THE ULTIMATE LONDON TRAVEL GUIDE
London is a beautiful city and there is so much to do and see! After living in South Kensington the last four years, exploring the city and eating out 2-3 times per week, I have been able to create the Ultimate London Travel Guide from an expat’s perspective. Here are ten attractions not to be missed, my suggestions for how to see them all in 3 days, and my favourite London restaurants. Enjoy!
1. THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, is one of the most strikingly beautiful buildings in London, and is the seat of the two parliamentary houses of the United Kingdom: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. You can take the tube, a black cab, or an Uber to Westminster and from Westminster Bridge you can get great photos of Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye.
2. WESTMINSTER ABBEY
Westminster Abbey is a stunning Gothic church in the City of Westminster. It is one of the most notable religious buildings in the United Kingdom and has been the traditional place of coronation and the burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. If you are very pressed for time, or don’t want to pay the £30 entrance fee, at least take a few minutes to stroll around the outside and through the Dean’s Yard.
3. TOWER OF LONDON
From Westminster Bridge, I recommend hopping on a City Cruises Boat Tour down the River Thames and getting off at the Tower of London. This historic castle is located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. Inside you will see the Crown Jewels and hear stories of the years when the castle was used as a prison! By this point you will probably be hungry for lunch. You can grab a quick fish and chips and a cider at Liberty Bounds, a large pub just up the street from the Tower of London but be back by 3:30 as the last Beefeater guided tour leaves then. The Beefeater guided tour is a must as they are very animated and entertaining!
4. THE SHARD
The Shard is a 95-storey skyscraper in Southwark, London. Standing at 1,016 ft, it is the tallest building in Western Europe. The tower’s privately owned observation deck, View From The Shard, is the perfect place to take in breathtaking views of London, especially after a long day of sightseeing.
5. ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
No trip to London would be complete without seeing St Paul’s Cathedral. St Paul’s is an Anglican cathedral, and the mother church of London. The interior is breathtaking and if you choose to take on the 500 stair climb to the very top of the dome you will be rewarded with an amazing view of London. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes!
6. BUCKINGHAM PALACE
Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837, and today it is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. She is the world’s oldest reigning Monarch (Feb 1952 – Present), as well as Britain’s longest lived. (If you would like to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, it starts promptly at 11:30am so arrive early.)
7. PORTOBELLO ROAD
Portobello Road is a charming shopping street in the Notting Hill district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in west London. On Saturdays, it is home to Portobello Road Market, one of London’s notable street markets, known for its colourful buildings, second-hand clothes, and antiques. The antiques market usually gets into full swing around 9:00am, on Saturday though some dealers may set up earlier. If you want to avoid the busiest crowds, it’s best to arrive before 11:30am.
8. NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM + V&A MUSEUM
You need not worry if you’re sightseeing on a budget as plenty of London’s top museums are free to explore. From Harrods just walk up Brompton Road and head to the Natural History Museum to see amazing artifacts. This is also one of the prettiest buildings in London, in my opinion. And the V&A (right next door) houses one of the world’s greatest collections of decorative arts, in varied fields such as ceramics, sculpture, portrait miniatures and photography. If you are not into museums I suggest at least walking by and taking photos on your way to Harrods, which is just down the street.
Harrods is the world’s most famous luxury department store with the latest men’s and women’s designer fashion, luxury gifts, food and accessories. The upscale food court inside Harrods is a fabulous place to have lunch.
10. HYDE PARK + KENSINGTON GARDEN
Hyde Park, along with Kensington Gardens, makes up my favourite place in all of London! Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in London, covering over 350 acres and is home to famous landmarks such as Speakers’ Corner, Serpentine Lake, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.
Kensington Gardens, lying immediately to the west of Hyde Park, was once the private garden of Kensington Palace. It is one of the capitals eight royal parks and is home to the Italian Gardens, Albert Memorial and Kensington Palace (which I recommend taking a tour of if you have time). Hyde Park is a very short walk from Harrods so after lunch go enjoy a fun afternoon outside in the park!
WHERE TO HAVE AFTERNOON TEA:
TRADITIONAL – The Ritz is an institution in itself and has remained the classic quintessential British choice for a traditional afternoon tea.
HIP & TRENDY – Sketch is famous for its futuristic looking bathrooms and is a hip spot to indulge in a modern afternoon tea experience.
BOOZY – The Egerton House Hotel is a fun place to have tea if you enjoy drinking. Request a seat next to the bar or in the drawing-room on the ground floor but be careful. Even the entire tower of yummy sandwiches and scones will not be enough to combat the strength of Antonio’s martinis.
POSH & PROPER – The Goring Hotel is by far my favorite place to have tea in London. You can request to sit in the yellow room, overlooking the garden, or in the summer, you can book a table outside on the terrace amongst the trees and blooming flowers.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN LONDON:
London use to have a much deserved reputation for bad food but that era has long since passed. Here, in my opinion, a list of the best restaurants in London-based on the type of food.
SUSHI – Koji, in Parsons Green, is my favorite sushi restaurant in London because of the sexy atmosphere, delicious cocktails and mouth-watering food. Another great spot for sushi is Zuma, which has been a staple in Knightsbridge for years. This place is a major scene and always packed so make sure to book in advance, and order the black cod – so good!
INDIAN – London has amazing Indian food! Bombay Brasserie offers the best Indian food in London combined with a beautiful, upscale ambiance. Just down the street, Noor Johan serves delicious Indian food as well, but in a low-key, intimate setting.
ITALIAN – There are a ton of fantastic Italian restaurants in London but a few of my favorites are Daphne’s (go for the truffle menu!) Zefferano, Sale e Pepe and Signor Sassi, which is across the street from Harrods and has amazing lobster spaghetti! All of these restaurants are located in Knightsbridge and are upscale and pricey but well worth the money.
BRITISH BRUNCH – The Ivy Chelsea Garden, Cheney Walk Brasserie and The Phene are three of my favorite British restaurants in London and my favorite brunch spots. The Ivy has a beautiful garden patio where you can sit outside and is popular with celebrities, making it hard to get in, so be sure to book way in advance.
PUB FOOD – There are a million great pubs in London, but since I live in South Kensington, my favorites are located in my neighborhood. My favorite pub of all time is Hereford Arms. I also like Drayton Arms on Old Brompton Rd.
SUNDAY ROAST – You can’t come to London without having a proper Sunday Roast, and Bumpkin in South Kensington serves my favorite Sunday Roast because in addition to the meat option, they also have good salads and healthy sides along with the best Bloody Mary I have had in London.
PIZZA – London, in my opinion, does not have the best pizza, however Ciro’s Pizza Pomodoro in Knightsbridge has amazing pizza, live music and is a favorite of celebrities from across the globe.
FRENCH – French food is high on my list of favorites (I love escargot!) and Colbert on Sloan Square in Chelsea and La Brasserie in South Kensington are two of my favorites french restaurants in London.
MEXICAN – London in general, does not have very good Mexican food, but Crazy Homies (casual) in Notting Hill andLa Bodega Negra (upscale) in Soho are two places you can get excellent Mex and great margaritas!
LIVELY – OK this is not a type of food but a lot of people want to know where they can go for a fun, lively, upscale night with good people watching and great cocktails. I suggest Novikov or Mews of Mayfair.
UNIQUE EUROPEAN – If you are looking to dine in a unique, upscale setting, try Beach Blanket Babylon or Chiltern Firehouse. The front bar area of BBB looks like a proper British restaurant, but the back dinning area looks and feels likes a cave! Located in an ex-firehouse-turned-designer hotel, and a favorite among celebrities, Chiltern Firehouse is one of the hardest places to get a reservation in London so try to book way in advance.
THAI – For great Thai, try Churchill Arms in Kensington. You can’t visit London without seeing this famous pub so you can satisfy your Thai craving and snap some great travel photos at the same time!
By: Vanessa Rivers, We Are Travel Girls Co-founder and Editor
WE ARE TRAVEL GIRLS carefully curates and publishes the very best female travel stories from around the globe in order to create a community where traveling females can grow, connect, share stories and inspire one another. Whether you prefer weekend getaways, yearn long term travel, we all, in one way or another, have the feeling of wanderlust and itchy feet http://wearetravelgirls.com.