London, England is one of the most historic and beautiful cities in the world. You can stroll on cobblestone that is older than America. You can take in one of the most diverse skylines with castle spheres constructed in 1300 beside a sleek modern steel building constructed just last year. It’s a blend of cultures that are all bringing their best foot forward. A reserved overall demeanor makes London a busy but quiet place to visit. I was so impressed with how preserved the history was. Everyone participates in keeping up appearances in this gorgeous not-to-missed city.
Which Airport to Fly in to?
London technically has 5 airports. City Airport, Luton, Southend, Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick. But to be honest, the 2 major ones are Heathrow and Gatwick.
Heathrow is the most popular airport for flying into London. It is only 40 mins outside the center of the city. Depending on your hotel or destination, it a quick ride on the blue Piccadilly tube. (Click here for advice on riding the tube) Most American airlines will fly into this airport.
I flew into Gatwick because the flight was much cheaper. But Gatwick airport is far south outside of the city of London. It’s about an hour train ride from Gatwick to the center of the city. You will need to buy a ticket for the Thameslink train (towards bedford) and then switch over to an Underground tube to get to your hotel. .
How to get around London?
You should walk! London is a city that you need to absorb. You need to see these incredible streets and hear the people. But London is huge. You can try to take a taxi or Uber, but that can be quiet expensive. Just do as the locals do and take the train!
How do I use the underground tube system in London – you might ask. Well first, check out my other post 10 things to know before using the Underground! It’s very simple, do not listen to anyone who tries to confuse you with all the card options and zones. If you are a tourist and visiting for less than a month – buy an Oyster Card and put about £20 euros on it. Check out my Easy Guide to the Underground and you’ll be fine.
If you get confused, go to a Starbucks or free wifi hotspot and use the Google Maps app for directions. Choose the “transit” option instead of “drive” or “walk”. If will give you perfect directions, including updated transit closure updates and such. You can screen shot it and head out to the tube station!
Where to Stay?
I would suggest not staying too far out of the center of the city. The hotel prices can be cheaper outside the city but it will require more walking or more £ money in tube rides.
But this was fine for me! I didn’t have my kids on this trip so I stayed far out in the Chelsea neighborhood just a block from the tube station. It was quiet and very inexpensive.
What to see & do?
There are a million things to do in London. But if you haven’t got much time and are looking for the FREE highlights – I did this walking tour of London. You can break it up between a few days if you like. Start at the March Arch on the North side of Hyde Park and go in the following order.
The Marble Arch
This landmark rivals the arch de triumph in Paris and the Arch of Constantine in Rome. It’s almost a mash up miniature of the two! You might be surprised to learn that it’s not that old! It’s a 19th-century white marble-faced triumphal arch. The structure was designed by John Nash in 1827 to be the state entrance to the cour d’honneur of Buckingham Palace. It was deemed too narrow for the queens ridiculous coach. So it was dismantled and moved to it’s current location.
Kensington Palace & Gardens –
This is the official London residence of the Duke (Prince William) and Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) , the Duke (Prince Harry) and Duchess of Sussex (Meghan Markle). It was built in 1605 originally and it’s gardens are opulent! While the royal living quarters are off-limits, a large portion of the palace is open to the public for $25 a pop! Or you can tour the grounds for free!
Hyde Park –
This is the central park of London! It was established 1536 by Henry the 8th. It’s a wonderful place to escape the city, feed the ducks and get some fresh air. It is also the location of the famous London Christmas Market that opens in late Nov called “Winter Wonderland”!
Buckingham Palace –
Built in 1703 is it the main residence for the Queen of England or Monarch of the UK. It was bombed 9 times in WW2 but it has been rebuilt and stands proud.
If this flag is flying from the top pole of Buckingham Palace:
Then you know the queen is home, inside the palace.
But if the queen is not home, the union flag is flown: .
The beautiful golden gates around the palace are worth the visit!
St James Park –
This is a smaller park, only 50+ acres. But the unique thing about this 400 yr old park is that there are pelicans and parrots that wander the ponds! It has a lovely view of the London eye and weeping willows around the water.
Westminster Abbey –
This is where Prince William got married to Kate! It is so so beautiful on the inside. The gothic architecture is stunning. It is one of the oldest abbeys, founded in 1065. Some really cool people are buried here! King Henry V, Sir Isaac Newton, and Charles Dickens!
Elizabeth Tower or Big Ben –
Originally called the “Clock Tower” is also known as the Elizabeth Tower and locals nicknamed it “Big Ben” because Sir Benjamin Hall’s name is inscribed on it and he was the first commissioner. Big Ben stands over 300 feet high! It is London most iconic feature, so be sure to snap a selfie!
London Eye –
Europes tallest ferris wheel, The London Eye is on the South Bank of the River Thames in London. The pods are encapsulated so you can ride all year round. 1 ride around the entire thing takes about 30 minutes. The view from the top is spectacular. Tickets are £25 per person.
Trafalgar Square –
This is a gorgeous outdoor square where you can usually find love music playing. The centerpiece of Trafalgar Square is Nelson’s Column, which was built to honor Admiral Horatio Nelson, who led the British to Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
St Pauls Cathedral –
This amazing church looks like the white home. It’s the famous dome structure from the skyline that you always see. The inside is even more breathing taking the the outside!
The London Bridge –
The london bridge is not the fancy big bridge that you using picture when you think go London! Thats the Tower bridge. More on that later. But the London Bridge was the original bridge and it was the only way to get into London back in the day. The bridge that is currently called the London Bridge was constructed in the 1970s made on concrete and steel.
Tower of London –
This is the most fascinating structure in London! There are certain areas and towers that were contracted in the 1300s! It is beautifully preserved. You can pay for a tour of the inside. Fun fact, this is where the Crown Jewels are kept and heavily guarded! This area so more gorgeous at night! Be sure to visit in the daylight and under the moon light!
The Tower Bridge –
This is it! This is the famous bridge that you think of when you picture London. This is just as iconic as Big Ben himself. Beside to take a walk across it and take lots of photos. This is LONDON. The history, the beauty and the understated value on England!
Wapping Neighborhood & Wapping Rose Garden –
I can’t exactly explain why the Wapping area was my favorite neighborhood. Maybe because it felt very Mary Poppins and I couldn’t believe people actually lived there. It was so quaint and beautiful. Ancient but updated. I could see myself living there. I also found the best pub in London in this neighborhood on the river.
The Prospect of Whitby –
It is THE OLDEST riverside pub dating at around 500 years old. So much has happened here and these walls have seen the world transform. You must visit The Prospect of Whitby. Order the fish and chips, you won’t be disappointed.
This walking tour takes you from East to West across London, you will hit these high points in this order. Walking to and through these areas, you will see many other things, but these were my highlights. There are tons of other things to see and do in London, you can spend weeks here and not see it all. But these were my personal favorites that I wanted to share with you.
What to Eat?
What food is London known for? You will find alot of yummy foods around England. But the most popular foods in London are the following!
- Good beer consumed at an old Pub
- Fish & Chips
- Bangers & Mash
- Shepards Pie
- Sunday Roast w Yorkshire Pudding
- Traditional English Breakfast
- Indian Food! Especially Chicken tikka masala – they do it right here.
Do it, plan your trip to London. You only live once and there’s no time like the present. I hope this post has convinced you to visit. If you want to see a little Vlog I did of me exploring the city, click the video below and enjoy!