Mind the Gap!
Ahhh London. We spent 4 nights in London, and it was an amazing whirlwind. While we managed to cram in as many activities as humanly possible, I would have loved to have a couple extra days in London.
Things to Know about London
- London is part of the UK and the currency is the pound £
- It is expensive. Plan for this and be prepared.
- WATCH OUT FOR CARS. The drivers do not stop.
- Watch out for people. Everyone there moves a mile a minute and if you stop for a second on sidewalk you will get run over.
How to get to London
We flew direct from Vancouver to London on WestJet, and when we arrived into Gatwick airport we took the Gatwick Express Train. This is a direct train that takes about 30 minutes and puts you right in the heart of London, at Victoria Station. You don’t need to pre-buy tickets, you can just do it at the airport. Once at Victoria station you have 2 options to reach your accommodation: tube or taxi. We were tired and had suitcases so we chose a taxi, and it was around 12 pounds to our hotel on the north side of Hyde Park. I have never flown into Heathrow, so I can’t help you there.
Where to Stay in London
We stayed at the Corus Hotel Hyde Park, and had an executive double room. The hotel had a really nice lobby, and a nice breakfast buffet that was included in our room price. The hotel itself was just okay. Not amazing, not terrible. It was in a nice location , directly across the street from Hyde Park and super close to the Lancaster Gate tube stop. Another reason I liked the location was because it was relatively close to the main shopping area of Oxford and Bond Street.
Next time I visit London I will probably try a hotel in the Westminster, Mayfair or Soho neighbourhood.
London is pretty spread out, so it is hard to choose a “central” location to stay. I’d say your safest bet when choosing a hotel is to make sure it is near a tube stop, and if you can get a free breakfast included in your room price that is always a perk.
Where to Eat in London
Serpentine Bar & Kitchen is in Hyde Park and was lovely! Rosé, pizza, and a view… what more does a girl need?
The Shakespeare near Victoria Station, this was a causal English pub with lots of menu choice
PRET – My love for Pret is real. Pret is kind of like an upscale Subway, and it is everywhere in London. They sell soups, sandwiches, warm dishes like macaroni and quiche, pastries, and speciality coffee drinks.
3 reasons I liked it so much:
- The food was normal. I don’t really like fish and chips, bangers and mash, mushy peas or any other traditional English food. I basically lived off cheese sandwich’s and tomato soup the entire time.
- It was cheap. Pubs and restaurant can be expensive, especially with the currency exchange. Grabbing a quick bite meant more shopping money.
- It didn’t waste precious time. This was huge, especially at lunch. One day we went for a pub lunch and it took 3 hours. That is 3 hours I could have spent sightseeing.
PAUL– Paul is similar to Pret, maybe a little more upscale. Fancier soups and sandwiches at reasonable prices, compared to a sit down table service restaurant. Also, the desserts are to die for.
*Be aware that some cafes (like Pret and Paul) will charge difference prices for “take away” and “sit down”. I found this odd but it is common practise there.
We didn’t find a nice place to have dinner in London, but to be honest we didn’t look that hard. Most nights we were exhausted and just wanted to get eating over with so we could sleep. If you guys have any recommendations on nicer dinner places in London PLEASE share!
What to do in London
There is SO much to do it London! To make the most of your time in London I would do your research ahead of time to know opening/closing times, activity length, and group your activities by geographic location.
This is by no means an extensive list, these are just things I had time for:
You can only tour the Palace in the summertime, so we just saw the outside
The Royal Mews
This is located at Buckingham Palace, and I actually really enjoyed this activity. It was relatively affordable, and you got to see all the coaches used for different royal events, including the amazing gilded coronation coach.
Amazing. Be sure to get an audio guide and take your time. The abbey was originally built in 960, then rebuilt in 1517. This church has hosted many important royal events including: Queen Elizabeth 2nd’s wedding (1947), Queen Elizabeth 2nd’s coronation (1953), Princess Dianna’s funeral (1997), and Prince William and Kate’s wedding (2011).
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Amazing. Be sure to get an audio guide and take your time. Literally AH-mazing inside.
I really enjoyed the walk through of Kensington Palace, one of the homes of the royal family. While I was there they had an exhibit called Royal Fashion, where you were able to see dresses worn by Princess Dianna and Queen Elizabeth the 2nd. I’m not sure if this is a temporary exhibit or permanent fixture, but I really liked it.
Tower of London
This medieval fortress was originally built in 1066 and has served many purposes over its years, including prison and royal residence. This activity was quite long, maybe 2 hours. I really enjoyed learning the history of the Tower of London. My favourite part of the tour was the Crown Jewels, they are glorious.
We just popped in quick for a look around. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but essentially its just a very upscale department store.
great for shopping
Beautiful for a nice stroll to escape the hustle and bustle of the city
Elizabeth Tower & Parliament Buildings
Commonly referred to as Big Ben! Your best photo op is across the river
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
TBH, I hated it the wax museum. I had high hopes and expectations, and it was overpriced and overcrowded. I would say skip this activity hands down.
Getting Around London
Upon arriving at Victoria station from the Gatwick Express, we purchased Oyster Cards from the ticket booth, and loaded them up with the daily maximum for each day we would be in London. Don’t worry about putting on too much, you can get a refund for both the remaining money and the physical card at the airport when you leave.
The tube (underground subway system) in London is SUPER easy to use. Everything is very well signed, and we didn’t get lost once. Download the app “CityMapper” and it will make your life a breeze. You can also look up your route ahead of time on wifi, and then save it so you can still use the app without wifi.
While London taxi cabs are adorable, I wouldn’t recommend them as your best method of travel. The main reason for this is London is very congested with traffic. Sitting in traffic wastes time, and also adds up on the meter therefore wasting money.
I could go on for days about London so if you want any additional or specific information please comment below or send me a message!