot to many places.
London has two international airports in the center of the city Heathrow and Gatwick. I flew in through Gatwick which was super quick and easy.
3 star hotel in London in Bloomsbury, Central London right by Russell Square. Very simple and loved the cute quaint neighborhood we stayed in. The vibes in this hotel were fun, funky and eclectic. Very close to the metro stops and easy to get to from the Gatwick airport via public transit.
Take time to appreciate the amazing ornate architectural designs throughout London. We saw so many cool buildings with unique character.
Skips Cocktail Chips
Pawn cocktail chips, light tingly melty snack chips in star shell shaped form. I grew up with these as a little kid and love them so much. I have to get some every time I go to London.
Rowntree Fruit Pastilles
Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles are small round sweets measuring about 1.5 cm in diameter; they have a jelly-like consistency, due to the gelatin they are made from, and are covered with sugar. I had a few of the candy version, but on the River Cruise they had these in Ice Lolly form which was delicious.
I’ve had both Shake Shack and In&Out in the States so thought I’d try out Burger Fi which is another burger chain. The root beer float hit the spot and it was cool how they stamp their burger logo into the bun.
Caffè Nero or Caffè Nero Group Ltd is a European style coffee house brand with its headquarters in London, England. Hands down my go to London coffeeshop, reminds me of Starbucks because they were on every corner. I went here every morning. From the biscuits to the scones to the mocha coffee to the mango smoothie, everything was delicious. Can anyone tell that the mango smoothie was my favorite and I couldn’t stop re-ordering it every time?
Cute little cafe right by our hotel in Russell Square among the park area. One of my favorite cuisines is Italian so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat at this adorable outdoor cafe. We were gearing up for our next adventure to Italy. The pizza, pasta and gelato were very good. Also the start to my collection of gelato pictures since I had to try gelato in every European city we went to.
Pret A Manger
An international sandwich shop chain based in the United Kingdom commonly referred to as Pret. I had first tried Pret in NYC and Boston and finally got to try it in London where it is headquartered. I loved their freshly prepared juices and fruit bowls, but their coffee drinks and food is delicious too.
A collection of some of my favorite souvenirs and momentos from my trip below: (Luggage tag from Buckingham, Harrods Guard bear, Oyster card, city cruises and Hop on Hop off brochures, Fortum & Mason fruit silk tea bag tin and Ted Baker makeup bag)
Cheerio by for now London!
Places to See / Food to Eat Next Time:
- Meat Pies at Pie Minister / Beef Wellington
- Windsor Castle
Tour Buckingham Palace
- View from London Eye
- Afternoon Tea – London Marriott County Hall or The Orangery