Friday, July 13, 2018

London Travel Guide

A few years ago I had the opportunity to live in London for about two and a half months. They were some of the best of my life - I absolutely fell in love with the United Kingdom and everything it has to offer. Who knows, maybe I'll move there more permanently in the future. 
But after a while I've decided to finally put pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard in this case) and write out my London Travel Guide. It has been a long time coming but I think this is the right moment to share it with y'all. Below you will find some extensive knowledge into the food and sites of this magical city. There is also a map at the very end of this post with all of the places because I believe in being efficient with your time so I like to see everything laid out.
Let me know your favorite spots in London or if there is something you're dying to do in the comments - xoxo darling, Hayden.
P.S. There are a bunch of extremely tourist things I've left off this guide because y'all already can find out tons of info on them. For example, I didn't include Big Ben or the London Eye. But tons of bloggers/travel sites have covered those multiple times. My guide is a more "local" experience guide.

How to Get There:

There are lots of different ways to get to London. If you are already in Europe you'll either get a cheap flight or take a train. If you're coming from the U.S. there are lots of flight options. When I went as a child we took a flight to Gatwick Airport, which I prefer in airport design but is much further from the city. When I went more recently I did a direct flight on Virgin from Miami to Heathrow. It went off seamlessly and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Round-trip my flight was less than $1,000 so you can do it you just have to play the sales and buy at the right time. No matter what you do the airports are not in the city. You'll need to take some type of transportation. I would highly recommend the Heathrow Express. You catch it at the airport and it takes you to Paddington Station in the heart of London. It takes 15 minutes and is less than 50 pounds. You can take the Tube but it will take you over an hour if you're getting to London at "rush hour." The process of the Express is really easy and I think it's worth it. I did it both ways but I preferred getting directly from Paddington to the airport and vice versa. From there you can grab a Tube or cab from Paddington to your hotel. 

Where to Stay:

This is something that I might not be the most qualified to answer. I lived in a house for my program the whole time but I do have a few hotel suggestions. When we visited oh so long ago we stayed at the Premier Inn London County Hall. It wasn't that brand when we stayed there but I would recommend based on it's location. It's across the Thames from Parliament and it's behind the London Eye. Not to mention Waterloo Station is right across the street. You can go anywhere from Waterloo and you will be in the height of the tourist area at this hotel. We also stayed at the Hilton London Paddington when my parents visited this last time. It is literally at Paddington Station so it's super convenient if you are just arriving from the airport or have a flight to catch the next morning. It's also a Hilton so it provides you with the more American amenities. And the breakfast is really good! Lastly, we stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton London-Islington when my family first got there. This was because we were headed to Scotland and this hotel was convenient for that. I loved this one, they had good breakfast and the rooms were nice. It's also an American hotel so you get those amenities. When Hannah came to visit she stayed with me for one night and then at YHA London Central Hostel. It was really nice and very modern. Not what your parents expect when you say you're staying in a hostel. She really liked it so I would recommend. There are also plenty of Airbnbs and rental properties. You just have to figure out what is best for you! 

What To Do:

Sites:
Greenwich - The first time I went to London I was eight and Greenwich was my favorite spot. It was one of the first spots I wanted to go back to when I lived there. I had fond memories of walking through the massive park, stopping for tea & German Chocolate Cake as well as riding a carousel. When I went back, I kept going back. Seriously, I went to Greenwich multiple times through various methods. You can take the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) or you can take the public transport boat but you must go. The boat can be found right by the London Eye or the DLR starts at the Bank Tube Station. Both take the Oystercard. Once you get to the Greenwich stop you'll get off in the little town, it looks like something out of a movie, and walk toward the Royal Naval College. Make sure to go to the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory (that's where the Prime Meridian is). They also have beautiful sections of gardens and fantastic park lands. I did a whole blog post on the park with tons of photos here.

London Transportation Museum - This might not be for everyone, but this museum is my absolute favorite. I've always been obsessed with public transportation. I think every city/town needs a good system in place and let me just say the Tube is the best version of this. The museum is dedicated to the Tube and those iconic buses but it focuses on how revolutionary the systems in place today were. Not to mention they talk all about the design of the Tube, something I find incredibly fascinating. Did you know each Tube has a different fabric used on the seats? Well, they do and you can find out more by visiting this Covent Garden spot! 

Leadenhall Market - When you get of at Bank station to visit this iconic market you'll be surrounded by suits but those give way as you get closer to Leadenhall. And you might recognize the vaulted ceilings of this place and the shops...Diagon Alley anyone? I would recommend going for the photos and then grabbing lunch at one of the many options in the market. 
If you like Harry Potter this is a must go. 

Tate Modern - This museum. I am a huge fan of modern art, it's my favorite, so I spent over three
hours exploring this renovated power station. They just built a new wing as well that has even more art. Tip: Go to the top floor and grab a coffee to take onto the balcony. You'll have the perfect view of the Millennium Bridge (also in Harry Potter) and St. Paul's Cathedral as well as the River Thames in general. 

Hyde Park - I think the best part of London is the Royal Parks system. Truly...aside from the Tube. They dedicate intense resources to green spaces and I never realized how bad the U.S. can be at that until I lived there. I would go to a park once a day - to walk through it, to read or to take a
picnic. Park visitation is a way of life in London and everyone should take that in. Hyde is the "most famous?" On one end is Kensington Palace on the other is Marble Arch. Both great sites. But I would go to the Serpentine Gallery if it's open and just explore. You can see the Albert Memorial, the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and if you're traveling with kids take them the Princess Diana Playground. I have fond memories of visiting that (it has a giant pirate ship). Stop by the Peter Pan statue as well for the kids. 

Green Park & St. James Park - When you go see Buckingham Palace (go for the Changing of the
Guard) visit these two green spaces. Green park is a little more unkempt. There are ponds and statues like Hyde Park and there aren't gardens like St. James. St. James has a beautiful pond with gorgeous flowers and a nice round path. St. James is off of The Mall (where you can get those great photos with Union Jacks). Green is to the right of the palace if you're facing it. Go through the Canada Gate and you'll be in the perfect spot for a picnic or to sit on the grass with a book. 


Regent’s Park & Queen Mary’s Rose Garden & Primrose Hill - Since I lived in "northern" London, Regent's Park was my absolute favorite. My friends and I would visit all the time. Regent's is massive and you should just start at the southernmost entrance and work your way up to Primrose Hill. My boss while I interned there started the company I worked for at a flat on Primrose. It's very young. I would take my book and watch the sunset from the hill. If you visit in late May/early June you must go to Queen Mary's Rose Garden. While I was there, a Vogue photoshoot was taking place. It's also where my friend took some phenomenal photos of me. If you have children or particularly love zoos the ZSL London Zoo is located here. 

Hampstead Heath & Parliament Hill - If you have lots of time on your hands take the Overground out to this park. This one is much more unkempt than the previous parks mentioned. It is intended to be more of a wilderness with trails. It is massive. Hannah and I grabbed picnic food from Wasabi and proceeded to Parliament Hill (the southern section of the park) for the sunset. You truly have one of the best views of Parliament and the city itself I witnessed while there. I also think this where you'll see the most local families just enjoying the park. It's not in a hugely tourist section of London - people are just chilling. 

Barbican Center - This structure was something that got on my list after living near it for some time. A friend's class visited and she waxed on about how strange it was. It's a residential estate from the 1960s after the area had been destroyed in WWII. It was intended to be that Utopian idea where all of your goods and services would be in the complexes so you really never had to leave. But that didn't exactly work. And if you've seen them you'll know how "special" these towers are. I hate brutalism and these are very much that to me. In the complex itself there is the Museum of London (a fun stop), multiple schools, an art center, a performing arts hall and more. Take a walk through it (I got lost twice) and just revel in that post WWII, 1960s glow. 

Churchill War Rooms - Ugh, what a great museum. If you know anything about Churchill you'll want to visit his wartime bunker near Buckingham Palace. The rooms have been left fairly unchanged since his last meeting in the underground lair. And the museum is wonderful. 

Bywater Street - You know those photos of London where it's a street of all these different colored houses? Welcome to Bywater Street in Chelsea. Yes, you can see colored houses in Notting Hill and I highly recommend a walk through there - but the best example of those houses is Bywater. You have to be paying attention otherwise you could miss it. There is a Paul on one corner so stop for a pastry and walk the street. I took multiple friends here for photos and wasn't disappointed.


Imperial War Museum - This might not be for everyone but this is my second favorite museum in London. I went as a child and then went back as soon as I could. If you like history at all this one is for you. Their WWI exhibit alone is worth all of your time and effort. Then they just do even more, seriously it is a must see. I would suggest starting at the base floor and working your way up, but do it however you feel is best based on your historic preferences. Be prepared: The Holocaust exhibit will bring you to tears. It is so well done and had me crying within 10 minutes. 

Victoria and Albert Museum - My third favorite museum (behind the Transport and War) is near Harrods in a very posh part of town. The V&A is what all museums wish they could be. Seriously, you know that meme that says "you vs. the guy she tells you not to worry about?" The V&A is who you should be worrying about. The museum itself is the worlds largest in decorative arts and when you're inside it you understand very quickly how right that is. There is a whole fashion section that I think should be a visit if you are reading this blog...because you clearly enjoy clothes like I do. When I was there, a fascinating exhibit on the history of underwear was on. Make sure to go below stairs for the modern furniture design - so so so coo. The gift shop is also a must visit because they have so.much. Lastly, make sure to eat at their cafe located at the back of the museum. It is one of the most Instagramable places in London. 

National Portrait Gallery - Honestly, this is way more fun than the National Gallery...maybe because I'm a modern art lover but I prefer the portraits. They are interesting. You'll have something of Prince William and then the most well known portrait of William Shakespeare. It is this conglomeration of fascinating people in a beautiful museum. 

Kew Gardens - Ahhh, Kew. The Royal Botanic Gardens. SO WORTH IT. I took a train out around 11am (it takes a while to get there on the Tube from where I lived) and spent the rest of my day walking the grounds. I love being outside and seeing beautiful gardens but lordy this is hefty. They were some of the most, if not the most, beautiful gardens I've ever seen. And there is so much to see! They have gorgeous greenhouses, the hive, a palace, a walkway through the treetops and so much more. Seriously, plan ahead for this one by downloading a map and planning out your route. It is a must see. 

Natural History Museum - I will travel to a museum purely for the architecture. And this was one of those - then the actual content was fascinating - but the museum itself is one of the most beautiful buildings. And it was recently renovated! It feels like you are walking the sets of a movie. I can't recommend enough, especially if you have children. They'll get a kick out of the dinosaurs.

Parent Trap House - I mean you’re in London, you kind of have to do this. It’s at: 23 Egerton Terrace, Kensington, London, England, UK. Does it even need an explanation? 

Tower of London - Another spot my parents took me as a kid that I fell in love with. We did the Ceremony of the Keys at night and then went back during the day. There is so much to do - from the crown jewels to regimental museum and more. Take a whole morning or afternoon to enjoy this experience. One of my favorite memories of the trip was I was getting a little cranky (I was eight and didn't get how massively cool the Tower was) so my parents bought ice cream and we ate it while sitting next to a cannon. How often does that happen? Also, this is right by the Tower Bridge so take a walk across that while you're there.

Ride the No. 15 Bus from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square - After you're done at the Tower, go out to the Tower Hill stop and wait for a No. 15 Bus. These are the oldest double deckers still working today - the original Routemaster. You can do a very iconic London ride through some touristy spots and it will end at Trafalgar Square. This was one of my more fun adventures that my dad had suggested to me. I loved it. And just a side note in general: get on the double decker buses at random. Seriously. My friends and I would just board one, go to the top seats to look out and then just ride to wherever it took us. It was so much fun! 

Sky Garden - If you are looking at London's skyline, direct your eyesight to the "Walkie Talkie" building, it doe look like one. At the very top of this strange looking structure is the Sky Garden. A beautiful, glassed in oasis. They have restaurants, seating, coffee and a beautiful view of south London. Take a book and grab a latte for the ultimate relaxing experience. You do have to book tickets, so do that way ahead of time - especially if you're visiting in the summer. 

British Museum - My parents took me to the museum when I was little, we even ate a nice dinner at the Great Court Restaurant (like being at the museum after dark). When I discovered the museum was two blocks from my school I visited once a week for, almost, the entire time I was there. And that is how I would suggest doing this museum. Now if you don't have a ton of time, just do it in one go - but only hit the highlights. Otherwise, just choose a gallery or two and don't overwhelm yourself in the ancientness of it all. My highlights: The Elgin Marbles, The Rosetta Stone and the Mummy section. 

Shopping: 

Daunt Books - Bookstores are something that I always want to visit. And no, I don't mean Barnes & Noble or BAM. I'm talking those local spots that are crammed in every nook with books. Daunt is that for me. Plus, it is one of the prettiest spots in London in regards to shopping. It's in historic Marylebone and has a green reading room that dreams are made of. Go get a British murder mystery and sit in a corner to enjoy. Note: They have one of the largest travel book selections I've ever seen. So if you want something in the travel sector, Daunt is where it's at.

Columbia Road Flower Market - This was on my list when I first started planning what I wanted to do, I'd seen the market in countless movies and knew it was for me. I love flowers and this did not
disappoint. We went on a Sunday morning (we dubbed Sundays Fundays as a friend group and tried to explore each one we were there), walked through the market grabbed bagel sandwiches and some brunch-themed alcohol. It was a fun moment and I would recommend if you are going to be in London for more than a week. 

Liberty Department Store - My favorite department store in all of London (and before you ask, there are a lot and I liked all of them). This Tudor building is home to one of the widest collections of departments you could ever think of. From stationary to home decor to fabric. Literal fabric. It is amazing. The clothes themselves were far too expensive for me, however, they have a line with UNIQLO with their famous prints so I bought a swing dress (here) for less than 15 pounds. 

Fortnum & Mason - This one is known worldwide for it's upscale self. Many people go for tea at this department store (and I've heard great things) but I just did a walk through. They have everything from exotic produce to the very best china. You'll see people with picnic baskets emblazoned with the F&M logo all over London. Those were out of my budget so I got a tote bag instead (here) and I use

Spitafields Market - This open air market changes every day. Their vendors are hocking wears from all over the place. I would recommend this one for clothing - they had the cutest coats on sale while I was there. Plus, the food is wonderful. And it's right by the iconic White Chapel. 

Marks & Spencer - The most classic British store. It's where people buy their groceries and their basic clothing (think Target). I loved it for the food-hall and the Colin the Caterpillar cakes. Go to one just for the experience even if you don't need anything. 

Camden Lock - This historic market has tons of food options and crazy shops. I went on my first weekend in town and was overwhelmed to say the least. But I got a cupcake, Chinese food and shopped around for a bit. It was so fun to do it with friends so that is what I recommend. 

Borough Market - Our family friend who lives in London took me for a Saturday at Borough. We started with Mountain’s Boston Sausage’s breakfast burger, followed by Colombian Coffee Company and chocolate almond croissants. This market is everything you've heard about London food markets. Tons of options and a fun location. 





Where to eat: 


Breakfast: 
The Ivy Market GrillAfter visiting the Churchill War Rooms one Sunday morning my friends and I
wanted brunch desperately. We did a little research and found this spot in Covent Garden. And my goodness it was my favorite brunch of the entire experience. I had pancakes and bacon & lordy...they were delicious. The atmosphere is also sumptuous and so is the people watching. You have extremely posh mixed with regulars and then the occasional tourist. Highly, highly recommend.
The Breakfast Club - With multiple locations around London you can always find a Breakfast Club to suit your needs. There was one in Islington that we would walk to from our house. They do good eggs, toast, coffee and bacon. We always sat outside at their picnic tables. I will warn y'all that it can get crazy, with a line that stretches down the street so get there early on Sunday mornings.

Farm Girl - This Notting Hill spot is super trendy. They have a Rose Latte that is absolutely gorgeous, the food is good and I love the atmosphere. It truly is like something you would visit in New York for the Instagram. It's a little hard to find (walking down an alley is involved) but getting there is half the fun because Notting Hill is gorgeous. Walk around after brunch and enjoy the scenery.

Look Mum No Hands - If you're looking for a great place to study or just get some work done No Hands is perfect. This half cafe, half bicycle repair shop is very hipster. I usually opted to sit outside on the patio because the weather was beautiful. They do a mean eggs on toast, plus the coffee is really good. Be sure to find out what hours they have wifi because they do switch it on and off. 
Bill’s - I took my friend to Bill's for her 21st birthday brunch and we fell in love with the banana strawberry pancakes. Seriously, they are what dreams are made of. They have multiple locations and be warned, if you use their wifi you will still get their emails years after having been.
Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoreditch - If you love cereal or just a fun dining experience, this cafe is for you. There is a small stand in Camden Market but go to the one in Shoreditch for the real time. When you enter you'll get in line to choose your cereal, milk and toppings or choose from their pre-created menu. Then proceed to the basement where you can dine on a bed while watching Care Bears or something equally reminiscent of your childhood. 

Fuckoffee - This spot near Borough Market makes the best flat white in the city. Seriously, if you go shopping at the markets on Saturday and visit the shops you'll need to visit this coffee shop with its illicit name for a coffee.

The Shepherdess Cafe - The place where I ate the most breakfast meals during my almost three month stay in London. It was just down the street from my house and it was where everyone ate. I'm talking construction workers, doctors, students, anyone who likes a cheap, delicious breakfast. There is no true Instagramability about the place, it's just your average shop but goodness was it good. Also, if you visit be prepared to eat fries with your breakfast - something I desperately miss.

Lunch:

Cafe in the Crypt - When you are in the touristy part of town (aka visiting the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and
Trafalgar Square) you must eat at the Crypt. I did this when I first visited London back in second grade. I was terrified at the time because I was eating where dead bodies were held. But when I went back as an adult I remembered the food being excellent and that it was a good deal. I took multiple friends and they all loved it. Sierra and I particularly liked their salad special (three different salads + wine for a decent price). It's a must visit. 

Nando’s - The most classic fast casual restaurant in England? When I was headed over the pond Serena repeatedly told me to visit this chicken joint and I promised her I would. Then my first day of classes we discovered there was one directly across the street from my school. What luck! That was where I had my first bite of Peri Peri chicken, and I will never forget it. Nando's is the perfect drunk food or quick thing in-between museum stops. A co-intern and I would eat at the Nando's in Euston Station for our longer lunch breaks to be outside and talk. 

Wasabi - If you've done any research on London you've probably heard of Pret a Manger (affectionately known as Pret), which I pretty much hate? If you love mayo on your sandwiches then you'll have a field day at Pret but that wasn't me so I grab food at Wasabi. This is Pret but for sushi and it made my life so easy. I would get it before work to eat for lunch or during our lunch break for classes. Or we would take it to a picnic on Primrose Hill or Hampstead Heath. They are everywhere and the best part for me was that they did good vegetarian sushi. Because I hate fish (cooked or raw), which I realize makes it not real sushi, but I don't care. Like I said, if you're looking for something on the go that has lots of flavor, Wasabi is it! 

Home Slice - This Neal's Yard spot was phenom. My classmates and I visited in order to write a restaurant review for our food and travel writing class. You can read my review of the place here. Basically each slice is as big as your head and the crust snaps like naan in your mouth. I loved it and it too is a great drunk food (pre or post going out). 

Tea: 

SketchA while back I wrote a Food Diaries all about sketch. Basically, Hannah and I loved this "splurge" restaurant. Make a reservation for tea (I've heard it's even better than dinner), enjoy that pink furniture and do a whole photoshoot in the pod bathrooms. All of my friends did the tea and said it was an experience, I can only imagine. This would be my biggest food splurge of your trip. Go enjoy yourself.

The Orangery at Kensington Palace - Back when I visited London in second grade my family visited the Orangery for tea. It's, honestly, one of the most affordable formal teas in all of London. I know, crazy right? I mean it's in a palace. But
this place is absolutely gorgeous and the food is wonderful. I took Hannah during her visit and she loved it as much as I did. You'll get the classic three tier tray of delights with finger sandwiches, scones and desserts. 10/10 would recommend. 

Dinner: 

Selfridge’s - But isn't this a department store? Yes, but they have a wonderful food court. Hannah and I visited one evening before catching the sunset at Big Ben and we loved it. I opted for the chicken curry and was not disappointed. Think of this as a really posh food court with amazing Indian food. Also, I believe their food is better than Harrods and I can 100% tell you the ice cream at Selfridge's is better. Go with a group of friends so each of you can try something different and share.

Pizza Union - If you're a student studying abroad or just backpacking through Europe, meet your new best friend! Pizza Union is an incredibly cheap pizza and beer plus it is the best place to meet other young people with cool vibes. My friends and I visited the location near Kings Cross that was great. 
The Golden Hind - My mom visits London once a year for work and she discovered this little fish and chips shop in Marylebone. And let me tell you, this place sells the best fish and chips in London. Yes, everyone says this about their favorite place, but seriously. I ate a lot of fish & chips while there and this was by far the best. Get a ginger beer with your meal and you won't regret it. Be warned they have strange hours so make sure they're open before you visit.

Brick Lane - If you are looking for the best curry in London, visit Brick Lane and pick any shop. They are all wonderful and Sierra and I can wax on about our experience with this. 

PolpoOn my last night in London a friend of my mom & I took me out. And I got a little
(more like a lot drunk) but in the best way possible. We ended the night (well before we stayed up watching Gilmore Girls) at Polpo. This Italian restaurant is bar none. Seriously. We started at the bar in the basement doing gin martinis and gin shots with the bartender. Then ate some phenomenal food and I was so content. We went to the location in Soho but I believe there are others!
Bella Italian - Okay, yes, this is a chain restaurant. But you know what, sometimes you just want some chain Italian food and that's okay. I ate at these all over the United Kingdom. It started on my second night in London, my friends & I grabbed a bite here before heading to the theater and then my family went to Bella twice while in Scotland. It's just quality food for good prices. 
Wahaca - As y'all know, I lived in Texas for the last four years attending UT and tacos/Tex-Mex became an obsession. And while 2.5 months isn't that long in the scheme of things I was missing my favorite cuisine. Then my mom's best friend came to London for work. She and her friends took me to Wahaca in Soho for drinks and dinner...boy was it good. It will hit the spot if you are missing your tacos. They also have a food truck on the South Bank that I took a fellow UT student to when she visited. She liked it too so I think it's a winner.

Rosa’s Thai in Angel - The Angel neighborhood is absolutely adorable and on Sierra's last night in London we went for a quiet dinner at Rosa's. The food was so good, I still have dreams about it. And the atmosphere is just nice. Like it looks like it's out of the nice section of the IKEA catalogue (in the best way possible). I loved it. 

Champor-Champor - This is also really good Thai food. My friend who lives in London eats here all the time. It fills up on the weekends though so make sure to get there early. We went for drinks at The Shard first on a Friday and then ended up waiting for a table. 

Pubs/Drinking: 

The Eagle - This was our go-to pub because it was so close to our house. Right by the Shepherdess! They have all your classic beers but there is also a really young vibe. They have board games and viewing parties and the little nooks and crannies of the pub are awesome. They also do a wonderful Sunday Roast - something you should experience at least once.

The Castle Pub - Ahh, so many good nights were spent on the rooftop of this pub. They do coupons (if you can find them
online) that my friends and I used like crazy. They do pretty much good everything when it comes to drinks. We had strawberry daiquiris, Pimm's cups, beer, anything & everything. It's a classic pub but the rooftop really adds to the atmosphere and you can watch double decker buses coming to and from Kings Cross Station.

The ShardOhhh this building. Everyone wants to visit the viewing deck but my suggestion is to go
for a drink at the bar. You'll get the view without the expensive ticket. We did champagne on my last weekend in London, it was so bougie but what else would you expect?

The Roebuck - This pub is by a good friend of ours that lives in London. She took me for drinks and a burger that did not disappoint. They have old school beer taps and it's your classic British pub scene. 

Ham Yard Hotel The same friend who took me to the Shard
and the Roebuck took me to the Ham Yard Hotel in Soho. This bougie spot has tons of different seating options. We opted for something in the bar but they have a library, patio and more. Get a gin martini and just revel in the extra-ness of your evening. I loved it. This was also the night where we ended at Polpo so I started feeling real buzzed here.

Adventure Bar - The coolest cocktails in Covent Garden. I swear I drank something out of a plastic popcorn container (you know those old school one's). We went one night to have a night out in Covent Garden and ended up talking guns and politics with some British guys. It was so much fun! 
The Churchill Arms - Okay, I never actually had a beer in this pub. Because when I went to this Notting Hill spot it was 10am. But I did go to take photos of this iconic spot. It's the pub you see all over Pinterest covered in greenery and flowers. A friend went and said they enjoyed the drinking spot. Make sure to go on the balcony. 




Desserts: 


Peggy Porschen Cakes
- This place is an instagrammer’s paradise. Before I went friends told me to visit this extremely posh cake shop in Belgravia. So I visited as a celebration for surviving my first week in London without a breakdown. Then I just kept going back. I took everyone, from my parents to Hannah to Sierra. The shop is adorable and the cake is delicious. Note: I would opt for a slice of cake instead of a cupcake. I think the cupcakes can be a little dry. Also, have tea with your cake and just sit back and enjoy. The first time I went by myself (there's no wifi) so I just sat by myself and enjoyed the atmosphere. Definitely take some time for yourself when you go abroad to just enjoy life.

Molly Bakes - Heard of freakshakes? If you want to participate in that trend, go to Molly Bakes in northeast London. It was near our house so we could get there via bus and had some mishaps when
trying to visit but we finally made it there during our last week. The shakes are insane and are great for the photos but also, realize, it is a very gimmicky thing so don't read too much into it.








Day/Weekend Trips:

Day: Bletchley Park - If you are a WWII nerd like I am, Bletchley Park is a must day trip visit. This is where all of the code-breakers did their work. If you've seen the Imitation Game, this is where ti was set. Alan Turing did his work here and the enigma machine is here. Plus, there have been countless fictional shows about the women code-breakers at Bletchley. The place itself is beautiful and is an easy train ride from Euston Station. It is a little bit of a walk to the museum but you can do it. 

Weekend: Edinburgh, Scotland - Oh my, I fell in love with Scotland and I was seriously ill. I developed a nasty cold en route to Edinburgh but gosh was it beautiful. We took an Easy Jet flight from Stansted Airport (horrible airline but easy and cheap). When we arrived in Edinburgh we took their light rail from the airport to downtown and then walked to our hotel. From there we walked
along the Royal Mile, saw Holyroodhouse (The Queen was in attendance so it wasn't open for the public) and hiked Arthur's Seat. It was beautiful and it rained partway through so it was the most Scottish experience (in my mind). The next day we took the light rail back to the airport and rented a car to drive to Balmoral , a place I had been obsessed with since seeing The Queen in the early 2000s. We drove through the highlands and it was gorgeous. The palace itself is also beautiful, they have a wonderful cafe and the grounds are just amazing. After driving back we spent our last morning at Edinburgh Castle before getting our Easy Jet flight back to London. Overall, I would highly recommend. It's a beautiful place that everyone should experience. 

Day: Wimbledon - If you are there during the tennis you have to go! It is still going on in Londonright now, but if you are visiting next year at this time, make a point to visit. You can buy tickets in advance or you can utilize the Queue. That's what I did. I got up incredibly early in the morning (I lived on the opposite side of London), took two buses and a Tube out to Wimbledon and queued up. My ticket was 15 pounds and I got to see some amazing matches. Plus, I got to eat the strawberries & creme and drink a Pimm's.

Day: Oxford - One of my best friends was studying at Oxford for the summer so I took a train from Paddington to Oxford for the day. In the morning I did the typical tourist stuff - the
Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, etc. But in the afternoon she and I did a pub crawl of Oxford's oldest pubs. It was a blast! The town is beautiful and if you are a Masterpiece Mystery fan like I am you'll see iconic spots from Inspector Lewis and Endeavor. Not to mention all of the places they filmed Harry Potter. You'll feel transported to the set of Hogwarts. 

Day: White Cliffs of Dover - When Hannah visited we wanted to do a day trip out to the country. I pushed hard for the White Cliffs because I had seen them in so many movies and thought they looked beautiful; little did we know how beautiful they would be. We grabbed sandwiches at Marks & Spencer as well as dessert and hopped on a train, had to do a weird switch at Canterbury but hey, the Canterbury Tales! And then finally arrived in Dover. From there we headed to the Cliffs. I will say, be prepared to walk. We took a cab up and then walked all the way down. It's a long walk but it's beautiful. One of the coolest parts was seeing all of the ferries departing for France. Aside from that, the cliffs are some of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen. We walked the entire park, stopped at the lighthouse for a tour and ice cream. Ate our lunch on a cliff and got to see it in the beautiful sunshine and got to see it as the fog rolled in. We seriously loved the experience.

Weekend: Paris - Here is my guide for that. It’s so easy to get there and everything you need to know is in that guide. 

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