London. It is truly a city of diverse experiences. From art, history, and culture to good food and great pubs, it has something for everyone. While most would urge you to spend a week in the riverside capital, like Paris, a lot can be seen in far less time.
Immersed in history, the story of London is much more than a ‘Tale of Two Cities’. The packed urban high-rises and ancient architectural grandeur coexist harmoniously with creative innovators and leafy green landscapes. Try to get an oyster card, as it allows you to use both the underground and the bus without the hassle of buying a ticket each time.
Your First Day
Start off your first day in London at Notting Hill. This famous area is known for its busy markets, centered around Portobello Road, that sell vintage clothes and antiques. While you might not meet a film star in a travel bookshop like the Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant movie set on the famous road, grab a coffee at one of the many casual and bohemian cafes that line the streets. Explore the busy streets, walking down towards Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace. This royal residence is the current London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with Prince Harry, and many other royals. It also features numerous historical exhibits.
You can spend a few hours exploring the many attractions in the gardens, perhaps passing the famous department store Harrods, eventually crossing the serpentine into Hyde Park. Or you could exit at the Queen’s Gate, and make your way to the Natural History Museum, or to the Victoria and Albert Museum opposite. The cathedral-like Natural History Museum includes dinosaurs, blue whales, monkeys, volcanoes, and precious stones among its exhibits, while the Victoria and Albert is largely a design museum, with the largest collection of decorative arts in the world, so choose which one you want to explore.
From here, either hop on the underground, or if you feel like you have the time, walk, towards Hyde Park Corner. Walk down Constitution Hill, towards the Victoria Memorial, and Buckingham Palace. While you may not have time to enter the palace itself, make sure to walk through St James’s Park towards Trafalgar Square. If you want to visit the National Gallery, which houses one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world, with over 2,300 works, like most museums in London, it’s free to enter. Otherwise, you can get on to Horse Guards Road, and look at the Churchill War Rooms and the Imperial War Museum, full of World War II artifacts in secrets. Make sure to take a peek at Downing Street and at the St James’s park Duck Island Cottage nearby.
Take the Underground to Oxford Street, where you can spend the rest of the evening exploring the many shops, restaurants, and bars that line it. If shopping isn’t your thing, you could go to Baker Street and the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
The Second Day
Begin your second day at Westminster Abbey. This imposing Gothic abbey is almost a thousand years old, is a living part of British history. Famous kings, queens, statesmen, soldiers, poets, and priests can all be found buried here. From Queen Elizabeth I, to Sir Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, and Charles Darwin, hundreds of famous people are either buried or have memorials here. Exit onto Westminster Bridge, where you can see the iconic Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. If you’ve booked tickets, you can cross the bridge to ride the London Eye, where you get some of the most stunning views of London.
Take the underground to the Tower of London, where you can see the Crown Jewels. This 900-year-old castle is also infamous for four housing many famous prisoners throughout history. Don’t forget to step onto Tower Bridge, perhaps the most famous bridge in London. From here you can also see the World War II warship-turned-museum, the HMS Belfast. Hop on the Underground to St. Paul’s Cathedral, but, if you’ve had enough of old buildings, just walk down the Millennium Bridge, made famous by its appearance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie, to Shakespeare’s Globe. You can catch a performance of a Shakespeare play in this replica of the Elizabethan theatre if you have the time. However, if you didn’t take a turn on the London Eye, St. Paul’s is worth visiting if only for the stunning views from its domed roof.
If you have the time, make your way to The British Museum. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of museums, try paying a quick visit to this one, it’s free! It houses the largest permanent collection of art and artifacts in the world, with over 8 million pieces. Collected (some might say stolen!) from every continent on the globe, these document human history from pre-historic times.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, make a stop at King’s Cross Station, where you can see the real Platform 9¾ and its Harry Potter Store. From here, visit Camden Market along Regent’s Canal to hunt for vintage treasures. You can explore the many pubs and restaurants around Camden or go to one of the many popular clubs located there.