I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while and since pictures of London started popping up in my Facebook Memories from our amazing trip to London last February, I decided it was finally time to write.
First, let me say London is one of my favorite cities to visit even though this was only my second trip. London offers incredible amounts of history, great entertainment, awesome neighborhoods, quality food and drink, and is easy to traverse.
The two times I’ve been to London were both in the spring and featured some days that were cool, overcast and rainy. You can get around in London during the day in everything from dark denim and a jacket to a suit. Depending on what your evening plans are, your wardrobe options are the same. You will do plenty of walking in London and need a good pair of shoes.
Tip No. 1: Cole Haan has become my go-to shoes for this exact reason. They are incredibly comfortable with a soft sole and make being on your feet all day bearable. In addition, they are easily dressed up or down to go with jeans or suits.
Tip No. 2: One lesson I learned from my first visit to London and applied to the most recent trip (and something I’ll be doing for all trips going forward) is to put together a loose itinerary. We determined all the things we wanted to do during our trip and then literally mapped them out. Each day we tried to pick two or three things from our list that were geographically close. This allowed us to maximize our time yet still casually wander through the city and not feel rushed. We weren’t constantly getting on and off the tube and crisscrossing the city.
For our trip last February, we stayed in the Kensington area near the Gloucester Road tube stop. It was an easy walk to Hyde Park, the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Kensington Palace. The tube stop was serviced by the Circle, District and Piccadilly lines making it easy to get to any other part of the city.
Tip No. 3: We kept a journal while we were there. Each night when we got back to our rental flat, we would write down what we did during the day. This made it very easy to tell family & friends about our trip when we got home, and will hopefully be a cool collection of travel stories for our kids someday. When on a trip like this, it is easy to do so much that when you get home, it’s hard to remember all the details. Writing them down makes that a nonissue.
Some of the food and drink highlights from our trip were a delicious Italian meal near our flat at La Pappardella (Old Brompton Road), Gordon’s Wine Bar (Villiers Street) – the oldest wine bar in London and Hollywood Arms (Hollywood Road) near Stamford Bridge. We also took in afternoon tea at The Wolseley (Piccadilly Street). It was fun to take part in a very British tradition and The Wolseley was a grand old building.
Possibly the highlight for food and drink was an impromptu trip to La Fromagerie (Moxon Street). It was a combination cheese shop, meat and vegetable market, bakery and wine shop. We sampled several cheeses in the cheese room before taking home a selection of meats, cheese, wine and bread.
London has so many sights to see that it is nearly impossible to see them all in one trip. Some can’t misses for me include St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge (not London Bridge) and Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and the Houses of Parliament. For both St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey take advantage of the audio tour that comes with your admission. In addition, if you are capable, take the stairs up to the top of the dome at St. Paul’s.
If you’re a sports fan like we are, do yourself a favor and try to make a soccer/football game. We attended a Chelsea Premier League game against Everton at Stamford Bridge and the atmosphere lived up to the hype.
Two sights I saw in my first trip that we didn’t see this trip were the Churchill War Rooms and the Tower of London and Crown Jewels. Both are good tours and worth the time and money for one visit if the contents are interesting to you. I also did the London Eye during my first trip but we didn’t take it this time. If you have time and are really set on it, then go for it, but to me, it’s not necessarily worth the time or money.
Tip No. 4: Look into the London Pass as it is one pass that gets you into most of the city’s top attractions for one price. You don’t have to see many before it starts paying off. It’s also worth noting that most of the museums are free to get into, or at least have free sections.
London also offers an incredible amount of fantastic theater options. We saw The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. It was fantastic acting and production all around.
All in all, London is a world-class city and I can’t wait to go back again.
Tip No. 5: When booking your flight out of London, be careful as to what time you make it. Our flight was at 9:30 Sunday morning and the tube wasn’t running early enough so we had to take an expensive cab ride.
Tip No. 6: When traveling to London or elsewhere in Europe, you’re likely to be on an overnight flight from the U.S. When you land in the morning, you’ll be tired and want to take a nap. The key to adjusting to the time difference is to not give in to this temptation. Go enjoy the first day of your trip, you don’t have to go all out, but do something. That night, you’ll crash early and sleep through the night rested and ready to go. When coming home, you likely will land back in the U.S. not long on the clock after you left Europe. Do your best to stay awake on the flight home and again, you’ll crash hard that night and get back on your normal time schedule.
Next up in Passport Stamps is Italy, where we’ll be heading in late March with stops on the Amalfi Coast, in Rome, Tuscany and Florence.
Have you been to London or questions about anything in this post? Let me know in the comments or follow me on Twitter (@mditt).