London 2014: Touring the Town

So- I ended 2014 with a bit of a bang- with a trip to London!  This is something that came about over the summer and I jumped at the chance to go.  As some of my friends asked what to do while over there- I thought it would just be easier to write it up.  We hit so many things while we were over there and there was so much more to do.  Honestly- everything I did was a ton of fun and you really can’t go wrong with what you choose to do (at least as far as I can tell). Here are some of the big things that I think people should give a try while in London.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Where We Went

1.) Tower of London and Tower Bridge

We were lucky enough to stay near the Tower and Tower Bridge and that definitely had its advantages- we were close to so many things, including the Tube (i.e. the subway) and bus stops.  Both of these landmarks include tours and it was absolutely worth the money to go to through the Tower tour.  We tried to go on Monday, but were told that we did not have enough time to go through the Tower.  They generally say that you need between 2 and 4 hours to go through the Tower.  We wound up going on Wednesday and got there first thing in the morning- which is absolutely worth it.  There is next to no line for the Crown Jewels and you can make it through in less time and see everything you want.

The Tower- Near the Crowned Jewels

The Tower- Near the Crowned Jewels

2.) Buckingham Palace

We took a walk down The Mall and ended up at Buckingham Palace.  The building is absolutely gorgeous and there is so much to see near the palace.  If you catch it just right, you’ll be able to catch the changing of the guard, which happens every other day at the palace.  Be warned- get there early if you want to get a good view of what is going on.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

3.) Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus

Shopping!  There is tons of shopping on these two streets and they actually aren’t too far of a walk from each other.  It goes from very pricey to very reasonable on these streets- so just keep that in mind. There are plenty of places to buy reasonable souvenirs and not pay an arm and a leg.

4.) Windsor and Windsor Castle

It is about a 40 minute drive from the heart of London- but this is absolutely worth it.  The town of Windsor also has a great deal of shopping and Windsor Castle is absolutely gorgeous.  It is a bit of a hike up from the parking, but it is worth it.  There is an audio guide to talk to you about the history of the pieces within castle and many different levels to enjoy.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

5.) Westminster Abbey

The church is absolutely gorgeous again- if you want to see it, it is better to get there early.  There is an audio recording for here as well and you are able to see many of the things that you only see in pictures.  However- no pictures are allowed in Westminster Abbey- so you will have to take your memories with you.

6) Platform 9 3/4

If you are a Harry Potter fan- this is a must- you can take as many pictures as you need near.  There is a bit of a line for it, but it is worth it.  There is a shop nearby that is solely Harry Potter and you can look at a professional picture there (it comes in a cute frame, but we opted for the cell phone version).  This is a fairly popular place to visit, so the earlier the better (are you catching on to the theme that there really is no sleeping in?). Even if you have to wait in line- the pictures are to die for.

2014-12-31 12.14.20

Platform 9 3/4

7.) Eat Fish and Chips

This is a signature dish in England and can be found anywhere from street vendors to upscale restaurants.  We had it a couple times while I was there and both renditions were good (the second was better).  I am still on the search for the best fish and chips I have ever had, but both of these were really good.

8.) Ride a Double Decker Bus

Pay the 10 pounds to get an oyster card and go on a double decker bus (route 15).  The buses stop throughout the city and you can even just ride for a few stops and get off.  The experience from the top of the bus is great and you get to see London from a different view point.  The driving there is a bit crazy, but watching it from a bus is great.

9.) Thames Cruise

There is so much to see along the Thames and a river cruise is a wonderful way to see it, especially at night when a lot of things were lit up.  I am not sure how long the lines will be on this, but it should be easy enough to look up and book.

10.) Museums

There are museums everywhere- absolutely everywhere- we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, which had everything from clothing through the centuries to cultural items.  There are two other museums near the Victoria and Albert Museum and they are completely worth your time (plus- entrance is free!).

Wrought Iron Work at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Wrought Iron Work at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Other sites like Big Ben and Parliament can be seen easily while walking to other places.  Some places you can go in and other places are photo only from outside.

Things We Didn’t Get To But Sounded Fun

1.) Churchill’s War Room

As a history buff- this is one thing I wish we had time to do, but we were not able to make it around to it. Located near 10 Downing Street (the prime minister’s house) and Buckingham Palace- it is just a short walk from many other attractions.

2.) St. Paul’s Cathedral

We heard that St. Pauls’ Cathedral is equally beautiful, but did not have time to go see it.  Much like many of the other places- there will be a bit of a line and getting there early is worth it.

3.) Harry Potter’s London Tour

Grrrrrr- the tour was filled up by the day we wanted to go on it, but we were able to go around and see Gringotts and Platform 9 3/4.  While we weren’t able to see it, it is something that is still on my ‘to do’ list.

4.) The London Eye

I am terrified of heights, so this was a ‘no’ for me, but many people loved going on this attraction because you get such a great view of the rest of the city.  So- if you can deal with heights- this is a great place to go.

The London Eye at Night

The London Eye at Night

Other Things to Know

– Look right-left-right when walking across roads- they drive on the other side!

– Split meals with family members in order to save money and shop around for places that are a bit cheaper.  I would personally avoid American restaurants, because of the experience (and your American restaurants WILL taste different).

– Your drinks will not come with ice most of the time- so ask for it if you like it.

-Be prepared to walk!  I guestimate that we did between 4 and 5 miles a day to see all the different venues.  Walking is the cheapest (and healthiest) way to make it around the city.

Whew- 2014 was a great year and I am just hoping that 2015 will be that much better!

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