Back in March, Aaron and I went on an adventure to London. It was the first time we went to a different English speaking country together. London has always been near the top of my travel wish list, so it was exciting to make that dream a reality. Here’s my takeaway.
The London Underground (or The Tube) can be tricky at first
Aaron and I ride public transportation all the time, at home and when we travel. I read up about the Tube online as much as I could before we left, to make sure I had a handle on things. I downloaded the Citymapper app, an app the Internet recommends for the London underground. Since the tube is so old, they shut down portions of it on the weekends for maintenance. A fact that I didn’t know until it was too late. We ended up making a transfer only to find out our line was shut down (even though it was a weekend exclusive line!) Eventually, after a short walk to a nearby station, we found a train that took us to our flat. By day two, it was a lot easier to navigate.
Sometimes London is gloomy (but not always!)
Waking up to rain in London is one of my all-time favorite things. It’s exactly how I imagined it to be. I probably could have just stared out the window for an entire week, but we managed to find some other activities 🙂
Go to the Markets
One thing I like to do for our vacations abroad is to research as much as I can for less-touristy recommendations. Markets were consistently at the top of London tips that I found online. We went to two of the markets.
Old Spitafields Market is a covered market that has been around for more than 350 years. It has a variety of vendors: hand-made clothing, art, vintage stuff and more. It was so much fun to walk around this market and see all the well-crafted items. I bought a photograph from one of the vendors. Since it was early March, it was a bit chilly to walk around, but Aaron got us some mulled wine to sip on. Holding a hot drink was a nice way to warm up from the dreary day.
After the market, we wandered around the near by neighborhoods which I enjoyed. I like noticing the things that are just slightly different in London, compared to how they are here in the U.S.
The other market we went to was Leadenhall Market. I chose that one because it was where the “Diagon Alley” scenes were filmed in the first Harry Potter movie. As a market, it was pretty underwhelming, it’s mostly chain stores now. But as a place to go and see, it was amazing. It dates back to the 14th century, and the architecture is phenomenal. I would recommend going to see it, but don’t expect any good market vendors.
Do the touristy things
It’s free to look at the tourist attractions in London. For example, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Eye of London and Tower Bridge are all free and cool to look at. Sure you can pay to go in some of them, but we didn’t.
Standing on the bridge, looking at Big Ben was pretty surreal.
Most museums in London are free
We didn’t get to as many museums as I would have liked, but we did see the British Museum and the Tate Modern museum. Both of which are free. The British museum has the Rosetta Stone, which I got a selfie with! And they had two exhibits that were my favorites. One was on money through time, and they had examples of all of the different currency. It was weird seeing the modern US money next to ancient coins. The other exhibit was one about time telling throughout history. They had pocket watches, digital clocks and even weird time-telling machines that I had never seen before.
The Tate Modern, like it sounds, has modern art. In my opinion modern art can be hit or miss, but some of the stuff was interesting to see. They also have this big tower that you can go up to the top of and get some fantastic views of the city. I’d also recommend walking around near the Tate Modern once you’re done. Shakespeare’s Globe Theater is right next-door to the Tate. The Millennium footbridge is also nearby, which you can walk over to the other side of the river on.
One of our days In London, we went to Oxford Street, which is where there is a lot of touristy shopping. I stocked up on French cosmetics and we found this fancy store called Selfridges. It felt too expensive to walk through! We were going to leave, but then we found a sign near the elevators that said there was a Champagne bar up a level. We both looked at each other, and decided it’s vacation we kind of have to go check it out. Our bartender took his job very seriously. It was entertaining to watch him get so into making cocktails.
For dinner one night, we wanted to be slightly fancier than pub food. We found to a restaurant that is right on the Thames. We got cocktails and I ordered bolognese, which was so good! After dinner we walked along the Thames, and saw the Tower Bridge.
Explore the neighborhoods, especially Notting Hill
In my online exploration for all things London, I found some tips online about a walking route for Instagram-worthy photos in Notting Hill. It ended up not being very great and I was getting disappointed and tired, so we stopped at a pub for a pint so we could sit for a while and decide what to do next. I was doing some Googling on my phone about the route to see if there were other things near by. One article mentioned the blue front door from the movie Notting Hill. I opened up a map to see how far we were from it, and noticed the dot on the map was right where we were. I looked up to look out the window and saw THE BLUE DOOR!! It was right across the street from us. We finished our pints and went to photograph the door and wandered around some more. We ended up finding all the things I was looking for and more. Notting Hill is such a cool neighborhood because everyone paints their houses pastel and bright colors. It was my favorite neighborhood to walk around.
I really enjoyed visiting London and I hope you enjoyed my take on the city. I can’t wait to visit it again.
Until next time,
|* Read about my past trip to Paris *|