Hi guys! Today I’m sharing something a bit different than usual – a travel post! I went to London for 10 days this May for a field study, and I absolutely loved it! Pretend you’re in London and you only have the next two days to see as much as possible. Where do you eat, what do you see, and how do you get around for the next 48 hours? Keep reading to find out!
- Breakfast: look for a restaurant that serves English breakfast – this usually includes beans, sausage, tomatoes, eggs, and other things depending on what you order. Every morning restaurants all over put out signs advertising English breakfast – just wander and find one! A classic English Breakfast is a must!
- I would start your day by going to Trafalgar Square. You’ll see the gorgeous archway leading into the square, which is overlooked by the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery.
- Both of those galleries are completely free, but for the sake of time, I would recommend only visiting the National gallery, as it includes more famous works. Check out the website first and make a game plan so you can focus on seeing your favorites. If you have no interest in art, skip it! Don’t waste time on things you don’t love!
- Also attached to Trafalgar Square is St. Martin’s in the Field, which has a lovely outbuilding where you can descend the stairs and get a coffee or tea in their café in the crypt!
- At 11am, the changing of the guards occurs at Buckingham Palace, so I would head that way so you can make sure to see that in time, because it is quite the sight to see!
- Since you’re already at Buckingham, spend some time there looking around (look for the Queen’s flag, if it’s flying atop the palace, the queen is home!)
- Watch out for motorbikes brigades with sirens, they are usually followed by dark black cars, and you might spot a royal! (I saw Prince Charles and his wife Camilla!)
- Now if you’re looking for lunch, I recommend finding a Café Nero and grabbing a quick sandwich. You’re in a hurry, so you don’t want to waste too much time on lunch!
- After lunch, I would recommend visiting the museums! All three of the following are free, but if you aren’t interested in one, by all means skip it!
- British Museum – honestly I think this is a must see. Make sure you see the Rosetta Stone, the mummy exhibit, and statues from the Parthenon. I’m a history person, so I loved the whole museum, but at least make sure you see the major things!
- British Science Museum – This is a well curated museum with a lot of interesting subjects, but expect a lot of kids. If you aren’t very interested in science, don’t spend time here.
- Natural History Museum – I would recommend visiting this one to at least see the dinosaur exhibit and the huge life-sized whale. The rest of the museum is somewhat outdated, and again, crowded with kids.
- If you have any time left before dinner, I recommend going for a stroll in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. They’re connected, and they hold many treasures, like Princess Diana’s memorial fountain, the Peter Pan statue, Kensington Palace, Italian Gardens, and more! Absolutely worth walking through, plus it will give you a break from running around all over the city!
- For dinner, I offer two different options depending on your personal choice.
- If you want to eat delicious food from all over the world (but not traditional English food), Go to Queensway (a road chock full of international restaurants.) I ate Chinese, Thai, and Italian on Queensway, and all three were delicious.
- If you are a huge Sherlock fan, go to the Sherlock pub, which is near Trafalgar square. They offer traditional English pub food, and you also get to dine in the Sherlock pub! If you go to a pub, order sticky toffee pudding for dessert (just trust me on this one).
- After dinner, take a walk to Piccadilly Circus at night, when it is all lit up. There is quite a night scene there, and it had a bit of a Times Square feeling. Then head back to your hotel/hostel/Airbnb and get to sleep!
- Wake up early and be at the Tower of London before it opens. Buy your tickets and get in line as soon as possible. When you get inside, head straight for the Crown Jewels (quickly). If you get there early, there will be no line. Head straight in and bask in the glory of some of the largest diamonds in the world. If you wait until later in the day, you will be in line for hours waiting to get in, and then hours more waiting to see the jewels. Although there are other cool things in the Tower of London, if you have limited time I would get out of there after the crown jewels.
- Across the river you have two options to visit before lunch.
- You can go to the Southbank book market, which is under the Waterloo bridge (built by the Women of WWII). There are hundreds of used (and rare) books laid out on tables every day (after 10am) for you to browse.
- Nearby is the Globe Theatre, which is worth a visit if you are very interested in Shakespeare. If you want to do a tour, schedule ahead of time and plan out a large chunk of time (at least 2 hours). Or you can just stop by and admire from a distance (it is only a reproduction of the original, and it was built in the 1990s).
- For lunch, you absolutely must go to the Borough Market. There is astounding food from all over the world. I had amazing fish and chips and drop dead delicious curry! There was also paella, exotic meats, vegetarian/vegan options, falafel, and so much more! This was my favorite place in London, and I cannot recommend it enough. While you’re there, make sure to get dessert as well, I had really amazing macaroons and Baklava!
- After lunch, walk to Westminster Abbey and the Parliament Building (Big Ben). Pay for tickets to get into Westminster, and walk around. Keep your eyes on the floor and the walls, as hundreds of famous men and women are buried in the Abbey. Also look for the throne on which all royals are coronated, as well as the tomb of the unknown soldier.
- From Parliament building, walk onto London bridge and see if you can see the Tower of London bridge raising to let through a ship!
- Depending on what time it is, I would head to Covent Garden. It’s kind of like a huge shopping mall, and you can spend a lot of time there. There is an East India Tea Company (hello samples), a Disney store, and more. There are also live performers in the area! Also very close to Covent Garden is a little place called Neal’s Yard, which is relatively popular on pinterest and instagram for it’s super colorful buildings!
- For your final dinner, I would recommend eating in Covent Garden. There are pubs and eateries everywhere around there, and I would recommend both Punch and Judy’s or Maxwell’s (if you go to Maxwell’s, buy a freak shake, just do it). Keep in mind if you eat at Punch and Judy’s or other traditional pubs, you will likely have to order at the bar – no one will come to your table.
- Invest in an oyster card. You can buy them at most underground stations. They’re little cards that you load up with money, and then all you have to do is swipe in and out at every tube station.
- They cost 5 pounds and however much you choose to load up (I would recommend 15 pounds for two days). At the end of your trip, you can return the card and they will refund the 5 pounds and whatever money was left on the card.
- You will definitely want to do this, because otherwise you will have to buy individual tickets for every trip. When you’re trying to see the city quickly (and you want to look more like a native), the oyster card is absolutely the way to go.
- Get a tube map on your first day, and double check it every time so you know which connections to make. You don’t want to waste your time walking around the city when the tube can save you so much time!
- Wake up early! You only get two days, so yes you’ll be exhausted, but it will be worth it!
- Be prepared for the weather! London is known for rain, so you can’t let bad weather keep you inside! Wear waterproof shoes that are comfortable for walking, and bring a small compact umbrella.
- Don’t focus on photos! Sure, you want photos from your trip, but make sure you are truly looking at the world around you, not just looking through your camera lens. Only take photos when you really feel you must.
- Make sure you call your credit card company if you are traveling outside the country. The biggest damper on a trip is having issues accessing your money!
- London is a beautiful city, and I would recommend trying to spend more than 48 hours there, but if that’s all you have, these places are the must see locations.
- Be ready to adapt! Sometimes, things are closed, or the lines are too long, or they are hard to find. Have a back-up plan so you don’t waste any time trying to figure out a new plan.
- If you are a Harry Potter fan, perhaps you will want to dedicate a day going to Warner Brother Studios. If you do this, buy your tickets ahead of time. It truly will take a day to travel to the studios. Once you get inside you can travel through at your own pace, so expect to spend 3-6 hours inside. They provide you an area to purchase lunch at the studio (about halfway through) or you can bring your own. I loved it, but if I was more limited on time I’m not sure I would have been able to sacrifice a whole day.