So, you’re checking London off of your bucket list? London consistently makes the list of Best Places to Visit in Europe, so it’s no wonder that people flock there! We had the opportunity to do the same recently, and believe me, friend, when I tell you, you need a plan! I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed London, but you really need to know that this is a big city where you can quickly get overwhelmed. Creating a good plan for your time here is essential on your first trip. Don’t fret, you’re in the right place. We are going to outline where to stay in London, give you a London itinerary, and help you know what to see while you’re here, including a visit to Westminster Abbey! All of these make up some of the best things to do in London.
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Where to Stay in London
London is separated into different neighborhoods, each with their own unique personality. If you can afford it, staying in the West End will give you the ideal London experience. Surrounded by world-class theatres, excellent restaurants, and great shopping, the West End definitely comes at a price. For those of us who are more budget conscious, but still want a safe neighborhood, consider Marylebone, Bloomsbury, or Paddington, or Knightsbridge.
After checking out the area on Tripadvisor, consider booking your hotel on Hotels.com. We love booking with Hotels.com because for every night you stay, you are earning towards a free night in the future! If you’re wanting to stay like a local and have your own place while in London, then book with Airbnb. Never booked with Airbnb? Well, you’re in luck! Use our link to save $40 off of your first stay!!
Getting Acquainted with London
For our first day in the city, we chose to get acquainted with our surroundings. A great way to do this is to take a Hop-on, hop-off tour. We chose to do the hop-on, hop-off offered by Big Bus Tours. There was a pick up right across the street from our hotel, so this was a super convenient way to start our tour of London. We had so much fun riding the open top bus, snapping photos, listening to the commentary, and watching city life unfold below us. We did one complete loop to get a feel for the city, and then chose the places we wanted to get off and begin touring.
Marty loves the vantage point of the photos he can get from the top of the bus! LOL!
Visit Westminster Abbey
Of course, one of our stops was the famous Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey is probably the greatest church in the world. I mean, we have seen a lot of historic churches during our travels, but nothing prepared us for the beauty and history contained inside this amazing building. Westminster Abbey is where England’s kings and queens have been crowned and buried for centuries. Although it was pretty pricey to get in, Marty and I felt it was well worth the fee. Your fee, 20 pounds at the time of this posting, includes your entry and a free audio guide.
Inside, you can view the resting place of poets, writers, statesmen, and of course, kings and queens. You will also see the coronation chair, gorgeous stain glass, religious artifacts, and incredible sculptures. Having just watched the hit show, Reign, Marty and I were humbled to see the resting place of Queen Mary and her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Photos were prohibited, so you just have to go inside and see it for yourself.
For an extra treat, consider treating yourself to a great tour that includes Westminster Abbey and the House of Parliament, or afternoon tea!!
Insider Tip: Visit early, during lunch, or late to avoid the crowds. Also, you can skip the line by booking your tickets in advance online via the Abbey’s website.
London’s Palace of Westminster, Westminster Bridge and Big Ben
The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Bridge, and Big Ben need no introduction. These London landmarks are spectacular in person. We recommend taking the Half Day London House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey Walking Tour. This tour really opened our eyes to the history associated with these important landmarks. Of course, you can also just admire the gorgeous architecture from the outside if you want.
No visit to London would be complete without visiting the home of the Queen. Buckingham Palace is one of the few royal palaces still operational today. While here, be sure to take plenty of selfies around the gorgeous grounds before heading inside for a tour. You can tour the State Rooms which the Royal Family uses to entertain important guests. You can tell if the Queen is home by looking at the flags. If the Royal Standard flag is flying, then the Queen is in residence. If the Union flag is flying, then she is away. You can buy tickets online here, or better yet, schedule this Buckingham Palace tour with afternoon tea! I mean seriously, tea at Buckingham Palace, need I say more?!
While here, check out the Changing of the Guard as well.
Found under the railway lines, Borough Market is a bustling, crowded, awesome foodie paradise. The minute we stepped into the market, my senses went crazy. The smell of freshly grilled meat filled the air while people shouted out orders and chatted with their friends all around me. To be honest, I was a little on sensory overload, but I loved it! Continuing our journey around the market, we found people selling any and everything related to food: cheese, honey, baked goods, fresh produce, meat and even mead!
True foodies will love the Borough Market Food Tour. This three-hour tour, lead by a former chef, will have you tasting chocolate, drinking wine, and learning all of the culinary secrets of this yummy market.
Lots of people mistake this beautiful bridge for the London Bridge, but don’t do that. The Tower Bridge is an amazing London landmark and is actually a working drawbridge! Take tons of photos of course, and then head inside to witness amazing views through the Glass Floor. Check out the Victorian Engine Rooms and learn all about the history of this famous bridge.
The Tower of London
I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive about visiting the Tower of London because I thought the price was a little steep. After visiting, I would have agreed to pay double. The Tower of London was hands down my favorite part of our visit to London. I have an entire blog post, What to See at the Tower of London, that outlines everything you need to know about visiting the Tower. This is an absolute must-see while in London-trust me!
Fish and Chips
Well, of course, you have to eat fish and chips while in London. There are so many options, it’s unreal. We wound up at Golden Union in Soho and loved every last bite of our meal. Be warned that the portions are huge. Marty and I shared and were stuffed. We were also super excited to see a hometown favorite being served, Dr. Pepper! YUM!
A shopping mecca, Harrods should be on everyone’s list. Harrods is so much more than a department store, so don’t be fooled. Harrods is a never-ending maze of luxury clothing, jewelry, food, wine, art, and more. Marty and I spent hours wandering around dreaming of things we couldn’t afford. We did buy one thing from Harrods though, a snack! LOL!
The British Museum
It’s more than likely going to rain at least once during your time in London, so take full advantage of it, and head to the British Museum. The best part, the museum is free! I really could not believe this! Now, we did make a small donation simply because this museum was amazing.
Marty and I spent hours touring the Roman and Egyptian portions of this museum. There are so many must-see masterpieces at the British Museum that you are sure to find something that interests you too!
Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and stroll through Hyde Park. The park, originally a hunting ground for King Henry VIII, is now the largest Royal Park in London. While visiting Hyde Park, we had the pleasure of stumbling upon the Royal Horse Guards making their way through the park.
Please don’t underestimate this park, it is huge. Marty and I walked a large portion and probably didn’t even see half of it. We had a great time seeing all of the beautiful foliage and the wildlife. I did almost get attacked by a squirrel though. Marty was busy taking pictures, so I sat down on a bench by a tree. The next thing I know this crazy squirrel is coming right at me. I screamed and got up, and he followed me for like five minutes! Marty was too busy laughing to save me!
Returning to London
We did so much during our short time in London. Marty and I were so pleased that we took our time and truly enjoyed our experience in this great city. Honestly, there were several more things on our list, but we decided to save them for next time. I feel as if London is just one of those cities that we will visit more than once.
Consider taking one of these awesome tours in London as well!
What is your favorite thing to do in London? Please comment below and let us know.
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