I love visiting cities on holiday, but I am constantly torn between ticking off touristy things off my list and simply observing way of life or doing things that people in that city do when they take time off. Three days in London, and I had to sample a little bit of different experiences because only that much immersion is possible in 3 .
I feel all major cities have a similar vibe – people rushing to work, lots of buzz but when a city has hundreds of years of history like London does, it pretty much screams at you from every corner. The architecture, the people, the memories of books that you have read, movies that you have seen that come rushing to you at almost every corner bear a sense of familiarity and comfort.
Our trip was organized by Mercury Travels, and right from the time we landed to the time we left parts of our trip were planned to our convenience. Firstly the location where we were staying was perfect. We stayed at the Best Western Plus in Kensington Place, which is a great location to explore London. the 24 hour bus No 10 I think passes right outside the hotel so you can always get back as late as you would like. A comfortable walking distance to the Kensington Gardens and Royal Albert Hall, we were thrilled with the location and the hotel.
Be a Tourist
Hop on and Hop Off
I did my first ever Hop and Hop off tour, and I must say that it was a lot of fun, especially because the guides have a penchant for typical English humour which I find extremely entertaining. It is also a great way to see the city and the convenience of being able to, as the name suggests hop on and hop off is welcome.
The River Thames Cruise
We decided to do the River Thames Cruise, but even though it was spring in typical London style the skies were grey and it was cold. While the London Eye is also really exciting, we decided to give it a miss as we had very little time. The cruise is enjoyable, but you must be prepared for the rains or the cold, but however sit back and enjoy the ride. The guide on this tour also was extremely witty and had interesting anecdotes to share about the royal family.
St. Pauls Cathedral
An iconic building in London, and the second largest church in UK, prompted us to add it on our list. The clincher for us was the climb up to the whispering gallery. I cannot put my finger on it, but there is something really adventurous about climbing up towers and churches from paths that people did from hundreds of years ago. I always think to myself how inconvenient the passage would have been for someone who was overweight. They do not allow pictures inside and you can’t really climb up to the dome with views of the city, so do not go expecting that. The baroque architecture however is incentive enough to climb up and worth spending time at.
Catch a Show at West End
We watched an American in Paris at the Dominion Theatre – a broadway musical it was an extravagant production. While it had all the classic charm, it had a superb modern vibe to it as well. A Tony award winner, it left us mesmerised. The poster however was reminiscent of La La Land.
Hang Out at Notting Hill
Let’s just call this the perfect neighborhood. Candy Doors, Manicured Gardens, Immaculate creepers framing doors and houses. I found that the neighborhood had a unique combination of contemporary designs and old world charm. Of course I can only imagine how painful it must be for residents who have pictures of their homes taken constantly. Well, I was guilty of that too! Lots of shopping, a flea market – my personal favorite was definitely the very Lewis Carollish Biscuit Shop called Biscuiteers. They also serve Hot chocolate and coffee while their specialty is essentially icing workshops and very exclusive icing on biscuits.
Some Non Touristy Things to Do
Drink Tea, Have a Pint, Sip on Gin and Find some Hipster Coffee Like Locals do.
While Tea is a tradition, and very honestly I completely get the English obsession with tea. In the weather it is magically refreshing and it is a delight to make a ritual of it.
Whittard of Chelsea – we discovered this place in Covent Garden, and I had a chilli tea, which was really different from anything that I had before. They serve over 100 types of tea and some sinful cakes to go with it. I ordered the carrot cake and was very very satisfied
Chill at a Pub
London has many Pubs, and when it rains its the perfect place to take shelter and even when it doesn’t it’s a cool place to people watch. Interestingly many pubs don’t even bother with serving food, so be very clear about your eating plans, if like me meals are critical for you. The pubs worked perfectly as the country is obsessed with ale and gin, essentially something for him and her respectively.
No trip of mine is complete without sampling coffee, I make a decent effort to read up on the good ones. While my attempts were rubbished since UK is essentially a tea drinking nation, if there are lines for coffee before the coffee shop opens then definitely its caught on. I managed to sample a few places and lets just say I was not dissapointed. I visited “FucKoffee” and Kaffeine. I had a lot more on my list but they were shut on May 1st
Picnic in a Park.
I had been keen on eating at Ottolenghi’s restaurant, but the restaurant was packed and when on holiday you do not have the luxury of a long wait so we made a picnic of it. They had really nice tables where we sat down for a meal, at some point it started to drizzle as well. This impromptu picnic was one of our best meals. Ottolenghi’s food is the kind you cannot stop thinking of, and the sheer simplicity of sitting at a park is an experience to cherish.
Unwind at Covent Garden.
Covent Garden really seemed like the place where almost all of London came to bring the weekend in, and its a great place for you to do the same as well. Again a lot of choices, many things to do and just hang out.
Walk A Lot
The best way to discover a city is to walk as much as you can, the city is busy and it’s not that easy a walk but it is definitely the most enchanting way to drink in the city. It’s a good idea because if you tire there is always a pub to chill in.
I am going to end my blog with a few things to keep in mind when you travel to London, which honestly I wish I knew before I went.
- The Oyster Card is super convenient and allows you to use the Tube and the Bus, so my advice would be to take it
- Shopping closes early during the weekend, 5pm is when they shut.
- Also check if its a national holiday when you are there, we were there on May 1st and a lot of pubs and coffee shops that we wanted to visit were shut for the day
- Uber is easy to use, and you get some really cool data deals from India so it is a very viable option, though we never got around to using it.
- Stay on the right side of the escalator when shopping or at the metro station, you send a clear signal that you are not a local if you don’t
- You must book in advance if you want to eat at a good Michelin Star restaurant (No Shit Sherlock) also since I am vegetarian we really had a limited choice since several menus are pre-set.
I would love to hear what you thought of this, do hit me with feedback and also suggestions on what to do when I am there next.