Just a hop, skip and a jump across the pond, I had never had the chance to get to the UK when I was in America. However, not terribly far from Venice, I decided to finally make the trip on my day off!
I didn’t come back with a royal boyfriend, but I did return with some great tips to seeing London in a day! (P.S. Prince Harry, call me!)
Before booking your flight to London from another European destination, make sure you check what airport you are flying into. Trying to be price conscious comes with some concessions as you sacrifice time. I flew EasyJet because I was trying to stay on a budget. With EasyJet, you can fly into four different airports, depending on your departure location. We flew into Southend, which requires you to take an hour train ride into the city. In addition, make sure to factor customs into your travels. You’ll be required to go through them when you arrive to the UK from Europe.
EasyJet London Airport Locations:
- Gatwick – 45 minutes to 1 hour by train
- Southend – 1 hour to the city center by train
- Luton – 1.15 hours by bus
- Stansted – 1 hour by bus or train
RyanAir also flies into Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton.
We finally arrived in London around 11:35 pm (23.25) and grabbed an Uber to Tower Bridge to experience it lit up at night. I would highly recommend doing this if you have a chance as it looks beautiful (and you’ll get great Instagram pictures 😉 ). If you go during the day, you’ll be able to go to the top for a panoramic view [cost about 9 pounds – however, book online and you’ll get a discount!] The Tower Bridge just installed a glass floor (eek!) so you can look down 42 metres!
After enjoying the view and running around the bridge, we arrived at our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Churchill. Located in the heart of London’s West End – it gave us an easy walk the next day to Hyde Park and Oxford Street. Our rooms were nice and the delightful concierge made sure that we were able to get the most out of time in London!
9am: Energized and ready to go, we scarfed down a full breakfast from the hotel (which was amazing by the way and I love brunch so my expectations are high). We headed to the one and only Buckingham Palace. While it wasn’t open to the public when we were there, the Palace offers guided tours on select dates and admission is 21.50 pounds [depending on how much you want to see]. If you also have the chance, check out the changing of the guards (and go ahead and be that tourist that tries to make them laugh)!
9:45am: While the search for the royals was unsuccessful, our walk over to Westminster Abbey was not! We were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful Hyde Park was so we stayed and played a little bit on the bridges and admiring the swans.
10am: Westminster Abbey. This huge, 700-year old magnificent Abbey is a London staple. It is open Monday thru Saturday; however, on Sundays, it is only open for worship. Adult entrance will cost you 20 pounds but comes with a free audio-guide!
10-11am: Luckily for people with a time crunch, Westminster Abbey is near Big Ben and the House of Parliament. We spent this time touring and admiring the giant, iconic structures. Due to high demand, tours of Big Ben must be arranged in advance. The tours take place at set times so be sure to do your research and book ahead of time if this is of interest to you.
The Houses of Parliament is home to the House of Commons and House of Lords. Debates were going on while we were there so to we couldn’t get access to the inside. Check the websites for more info on tours and times to gain admission.
11:30am: We needed a bit of a rest at this point and what better way then to take a seat along the River Thames and watch as boats cruise up and down. Where we were located provided an excellent view of the famous London Eye, which we were headed to next!
11:45am: The London Eye. We had been waiting for this trip all day! We were so excited to go on the Ferris wheel, we paid in advance and got fast-track tickets (about 40 pounds). During the winter, the lines aren’t too long so the fast track wasn’t necessary (forgoing the fast track will save you some pounds too). The ride is about 30 minutes long and it is ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. The panoramic views of London are indescribable. If it’s a clear day, you’ll be lucky enough to see many of London’s famous sites.
12:15pm: Two tall athletes going a few hours without food isn’t fun for anyone (hangry is a real thing). We hailed a taxi to Covent Garden – a cute shopping area with a unique atmosphere and an abundance of food. Before getting to London, I had never seen one of their taxis. Personally, I think they are adorable and a must do, but they are a little pricey so the underground may be the way to go. After walking the streets, we decided to eat at Nicholson’s The White Lion Pub.
Note: Order a beer and drink it the way the Londoner’s do… warm (it’s not really warm; just not as ice cold as beer is normally served in America). Add some fish and chips and you’ll look like a local!
1:30-2:30pm: After filling up, we spent an hour shopping along Oxford Street. If you’re a shop-a-holic, this is a MUST DO (or don’t if you’re trying to save!). Even if you don’t enjoy shopping, this area has a lot of pubs, restaurants, shops and fun people watching. The best part of London is that it caters to all types of people and preferences.
2:45pm: Now everyone knows that London is the home of Harry Potter. So naturally, we had to go see Platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. It’s about a 15-minute cab/Uber north of Oxford Street. I’m not much of a Potter-head (just a regular ol’ Muggle I guess), but my teammate is a huge fan. King’s Cross has a cart stuck halfway between the wall that you can take a picture with. Although a little cheesy, it’s a great photo op! While she took pictures and felt a little wizard magic, I got some food from Leon’s Cafe (perfect if you are a vegan, vegetarian, etc).
3:15pm: Across the street lies St. Pancras International train station. Here is where we bought our train ticket home. We flew out of London Gatwick, which provided great views of the London countryside!
We flew back to Venice that evening but I know I’ll be back soon! There was so much to see in such little time (my sister swears by Tower of London but I couldn’t fit it in)! Have you been to London? What are your must sees?