There’s so much to do in London. All you have to do is walk out of your hotel door and you’ll stumble upon lots of great gems. I highly recommend London for a girls trip or a romantic retreat.
Where To Stay:
The Strand Palace Hotel in Covent Gardens
The hotel as undergoing construction but was centrally located. We easily walked to Piccadilly, Trafalgar, etc. It’s more of a boutique hotel though so rooms are small. We had two separate twin beds. The halls reminded me of a hospital. Also, somehow our reservation got cancelled and we had to rebook and the new reservation was much more money.. so yeah, not a fan of this place.
This was more like your typical American hotel with bigger beds and more space. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the tube and to Paddington Station. The area itself doesn’t have much happening and is more of an Arabic neighborhood.
What to Eat:
Everyone I consulted pre-trip warned me about London food. I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised.
I suppose they were talking more in terms of dishes that London is known for. This includes fish and chips, meat pies, bangers and mash, and kebobs. None of those dishes were particularly good. They’re also known to have good indian food which I happen to agree with.
I can’t recommend these restaurants enough:
Dishoom (Indian) – There’s a few of these around town and they all have great reviews. Think of it like a Dos Caminos in that it’s a modern spin on traditional food. The plates weren’t that large, so we got a few appies to share. Including Samosas and Paneer rolls. Paneer is basically fried cheese – if you’re a picky eater you can’t go wrong with that. I also tried Chicken Tikka – no masala. It was great. We went later in the night and even then, the wait was an hour. Expect to kick back at the bar for a little.
Glorias – This was a super cute, super delicious spot in Shoreditch. We arrived around 5:30 to put our name in. The earliest time to seat us was at 9PM so you have to be willing to wait it out as they don’t take reservations. You also have to get there early to score a time slot. While there, I drank a Limoncello Spritzer which was the best cocktail of my life. My friend had a drink that was served on fire. I grudgingly ordered a pumpkin pizza, and it was absolutely divine. Can’t recommend this place enough especially since the atmosphere is so cute for a girls’ dinner.
While we didn’t eat here, several people told me to try Duck & Waffle.
Similar to NYC, there are areas devoted to certain cuisines. We ate in Chinatown and it was pretty good and very reasonably priced. Brick Lane is where the Indian food is at.
What to Drink:
London is known for 2 drinks – gin and cider. Don’t ask me why because quite frankly, I don’t know. But Beefeater gin and London dry gin come to mind. That’s all I’ve got for you.
Where to Drink:
Literally, there is a pub on every corner in London. The coolest things about these pubs, you can take your glass outside and drink it on the street. The pubs were all pretty much the same, but one in particular stood out and is worth a visit – the Churchill Arms in Kensington/Notting Hill.
A fun place for nightlife is Shoreditch. A bit out of the way but if you can make it there, it’s well worth it. There are hotel bars, dancing bars, pubs, etc. There’s something for everyone and lots of live music. We started our night at Hoxton’s which is a hotel bar. It’s got cool vibes. We also went to Old Street Records which was more affordable, had a younger crowd, and a live band. Book Club has hip hop in the basement (but don’t bother going on a Thursday… dead zone). I also recommend the Blues Kitchen the place is massive and is set up for a big crowd. The band on the night we went played typical cover songs but in blues style – in my opinion, very cool. Other bars we were told to check out there: Nobu Hotel and Night Jar for a cocktail.
One of my friend’s local friends took us on a fancy bar crawl. We started at Dukes which is in a swanky hotel and supposedly the world’s oldest martini bar. Expect to pay at least $20 a martini. Then we went to the Edition Hotel. Also I highly recommend The Mandrake. Their Mandrake Martini was out of this world (and I don’t even like martinis). Their bathroom is also picture worthy. For some reason, the hostess didn’t want to let us in, I guess they’re pretty exclusive, but luckily our friend had a connection. We then had dinner at Blakes Hotel which really wasn’t anything special.
You can also bar hop in Soho which is near the main tourist attractions. For day drinking there’s a few boat bars along the Thames.
What to Do:
- See a show. We saw the Book of Mormon. I would say it was on par with NYC Broadway productions but WAY cheaper.
- You can walk around and knock all these off at once – Picadilly, Trafalgar Square, and Convent Gardens.
- Have high tea. We enjoyed tea at the Connaught hotel which came at a price, but it was quite enjoyable. Their scones were out of this world. A lot of people also recommend Sketch to me. And if you’re in the mood for some tipsy tea (which I’m so bummed I didn’t get to do) check out the tourist hotspot Mr. Fogs which is open on Saturdays and Sundays.
- See a soccer game. You can’t really get tickets unless you’re a member but we bought tickets from Stub Hub and they worked just fine. Just know, you can’t bring a drink back to your seat in the stadium which was a huge bummer.
- Churchill War Room – It’s affordable, only takes about an hour, and is an interesting way of learning about World War II as you peruse through an underground bunker.
- Borough Market – this was one of our favorite stops. There were so many food stands and it was so lively.
- Sky Garden – It’s got a lot of hype and it doesn’t necessarily live up to it, but it’s free and offers beautiful views of the Shard and other London hot spots. You can reserve your spot online early, or take your chances at the door.
What to Skip:
- London Eye – Over $30, super slow, and you can see the same views from the Sky Garden
- Notting Hill – cute to see the market and colored houses, but there’s not much to this place
- Hop on Hop Off Bus – You’ll likely see all of the attractions while you’re walking. The pickup stops are hard to find and what you learn from the audio isn’t earth shattering.
- Day Trip to Bath – Unless you’re pairing it with another stop there’s not enough to do here to justify the cost of the train (which was over $100). The Roman baths are cool but in reality you’re just looking at one of the oldest spas.
A Few Tips:
- Don’t bother converting your cash to pounds. Just about everywhere took credit card. There were a few places that didn’t, but they have ATMs.
- The traffic is horrific. Whenever possible, I’d recommend the tube. It’s probably faster. Their tubes are cleaner and not as crowded as NYC. It’s also a lot pricier though. So if traveling in a group it may be cheaper to take a taxi. Just look up the traffic first – because it seriously takes an hour to go a couple of miles.
- It rains like everyday but it’s also sunny at times. Be prepared for all types of weather.
- Wear comfortable shoes. This is a walker friendly city.
- Places are big on reservations. Be prepared to get denied if you don’t have one.