I recently returned from an amazing vacation with my husband. In 2 weeks we visited 3 countries and I’m still wishing we were on our adventure! The first leg of the trip was London, United Kingdom.
Travel to London, United Kingdom
What I loved about London was that it was somewhat like Toronto only with prettier buildings and people with cool accents all around me! Seriously, I know the point of travelling is to head to places where the culture is different and to learn new things, but there’s something to be said about feeling comfortable in a big city and knowing that at any point you can ask for help and not be worried about misunderstandings.
There are many airlines you can take to get to London, but since Iceland was one of our stops (more on that in another post!) we flew with IcelandAir. There are direct flights to London from Toronto via IcleandAir, but when I finally got around to booking our flights there were no direct flights available; we ended up having a short 1 hour layover in Iceland which turned out to be a blessing for us, since we both aren’t used to long flights.
When we finally did arrive in London, we landed in Gatwick airport. I was told by friends and through online research that the best way to get to Gatwick airport to our hotel in Holborn was to take a train direct from Gatwick to Kings Cross at Pancras then take the Piccadilly line to Holborn station.
Now…seeing as how this was our first trip to Europe and we had no idea how far away the airport was to our destination and we had 2 weeks of luggage with us…trying to figure out the train and the tube wasn’t very appealing. We sucked it up and took a cab. It cost us £90!!! According to my exchange calculator that cab ride set us back $183 CAD before we really even started our trip. Lesson learned but I still think we made the right choice. If we had less luggage to navigate or were more familiar with the city then I think we could have handled the public transportation.
Where to Stay:
There are many hotel choices in London – you won’t have trouble finding anything. It really all depends on the neighborhood you want to be in and of course budget. On our list of things to see was the National Gallery. We also wanted to be within walking distance of many of the attractions so we didn’t have to necessarily have to rely on the tube. I also looked into airbnb’s but many of them weren’t right in the city although they were close to stations.
After much research on Trip Advisor we settled on the Premier Inn London Holborn Hotel. It was in a great location (about a 15 to 20 minute walk to every major attraction we wanted to hit), it was clean and had enough room. Many of the hotels I looked up in London were TINY. We really only spent our evenings in the hotel room but the secret to a happy marriage is allowing for some personal space 😉
Where to Eat:
London is a very expensive city. In fact according to this article from VanCity Buzz it ranks 12th in the world! Since we had already spent so much on our taxi ride we were pretty weary of where to eat but eventually we just had to accept defeat and gave in to the fact that everything was just going to be pricier.
It was hard to miss the “fast food” chain called Pret a Manger since there was literally one at every corner! While not the most inexpensive place around, it served really fresh and healthy foods that any traveler can appreciate. Normally when on the go, fruits and vegetables can be hard to come by! We ended up eating at Pret at least once a day. It seemed to be extremely popular with the locals heading off to work or popping in for lunch too.
We also found an amazing Middle Eastern place called Hiba Express where huge portions of incredible food was served at really reasonable prices. We sadly only discovered it on our last night – I would suggest you check it out early in your trip so you can go back for more!
What to Do:
The great thing about London is that just simply walking around is entertainment on its own. There are so many beautiful buildings to look at and if you happen to be there during a weekend you’ll probably catch an event or show of some type happening in the city.
We happened to run smack into the Tour of Britain and just enjoyed watching the race for a while. My husband used to race road bikes so many of our early years together were spent at similar races.
Be sure to check out the many galleries and museums. We went to the National Gallery and the British Museum and both were free to get into! They of course ask that you make a donation should you wish to do so but there’s no pressure. It’s a great way to spend the day or even just to duck in and look at some art if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Shop at Harrods – or rather browse. It’s a beautiful but very expensive department store but it’s definitely an experience! We spent quite a while in the Christmas section just gawking at all the unique items they had. It’s also home to a Lauderée if your sweet tooth should happen to kick in while you’re there.
See Buckingham Palace. We didn’t have time for a tour but I still think it’s a must see. It WILL be overrun with other tourists so just be prepared! St. James park is right next to it – we had hot chocolate and just sat on the wall people watching 🙂
Ride the London Eye. It’s pricey (£23 per adult) but the 30 – 40 minute ride give you the best views of the city! It’s a nice relaxing way to take in the city from above.
While there are SO many other things to do in London we only had 2.5 days there – but I think we accomplished a lot! If you’ve been to London I’d love for you to share your experience with me in the comments!
Oh I love pret soooo much! Used to get my breakfast there every morning when I was studying…and on our recent trip we noticed they had even more healthy options – and Italy tasted so good!!!
Also a big fan of Premier Inn for clean and spacious rooms – loved your recap!
“It all” not “Italy” lol!
Ahhh so glad you agree with my picks! Since it was my first time it was hard to know if I made the right choices or not – it’s always a risk with travel! I’m so happy everything turned out well 🙂 And haha – yes “it all” but Italy DID taste good 😛
This was great to read as I am planning a trip to London in about a year. I am certainly glad to know where to get my coffee. And I especially love the first photo you have, very nice shot! http://www.yummomummo.com
Amazing! I hope you have a great time! If you have any questions let me know. My time there was short but would love to help if I can 🙂
Beautiful! I would love to visit Europe someday and see Buckingham Palace and other castles. Sounds like you had an awesome experience there. Smart thinking to get a hotel in walking distance from all the things you wanted to see. Thanks for the tips 🙂
You definitely need to go!
Loved this post! This brought back major London memories of when I was there last year. I’m pretty sure we did the exact same things haha. And I feel ya about the food prices in the city. I went to visit a friend who was living outside London, and when I went to her town at the very last leg of my trip everything there was like half the price. They really jack them up there..
Hey Shayna! I was wondering about that…if they really do change the prices cuz generally everything in Toronto vs the suburbs is the same. Good to know! And I’m so glad I brought back good memories for you
Hiba Express looks delicious, I’ll have to remember to visit there next time I’m in the capital! xxx
It was so good! You need to go!
I love your pictures and details on your trip to London which is on my travel wish list someday!
Thank you Ursula – so glad you liked the post! You definitely need to visit – I need to go back!
Hey hun 🙂
I’ve been to London many many times, yet, reading your post makes me want to go again and follow your advice on everything! You described your adventure in a way that allows us to live the whole experience. Thanks Elaine and hopefully we can meet there one day 🙂 After all, London is one of the cities that I’ll never get enough of!
Thank you for stopping by Hanadi! I’m so glad you liked the post and it’s so great that you’ve been there before! I hope to go again one day soon too 🙂
What a wonderful trip you had! I haven’t been to London in a long time, and I know they have been changes that I’d love to experience. I used to go with some regularity and I miss it. My first few trips to London were business trips and we always had a fabulous time. I even got my hair first dyed red in London at Vidal Sassoon in Sloan Square. I need to go back to the National Gallery. So lovely to see your photos and hear the highlights of your trip
Oh so fun that you’ve been to the Vidal Sassoon there too! I’m sure there have been a ton of changes like any big city. I hope to go back again soon!