London is the second most visited city in the world, after Bangkok and before Paris (https://www.rd.com/advice/travel/most-visited-cities-around-world/) and it happens to be my favourite. My most recent trip to London has been last November, I went with a friend of mine and her two kids. It was my fifth time there and I loved it, as always. Especially because I went to the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End to see Kit Harington (aka Jon Snow) live in the show “True West”, so you can imagine my excitement.
Anyway, I thought about writing this guide mostly because:
1st. I have fun while doing it!
2nd. I love and know London quite well: I’ve been 5 times and I once stayed 2 weeks, on a study trip with EF, during which I explored it a lot.
3rd. (Almost) everyone, sooner or later, visits London so I think it might be useful, at least to have a first taste of the city.
Does it show that I like lists? 😛 So, let’s start with the first point.
1. The West End (go see a show!)
I didn’t go to London just to see the play “True West”, but an aligning of the stars wanted me to go just as it was starting (it would last three months). I couldn’t believe my luck! I didn’t pay 60pounds, as you see on the ticket, I paid a little more but it was totally worthy. I think it’s one of those experience that you need to do once in a lifetime: seeing your favourite actor live in theatre. After visiting the National Gallery I walked towards the Strand, which was not far, bought a sandwich at Caffè Nero and went to the theatre. I was so, so, so happy. I was sitting in the eleventh row and seeing him there, on the stage, with my own eyes…It was just so emotional. Game of Thrones is my favourite tv-show of all time and I’ve always been in love with Jon’s character. I’m also 90% sure that I saw his wife, actress Rose Leslie (aka Ygritte in GOT) when I left the theatre but of course I was too shy to go and say “Hello, is it you?”.
2. Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament
This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions London. You can take the tube and exit at Westminster’s station to see the Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and a beautiful view on the London Eye. Unfortunately in November Big Ben was still covered in scaffoldings, I was so sorry for my friend’s little boy because he had never seen it before so it was quite disappointing. To reach the London Eye from Big Ben just cross Westminster bridge and then turn left (but you’ll see it). The ticket to get on one of the most famous big wheels of the world is pretty expensive (I’ll leave you the link here https://www.londoneye.com/tickets-and-prices/general-tickets/) but once in a lifetime I would go if I were you, because the view from up there is beautiful. The last time my boyfriend and I went up it was cloudy, but if you go on a sunny day I bet you can see views on London for miles and miles.
3. Carnaby Street (Soho)
As you can see, the photo was taken during the Christmas holidays, when Carnaby offers its best, but I recommend going there all year long because this street is packed with amazing, original shops and cars are not allowed, so it’s also very practical to walk by (except in the photo, there were SO MANY PEOPLE). Moreover, if you are passionate about make-up, a brand new Benefit shop has just opened up (it’s got two floors, a bathroom where you can take amazing selfies and it’s just lovely).
The tube stop for Carnaby street is Oxford Circus (then it’s a 5-minute walk).
4. Covent garden
Covent Garden used to host a famous vegetable market, but is now a popular area with many cute bars, shops (both very instagrammable) and street artists performing in the square (which is called the “street theatre”). This habit of street-performing has got ancient roots, artists started doing it in the 1660s!
The tube station for Covent Garden is (duh) Covent Garden.
5. Borough Market
On your way to the next must-see (the Bankside) I recommend to have a walk around Borough Market (tube stop: London bridge), as you’ll pass through. The market is very nice, you’ll find amazing products and if like me you’re a massive Bridget Jones‘ fan, while you’re there check out Bridget’s flat entrance: Bedale Street, Borough Market, London, SE1. You’re welcome.
6. Bankside (Shakespeare’s Globe, the Swan and going towards Tate Modern, with views on the Millenium Bridge – Harry Potter’s location)
After leaving Borough Market I would recommend you to walk along the river Thames (that path is called Bankside) because the view on St Paul’s Cathedral is beautiful and you’ll also find on your left-hand side the Swan restaurant (https://www.swanlondon.co.uk/) which is tastefully furnished, delicious and has quite a view. Have a good brunch there and have a trip to the toilet upstairs to see the beautiful dining room (usually people have dinner there before seeing a play in the Globe theatre, which is just beside). If you’re a GOT fan, on your trip to the toilet upstairs, look at the pictures taken during the shows of the Globe, hanged on the wall after the first set of staircases: among the actors you’ll find Jonathan Pryce aka the High Sparrow (Gosh, I hated him so much)
Last November I brought my friend and her children at the Swan, too, and they really liked it.
When you exit the restaurant, if you’ll stop by, walk towards the Millenium bridge and you’ll find the reconstruction of the theatre where Shakespeare‘s company used to act, on the exact spot where the old one was. The original was built in 1599 but soon destroyed by a terrible fire in 1613.
London is a heavenly place for those who love museums because there are so many and diverse ones. I visited most of them when I was there on my two-week study trip, at the time I was 16 and not so thrilled about it (I was more enthusiast about going to Camden town with my crush and to Harrod’s with my friends) but I’m now glad that they obliged us to visit all of them. LOL
Since going back to London independently, I’ve been to the Tate Modern and to the National Gallery. As its name says, the Tate Modern is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art. From the outside it looks like a huge factory and that’s because it’s the former Bankside Power Station. The entrance is free (but of course you can donate money) and you’ll only pay to visit temporary exhibitions, if you want to. It is located on the Bankside and has a beautiful view on the Millennium bridge (Harry Potter’s one!) and on St.Paul’s Cathedral. Beside Tate’s artworks I love the surroundings and the views. If you keep walking towards the opposite side (not towards Borough Market, where you may have come from if you followed my advice) you’ll get to the London Eye and then Big Ben.
I was going to recommend to go to the bar on the sixth floor (I think it’s the sixth, but not sure) to admire the panorama, but now that I checked the website ((https://www.tate.org.uk) I found out that it’s the Member’s bar so I think I wasn’t allowed to go there. Oops.
Another museum that I really like is the more classical National Gallery, in Trafalgar square, where you can also admire the world-famous Nelson’s Column. The tube stop for Trafalgar Square is Charing Cross. The nearest tube stop for the Tate Modern is Blackfriars (but as I told you above, I recommend coming from Borough Market)
8. Buckingham Palace
I don’t have much to say about it, Buckingham palace is such an iconic place, I like to go there, stay outside the gate (yeah, well, did you want to go in?) and daydream about Harry, William, Kate and Meghan’s lives. I wonder how it must be to get married and then exit on that balcony and see thousand and thousands of people cheering for you. It must be overwhelming!
9. Tower bridge and the Tower of London
Tower bridge (from 1886) is my favourite bridge in London, the photo above doesn’t do it justice. I love that part of the city because you can see the Tower of London (1078 – 1399) beside the modern, new skyscrapers. I think I love this city so much because it’s so modern yet full of old, historical buildings that make me wonder about the lives of King and Queens…
The tube stop for Tower bridge and the Tower of London is Tower hill. If you’ve got time please visit the Tower of London, I’ve been twice and I recommend it.
10. Harrod’s and Chelsea
Even if you’re not a shopaholic (or maybe exactly for this reason) I would recommend you to visit Harrod’s because it’s an icon. This first-class department store belongs to the Egyptian Al Fayed family (Dodi Al Fayed, the son of the owner, sadly died with Lady Diana in Paris in 1997).
If you keep walking towards Chelsea (the area were our Airbnb was) you’ll encounter a lot of beautiful tearooms and luxury shops on the way. Chelsea is a very high-end neighbourhood and it’s worth visiting.
The tube stop for Harrod’s is Knightsbridge, while our tube stop for Chelsea was Earl’s Court.
11. Notting Hill
Who hasn’t seen Notting Hill with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant? It’s one of those movies I never get tired of. The shops of Notting Hill are lovely, so are the houses and the streets. I recommend visiting the super famous market in Portobello Road (http://www.portobelloroad.co.uk/)
The tube stop for Notting Hill is Notting Hill Gate.
That’s it guys, these were my eleven unmissable things to see and to do in London. I would add Camden town, Hyde Park and much, much more but as I wrote above it’s a guide to give a first taste of London, a guide for beginners. 🙂
Write down in the comments if you think I forgot something epic or if you’ve been to the city after reading my guide and you visited this spots!
Have a nice day,