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  • Writer's pictureCaylie Poola

WEEKENDER GUIDE: London, England

Let me start with this: London is my new favorite city. I had never *actually* been until this past week, but now that I have, I will probably never stop thinking about it. At least until the day I can hopefully live there myself. Because of this, I 100% urge you to take a trip to London while studying abroad, or just in general - if you can. I hope you love it even half as much as I did.


Ok lets get on with the guide now.


Luckily, we had decided to dedicate majority of our fall break to visiting London. We spent Monday-Friday there, which I will always be grateful for. When we left there were still 1000 things we wanted to see and do. It is definitely a city that would be hard to do in just a weekend. That being said, we also spent a lot of this trip roaming around the city, exploring on our own and finally soaking it all in while we had a little extra time -- unlike the normal energy of our weekend trips.


Travel from the EU to the UK


Especially if you are studying abroad in Italy or coming from another country in the EU, don't forget that London is in the UK which requires more paperwork and preparation to travel to then going within the EU which is all we had done before. While you should always continue to check the official travel regulations and rules, keep in mind that for our trip we needed to fill out a few lengthy documents before our flight including a confirmation of a COVID test we would be taking within 48 hours of entering the UK. We ordered tests to be delivered to our Airbnb and it was a smooth experience, but until we got to the airport we didn't realize we had needed them so in advance. Knowing this would have made the day go by much smoother.


Where We Stayed


Our Airbnb in London is my favorite Airbnb yet. It was located in Notting Hill, which we absolutely loved. I truly fell in love with the little corner of the world that is Notting Hill and loved the cozy, autumn and family-oriented feel the area had. It was the perfect mix of a busy, bustling London city and a quaint neighborhood. Despite Notting Hill being a bit further from the main hustle and bustle of the city, we found it to be a nice walk to Kensington and Hyde Park, another area we loved. If we stayed outside of Notting Hill, we probably wouldn't have been able to explore the area as much, and there are so many amazing cafes, restaurants, shops and people watching opportunities in the area. I seriously could have spent 5 days in Notting Hill alone. We did have to taxi a bit more being there, but to us it was 100% worth it. And no, our Airbnb was not behind a blue door unfortunately, but it was close to it.


Where We Ate


Because we stayed in London a bit longer then my other trips, we obviously ate out more and tried more places. To save us some time and space, I am going to list each place and a link to their website instead of a lengthy description like normal. I will say, my friends and I were all very impressed with the food in London. Other then the fact it can be a bit pricey, it was fun, delicious and there were always so many options. We had about 3-4 reservations before arriving in London, which was very helpful, but also enjoyed finding things as we went along our day!


Breakfast:

  • Eggbreak, Notting Hill (I had the BEST truffle burrata scrambled eggs here. We also got lucky getting a table and did not have reservations!) https://eggbreak.com/

  • Granger & Co, Notting Hill (Great vibes, food, and only had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. Also on a super cute street in Notting Hill) https://grangerandco.com

  • Farm Girl, Notting Hill Location (Delicious, cute, basic, healthy and a must-go in my book. We didn't have a reservation but went super early because we heard it gets crowded fast! They also have a few London locations) https://www.thefarmgirl.co.uk/

  • Eggslut, Notting Hill (Maddie got breakfast here one day and it looked SO good. It's basically all egg sandwiches and I regret getting an açaí bowl instead, tbh. Also the name is everything.) https://www.eggslut.com/

  • Sketch, Soho (If you haven't heard of Sketch-just google it and I promise you'll recognize it. We made a reservation over a week in advance and it was worth it. We sat in the parlor and enjoyed breakfast, as well as the atmosphere.) https://sketch.london/


Sketch, London


Lunch/Snack Stops: Most days because we had good breakfasts, we didn't prioritize getting full lunches but grabbed a quick snack or something on the go.

  • Peggy Porschen, Chelsea (This infamous bakery in London is noticeable from a mile away with a pink exterior, flowers and a delicious array of baked goods. We couldn't get a table to sit but we loved just grabbing a cupcake to go and taking a look around the store front!) https://www.peggyporschen.com


Quick stop at Peggy Porschen

  • GAIL'S Bakery, Chelsea (Grabbed a yogurt and scone here as a make-shift lunch one day and it was amazing! Quick, easy and they have a few locations in London!) https://gailsbread.co.uk

Dinner:

  • The Mayfair Chippy, Soho (You MUST go here if you want to try some authentic fish and chips in a great atmosphere. It was highly rated and worth the hype. We were glad we had a reservation!) https://mayfairchippy.com/

  • The Ivy, Soho Brasserie Location (The Ivy is AMAZING. They have multiple London locations that are all unique and decorated with such detail. Trendy, fun and my cocktail literally had a flame floating on it. We went to the Soho location and had a great experience. But let me just say, make a reservation if you want to eat here.) https://theivysohobrasserie.com/?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=Yext

  • Maya at the Hotxon, Shoreditch (A Soho House affiliated restaurant, the Maya was a rooftop tapas style, Mexican place and our experience here was amazing. The views, the people, lets just say we had an unforgettable night. Reservation? Yes.) https://thehoxton.com/london/shoreditch/maya-restaurant/

What We Did


Double Decker Bus Tour... But Halloween themed

We wanted to experience the typical London, big red bus, double decker tour, but couldn't get ourselves to commit. However, as soon as we found one that was themed for Halloween, we knew we had to give it a go. We did this our very first night and it was so fun! We got a chance to see the city and hear stories about Jack the Ripper as well as other haunting tales of London. Definitely a different experience then the average bus tour, but it was perfect for us and on theme for the season. Obviously Halloween is over, but I recommend you look to see if there are any themed tours for the time of the year you are visiting London!


Afternoon Tea at the Lanesborough Hotel

This was unanimously one of our absolute favorite activities of fall break. When finding a place to make a reservation for authentic British tea time, I stumbled across the Lanesborough and it seemed like the perfect mix of classy and fun. The 5 star hotel is a site to see itself, and we were treated like princesses. We laughed, ate way to many scones *with butter and jam OBVI* and had unlimited tea with pastries and little sandwiches. We were SO full when we left but had to sneak a few scones out with us in my purse. (Shhh don't tell the Lanesborough!) I think I can confidently speak for all my friends that day was everything we had hoped for and more. The Lanesborough afternoon tea this fall was curated by Peggy Porschen (remember the baker I recommended earlier?) So the pastries were all pink and her own recipes! 10000/10 experience. Worth every penny. But definitely book in advance. https://www.oetkercollection.com/hotels/the-lanesborough/restaurants-bars/afternoon-tea/



Tea time anyone?!


Seeing Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theater


London has a great theater district in Soho, with so many shows to see! We knew we had to get tickets to one during our visit. We landed on Mary Poppins because it felt on brand to being in London. We booked our tickets about 2 weeks in advance, and the show was completely sold out, so we were glad we did. Our seats were complete nosebleeds, but it was unforgettable. The show itself was amazing and we had SO much fun getting dressed up and going. https://www.marypoppinsonstage.co.uk/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5oiMBhDtARIsAJi0qk3yhUO6w38jinpXXnUKdVd9VPf1VAwEkcGguLeMLrvoaZKICgCTozAaAmthEALw_wcB


Kensington Palace

If you come to London - do not miss visiting Kensington Palace, especially if you love the royal family. I think learning about the royals is SO interesting, so I really loved this. The palace, which is the home of so much history and charm, is also currently still home to royals! They do a great job at keeping many parts private while still keeping the museum interesting. Will and Kate still live in Kensington, Apartment 1A to be exact. We could only catch a peak through bushes and a wall, but it was still surreal. We learned so much about the history of the royal family in this museum and walking through rooms they actually lived in. We booked tickets about a week before, which was good because time slots were scarce when we looked and we may have been out of luck had we not booked them beforehand. Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and the area around is also a great spot to walk around and explore, which we absolutely did. https://www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/#gs.fc7bbn


Royal Style in the Making

We completely lucked out with timing on this one. Our Kensington Palace tickets gave us access to view the Royal Style in the Making showcase located right next to the palace. We were able to see Princess Diana's wedding dress and other outfits of hers, as well as other pieces from royal style icons. We learned about the designers, her legacy, and as a fan of Diana and fashion I was completely in awe of it. It is only open until January 2nd so if you are able to, go to London and see this while you can! https://www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/whats-on/royal-style-in-the-making/#gs.fc7m5e



The Wedding Dress of Princess Diana


Brick Lane Market

This is in my top 3 of places we went to while in London. If you are into thrifting, even a little, you HAVE to go here. Before we went, I didn't have any idea what I was getting myself into. As soon as we walked in I was in AWE. It is an indoor market filled with SO many vendors of thrifted, curated, unique clothes, accessories, prints, records, shoes, literally everything. The vibes in this place were absolutely UNMATCHED. Everyone was so unique, stylish, and it felt like the most judgement-free, creative space ever. I snagged a few unique pieces for my wardrobe here and it felt completely justifiable because it was all one of a kind. I could have spent a full day here. I've truly never seen anything like it.



Tower of London



Visiting the Tower of London is a historical must-see while in London. We bought our tickets only a day in advance and spent a few hours walking the grounds of the tower, taking in the surrounding views, going through the different displays and particularly, seeing the crowned jewels. The crowned jewels was definitely my favorite part. I got to see the crowns, accessories and more belonging to the British monarchy. When there are royal events, baptisms, coronations, etc, these jewels are STILL used. They are housed in the museum, which basically becomes a sealed vault at night, and are truly priceless heirlooms. https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/whats-on/line-of-kings/#gs.fc7onc


The Parent Trap House

This is a very niche recommendation, but we took a walk by the filming location of the London Parent Trap house, where the exterior was filmed, and it was a fangirl moment for me. As a child at heart, the Parent Trap is one of my favorite nostalgic movies and seeing it in person was just cool, honestly. Don't be fooled, you can't go in or anything, we just took some pictures, admired it and left. It is currently someones actual home on a quiet street, so there isn't much you can do other then look.

If you're curious, here's the address:

London SW3 1LS, United Kingdom


Harrods

We visited the iconic department store of Harrods. It is so big I could have spent a day in there, probably. It was already getting decorated for Christmas, so we loved walking around the holiday displays and taking it all in. A fun spot for some souvenirs and to stroll around aimlessly. At night Harrods is lit up around the exterior, which was a pretty sight to see as well.


Portobello Road Market & Notting Hill

Since we were staying in Notting Hill, it goes without saying we had to check out Portobello Road. Unfortunately, we were not in London on a Saturday when the market is in full swing, but there were vendors set up around and it was a fun street to stroll down. We found great spots like a tea place my friends absolutely adored, a book stand with vintage copies of Harry Potter and more. Notting Hill in general is probably my favorite place in the world now, so if that doesn't make you want to visit, I don't know what will. We also visited the infamous blue door and sites from the movie Notting Hill, which actually was filmed in Notting Hill (who would have thought?!) A kind local pointed us in the direction of the REAL blue door that was used both on the exterior and interior of the film and pointed us away from the tourist trap door we likely would have found instead.


Buckingham Palace

You can't go to London and miss out on seeing Buckingham Palace. A little underwhelming because all there really was to do was look, but still very cool to see in person. The most interesting part of going was seeing that there was a flag flying on the top of the palace. While sitting on stairs in front of the palace we met two British boys who explained to us that the flag flying over the palace meant the Queen was actually there right now. Knowing that, looking up at the Palace in front of me was even more magical. Unfortunately, we were not able to tour the inside of the Palace during our time in London because there is a small window of the year when tours are conducted which is November 5-January 30 this fall/winter. I was a little bummed we didn't make the timeline for a visit inside, but that's just another reason why I need to come back to London.

If you wanna book a ticket or check out visiting Buckingham Palace: https://www.rct.uk/visit/buckingham-palace




Wholesome moment in front of Buckingham Palace


Hyde Park

We ended up walking through Hyde Park twice during our visit. I could take a walk there every day and I don't think it would get old. My love for London only grew walking around this park, admiring the fall leaves, people watching everyone from families to business people to someone reading a book on a bench. It felt like a movie scene where everything is timed perfectly and everyone is content, happy and inspired. Maybe I'm romanticizing it a little, but that really is how it felt.


London Travel Tips


I don't have many tips, because overall I felt extremely safe and comfortable while visiting London. I would say that overall, London feels like a cleaner, more polite and less crowded New York City.


Getting Around

Most of our trip we walked everywhere. We enjoy walking during our travels because it allows us to see more of the city then we would have, saves money and is healthy. However, with fall feeling more like winter in some places, we find ourselves wanting to taxi or uber a little more (particularly at night). We learned early on that taxis in London are EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE compared to Uber. We found ourselves taking taxis at first, trying to be mindful of being tourists in the city like we were told in Paris, and because of convenience. However, after realizing we were LOSING money doing this, we switched to Uber. Save yourself a few dollars and do the same. Or take the tube. (Sadly we didn't do this during our stay-major regrets there.)


Be Aware of the Conversion

Coming from only spending Euros this semester, the Pounds used in London were a wakeup call. The conversion rate was something I don't think any of us were quite prepared for. Where as Euros and USD don't have a completely balanced conversion rate, nothing compared to that of Pounds and USD. It made most of what we purchased end up being significantly more expensive then the number on the price-tag or menu. It can be easy to forget that when you buy something initially and it is processed in USD eventually, you will be charged much more then the original price. This isn't a tip, but more so a reminder that being aware of these things will make budgeting much easier. We also had to remember to convert things when Venmo'ing each other for meals or miscellaneous charges. This may seem obvious--but I promise, it's easy to forget.







London left a mark on me, and even though I wasn't there for nearly long enough, I know that one day I am going to find my way back and stay a while longer. I hoped going abroad I would feel this way about an experience I had. Seeing London felt like finding a little bit of home in a place I had never even been before, and I feel extremely grateful to have had the chance to visit the beautiful city.



Until we meet again, London Town.
See you for my next adventure soon.


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