One year ago today, my brother and I stepped foot in London for the very first time. It was a fantastic trip filled with tons of great sightseeing, surprise visits from friends and family, and, of course, sticky toffee pudding. On the first day of our trip, my best childhood friend and her mom gave us a tour of the city and I was so surprised by how many things we saw in such a short period of time. If you have a long weekend to spend in London, here are some suggestions!
Borough Market. If you’re a foodie like me, you will fall in love with Borough Market (you can get there via Tube on the Jubilee or Northern line, getting off at the London Bridge station). Whether you’re looking for fresh seafood, a vast array of cheeses, baked goods or a Pimms Cup, Borough Market has something for everyone’s palette. Still not sold? How about free samples? Over 100 different traders set up shop here and most of them will let you sample their cheeses, confectioneries, bread, honey, curry, etc. If you play your cards right, you can sample a full meal’s worth before you leave.
Thames River. After you’ve stuffed your face with delicious food, head towards the Thames River. There is a lot to see in this area that shouldn’t be missed. For one, the infamous Tower Bridge (not to be confused with London Bridge) is a quick 15-minute walk from Borough Market. You can walk across the bridge, but the view is just as beautiful from afar. If you walk along the South Bank, you can see some of London’s most historic landmarks including The Globe Theatre, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Millennium Bridge (Harry Potter fans, you will recognize this as the bridge that was destroyed by Death Eaters in The Half-Blood Prince). The London Eye is also along this path – we did not ride it, but it was certainly a sight to see.
Westminster. From the London Eye, you can walk along the Westminster Bridge to the other side of the Thames for more great sights. Instagrammers, it’s here where you can snap a picture of Big Ben and Parliament or take a cute photo in a red telephone booth. Continue to walk and you’ll reach Westminster Abbey. We did not do a tour of the church but the gothic style architecture was incredible to see. (Fun fact: Westminster Abbey is one of the most desirable burial sites in the UK. Countless famous figures from British history are buried here, including Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin).
Tower of London. Located on the Thames river and right alongside the beautiful Tower Bridge, lies the Tower of London, home to the English Crown Jewels. If you have a couple hours to kill, I’d suggest doing a tour of the Tower of London. My brother and I had a Beefeater (a guardian of the Tower of London) take us on a 45-minute group tour of the grounds where we learned about the Crown Jewels, the palace’s torture chambers and even got to see resident ravens perched on the walls of the tower. Disclaimer: you cannot take pictures of the Crown Jewels, but they are a spectacular sight to see.
Buckingham Palace. Visiting St. James’ Park was not originally on my to-do list, but it was a beautiful day and my best friend suggested we stroll through to get to Buckingham Palace. St. James’ Park is set in historic London and features plush gardens and a scenic lake that runs through the length of its grounds. At the western end of the park lies Buckingham Palace, which is quite the spectacle to see. Depending on the time of day, you can witness the changing of the guard ceremony, but we visited later in the afternoon when there was a smaller crowd.
Trafalgar Square. Much like St. James’ Park, Trafalgar Square was originally not on our agenda, but I am so happy we strolled through. Trafalgar Square is bustling and vibrant and offers a pretty view of the city and Big Ben (when he’s not being constructed on). If you want, you can visit the National Portrait Gallery or check out the Trafalgar Lions. The lions are among London’s most popular statues and a great place for photos.
Harrods. Did you know that each year, more than 15 million people visit Harrods? As the largest department store in Europe, a visit to Harrods is truly an experience. With over 300 main departments and over 25 bars, restaurants and cafes, it’s very easy to get lost inside. We only window shopped during our visit, but if you’re looking to do some serious credit card damage, there are plenty of opportunities to do so at Harrods.
Liberty. In the five days we spent in London, we visited Liberty three times (this is excessive, I know). But if you stepped foot in Liberty, you’d understand why. From greeting cards, to textiles, to clothing to Christmas ornaments, this posh department store has everything. If you visit during the day, their Great Marlborough St. has the most beautiful flower displays you’ve ever seen.
Dishoom. Most tourists will insist on eating fish and chips, but locals will tell you that the curry in London is really where it’s at. London has been said to have more Indian restaurants than Mumbai and their hole-in-the-wall establishments are phenomenal. We ate dinner at Dishoom one night and everything I tried was incredible (disclaimer: I had never eaten Indian food before this trip). One friendly tip, try to get there on the earlier side of the evening as a huge line will form outside. And, if you get there a little later, don’t be deterred by the line – they serve their patrons cups of tea while you wait.
High Tea at Fortnum and Mason. For those who don’t know me, I don’t drink coffee. But, I do drink A LOT of tea. So you can only imagine my excitement when my best friend suggested we get high tea in London. We made a reservation for afternoon high tea at Fortnum and Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon and it was truly a magical experience. The menu was chock-full of the most delicious tea blends, finger sandwiches, scones and tea cakes. And guess what? IT WAS ALL YOU CAN EAT!! My brother was pretty hesitant on the concept of high tea until he realized this. We also split a bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion.