We just got back from an amazing trip to London and Paris! This was our first time visit in London, but somehow we managed to fit in almost everything we wanted to see. This post is an outline of all the tourist-y sites, and then we’ll have a post on the food (unreal) and the shopping (want to buy everything).
Arriving in London
We left the US on a Friday and arrived in London at 10am on Saturday. Since it was the weekend, we had quite the journey out of the airport. We stood in line at customs for almost 2 hours, but then we were free! Next, we bought a SIM card in the airport (much cheaper than the Verizon Travel Pass) and booked our London Pass (more on that later). Thennn, we got coffee, figured out the train system and eventually got to our hotel room around 2:45…. Long morning.
Where we stayed: The Double Tree Westminster on Stef’s hotel points (it was free! Bonus of the financial consultant life). So we started by wandering around the city from there. Obviously, the discount on this hotel was ideal, but next time we’ll probably stay closer to the Oxford Street area (more food and shopping).
Everything was in bloom! Which was beautiful, but also made us sneeze constantly. Don’t forget your allergy meds while you’re traveling!
House of Parliament
To be honest, we were pretty bad about learning about London ahead of time, and we didn’t know what all of the buildings were. We could have taken a tour of the House of Parliament, but we didn’t. London takes several trips to get through everything!
This first day we spent mostly getting acquainted with the area and finding possible food options, since we didn’t have a ton of recommendations when we arrived (other than what we found on Instagram!).
We found the palace on our walk and took a bunch of photos 🙂 Monday was a bank holiday in London (as well as Memorial Day in the U.S.), and they were preparing for a 10k around the palace – resulting in closed streets for great photos!
Day 2 (Sunday) – Shopping Day
Sunday was spent eating and shopping through London. And we’ll have entire posts on both of those topics.
We’ll have a whole post on shopping in London (AMAZING), but just want to point out that all the best markets are only open on the weekends, typically. If you’re planning a trip, schedule a shopping day on Sunday! Or both days, because the shopping is great.
Day 3 (Monday) – Museums
The original plan was to do our bus tour on Monday, but with the 10k in the city, the guide suggested we choose another day because of all the diversions.
Victoria & Albert
Most of the museums in London are free, including the V&A! We chose the paid Fashion and Nature Exhibit included with our London Pass. We also ate lunch here because the café is beautiful!
Always having fun in the museums…
Royal Albert Hall
Once again, we knew this was a monument we should see but didn’t know much about it. The guided tour was included on our London Pass, so we took advantage of that and learned a lot! However, by this point in our trip our feet were exhausted from all the walking!!
We didn’t make it across the river to the Tate Modern, but this is another free gallery that was beautiful.
While we got our money’s worth out of the London Pass, most of the museums are free and you may not need to buy the pass.
After the museums closed, we went to Dishoom for dinner and stumbled upon Liberty London and Carnaby! More on that later, but just giving you an idea of the whole day 🙂
Day 4 (Tuesday) – Bus Tour
We chose the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off tour through our London Pass, but we’re not recommending a bus tour at all really.
London is SPRAWLING, and while it’s nice to be dropped off at all the sites you need to see, most of the time is spent driving through the city. Since the public transportation system is SO EASY, you probably don’t need a Bus Tour. Just buy a guidebook and drive around on a double-decker red bus for £1.50.
First Hop-Off was at Harrod’s! But that will be in the shopping post!
Tuesday was the only rainday in London (also the only day with 1% chance of rain predicted), so we weren’t able to go through Kensington Gardens 🙁 We enjoyed the palace though, despite the downpour walking there.
This was also included on our London Pass, and there’s typically a fee to get inside.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go inside because the tour was ending. But here’s a photo!
That night we had dinner at Sketch.
Day 5 (Wednesday) – Shakespeare Day!
We purchased our Globe tickets ahead of time, and this was definitely a highlight of our trip!! We also got a tour of the Globe through our London Pass, so we did that first thing in the morning, went to lunch (Duck & Waffle!), then returned for the matinee of As You Like It.
I can’t tell you how much we loved this play. This was a more traditional setting of the play, and they had music and singing and everything. They used a small cast with actors playing more than one part with minimal costume changes – like it would have been in Shakespeare’s time.
Rosalind was played by a man (just like Shakespeare) and Orlando by a woman, which just made the height jokes and disguise situation more comical.
They also had a deaf actor playing Celia, which I wasn’t too sure about when it started (I don’t know BSL), but she was just an excellent actor and the rest of the cast supported her. While I didn’t know the exact words she was saying (why didn’t I bring my copy??), I understood everything she said.
We went over to the Shard to see the view of London.
Since the River Thames winds through the city, you don’t see the Tower Bridge from the London Eye, so this viewing spot worked perfectly. And the sun came through the clouds magically. Also had free access to The View with our London Pass!
The London Eye
On our way to get ice cream and go to the Eye, we had a public transportation/ map fail where we ran out of money while jumping on a bus, walked over the London Bridge instead of the Tower Bridge and just couldn’t get to our ice cream! But we made it eventually.
Important Tip: Do the London Eye on a weeknight right before it closes! We got there at 8:15 (closes at 8:30), and there were no lines, but it was sunset! So we saw the city during golden hour. Dreamy!
Then we were exhausted from all our walking and transportation stress, so we went back to the hotel and packed up to get ready for our trip to Paris!!
PS – Big Ben is under construction for 4 YEARS!! So that’s all we got to see.
Day 6 (Thursday) – Tower Bridge
We tried to get here earlier… but this worked out. Our London Pass expired by this point, so we didn’t have free access to the exhibit. HOWEVER, I’m pretty sure this exhibit involves a glass floor high above the river. NOT INTERESTED.
Stef took some fun photos, we grabbed lunch, ran back to our hotel, got in an uber, and went to the train station! Oh, and we stopped to pick up our London Starbucks mugs (couldn’t forget those!).
Things we missed:
PHEW that made me tired just typing. And I haven’t even told you about the food and shopping yet. We packed SO MUCH into these days, but still couldn’t get quite everything. Here’s what we’re planning on our next trip to our new favorite city:
- Tate Modern
- The British Museum (this is kind of embarrassing… should have been a priority)
- Kensington Gardens (we were there… but then the rain)
- Charles Dickens’ House & Museum 🙂 just because I’m an English nerd
- Maritime Museum? Next time Eric will be coming, and he’ll want to see this for sure.
- Paul’s Cathedral (not just the outside!)
- Westminster Abbey
- House of Parliament
- Trafalgar Square / Picadilly Circus (we were here plenty of times, but apparently these are typical tourist photo ops??)
This post didn’t even include all of the food we ate. So. Stick around for more on London and Paris!