Hello, my friends! I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I keep forgetting to upload my travel blog posts. This was supposed to go up on Tuesday! Today’s post is the last post on our trip to London, which includes days 4-5 in the city. I have one more travel blog post, which will be about our three days in Amsterdam. It should be posted sometime in the next week, if not this one!
Day 4 was by far the coldest and cloudiest day of the trip. It’s kind of funny because we knew it rains a lot in London, so we prepared by packing umbrellas and waterproof jackets. The weather had been so beautiful the previous days that we didn’t bring all of our rain gear out, and it ended up pouring in the afternoon. Typical, right?
This day turned out to be a bit disorganized considering we didn’t really plan the day, other than knowing we were going to see the changing of the guards in the morning and a show in London’s West End in the evening. We ended up going back and forth around the city, which was probably not the best use of time. Our first stop of the day was at Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. It was about a 15 minute walk from our hotel, which was very handy.
Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace
Every day at 11:00am, the stone-faced guards of Buckingham palace change, and they put on quite a show in the process. Even though they change at 11, you basically have to be there an hour early to snag a prime spot, which we did not do. Just as a note, if you are interested in getting good spots to see the changing, the top of the stairs of Victoria Memorial, which is right across from Buckingham Palace, is the perfect place to see it. We caught a bit of the guards marching in, but from our vantage point, you couldn’t actually see the guards changing. We stayed for a little bit, but since we couldn’t see anything anyways, we left before the whole thing ended to avoid leaving with the crowd.
Every year (I believe it’s usually late summer, but I could be wrong), there’s always a month or two where the Queen is not in her residence, and you can book tickets into the Palace to see the state rooms. We just happened to be in the city at the right time, but we didn’t end up doing this. It might be cool to see if you are really into the royal family, though!
Hyde Park is like London’s version of NYC’s Central Park – I believe in the summer, they hold all sorts of activities here, like concerts and such. It’s a walkable distance from Buckingham Palace, so we headed in that direction after giving up on seeing the changing of the guards. It was an overcast, cool day, so there were very few people out and about, but it was still a gorgeous, lush park.
After our walk around Hyde Park, we took the Underground all the way back towards the River Thames to the Westminster area. There are a bunch of touristy sites in this area that we wanted to hit up!
The first thing we saw after getting off the Underground was Big Ben. If you’re visiting London in the next two years, please note that you won’t actually be able to see the architecture of Big Ben as it has been under major reconstruction since 2017 to 2021, to the point where everything is covered up. I saw Big Ben on my last trip to London so I didn’t feel like I missed out, but I was sad that my husband didn’t get to see this famous landmark.
Westminster Abbey is right around the corner from Big Ben, and of course we had to visit one of the most famous landmarks of London! The gothic architecture of the abbey is breathtaking, and of course it’s the site of many a royal wedding. You can also go inside the abbey if you buy tickets for roughly £21, which we opted out of.
FYI, if you’re looking for a place to take a photo with the iconic red phone booths that London is known for, there are super clean ones right across from Westminter Abbey. The rest of the phone booths around the city are often grimy and covered in graffiti, so they don’t make for the best photos.
Once we finished at Westminster Abbey, we spent some time walking along the Thames and just looking at the scenery. The London Eye, which you can see above, is such an iconic landmark!
Rosa’s Thai Cafe
Before heading off to our West End show, we went to Rosa’s Thai Cafe for dinner. We always try to avoid chains, but this place was recommended to me by my blogger friend Inaz on Instagram, and there just so happened to be one that was literally a 2 minute walk from our hotel, so we decided to give it a try. Even though it’s become a bit of a chain, Rosa’s started off as a mom-and-pop restaurant in 2006 and it did so well that it has now expanded to 10 different locations around London! I think that’s a true test of how good the food is.
After the HP studio tour, this was the second attraction that I booked right away. I had been thinking of going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but seeing as my husband isn’t a big HP fan and we were already going to the HP studio, I thought it would be a little too much HP.
Let me tell you, Hamilton was no consolation prize – I wanted to see it as much as Cursed Child. This musical has made headlines since its debut in 2015, and in its first year, it was nominated for 16 Tony Awards, of which it won 11. I remember when it first started receiving a lot of buzz, I looked up what the musical was about, and when I read “the life of American founding father Alexander Hamilton” I was like “Wow, that sounds terribly boring – hard pass”. YOU GUYS. If you’re ever in New York or London, you HAVE to go see this. Even my husband, who is not a fan of musicals (he finds it weird that they break out into song randomly), enjoyed this. The dude sitting next to him cried. The songs are an interesting mix of hip hop, R&B, and traditional musical tunes – it’s like a musical for millennials, which we saw reflected in the audience as it was a much younger crowd than in most musicals. This musical was full of great music, some unexpected laughs, and hey, I learned some things about US history!
After the show, we headed back to the hotel for another night of rest.
Our final day in London was pretty chill; a lot of it was spent shopping, and revisiting places we enjoyed, like Covent Garden and Camden Market. The morning was dedicated to exploring the British Museum. I’ve spent a lot of my blog posts saying I didn’t like a lot of the museums we visited, but I swear I love museums! If you have time to spend at only one museum in London, I would recommend the British Museum. There’s something for everyone here, including sculptures, paintings, gemstones, and famous artifacts like the Rosetta Stone.
Our afternoon was spent at Harrod’s. Harrod’s is THE iconic London department store, but it sells levels upon levels of only luxury brands that I can’t afford, which means that I wasn’t coming here for me. We didn’t really explore the store and unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos. I mainly came to find souvenirs for friends and family. If you need food while you’re here, I’ve hard their burger bar is pretty good! PS – I mentioned that our last two days were a little disorganized. Harrod’s is close to Hyde Park, so I would recommend visiting both at the same time, which is what we should have done!
After this, we headed off again to the Soho area, first to do some last minute shopping, and then to eat. The great thing about being an adult is you can eat dessert before dinner. I saw a YouTube video of an ice cream place called Yolkin near Chinatown, which offers macaron ice cream sandwiches – literally ice cream sandwiched between two huge macarons. A lot of their ice cream flavours are Asian-inspired, and I thought it’s a must-visit! Unfortunately, my photos didn’t turn out well. My husband had noticed a Japanese curry restaurant in the area earlier on the trip, and he wanted to go back and try it (still trying to find the name). This place was delicious – I wasn’t hungry at the time, but still ordered a ramen for myself, and ended up devouring it. After dinner, we headed off to Kova, also located in Chinatown, for yet another dessert. Kova is known for their matcha desserts, and we ordered a Japanese matcha crepe cake, which was so light and airy.
TIPS AND TRICKS
London’s public train system, which they call the Metro, is the easiest and most affordable way to get around. We bought the Oyster card to use on the subway (called Underground in London). It’s a card where you can pre-fill with money for the subway, and when you use all of your money up, you can refill them at any of the subway stations. You can also opt to buy a Travelcard, but after doing some research, we found this to be more expensive for how we wanted to travel around. Do your research to see which option is best for you!
The fare for subways is based on zones, with the most central areas being in zones 1, and further locations being in zones 2-6. The fare for a single ride depends on how far you go, but your subway cost is capped when you reach 8£ per day, regardless of how far you travel. Unless you are getting around in other ways and will only use the subway one or twice, most websites do not recommend that you purchase a single-use ticket, as that is the most expensive option by far.
All of the museums in London are free, which is perfect for museum lovers like us. They do ask for a donation at all of the entrances, which I think is more than fair.
London has a very fancy Explore Pass that may be useful to you if the attractions included in the pass are things you are interested in seeing. We didn’t get this because we didn’t have time to go to these on top of all of our “main” attractions, but the choice is there for you!
That rounds up our stay in London. We really loved this city, and would 100% go back again. Stay posted for my last travel blog all about our travels to Amsterdam!