The idea that you can summarize London in a blog post is ridiculous. The notion that you can capture a city so big and vibrant and alive in any number of words is preposterous. A city that sits on top of seemingly infinite levels of underground trains constantly whirring back and forth. A city where you can go to a different pub for lunch and dinner every day for an entire year and not even come close to eating at them all. A city with so many unique neighborhoods and districts intertwined in such a way that you can experience a completely different scene by walking 10 minutes in any direction.
Sure, I could give you a laundry list of things I did and places I went while spending a week in London. And I may still do that by the time this post is done. But it won’t do it justice. It won’t even come close.
I suppose I should back up and explain how I ended up in London. My friend Amanda had planned the trip with someone else who unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute. On December 12, I booked my flight and less than two weeks later, on Christmas Day, we were off. It might seem crazy to book an international trip on such short notice. But when you make travel a priority in your life, saying yes to an opportunity like this is a no brainer. (Practical side note: I already had the time off work.)
Since being back, I’ve had a hard time articulating my favorite part. It wasn’t one thing or place, but rather a feeling. I immediately felt super comfortable in London. Of course no language barrier helped, along with my pre-trip Google Map stalking and natural sense of direction. But it was more than that and different than my previous trips abroad.
I felt like we were there, not just visiting. Walking around, taking the tube, drinking pints at a pub (all the pubs)…it all felt so natural and like something I could do every day forever. Our Airbnb flat contributed to that a lot I’m sure – a two-bedroom flat just east of the Tower of London past St. Katharine Docks. It was so nice to be able to spread out, cook a few meals and feel like we were locals. You just can’t get that same experience in a hotel.
It ended up being sort of a weird time to visit London. We arrived on Boxing Day, an official holiday and also Amanda’s birthday. A lot of places were closed, not just that day but at odd dates and times throughout the week. That didn’t decrease the number of tourists though. The lines at all of the major sites were crazy. We walked by each attraction but skipped the long lines and high admissions prices to keep walking and take in more of the city.
And take in the city we did! We walked through almost every major area on both sides of the river. I promised not to do a laundry list but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note some of the highlights and include a gallery of pictures (below). If you want more recommendations, I’m happy to provide the full list of restaurants/attractions/etc in the comments.
- I keep a list of states I’ve ran in and was super (nerdy) excited to add a country! The Thames Path provided a great route and I witnessed a pretty incredible sunrise over the Tower Bridge.
- High tea at the Tower Hotel – I was apprehensive since I don’t drink tea but I quickly learned it’s about so much more than tea. It was a fancy, fun experience with delicious food and unlimited Prosecco.
- Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park – we had a great time walking through, with a pint in hand of course.
- Harry Potter nerd moments – I made the pilgrimage to Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station. We also stumbled upon Leadenhall Market one morning before it opened. A little eerie but awesome and I later learned it’s where they filmed some of the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley scenes.
- British Library – this is one of my must see recommendations. They have original manuscripts from DaVinci and Shakespeare. Beethoven’s handwritten symphonies. The piece of paper the Beatles wrote “Yesterday” on. The first known use of italics in print. It was incredible and admission was free!
- Train to Windsor – as much as we loved the city, this day trip was a nice change of pace. The castle was interesting but even better was venturing to Windsor & Eton Brewery. I loved learning about their brewing style versus the U.S. while sampling generous half pint pours. And the staff was so friendly!
- And of course counting down to 2015 in another country was pretty cool. We opted for an 80s theme party at The Minories and had a blast dancing in the New Year.
The complete gallery: