Much to my chagrin, I didn’t have much time in London. As such we had a bit of a whirlwind trip trying to see as many of the landmarks as possible. In this guide I will touch on what those landmarks were so that you will know how to see London when you’re short on time.
My flight got into Gatwick Airport and I was able to catch a National Express Bus for 8 pounds to the Victoria Station, once I arrived there I paid 12 pounds to get to my hotel. However, I could have easily taken the tube to Earl’s Court Station and walked the rest of the way. As I had anticipated the exhaustion I booked my first night in the Garden View Hotel. This place was adorable and I found the beds comfy.
One thing that I wanted to make sure I ate in London was fish n’ chips. After some quick research I found a place called Poppies Fish and Chips which I was easily able to reach by the tube. The place was very busy which is always a great sign. They have two separate lines depending on whether you want takeaway, served in a newspaper, or to sit down for your meal. I opted for a table for one. The restaurant was set up to look like a 1950s diner. The décor was cute and surrounded by the noise of laughter, chatting, and forks clattering against plates.
The super tasty fish n’ chips at Poppies.
I honestly, did not know what to do with myself so I ended up riding the tube to Baker Street (Holla, Sherlock!) and purchasing a few souvenirs for my family. This is also where Madame Tussauds is located. I visited one of these when I was 17 years old in New York and I now consider myself set for life on the wax figures front.
The Sherlock Holmes statute on Baker Street
Jess arrived very early the next day so we set out for some sightseeing after transferring our stuff to the Walrus Bar and Hostel where we spent the remainder of our nights in London. This hostel had a very cute bar located downstairs. The location was right by Waterloo Station, which made getting around easy. An unfortunate consequence was noise volume. The traffic and trains were so disruptive.
Standard London Bridge shot.
We made some rapid photo stops around the city (see my list below), before scrambling back to our hostel to change for our Alice in Wonderland High Tea at The Sanderson Hotel. I cannot recommend this more. It was super expensive; however, it was amazing. The patio was serene. The menu is displayed in an old book, which adds to the fantasy feel. Everyone is well dressed and conversations are carried out quietly between tables. We ate the most amazing toasted ham and cheese sandwich of life. The desserts are intricately decorated to look like sights you might see in Alice’s dream. They were almost too adorable to eat. Of course, the tea was amazing and you can drink it bottomlessly.
On our way home, we stopped for a few drinks in the darling area of Carnaby Street. Many bars had decent happy hour prices and all of the bars were packed.
On our return trip to London, we spent our last day in Harry Potter bliss. Firstly, we stopped by King’s Cross Station for some Platform 9 ¾ photos. The experience has been commercialized. There are now professional photographers waiting to take your photo that can be purchased in the gift shop. The line is also quite long. However, I felt compelled to have a photo and so I did. Jess and I were able to take photos of each other on my phone without causing too much ruckus.
Afterwards we journeyed out to Leavesden for the Harry Potter Studio Tour. You absolutely have to do this if you are a Harry Potter fan like us. Words cannot describe how phenomenal it was to be there. The set designers paid so much intricate attention to details. There are so many small things that you will never notice just having watched the movies. In the potions classroom, each bottle of ingredients has been painstakingly labeled by hand. I was blown away seeing how much effort went into creating those movies. Give yourself a lot of time to get there. It took over an hour by train but it was well worth it.
Game of chess anyone?
My last stop in London the morning I left was to visit the Millennium Bridge. This was another Harry Potter themed stop. You may recognize it as the bridge collapsed by Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
To get to Heathrow I took the Piccadilly train line, very simple. Minimal bag struggle.
How To See London When You’re Short on Time- Top Sights to See
- Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Fun Fact: Big Ben is actually the name of the bell located inside the tower.
- London Eye: I rode this my second night there. If you are going to do it, book your tickets online. You will save money!
The London Eye along River Thames.
- Shakespeare’s Globe
- Millennium Bridge: This is for the Harry Potter fans.
Bye, bye bridge!
- Trafalgar Square
- Piccadilly Circus: Piccadilly Circus gave me flashbacks to Times Square in New York. We didn’t actually stop but passed through in our cab on our way to high tea.
- Westminster Abbey
- Buckingham Palace: Changing of the guards happens only once per day and Jess and I were lucky enough to accidentally encounter it. On top of the palace you will either see an empty flagpole or a flag flying. When the flag is flying that means the Queen is in residence. Click here for the current changing of the guard schedule.
We had an excellent accidental spot for the Changing of the Guard.
- St James Park: London is full of beautiful parks. I wish that I could have visited them all.
- Have High Tea: We selected the Mad Hatters High Tea at The Sanderson Hotel. This was our most expensive meal but also well worth it. We had a great time, the food was adorable and the tea was great. This was the reason I lugged my fancy Kate Spade dress around Europe with me.
Things I wish I had Done:
- Portobello Market
- Camden Market
- Tower of London: I would have loved to actually go inside a site so rich with history.
- Royal Observatory: Once inside you can have one foot in western hemisphere and one in the right hemisphere.
- Sunday Roast: I tried to visit The Stanhope Arms for it; however, for Sunday Roast you have to go super early because places sell out. I ended up having a Lamb Shank Shepherd’s Pie that was mouthwatering but I’m sad to have missed out on such a tradition.
- Saw a play at one of the many theatres. The only night I had time for this was the night I arrived and thankfully I didn’t end up doing it as I would have fallen asleep.
Always make sure to see Big Ben.
Getting Around in London:
- London has an excellent underground system, lovingly called The Tube, using this you can get almost anywhere in the city easily. Each station has London Underground Tube Maps. These are tiny and can easily stowed in a bag for quick referencing. If you are staying in London for a few days pick up an Oyster Card as this is the cheapest option for getting around the city, otherwise you will have to buy daily passes which can add up. At the end of your trip, make sure you return the Oyster Card for your 5 pound refund.
- London also has Uber. Taking Ubers can add up but it is nice to have the option. There were also standard taxies readily available.
- Naturally, you have to ride a double decker bus at least once. They are the London icon of public transit. If you can, take a seat in the second level and sit in very front.
- London is a very walkable city. I am always a big fan of walking in other cities because you really get to see and experience the city.
Mysteries of Stonehenge
An excursion that I booked through Golden Tours was to visit Stonehenge. Stonehenge is over 5000 years old and no knows what purpose it served. The actual construction would have taken a ton of manpower and fierce determination. There are many theories on why Stonehenge was created but in the end we can only guess. I visited Stonehenge because I believe when it comes to travel you should take the opportunities that arise. I noticed on Expedia that there were daily trips out here and I thought that it would be an excellent use of one of my days alone.
Stonehenge, exactly what you’d expect, but still cool.
The tour also included Bath for a visit to the Roman Bathhouses and Windsor to visit the Windsor Castle. I only cared for Stonehenge.