Episode 18: London Destination Guide

You know, I am not really a huge fan of cities. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them, or enjoy them, it just means that I prefer the smaller little towns and villages over cities. However, London, I just LOVE. And I don’t really know what it is! I love that there is so much to do, I love all the pubs and restaurants, I love walking along the river, I even like the weather (most of the time).

Audriana and I have both spent loads of time walking around London and doing as much as we could possibly squeeze in, and it feels like I could go back once a year and still not see and do everything I want to in London.

Today’s episode is all about London; things to do, a little bit on how to get around using an Oyster Card, as well as some day trips out of the city if you’re planning to explore a little more of England.  

listen below!

London Destination Guide: Neighborhood Breakdown, Must-Visit Museums, Markets + How To Get Around

Things to do:

There are SO many things to do, it’ll make you want to stay up all night and get up early to try and fit as many activities and sights in as possible! Here are a few of our favorites, and some which are at the top our list for the next visit.

see a show

London, particularly the area known as the West End, is known for its shows and musicals. There are several areas in London where you can find all these productions; head to the areas of Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square and you’ll find an incredible amount of theaters to get your fix in!

You can see all the major productions like, Harry Potter, Wicked, Les Miserables, the Book of Mormon.

Tip: If you’re on a budget there are plenty of smaller theaters in Leicester Square where you can see musicals and plays for less than 20 GBP AND there’s a walk-up window where you can get last minute tickets to the bigger shows. There was a huge line outside of people trying to get Harry Potter tickets and a couple people got lucky and scored some cancellation tickets.

drink wine at the park

Best Parks in London

Is there really anything better than having a picnic in a park? You go to the local grocery store and pick up some good cheese and bread and make yourself a nice little charcuterie board. Add some wine in the mix, and you’ve got yourself a proper picnic. Our favorite place to do this is at the massive Hyde Park, where you can find a corner of grass and have it all to yourself.

Explore the gardens and parks

Kensington Garden

Kensington Palace sits on the West Side of this park and the Gardens extend all the way to the edge of Hyde Park. It’s a wonderful place to go for a walk and admire the perfectly manicured gardens of the Palace. There’s a pond in the middle of the gardens and plenty of people sitting around watching the ducks and geese on a nice, sunny day.

The surrounding neighborhoods are wonderful, too! So, if you’re having a relaxing day, head to Kensington Gardens and then continue on walking to explore the fancy neighborhoods of Notting Hill and Kensington.

St. James’ near Westminster

This park butts right up to Buckingham Palace on the West side, and 10 Downing Street on the East side. It’s smaller than many of the others in the city, but it’s right in the thick of all the activity and sights of London. Even if you don’t intentionally go to St. James’ Park, you’ll probably just kind of end up there at some point because of its proximity to those other big attractions.

Battersea Park

Located right on the River Thames, Battersea Park is gorgeous and full of a ton of activities. If you are not the type of person who just wants to stroll around the green open space, or have a picnic, then head to Battersea Park — but you can do all those things here, too! If you have kids, they will love all the activities available as well.

There are fountains, play grounds, flower gardens, an Asian style Pagoda, a place to rent bikes for adults and children (it’s called London Recumbents), a children’s zoo, a rope’s course through some trees, a lovely lake where you can rent boats, and areas where people get together and play sports!

Hyde Park

Best Parks in London

Hyde Park is one of the most well known parks in the city as it is massive and extends pretty much all the way from Buckingham Palace to Kensington Palace. There are a good amount of events which take place inside Hyde Park, such as concerts, and there is just a ton of things to check out inside the park.

Of course, you can explore the palaces that bookend the park, and within it, there are other things like, a memorial fountain for Princess Diana, there are galleries with modern art, architecture, and design exhibits, you can also swim or rent a little boat in Serpentine Lake in the center of Hyde Park.

And if you’re not up for a walk, or exploring the museums, it’s really just a fun park to grab some cheese, crackers and wine and spend the afternoon having a picnic and enjoying the city!

The Hill Gardens + Pergola in Hampstead Heath

People come from all over the world to get married here! The grounds are gorgeous, there are reflecting pools, and wonderful walkways, with trees and greenery all over the place. It’s kind of a little slice of calmness where you can go to escape the hustle and bustle of the city! If you happen to be in London when the weather is particularly pleasant, there are also a few open air swimming ponds in Hampstead Heath Park where you can swim. They are open year around, if you’re brave enough to get in when it’s cold out, it is free to do so. Swimming in the summer will cost you about £4 - £7, depending on how long you want to stay for.

Lavender Gardens at Vauxhall Park

The Park itself is not really anything spectacular, but they do have lavender gardens there, which are always a hit. Lavender season is typically from May to September, so if you’ll be in London during this time, it would be a great activity!

Chelsea Physic Gardens

This garden is the 2nd oldest botanical garden in England. It was established in the early 1600’s to grow plants for medicinal purposes and to this day, it holds about 5,000 plants which are edible and medicinal! You can join one of their guided walks around the gardens and greenhouses, or you can simply browse through at your leisure.

Opening times:

Winter Season

Monday - Friday 11am - 4pm

Adult Entrance Fee: £6.50

Spring Season

Monday - Friday 11am - 4pm

Adult Entrance Fee: £10

Walk through boroughs, neighborhoods and Mews

The Coolest Neighborhoods in London

I know this doesn’t really sound all that exciting, but some of these neighborhoods, and boroughs are seriously really beautiful. There are gorgeous roof-tops and lovely entrance ways covered in ivy, complete with doors of every color. Here are a few of my favorites that you’ll be pissed if you skipped them!

Chelsea, Kensington + Belgravia

Best Neighborhoods in London

These three neighborhoods are right next to one another and it’s easy to walk through them all. This area is were many of London’s wealthiest live and they are very close to Buckingham and Kensington Palaces. The homes are gorgeous; some of them are in the Classic Georgian architecture, or have the colorful doors and lovely entranceways you’ve probably seen all over Instagram.

There are also some good museums in these areas, like the Victoria & Albert museum and the Natural History Museum.

Shoreditch

If you’re looking for a trendy neighborhood, head to Shoreditch. It’s known for it’s plethora of very cool street art + there’s a younger crowd hanging around. There are also great vintage and thrift shops, trendy cafes and a fun, alternative atmosphere there.

Fitzrovia + Covent Garden

These two neighborhoods are adjacent and are kind of similar. Here you can find all those wonderful classic British Pubs, plenty of Art Galleries, Markets, plenty of theaters, the Royal Opera House, shopping, and lively streets with artists and performers.

The Royal Mews

This is where all kinds of things that have been used by the royalty over the years. So you’ll find things like royal carriages that have been used for momentous occasions, like coronations and weddings.

Markets

There are a plethora of markets in London and there’s something for everyone. We’ll break down our favorites below.

Borough Market

Here you’ll find delicious food from all over the world. Walking through the market, you’ll be pulled in every direction all at once; there are vendors selling cheese wheels, tempting smells of Thai food, and chocolatey desserts everywhere you look.

The Borough Market also has several pubs surrounding it. If you happen to catch a nice, clear day, it’s always a good idea to head to the pubs and sip on your beer in the outside area and watch the hustle and bustle go by.

Opening Times:

Monday - Tuesday, 10AM - 5PM (Limited Market, meaning not every vendor will be there)

Wednesday - Thursday, 10AM - 5PM (Full Market)

Friday - Saturday, 10AM - 6PM (Full Market)

Sundays, Closed

Camden Street

Best Markets in London

You can find anything your little heart desires here. Whether that’s food from all over the world, sweet vintage clothes, or name brand designers, Camden Street Market kinda has it all. The great part of this market is that there are always different vendors, so even if you went every single day during your stay, it would pretty much be a brand new market each of those days.


Opening Times:

Everyday, 10AM - Late

Portobello Rd. Market

Best+Markets+in+London

This is the funkier of the markets, but definitely worth a visit. Unlike the other markets listed here, Portobello Market is basically like a street market where different shops have pop-up stores.

You’ll find vintage clothes, antiques, produce stands, Bric-a-Brac (a lovely English term for trinkets) as well as some hot food stands.

There are different stalls on most days, here is a breakdown of them.

Opening Times:

Monday - Wednesday, 9AM - 6PM (Clothes, Produce, Bric-a-Brac, Hot Food)

Thursday, 9AM - 1PM (Clothes, Produce, Bric-a-Brac, Hot Food)

Friday, 9AM - 7PM (Clothes, Produce, Bric-a-Brac, Hot Food, Antiques)

Saturday, 9AM - 7PM (Clothes, Produce, Bric-a-Brac, Hot Food, Antiques, Arcades)

Sunday, Closed

Old Spitalfields Market

This covered, Victorian market is open 7 days a week and has an eclectic combination of food vendors and shops. There’s skincare vendors, furniture shops, vintage clothing, jewelry, handcrafted shoes, and SO much more!

Opening Times:

Monday - Friday, 10AM - 8PM

Saturday, 10AM - 6PM

Sunday, 10AM - 5PM

See the Main Sights

Listen, you probably already know all these main sights and you will easily find them as you walk around London. I’ll just list them here because a guide for London would remiss without mentioning them!

Cruise down River Thames

Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey + Palace, Big Ben

London Eye

Shakespeare’s Globe

Tower Bridge

Millennium Bridge

Museums

London has some incredible museums. If you don’t get busy doing allllll the other stuff, make some time to see a few of them.

Tate Modern

Visit the Best Museums in London

This museum focuses mainly on modern and contemporary art. It’s located right on the River Thames, next to the Millennium Bridge and it’s open late.

Opening Times:

Sunday - Thursday, 10AM -6PM

Friday + Saturday, 10AM -10PM

Entrance Fee:

FREE, for many exhibits. If you want to go see special exhibits, you will have to pay for that, but the majority of the museum is free.

Victoria & Albert

The V & A museum is world class and houses just about everything. There’s medieval art, textiles and fashion, European art, photography, pottery, jewelry and everything else you can think of. It’s the perfect museum to visit if you are, like me, not particularly interested in anything in specific.

Opening Times:

Daily, 10AM - 5:45PM

Friday, 10AM - 10PM

Entrance Fee:

FREE, but just like Tate Modern, if you want to see special exhibitions, you’ll have to pay for those.

Natural History Museum

The Best Museums in London

Right next door to the V & A, in the fancy neighborhood of Kensington, you’ll find the Natural History Museum. If you were Ross from Friends, this would be where you would be every day. It’s full of dinosaurs, and wildlife photography and the interior is gorgeous and it’s worth it to go to just see the inside!

Opening Times:

Daily, 10:00AM - 5:50PM

Entrance Fee:

FREE!

Tower of London

There’s a ton to do at the Tower of London, including seeing the Crown Jewels! As far as exhibits go, this museum always has something new and interesting happening. In addition to viewing the Tower itself, there are also things like; checking out the medieval armor exhibit, checking out the fortress and armory, and taking tours through the various parts of the Palace.

Opening Times:

Summer Hours:

Sunday - Monday 10:00AM - 5:30PM, Tuesday - Saturday 9:00AM - 5:30PM

Winter Hours:

Sunday - Monday 10:00AM - 4:30PM, Tuesday - Saturday 9:00AM - 4:30PM

Entrance Fee:

Adult: £24.70

You can buy your tickets online here (cheaper than in person): Tower of London


How to Get Around:

Getting around London is safe, easy and fairly inexpensive. If the weather is nice, it’s lovely to walk around. As it is a pretty big city, you may want to focus on different areas + neighborhoods each day you’re there; this way you’re not criss-crossing over the city for your entire day. In terms of types of transportation, there is, of course, The Tube which is the underground Metro which takes you to every corner of the city as well as to the outer regions of London. There are buses as well — we took a couple night busses for super cheap to get back to our AirBnB outside the city. As not all lines of The Tube run 24hrs, this is a great option for if you want to stay out late in the city and aren’t staying somewhere where it’s easy to walk back home.

Oyster Card

This was incredibly handy to have and it’s basically just a pre-loaded card with however much money you want to put on it. You swipe your Oyster Card when you go through The Tube Station and swipe again when you are exiting at your stop and you are charged the right amount for that ride.

You can buy your Oyster Card online before you arrive, or you’ll see them at shops around the city, and you can also purchase them at the Tube Stations.

If you’re going to be in London for a significant amount of time, they also have an app where you can top up your card. This way you can do it on the fly and don’t have to stop at a Tube Station and add more money to it for the day.

Taking the Tube

How to Take the London Underground

Ah the beautiful London Underground. It’s the classic way to get around; quick and easy to make your way to every corner of London and it’s fairly inexpensive to use. It’s everyone’s favorite way to get around in the city, so you’ll see everyone on there — people heading to and from work, and tourists out for the day exploring.

Since we last were in London, The Tube has gotten some updated hours so you can stay out extra late on the weekend! Of the 11 total lines, there are now five lines which run 24 hours, on Friday and Saturday ONLY! So if you’re whooping it up on a Tuesday and expect to hop on The Tube at 3AM to get your butt home, you’re going to be pissed. In this instance, you’re gonna want to look into those Night Busses I’m going to talk about next.

Here are the 24 hour lines:

Victoria, Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly

The remaining Tube lines run from 5AM to Midnight, everyday.

If you want to check out maps of where The Tube goes and all the lines, head here: Official Visit London 

Busses + Night Busses

These are the iconic double-decker busses we all know and recognize. The Night Busses run from the time the Tube stops running to the time the Tube opens again in the morning.

How to Take Busses in London

Night Busses are inexpensive (£1.50 for a single fare), if you are ONLY using busses to get around for the day, the maximum fare is only £4.50 as long as you are using the same ticket, or Oyster Card.

Tips: You cannot pay a bus fare with cash; it must be contactless payment (Oyster Card, Apple Pay, or if your bank card has the contactless pay feature).

Children under 11, and those in wheelchairs ride for free.

Night Busses stop ON REQUEST only — so don’t stand there like dummy, like we did, when you see your stop coming up and then miss it because the bus driver doesn’t stop unless you tell them to.

Here are all the maps for busses + rail and everything else: London Transport


Day Trips:

If seeing all these things and more in The Big Smoke wasn’t enough for ya and you have a few more days to explore some more of England, here are our fav side trips. I almost enjoyed some of these more than London!

The Cotswolds

How to Visit The Cotswolds

If you have a few extra days to explore more of England, we cannot recommend The Cotswolds highly enough. They are the quintessential villages in the English countryside that are so damn cute, you probably won’t ever want to leave.

We made a 3 day guide for The Cotswolds, you can check it out here: Cotswolds Guide

Stonehenge

Stonehenge Day Trip From London

This is about 2 hours away from Central London, but if you are interested in visiting this historical site, here is some information to get you started.

You can take the Overground Train from one of the bigger stations like Waterloo or Victoria.

You’ll take the Train to the stop Salisbury, which is still 9 miles from Stonehenge. From there, you’ll need to catch the Stonehenge Tour Bus which leaves hourly from Salisbury; it costs £15.00 for adults. You can purchase tickets on-board, or ahead of time online here: Stonehenge Tour Bus

Don’t forget that you’ll also have to pay an admission fee once you arrive to Stonehenge, which is £17.50 for advanced purchase and £19.50 for walk-up price.

Blenheim Palace

If you’re heading out to The Cotswolds, you can hit Blenheim Palace on the way out there. There are sprawling grounds and the 17th Century Palace to explore, as well as a gardens, a lake, a butterfly house, a two-mile maze of trees, and State Rooms full of Baroque sculptures and art work.

Entrance Fee for Adults: £27.00 for the Palace, Gardens, Park or £16.00 for just the Palace and Gardens.

How to Get There: Take the train from London to any of the following stops: Long Hanborough (closest to the Palace), Oxford Parkway, or Oxford. The one way ticket costs around £20 and takes just over an hour.

Even if you get the train out to Long Hanborough, you’ll still be about a 45 minute walk away from the Palace entrance, so you’ll need to hop on a bus from the Long Hanborough stop. From there you’ll take a bus to the Woodstock stop and then you’ll be there!

For bus information, visit: Stagecoach Bus

For more info about getting a train there, check this out: Great Western Railway

Tip: If you take a train or bus there, show your ticket at the admissions counter for 30% of your entrance fee!

Windsor

If you’re into the Royal Family, you can visit the Queen’s Residence at Windsor Castle. The grounds are stunning and there are tours available.

Entrance Fee for Adults: £22.50

How to Get There: There are trains from many of the major rail stations in London to the nearest stop to Windsor Castle, Windsor & Eton Central. The one way ticket costs around £11 and takes about half an hour.

You can book your rail tickets online beforehand here: National Rail Enquiries


London has an incredible amount of things to do, and if you don’t get around to doing evvverrrything, it’s equally as nice to spend a few afternoon hanging out as some of the perfectly picturesque pubs and strolling along the river.

Have you been to London? And if so, what was your favorite thing that you would add to this destination guide?

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