I’m dishing all the information on where we stayed, what we did, where we ate and more about our time in London! I want to start this out with a little disclaimer of sorts. Everything that we decided to do was based on what we enjoy and how we like to travel. We had two full days and two half days to spend in London, which is certainly not enough time to do it all. In fact, the day we were leaving, we were talking about how we felt like we could spend another week and still not do everything we wanted to or that the city and the rest of England has to offer! Our itinerary/activity list is not the most well-rounded, but we enjoyed everything that we did!
Prior to visiting London, I would’ve told you that my favorite city we’ve been to outside of the U.S. is Paris. I loved our time in Paris. Part of it was that it was the first leg of our honeymoon, so it was extra special, and it was the first place we’d been to together outside of the states. But it was also just so beautiful and fun! We loved sitting outside at cafes, walking the city, and enjoying the sights. I still love Paris and would love to go back, but after spending time in London, I think I have a new number one.
London was a really easy city to acclimate to. Speaking the same language is an obvious benefit, although every other European country we’ve been to, most everyone speaks fantastic English. (Insert bit about how I wish being bilingual or more was a larger part of our culture/my life.) The public transportation system, particularly the Underground, was easy to navigate, as well. Living in Chicago for four years and using the “L” (subway/above ground train) system certainly helped us in quickly figuring out the Underground, but I think it would be easy for anybody to catch on. Everyone we interacted with was friendly and welcoming, which is a nice feeling as a tourist.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Travelodge London Vauxhall. In terms of location, it’s hard to beat! Within a block of the Underground and rail stations, as well as bus stops just outside the hotel. It was a pretty simple room, but had everything we needed. Breakfast, although nothing special, was included, so we were able to eat something light before heading out for the day and be ready for a hearty lunch. It was clean, the staff was friendly, and we felt safe. If you don’t require too much from a hotel or prefer to have more money in the travel budget for food/activities like us, I would recommend it!
We took the Underground from Heathrow to our hotel – it couldn’t have been easier!
What We Did (highlighting the “big” things)
Thursday: we arrived at the hotel around noon, grabbed a quick bite at a place nearby, and settled in for a short nap (future post coming on jet lag and how we handle it, which includes napping 😉). Once we were refreshed, we headed out to Portobello Road Market for a walk. By time we got there, most of the vendors were down, so we just enjoyed a leisurely walk along the pretty streets and through Notting Hill. Later in the evening, we walked by Kensington Palace and through the gardens.
Friday: We had tickets to do the London Eye in the morning, so we walked about a mile along the River Thames to get there. We walked right on (we got there at about 10:30am) and got to see a full picture of the city. As someone who has a fear of heights, it was a little unnerving to be on it. Would I do it again? Probably not. But it did offer some really cool views on photo opportunities (and Mike loved it), so I’m glad we did it once. After that, we walked by Westminster Abbey and through the nearby area. We popped into a couple stores, ate lunch and made our way over to Buckingham Palace later in the evening.
Saturday: We walked from out hotel over to the Imperial War Museum in the morning. This was probably the highlight of our time there. I’m not always a huge museum person, but this one was very interesting and well done. I’d highly recommend you make time for it! Later in the afternoon, we made our way to the British Museum, another good choice! We went for dinner in the Piccadilly Circus area, which was such a lively spot.
Sunday: We did one of the hop on-hop off bus tours, through Big Bus. We had done a lot of walking the previous couple of days, so we were thankful for a chance to sit and just take in the sights. The blue route is the most comprehensive, so we started with that one and rode it for quite some time. The best thing about doing one of those buses, especially if you can find a seat on the top deck, is that you get a different perspective of the city. The buildings and architecture is so beautiful, but it’s easy to miss when you’re walking along the sidewalk, making sure you don’t bump into anybody and checking street signs to stay on course. Being able to sit and really take it all in from a higher vantage point was great. We hopped off a few times to walk around some areas we hadn’t spent time in and grab lunch, and then hopped on the red route to see the London Bridge, Tower of London, and head back to the hotel. We had a train to catch to Amsterdam that evening, so we grabbed our bags and went to the station.
Taking the train from London to Amsterdam was great! We did a couple Eurostar trains in Italy last year, so we were familiar with the process. One thing we didn’t realize was that you do go through customs/passport checks when you’re taking a train to another country (clearly, we weren’t thinking). We had just enough time at the station to go through “security” and board our train, but now I understand why they recommend arriving 45-60 minutes before your departure time. The train ride was about 4 hours, so we settled in and enjoyed the views. We had considered flying when we were first booking the trip, but I’m glad we opted for the train!
What We Ate
- Pret A Manger – this was right by our hotel, so we popped in to grab salads as soon as we arrived in London (they have these in the states, too)
- Benugo – we saw this and wanted a quick lunch, so we got a couple sandwiches and a a little greek salad
- Zizzi – we shared a salad and pizza – it was good!
- Flat Iron – we tried this for dinner one evening and the wait was 2+ hours, so we went back for lunch the next day. Hands down, our best meal of the entire trip. You have pretty much one option – steak – and can get a side or two to accompany it. Our steaks were so tasty and the fries were out of this world. If you like cocktails, I highly recommend the Strawberry and Basil Collins. Describing this place to you right now makes me want to book a flight to London to have it again!
- The Ivy Kensington Brasserie – we spotted this place on our walk around Kensington palace and thought we’d give it a shot. We were a little ahead of the dinner rush, so we were able to be seated without a reservation. The chicken Milanese is really good! If you’re looking for a cocktail, the British Spritz and Whiskey Sour were both delicious.
- Seafresh – we wanted fish & chips and found this place in a google search. It’s very casual (which we like) and was delicious. We were seated right away. Plus, it’s located in a good place to walk around after you consume all that fried food 😉
- Byron Burger – this was a place we found nearby, once we realized that Flat Iron had a really long wait. It was a pleasant surprise! I had the Clucky chicken sandwich, Mike got the Big Smoke.
- Crosstown Doughnuts – we happened to see this place on our walk after dinner and I’m glad we did! We popped in just before closing, so they only had a few flavors left, but they were good.
- Wafflemeister – just go, trust me. Waffles with whatever topping you desire – they were ridiculously delicious!