My sister, Bethanie, and I fulfilled quite a few items on our bucket list this summer! We took a sisters trip to London, England and Edinburgh Scotland. We were gone 17 days and had the TIME OF OUR LIVES. I’ll break this Tips for Travelers series into a few separate posts: Our Favorites, What We Wish We Knew, Our Trip Itinerary, and a separate post for Scotland.
One of my very best friends, Carly, is in grad school at Richmond American International University in London. She painted our unity cross and caught my bouquet, remember? See more of that here.
Carly is an amazing artist and worked with London Underground and famous artists this summer to get murals in the tube underground! How cool is that?!? As my sister and I were planning our trip to London, we couldn’t find a helpful site for an itinerary online for places to go and things to do. Luckily, we were able to stay with Carly for a week and she showed us some super cool local places, but we were on our own for the majority of the 12 days we were in London. Here are our favorites that we found!!
First and foremost- Download this app!!
Favorite Helpful App: London Tube It’s crazy to me that some people don’t even know this exists! Turn off the data on your phone, but this app works even without wifi!! It was a LIFE SAVER. You type in what tube station you are at and what station you need to get to. Then this app tells you what line to take and each connection you need to take for the tube, as well as the estimated travel time. You can also download a tube map, which you can quickly memorize, but this app is a MUST HAVE because often times certain lines were closed last minute and this can give you a detour! PTL!
Also, download the Trip Advisor app. You can download London’s city guide before you leave so you can use it without wifi. It was super helpful to be able to search an attraction and read reviews on our phone without wifi.
The first place to go when you arrive: Westminster! (Especially if you are only in London for a short time!) This was our favorite area with the most to see in walking distance. As soon as we arrived, we took the tube to Westminster. As soon as we walked up and out of the station, we were bombarded with all of the iconic London structures. Right out of the Westminster tube station, you immediately see Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. Pretty sure we said “Ahhhhhh! THIS IS LONDON!”
Behind Parliament, there is a precious little park with a walking trail. It was gorgeous!
From the park, we took a loop across the bridge to the other side and down to South Bank. Here was our view along the way!
South Bank, oh how we love you! Along South Bank is where you will find the London Eye, National Theater, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, and a lot of neat street side restaurants. Drinks and food are going to be more expensive here, but it is a fun and trendy atmosphere! We walked by all of these attractions our very first day in London, but went back later and visited each of them when we had more time. Can you believe we saw all of this our first evening there? And… for one of the top moments of my trip….
Fun Fact: I’m a huge Mr. Bean fan!! This guy did a pretty good Bean impression!
Leaving South Bank, the closest tube station is Waterloo. (Love how the British say “Waterloo”!)
Our favorite area: BRICK LANE! You will need to take the DLR to Shoreditch to get to Brick Lane. If you have an oyster card with an unlimited week pass, it should cover the fare! Brick Lane is an amazing area for thrifting! It is an artsy, hipster area located in East London. Brick Lane is also known for its Bangladeshi community. We loved the funky fresh shops, but wished we could have gone to the Brick Lane Market (Sundays). My 2nd favorite meal on our trip was in Brick Lane— yummy Thai food!!
This picture is from Kinkao Thai Restaurant. It is a cute little corner restaurant with great lunch specials and excellent service. This curry meal was only 7 pounds and it was DELISH. Also, let me tell you I would fly back to London JUST FOR THE BEIGELS IN BRICK LANE. This is not a joke. The little hole in the wall Jewish beigel shops are a must. The most delicious thing you’ll ever taste is just 25 pence. You can get yours filled with any topping you can think of!
Favorite restaurant of the entire trip: Da Mario’s Italian Restaurant Take the tube to Gloucester Rd. Da Mario’s was Princess Diana’s favorite restaurant. There are several pictures of her eating there around the restaurant! Confession: We ate there twice. Seriously. When Carly’s mom visited, they ate there twice too. I ordered the same thing both times: Rigatoni Da Mario. It’s just that good. (The Gnocci Sorrentina is also fabulous.)
I could live in South Kensington/Chelsea forever. When I picture the British scenes of Parent Trap, I think they lived on this street. It is beautiful and oh so classy. The whitewashed doorsteps and sprawling flats. *Swoon.
Favorite Historical Place/Museum: Churchill War Rooms We spent over three hours in the Churchill War Rooms. This is just a short walk from the Westminster tube station. I could have stayed all day if Bethanie hadn’t dragged me out. I am fascinated with World War II. Churchill War Rooms is a section of the Imperial War Museum, but the actual Imperial War Museum was unfortunately closed for the entire month of June. (still bummed!) This self-guided tour was well-worth the 17 pounds because you got to see the cabinet war rooms (a series of underground bunkers) where Winston Churchill and several government leaders led World War II. (Like most of the museums, there is a student discount!) Everything was exactly how it was left during the war. I can’t say enough great things about this museum! This may have something to do with the fact that Winston Churchill gave his Iron Curtain speech in my hometown. We found a Fulton, MO spotting from across the pond!
This is just the tip of the iceberg. It is so hard to choose my favorites because I loved the people and history and character of the city so much. Stay tuned for an overview of our day to day itinerary, what we wish we knew, and all about Scotland!