Hey there!! So I recently came back from the most EPIC trip of my life in London! I’m warning you now that this blog post is going to be LONG! I was only in London for 4 days, which was NOT enough time by any means so I’m not going to break this up on my day to day. Rather I’m going to share how to get the best bang for your buck in 3-4 days!
Disclaimer** I was told that three days was enough time to explore London. Well let me tell you, ITS NOT! I definitely will be going back so I can truly experience London outside of Central London. There is also a TON of history in London…it was settled by the Romans in 43 AD, so basically pick your era because London’s been around for nearly 2 millennia.
You’ll be doing so much walking throughout London, just because of the ease and convenience so definitely bring comfortable shoes that can handle that kind of use! Our first day in London my Apple Watch tracked that we walked over 10 miles!
Tube Map and City Map
Two maps you’ll want to get while in London is a London City Map and a Tube Map. London is easily accessible by train, biking, walking, etc. not too sure about a car but traffic did look worse then San Francisco on a bright sunny weekend day (that’s some real bumper to bumper traffic in case you were wondering). The tube was awesome! It’s so simple with a very detailed map and helpful agents at each station if you have any questions. However, a lot of the major sites are located pretty close to each other so if you plan your day(s) correctly then you can save a ton of money and most importantly time!
London Pass and Oyster Card
If you are headed to London for 3 or more days then I encourage you to invest in both of these! It will be a great time savings and money savings during your trip. The Oyster Card is the transit card used by the most of the train systems in London. The trains in London come fairly frequently (every few minutes) so you don’t want to be sitting there wasting time buying paper tickets and miss your train.
The London Pass is also great while in London because it includes entry into many of the popular London destinations allowing you to not only pre-purchase your ticket but skipping the lines! Some places even have special lines for London Pass holders so you really get to skip the lines. Many of the popular attractions like Hop On Hop Off Bus, Tower of London, the Top of the Shard, and so much more are included in your London Pass.
Hint: Don’t get the London Pass for all of the days you’re in London! There’s a lot to do outside of the London Pass so get it for about 50% of your time and use the other half of your time exploring other sites. Also, keep in mind that some lines are completely unavoidable! We went to Westminster Abbey and London Pass or not, it was about 4 hours -_- . There are also a ton of great discounts at retail stores, restaurants, etc with the London Pass. You can combine it and get the Oyster Card in a bundle pack to save you some $$ London Pass Website
Where to Stay
London is HUGE! I mean HUGER than HUGE! There a soooo many options when it comes to choosing where you want to stay. Do you want up-all-night London-nites (my version of a London socialite) or something a little more quiet? Or maybe something quirky and unique? It reminded me A LOT of a HUGE San Francisco, there’s literally something for everyone. There’s a great selection of budget friendly hotels in London and Airbnb is always a great option if you’re looking to save some bucks!
HINT: Keep in mind that the British Pound is already about 40% more to the dollar, so if you’re coming from America you’re already spending that much more on your trip!
Since we were going to be moving around a bunch I wanted to be somewhere central and close to a busy transit hub! We decided to stay near Victoria Station and Victoria Coach Station which worked out great since we were doing a lot of moving and had to get to the airport at weird and crazy times. Being near a major transit station gave us the ease and convenience we needed during our London Trip.
We had the cutest little micro hotel at Belgrave House Hotel for about $70/night which was perfect because we were on the go the whole time. There were a couple of nights where we only slept in our room for 2-3 hours! Definitely would recommend something nicer and bigger if you’re planning on having any down time in your room OR if you have anyone in your party that’s over 6ft. tall! WARNING: you literally will NOT be able to fit in the bathroom!
If you’re looking to stay somewhere more upbeat and vibrant then I would recommend something closer to Trafalgar Square and of course do your research!
Day 1: Trafalgar Square, Westminster, London Eye and More
As I briefly mentioned in the beginning of my post, I’m going to tell you how to get the best bang for your buck in 3 days! I definitely recommend staying longer and getting to truly explore the City of London but sometimes we don’t all have that luxury of TIME!
With that said, look at a map of London ahead of time and cluster all of the sites nearby for the same day. This will also save you money through the tube so you can stay within in your zone and get the most out of your Oyster Card!
The “People’s Square”…many of the public spaces in London were created for the enjoyment of the nobility class or dedicated to some monarch of their time. Trafalgar Square was dedicated to the people of London and today on any given day you’ll see people from musicians, artists, students, activists, protests, and even just a casual couple enjoying a sandwich.
Trafalgar Square is also in very close proximity to many of the other sites like Chinatown, so definitely go for a quick stroll and check out the local artists and musicians! We were there during a major protest of the minimum wage, in which the protests started at Trafalgar Square, so we had front row seats to some peaceful European protesting!
One of the reasons I MUST return to London is because I did not get to tour Westminster Abbey while I was there! I mean look at the line in the photo! It was approximately noon and most of these people we’re in line for the 4 pm tour, if that gives you any perspective of the line. Also, the line wraps around like half of the property….sooooo you’re only seeing like a fourth of the line, if that! The London Pass cannot save you from this line, even though admission to Westminster Abbey is included with your pass price!
Some fun facts about Westminster Abbey!
- Westminster Abbey was formed by Benedictine monks sometime in “the middle of the tenth century” and the current Westminster Abbey was started by Henry III in 1245. They still have regular weekly services (St. Margaret’s chapel below).
- Westminster Abbey has been the coronation church for the British Monarch since 1066. To date, 39 coronations have taken place at Westminster Abbey with the most recent on 2 June 1953 for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II!
- It is the burial ground for over 3,300 including Isaac Newton, Edward the Confessor and Charles Dickens, and Mary Queen of Scots!
If you want to see London from sky-high, literally, then check out the London Eye. I was told when I was there that the name has recently been changed to the “Coca Cola London Eye”….looks like good ol’ coke got it’s hands on another great marketing idea! This one isn’t included in the London Pass, but if you’re near Westminster Abbey just cross over the bridge and you’re right there!
HINT: If you have kids this area may be a place to spend a couple of hours. They had a Shrek adventure-thingy-ma-bob and some other fun activities for kids.
….and some nearby sites
Nearby Westminster Abbey, you’ll find an array of historic sites and buildings. Big Ben, Parliament, Jewel Tower, and so much more are located within steps of this area. To make the most of your time in London pre-check a map of London and circle all of the sites you want to see. London is a huge city with a lot of moving parts so prepare yourself….
Day 2: Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, Knotting Hill and More
We decided to check out the palace the second day since we were completely exhausted from Day 1. We also decided to use the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus tour this day so we could sneakily rest our feet while still getting to see a lot.
I mean did you really go to London if you didn’t stop by Her Majesty The Queen’s Royal Palace? I overslept the day we decided to go to the palace and completely missed “changing of the guards” which I hear is a MUST SEE! So for all of you going to London (not in winter), don’t forget to check their site (HERE) for times, typically around 11 AM.
As you can see in both of my photos, it’s pretty crowded! Go early if you’re trying to get some photos without the crowds. There are not tours at Buckingham Palace included in your London Pass but you can go HERE if you’re looking to tour the state rooms at Buckingham Palace.
Kensington Palace and Gardens
Nearby Buckingham Palace, is it’s sister Palace, Kensington….
Both Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace are surrounded by beautiful gardens and parks. I do have to say that the garden at Kensington Palace was absolutely breathtaking! They say that Princess Diana used to go on walks through this area often and she was even interested in the different florals and faunas. They were having a Princess Diana special while I was in London so they had a lot of cool facts about her at the gardens.
Of course I had to stop by the infamous Notting Hill neighborhood in London and get a fun blogger photo or two! I mean how could I not? It’s actually not very far from Kensington Palace and the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus stops right at the corner of the neighborhood ;). It’s a fun quirky neighborhood with some funky stores, fast food, and coffee shops.
Just a block or so away from the main street you’ll see a change in the vibrance of the people but NOT in the vibrancy of the homes. I was actually surprised just how close the housing neighborhoods are from the main road. If you have a hard time like myself at finding the cute houses in London then check out The Observationist! She has a handful of neighborhoods in London that are Instagram-worthy! Another swooooon <3
….and some nearby sites
A fashion bloggers dream!! You may have seen many London Bloggers taking their #ootd photos on Oxford Street or Regent Street and I absolutely understand why! I mean they have all of the boutiques and stores and as you can see in my photo below, absolutely ADORBS! Like swoooooon…<3
The excitement I experienced finding a Chinatown was surreal. As someone who is half-Asian (Japanese), I am always delighted to see diverse communities like these. Not only do they have some amazing Asian food for people like myself, but these areas are full of a rich history of a group of people often overlooked. Chinatown is located really close to Leicester Square (really close to Trafalgar Square and London Pass Office and Harry Potter Tour meetup) which is a great area if you’re looking for accommodations near nightlife and a younger crowd!
Day 3: Tower of London, Tower Bridge, View from Top of the Shard, and More
Tower Bridge and Tower of London
A must see site in London! Though I have a small bias and will say that Golden Gate Bridge is the most recognized bridge across the world, they say that the Tower Bridge is. It is a stunning feat of architecture and a tour IS included in your London Pass, so YEY!
They have times listed inside the Tower Bridge to let you know what times the bridge will lift each day, if scheduled for that day.
Fun Fact! A lot of people confuse the Tower Bridge for the “London Bridge” which is actually located really close by to the west.
The tour inside the Tower Bridge is included with the London Pass and is definitely worth it. They have great visuals including photos and movies showing you the history of both this bridge and other bridges in London. They also bring you through several levels of the Tower Bridge including the upper walkway which give you beautiful views of the Thames River (photo below was taken from the upper deck walkway).
Right next to the Tower Bridge is the Tower of London. Now if you’re a history buff and/or love architecture then this a MUST SEE Site! This grand structure has been around since 1066 and has had a variety of purposes in both English and London history. This is another site that is included with your London Pass and again I highly recommend doing a tour through here.
Some fun facts about the Tower of London:
- The Tower was founded by William the Conqueror in 1066 as a military stronghold, the Tower didn’t change until the late 19th century.
2. The Tower is designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO…There are 911 World Heritage Sites worldwide. The Tower of London is included as it is one of the very few intact medieval buildings.
3. If the ravens leave the Tower the Kingdom will fall…there are at least 6 ravens that permanently live at the Tower of London at all times. This is because of superstitious beliefs that, “if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it…”. To this day, each raven has a wing clipped to make sure they don’t fly too far from home.
View from Top of the Shard
If you’re looking for more sky-high views of London then definitely make sure to stop by The Shard to make your way to the top for world class views of London. This is another great attraction that is included in your London Pass price!
….and some nearby sites
Again, this is the time to check your map and see what other sites are nearby. There are a ton of sites close to the Tower Bridge and Tower of London including St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Wall, Shakespeare’s Globe, and much more.
St. Paul’s Cathedral & Shakespeare’s Globe
It’s a marvel to look at especially as you walk across Millennium Bridge! It’s also directly across from Shakespeare’s Globe so if you’re going to check out one then might as well check out both. St. Paul’s is a great site to visit for those interested in architecture, religion, and English revival after the great fires of London. A fun fact about St. Paul is the Whispering Gallery. If you whisper against the wall can be clearly heard at the other side, 112 feet away!
Like almost EVERY structure in London, this one is also a rebuild.
Disclaimer: I think I briefly mentioned earlier that London was settled in 43 AD by the Romans. In the last near two millennia, there have been countless wars, bombings, fires (SOOOO many fires), natural disasters, etc. One thing you will notice in most of London is that some part of everything has been rebuilt. Westminster Abbey is on like it’s 3rd or 4th rebuild!
Thank you all for reading my London Travel Guide! I’ll be adding more content on here as I make my way back to Europe and specifically London! If you’re interested in my London Fashion, check out my blog London Fashion!
Happy Travels <3