Our first stop on our Europe trip was London. We arrived to London on Saturday morning. The flight wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I was definitely sleep deprived. We arrive to London in the morning ready to explore the city! We stayed in an Airbnb in Camden Town. The split-level home was on a bustling street a block away from the Tube station. We dropped off our bags, got ready and explored the city.
The London Tube
The Tube was surprisingly easy to use! We decided to get Oyster cards on our first day at the Tube station. I’m impressed at how extensive (at least to the tourist-areas) and comprehensive the Tube was during our visit (even on Sundays).
In certain train stations in Chicago, you have to leave the station in order to switch lines (like the State/Lake stop). That wasn’t the case for all the Tube trips we made in London. The signs and maps were easy to interpret. We also used Google Maps to understand the route before we got on to the Tube station. I had no service in the Tube, so I recommend you screenshot and extensive routes.
Commuters are efficient and speedy when it comes riding the Tube. Have your card ready in your hand or within reach when going in and out of the Tube station. In London, you tap out before you get out the station. Also, Londoners are serious about the ‘stand on the right” rule. So, make sure to stand on the right if you don’t plan to walk on the escalators.
DAY 1 IN LONDON:
- Camden Market
- Afternoon Tea
- Piccadilly Circus
- Trafalgar Square
- Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Bridge and the London Eye
We were hungry and tired but wanted to take advantage of the limited time we had in London. Thankfully, Camden Market was near our flat. Camden Market has multiple options for food and shopping. We walked around Regent’s Canal before deciding to eat at Camden Brewery. After we ate, we walked around Camden Town and nearby Primrose Hill.
We had plans to have afternoon tea with Steve’s friends who were also in town. We went back to the flat to rest before we walked to Ralph’s Coffee & Bar in the Mayfair area. The champagne and the sandwiches hit the spot! The place was decked out in equestrian decor.
Afterwards, Steve’s friends kindly showed us around the area including Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben *tears*, Westminster Bridge and the London Eye. Westminster Bridge was the site of the 2017 terrorist attack in London. A man crashed his car into pedestrians on the Westminster bridge. Six people were killed and 50 were injured. The bridge is beautiful but standing there alongside the Thames River was a bit surreal. The waves in the Thames River looked intense. It seemed like there was nowhere to go. Imagine just minding your own business when a person commits such a terrible act. It’s one thing hearing about the horrible acts and it’s a whole other thing seeing the place in-person on a normal day.
Afterwards, we jumped on the Tube and headed back to our flat.
DAY 2 IN LONDON
- Breakfast and shopping in Oxford Street and Mayfair
- Stroll through Hyde Park
- Kensington Gardens and Palace
- Buckingham Palace
- Saint James’s Park
- Westminster Abbey
- Fish and chips in Camden Town
- Tower of London and London Bridge
- Night out in Camden Town
We started off the day having a traditional English breakfast at a pub and the shopped in Mayfair. I was so happy to find & other stories clothing store. I also took Steve to Primark. During study abroad, my friends and I were obsessed with Penny’s, the Irish version of Primark. Primark is an inexpensive, fast-fashion clothing store (even with the conversion rate!). After shopping, we began to strolled through Hyde Park. Hyde Park is huge. Near the entrance, we saw tons of people on literal soapboxes, debating issues with crowds. These debates are called Speakers’ Corner. I had no idea this was thing and kept telling Steve not to engage with the speakers/crowd because I thought there was going to be a brawl haha.
We walked from Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens and Palace. It was a LONG walk but had great views. We then took the Tube to Buckingham Palace. If you didn’t already know, I’m huge fan of the Royals, especially now that Meghan Markle is one of them. Buckingham Palace is massive! After waiting for the Queen to say hey (never happened #rude), we walked to Saint James’s Park. This park had a beautiful bridge with a view of the London Eye. We continued walking until we got to Westminster Abbey. The gothic-style church as first built in 960! Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding was held there. Westminster Abbey.
We took the Tube back home and had some fish and chips in a place close to our flat. I was a little disappointed. I had them in Ireland and they were SO good. Oh well!
After dinner we rested up a bit before heading out to London Bridge. We took the long way to the bridge and ended up walking around the river front and Tower of London. I didn’t know much about the Tower of London before the trip. Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London was first built in 1078! I’m not a fan of spooky stories, but there’s so much history there. Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, was beheaded in the tower. Definitely adding a tour of Tower of London next time were in London!
After walking around the tower we finally walked across The London Bridge. This bridge is the biggest bridge I’ve ever seen. It felt so cool walking on it and then seeing it from the river front path. We met a wonderful Latina from Miami who now lives in London with her husband and family.
Later than night, we headed to the pub across tour flat. We had the best time at The Elephants Head. The pints were cheap and they had a fun crowd. The pub played the coolest music on vinyl. I actually got the chance to dance to the Beatles in a British pub. So, so cool!
DAY 3 IN LONDON
- Chicken pot pie Westminster
- Notting Hill
- Shopping in Picadilly Circus and Carnaby Street
Monday was our last day in London! We slept in a little and made the trek to Notting Hill. On the way there, we stopped by a pretty pub to have lunch. I had my first ever (I think) chicken pot pie and it was so good! We walked the rest of the way to Notting Hill. I found a list of addresses for photo stops in the beautiful, neighborhood. The houses were so colorful but it did feel a little weird taking pictures in front of people homes. We also strolled through the Portobello Road Market.
After Notting Hill, we shopped around Picadilly Circus and Carnaby Street in SoHo. There was a Dishoom location and knew this would be our only time to try it. The wait was long but the bartender at the bar was friendly! We got seated and enjoyed some yummy Indian food. After Dishoom we strolled around Chinatown before heading back to the flat.
We left our flat early the next morning and took the Tube to the Paddington Station.
Overall, London felt like such a normal yet exciting city. Next time we go back, we hope to explore Oxford University, Windsor Castle, and tour some of the places in London we didn’t have the time to explore.