A few years ago we went to London. I think it was a last minute call, I can’t remember actually. Best decision in the world though. Really. We LOVE this city. I can imagine living here as well. The people are extremely friendly, everything is well organized… The only bad thing there is, is that the city is rather expensive :-).
We went to London with the Eurostar. Very easy, cheap, comfortable (more or less) and you win an hour travelling that direction. Or at least, we do. We stayed four days in London, in the beginning of June. I think we had one day with beautiful weather, a rainy day, a nice but cold day and a grey and cold day. We had it all in only four days. The real Great-Britain weather ;-).
We stayed in the Hotel Thistle City Barbican. It was outside the city center, but it was close to two metro stations – and the subway in London is very well organized – so we could reach everything very easy. We bought ourselves an oyster card (!!) and got on our way.
Day 1: Picadilly – Mayfair – Marylebone – Regent’s Park
We started our trip in Londen at the Piccadilly Circus. Worth it? I don’t know. Maybe, if you’re in to that. We got our first views on typical buses. It’s one of the busiest points in London. So if you’re passing by, driving a car, try to avoid it ;-). In the early days, Piccadilly Circus was thought to be the center of the British Empire.
From the Piccadilly Circus you can walk across some beautiful buildings and places, like the Burlington House, Old Bond Street, Shepherd Market, … If you want to go shopping, there’s one address: Oxford Street, the most known shopping street in London. You can also find Selfridge here, the famous warehouse.
After our first walk, to get to know the city, we decided to go to Regent’s Park. It was a warm and hot summer day, so we could do with sitting in a park. The Regent’s park consist of different parts: you have the Inner Circle, which has a flowerpark; and the Outer Circle, which contains some beautiful villa’s and terraces. At the end of the park, you can also find the London Zoo.
In the neighborhood of the Regent’s Park you have two museum that may be worth visiting: the Sherlock Holmes Museum and Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks. We visited Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks. We booked non-flexible tickets upfront. We wanted to go between 16h30-17h – which is kind of perfect; even if you don’t book your tickets upfront. There wasn’t a huge waiting line at that time, nor a lot of people in the museum. We never had to wait (very long) to take pictures of the wax statues. What surprised me, was that there was an interactive part in the museum as well. Kind of nice! We really liked the museum, more than we thought we would.
Day 2: St. James – Westminster – Belgravia – Hyde Park – Kensington – SOHO
Today we wanted to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. We never got there on time, I think we managed to get there just after the changing. Good points for us. So to cope with our disappointment, we took a stroll around St. James’ Park, which is just nearby. Near the Buckingham Palace, you can also find Downing Street and The Horse Guards. A bit smelly, but normally you just pass them by to get to the next part of the city. After a bit of a walk you arrive at the Palace of Westminster, which includes the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Hall, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. You can only visit the buildings on a Saturday. It costs (or it did back then) about £9. We weren’t there on a Saturday, so we had to let it pass us by. Near the Palace of Westminster, you have the Tate Britain, a famous art gallery which holds modern British artworks. As far as I know, tickets are free. I don’t know if that’s still the case.
Further up the road you can find the famous Westminster Abbey with the Abbey Gardens. We thought it was a ridiculous amount of money (depending on what you wanted to see) to visit the abbey so we just look at it from the outside. I’m not someone who wants to pay to visit a church, an abbey, or whatsoever. It’s “the house of god”, so in my mind, it’s got to be free. And the visitors need to be free to leave something or not. But that’s just my opinion :-). And even I let go of my opinion sometimes… say to visit the Sagrada Familia and all. But that’s beside the point ;-).
One thing we did visit (I really don’t know why we decided to visit this thing, and nothing else :-)), were the Royal Mews. Here you could find old and nowadays rarely used carriages that were and are used by the Kings and Queens of Britain. Next to the carriages and the horses, you could also find some of the cars that are used. I liked it. It was a small museum with almost no other tourists walking around.
We finished our day in Hyde Park. Here you can find the Marble Arch, The Serpentine and the famous Speakers corner (which is actually nothing special). If you walk across Hyde Park you end up in the Kensington Gardens.
We had dinner in Soho, a really fun place to go out and get something to eat or to drink.
Day 3: Whitehall – Strand – Trafalgar Square – Covent Garden – South Bank
The first thing that I wanted to visit today was the Imperial War Museum. But faith wasn’t with me as it was closed for maintenance. I really didn’t like that. I’m not that into museums, but I really wanted to visit that specific one :-). In the museum they have galleries about the First and the Second World War, the Holocaust and some weaponry.
So we changed our plans and went straight to the London Eye. We got a flexible pass upfront. But we still had to wait a very long time before we could get up the rad. So, I would recommend you to buy a non-flexible ticket. Was it worth it? We liked it. We had some nice views over the city. Our cabin wasn’t too full either, so there really was enough time and place to shoot pictures all around you.
Today we also visited Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, The M&M World (it’s heaven for the M&M fans), Covent Garden (We loved that place to. Cosy, nice buildings, including the Royal Opera House). In Covent Garden, you also have the Covent Garden Market.
At the end of the day we wanted to visit London Dungeon. We bought non-flexible tickets upfront (again, yes). The tricky part was to find the Dungeon. The address we got was wrong, or at least, they already changed their location. We couldn’t find were it was, I was stressed because we were running out of time to get there ;-). But eventually we found it… back were London Eye was. Yep. Don’t know how we could miss that this morning. I loved (!) London Dungeon. It was so good! The stories, the people. Some parts were actually really scary (for example the story of Sweeney Todd – it made me watch the movie all over again). You also have Jack The Ripper, the plague, … the people really did a great job here. Recommendable. Even with children of a certain age (I think they state that the child should be at least 10 years old)! If they can take something. At the end of the ‘show’, there’s a surprise act as well. I’m not going to mention what it was, so you don’t know what to expect. But it was fun! And something we didn’t expect at all. We also didn’t expect they would take pictures of you in that precise moment. We’re not too big of a fan of those kind of pictures. But we bought them. Not only because we looked pretty handsome (;-)), but also because we didn’t want to forget the person who was sitting next to us. His facial expression just made that picture. He looked terrified in it :-). Lovely!
Day 4: Chancery Lane – Temple – The City – Tower of London – Southwark
The final day in London we decided to discover a bit more of the neighborhood of our hotel. So we walked around and ended up in Fleet Street. This street used to be famous for all the journalist who worked here. Nowadays the bureaus are moved to the Docklands. There isn’t too much to see in Fleet Street now, apart for some huge buildings.
Next stop was the St. Paul’s Cathedral. We were (un?)lucky. It was a Sunday, so we couldn’t visit the whole cathedral. But… it was Sunday, so we could visit a part of the cathedral for free. Otherwise they rip you off big time! So I’ve heard.
After that we walked around the economic center of London: The City. I was a big fan of The Gherkin. Really liked that building, still don’t know why :-). Maybe only for the name, who knows. Near the City, you can also find the Leadenhall Market. It is said that some parts of the Potter films were made here… but I had a huge fan with me, and we couldn’t figure out which parts that would be… so if anyone knows, please do inform us?
Our last stop in London was the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. We didn’t visit the Tower of London this time, but I’m definitely going to visit it someday. It holds the crown jewels (Jewel House) and is one of the biggest fortified buildings in Europe. And it really looks amazing. Just like the Tower Bridge. It’s just like the pictures ;-).
Before we left London at day 5, we rushed towards Buckingham Palace, to see the changing of the guards. This time we managed to get there on time and we managed to get a good place to stand and watch the whole thing :-).
As you can read, we didn’t visit a lot of museums. I’m not too fond of that. But of course there a lot of museum that are really worth visiting. I don’t like staying inside a building for too much time; I prefer a little museum, or just walking around.
If you have some tips: leave them in the comments!
Next time we go to London I also want to do a Harry Potter tour :-).
See you again soon.