Oh how I love London! I would live there in a second if given the opportunity! It is easily one of my favorite cities and Todd and I had a blast on our trip two years ago. It was our first experience in Europe and it lived up to all of my dreams. The entire city is so beautiful and picturesque! I also felt extremely safe in the main parts of the city at night. There are always people out riding bikes and running through the parks, it’s all around just a wonderful atmosphere.
We tried to keep a tighter budget on this trip and decided to stay in the Paddington Hotel. This is a no frills hotel, but it’s location is prime near Hyde Park which made picking up bikes and biking everywhere super easy. We were also close to a Tube stop. There is no elevator in this hotel, but we still opted to stay at the very top to avoid hearing noisy guests coming home at night. We still had our own bathroom, a TV, a mini fridge, and a safe. When we travel (at least before we had Theo), we plan to be in our hotel room as a little as possible. We had a great experience in our hotel and highly recommend it to those who are looking to for an affordable lodging option.
I wish we had done more research on where to eat in London, because we didn’t eat at any places that I would strongly recommend. We did pop into a pub across from Hyde Park to try Fish and Chips which I highly recommend trying somewhere, just for the experience. Our hotel included a simple continental breakfast which we took full advantage of, nothing fancy, but hey it was free.
On our first day, we rented bikes (more on that below) and rode to Whole Foods to get some food to pack for lunch each day. I love going to grocery stores in different countries, even if it is a chain. We purchased rolls, deli meats, and some snacks to store in our room’s fridge. It was a great way to save some money!
To get around, we used the Barclays bikes which are available to rent all over the city. We had so much fun biking all over the city, taking funny pictures, and getting yelled at for being on the sidewalks (riding in the road at night with all of the buses is SCARY!). Since there are so many stations all over the city, we were always able to find bikes and find empty stalls to return them. We only had one night where we got home and had to rid around to find empty stalls. We also used the Tube to get around when needed and we walked EVERYWHERE.
There was SO much I wanted to see in London, and we had a solid five days to see everything we wanted. We saw all of the main tourists sites including Buckingham Palace, Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, Kensington Gardens, London Tower, Tower Bridge, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, and Hyde Park to name a few. We popped into as many churches as possible, they are so beautiful and since it was the weekend of passover, we were able to watch a service one evening and listen to someone practice the organ during the day. We had also planned to attend a concert at St. Paul’s, but we overslept due to days on the run and jet lag, so we missed it!
We wanted to spend a day of site seeing outside of London, so we booked a tour of Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Oxford. There are dozens of tours you can book which include a trip to Bath or sites from the Harry Potter movies. We really wanted to see Stonehenge and we figured we could spend a day seeing other sites as well. Windsor Castle is in Berkshire and the royal family often goes to stay there. The queen was there during our visit, but we didn’t see her (not many people do.) The town is really cute and after we toured the castle, we ventured around some of the shops. I could have spent all day in the city. Stonehenge was also amazing! It was our favorite part of the tour, we loved that it was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields and grazing sheep. We ended the day at Oxford, which was stunning. My only complaint of the tour was we didn’t have enough time at Oxford. I really wanted to go inside Christ’s Church, but it was closed by the time we got there. I think the tour guides need to time it a little better or leave earlier in the morning. We had a fun day though and enjoyed all of the facts about London along our drive.
Another one of our favorite outings was seeing Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theater. The play was incredible and the first time seeing it for both of us. It was honestly the best play I have ever seen and the atmosphere was so fun! There are tons of plays and musical performances in London, I highly recommend going to at least one while you are there.
London can be expensive if you want to go inside/see everything. Take advantage of the free museums or free activities such as watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace or strolling through one of the beautiful parks. Weather can also be a concern when visiting London. We went at the beginning of March and had great weather. It only drizzled on us for one morning. We probably had abnormally nice weather, but it was nice seeing the city without the summer crowds. We wore warm coats for most of the trip and never felt cold (after doing NYC for Thanksgiving, nothing feels cold!).
London is beautiful and a must see and I cannot wait to go back! Todd and I have made a goal to run the London Marathon someday. What else have you done/seen while in London? Let me know in the comments below!