London has to be my second favorite city in the world (the first being Austin of course). I studied abroad there for a semester in college, and have now been back twice since then. The most recent time going back I was only able to spend two days in London and had to show Brandon around who had never been there before. There is so much to do and see in London, I had such a hard time trying to pick which things to show him!
Luckily, we were staying at the Chesterfield Mayfair which is pretty central, so it was easy to get around to all of the main sights! I would definitely recommend this hotel as it was central, clean, the staff was super helpful and friendly, and they had a nice bar and restaurant. The only downside was that our room was a bit warm even though we had our air on the lowest setting, but that is typical of a lot of European hotels if they aren’t super new. Other than that it was an amazing hotel!
First, we started with what was close to our hotel–Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square are both walking distance. Piccadilly Circus is like a mini Times Square, it has neon signs and this is where you go if you want to see a play or musical. We ended up seeing Book of Mormon which was hilarious, if you haven’t seen it you definitely need to! Leicester Square is just past Piccadilly and has a lot of restaurants and shops near by to check out.
From there we walked over to Covent Garden which is a cute area with a lot of street performers, restaurants, shops, and a lot of cute pop up stalls. There are stalls for everything here and almost everything is handmade by each vendor! There are paintings, trinkets, photographs, postcards, and many other wonderful handmade things. It’s so fun to just stroll around and browse all of the stalls and look at all of the vendor’s different talents!
After exploring Covent Garden, we took the tube to Buckingham Palace. The tube is the absolute best way to get around London. It is just like the subway in New York–super easy to use and gets you around the massive city quickly. If you are planning on being in London for a week or more I would suggest purchasing an Oyster Card in advance to use as a pass that you can continue to add money onto as you travel. If you are only going to be there for a short time, you can now use Apple Pay right from your iPhone to enter and exit the tube stations which is so convenient! I had an old Oyster Card that I used and Brandon used Apple Pay; both worked seamlessly and were easy to use.
Anyways, we arrived at Buckingham Palace right as the Changing of the Guard was happening. The crowd for the Changing of the Guard is always massive and unless you arrive and stake out a good spot at least an hour before it begins you won’t be able to see much (if you’re short like me haha). The Changing of the Guard takes place everyday at 11:00 AM if you are interested in seeing it. In my opinion, if you don’t see this you really aren’t missing much. However, Buckingham Palace is definitely worth seeing, just not at 11:00 AM!
One of the best ways to see the whole city is the London Eye. This is something I really recommend doing if you have not done it before. The views from the top are incredible and you can see so much: Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, everything really. If you are planning on doing the London Eye I suggest buying your tickets beforehand and purchasing the Fast Track option. With our Fast Track tickets we were only in line for about ten minutes before getting on, while the general line looked to be hours long.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are another must see for me. They are right across the Thames from the London Eye. Unfortunately, Ben is being refurbished right now and is covered in scaffolding so you can’t see him very well :(. The refurbishment is supposed to last for three years so if you really want to see Ben in all his glory wait until 2020 to go to London.
If there is one thing I make sure I do every time I go to London it is getting a cheese toastie at Borough Market. Borough Market is a giant food market right by London Bridge with hundreds of stalls selling food from fresh fruit to cheese to paella to juices to meat, literally everything. But my favorite thing is the cheese toastie stall at the very back of the market. Everyone thinks it will just be like a normal grilled cheese, but no, it is the BEST THING EVER. I don’t know what it is about them but the cheese combination is spectacular and the bread is toasted to perfection on the griddle right in front of you. Everything at Borough Market is wonderful, I just have a major soft spot for the cheese toasties!
Close to Borough Market is London Bridge and Tower Bridge. Contrary to popular belief, London Bridge is just a normal looking bridge and the big bridge you see in all the pictures is Tower Bridge. I thought Tower Bridge was London Bridge for the longest time before I was corrected! Walking across Tower Bridge is something fun to do and you can take some very cool pictures from this spot! I had never walked across it before until this most recent trip and I’m glad I did.
A really fun spot to go if you like prosecco is Prosecco House which is right by Tower Bridge. It is a cute little bar that serves only prosecco and some light snacks. We stopped by here for about an hour and tried three different proseccos that were all amazing. The bartender was very helpful and knowledgeable about all of the proseccos and had great recommendations!
My final must do in London is high tea. Seriously, you can’t go to London and not have high tea! It’s a little pricey and most places are fancy, but in my opinion it is so worth it. The place I have been all three times I have been to London is The Wolseley. High tea is relatively the same everywhere you will go; the staples are of course tea (I like English Breakfast tea with cream and sugar), finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and little desserts. The “staples” will differ from place to place but are all relatively the same. I like The Wolseley because of the nice bright atmosphere and the location is right by the hotel we were staying at. Other great places for high tea are Fortnum and Mason or The Ritz if you want something even more fancy than The Wolseley. Almost every hotel in London will have high tea though, so wherever you’re staying just ask what their menu and prices are!
These are just my recommendations for a quick trip to London, there is SO much more to do and see in this city! My main recommendation is to map out what you want to see and hit the sights that are all close to each other at the same time so you aren’t back tracking all over the place. And USE THE TUBE!! I can’t stress this one enough, it may seem difficult and scary at first, but just ask for help and you’ll get the hang of it in no time! I hope this is helpful to those planning a trip to London or inspires someone to take a trip to London!