I’ve been to London before, well not really. I don’t think stopping at the train station to swap platforms really counts. I was so excited when my friend Frances invited me for a long weekend this past fall to tour London. She lives close by and now feels like London is her town, so I was more than happy to discover it through her eyes. Frances and I are kindred travelers. We began traveling in 2015 and it has been one adventure after another.
We like art, theatre, fancy restaurants (and not so fancy restaurants), old historical buildings, castles and churches. We tend to research and find the same types of tours and have BIG laughs about it when we get together. I try to plan a Frances trip as much as I can – she’s good for my soul too. Here are a few highlights of our weekend in London! Unbelievable and unforgettable. I hope some of my travel tips help you too ~
Where to stay/Where NOT to stay!
London is a destination I would absolutely say to “spend the money by staying in town.” I know if you are traveling with “littles” or several people this makes it tough. But here is what I know after several years of traveling, researching and exploring in Europe.
Sorry, but Airbnb is a bust in London ~ well typically. London has the worst reputation in the Airbnb community and has for several years. Misleading and not accurate listings have led to some very dissatisfied and unhappy campers (sometimes literally and not intentionally.) From personal experience, my daughter and son visited a few years ago and when they arrived, their apartment had NO DOOR on it. WHAT?? Luckily I called the homeowner and at 11 p.m. at night he arrived with a door (and a lock) for my young adult children. Since then I have had multiple conversations with other travelers who tell me their “horror” stories of trying an Airbnb in London. Some are more shocking… I know! How about you? I would love to hear a positive Airbnb London story ~ share in the comments below.
So with that little ditty, I am happy to say, I would save up your money and stay somewhere close to everything in London. If you book a place further out of town you may save intially but you will spend a great deal of time on the Tube – train(which is not so bad, but can be crowded and you may have to wait for another train to get to your popular site to see – more time wasted.) London may be the only place I recommend to SPEND some ££ to be close to everything. It will improve your experience exponentially. I promise.
What to do ~
If you’ve done a little bit of research you know the typical TOP 10 things to see in London, so I’ll add a few more here. Most people want to see the “Changing of the Guard.” It is UBER-crowded and really, really hard to get a picture without cropping almost everything out. HA! So Frances recommended the “Changing of the Horse Guard.” This happens every hour and is quite impressive. Being a previous horse owner (we miss Flicka) I loved the grandeur of it all, my fellow farm-girl-friend Frances did too. This up-close and personal experience of this daily procession allows to photograph, video and see the routine of these highly trained officers. Super cool!
Walk around town
If you are located downtown in London you will want to walk around and see everything. Bring your FitBit ’cause you’ll be clocking the steps.
- Street Art in London
- Brick Lane district
Frances and I took a Street Art Tour – although I wouldn’t really recommend the tour and I know she wouldn’t either, I have more info on my TripAdvisor Reviews. The tour guide was anti-American big time and made snide remarks more than once during our tour which had several Americans in it, I found this to be bizarre. PLEASE, don’t let that stop you from going to the Brick Lane District you will find a large area of street art. Then you’ll want to take note of the artists handle on the paintings – I found them to be very welcoming and #’d them in Instagram and got a shout out from them too. Most of the artists are looking for a venue to share their art. Street Art in London is legal with property owner approval. I think it is fascinating. Not graffiti ~ but art. Check this out ~
- Tower of London
If you get a chance to go to the Tower of London JUST GO! Try to go to the Beefeater Tour – Frances says it is absolutely the best. It may be a little scary for small children as it is a palace and a prison. Prepare to spend time here, but it is time well spent.
- Take a Bus and a Boat
- Ride the Thames
- We got a combo ticket for a BIG RED BUS with the bus and the boat ride – definitely the way to go
- Lots of highlights and a great boat tour – you get a wonderful view of the EYE, the London Bridge, Tower Bridge and both banks of the Thames. Just gorgeous!
- China Town – was so fun to walk around and see – this area of London was super neat to discover ~
Go to the Theater
Even if you are not a theater fan you will be by the time you leave London. The excitement and life that happens in the theater district is contagious. Frances loves the theater, so do I! It was not a hard sell for her when she told me she had tickets to see the show “Chicago.” So we were even more surprised when we found out it was one of the last performing weekends for the show! Great timing.
On our second day, Frances asked if there was another show I would be interested in and of course, top of my list, “MAMMA MIA”. Love the movie and band, knew I would love the play. During intermission, we made friends with the bartender who told us a few things about the history of the theater district and some helpful information to know ~ Here you go!
Things to know about going to the Theater
- Seating at the theater – here’s a cheat sheet or link to help you out!
- Stalls – this is where we sat because we were close to the orchestra/band
- You do NOT need to be dressed up in something fancy, but you can be – a lot of people are in casual, tourist wear
- Use the bathrooms before the show starts – they get super busy during intermission
- Of course go ahead and sing if you know the words… well not really. We were asked very politely by visiting tourists if we would wait til the end to sing with ABBA, I couldn’t help myself though, I knew all the words!
Other LONDON NOTES
*London is going to be expensive – it just is and if BREXIT happens, I anticipate it is going to be even more expensive £! So in your planning make sure you save enough up for food, touring, transportation (although the Tube was GREAT and affordable), and fun activities.
*SKIP the LONDON EYE! Say, what! Yup, skip it. If you only have 48 or 72 hours in London don’t waste your time in that ridiculous line for a 30 minute ride that is a time sucker… PLUS there are so many other views more spectacular of the London Skyline
*SEE the Tower of London with the BeefEater Tour! You will not be sorry, Frances said it is one of the best tours she’s ever been on –
If you would like a step-by-step itinerary filled with accommodation recommendations, tours, walking maps, museums, detailed theater information and more – I will soon be releasing a 3 to 4 day FULL LONDON ITINERARY and have done all the hard work for you! You’ll just need to book it ~
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