London is a world famous city, and raved about in travel community for all it’s offerings, sights and history. It often shocked people that I hadn’t made my way to “THE City” after so long on the road and quite a few trips to Europe, which is just a short flight away. I put it off for various reasons, all the while knowing I’d make my way there someday and would really do it the right way.
The last city I would explore before heading back to the states would be London, and I arrived determined to see everything possible. I had ten days to do so.
I made new friends out and about, from various parts of the country and blended. I saw sights and experienced English culture. I kept working on my faux-English accent (to no avail). I had a great time, and wrapped up this leg of my travels exactly as I wanted to.
There are a few sights and experiences I had during my visit that I say are a MUST for first-timers visiting LONDON.
Quintessential London Experiences
Famous for grandeur, royalty and tea, Brits know how to live beautifully, rain or shine. I immersed myself everyday culture, but made sure to experience the essential “touristy” stuff too. Below are the experiences I would consider “Oh-So-London” and items you should have on your to-do list for a first time visit to the city.
AFTERNOON TEA at ST. ERMINS HOTEL | This luxury hotel is absolutely stunning! When you walk in you’re greeted with bright white royal-worthy staircases and countless chandeliers.
Myself, and fellow solo female traveler Hayley, were so excited to come here for tea. This was my first ever “proper tea” and I could not have had a better experience. We had tea, sandwiches and desserts coupled with prosecco and felt like Princesses.
I know what you’re thinking… “Sunrise?!” I know, I know. Intense! But, trust me, the early morning haul is SO worth it, and you can take naps when you’re back home! When you’re traveling it’s sometimes important to forgo that extra hour (or three) of sleep in order to see and experience the place you’re at. This was one of those moments for me, and I am SO glad I did it. Watching the sun come up over London whilst holding downward dog position may be one of my all time favorite travel experiences.
…followed by breakfast at Darwin Brasserie overlooking the city. After practice, I had breakfast at the Brasserie located across the hall from the yoga space and got to enjoy the views even more (and in a seated position). It was THE BEST way to start the day!
WATCHING SWANS at HYDE PARK | Swans, trees, green grass and locals in their natural habitat. Hyde Park is a MUST when in this city. I spent at least an hour and a half sitting by the swans on the water.
*FUN FACT* Did you know that all unmarked swans throughout the UK are property of the royal family? And, yet, ANOTHER perk for Meghan Markle!
STROLL THROUGH LITTLE VENICE
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SHOPPING at CAMDEN MARKET | This whole neighborhood of the city reminded me so much of home (California), and specifically San Francisco. It’s very “hipster” and full of shops that smell of incense. SO my type of vibe for an afternoon shopping session.
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WATCH TOURISTS at ABBEY ROAD | If you follow me on Instagram, you saw my endless live updates from this bench where I sat watching tourists dodge traffic for their “perfect shot” of Abbey Road, while I sipped my coffee. It was hilarious.
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CHECK OUT the LOVE LOCKS at WATERLOO BRIDGE
LONDON EYE | It’s a must.
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SIP COCKTAILS at WORLD CLASS BARS & PUBS
STROLL THROUGH BOROUGH MARKET | Foodie paradise awaits at the Borough Market, so don’t show up with a full stomach, or an empty wallet. They have endless booths with rare cheeses, wines, and foods to try and buy. Sample heaven. I bought myself a glass of prosecco for 4£ and strolled around solo, tasting everything and people watching.
It. Was. Awesome.
Must See Sights
HAMSTEAD HEATH | I was lucky enough to catch a free bench and some sunshine at the park overlooking the city. It’s a perfect place for a picnic. If I lived in London, I’d
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
ST. JAMES PARK
BUCKINGHAM PALACE | I didn’t get to see the Royal Family but I did get to see THIS, and it was beautiful.
Where I Stayed…
Ever heard of a “Capsule Hotel?” I’ve experienced them before, but only in Asia. Introducing the first of their kind, St. Christopher’s Inn at London Bridge has the coolest capsule beds I’ve ever seen! They even come with a light that lets you change its colors (I opted for green), and your own shelf/power outlets with USB plugs (prompting a verbal “Amen” for any avid traveler).
Don’t miss my full REVIEW of the experience coming this week.
A few helpful things to know before you go…
- Purchase an “Oyster Card” to use on the Underground. It’s cheaper than buying individual tickets with your credit card at the machines.
- Don’t go into a pub and expect a seat (or to be out of there within an hour). English pubs are social and packed with people standing around drinking pints. It’s rare to find a seat at any given popular pub, and you tend to get sucked into the mix while avoiding the cold outside.
- Remember the currency conversion rate– and plan to spend more than you think you will. The UK is EXPENSIVE.
- Bring your umbrella. It’s the one thing we tend to forget when we travel, and the one thing you REALLY need in England.
- Power converters can be bought for about $2 anywhere, so don’t worry if you forgot to bring one.
Book your trip to LONDON with my partner link here.