There’s No Place like London

It has taken me a while to write this post, with everything going on in London lately, and the fact that my (now-again boyfriend) lives there I have been procrastinating writing for awhile.  But I have finally found the urge to write (once again) about my favorite city in perhaps, the entire world.

From Paris I flew to London on May 2, for 30$ into London Luton Airport.  The flight itself was only thirty minutes, however, once you arrive in the airport the customs line was so long it took us 2 hours to clear!  It was miserable, I am not going to sugar-coat it, but London is worth any wait!

For most of the airports in London there are easier ways to get to-and-from the city and airport, for Heathrow you can take the tube, and with Stansted you can take the Stansted express for about 23.00 USD, when I lived in London I would take Easybus for only about 14$ and it really kept me from stressing out about travel.  Easy bus goes to Stansted, Luton AND Gatwick – I definitely recommend Easybus.  From Luton you can take the East Midlands Trains  towards St Pancras International, as well. If you are coming from Gatwick Airport you can also take the Gatwick Express to London Victoria.  The tube is super easy to navigate and if you’re flying in to Heathrow, as most international flights do, you’re in luck, just take the tube!

We flew in to Luton and took a train and then the tube to Kings Cross Station.  We were staying at the Clink261.   My two friends Zack, Carson, and myself were staying in the 18-bed mixed dorm room for five nights, roughly 19.00 GBP a night.  This was not my favorite hostel, as I have already mentioned in my previous post “5 countries, 2 weeks, 1 Backpack”, but I have also only ever been impressed with one hotel and/or hostel I have ever stayed at in London, and that was the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes London, and I had stayed in a suite.  The other 10+ places I have stayed at in London were not bad, just not amazing.  London is expensive – it’s not going to be easy to find a beautiful hotel, but who needs it anyway? You’re only going to be sleeping there anyway, and that is not even guaranteed.  😉

A tourist in London:

  • Camden Town:  I have written past posts mentioning Camden Town, and it is a must-see place.  It attracts a very eclectic group of people, has awesome shopping, great music and pubs like WORLDS END, and a questionable food market.
    • A short walk from Camden is Regents Park, where you can feed the ducks or ride in a paddle boat, and London Zoo.
  • Borough Market:  This place is definitely highly recommended by me for lunch or if you want to bring home some cheeses or interesting salts for family members.  (weird, but weirdly awesome)
  • Kings Cross Station:  If you’re a Harry Potter fan, 9 and 3/4 is a must.
  • London Eye:  This huge ferris wheel is expensive but gives a great view, other cool attractions nearby include the London Aquarium and London Dungeon.  During the day sometimes street performers are entertaining crowds.
  • Big Ben and Westminster Abbey:  A short walk from the London Eye are these two amazing landmarks, although only UK citizens can go inside Big Ben, you can tour Westminster for 20.00 GBP.
    • You can also take a picture with the touristy telephone booth nearby with Big Ben in the background – great for your instagram.
  • Buckingham Palace: If you’re as obsessed with the royal family as about any other American then you definitely are going to want to pop by and try to catch a glimpse of the queen.
    • Kensington Palace is another recommendation, which you can tour year round, unlike Buckingham Palace which you can only tour July-October.  Kensington Palace is also home to the Orangery, which has an amazing High tea.
  • Trafalgar Square:  Take a touristy picture with the lions before heading in to the National Portrait Gallery free of admission.
  • Tower Bridge:  This is that beautiful bridge that everyone always mistakes for London Bridge (which is actually stone and quite unattractive compared to Tower Bridge).
    • Walk from one side of the bridge to the other and depending on where you started you will find the Tower of London.  Take a tour and see the famous Crown Jewels.
  • The Shard:  Catch a view from the tallest building in London, or go only half way for a drink with a view.
  • St Pauls Cathedral:  I have written about this cathedral time and time again, it is one of my favorite buildings, ever.  I hate heights but my friends convinced me to climb the 500+ stairs to the top and the view I received of London was definitely worth it.
  • A Big Red Bus:  I recommend getting on a red bus and getting a cheap tour of the city by bus.  (the 15, 205, and the 24 all have great sightseeing routes)
  • Notting Hill:  Beautiful buildings, pubs and restaurants that had once served Princess Diana herself, and Portobello Market with its knick-knacks.  You could definitely spend a few hours here if not a few days.

I will also be returning to London at the end of August and wanted to give a brief synopsis of plans I have for then:
High Tea at SKETCH
Drinks at CAHOOTS (speakeasy)
A tour of Buckingham Palace
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Play
and perhaps a 2-day trip to Norway… not sure yet

Pubs, Drinks, and Clubs:
Waxy O’Connors: A really cool Irish pub near Piccadilly Circus with a tree in the middle of the bar.  A chill atmosphere, nice to grab a pint with friends.

Worlds End:  Large pub in Camden Town, if you love rock, metal or alternative music I definitely recommend.

Milk & Honey:  A popular bar in Soho with cocktails that aren’t too ridiculously priced.

Cahoots:  A speakeasy-type bar, I will write more about when I visit in August.

Worship Street Whistling Shop: This place looks so cool and cozy!  It has interesting cocktails and a perfect ambiance to just relax with friends or your sig-nif.

Call me Mr. Lucky: A secret eclectic bar with interesting decor, you are taken through the restaurants kitchen to the lively bar.

Clubs: 

  • Mahiki: a tiki themed club with delicious drinks and a fun atmosphere.
  • KOKO: Huge venue with music, drinks, dancing, lights, confetti, you name it.
  • Libertine:  A nightclub near Oxford Street – typical nightclub with a guest list, long lines, promoters and bottle service.  Fun if you and your friends are all on the list.
  • Fabric: Huge bar with five sound systems and unisex toilets.. most of my friends who visited Fabric were under the influence while doing so.
  • Ministry of Sound: three dance floors, three bars, and popular DJs.
  • MADDOX:  A members nightclub with dress code and your typical nightclub look and feel.
  • EGG: 3 floors and a balcony terrace with a swimming pool and garden bar.

A great view and great cocktails:

  • The Shard
  • Duck and Waffle
  • Madison
  • Sushisamba
  • Aviary
  • Rumpus Room
  • Sky Pod at the Sky Garden

Food:
The Breakfast Club: Wait in a line for about an hour and have a delicious Full English Breakfast – I am not sure why the hype of this place or why I have waited in this line 3+ times but there are just as good Full English’s at other places, such as Patisserie Valerie.

Poppies Fish and Chips: JUST GO.  This place is absolutely delicious.

Nando’s and Pret:  They’re everywhere but I LOVE them both.. so.

King of Falafel:  In Camden Town, a good place to stop and grab a kebab in a pita, or a falafel

Crystal Kabob:  After a late night of drinking the food here really hit the spot – I definitely am missing it since I have been home in the U.S.

 

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