With a cute, cozy environment and gorgeous parklands designed for hand-in-hand strolls, London is the perfect city for the vacation. From stunning cathedrals to secret passageways, universities to beaches, all won my heart with their beauty, history, or unique charm.
Everyone wants to come to London! People are drawn to it by images of pubs, museums, history, attractions, theater, and diverse cultures. I mean it’s London. It’s a big name. How can you not go, right?
Despite being a vast and bustling city, it’s entirely possible to see a good majority of London’s main sites in a tiny space of time!
If you are also planning your trip to London, let my experience guide you in the right direction!
I have explained the process of applying for a visa !! Stay tuned till the end!
We flew from Delhi with a layover of four to five hours. And reached London airport around seven o’clock in the morning. We already booked the accommodation beforehand with Airbnb and reached around 10:30 am at our place in South Kensington by hiring a cab.
If you have lots of luggage. You really don’t want to take the tube with young kids and a big suitcase, take my word for it. We took a cab twice to London and it was much more affordable than we expected.
The transportation system is very good in London. Taxis are everywhere and cost about euro 6 per one mile (Around Rs. 500-550/mile). We spent around INR 10k to reach via cab to our pre-booked accommodation.
Hotels in Central London can be expensive, yet while it might be very tempting to choose cheaper accommodation outside the city center. First, commuting into the city every day will cost a lot of money and time. Precious time that you could otherwise use for sightseeing.
We had connecting flights to London; it was not much tiring. As I felt the breeze of London on my face, I got excited for every upcoming minute here!!
As for the weather, I can say London doesn’t get too cold. Summer is peak tourism season and temperatures are the warmest during this time but rarely above 30 degrees celsius. London is bursting at the seams during this time, but the city offers a great, lively atmosphere. It was spring when we arrived here!! And spring is the king of the season!!
By the way, it was already late afternoon till we got ready to explore after grabbing food in our self-catering apartment! Let me tell you, the daylight here was feeling just like 11 o’clock in the morning of India.
Well, Just by walking one can see a lot within a small area. London is a huge city, and there are beautiful buildings all around.! We just took a walking tour to nearby reachable places. Many iconic places were not so far from the place!
Starting my first day at one of the most famous of all London sites, Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the United Kingdom’s sovereign and the administrative headquarters of the present-day monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. The changing of the guard at Buckingham palace is interesting to watch as you take in the true British flare which takes place at 11 am every day!!
This royal palace dates back to 1703 and was originally built as a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham, but was later acquired by King George III. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to officially reside in the palace.
Head across from Buckingham palace and we entered in one of the Royal Park’s of London, St. James. The parks and gardens are everywhere. There are also plenty of parks to explore. You can now row in the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, visit the rose garden in Regent’s Park, spot the royal palaces at St. James Park.
Like most parks in the city, this beautiful garden has rich green covering trees, winding walkways, curious and playful bushy-tailed squirrels, and a serene central lake. This lake is home to a colony of white pelicans, which were donated by the Russian ambassador in 1664 to Charles II. It’s a relaxing area- grab a seat on one of the few benches and unwind.
Continuing on from St. James’s Park, we walked straight to Trafalgar square!
Trafalgar Square is one of the most popular public squares in London and is home to Nelson’s Column (a monument to Admiral Horatio Nelson) and London’s famous stone lion statues.
I also heard about walking tours one can do here. They are free and consist of ranges of themed tours and the most loved one is Jack the Ripper!
Well, we could explore only this much on the first day as the day was winding up around 22:30 PM. We came back to the apartment and slept after having dinner.
The second day arrived and now we were filled with excitement to explore the city! This time we switched to Hop on Hop off, bus service and we just toured the whole city on that.
London has excellent public transportation, and getting a travel pass is cheaper than buying single tickets all the time. I got a visitor oyster card which saves around pound 2.40 (Rs. 200-250) per ride. It cost me pound 5 (Rs.400-450) then one can choose how much credit to add to your card. I also added London Pass in it, as it allows you to visit a lot of major attractions in a very short time. Click here to know more about Oyster cards and London Pass.
The bus takes you to all the iconic places and you can hop off to any place and hop on from any place after exploring them. I already stuffed my bag with the sandwiches I made.
But if you want to try the food here, then the Borough market could be your place for street food! For Indian food, you can look into south Hall.
Bus number 88 will take you to Camden, oxford street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, the house of Parliament, and the Thames!
And 4 will take you to the Waterloo, Somerset House, the Royal Court of Justice, fleet street, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Barbican.
So taking this 88, I started my bus roof tour, feeling awesome as London unwrapped in front of me.
The vintage homes with their iconic beauty and the sparrows I spotted sitting on their window were making me feel like I am in the movie. The pleasant and cool weather really filled us with excitement. And then the bus moves through the route where I spotted Hyde Park and the Marble Arch.
Hyde Park is the most famous park in London. Originally the private hunting grounds of Henry VII, it opened to the public in 1637 is a great place to stroll, picnic, or catch many events that are hosted here throughout the year.
Marble Arch was designed to be both a grandiose gateway to an expanded Buckingham Palace and an exuberant celebration of British victories in the Napoleonic Wars – a Triumphal Arch.
We hopped off and walked around the strand. In the 12th century, rich noblemen built elegant homes and gardens along the shore (the strand) of the Thames, making it one of the most prestigious places to live even now!
Witnessing the great display of wealth and beauty here, I literally felt like in an iconic vintage movie. Once you walk and get out of the tourist area around the Thames, you’ll get to see London the way locals do.
London has more museums than you could see in one visit, and many of them are free. From the Take to the City Museum to the National Gallery to the Historical Museum one will be able to spend days here without spending a penny.! Looking at the Kohinoor with my own eyes, I really felt how great and wealthy India was before getting under the rule of Britishers.
But to enjoy access to 80+ London attractions like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and St. Cathedral, you can get London Pass by booking online. It cost Euro 125 (Around 10k in rupees) for a three-day pass per person. Available in the option of one day and two-day pass as well as six days pass.
This pass makes for good savings if you’re planning on doing a ton of sightseeing!
Well, it is always a dream of one to sit in that huge Ferris wheel and I got my dream true as I sat in this 500-feet tall Ferris wheel, called London Eye and it has become the most popular paid-for UK visitor attraction. It’s across the street from Parliament and gives you a great view of London, especially on a clear day.
Standing in large enclosed glass pods on this giant Ferris wheel-like attraction and it spins very slowly to give the expensive view of the beautiful Thames and London. Here you get the option to add champagne to the experience or even get a private pod. Opened to the public in 200 to celebrate the Millenium, it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel at the time.
It gets you one rotation on the giant wheel which equates to approximately 30 minutes.
Afterward, continue on across Westminster Bridge to the south bank of the Thames. Immediately after crossing the bridge, We witnessed the postcard view of Big Ben and the peaceful river Thames.
The road around was wide and clean. The maple trees standing proud were giving picturesque views. Every place is worth clicking for!! The whole scene was iconic and I realized why most movies are shot here now. It is worth visiting here!!
Well, lots of companies run boat tours along the Thames, but the cheapest way to see London from the water is on the Thames Clipper riverboat.
Finally, if you are energetic, you can hire Santander Cycles bike (aka Boris bike. You can pick them up from docking stations around central London and they cost you euro 2 for 24 hours then you can make as many journeys under 30 minutes as you like for free. But stay aware of traffic rules!!
If you’re visiting London for the first time and don’t know the city well, renting a bike without a guide may not be the best idea, unless in the parks. London traffic is really busy, it comes from a different side than what we are used to, and if you need to read the map, it can get quite dangerous.
Finally passing through these major London attractions and with beautiful views of the city, this road took us all the way to Tower Bridge.
One has to walk a lot, so it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes.
Along the way, you’ll pass by street performers which will make your walk more entertaining. Continuing on the Queen’s walk and very soon your first glimpse of Tower Bridge in the distance
The area is worth a wonder for its riverfront scenery, old London streets, restaurants and cafes, independent shops, museums, art galleries, and stunning historic and contemporary architecture.
Then one can take the route to reach the Tower of London. The fees are applicable to it. It was first built by William the Conqueror in 1078 as a royal castle and defense tower.
It was then expanded over the centuries and served many purposes, including a fortress, prison, armory, and Royal Mint.
Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is famous for serving as a prison and execution site of famous people like Queen Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey, and for housing the Crown Jewels.
You’ll pass by lots of cafes and restaurants here, and there will be great views of Tower Bridge as you go!. The Shard is a modern pyramidal-shaped skyscraper that is home to several restaurants, a hotel, offices, shops, and a viewing gallery. It was completed in 2012 and is currently the tallest building in Western Europe at 1,017 feet (309 meters) with 87 floors. It also gives you a fantastic view, the one you want for clicking stunning pictures.
London is safe, and the risk of violent crime is low. Scams and pickpocketing can occur around high traffic areas, especially in London around tourist attractions like London Tower. Well, always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. As a general rule, if you don’t do something in India, don’t do it in London.
With a great mix of historic and contemporary, big attractions and secret places, London has something for everyone. Add to those great restaurants, markets, and nightlife, and it’s hard to beat.
St. Paul’s is a striking cathedral with a world-famous Dome. Inside you’ll find glittering mosaics and elaborate stone carvings. You can climb to the Whispering gallery or higher still to the Stone Gallery or Golden Gallery for panoramic views over surrounding London.
It’s absolutely astounding work of architecture, and one that has been destroyed, damaged by fire and war, rebuilt several times.
St. Paul is famous for housing the remains of its architect, Sir Christopher Wren, as well as the Duke of Wellington, Horatio Nelson, among many other famous personalities. This is the site famous for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
After witnessing this famous place we reached Oxford, whom you also heard famous for its university. It is a nerd and scenic historical city that is home to England’s oldest university. The vibes are amazing!
From Oxford, we sat on a train and traveled directly to our dedicated Bicester Village station.
Let me tell you Bicester Village is a place for luxury shopping in chic designer boutiques. But it’s the savings that bring the customers. Even though goods aren’t cheap by any measure, they are much cheaper than in the equivalent shops on Bond Street or Fifth Avenue
This Bicester Village is home to more than 160 boutiques of British and international fashion and lifestyle brands including Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Breitling, Burberry, Dior, Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, Prada, Smythson, Stella McCartney, and Valentino.
The encompassing greenery of the garden gave it exotic views. Every road was wide and clean and gave a picturesque view of the city. Every place is worthy of clicking photographs.
London is the most diverse and happening city in the world. Multiculturalism at it best, there’s never a dull moment in London and there’s something in store for everyone.
My UK Diaries will continue another day when we explore the other cities too. You will discover that it is the quiet parts which have the greatest charm, stuff most guidebooks of London don’t tell you! Until then, stay tuned.
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