Saturday, March 7, 2020

10 Things to Do in London


Our girl TSwift said it best, “home is where the heart is, but God I love the English”. London had been on my bucket list of cities to visit for as long as I can remember. In June of 2019, shortly after my college graduation, I was able to head across the pond and see if it was all I hoped it would be. And I loved London. I would go back in a heartbeat. Here’s my top ten places to visit in London, including several free things to do.


     

1. Stroll through Kensington Gardens

Cost: Free
Kensington Gardens span over 250 acres, located behind Kensington Palace (where William and Kate live!). The Kensington gardens are home to several impressive memorials, statues, fountains and plenty of greenery. You can carry on into Hyde Park by crossing West Carriage Drive.

Statues & Memorials in Kensington Gardens:
  • The Albert Memorial
  • The Peter Pan Statue
  • Queen Victoria Statue
  • Speke Monument
  • King Willian III Statue
  • Coalbrookdale Gates
  • Two Bears Fountain
  • Jenner Statue


2. Check out Buckingham Palace

Cost: £26.50 for The State Rooms
When I saw Buckingham Palace, we didn’t have the time here to tour The State Rooms (open to visitors every summer) but the Palace and Victoria Memorial are still impressive to see from outside. It is a heavily trafficked and popular spot for tourists from all over the world. Since 1837, Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of the UK's royalty. Today, the Palace is primarily used for official events and receptions. You can watch the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at 11:00 AM Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday or daily during the summer. 


     

3. See Big Ben

Cost: Free
Tragically, the iconic clock tower was under construction while I was there. Big Ben is definitely the most recognizable symbol in London, if not the entire United Kingdom. This recognizable part of the London skyline was originally constructed in 1859. Big Ben is technically the nickname for the Great Bell, but the name extends to the entire clock tower now. The Clock Tower was actually renamed Elizabeth Tower to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012. Seeing Big Ben in all its glory will be at the top of my list for my next trip to London.


     

4. Ride the London Eye

Cost: £27.00 for a standard ticket
The London Eye, or Millennium Wheel, was easily one of my favorite things we did in London. When it first opened, this was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world. The title has since been claimed by several other wheels in China, Singapore and finally Las Vegas. You are able to spend about 30 minute riding in one of the massive pods. Each of the 32 passenger capsurles hold 25 people at a time. There’s plenty of room to sit or stand and see London from all angles throughout the ride. The views of the city were unbeatable.


5. Soak up the South Bank

Cost: Free
The South Bank is a entertainment district bordering the River Thames. There are several attractions along this stretch of the city. Although it is packed with landmarks and activities, the city of London is actually not that big. I liked being able to take a walk and see everything the South Bank had to offer. We grabbed an ice cream cone, passed Shakespeare’s Globe explored a few small shops, crossed the Millennium Bridge and headed towards St Paul’s Cathedral to continue our self-guided walking tour. There are plenty of landmarks to see when walking around the city.


     

6. Visit the Tower of London

Cost: £24.70 for an adult
Growing up going to school in the United States, it can be mind blowing to try to comprehend the expansive timeline of history for the rest of the world. For context, the Tower of London construction dates back to 1078. It was originally built to protect the city and is well-preserved today. We explored as much of the fortress as we could in a few hours and saw the crown jewels (which was worth the wait). One unique feature is the ravens! According to British legend, the "Kingdom of England" will be protected so long as the ravens remain at the Tower of London.

     

7. See the Rosetta Stone at The British Museum

Cost: Free
The British Museum is home to Egyptian mummies, ancient Greek sculptures, and of course, the Rosetta Stone. There are so many galleries that I don’t think you could possibly see everything in a day but the maps highlight some of the “must-sees” during your visit. I specifically prioritized the Easter Island head and Rosetta Stone but we did walk around for an hour or two. If you are a serious history buff, you could spend a couple days exploring this free museum.


8. Shop at Camden Market

Cost: Free (to browse)
North of the city center is Camdentown and subsequently, Camden Market. This space holds over 1000 booths with unique and often handcrafted goods as well as plenty of food and drink. Camdem Market is one of the most popular destinations in London. It is also known as a somewhat heavy crime area, mostly due to the large crowds of tourists that become easy targets for pickpocketing. Keep your bags close and you should be just fine! I bought a group of prints from To Home from London and we stopped for beers and ciders.


9. Visit Trafalgar Square

Cost: Free
Trafalgar Square is located in a very cultural area of London. When we visited, there were artists on the square painting and creating large chalk drawings. Historically, Trafalgar Square is a hotspot for demonstrations and marches. The square is decorated with fountains and statues. The National Gallery, which houses a collection of thousands of paintings, is right next to Trafalgar Square and has free admission too. You'll also find the Canada House and South Africa House on the east side of the square. These are both offices of the High Commission of their respective countries and host diplomats.



10. Take a Trip to Stonehenge

Cost: £19.00 for an adult
We rented a car and drove out to Stonehenge and Bath in the same day but there are also plenty of options to travel from London to Stonehenge. It is about a two hour drive or train and bus ride so you pretty much have to set aside a day to see Stonehenge. When you get to Stonehenge, you take a short bus ride out to the monument and can walk around the entire structure, from a distance.


Bonus Tips:


  • Check for student pricing anywhere you go. Most of the historic sites and attractions offer a student price that anyone 18-24 qualifies for. You don't even have to be a current student or studying in the UK.
  • Get acquainted with public transportation. We bought Oyster Cards and loaded up with 20 pounds for the week, but you can always add more as necessary. We primarily used the underground to get from our hotel to the day's starting destination.
  • Bring comfortable shoes. I walked an average of 10 miles each day in London and you will definitely start to feel it. I bought a pair of Dr. Scholl's Slip on Sneakers, similar to these, and they were a lifesaver.


xo,

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2 comments :

  1. I've done a few things on this list, all great recommendations, but can't wait to see Shakespeare's Globe!

    MB | http://www.megbeth.travel.blog

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    1. I would love to tour inside Shakespeare's Globe, but just walking along the south bank was a fun adventure!
      Caiti | https://www.champagneandpostcards.com

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