Having just returned from a week-long excursion to the United Kingdom, I thought I’d share my four day London itinerary. This was my first proper trip to London in years and as a future Londoner, I figured it would be nice to hit all the sites before my move. A lot of planning went into this trip, trying to plan each day geographically while hitting the places my instagram feed desperately needed. Naturally, there will be many future London posts regarding restaurants, day trips, etc., but as for now, we will cover all the must-sees of London. Let’s begin!
– Day 1 –
Start the morning, after coffee and breakfast, with the Tate Modern – home to international modern and contemporary art. The Tate Modern is free to enter (as are all national museums in London) and opens daily at 10:00. Mind you, I’m a fan of modern art so if you’re looking for more classical art, I suggest the Tate Britain, the National Portrait Gallery or the Victoria and Albert Museum. After soaking in beautiful art, walk next door (tours available) to see Shakespeare’s Globe theater, which is a replica of Shakespeare’s original. There are shows nightly and a wonderful restaurant next door, the Swan, to grab dinner and drinks beforehand. Following a morning of culture, head to Borough Market for lunch. With so many stalls to choose from, I recommend grabbing a bit of everything to try (Bread Ahead has great donuts). When planning your trip, take notice of which day you head to Borough Market, as the market is closed Sundays and open limitedly Monday and Tuesday. Head across the river via the Millennium Bridge (Harry Potter fans rejoice) to check out St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. Paul’s Cathedral is open daily from 8:30 – 16:30 with the exception of Sundays. Tickets and tours can be purchased online in advance to save £3. Next, walk over to Leadenhall Market for a bit of shopping in a beautiful covered mall. For a great view of the city, stop at the Sky Garden around the corner. It is a gorgeous indoor garden with spectacular views and cool restaurants. Tickets are free, but it is important to book your visit in advance as lines wrap around the building. To finish off your day, venture to the Tower Bridge and Tower of London. The Tower of London is home to the Royal Family’s Crown Jewels (my favorite), an infamous prison, and a lot of history. For more information on ticketing and hours of operation, check out their website here. Naturally, after a long day of touristing, it’s time for dinner. I recommend the Coppa Club Tower Bridge location as its right next door AND gives you the opportunity to dine in the most instagram-worthy igloo outside of the north pole.
– Day 2 –
I suggest kicking off day two at Trafalgar Square and maybe popping into the National Gallery while your coffee (or tea as you are in Britain) soaks in. As I’ve dubbed day two a shopping day, head to Piccadilly Circus and window shop your way up Regent Street towards Oxford Circus. After shopping or window shopping your heart out, take a walk through Chinatown. Not only is Chinatown beautiful, but it has a lot to offer in the restaurant and and bar area. Next up, make your way to Covent Garden – a personal favorite of mine. Covent Garden is magical and I’m not just saying that because of the twinkling lights everywhere. When we found ourselves with extra time on our last night, we went back to Covent Garden: its that wonderful. If you need break from walking or just fancy a drink, I recommend heading into the Ivy Market Grill. Its a new location of an iconic London restaurant that just may be the coolest place I’ve ever had a Jack and Diet in. While you may be tempted to never leave the Ivy, hop off your barstool and head to Neal’s Yard. Neal’s Yard is like Covent Garden’s cool little sister and was dubbed one of London’s prettiest streets. If you find yourself hungry, I was recommended ‘Homeslice’ which specializes in pizza with diverse flavors. While this day was a little lighter on the “tourist stops,” I think there’s so much to see and experience by simply walking through neighborhoods, stopping for a pint or cup of tea, and embracing the country/culture around you.
– Day 3 –
Begin day three at Buckingham Palace, take your photos and position yourself nicely for the changing of the guards at 10:45. Following the ceremony, walk through St. James Park towards 10 Downing St. Unfortunately, there’s not much to see at 10 Downing Street except a quick peak through the gate. After visiting the Prime Minister, head to Westminster Abbey to see the stunning location of royal coronations and weddings alike. The church is the final resting place of many monarchs and many other famous figures: Jane Austen, Sir Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin. Tickets inside run £21 in advance or £23 at the door. For full operating hours (they vary on season), see the website here. Big Ben, or the Houses of Parliament, is currently under reconstruction and is covered in scaffolding. The project is set to last through 2020, so photo-ops in front of infamous tower will be back soon. The Houses of Parliament are not open for visitors, however, I’ve read that UK citizens are able to contact their local official to schedule a visit. By now, it’s time for afternoon tea. We were able to find a Groupon for afternoon tea for two at the Royal Horseguards Hotel. The hotel is beautiful and the entire experience was our favorite of the whole week. Arriving nearly an hour early for our reservation, they seated us right away and asked if there were any dietary restrictions. I, a vegetarian, said yes and they brought me a personal plate of vegetarian sandwiches. I *highly* recommend sitting down and enjoying afternoon tea during your time in London, and I suggest the Royal Horseguards Hotel be at the top of your list. Post-tea, we rolled ourselves over to the London Eye and enjoyed the 30-minute Ferris wheel ride over London. Because we had different time restraints, we were unable to do the River Thames cruise, but I recommend booking the dual ticket to save a few dollars. It is also convenient that the River Cruise launches nearby, so you can hop from the Eye straight to the cruise. We were lucky that we visited on a slow day and did not have any lines or waiting, but the queues can grow very long during busier summer months. As we traveled in November, the Southbank Centre Winter Market was open! We finished our day there wandering through the market, drinking mulled wine and enjoying the festive shops. Naturally, this market is only open during the holiday season, but the Southbank Centre usually has a lot going on, so be sure to check before your visit.
– Day 4 –
To start off your final day, head to Gail’s Bakery in Nottinghill for breakfast and coffee. Conveniently located on the corner of Portobello Road, it offers a great starting point. After breakfast, walk to the Portobello Rd Market to search for good vintage finds (I saw sooo many vintage Burberry coats reasonably priced). If you’re looking for a great instagram shot of Nottinghill, I recommend Colville Houses (shown below) as its a dead end street with minimal traffic, people and noise. After thoroughly shopping at the market, turn back and walk down Portobello Road towards Kensington. We practically shopped the entire way to The Churchill Arms – a beautiful pub decorated seasonally. After quick pint in The Churchill Arms, we walked to Kensington Palace via the Kensington Palace Gardens (beautiful street full of massive homes and embassies). You can purchase tickets to Kensington Palace online, but be wary of operating hours and closures. Hyde Park is right around the corner and worth a visit. Post-park, we took an uber to Harrods. Harrods is magnificent, and even more so during the holiday season. It was quite hectic in there as we visited on a busy Saturday. We had lunch at the Pasta Bar in the dining hall and it was one of the best meals of the trip (I’m a sucker for cacio e pepe). As the holiday season has already begun in London, we left lunch and went to the National History Museum to check out it’s ice rink. The rink and little winter wonderland is something out of a Hallmark movie, a must-see if in London during winter!
Have you been to London? What were your favorite things to see?