Since I’m not really going anywhere exciting in the near future and am wanderlusting about London right now- I decided to write about my past travel experiences to the UK and all about the best sights to see. Some of which you may know and some of which may be hidden gems.
London is one of my favorite cities (besides LA) and after now taking 3 trips there I feel like I can tell you a little bit about London.
This one is a very long and detailed posts so grab a snack!
Before I talk more about the tourist spots let me start off with info about the transportation options you have. I flew once and went by bus twice from Germany to London. When flying I recommend flying into heathrow and then taking a bus shuttle to your hotel. You can book it through any travel agent. To go around London I recommend getting a day or week ticket for the tube (or subway). A pass for zones 1+2- tube plans work in zones- is enough but if you want to get fancy and go around the suburbs of London get one for zones 1-6. I think a week ticket runs for about 25£. It’s easy & fast to get to places taking the tube but you sometimes have to walk to the next underground station and almost always have to stand pressed between people because there are a crazy amount of people. London is not really the city to go to relax and unwind.
I’ve been there in March, August and October and would defiantly tell you NOT to go in summer. It’s super crowded and hot and you’ll caugh black smokey taking the tube (literally!). Spring and autumn is the most beautiful time to go since it’s less crowded and you’ll get a mix of beautiful and rainy weather. Very London appropriate. Oh and make sure to to always look left before crossing the road since they drive on the other side (except if you’re from Australia- then proceed as usual). But just in case: the have it written on the ground as well!
London eye: One of the classic spots to go to. From one side of the Themes you’ll get a beautiful picture of the London eye with its reflection in the water. Or if you actually want to go on the ferrys wheel you’ll see London from the top. But because I’m afraid of heights I can’t tell you how the ride is. People love it and recommend it though. It’s kind of pricey with 20£ per 30-min ride but that’s what you have to expect in London. It’s pricey. You’ll save money booking things like these online. Oh and you can sometimes get general tickets that will get you in a bunch of different things like the London dungeon, sea life, madame taussauds and themes cruises.
Tower of London plus „Change of the guards“ on horses: This is the right spot to go if you want to see some expensive bling bling that you can’t touch. If you buy tickets in advance you can look at the Queen’s jewels during an audio guided tours (available in different languages). If you don’t want to go inside and spend the money it’s also really nice to look at the building from just the outside. You can also spot the guards on horses at one corner which is really old school british. Feel free to walk up to them and take a picture with them!
National museum: There are a bunch of free museums to visit like the national gallery, the national portrait gallery and the national war museum. You can look them up online but there are also marked on a bunch of maps. You’ll recognize the entrance of the national gallery from the final Harry Potter premiere where the stars held their farewell speeches. Look it up on YouTube if you don’t know what I’m talking about. These galleries are nothing too exciting but it’s great if you’re stuck in a rut or are on a budget. It doesn’t get more British than looking at a painting of the queen.
Big Ben & Westminster abbey: As one of the most famous old buildings (apart from the palace) it is probably every tourist’s first stop. Going into the church where Kate & William got married costs money (like 12 pounds I believe) but is free to enter Sunday mornings during mass. So if you really want to take a peek inside and even take part in a catholic mass you should check that out. Big Ben is really nice to take photos of at night because it’s all lit up but (correct me if I’m wrong) you can actually go inside as well. For money only of course. That’s the way it is in London though. I haven’t been inside and I’m also not too sure what the connecting building is. The parliament ? Yes ? No? I should google this haha.
Camden lock market: A friend of mine introduced me to this and I actually didn’t have clue what it looked like until i stood in the middle of Camden lock market. It’s crazy crowded but has a ton of cute little old british shops and cafes. As you can see in the picture below there are a lot of old building with graffiti or paintings on them. Camden lock market would be especially great for those that want to see something different, don’t want to spend too much money on shopping and want to take some cool photos. Discover for yourself!
Millenium bridge to Shakespeare’s globe theatre: Apart from being a key moment in the destruction scene of the 6th Harry Potter movie, the millenium bridge isn’t too exciting. It’s literally a big bridge taking you across the themes. It’s nice to take picture on though because you have a great view of the London skyline. If you walk all the way over you’ll find the Shakespeare globe theatre on one end (don’t ask me which haha). You can visit that and tour it and even see a play in the summer. This is nice for all theatre geeks.
Picadilly circus: It’s a classic spot to go and take pictures. There is always so much going on and there are a bunch of restaurants, souvenir shops and more. Also all important roads go from there so it’s a great spot to start and then work your way out. But, I made the mistake thinking *everything* would be located on Piccadilly and while yes a lot is there it’s more a place to discover london stores, souvenirs and some restaurants. You defiantly have to either google or look for the places you want to visit or otherwise you will be lost in the crowds of london haha
Oxford street: Is the main shopping street with all the important shops either directly located on oxford or directly off oxford in side streets (like bond street). No matter if you want high end brands or affordable shopping, department stores, cafés or extraordinary single boutiques, you’ll find something. Google before hand the shops so you can take the tube from one end of the oxford street to the other instead of walking between all the masses. It will be crowded no matter what time, day or season but that’s how it is.
Hard Rock Cafe: I, personally, love the Hard Rock Cafés and make it a tradition to at least get a shirt from every HRC i went to, sometimes i even have time to eat there. I recommend their Mac N cheese…YUM! They have a variety of food, drinks and desert and also have a great atmosphere as well as a huge souvenir shop. They are relatively pricey and have a wait time of 50 min approx. but it’s so worth it.
Pizza express: This restaurant is not exactly the tourist spot but i discovered pizza express by accident and all the locals seem to go to it so it’s something different for sure. The inside kind of reminds me of an old school diner but it’s more chic and open and airy then the usual diner. They only serve Pizza and a few salad and pasta dishes but their pizza is the bomb. You can choose from a ton of fresh vegetables, meats, fish and cheese to add on your freshly baked and made pizza. There are several restaurants in London so have a lookout for one of them. I know one is located on Piccadilly.
Selfridges: Everyone knows Harrods but not many people have heard of Selfridges. Both carry relatively similar brands but i feel like Harrods is more old school chic while Selfridges is more modern. But you decide. On the very top floor of Selfridges there is a HUGE starbucks from where you can overview Oxford street and some of London. It’s really beautiful and a great spot to stop for coffee during shopping.
Chinatown: a friend of mine introduced me to Chinatown and while I didn’t have time to stop for food or shopping the light at night look beautiful and it really feels like you’re in Asia. For someone that wants to discover something different or is a on a hunt for special shops or restaurant defiantly needs to check out china town besides camden locket market and covent garden.
Film premieres: Now, every big city has film premieres but a lot of them happen in London. Defiantly google if there are any while you’re in town. Apparently there are certain seasons for film premieres. Who knew ?! I happened to have been in London for two premieres in one week, and I didn’t even plan it. I got to see the Fury premiere from afar and then be right by the red carpet of the Horns premiere. I met Daniel Radcliffe and got a selfie with him which was a dream come true for the Harry Potter fan inside of me. Big world premieres are usually too crowded- even hours before the official start but sometimes there are small british premieres with only 2 or 3 actors which usually take place at the Odeon West end right between Piccadilly and Leicster square. There are also some souvenir shops and restaurants located next to the cinema so go check that out if you have some free time. Even if you don’t see any real life celebs you can always just watch a film on the big screen at Odeon.
Harry Potter studio tour (in Watford): This is not in London but there are several bus and train shuttles that take you directly to the warner bros studios in watford. There you can experience Hogwarts and the making of Harry Potter in its full glory. Its bigger than the exhibit in LA (update LA has now a full park too) but there is not a full village of shops like in Orlando. This one really only features the real film set and props used. But for every Harry Potter fan its a must and the tickets aren’t too expensive either.
Hopefully you guys took some ideas from this that will make your next London trip so much more enjoyable. I know planning a trip and finding your way around a foreign country can be stressful.