Of course London is fantastic and has something for everyone. There is so much history and art and innovation in this long-reigning international city that one can’t help but get swept away. My number one recommendation for London is to wear your walking shoes and just explore the city on foot.
1. food vendors near waterloo station
When I was in London, I stayed the the Walrus Bar and Hostel. It was fine, nothing to write home about, but it was a great location. For lunch everyday, a crazy array of food vendors would appear on Lower Marsh. I felt like I was eating my way around the world just by walking down the street. If you need a place to sit down, duck into the Walrus Bar. It’s typically empty during the day and very cozy.
Also notable in the Waterloo area is the Graffiti Tunnel. From Lower Marsh, take Leake Street towards the river.
Graffiti in Shoreditch seen with Strawberry Tours
2. strawberry tours
I’m a sucker for tours, especially free ones. In London, I went on the East and West landmark tours, a Harry Potter tour, a street art tour, the Jack the Ripper tour and an alternative pub crawl through Shorditch with Strawberry tours.
3. service at westminster abbey
If you are there over the weekend, get your ass out of bed and get to Westminster Abbey at 10am. Stand that cute ass outside and wait for the 11:15 Sung Eucharist. It’s free to go to service at Westminster AND you get to hear the famous boys choir.
4. all the christmas
My first experience in London was Christmas time, and I’m sure I ruined the city for myself. Christmas is in overdrive in old Londontown in the best way possible! Here is just a taste of all the Christmas sites to see:
- Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is a Oktoberfest-style winter festival. I suggest going during the day on a weekday is you want a leisure experience with shopping and exploring the food vendors. If you are going with a group in the evening, be prepared to wait in line to get into the Oktoberfest-style beer tent. It fun for all ages.
- Compare Harrod to Selfridges Christmas decoration. Harrod was my favorite. The inside is crazy with detail. There is a little cafe inside with supreme coffee that I enjoyed.
- Piccadilly is like London Time Square and it is super bright and holiday.
- Leicester Square has a little Christmas village.
- St. Christopher’s Plaza is decorated and adorable.
5. national art gallery
The National Art Gallery in Trafalgar Square is free and has world-class art, including some of my favorites from Van Gogh.
Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses in the National Art Gallery .
6. public transit
The double-decker busses and the London Underground as just as much means of transport as they are destinations in their own right.
Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station.
7. harry potter
I will not try to hide or deny the fact that I’m obsessive about Harry Potter. Here is a list of all the Harry Potter crazy-ness you could get into while in London:
- Harry Potter tour with Strawberry Tours
- The Harry Potter Experience
- Walk across Millennium Bridge–which the Death Eater did not destroy (despite their best efforts).
- Find Goodwin Court, the inspiration for Knockturn Alley
- Find the South African High Commission in Trafalgar Square which is Gringots Bank.
- Cecil Court, walking distance from Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, is a real-life Diagon Alley. It even has a magic shop.
- And #12 Grimmauld Place can probably be found on Craven Street.
- Of course, you can also go see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2, at the Palace Theatre.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2, at the Palace Theatre
8. portobello market in notting hill
The Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill is packed and overwhelming and kind of amazing. While you’re in the area, you can slip over to Kensington Palace for a quick hello.
Colored houses in Notting Hill
9. tower bridge is not london bridge
I will continue to claim my love for free walking tour AND my rambling, self walking tours. My friend Rachel and I decided to casually walk to London Bridge from Waterloo Station one morning. This turned into a 2 hour adventure through Christmas markets, pass the Globe Theater and some famous graffiti, pass the actual London Bridge, which was boring and not worth seeing, and onto Tower Bridge which is impressive. We crossed Tower Bridge, and went onto the Tower of London. Basically, I’m telling you that this is an excellent meandering tour to take yourself on.
Tower Bridge, not London Bridge.
10. camden market
I’ve heard Camden Market be described as a tourist trap, and I get that. Still worth seeing.
Three of my walking tours took me through Shoreditch–the graffiti tour, the Jack the Ripper tour and the pub crawl. It was one of my favorite places to go in London. It was funky and creative and I didn’t have to do anything but sit in a cafe to feel myself part of the “scene.”
12. beatles and sherlock
221B Baker Street was fun to see. I took pictures outside and popped in the souvenir shop. There is a tour of the place, but I didn’t have the mindset for such.
15 minutes away by buss is Abbey Road recording studio and the site of the famous Beatle Album cover. If you are looking for that cross walk specifically, look up: Abbey Road Zebra Crossing. You’re welcome. It took me far longer to figure that out than I like to admit.
221b Baker Street where Sherlock Holmes lived
13. trafalgar square to buckingham palace
It’s a 20 minute walk from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, but I think it’s a nice one. The Mall is a straight shot to the palace along St. James Park. Other places of note in the area of St. Jame Palace, 10 Downing Street and Churchill’s War Room (the secret underground headquarters where Prime Minister Winston Churchill lived and worked during WWII).
14. the british library… o.m.g.
The British Library is home to the Magna Carta, handwritten Beatles lyrics and over 400 miles of shelves (filled with books). It’s free to go, roam and hop on the Internet.