London has been on my list of places to go for so long. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see the city from the streets and from above. Traveling to London came with a few flight complications, which shortened my 3 days in the city to only 2. I wasn’t quite able to see and do everything, but the city has so much to offer I am not sure you could do it all (even if you lived there). But, I will definitely be back to try!
Marriott Marble Arch
Waking up early after an exhausting 24 hrs or more of traveling isn’t easy, but the breakfast at the our hotel, the Marriott Marble Arch, made it slightly easier. I anticipated that I could just order a “traditional English breakfast,” but the hotel served everything buffet style. I did my best to remember what is typically included and got in line. The biggest departure from the American tradition is the baked beans. While it sounded odd at first, I actually enjoyed having baked beans with breakfast – the flavor goes great with scrambled eggs.
Palace of Westminster
After breakfast, we got on the Tube station that was closest to our hotel and took it to the Westminster stop. As we came up the stairs at the exit, “Big Ben” is in view, or so I thought. The clock tower at Westminster Palace (where the Parliament meets) is not actually called Big Ben. It is a common misconception. Big Ben is the name of the bell inside.
The London Eye
Across the Thames from the Parliament building is the London Eye. The line for a trip around was quite long, but I think it was worth the wait. It provided some spectacular views of the city and was a good way to get my bearings early on in my first day in the city.
Sherlock Holmes Pub
After a loop around the Eye, we headed to the Sherlock Holmes Pub. It had memorabilia from the different incarnations of the beloved character throughout the restaurant. Our waitress was extremely friendly and the Dr. Watson’s Sunday Roast was absolutely delicious.
The Imperial War Museum
I’m a sucker for a good museum and I had heard great reviews of the World War I exhibit at the Imperial War Museum, making it a must-see for me. The exhibit lived up to expectations! It had a lot of interactive opportunities, great visuals and some really interesting information. My favorite object was an iron tree that they made to replicate a dying tree in the center of “no man’s land” so that they could put someone in to spy on enemy troops.
No trip to London is complete without visiting the Queen at her Palace, right? Unfortunately, she didn’t let us in, but it was kind of shocking how close you can get.
Henry's Cafe Bar
After visiting the Queen, we went to Henry’s Cafe Bar for dinner. I got some sort of meat pie that was delicious, but the service wasn’t great. Afterwards we were able to take a bus tour through the city as the sun was setting. The tour guide gave some great info about the history of the town and helped put some of the days sights into context.
The Tower of London
My second day in the UK was spent in Bath and at Stonehenge. Back in London for the third day, we started the morning off right with a trip to the Tower of London, former home to kings and queens and current home to the Crown Jewels. To be honest, the Tower had so much to see and do, you could have spent the entire day there.
We took the audio tour which I believe came with the cost of admission, and it was well worth it. Once inside, you’re free to explore the grounds in any order that you like. We explored rooms that were used to hold prisoners and rooms that kings slept in. The room with the Crown Jewels did not allow photography, but was one of the best designed museum experiences that I have ever seen. You were able to go up close to the jewels on either side via a moving side walk which meant that everyone got a close up view, and if you wanted to read more about them, there was a raised walkway that provided more information.
The Tower of London was a great experience that I’d recommend to anyone visiting the city!
Westminster Abbey was a beautiful church. The inside had an overwhelming number of tombs of royalty and just generally impressive people that have done so much for the arts and science. On our way out we were able to see the Coronation Chair that Queen Elizabeth sat in during her coronation day. It was so interesting to see in person along with images from that day, especially after I had just recently watched Netflix’s “The Crown.”
Hyde Park is HUGE! It felt like an endless supply of trails, fields and trees. Along the lake were plenty of geese and swans, which are actually the property of the Queen. We went on a walk through the park to the back of Kensington Gardens. If it hadn’t been for the impending rain storm, it would have been the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon with a book under a tree.
One of my favorite features of the park, that I didn’t even photograph, was the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. It would be hard to capture in a photo, because it’s a really large round shape. The water doesn’t shoot upwards as it does in most fountains, but flows around the circle with little bridges along the way. It was very contemporary and quite beautiful.
Serpentine Bar & Kitchen
After arriving at Hyde Park, we went to the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen for lunch. It was a great location in the middle of the park with seating inside and outside overlooking the large pond. I ordered a classic – fish & chips.
While we unfortunately couldn’t get tickets in to Kensington Palace, we did stop to visit the gardens that back up to Hyde Park. The Palace is the current home to Prince William & Kate Middleton along with their children. It was also his home as a boy while Princess Diana was alive. The gardens had a large reflecting pond and behind the palace was a towering marble statue of Queen Victoria.
With the sun going down and a storm starting, there was one more place in London that I had to see – Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. While we took a break outside by the river in front of the theater, we saw a cast member come out and change before heading back on stage. It was so cool to stand where so many have gone to see Shakespeare’s work for so many years.
With just an hour or so left of daylight, we decided to venture to the top of The Shard to get a view of London from the open 72nd floor of one of the strangest shaped buildings I have ever seen. The view as the sun was setting and the lights started to come on was great.
It was also home to one of the coolest bathroom views possible. You could see into the Tower of London from the toilet! (There was a shade to put down, but I didn’t realize that until after I washed my hands.)
King's Cross Station
Our next stop on our trip to the UK was Edinburgh via a train from King’s Cross Station. But instead of Scotland, I decided it may be best to head to Platform 9 and 3/4 to catch a train to Hogwarts.