London is a city I have always loved and always wanted to move to, so when two of my best friends from university moved there it was the perfect excuse for another friend and I to take a trip across the pond! My total trip was ten days, 7 in London and then 3 in Dublin. It was a total dream trip and today I am just going to talk about how I spent a week in the beautiful, Royal city!
Day one we got in just afternoon. Both of packed carryon which was a blessing to just be able to land and go, and we took the tube from Heathrow into town.
My friends live just south of King’s Cross/ Bloomsbury which ended up being a perfect base for our trip as it was very central and close to great transportation options. Also Bloomsbury, especially around Marchmount Street is super cute, traditional London with cobblestone, park squares and Victorian walk ups. It is also home to a lot of London’s schools so there is fun student vibe in the air.
We started the day by heading to Sorrento Snack Bar for lunch, a very cute, small cash only cafe that serves cheap and cheerful Italian and British food. It is quite cheap by London standards.
Next we headed over to the British library where we saw the Magna Carta, a beautiful original copy of Leviathon and numerous other rare pieces of written work. Like most museums in London it is free so a great place to stop in for a little bit even if you are not a huge literary or political nerd like we are. After that we headed down the street past St. Pancras ( beautiful building!) and into King’s Cross. We gawked at the hordes of people lined up at Platform 9 3/4 and kept walking. Next we headed down Marchmount street, past so many cute cafes and book stores (seriously fell in love with this street!) to the Observatory Cafe.
The Observatory cafe is part cafe, part art gallery. It is an amazing space with great drinks and even better staff ( they completely moved around some tables so all four of us could sit together. If you are in the area would highly recommend as a pick me up! Just in general if you are looking for a chill afternoon I would recommend walking around this area, popping into the stores and cafes, taking photos of the beautiful buildings and appreciating the reprieve from the hordes of people usually found in Central London.
On our way back to the flat we popped into Waitrose from some snacks and breakfast for the week ( food everything in London is super expensive so buying groceries helps a ton!). Also, as my Dad was born in London and my family in general is quite British, I live for British snacks so going to Waitrose, M&S, Sainsburys and Tesco is just as much as a fun shopping experience to me as Primark ( IMHO, definitely better than Primark). Our big plan for the night was to head across to the Globe Theatre where we had a standing room tickets for Hamlet. Of course it was raining. And fun fact about the Globe Theater it is open roof. We sucked it up and decided to embrace the full experience of our “peasant seats” ( as standing rooms tickets were invested so that the common-folk could see the theatre in Shakeaspeare’s time) and stand in the rain. The show was great, the actors were amazing! We stayed until intermission and then were too cold/damp/tired of standing so we head off to Borough Market in search of dinner!
We were hoping to make to Padella for their famous pasta but it was full for the night so instead we sent to Wagamana’s for some nice warming pho.
An area I have never spent much time but always wanted to is Kensington, so today we woke up and headed straight to the V&A. The V&A, also known as the Victoria and Albert Museum, is a museum of decorative arts. It is in a beautiful old building with a great courtyard and as the museum is free many families just come for the courtyard so it is full of picnickers enjoying the day. The museum is huge so choose a couple areas to explore- some highlights for us included the jewellery, silver and stained glasses sections!
After the museum we headed across the street to Thurloe street for some lunch. This street has a ton of cute little cafes and restaurants, we settled for a nice table by the windows at Le Pain Quotidien. Unlike in North America, in Europe Le Pain Quotidien in Europe is a nice sit down restaurant were we got tartines, pies and salads.
After lunch it was shaping up to be a beautiful day we set off to stroll through Kensington, I had a list of mews ( kind of like really pretty British alleys) I wanted to pop in for photos so we did that until we stumbled into Hyde Park and made our way to Kensington Palace. It might sound kinda weird to go alley hopping but honestly stumbling along the back streets of Kensington was beautiful and a really nice way to get away from the crowds.
I had been inside Kensington Palace and had lunch at the Orangerie last time I was in London so this time we just poked around outside and explored the very beautiful gardens.
After Kensington Palace we made our way into Notting Hill, stopping to see the famous Churchill Arms.
Once in Notting Hill we were in full “find the prettiest pastel house” mode. We walked up and down streets stopping at each different coloured house for more photos.
Once our memory cards were full we hopped on a bus back home, had a quick lie down and then headed out for Mexican at Mestizo near the flat. All in all, loved our fun West London day!
Today started out on a high (literally) with a reservation at the Sky garden. The Sky Garden is the best free view in London, however it is necessary you make a reservation and these book up very fast. Reservations for the Sky Garden open a week prior to any given date.
The sky garden is literally a garden, with coffee shop and bar, on the top of a huge skyscraper in downtown London. It is absolutely stunning inside and has an amazing balcony with views over the Thames and most of London. Would 100% recommend this as an amazing place to get your bearings( and snap some amazing photos).
Right by the Sky Garden is the Leadenhall Market, a colourful covered market said to have inspired Diagon Alley. While the stores and everything in the market is pretty mainstream and touristy it is worth a stop by just to see the building itself.
The plan for today was to walk a big lap of London South Bank to see all the sights so we made our way from Leadenhall, past the Tower of London and across Tower Bridge. The bridge even went up while we were walking over it for a boat!
From the bridge we walk to Borough Market where we poked around a bit before getting in line for lunch at Padella. Padella is an amazing, tiny Italian place known for their fresh and super cheap pasta. They don’t take reservations and can only make food for 12 at once ( but they can seat more) so the line gets long so I would suggest going right at opening or for a later lunch. The pasta did fully live up to the hype and was insane. After lunch we wandered around the market some more, you could spend all day eating here everything looked insane! Coffee carts, bakeries, lunch trucks, the whole nine yards!
We continued on our way to walk off our lunch, strolling along South Bank to the Tate Modern Art Gallery. This is a huge modern gallery, and even though Modern art is not my favourite it has some pretty amazing pieces. Like all other London museums it is a pay by donation which makes it an affordable place to stop in for only a short while.
After the Tate we continued on our walk until Waterloo Bridge where there are view of the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster. Big Ben was wrapped in construction so there wasn’t much to see but hopefully next time! This bridge brings you straight to Somerset at King’s Campus where we stopped by a coffee in their courtyard.
After coffee we were still itching for some sugar so we went to a bakery for some little cakes and, once reinvigorated, walked over to Neal’s Yard to take some pictures. Neal’s Yard is very cute, hidden area right in Central London. The little alleys are adorable and there is a great collection of shops. We poked around for a bit before heading home.
Even though it is a chain I did really want to experience Dishoom while in London because it is so well known, so for dinner we headed to the Dishoom in Granary Wharfs. The wait was not too bad when we got there so we settled in at the bar with a drink and our buzzer ( this location is great because there is a huge bar area specifically for people waiting for tables). Even though it is not really traditional Indian food, the food is great and the experience is super fun! The decor is amazing and the vibe of the restaurant is very lively. We ordered quite the assortment of food and everything was quite good! Also their cocktails are amazing!
Day four was our big tourist day exploring Belgravia and St James. We started at Buckingham Palace and then walk through Green Park up to Piccadilly for some shopping. We started at Fortnum and Masons which is a complete dream! The store is beautiful! The first floor is all their tea and biscuits, which smells divine, and the second floor is all the tea pots and cups. It is a little nerve wrecking trying not to bump into anything as everything is in the hundred of pounds but at the same time I feel this is a super London experience everyone has to have. The had tons of special tea ware for the upcoming Royal Wedding! I ended up picking up a jar of loose leaf tea called the Countess Grey, which is an orangery Earl Grey.
I have wanted a Barbour jacket for about 4 years but was struggling to justify the price. I knew the price was better to buy in the UK and I figured the added experience would make it 100% worth it. We stopped into the Barbour stop on Piccadilly where I found my perfect jacket, and not only was the jacket substantially cheaper than back in Canada there was also 15% off and I could get the VAT refunded. It ended being less than half the price of Nordstrom Canada!
After walking through Piccadilly Circus we walked down to Trafalgar Square where we went into the National Gallery. Again, amazing free museum! The Brits do this oh so right! They also have very reasonably priced prints of famous paintings in their gift store which would make great gifts or even just art to take home.
After the art gallery I headed up to meet a friend who works at Facebook, we got lunch, I toured the offices and then we caught up on their beautiful terrace. After this nice catch up I headed over to the Wallace Collection to meet back up with my friends for tea! The Wallace Collection is a beautiful old mansion, turned into a museum of decorative arts. They have an amazing pink atrium where they serve afternoon tea at a very reasonable price. Additionally during the time we were there if you went for tea in the afternoon you got a free glass of proseco! Tea was amazing, the service impeccable and all the food delicious. The atrium did get quite hot however in the sun so I would definitely dress for that. We ended up having a very long, relaxed tea so we didn’t have time to see much of the Wallace Collection afterwards which was too bad as it does look like a great museum.
After tea we headed to Tottenham Court Road for a bit of shopping, hitting up classics like Primark, before heading home. To be honest I mostly hated Primark as the clothes are pretty cheap and the crowds horrible( but they had the most amazing Harry Potter section).
We all were way to full from tea to consider eating dinner so we had a quiet night, packing up our stuff for our early flight to Dublin tomorrow!
We were pretty tired from our late flight in from Dublin last night so we had a bit of a lie in which was very nice! Today was the day of the Royal Wedding so we dressed up a bit and headed to a local pub to watch. The pub went all out, red carpet, Harry and Meghan flags everywhere, special wedding punch. It was amazing! It was also cool to see just how universal the royal family is; the pub was full of every demographic- families, grandparents, a dad and his baby, men in the 30s in rugby shirts and groups of women. Everyone was equally into the experience and started chatting to each other, in many ways in felt like watching the Olympics in terms of its universal appeal.
After the wedding ended we headed into Knightsbridge to see Harrods. It is truly the most ridiculous ( in the best way), opulent place I have ever been. The food hall is literally floor to ceiling marble! The Egyptian escalators look like they should be in a museum, not a store and there are floors upon floors of luxury goods. The food hall was 100% my favorite- there is gourmet jams, caviar, seafood, endless desserts. It would be quite fun(albeit expensive) to stop here and pick up stuff for a picnic one day.
Speaking of picnics, we didn’t pick up food at Harrods but did grab some sushi for a little picnic in Hyde Park before heading to St James to meet up with schoolmates of my friend. It was a beautiful day to just hang out in the park. We also popped into Liberty, another must see store in London. Owning Liberty has always been a dream of mine, their prints are so dreamy and the store is every bit as beautiful. There is an amazing home section ( including crazy carpets), amazing curated collection of clothes and of course Liberty print scarves and fabric. This was my favorite store of the trip.
After Liberty we headed over to Sketch for drinks. Sketch is a famous restaurant, half famous for the food, half for the crazy interior design. Because it is famous it is also stupid expensive we decided to appreciate the decor for a fraction of the price by just going for drinks. The drinks were amazing ( yes, still expensive) and the interior design is even crazier in person. It was the start of the Chelsea Flower Festival so the entire hallway was transformed into a garden and there were flowers all over the restaurant!
For dinner we headed back to Neal’s yard for pizza at Home Slice. Home Slice does huge HUGE(!) pizzas with crazy toppings. We got a half kimchi and half mascarpone and mushroom pizza. It was insane. The place is small and doesn’t take reservations but the food is worth it! Afterwards we swung by Udderlicious for ice cream.
Today was our last day in London! Seeing as it was Sunday we decided to start out with Brunch at Granger and Co near King’s Cross. Granger and Co does great Australian ( read: healthy) style brunch and is super cute.
In terms of activities we left today pretty open to do anything we had missed the previous days, which for us had been seeing a show. We headed to Piccadilly Circus to stop by a couple show carts to get discounted tickets for a matinee and then headed over to Covenant Gardens to walk around. We even snuck into the Savoy Hotel to sneak a peak at the decor post renovation ( it was insane!). We had a little more time to kill per show so we headed over to the Portrait gallery to see the Tudor portraits.
For our show, seeing as it was a Sunday matinee we didn’t have the full slate of West End options. We ended up seeing Matilda which was AMAZING so I am actually quite happy about this because it is not a show I would have seen otherwise. The children ( especially Matilda) were super talented and the show had a great message.
For our last London dinner we headed just north of King’s Cross area for Vietnamese at Sen Viet.
Overall, this was an amazing trip to London, filled with lots of walking, great shopping, fun food and some much needed girl time! I have been to London before and if this last trip confirmed anything, it is that I will definitely be going back again soon.