Because I had to go to Europe again for work, I (Sam) took an opportunity to spend a few days in London. Due the small amount of time I had there, I did a lot of research on how to best spend it, and I am going to share with you all what I chose to do.
Before I get into exactly how I spent my weekend in London, I would like to offer one tip about getting around in London: London’s Metro system aka ‘The Tube’ is a great way to get around, and one way to save time and money while riding The Tube is to snag an Oyster Card, which is basically a refillable card that you can use repeatedly while taking The Tube (similar to New York City’s Metrocard).
I got to London early in the morning on the first day and was very excited to start exploring! Here are all the places I saw and what I chose to eat during this far too short time in this amazing city:
House of Parliament/Big Ben
The House of Parliament is part of England’s governing body, consisting of the House of Commons and The House of Lords and located in the Palace of Westminster. Visitors can take guided tours of the 1,200 room, 100 staircase palace that last approximately 1hr and 15min in which you walk through highlights such as the Queen’s Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, Central Lobby and St. Stephen’s Hall. I did not go on a tour but instead got a few snapshots from the outside. I was told anyway that photos can only be taken in Westminster Hall. I was plenty fine with how I chose to see it, but if you are interested, the building is beautiful and definitely a highlight within the city.
Big Ben is one of the most iconic structures probably in all of the UK. Completed in 1859, this clock tower stands approximately 315 feet tall, covering 11 floors and 334 steps. Unfortunately for me Big Ben was under construction while I was there and so it was hidden from view by scaffolding. The best view I got of Big Ben was on the side. It is said that the work being done on the tower is one of re-glazing and re-painting of the clock dials. Work is said to be completed by 2020.
The London Eye
While I’m not much of a ferris wheel guy, the London Eye was just a lovely sight and an awesome addition to the city’s skyline! Erected in 2000, it draws approximately 3.75 million visitors annually. In my opinion the London Eye should be seen during the day as well as at night, due to how spectacular it is lit up in that bright red color.
Formally titled the ‘Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster’, this is easily the most notable religious building in the UK. Though its beauty on the outside is incredible, I chose to forgo the fee of going inside and instead admired it solely from its exterior. I do not feel I missed out on the experience here, so if you choose to also come and just view it from the outside, you will definitely not be disappointed! That said, if you choose to go inside, you must purchase a ticket which I believe is approximately $25 USD (but please check fees online or at the church itself for the exact pricing).
Buckingham Palace/Changing of the Guard
Changing Of The Guards at Buckingham Palace is definitely a ‘not to miss’ experience while in London! This event takes place everyday at 11am from May to July and every other month it is alternating days. The event lasts for approximately 45 minutes. The flag on top of the palace indicates if the Queen is in town that day. Lucky for me, she was! Get there early so you can get a prime viewing spot, as it’s a very popular spot for tourists.
Piccadilly Circus is a street in London similar to Times Square in New York City. Easy to get here via The Tube, it’s a great place to walk around, do some shopping, eat and just take in the sweet London vibes!
Trafalgar Square is a public square in Central London, named for the Battle of Trafalgar, a British Naval victory in Napoleonic War against France and Spain. This square has seen protests and demonstrations ranging from everything from anti-war to climate change, as well as annual New Years celebrations. Every year for 12 days around Christmastime, a Christmas tree dons the space as well. There is also a beautiful fountain.
London Bridge is a bridge over the Thames River. It opened in 1973 and carries 5 lanes of traffic, at a span of 882.5 feet.
Often confused for London Bridge, Tower Bridge is also a bridge over the Thames River. It officially opened in 1894 and this year commemorated its 125th anniversary! Tower Bridge, like Big Ben, is easily one of London’s most iconic structures. The bridge is approximately 801 feet in length and 213 feet tall. It is open to vehicle traffic as well as pedestrians.
Tower of London
The The Tower of London is a historic castle in Central London. It played a prominent role in English History and has served as an armory, treasury, menagerie, home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and the home of the Crown Jewel of London. It was also used as a prison in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today the castle is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.
St. Pauls Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral, with its world-famous dome, is an iconic feature of the London Skyline. Tours can be booked to go inside, but again, I chose to view its beauty solely from the outside. It’s a beautiful cathedral that is a must-see while on holiday in London.
Watching English Football in a London Pub
Disclaimer: Ye Olde Watling is not where I watched the game.
Other “Londony” Things
Notable “English” Foods I ate (Fish n Chips, Meat Pies, Curry)
I loved London and I wish I had more time there but am definitely excited about coming back real soon (with Jackie this time!)
What are your favorite thing to do and see in London?
-Your Friends at Saif Travels