Hi.

Welcome to my blog. I document my adventures in travel, style, and food. Hope you have a nice stay!

London, England

Let's travel to: London, England

There is no easy way to describe London - it has everything any traveller would ever want - from iconic landmarks to a bustling metropolitan district; from world class Broadway and entertainment to unparalleled historic museums and art. Not to be forgotten is the thriving nightlife and incredible food from every culture and pallet in the world - guaranteed to satisfy anyone’s cravings. Quintessential movie scenes of London that show a red bus driving past Big Ben only scrapes the surface of one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world.

INTERESTING FACTS

  • London buses were not always red - before 1907, different routes had different coloured buses
  • To pass the Knowledge, the insanely difficult London geography test required of black-cab drivers in the city, you must master 320 basic routes, all of the 25,000 streets that are scattered within those routes, and about 20,000 landmarks and places
  • Harrods sold cocaine until 1916
  • London was the first city to reach a population of more than 1 million, in 1811. It remained the largest city in the world until it was overtaken by Tokyo in 1957
  • London is one of the most diverse cities on Earth. Over 300 languages are spoken and about a third of the population is foreign born

USEFUL INFO

  • Language: English is spoken everywhere, but London is so culturally diverse that you are guaranteed to hear tons of different languages being spoken daily
  • Currency: Pound Sterling (GBP)
  • Tipping: not necessary but appreciated at your discretion, included in the bill at fancier restaurants
  • Best time to visit: tourists visit all year round – summer months are best if you want to avoid rain or cloudy skies, but Christmas time in London is magical

GETTING AROUND

London is famous for its iconic underground. The tube isn’t the only way to get around, although its normally the quickest. Different tube lines will get you almost anywhere in London, and if you don’t fancy the underground, bus routes are also endless – although they will take a lot longer, especially at peak traffic time. Walking is a great way to get around if you’re in Central London – you are guaranteed to pass landmarks even if you don’t plan to, and the walk across the Thames is breathtaking.

  • Getting a pay-as-you-go Oyster card is most convenient – you can use it on the tube, busses and the overground
    • You pay a £5 refundable deposit for an Oyster card
  • A newer method is using your contactless credit card – you can just tap it when you get on a bus, or when you get on and off the tube
  • If you plan on relying heavily on public transport, a 1 Day or 7 Day Travel Card will save you money depending on how much you plan on using it
  • London’s transport map is organized into zones, and travel gets more expensive as you go from Zones 1-6
    • Most of the tourist attractions are in Zone 1
  • If you are flying into Heathrow:
    • The Piccadilly line (underground) will take you direct to Central London in approximately an hour
      • This is the cheapest option and only costs £3-5 depending on the day of the week and time
    • You can also take the Heathrow Express, which takes about 15 minutes but is around £20
    • Coaches also run but take much longer (around 1.5 to 2 hours)
    • Taxis are the most expensive option and can cost anywhere from £50-70+ depending on traffic

LOCAL SPECIALTIES

  • Fish and chips!
    • This is the famous London dish, and you can get it at any pub
    • Pubs are found on every corner in London and get busy after work (around 4:30) when everyone goes for a pint  
  • Sunday roast: any pub, any Sunday evening
  • Full English breakfast: egg, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, backed beans and toast

WHAT TO DO

  • The Classic Tourist Spots
    • Big Ben: this is actually the clock found inside the tower, which is called The Elizabeth Tower
    • London Eye: best to see at night, when its lit up along the river
      • If you plan on waiting in line to go up, plan on waiting A WHILE! If you get pre-booked tickets, you can cut on some of the waiting time
    • Tower Bridge: people often confuse London Bridge as Tower Bridge – this is the famous bridge you see in the movies, London Bridge is just a plain and normal crossing
    • Buckingham Palace: where the Queen lives! You can see the Changing of the Guards (and attempt to make them laugh, but you will fail) at 11:30 from April – July every day, and weather permitting during the rest of the year
  • Squares and Circuses
    • Piccadilly Circus: London’s mini (I mean really mini) Times Square – its always bustling with people, but has the classic billboards and is a great place to meet up if you’re going for dinner in Soho or Chinatown
    • Oxford Circus: the center of London’s shopping street (Oxford Street)
      • Oxford street is super touristy and you should try and avoid it on weekends, when its too busy to even walk
      • The shopping here is great though, there are all your key stores – Zara (5 of them), Topshop, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Nike, Forever 21… the list goes on
      • Special mentions:
        • Selfridges – London’s high end department store full of designer brands and easy to get lost in for hours
        • Primark – a necessary London shopping experience, INCREDIBLE deals and cheap basics, give yourself 1-2 hours to spend in here
    • Trafalgar Square: pigeon central – also home to Nelson’s column and the stone lions
    • Leicester Square: a huge entertainment center for food, cinemas, restaurants and a great place to get discount Broadway tickets (TKTS)
  • Other Landmarks
    • The Shard: the really tall pointy building that looks like a shard of glass - View From the Shard is one of the best views of the city, but tickets have to be booked in advance
    • The Gherkin: a definite eye catching building in London, you wont miss it – nothing to do inside for tourists
    • St. Paul’s Cathedral: open to the public from Monday to Saturday
    • King’s Cross: London’s major train station and transport center – also where you can line up to get your picture at Platform 9 and ¾ (try and go at night to avoid a line)
    • Harrods: a world famous department and luxury store that you can spend hours in eating and shopping – at Christmas, the decorations will blow your mind
  • Markets
    • Camden: one of the most popular outdoor markets in London, open daily from 10-6
    • Borough: a great food market by Southbank
  • Museums
    • British: one of the worlds oldest museums, a must see if you only have time for one museum – home to the Rosetta Stone as well as other historic exhibits
    • Victoria and Albert: a decorative arts museum, great for ceramics and sculptures
    • Natural History: for travellers who love to explore plant and animal exhibits, fossils and rocks
  • Parks
    • Primrose Hill: located on the edge of Regent’s park and an amazing place to watch the sunset in London with a bottle of wine
    • Hyde Park: the largest of the London parks and the most visited – you can roam around, boat, cycle, horse ride and play tennis here
    • St James Park: another royal park that is surrounded by landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Westminster – also home to 2 White Pelicans
  • An Afternoon Well Spent At
    • Notting Hill: famous for its pastel colored buildings, Notting Hill is a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon strolling around (and snapping some great pics) – the Portobello Road Market is also a great place for food, clothes and jewelry
    • The Skygarden: another incredible London view – book tickets 2-3 weeks in advance, but entrance is free and I recommend going at sunset (also great for drinks, but they’re pricey)
    • Covent Garden: has everything from food and bars to shopping stalls, and pop up shows from local musicians and artists – great place to go after work or class
    • Somerset House: has a skating rink during winter time, and contemporary art and culture exhibits throughout the year
    • The O2: London’s Arena – you can actually book tickets to climb the outside
      • If you plan on doing this, you can also travel on the Emirates Air Line, which lets you see London from above
    • WB Harry Potter Studio Tour: for all of us that wish we were witches or wizards – one of the best experiences I have had in London, I highly recommend

FOOD AND DRINK

  • Duck and Waffle: open 24 HOURS A DAY to solve your food woes at any hour – also has incredible views of London, located at the top of the Heron tower (must do dish is their Duck and Waffle)
  • Sushi Samba: fusion Japanese, Peruvian and Brazilian cuisine also at the top of the Heron tower for great dinner views

Try these places If You Love…

  • Dishoom: Indian food
  • Roka: Japanese food and sushi
  • Ivy Chelsea Garden: brunch
  • Franco Manca: pizza (not your average pizza chain restaurant)
  • Brick Lane Bagels: bagels, obviously!  

GOING OUT

  • Shoreditch: great mix of clubs and bars for any kind of night out, fancy or casual – The Hoxton Pony and Barrio are favorites
  • Mayfair: for a pricier and fancier night out
  • Soho: has countless bars and pubs and is located close to Covent Garden and Chinatown, great for after work
  • Be At One: a Happy Hour favorite, every day from 4:30-7:30 – their selection of cocktails and drinks will blow your mind – they also have locations all over Londo

List by: Ara Karmali

Ara currently lives in London, England where she is finishing her MSc at the London School of Economics. She was born in Nairobi, Kenya but was raised in Toronto and loves to travel (and eat). Her travels have taken her through South East Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and East Africa, and she hopes to see more of Europe while living in London. Follow Ara's adventures on Instagram: @arakarmali

Find the List of Best Places to Eat in Los Angeles

Find the List of Best Places to Eat in Los Angeles

Cusco, Peru

Cusco, Peru