I’ve been to London a handful of times and I always go for 24 hours or less. Here’s my list of what I think are must-sees and must-do’s there:
Things to do in London:
– Buckingham Palace (you can take tours if the Queen isn’t there). I haven’t gone into it, but because London is so big and there’s so much to see, I would rather see it from the outside and then go see other things.
– Westminster Abbey. I haven’t gone inside but it is beautiful. If you get more than 24 hours in London then I would suggest checking out the inside but otherwise if you don’t have much time it may not be worth it to go inside.
– Big Ben. You can see this from all around the city, it’s pretty iconic and it’s close to Westminster and the Wheel so you can do a quick walk by.
– Trafalgar Square. I did this in the rain at like 10PM at night so I couldn’t see too much while I was there but it is iconic and a huge part of history and it’s super close to St. James Park which is beautiful even at night in the rain.
– Hyde Park. The Princess Diana memorial is there. I love Hyde Park because it’s this giant quiet park in the middle of a huge city.
– St. James Park – it’s beautiful, check it out.
– The London Eye – it’s a pretty spectacular thing to walk up to but it’s actually fairly expensive to ride especially given how the dollar is doing to the pound. I just walked up to it, took a picture and moved on with my life. Around the London Eye, there’s a bunch of street food vendors that have amazing food to check out. Plus from there you can walk to the Tate Art Museum which is free (donations preferably but it’s cool if you don’t) and it has amazing modern art and is pretty cool. There’s a few Salvador Dali paintings which drew me in.
– London Bridge and Tower Bridge. London Bridge is not the same as Tower Bridge (the one that you see in all the iconic photos of London) so don’t be confused. 😉
– Platform 9 3/4s if you like Harry Potter. If you want a picture with the cart, get there early because there’s a line.
– St. Pauls’ Cathedral (this is 100% a must do). It’s kind of expensive, I want to say like 20 GBP to get in and you can’t take pictures in the actual cathedral. But you can take the stairs up the whispering gallery which is creepy and awesome at the same time. You can sit anywhere, whisper to the wall and people can hear it all around the gallery. I kind of feel like it’s the weird thoughts in my head but it’s pretty cool. After doing the whispering gallery, go up to the roof (if you aren’t afraid of heights). There are two levels, stop at the lower one to take photos but you get a much better view at the very top of the dome. It’s…. amazing. Definitely one of my favorite things I’ve done there. Just a note: be prepared for the weather because there’s no cover up there so you will be exposed to the elements dependent on how the weather is.
– Borough Market. This is potentially my favorite place in the world even though I hate crowds. This is essentially a year around farmer’s market/food cart place of happiness. There is amazing food there. If you have a place to store food there then I recommend heading here earlier rather than later and buying some food you can snack on. So good. Last time I was there, there was a goat sausage vendor that made food that I scarfed down. It was the most amazing sausage on a quinoa/cilantro type salad with the most amazing tzaikiki sauce ever. There’s also an amazing coffee place around the corner from the main entrance (says Borough Market over it) and you’ll notice that everyone is there. The coffee was really good and very fancy but it was pretty cool to see how they made the various coffees.
– Picadilly Circus: Shopping! Primark is amazing. It’s like our Forever 21 but slightly cheaper, slightly better quality and about 100% more chaotic but you can find sooo much there and it’s not available online.
Things that I love that are a little off the typical path:
– The various tube stations. There was a really amazing cool walkway at Kings Cross that is just gorgeous. I have a picture somewhere but it’s lit in all sorts of crazy colors and kind of psychedelic. I think it’s one of the underground walkways that they have there.
– If you hang out around that area, there’s a beautiful canal you can walk along and it’s just peaceful and it eventually leads to a square surrounded by restaurants. Looked like it was a developing area so it may not that be that interesting to go to alone but it was a nice place to relax.
– The Warner Brother’s studio in London (near Farringdon). It has all the Harry Potter house seals hanging in the window. Yes, this is only cool if you like Harry Potter. I died and had a minor freak out while I was there.
– Jamie Oliver has an Italian restaurant around Farringdon that was really good.
– Le Hore. It’s my favorite. It’s really kind of out of the way but it’s amazing.
– Dishoom. I went to the one in Shoreditch and I still dream of their brunch. Get the naan roll with either the sausage or the bacon. Plus the chocolate chai is amazing
– If you can get out of the city, go to Windsor Locks. I’m sure there’s a way to get there without a car but it’s a pretty cool castle!
– The train system is so much better there so you could totally leave central London and head out other places!
Things to note:
– Get an Oyster card, even if you don’t ever go back to London. It’s just easier that way and you can use it on all public transportation.
– The Tube is amazing and super efficient. Just note that during rush hour it can get terrifying and the central line (I wanna say red line) gets PACKED. But it’s super easy to use.
– Costa Coffee is like Europe’s version of Sbux. I actually really like Costa and it’s fairly decent priced.
– Don’t eat most Asian food (it’s not that great) EXCEPT for Indian. Ohhhhh the Indian food there is so good.
– Watch out for cars. Most of the streets in London will actually write on the ground which direction to look so keep that in mind. Don’t get complacent with crossing the street. I know it sounds ridiculous but… dude… just watch out
– If you guys are taking the train into the city from Heathrow, you can take the regular tube but if you’re willing to pay the money take the Heathrow Express. It takes like 15 minutes when it runs on time which I’ve had fairly good luck with except once, has wifi and takes you direct to Paddington Station.
– Make sure you have a chip in your credit cards. Most places in the UK will have to dig out some old device to swipe and most of the times it’s a hassle cause it doesn’t always read. Microchips are the way to go with them.
– When you’re wandering the streets, I recommend looking at the buildings just above regular height. Because London is such a historic city they have various plaques and little tid-bits about the city on the buildings. Like where major things have happened and such so you can learn a lot about the city just by looking around.