My friends and I visited London in October 2018 for 3 nights. It wasn’t a trip I was planning to take that year, but the flight price from DC was just way too good to pass up on. So, I gathered some friends and we decided to visit for just a long weekend! Well, half of us intended to attend a soccer game there since the guys of the group are huge EPL fans. We booked our tickets only to later find out once the schedule was released that there would be no games that weekend in England as they would head to Spain for a friendly match. Just our luck!! But, I was prepared to have a jam-packed fun-filled weekend there regardless.
Now, my itinerary may intimidate you a little as we did a lot in the short amount of time we had there. If you can add a day to your trip then I would definitely recommend it as there’s just so much to do in London. It’s one of those cities that you can just explore endlessly and imagine yourself living there. I wouldn’t say that there’s that “wow” factor of amazing sights like how I felt in other places, but I felt so comfortable there. I guess I would describe my feelings towards London similar to that of New York City where I could visit multiple times and find new places to explore and not get bored.
Day of Arrival: We arrived in London around noon on a Saturday. Getting from the airport, whether you land at Heathrow or Gatwick, to the city is fairly easy. Just purchase a ticket (preferably an Oyster card that can be reloaded) at the airport and hop on the train. You can either ask one of the helpful workers at the airport or simply input your final destination into google maps to find out which route to take.
Once we checked into our hotel in the Waterloo district and refreshed ourselves, the first stop was Borough Market for some yummy eats. Borough Market is one of the largest market halls in London and a must visit if you enjoy trying different cuisines, shopping, and a busy atmosphere. There were so many options for food (the pasta we had was delicious!) and great local items to bring back home as souvenirs.
After our stomachs were full, we walked to The Shard right down the street for stunning views of London. Tickets can and should be purchased in advance online to avoid long lines and a cheaper price. We paid around 21 GBP per ticket. There are bars set up on a few floors, so grab yourself an expensive drink and enjoy the 360 view of the city.
Side note: I enjoyed my visit to the Sky Garden over The Shard – similar views, but the vibes at the garden are 100% better and entry is free. I’d recommend skipping The Shard and go to the Sky Garden instead.
Next, we headed towards the Tower Bridge as this is a beautiful landmark in London. Many confuse this for the London Bridge, which is well known yet not nearly as stunning. The bridge lights up at night and there are plenty of bars and restaurants in the surrounding area to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
After a much needed rest session at the hotel, we grabbed drinks and food at the Churchill Arms Pub. I loved this pub so much. It was decked out with plants and flowers covering almost every space inside and out. While it looks a pub serving up British fare, you’re shocked to find out it serves Thai cuisine! Since the place was extremely busy when we arrived, we had a few drinks which you can enjoy outside away from the crowd while a table cleared for our party. They also took our order prior to us sitting so that the food would be ready for us when we were seated. I found that to be an extremely efficient method! The food was amazing and one of my favorite meals I had in London.
Our first full day exploring London. Of course, you need to start a Sunday with brunch.
Bourne & Hollingsworth
This picturesque restaurant has a refreshing, bright atmosphere and offers bottomless bellinis for an ideal brunch experience. Reservations are a must, so make sure to book online in advance. Service was great, food was good, and drinks were flowing. What more could you ask for to start your day?
Shoreditch is a trendy neighborhood in London full of creatives, art, and fashion. Here you find clothing stores, artisan coffee shops, and plenty of gastropubs and restaurants. We explored this area and stumbled upon Boxpark, which offers retail and food shops in shipping containers.
I also really enjoyed the political pieces. Since I’m from the US, it brings joy to heart to know that others in different countries share the same views as me with our current presidential situation. Social matters are extremely important to me and I am all for those speaking out about injustices.
After I built up an appetite from walking around so much, my sister and I went to the infamous Dishoom for an Indian meal. Dishoom is very well known in London and usually the number one place people will tell you to go eat when you’re visiting. There’s multiple locations all around the city and each one gets crowded at almost all times, so be sure to make a reservation! Everything we ordered was absolutely delicious where I still find myself craving this place. The prices were extremely fair and the menu was extensive. We wanted to order basically everything, but knew our stomachs couldn’t handle it.
We met back up with the rest of the group at the entrance to the Sky Garden after our meal. The Sky Garden is London’s highest garden that offers amazing views for free! (Aside from their DJ music nights which costs 15 GDP but includes a cocktail) There are bars set up in the Sky Pod, for drinks while you hang out or you can dine at their restaurant. You can either reserve a table, which requires a minimum charge, or you can reserve a time with no access to table. Keep in mind that there are small tables all around for open seating, its just not guaranteed. I reserved us the Sky Pod Access (no table) tickets for a specified time. Walk-Ins are also welcome during certain hours.
Although we were tired from being out all day, we mustered up enough energy for a late dinner and drinks. While we managed to find a restaurant that was still open to feed us, it was a lot more challenging to find bars open past midnight. We grabbed a bite to eat at Duck & Waffle, which as the name suggests – serves duck dishes and specializes in their take of chicken & waffles. We then went to Opium for their cute cocktail cups based off the Chinese zodiac. Sadly enough, they closed just as our buzzes were coming. We ended up hanging outside in the rain desperately trying to find an open bar near by, but gave up after 20 minutes and decided to call it a night.
Our last and busiest day in London. This day consisted of sightseeing, tea time, shopping for souvenirs, wine, and meeting up with some locals.
The royal church and venue of numerous royal weddings is a structure that will blow you away. It’s grand presence and intricate details are remarkable. Buy your ticket in advance to skip the massive lines. Only my sister and I visited Westminister Abbey and I’m so glad we did! A staple in London that’s full of history, you can spend hours exploring it.
My sister had previously watched a vlog on YouTube where the host went to eat at Le Bab, so that was set to be our next destination for lunch. Little did we know that it would be placed inside a cute food hub with a variety of dining options to choose from. The food at Le Bab was delicious and leaves you feeling guilt-free. Come to this area if you’re hungry and want a taste of different dishes.
When I think of London, one of the top things that comes to mind is tea. I knew I had to experience afternoon tea during my visit, but also wasn’t willing to spend the ridiculous amounts most places charge. I came across The Wolseley on my search, which offers an affordable option for tea time. You can go grand and do the full sandwich and patisserie set up for a higher price or simply get tea served with scones, jam, and clotted cream for about 13 GDP per person. I made reservations, but expect to still wait for a little bit as they are constantly turning tables around. We all ordered the tea with scones, which comes with your personal tea pot and 3 hefty scones. And oh my goodness…those scones were amazing! Paired with the jam and clotted cream, I wanted to scarf them all down instantly. Unfortunately, we had to cut our experience short because we had another reservation to get to.
Gordon’s Wine Bar is well known for their great wine selection and underground cellar seating area. As you head downstairs, you’re transported into a cave-like atmosphere. This place gets busy so either come early if you want to snag a table in the cave area. They do take reservations for groups of 8-10 people for “The Cage”. Our group consisted of 7, but they made an exception. While the cage was great to experience, it got hot very quick. So although I reserved the space and we rushed to make it – we ended up heading outside to enjoy our wine on their outdoor patio. If you’re a wine lover like me then definitely make a stop at Gordon’s when you’re in London.
After one too many bottles of wine, we headed to Brasserie Zedel for our dinner reservation. While this place was beautiful and the food was great, the service was terrible. We waited almost two hours for our food to come even after asking our waiter multiple times for an update. We witnessed everyone around us receive their meals although we arrived first. I’m sure this was a one off situation, but it put a damper on everyone’s mood.
To try and brighten the mood after our poor dinner service, we walked around the city and dropped into bars along the way. London is a great place to explore by foot, so just start walking and you’ll stumble across beautiful finds. We also met up with some of my sister’s friends who live in London, which is always a plus when you get to go around the city with locals. A few of us stayed out quite a bit longer than expected and were thankful the next morning that our flight wasn’t too early.