London, England

Intro: I’ve said it many times, London is my absolute favorite city in the entire world. Well, so far. I haven’t seen everywhere yet, but so far, London entirely has captured my heart even before I first stepped foot off that plane.

You can read my journal-style blog posts of London from November 2013 here, a quick weekend in May 2015 here, and from my week-long solo trip September 2015 here.

Eat: Here’s a “Travel on the Cheap” tip for y’all- go to the supermarket and take advantage of decent weather by buying a meal deal and heading to the nearest park. These meals aren’t Instagrammable, but with all the money you save you can Instagram your Ladurée macaroons instead. I also had afternoon tea  at The Balcon which was great! Another alternative for afternoon tea is right by the British museum and it’s a little cheaper. That place is called Tea and Tattle. My favorite coffee shop in London was Fleet Street Press. It was a cute little space to escape the rain by St. Paul’s Cathedral! Eating in areas like Chinatown and at the markets (such as Camden or Portobello Road) can also keep costs down.

Sleep: I’ve stayed in different accommodations every time I’ve been in London. The first time I stayed with family friends (which doesn’t do y’all much good as I don’t feel as though they’re up to opening their home to all of y’all…). The second time, I acted completely out of character and sought out accommodation only after we arrived in London. We left Victoria Station and started walking down Belgrave road right by the station, where we proceeded to be Mary and Joseph and go door-to-door asking for availability. We stayed at a B&B that was MEH, okay. The street and area were nice but my travel pal got bedbugs… I fared okay. Let’s leave it at that. I say all that to say that it’s possible to find accommodation when you arrive into town, and you may even be able to knock off a couple bucks off the listed room rate. I was also at an airport hotel, but my favorite accommodation was the Generator Hostel. I honestly don’t have a single complaint, and it was only about $20 a night. I’ve also stayed at Clink hostel, which was super unique because it’s an old renovated courthouse and has a ton of character! It’s by St. Pancras station, which makes it about 10 mins further from town than the Generator hostel (my only complaint- though it was cheaper than the Generator for my dates I needed!)

Trek: London has a great transit system. Their tube gets you anywhere you want, though it is pricey so choose wisely if it’s worth it or not- a day pass will run you almost $20! There are plenty of pedestrians getting from point A to point B though, and you can easily find yourself walking 12 miles getting to and from the sights. It’s worth walking- there’s plenty to see above ground! As for flights, I’ve liked Stansted the best. It’s over an hour away from London, but that’s Ryanair for you. It’s hard to complain when the fare is $10 each way! There’s a great, inexpensive EasyBus shuttle (where you can get tickets as cheap as $3 each way) and it drops you off right in the city center of London. Brilliant!

Do: There’s a lot to say about this one! I also wanted to mention I walked to all of these places and survived, so you can too!

I love nerding out at museums– the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Museum of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Natural History Museum are the ones I’ve been to and loved! Most of the museums in London are free (they have donation boxes when you’re leaving the museum), so of course I took advantage of these! It’s a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon that London is so well-known for.  My favorite, hands down, was the Museum of London. It’s a smaller museum but it’s adorable inside and they have some really well-done exhibits!

There are also some great physical spaces to check out in London! By this, I mean streets such as Oxford Street, which is great for shopping, and Piccadilly Circus, which has a great Times Square vibe. The parks are also great! Hyde park, Kensington gardens, Green park, St. James’ Park, and the Regent’s Park are all cute places to picnic. And Chinatown is also fun to walk around in. London’s Chinatown happens to be the largest in Europe, and it really does feel like a foreign world when you step through those gates!

Other must-see sites were Buckingham Palace (which you can actually tour during specific times of the year!), Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral (which was made famous to most Disney fans when it was featured in Mary Poppins!). Most people don’t realize you can get into Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral for free if you attend a service there. I highly recommend this option, as the entry fees for these two sites of worship are outrageous. The services are really beautiful too! Worshipping in a place that’s been used for worship for ten CENTURIES always gets me in my feels. I haven’t yet toured Kensington Palace, only because I’ve heard EH things about the tour. If you can make it there,  Hampton Court Palace is definitely high on my get-to list. It’s where King Henry the VIII once lived, and it’s so interesting to explore!

My favorite shops that I always have to go to whilst in London have to be LUSH on Oxford Street, and Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road. The LUSH store is always a must because it’s the flagship store and it’s THREE STORIES of bath goodies including exclusives you can only buy at the Oxford shop! And while on Oxford Street, deffo check out Primark– It’s a massive store comparable to H&M with ridiculously low prices and SUPER cute things! Paperchase is my favorite too because it has every stationery item you could ever want. It’s also three floors and the flagship store, and it’s so beautiful and fairly priced! The last time I went, I even got map of the British Isles (that includes Ireland, for all you geographically challenged folk) for 3.50 pounds. I love it!

Summarization: Go to London. And take a picture in a red telephone booth. And prepare to fall in love with this glorious city!

Extra Notes:

  • As usual, take advantage of the free walking tours! Sandeman gives a great general tour of London, while Free Tours By Foot gives great specific tours.
  • Pack extra socks. It drizzles nearly every day, and nothing is worse than running out of socks early because your shoes got soppin’ wet in the rain. And pack a waterproof jacket AND an umbrella!
  • Check out London’s Groupon site and see if you can do something unique for the cheap! We got a super good price for our Afternoon Tea service that way.
  • Harrods is an overwhelmingly cool experience if you have a spare rainy day. It’s six (or seven?) stories of EVERYTHING. Gucci dog collars, Burberry scarves… if you can dream it, it’s here. Liberty is a huge Harrods-esque store more central that’s also worth looking into. It’s a GORGEOUS store!

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