Hello, everyone! Today’s post is the first installment of my travel blogs all about our trip to London and Amsterdam back in September. I’ve split our visit to London into 3 different blog posts, and hopefully Amsterdam will only take one. Today’s post covers he first two days in the city.
Just as a note, I am horrible at travel blogging – besides the fact that I only travel 1-3 times a year, there’s a reason why I’m not a travel blogger!
This was my second trip to London, but my first time was with my high school when I was 17, so I’m not sure the first time even counts. To be honest, the first time I visited, I wasn’t entirely impressed and didn’t think I’d ever go back, but when my husband suggested it for our vacation this year, I was down for giving it another shot. It was 1000% more fun this time, and my husband and I were even saying it’s a place we could totally see ourselves living in for a year or so.
After doing some research, we decided to stay at Park Plaza Victoria. It’s not near the bustling tourist attractions, which means the rooms are more spacious, and also quieter at night because you won’t be disturbed by busy traffic noises outside. The rooms are clean, and the beds are super comfortable. Although it’s not in the touristy area, the hotel is only a 5 minute walk to Victoria Station, so it’s still easy to reach all of the places you may want to see. Park Plaza also offers a great English breakfast buffet in the morning, with lots of options.
We arrived in London at 10am, and the first thing we did was drop our bags off at the hotel. We mostly wanted to use our first day to scope out the area and get our bearings, but by the time we got to the hotel, it was noon and we also needed to grab some lunch. We thought Covent Garden would be the best place to start our day, and then go from there. Lunch was a quick fast food noodle chain (Wok to Walk) we found in Covent Garden, which was not all that memorable. After eating, we walked around the surrounding area.
Covent Garden is a lively neighborhood with lots of good shopping to be found; for beauty lovers, you have Charlotte Tilbury’s flagship store, as well as Jo Malone and Kiko. I had my eye on getting some Charlotte Tilbury and Jo Malone (since they are British brands), but once I figured out the conversion rate, it was actually a bit cheaper to get their products back in Canada. There are a lot of restaurants in Covent Garden Market available if you’re looking for food, too.
Seven Dials is an adorable area of narrow streets filled with boutiques. It’s called as such due to the seven streets that converge in the middle, where a monument of a sundial pillar can be found. There’s a plethora of shopping to be done here, from vintage shops to big brands such as Urban Outfitters. It’s within walking distance from Covent Garden, so if you’re in the area, I would recommend visiting Seven Dials at the same time as well.
Soho is a hopping area full of restaurants and bars. It’s always busy, and has a great nightlife. Soho is also where London’s Chinatown is located. Their Chinatown is big, clean, and constantly bustling, even at 10pm. We were surprised to find that it didn’t house only Chinese food, but also other types of food such as Japanese, Western, and even chains. We found some really good dessert places here, and came back frequently for after dinner for dessert.
After walking around the Covent Garden area, we headed off to the National Gallery. Both my husband and I are big museum fans, but for some reason, my husband was particularly into museums on this trip…and it was a few too many museums even for me! The National Gallery mostly consists of paintings; it’s lovely, but to me, not a must-see.
Trafalgar Square is pretty much right outside of National Gallery, which features Nelson’s Column. From what I remember during my last trip, a LOT of visitors congregate in this area, just to hang around, but it was pretty dead when we were there this time. It could be because they were doing construction in the area at the time.
Victoria and Albert Museum
It was still early when we finished at the National Gallery, so we moved onto the Victoria & Albert Museum. This is a smaller museum, and out of all the ones we visited, I would probably have skipped this one.
Once we finished at the museums, we headed off to Honest Burgers in Kensington. Honest Burgers is a chain in London, so you can find them everywhere. The burgers and fries were pretty good, but nothing to write home about.
We started off Day 2 by heading out to the Tower of London. There were a few attractions in this area that we wanted to check out, so we planned our trip in a way that we would be staying in this area for the majority of the day.
The Tower of London
The Tower of London is a place I had already visited the first time I was in London, but I remember loving it. Throughout the ages, this place acted as a palace, a fortress, an armory, and a prison! It’s a fascinating place with amazing history, and we spent almost 3 hours here exploring the place. Of course, the Crown Jewels housed here still stole the show for me!
The Tower of London also has a pretty spectacular view! That tall, triangular tower on the very right is The Shard, which we visited later on in the day.
The Tower Bridge is located very close to the Tower of London, so make sure you make a visit while you’re in the area. The bridge that most of the world thinks of as “London Bridge” is actually called Tower Bridge! London Bridge is actually a somewhat nondescript bridge further down the Thames. You can actually go up Tower Bridge (for a fee), although we did not go up ourselves.
It was noon by the time we finished at Tower Bridge, so we headed off to Borough Market to fill our bellies with a spot of lunch.
As the oldest market in London, Borough Market offers a great mix of produce, specialty products like cheeses, sauces, etc. for locals, but what we my husband and I were there for was the food stalls. I wanted to try everything here, but I couldn’t possibly fit everything in my tummy! We got a Scotch egg (a boiled egg wrapped in sausage), cause you have to when you’re in England! They also have a well-known bakery called Bread Ahead, and I tried a jelly-filled donut here that was packed-full of jelly.
If you plan on visiting Borough Market, please be aware that the market is open Monday-Saturday, and closed on Sundays. Monday and Tuesdays are a limited market (which means some stalls are closed), and the full market is open Wednesday to Saturday. Unsurprisingly, weekends are packed with visitors.
Once we were finished exploring Borough Market, we headed off to The Shard.
As I mentioned before, The Shard is that pointy building on London’s skyline – it definitely stands out among the rest of the buildings! We bought our tickets online, and they are actually quite pricey. The cheapest, no-frills ticket is 24 pounds per person (which is what we bought), but you can also get more expensive ones that include weather insurance, a glass of champagne, etc. etc. The view of London from the top is stunning:
Once we came down from The Shard, we headed off next to the Tate Museum. This wasn’t actually on our itinerary, but an impromptu visit that came up when we walked past it earlier in the day.
Honestly, I am not that big of a modern art because I just don’t “get it”. With that being said, the art is always unique, and I definitely think everyone should visit a modern art museum if they ever get the chance.
It was really late by the time we finished at Tate Modern, so we went off in search for dinner. Since we were in England, we really wanted to try a fish and chips shop. One of my coworkers (who is from London) sent me an article about the best fish and chips shops in London. Poppie’s was one of the places on this list, so we decided to give it a try. Honestly, the fish and chips here were only so-so and we wouldn’t recommend it – Poppie’s is a really popular chain, and I felt like we were kind of tourist-trapped!
Although we were stuffed from dinner, I couldn’t help but walk a block down to Cafe de Nata to buy some Portuguese custard tarts. They’re one of my favourite pastries – I grew up eating Portuguese custard tarts and the Chinese version of them too. Cafe de Nata has various flavours, from blueberry to chocolate to their original tarts. The tart shells were so flaky and the custard was soooo creamy – they were delicious warm!
That’s it for my first blog post all about our trip! In the next post, you’ll find our visit to Camden Market and the Harry Potter studio tour!