It’s hard not to love London. There is something for just about everyone, from hipsters to history buffs. I stopped over in London for four days on my way to Asia. And those were some action-packed four days. From seeing London’s most famous sites, to visiting a few hidden gems, I was busy having a great time day and night.
On my first evening I met up with a friend at Hyde Park. They are hosting a big summer festival, and on weekdays you can eat from food stands and watch free movies. We hung out there awhile before walking down to Trafalgar Square, past Buckingham Palace. It was my first little overview of London, and a particularly beautiful walk in the evening.
Over the next few days I set out to see some of London’s biggest tourist attractions. There are a million ways to see London, but one of the best is to just walk around. I saw the west side on a walking tour that I highly recommend. To see the official City of London I set out on foot myself. Either way, walking let me go where I wanted in a very walkable city.
I had a great time on another Sandeman’s walking tour through the West End and Westminster. It was basically a London highlights reel. The tour started in Covent Garden and we walked all the way to the Houses of Parliament. Along the way I got to learn about the history of sites like Trafalgar Square, St. James’ Palace, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. I always enjoy hearing the stories and learning some interesting facts about a place.
Since the City of London is only one square mile, I made exploring it my next day. I started with the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Nearby I found the lovely, not crowded, All Hallows by the Tower Church. The oldest church in the City of London, it is filed with maritime memorabilia, and completely charming.
Then I walked along past the beautiful covered building of Leadenhall Market to the Monument. Built to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666, you can now climb the freestanding monument for an excellent panorama view of the area. And at the bottom you are given a certificate!
The last big landmark I saw in the City of London was St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was a beautiful day outside, so everyone was sitting in the gardens enjoying lunch. From there I crossed the Thames on the Millennium Bridge. I visited the Tate Modern and walked along the artsy South Bank. Popular for tourists and locals, the South Bank offers fun art galleries, shops, and spectacular views of London across the river. Just taking a short stroll down was a total treat.
That evening I got to enjoy another London treat. I managed to score tickets to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Drury Theater in the West End. Since it was a weeknight, I simply showed up at the box office about 90 minutes before show time and asked if there were any tickets. Luck was on my side, and I even got them to give me a deal. The show, based on Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book, was a delight. It stayed mostly true to the original story, with a few modern adaptations. What I loved was seeing how the factory was brought to life on stage. The design and mechanics were whimsical and brilliant. It was a great night out in an acclaimed theater district.
I also spent an evening at the British Museum, but I could have been there for at least an entire day. Their collections are well-known for covering many time periods and cultures. The museum was fascinating, even in my whirlwind tour. My favorite thing I did there was to take one of their 20 minute spotlight tours on the Enlightenment. The tour wasn’t too long, and it helped me to learn some more about the museum and a few key pieces. They offer lots of free tours throughout the day and on Friday evenings. I highly suggest you try one next time you find yourself at the British Museum.
I took a little detour from downtown one afternoon to Greenwich Village to visit the Fan Museum. I read about it online and knew that I had to go check it out. The Fan Museum is in an old townhouse. There are two floors of decorative fans, including their history and a special rotating collection. While I was there they were displaying fans from Paris’ Belle Epoch. They were the most beautiful fans I had ever seen.
Other than gorgeous and interesting fans, the museum also had a tearoom in the Orangery in the back. The room itself had been painted by a theatrical painter, and was just lovey. It was also one of the best afternoon tea deals in London. For just seven pounds I was treated to a pot of tea and a whole tower of fresh baked scones and victoria sponge cake. If you, like me, can’t leave London without stopping for afternoon tea, this is definitely the place to go. The staff was super friendly as well.
I was staying near Camden, so decided to go to the busy and wonderful Camden Lock Market on Saturday as well. Just walking down Camden High Street there were stalls and shops before the market even began. Then you enter the labyrinth of the actual lock market. It’s named after the river locks and the bridge that it’s next to. Every kind of craft, book, vintage item, clothing, etc. was being sold there. As I walked around, I kept thinking that I had reached an end, but there was always more. The shopping was amazing, but the food was better.
Sprinkled throughout the huge market were food stalls. But in the center was a food court area. There you could push your way through the crowd and eat cuisine from around the world. If you happened to be there around 10:30, then you can also eat your way through the vendors’ samples as they prepare for the lunch rush. Everything was delicious. I had Spanish paella, but my options were endless. So if you don’t want to go up to Camden to shop, go there just to eat.
There is so much to do in London that I could have stayed for another four days easily. But all good things must come to an end. I had a great time sampling some of London’s famous neighborhoods and seeing the sites. I can see why it is practically impossible to grow tired of London. I hope I can go back some day.