London is without any doubt one of my favorite – if not my most favorite – big cities in the world. Although the city is huge, it’s very accessible and humane.
There’s so much to see and do in this city, you could easily spend 2 or 3 weeks here without getting bored. We stayed for 6 days, but we only saw about half the sights on our ‘places you have to see in London‘ list. We don’t often visit the same place twice, but we definitely will go back to London some day soon! While transport to and accommodation in London are really expensive, it’s quite easy to save money on visits and food. Many tourist sights and museums are free and there are a lot of not so expensive restaurants that offer great food.
Day 1 (afternoon): Abney Park Cemetery, Camden Market, Primrose Hill
Day 2: Brompton Oratory, Victoria & Albert Museum, Kensington Palace, Hyde Park.
Day 3: Leadenhall Market, Tower of London, London Bridge.
Day 4: Westminster Cathedral, Buckingham Palace & Changing of the Guards, St James Park, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Victoria & Albert Museum (part II)
Day 5: Hampton Court Palace, shopping @Regent Street, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus
Day 6: Museum of London, British museum Day 7 (morning): Naesdentemple
ABNEY PARK CEMETERY Open daily 8am-dawn, free entrance A little bit outside the center, but easily accessible by bus, Abney Park Cemetery is really worth a visit. The vegetation has taken control of this abandoned cemetery, covering the tombs and turning it into a mysterious place. You can easily spend 1 or 2 hours over here.
CAMDEN MARKET Daily 10am-6pm, free entrance Not a must-see attraction but a nice place for some souvenir shopping. You can find clothes, crafts, food, etc. Be prepared for crowds, Camden Market is one of the most visited tourist attractions in London.
PRIMROSE HILL Walk around in the expensive residential neighborhood around the park and walk to the highest point of the park for an incredible view of London. You can continu your walk in the adjacent Regent’s Park. BROMPTON ORATORY Daily 7am-8pm, free entrance Second biggest church in London, only Westmister Cathedral is bigger. Try to visit during mass, it’s enchanting, as is its magnificent baroque interior.
VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM Daily 10am-5.45pm, 10am-10pm on Friday, free entrance Dedicated to the decorative arts, this museum posesses the largest collection in the world. The building is breathtaking and the objects originate from all over the world. We passed a whole day here and still didn’t have time to see everything. Don’t miss this!
KENSINGTON PALACE Daily 10am-6pm, entrance fee £ 12,50 (incl. park and gardens) Beautiful and surprising exhibition about the life of Queen Victoria. The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, the Queen’s Apartments and the King’s Gallery are a must-see as well.
LEADENHALL MARKET Visiting this market, with its architecture from the end of the 19th Century, is kind of like time travelling. Some scenes from Harry Potter were filmed here.
TOWER OF LONDON & TOWER BRIDGE Tower of London open daily 9am-5.30pm (on weekends from 10am), entrance fee £20 Despite its high entrance fee, the Tower of London is realy a must-see attraction. You can easily spend an entire day in here, so it’s worth it. You can start with a guided tour by a “Yeoman Warders” and walk around by yourself the rest of the day. I recommend to get a map and visit everything on it. If you don’t have a full day, don’t miss the Crown Jewels, White Tower, the Torture museum, the Medieval Palace and a walk on the Wall, where you’ll have a great view of London Bridge.
WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL Open daily 7am-7pm, entrance fee £5 Westminster Cathedral is a remarkable example of neo byzantine architecture. The interior of remains unfinished because of insufficient funds, but is nevertheless worth a visit.
AROUND ST JAMES PARK Start at Buckingham Palace. Come early if you want to see the changing the Guards ceremony at 11.30am. The ceremony takes places every day from May to July and every other day from August to March (weather permitting). Check out this website for a full schedule. From here, you can walk along St James Park towards Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
WESTMINSTER ABBEY 9.30am-4.30pm Monday-Friday (until 6pm on Wednesday), 9.30am-2.30pm Saturday. Last entry 1 hour before closing. Entrance fee £ 16 This is one of those places you think you absolutely have to visit. We thought it was nice, but not worth the price. The place is really crowded and it’s hard to see anything.
HAMPTON COURT PALACE Open daily 10am-6pm, entrance fee £ 16 Must-see attraction if you’re interested in the history of the British Monarchy. Discover the Tudor history and follow in Henry VIII’s steps. You can easily spend a whole day here, there’s a lot to see. To get here, take the Underground to Vauxhall and once you’re there, take a Southwest train to Hampton Court Rail Station. From there, it’s a short walk to the entrance.
MUSEUM OF LONDON Open daily 10am-6pm, fee entrance In this museum, you can discover the history of the city throughout the centuries. There’s a lot to see, too bad things aren’t more structured.
BRITISH MUSEUM Open 10am-5.30pm Saturday-Thursday, 10am-8.30pm Friday, free entrance Great museum, one of my favorite museums in the whole world! The collections are huge and everything is completely free. Be prepared to face the crowds in some parts of the museum.
NAESDEN TEMPLE (BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir) Open daily 9am-6pm, entrance fee £ 2 Visit this Hindu temple for an off the beaten track experience. We arrived at the beginning of a service and they allowed us to participate. Men in the front and women in the back, but in the end everybody got to see everything. Great experience!
TO DO-LIST FOR OUR NEXT VISIT
London Eye, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Millenium Bridge, Natural History Museum, Shakespeare’s Globe, Southwark Cathedral, Kew Gardens, Chinatown, see a musical, get ‘high tea’, etc…
As in most big cities, hotels near the tourist attractions are expensive. We stayed at the Victoria Inn, a little bit south of the center in Pimlico. We paid € 140 per night for a tiny double room. The bed was only 1m40 and the matress was horrible, so we didn’t really sleep well. We had a private bathroom (which was also tiny) and a simple breakfast was included. We took the Underground at Pimlico or Victoria station, which were both located at only 10 or 15 minutes from the hotel. From here, most sights were only a 15 minutes drive away.
You won’t have any difficulties finding food in London but ‘real’ restaurants are often quite expensive. Typical dishes like fish & chips are sold all over London, are usualy inexpensive and perfect for a quick lunch.
For dinner, I’d recommend Sakura (23 Conduit St. W1), where we had a great and inexpensive Japanese meal. If you’re near the Victoria & Albert Museum or the Museum of National History, don’t miss the great crêperie on Thurloe Square, on the other side of Cromwell Road. I got the banana-caramel fudge crêpe and my boyfriend chose a chocolate fudge crêpe. They were delicious!!!
The easiest way to move around in the city is on foot or using public transportation: the underground will get you anywhere quickly, but the bus is a great alternative because it allows you to see more of the city. Of course, it’ll take a bit longer to get somewhere by bus. Both are easy to understand and stops are well indicated. Get an Oyster card for the best prices. You can use it for the underground, bus and most trains around London. There are night busses (indicated with a letter N) and other busses that offer 24h service. Between 11.30pm and 5am, the frequency of the busses is reduced. The underground closes around 11.30pm and opens around 5.30am on weekdays and around 7am on weekends. If you arrive at St Pancras International by Eurostar, you can immediately get a connection to the underground. Check out special offers on museums and other attractions at the ticket booth.