Where do I start!? London is a city where history, culture, art, and style collides beautifully together. Earlier this year, I chose London for my birthday destination and having already been to the UK before, I pretty much knew how I wanted my trip to go. - Eat, shop, take amazing pictures, and repeat- ( Side note: you can go to London twice a year and still not see everything. Its honestly that much to do and see! )
How We Got There
I followed one of my Golden Rules of Travel - Travel To Travel. Meaning when a $512 round trip ticket leaving out of Toronto was available, driving to Toronto wasn't even a hesitated thought. Our flight departed from Toronto around 8:30p, so we left around 12p. Leaving from the Detroit- area, the drive is about 3.5 hours ( not including our food stops LOL). We wanted to give ourselves plenty of time, also we planned to explore Toronto a little bit before our flight but so glad we didn't because Toronto's International Airport is seriously a mental headache. After checking in and getting our lives together, we were able to have a nice meal and wind down before our flight.
View from Toronto International Airport
Where Did We Stay
6 women. Meaning a hotel was out the picture!! LOL. Space and more than 1 bathroom was essential for us. So, AirBNB was the route we took. Our flat is located in the Southwark Borough and in the Peckham neighborhood. Peckham is a lively neighborhood with tons of shops and restaurants. Our flat was located within a 2 minute walk from Queen Peckham Overground Station. A close tube station is always one of the key things I look for when booking. Trust me, after walking all day sightseeing, walking a mile to your place is the last thing you want to do. Click here
for the AirBNB posting for the flat.
Things We Needed
A few things that helped us out:
Tep Wireless Pocket Wifi - A girl still has to Snap, post to the Gram, and find the closest bar.
TFL Tube App - THIS IS V I T A L!!! Sometimes the wifi would just stop working on us and this app can still give you tube directions without internet!
Bus Times London App - Sometimes taking a bus is just as convienent as the Tube
What To Do / What We Did
The real question isn't what to do, It's WHAT TO DO FIRST!! London can be quite overwhelming, so having an itinerary is most helpful. I highly recommend doing the Hop Off, Hop On Bus Tour the first day. You're tired, jet lagged, and probably don't even know what day it is, so walking is the last thing you want to do and if you've purchased The London Pass, it's a covered perk!
You want to see Big Ben, House of Parliament, The London Eye, Tower Bridge, Tower of London,Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace? Then, Westminster is where you need to head to. Getting an early start in Westminster is vital, especially if you want to see all the area has to offer. Take the Jubilee Line and get out on the Westminster stop. As soon as you exit the station, Big Ben is waiting right in front of you! Make a left, you're headed to Houses of Parliament and The London Eye, make a right, you're headed towards Westminster Abbey. If you've purchased The London Pass, your entry to Westminster Abbey is covered.
Tower Of London
No matter how many times I go here, I'm always in awe of all the history. You're literally walking into history. Allow 2-3 hours, be prepared to go thru small doorways and up stairs that your knees will hit the next step. ( I can conclude that men back in 1060s were miniature sized.) Have your camera ready because it's tons of things to capture and if its a good day, you'd get to see the ravens. ( they own the joint) Only downside, no pictures are allowed at The Crown Jewels Exhibition, my heart cried, because diamonds like those need their picture taken at all times.
The plus besides seeing the sun, visiting London in the summer, means Buckingham Palace is open to the public. Allow 2-2.5 hours, I highly recommend purchasing tickets online and collecting them at The Palace. The downside is no pictures are allowed inside the palace but to be honest, I was so in awe and admiring everything, not taking pictures allowed me to be in the moment and really take in everything. Let me just tell you the Music Room is just gorgeous and of course I felt poor while walking the hallways but then I remembered that Princess Di probably walked those same hallways, so I was back being happy LOL.
Changing of The Guard
A trip to London isn't authentic until you join the masses to see long held tradition of Changing of The Guard. The girls and I did a 9:15am tour of Buckingham Palace and made it to the front of the palace just in time. Arrive early if you want to see more than the person in front of you head.
These 2 areas are my shopping and afternoon tea go to spots. Mayfair are home of 2 of my favorite streets to go broke in London: Oxford St. & Regent St. Mayfair is host to plenty of shops including the infamous Selfridges but the area is also known for luxury hotels such as The Mayfair, The Ritz London, and The Dorchester. I personally can spend all day in the Mayfair area, popping in and out of department stores. ( Visiting London around Christmas is the perfect time to shop. Sales galore!!)
After my birthday dinner at The Connaught, we found Freedom Bar , one of the few bars/clubs that stayed open until 3am on a Wednesday night. Freedom Bar located in Soho is just one of the plenty bars located in the area. Also in Soho, tons of restaurants as well. Soho is a great place to have a fun night.
Camden is definitely a top place for me. Food, shopping, and different knick knack shops you won't find anywhere else. What more do you want!? Camden can be described as your local hipster,artsy, foodie destination. Shops line the blocks that lead up to Camden Lock which is a market filled with so many food stalls, not enough mouths but we made it work LOL. Besides eating as much I could, went to Camden on my birthday with a goal in sight: DON'T CHICKEN OUT AND GET SOMETHING PIERCED! Camden is known for it's tattoo scene, so I just walked into a random shop and prayed for the best. ( Please don't judge me ) Camden is easily a place to lose track of time and end up spending the entire day.
Head over to London Eats to see where to grab a bite or a nice cuppa.