“London, Baby!” Yes, years later and you can still have a London itinerary Joey Tribiani style. London solo travel is all about fun, history, famous sights and visiting with locals. This London plan is easy to adapt to your interests and is good in any weather, and believe me, you’ll no doubt have lots of interesting weather.
Enjoy this easy London itinerary and let us know if you have any questions about our suggestions. This itinerary is so easy because it puts our best things to do in London into an easy plan for four days. It’s a fun city to explore, and there are familiar sights around every corner it seems.
First Moments in London, Sightseeing on Foot
Head straight for the River Thames. Most of the iconic buildings and movie scenes you’ll recognize in London take place along the Thames. This also will give you the chance to get a physical understanding of everything’s location and sort update your plans accordingly.
Take time when you first arrive in London to walk the riverbank and get a feel for the city. You’ll be glad you did, both for the practical understanding and to begin your easy London itinerary on the right foot.
Easy Things to Do in London (and cheap!)
The great thing about our easy London itinerary is that it’s full of inexpensive, and actually mostly free, activities around the city. A trip to London can be expensive, so be wise about your spending. Instead of sticking to the main historic core that focuses on the Monarchy and Royal tourism, our London sightseeing plan visits cool and interesting cultural spots too, spots that you’ll recognize from movie scenes or famous events, and gets into neighborhoods.
And we’ve got some wonderful musuems to explore too, because you can’t get to know a city without spending time in the unique parts of town.
Should I get the London Pass?
Should you get the London Pass for sightseeing around town? That’s a great question and ultimately it depends on what you want to put on your London itinerary. If you want to do every museum and special tour, the nearly $100 USD cost will save you money. You’ll have access to the Tower of London, hop-on-hop-off tours, a boat tour and much more. Already with that, you’re at the cost of the London Pass.
If you’re goal is to do sightseeing in London on a budget but big ticket tours and sights AREN’T on your plan, then it’s not a good choice. There are plenty of free things to do, including famous museums, so if you would rather explore on foot and visit the public places (including the British Museum and libraries) then just do that. You’ll find free things in many cities as you explore beyond the UK, and if you’re doing Europe with kids, plan on hitting as many of them as possible.
I feel that the London Pass provides a great value if you are spending three days or more in town. You’ll recover the cost within a day or two of using the London Pass.
The Royal, Historic Core: Museums and Famous Sights
The historic core of London is remarkable. Whether you’re a monarchist or not, visiting the historic sites and seeing Buckingham Palace is really something. You’ll also love the free museums in the area.
National Portrait Gallery
Have you ever visited a place and been like “Um, I’ve seen all of this before…” but it’s not deja vu? Yeah, that was me walking into the National Portrait Gallery in London. It’s full of the portraits that you’ve seen in history books or on television when they’re talking about historical figures from before photography.
The two best exhibits, IMHO, were the Tudors Gallery and the room where the famous portrait of George III is placed… right by the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington (the one on the $1 bill). I chuckled as I walked through the gallery.
Trafalgar Square and Whitehall
Since I’m a walker, I kept walking my way across London. When you travel without kids getting sidetracked and wandering is much easier. From Chinatown and wove my way through the streets until I was in Piccadilly Circus. Said to be the busiest place in all of London, it wasn’t what I expected. I was thinking it would be like Times Square in NYC, but it was very mellow without tons of street performers and hustlers. Actually, it was kind of a cool place to watch London go by.
From there though, it was onto Trafalgar Square. I didn’t necessarily want to hit all of the famous tourist sites at once, but I learned something: they all get grouped together as what you do because they’re all right next to each other and it’s just so easy and efficient. Trafalgar Square was similar to Piccadilly but nicer. This is where the National Gallery, Lord Nelson’s Column, the Church of St Martin in the Fields… they’re all here. Oh yeah!!
Choral or Chamber Music at St Martins in the Fields
I’d heard of the Church of St Martin in the Fields before even researching London because one of my favorite radio programs often plays pieces recorded there. I popped into the church and they just happened to be practicing chamber music for a Bach concert later that night. It was perfect. I got to sit in this beautiful, old church and listen to some of my favorite classical pieces. This is actually what completely sold me on London.
Whether it’s stopping into St Martins in the Fields or another church, little moments like this are quick to add to your easy London itinerary.
Evensong at Westminster Abbey
Just like with St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey also does Evensong! All of the same info applies to Westminster Abbey regarding cost to get it (25 pounds), no photography, and participating or observing a religious service. It’s worth it, and since there’s an epic organ in Westminster, you get a totally different musical experience. Add this to your plans, especially if you’re visiting London with kids.
Note: whichever cathedral you’re looking to visit for Evensong, be sure you’re clear when you arrive that you are there FOR SERVICE. If you say that you just want to go in, they won’t let you, but if you’re clear that you’re there for church you’re good to go.
Horse Guards and Horse Parade
Wow, what unique thing to do or observe! The Horse Guards and the Horse Parade are a very unusual changing of the guard ceremony. Watch from across Whitehall as the guards change out, or move over to the parade grounds to see the complete ceremony. It’s a piece of living history.
Strolling Through St James Park
Something wonderful about London is how many lavish parks there are. St James Park leads from Whitehall to Buckingham Palace and is the perfect place to stroll and observe the swans and take photos. It’s picturesque and is the perfect break from walking the city streets.
Visiting St James Park is the perfect way to get from the main drag of Whitehall and Parliament Square to Buckingham Palace.
Visiting Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is truly iconic, and you can always stop by and see it. While Buckingham Palace isn’t open to the public all the time, in the summer you can actually tour a good number of the state rooms and grounds. You need to reserve your spot to tour the palace and space is very limited, but if it’s important to you and you’re visiting London from July through October, you may just get to go inside!
How/When to see the Queen or Royal Family
Since it’s unlikely that you’ll get to see the Her Majesty, the Queen when you visit Buckingham Palace, if that’s something you’re hoping for, you need to research in advance if there are any events happening while you’re in London. Openings, public investitures, commemorations or holidays may present opportunities to see a member of the Royal Family.
I was able to see Her Majesty, the Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince Harry and Meghan, and Prince William and Kate all at once! I was across from Westminster Abbey on Commonwealth Day and was able to see the whole Royal Family (minus Prince Philip) as they arrived and departed for the day’s events. You’ll be glad you did your research if you can cross a royal sighting off your London bucket list!
Churchill War Rooms
While visiting the Churchill War Rooms isn’t something for everybody, if you’re into WWII history it’s a must-do. Both a fascinating museum and a well preserved slice of time, the Churchill War Rooms are a very unique sight in comparison with most of the things to do in London.
You do need to reserve your tickets in advance as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to walk up and gain entry. It’s a pretty penny (L28) so be sure it’s something you are really into before adding it to your London itinerary.
North London and Historic Culture
Before visiting London, I had such high hopes of getting to relive all my Harry Potter dreams, and some of them you can make come true. North London is such an unassuming part of the city, with both historic sites and iconic places. Spending time here is a must, and is an important part of our easy London itinerary.
The British Museum
Studying history and art and art history I’d always seen all kinds of artifacts and ancient art that noted being part of the British Museum collection. Well, we went and saw all of it. Wow. Truthfully, the British Museum is a little overwhelming, but it’s really cool. Our primary goal was to check out the Egyptian collection, but we ended up getting to learn about Vikings, ancient Chinese art, Greek culture and artifacts and more.
Tip: since the British Museum is free, if you’re going to have a few days in London, visit twice for short amounts of time. There’s just so much and museum fatigue sets it really quickly.
The British Library isn’t a tenth as comprehensive at the British Museum, but it does have some cool history to check out. Referred to as “treasures” there’s a special room on the second floor of the British Library (what the Brits call the first floor) that is loaded with history. From Leonardo Da Vinci’s notes and drawings to the Beatles’ lyric scribbles, illuminated manuscripts from Lindisfarne (think bejeweled books) to the Magna Carta.
While you don’t need to plan out a whole day for the British Library, an hour+ is a great idea. It’s close to Kings Cross / St Pancras anyways, so you might as well visit and see some nifty history.
Kings Cross Station aka Platform 9 ¾
I wish I had an awesome picture of me pushing my luggage through the wall at Kings Cross Station in London, but no. We found Platform 9 ¾, which is where students heading to Hogwarts (Harry Potter) would be able to enter the magical train platform to board the Hogwarts Express… but everybody else in London also found it. The wait to get a picture was crazy so it didn’t happen.
Tip: get there as early in morning as you can so you don’t have to wait. And don’t forget your house scarf and your wand.
Note: there is a Harry Potter store directly adjacent to the platform and a photographer there to take your picture if you’d like to purchase.
Soho Square and the Chinatown area
I’ve got a friend who works in the Soho Square neighborhood, so it seemed like a good idea to go say hey before playing tourist got too crazy. Really cool place, and it just happens to be the gayborhood. In addition to there being what looked like some fun night spots (didn’t get to go out in Soho at all), there were loads of street food stalls and farm stands. The Street Food Union happens in Soho and you can find nearly anything you want for lunch.
My favorite street food from the stalls: the Yorkshire Pudding Burrito. It’s a Yorkshire pudding (bready type thing) loaded up with meat, potatoes, spinach and sauce, and then tightly wrapped in paper and grilled through the paper. OMG. Clearly, not the healthiest lunch option but it was delicious.
The Chinatown area of London is really cool. Nearly as large as Chinatown in San Francisco, London’s is very different. Think proper British shops for herbs and meats and such… but Chinese. Also, there was no shortage of restaurant or food option in Chinatown.
See a Broadway Show in London’s Covent Garden or West End
London is known the world over for having amazing Broadway shows, both originals and stage shows originating in America. Near Soho you’ll find the West End theaters among countless restaurants and botiques. In the Covent Garden area, very near the Embankment, Leicester Square and the Thames, there are even more theaters and performance halls.
I attended a production of 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and loved the historic setting. I also appreciated that theater tickets in London are less expensive than in New York City.
East London Things to Do
Since the Thames is a wiggly river like a snake, you may or may not need to cross it several times in a day. With things to do on both sides of the river in different areas, you’ll get to experience lots of cool bridges and views. Starting at the Millennium Bridge, recognizable from the opening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince when the death eaters crash the bridge into the river, and then moving north and east you’ll find plenty of things to do. And pubs.
Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral
On the tip of my buddy Backpack With Brock, I made sure to visit St Paul’s Cathedral before 5pm so I could catch the Evensong service. I’m not religious, but I really wanted to have this experience. Because churches know that tourists are there to see them and oogle them, they can charge for entry just a museum would, but visiting for Evensong they cannot charge for, as it’s a religious service.
Tip: not only is Evensong a great way to hear some beautiful music in a beautiful place, but being a free way to get to go inside some of the historic churches, and knowing that St Paul’s is about 18 pounds per person to actually tour, so this is a really great way for families to visit.
Everyday, St Paul’s and others do an Evensong service that is open to the public. It’s usually short (less than an hour) and you’re welcome to be a part of it, even if you don’t want to pray or anything. This is NOT an opportunity to take pictures because photography isn’t allowed inside, but you get to take in the whole experience instead.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre is famous, historically and for being featured in films (think Shakespeare in Love). While the original is no longer in existence, the reconstructed Globe Theater in the Southwark neighborhood (said “suh-therk”) is a great place to catch a Shakespeare play or other performance in a cool theater atmosphere.
London’s Tower Bridge
To me Tower Bridge is the most iconic sight in all of London. It’s beautiful, it’s interesting, it’s historic, it’s the setting for the climax of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr… Actually, it is amazing. Located directly next to the Tower of London, you can’t miss Tower Bridge. Plan your visit by starting on the Southwark side of the Thames, then walk across Tower Bridge on your way to visit the Tower of London.
Visiting the Tower of London
The Tower of London grounds and museum are really cool, but can be quite busy. Yes, this is where you can see the famous Crown Jewels and other incredible British history artifacts and sites, but if the crowds aren’t your thing, there’s plenty to see outside.
Note: the Tower of London is NOT Big Ben and the tower at Parliament. The Tower of London is a small castle on the north bank of the Thames. It’s famous for being the place to send royals before execution and has a place in countless pieces of literature.
Columbia Road Flower Market
What a cool community event. On Columbia Road in East London there is a picturesque London street lined with small shops and cafes, and on Sundays a flower market shows up for the length of the street. Think of an American style farmers market, but it’s British and it’s all flowers, bot potted and cut. The Columbia Road Flower Market is both beautiful and fun! It’s a must on your easy London itinerary.
Everybody and their mother was there. With kids it would’ve been difficult to manage because it was so tight, but doing it alone I was able to navigate and explore.
Tip: if you’re thinking about doing the Columbia Road flower market, plan on brunch too. Yes, everybody else will be doing brunch at the same time, but it’s a perfect pairing. I went to The Birdcage and enjoyed the pub atmosphere for breakfast. And good Benedicts.
Street Art and Brick Lane, Shoreditch
Shoreditch has become quite famous in recent years for its street art and fun, funky feel. Probably the most eclectic neighborhood I encountered in London, I made sure to spend lots of time there. It’s an important part of our easy London itinerary because it’s such a different side of the city in comparison to Buckingham Palace and Notting Hill.
Brick Lane, the main thoroughfare from Aldgate, it full of restaurants, many of which are Bengali, Turkish and Indian. As you explore, you’ll find street art and murals in the alleyways and side streets. Spitalfields Market, the bowling alley, and several neighborhood shop complexes make Shoreditch a fun place to hang out instead of playing tourist all day.
Dinner and Drinks in Shoreditch
It’s nice to have friends in the city you’re visiting. Several of us met up in Shoreditch, since that’s where we all were staying or live. We had dinner and drinks at Dirty Bones, which was pretty tasty. You can never go wrong with Brussels sprouts being prepared in a new way. Or roasted lamb on you fries.
Moving down the street a bit we happened into the Cocktail Trading Company which was both fascinating and over the top. Each drink is served in a unique way with some of the strangest recipes. Mine was some sort of watermelon tequila something rater that came in a lotus flower martini glass, while another in out group had something from a take-out box, and yet another had a tin can and an airmail envelope with ingredients in it. Very strange but totally fun.
London Pubs and Breweries
Of course there were pubs but there was a brewery in the mix too. Here’s the lowdown on my thoughts/experiences with pubs and beer in London:
- Remember that as a standard British beer is served at room temperature. This often highlights the flaws of a beer. Run with that.
- The atmosphere of a pub is really friendly and anybody might talk to you, so be ready for it. Anybody in London that just read that statement is probably like “What is he talking about?” Remember, I’m American and just walk around smiling at everyone but I don’t want to talk to anyone.
- Lastly, everything is more expensive in London. You might think that a pint for 5 is a good deal… but remember that 5 is actually pounds, not dollars.
The spots I enjoyed the most were:
- Brew by the Numbers – under the Overground train line in the Bermondsey neighborhood
- The Lord Raglan – right by St Paul’s Cathedral and so very British
- The Rose Public House – near the London Bridge tube station (and they had good food too)
Night on the town: Thirsty Thursdays
Thirsty Thursdays is a thing. Apparently everybody grabs beverages on Thursday evenings after work and they all chill. We popped into several pubs and they were all pretty stacked. We did manage to find a few quieter places for our relaxing evening. The Ten Bells across from Spitalfields Market was great with lots of indoor space and actual COLD BEER. Yes, the UK likes their beer tepid… and um, no.
We rounded out our evening of exploring Shorditch with admiring lots of cool street art, spying in on a Jack the Ripper tour (next visit…), and then having wine and truffle fries at All Star Lanes (not like the one in Bremerton, WA at all). It was a great first day and night in London.
Jack the Ripper Museum and Tours
This may not be for everybody, but a very popular East London thing to do is a Jack the Ripper tour or to visit the museum. Famous for killing several women in London in 1888, there’s so much mystery behind Jack the Ripper that tours run day and night, taking you through some of the creepy, dark back alleys while you hear stories of murder and mutilation.
This is NOT my type of London activity but you can’t talk about Shoreditch and East London without mentioning Jack the Ripper.
Northwest London: English Culture and Markets
You don’t just end up in the northwest portion of London, but you need to plan to head there. If you’re playing tourist for your easy London itinerary, you’ll no doubt put things to do on your plan like having tea and visiting Abbey Road or Notting Hill. This is the area for all of that! Also, there are some unique sights and things to do in northwest London that you’ll really love and probably haven’t heard of.
Camden Locks and Market
I love this part of London. Exit the tube station at Camden Town and immediately find yourself in a vintage clothing and artist market dream. Booths from locals make this street market a fun, unique thing to do on an easy London itinerary. Not far from the street market you’ll find the Locks, connecting this part of the city to the main river, the Thames.
Wander through the shops and cafes around the old locks and be sure to do a gin tasting along the way, because gin distilling and London go hand in hand.
Tip: if Half Hitch Micro Distillery is open, do a gin tasting and enjoy some of the best gin I’ve ever had.
Stroll through Primrose Hill and Regents Park
You’ll find that the neighborhoods near the River Thames are very industrial and urban, but as you leave the downtown core of London you’ll discover another side of the city. Moving away from the Camden Locks area, you’ll come to Primrose Hill and Regents Park. Primrose Hill is full of gorgeous, colorful row houses and Queen Anne style London homes.
Be respectful of those who live in Primrose Hill, but be sure to snap some very Instagram-worth pics as you make your way to Regents Park and up over the hill. It’s a beautiful area to explore on foot and a great way to see a different side of London.
Iconic Abbey Road Crossing
My dear friend Sarah (Girls that Scuba, Coffee With a Slice of Life) surprised me with adding Abbey Road crossing to our easy London itinerary. She didn’t tell me where we were going until I realize, “Wait! I know that crosswalk!” A bit out of the way, the Abbey Road Crossing is a must-visit for music and pop culture lovers.
If you want to cross at Abbey Road (like every other tourist) you’ll have to wait in line and wait for there to be no cars, but you can do it. Be patient and your photo op will come.
Have Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea really is one of the most British things you can do. We have had tea many times in Victoria, British Columbia because that’s the thing to do when in Victoria who boasts being “more British than Britain.” So, being in England having afternoon tea really is required. You’ll find many places for tea all around the city, typically in hotels or tea rooms, but the closer you are to the iconic historic sites, the more costly tea service will be.
While you’re out in the neighborhoods of London, particularly in northwest London, such as Primrose or Notting Hills, you’ll find lots of great afternoon tea options. Try to make a reservation if you can so that you don’t miss it on your easy London itinerary.
Tea Recommendation: the Colonnade Hotel London
Located between Regents Park and Notting Hill, the Colonnade Hotel London does a wonderful afternoon tea service. It’s nice but not over the top fancy. Really, a tea service like this is perfect to have on your London itinerary. Comprises of finger sandwiches, scones and crème, and small desserts afternoon tea can be either a complete meal or a filling snack. It’s a must and you’ll love it.
Little Venice and Rembrandt Gardens
Not an enormous place to explore, but nice to peek at Little Venice and the Rembrandt Gardens are beautiful. Willows, flowers, park benches and bridges make this part of the Regents and Grand Union Canals picture perfect. Very different from actual Venice, Italy you’ll find houseboats and walkways along the water ideal for an afternoon visit.
Portobello Road Market from Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Another fun market, the Portobello Road Market has become quite touristy and not as vintage as movies have made it out to be. It’s NOT like Diagon Alley from Harry Potter even though it’s sometimes portrayed that way. Still, it’s a fun stop and there are some cool buildings and historic spots in the area.
Notting Hill (but without Hugh Grant)
Notting Hill has always been one of my favorite movies, so getting to visit was important for my easy London itinerary. A quick walk from Portobello Road or a longer walk from Regents Park, this colorful neighborhood is just what you want it to be: quietly bustling, cute shops, parks… but no, there is not a Travel Book Shop like in the movie Notting Hill. That’s okay though, the Notting Hill market and the cafes make visiting still worthwhile.
The Easy London Itinerary
Each trip to London will be different, particularly based on the season and what outdoor activities are available, but these are the basic themes for an easy London itinerary:
- Prime British history sites – ideally the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Parliament…
- Must-visit London museums – National Gallery, the British Museum, WB Studio Tour, Natural History Museum, British Library…
- Looking to view the original Declaration of Independence sent to England in 1776? Good luck, because it’s not in the British Library as previously though. What’s believed to be THE Declaration of Independence sent to King George III is actually in Chichester (an hour and a half train ride southwest of London) at the West Sussex County Council. And no, it’s not on public display.
- Iconic London sights kids will know – this includes St Paul’s, King’s Cross station, the royal guards and mews at Buckingham Palace, river cruise on the Thames, a tea experience…
- London on Stage – Broadway style, a visit to the Globe, music at Royal Albert…
- Just beyond London – Hampton Court, Canterbury, Dover, Brighton…
As you pick and choose the best London activities for your own easy itinerary, remember that you can enjoy different sites and museums in an abridged way, meaning as a short visit or without doing a lengthy tour. Enjoy as much as you can, but don’t feel the need to conquer all of London on your first trip.
Day 1 – London History and Iconic Sights
It’s so difficult to make a travel plan that crosses off so much of a rather epic bucket list, but we’ve done it.. Your first day of exploring the city is immersing you history and the beautiful side of the Monarchy. Our easy London itinerary begins with visiting the most iconic sights in London.
Start at the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square. It seems like all of London will go by as you walk and pop into the Church of St Martin in the Fields (hopefully you’ll get a concert!).
As you continue down Whitehall you can watch the changing of the guards and the Horse Parade. It’s so wonderfully British and such a unique thing to do in London. Visit the Churchill War Rooms (reservations recommended or required). Beyond, you’ll come to Parliament Square and Big Ben, and then Westminster Abbey.
At Westminster Abbey, either do the ticketed tour or visit for Evensong (amazing!), and be sure to checkout the additional chapels and yards. Move onto St James Park for a beautiful stroll full of swans and flowers before you get to Buckingham Palace. An amazing sight to say the least.
- The National Gallery
- St Martin-in-the-Fields
- Trafalgar Square
- Horse Guards
- Horse Guards Parade
- Churchill War Rooms
- Parliament Square Garden
- Westminster Abbey
- St James’s Park The Park Bridge
- Buckingham Palace
Day 2 – Culture, People Watching and Art
One of my favorite things to do on any trip, which is why it’s a part of our easy London itinerary, is to people watch and enjoy legit spectacles. That’s what this day of the London travel plan is all about. Yes, we’re visiting some of the best sightseeing spots in London, but it’s also just fun.
Starting the day at King’s Cross Station, see where the crossroads of England intersect… and watch countless people try to push their luggage trolley through the wall at Platform 9 3/4. Grab a coffee then head to the nearby British Library. While it is very much a library it’s also EPIC in terms of its museum collection. And then the British Museum is amazing too, despite its history (ie: pillaging every other country).
Pop through Soho Square and grab some street food before making your way to St Paul’s Cathedral for the Evensong. After the service and enjoying the spectacular St Pauls, head to Covent Garden or Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for a show. Perfect end to an easy London day.
- King’s Cross St. Pancras
- The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 3/4
- The British Library
- The British Museum
- Soho Square
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Shakespeare’s Globe
- Theatre Royal Drury Lane
- Covent Garden
Day 3 – East London and Shoreditch
This afternoon stroll includes sights of the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, the Shard, countless churches, loads of pubs (I tried to visit every single one), and lots of street food and wonderful Indian and Bengali food options. Allow yourself three hours to get wander this loop on foot.
From the River Thames, head towards Brick Lane and the Shoreditch neighborhood for really cool street art, unique shops and public market spaces, and eventually the Columbia Road Flower Market (wow!)
Finish your day with a Jack the Ripper tour, learning about London’s notorious serial killer and the ghosts left behind. I know, this is totally touristy, but also totally fun and fascinating.
- Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- Brick Lane
- Columbia Road Flower Market
- Spitalfields Market
- Jack The Ripper Museum & Tour
Day 4 – Quiet London, Cool Culture
Start your day with a train ride in the Tube to Camden Town. Here you’ll find pop artists, vintage clothes booths, and so much more. Have tea within the Camden Locks markets and shops before making your way through the Primrose Hill neighborhood and Regents Park.
You’ll pass by Abbey Road, and while you may have to wait with the other fans, you too can cross the street like the Iconic Beatles album cover. Enjoy afternoon tea at one of the hotels (I loved the Colonnade Hotel for tea!) and then visit the Little Venice area with gardens and canals.
Finish out the day at Portobello Road and Notting Hill. I know, how very Hollywood can you get? But there’s a reason sites like this are iconic. Enjoy the neighborhoods and people!
- Camden Lock Market
- Primrose Hill
- Abbey Road crossing
- Afternoon Tea – Colonnade Hotel London
- Little Venice Island Gardens
- Portobello Road Market
- Notting Hill Farmers’ Market
London Travel Journal: experience of GETTING there
Flying out of Seattle I was on Norwegian air. They’re new to SeaTac and pretty great. Norwegian Air is considered a budget airline, but I was on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner and it was delightful. The service was great and my ticket did come with baggage and meal service so I was good to go.
We got into London Gatwick more than 30 minutes early, so customs was pretty fast. The agent totally grilled me though about my plans and questioned if I’d booked a ticket home yet. He chatted me up for about four minutes and then started asking about home… and then finally gave me my stamp and let me go. I think customs agents enjoy stressing people out sometimes.
Since I stayed in the Shorditch area of London, my friend sent me several options for the easiest way to get there from Gatwick. I opted to take the Thameslink to Blackfriars and then walk the rest of the way. It was only about 40 minutes walk and it was a beautiful morning, so why not!
Getting my bearings in London
The best way to get comfortable in a new city and to start off on the right foot is to go for a walk. So what if I still had my huge backpack, London waits for no man!
Soon after picking a walking route I came to one the most iconic buildings of my childhood: St Paul’s Cathedral. Why is this place special for me? Um, hello. This is where the lonely old bird woman fed the birds in Mary Poppins. I will say that it’s not exactly as I’d hoped to find it. It wasn’t sooty and pigeon laden, which I guess is good, but it was still beautiful.
Once I’d snapped enough pictures and did the obligatory red phone booth selfie, I made my way to the Shorditch neighborhood. I wound through all kinds of cool side streets and narrow alleys. I went through the Bengali neighborhood and the the fabric district. It was wonderfully cool and totally different from wandering the streets of Paris.
To make it even better, when I got to my friend’s flat, her amazing dog, Winston, was excited to see me and required that we go walking as well. London through a dog’s eyes is much faster and crazy. He took me to see his favorite park, his favorite lamp posts and then back home. Good times. Thanks for the tour, Winston.
And then I laid down on my bed for five minutes of rest. Actually, it ended up being five hours. But it’s all good because that gave me the energy I needed to explore just a bit more on my own.
Learning the Tube – London Underground
I didn’t use the London Underground at all on my first day because I really wanted to get a feel for the city and start to understand how it’s laid out. Mission: quasi accomplished. I mean, London is a maze just like Paris or Venice, but it is much easier to figure out once you know a few landmarks. So then the tube…
Firstly, I found that using an Oyster Card (like Seattle’s Orca Card) was the easiest and probably most cost effective way to use the Underground. My home base in Shoreditch fell between three different stations, so nearly any line was easy to get to and I used the tube a lot… but not so much that the daily pass would’ve been the right cost choice for me.
Here are the top tips for success tube travel on the London Underground:
- Always stay to the right on the escalators unless you’re in a hurry and actually moving yourself
- Double check the NAME and ENDING DESTINATION of the train you’re supposed to catch to ensure you’re traveling the correct way
- Be cool with people pressed up against you and pushing past you. It’s crowded.
- Take note of the directional signs within the tube stations for the easiest access to sites above ground.
If you have any questions about this easy London itinerary, let me know. I’m always happy to help plan great trips for others!