As you might have seen over on our Instagram -page, I went to London last week. This was actually the fifth or sixth time I went over there, and by now I think I'm starting to know the city quite well. That's why I thought it would be a good idea to give you an overview of all the things I think you should really do or see when you go over there and also all the tourist traps that aren't worth your time and you should try to avoid. So let's get started, shall we?
Things to see/Places to go/Things to do
Let's start off with some of my favourite places to go and some of my favourite things to do.
The Big Ben & Westminster Abbey
If you've not seen these two building and taken a picture of them, have you really gone to London ;)? You just have to see these landmarks up close. I'm not a fan of doing all the really touristy stuff but you just can't skip these!
Underground station: Westminster
Camden Town is a colorful town located on the outskirts of London. If you plan on visiting Camden Town (& Camden Market), you should definitely plan to spend an entire afternoon there. It is pretty big and there's a whole lot to see. You've got the food market, with little stalls with food from all around the world. There's Camden High Street, where you can buy clothes, get a tattoo, etc. And then there's Camden Lock Market, located in the old stables, where you can buy all kinds of hand-made jewelry and accessories.
Just stroll around and breathe in the amazing atmosphere. Camden Town is a place for everyone, from weirdos to business people, everyone is welcome here.
Underground station: Camden Town Station
Borough Market is a food market, located underneath the London Bridge. You can get the most delicious English pies here, from the guys at Pieminister and find a spot along the Thames to enjoy your pie. You can also buy fruit and veg, fish, meat, take-away meals, etc.
If you want to eat something different or want to have a quick bite on the go, Borough Market is the place to go! There's not a lot of tourists that know about this place yet, which means it isn't too crowded and you can feel kind of like a local going here ;).
Borough Market is open every day of the week, but there's only a full market from wednesday to saturday. For more info on the opening hours of the market, click here.
Underground station: London Bridge
Tower Bridge and the Tower of London
This is kind of the same story as the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, you just have to see these! In both of these, there is the option of visiting the museum. If you have a lot of time and the history of these buildings interests you, go for it, otherwise, skip the museums. I visited the Tower Bridge museum the first time I went and I thought it was really interesting but if you're not into the history of these buildings and if you're not that interested in how they were built, I suggest you just walk over Tower Bridge and walk around the Tower of London and leave it at that.
Underground station: Tower Hill
Afternoon Tea @ The Swan
If you wanna feel like a classy Englishman/English lady, go for afternoon tea. Make sure you don't eat to much beforehand, since there's usually quite a lot of food included in your afternoon tea.
If you wanna feel even more like some classy English person, I suggest you have your afternoon tea at The Swan. The Swan is a restaurant located next to the Shakespeare's Globe and let's be honest, it doesn't get much more English than Shakespeare now does it ;)?
Emily and I actually stumbled upon the Swan last time we went to London while we were looking for a place to have some breakfast. The breakfast was so amazing that we decided to come back the next day to have afternoon tea. Last week, I went back there with my family for afternoon tea. Turns out they adapt the menu of the afternoon tea depending on the play that is currently playing at the Shakespeare Globe! Once again, it was delicious, so I definitely recommend this place!
If you are thinking of doing this, you do have to make a reservation beforehand! You can do this here.
Underground station: Blackfriars
Go watch a play
If you have the budget for it, buy yourself some tickets for a play. I can highly recommend The Lion King and The Phantom of The Opera!
At night the entire area around Leicester Square, where the theatre's are located, lights up and comes alive. Even if you don't plan on seeing a place, it's nice to pass through at night, just to breathe in the atmosphere.
If you do want to go see a play, make sure to book your tickets beforehand. Not only are the tickets way cheaper when you buy them in advance, but that way you are also sure you have a good seat ;).
Even though I feel like Harrod's has lost some of its glory in the last few years, it's still very much worth a vist. Especially the food halls on the ground floor are an absolute must.
For those who don't know what Harrod's is, Harrod's is an enormous store that sells all kinds of luxury items, from clothing to food to single-person submarines (yes, really!). Even if you're not planning on buying anything here, just give the store a visit and be amazed by the grandeur of the entire thing.
Since Harrod's is absolutely enormous, it might be wise to just visit some of the most amazing sections of the store. I would suggest giving the food halls on the ground floor a visit. Every single kind of tea you could possibly think of you can find here, in the food halls. The toy kingdom on the third floor and the millionaire gallery (this is where you'll find that submarine I was talking about), also on the third floor, are also worth a visit.
And make sure you don't forget to use the Egyptian escalator! The room surrounding the escalator is beautifully decorated with all kind of gold ornaments and at the bottom of this escalator (lower ground floor), there's a memorial for Princess Diana & Dodi, made completely out of gold.
Underground station: Knightsbridge
Get lost in the small lanes
This is something that I like to do almost every time I go on holiday. Just walk around the streets and get lost, you'll be amazed what kind of beautiful places you might stumble upon. Give yourself the time, between activities, to just walk around, find your way without a map. I've found this is the best way to really get to know a city and to get the feel like a local.
Tourist traps to avoid
It's not that these places aren't worth a visit, not at all. But if this is your first time visiting London, I would skip these. London is such an amazing city and there is so much to see in this city, that you'll have to make some choices. If it were up to me and I had a limited time to see London, I would skip these, so that I could have more time to do some of the things I mentioned before.
The London Eye
Event though the view from the London Eye is absolutely incredible, I wouldn't recommend going on this, and for a few reasons.
First of all, a trip on the London Eye is quite expensive (starting at £23). If you were to do this I would suggest buying your tickets online, since they often offer some kind of discount on their site and that way you can also skip the line at the ticket office.
Second, the wheel spins very very slowly, so a full rotation on the London Eye takes 30 minutes. That's a long time to be looking at a view, trust me! Also, there's still a line to get on the wheel that you have to wait in even if you bought your tickets beforehand. This means that if you were to take a ride on the London Eye you will definitely lose about an hour in total.
However, I do have to say, the view from the top of the London Eye is absolutely stunning and I don't think you can get this view from anywhere else. But the question remains: Is it worth the money and the time? I'm not sure.
Underground station: Westminster
We visited Madame Tussaud's the first time we went to London and even though it was really weird and cool to see those celebrities made out of wax, I wish we would've spent that time differently.
It's very cool to see the wax figures and it's amazing that they can bring those celebrities to live out of wax, but it has nothing to do with London (except maybe for the statues of the royal family). You could visit Madame Tussaud's anywhere, anytime, so why would you spend the limited time you have in London visiting this museum?
Underground station: Baker street
I hope you find this travel guide useful! There's still a lot more places I could talk about but that would make this blogpost too long. If you should have any questions about places to stay or ways to travel through the city, do not hesitate to ask me in the comments!
Talk to you soon,