Believe it or not, I had never been to London before! So when I found out that our cruise docked just outside of the city in Dover, I couldn’t resist the chance to stay a few extra days and explore all that it has to offer. Ideally, we would have stayed for much longer and given ourselves plenty of time to not only explore London, but also the English countryside. But because we had already been traveling for 10 days on the cruise, we didn’t want to push ourselves over the edge. Instead, we booked a long weekend in London and tried to pack in as much as possible—keep reading to see what we did!
Tower of London: Three words: The crown jewels. We were so happy we carved out the time to tour the Tower of London, and would highly recommend adding it to your itinerary as well.
London Bridge: Another bonus of the Tower of London? The views of the London Bridge.
Museums: London is filled with amazing museums, and lucky for us tourists, most of them are free. During our extended weekend in the city, we were able to visit the Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert, The Wallace Collection, and Churchill War Rooms. The British Museum was also on our bucket list but we unfortunately didn’t make it this trip. Pro tip: Definitely reserve your tickets for the Churchill War Rooms in advance, otherwise you’ll have to wait for several hours since it’s a very small space.
Historical Sites in Westminster: Within about a 3-hour window, we were able to see the Buckingham Palace (and the changing of the guard’s ceremony!), Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the House of Parliament. Unfortunately, Westminster Abbey was closed the day we were in the area but I’ve heard it’s just as spectacular on the inside as it is on the outside. As you’re making your way from one spot to the next, I’d highly recommend walking through St. James’ Park—the oldest royal park in the city—for a gorgeous place to rest your legs.
St. Paul’s Cathedral: An iconic feature of the London skyline with its huge dome, this cathedral is not to be missed.
Notting Hill: This was, by far, my favorite part of London that we visited. Simply put, it’s perfect in every way. The houses are jaw-dropping, the food is delicious, the shopping is top-notch. I easily could have spent an entire day just weaving through the streets, and wish that we had found a hotel or Airbnb in this area so we could have spent as much time as possible. With our limited time though, we were able to experience a lot—we started our Saturday morning at the Portobello Road antiques market and then made our way to St. Luke’s Mews and Chepstow Villas for beautiful pastel homes. Of course, we also did a lot of shopping so check out that section below for more.
Hyde Park and Kensington Palace: Looking for a peaceful way to spend a couple hours? Look no further than Hyde Park. The park is absolutely huge and there are so many pleasant spots, but we really enjoyed sitting on the lounge chairs by the pond and passing by Kensington Palace.
Columbia Road Flower Market: Depending on where you’re staying in London, this might be quite the trek for you but it is so worth it. After all, just think about all of the Instagram photo ops you’ll get while you’re on the subway over! If you do want to go, take note that it happens on Sunday mornings and it’s best if you get there early when the flowers are fresh. After admiring and smelling all of the flowers, you can then explore the Shoreditch neighborhood (more on that below in the shopping section).
Redchurch Street: Located in Shoreditch, a hip neighborhood in East London akin to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Redchurch Street is filled with cool shops. We spent a couple of hours popping into stores like Labour and Wait, Modern Society, Goodhood, and Aida, and exploring through this up-and-coming part of town.
Spitalfields Market: Not too far from Shoreditch is Spitalfields market—a very cool indoor market filled with lots of vendors and delicious food.
Harrods: Wow. Just, wow. Never have I ever been in a such a chic and upscale department store. While you’re roaming through the halls, be sure to not miss “Shoe Heaven” or the food court.
Notting Hill: While you’re in Notting Hill, definitely walk up and down Westbourne Grove for great shopping opps.
Chiltern Street: This quaint street is very small but is filled with some amazing spots—including clothing shops and restaurants.
Breakfast and Coffee:
Coppa Club: Not only does this spot have delicious food, but also unbeatable views of the London Bridge. Plus, just look at the comfy set up of their pods!
Farm Girl: I had seen this place all over Instagram before coming to London and knew that I wanted to check it out for myself. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
Albion: While we were in Shoreditch, we popped into Albion for some coffee and light bites, and loved it!
Borough Market: I’d give this market, which is one of the largest and oldest in London, an A+. Come for the grilled cheese from Kappacasein, and stay for just about everything else you could imagine.
Ottolenghi: As a lover of the Plenty cookbooks, I was very excited to learn that Ottolenghi had several restaurants throughout the London. As we were walking through Notting Hill, we stumbled into one and picked up a few goodies for the road.
Pubs: It goes without saying that a crucial part of the authentic London travel experience is pubs. With one on just about every corner, you’ll have many options to choose from on any given day.
Chiltern Firehouse: Upon learning that this is where Kate Moss comes for a glass of wine with friends, I knew I needed to check it out too. We made a reservation for dinner in the restaurant, but you could also just go for drinks on the patio.
The Palomar: Speaking of places that require a reservation, The Palomar is no exception to that rule. With tasty Middle Eastern bites right in the middle of the Mayfair neighborhood, this trendy spot will not disappoint.
Dishoom: I had read about this Indian restaurant on just about every single travel blog I encountered, so I made it a priority to try. While Indian food isn’t my favorite cuisine, I still really enjoyed our meal (and the ambience!) here.
High tea is an absolute must when in London—it’s just so fun to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Sketch is the spot that just about everyone and their mom talks about, and while it’s certainly worth the hype, Charlotte Street Hotel is an excellent (and more affordable) option.
All in all, London was absolutely perfect. We could not have asked for better weather and left the city feeling oh-so-excited to return someday.