London Travel Guide
Over the years, a love for soccer & friends who have become family, London has drawn us in. It was our first trip together across the Atlantic, we went as part of our honeymoon and have visited many times since. Each trip we discover something new that we love which always keeps us coming back & want to share our favorites with you.
We typically visit in the fall or winter; since Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in London, Halloween hits and then it's everything Christmas though mid-January - it's magical!
When to Go: As mentioned above, we love to travel in the winter, especially to London. From the minute you land you are immediately swept up in the holiday spirit. The airport is decorated, everyone you talk to wishes you a Happy Christmas and Piccadilly Circus is alive with holiday shopper & tourists alike. A downside to traveling at this time is the weather...but it is London, so weather is always a factor. It does not get nearly as cold as it does on the East Coast in the US but the air is damp making the chill in the air worse than the thermometer is reading. If you're like us, it truly is worth the braving the damp cold weather to experience the holidays in London!
How to Get There: I mean...definitely by plane, that goes without saying however we live in Philadelphia and since this is a smaller airport (in the grand scheme of things) we typically choose to fly out of Newark or JFK. Now this is only to save some money, but if it's a matter of only a couple of hundreds of dollars...it doesn't end up being worth it. You feel like you're saving upfront but when you take into consideration the time it takes to get up there and then (unless you have amazing friends and family) you will need to pay for train or bus tickets to New York...or an Uber! Search both - and make the decision that best fits your schedule.
Where to Stay: We've stayed in multiple neighborhoods within London including the Business District, Mayfair, Victoria, Kensington & more but our favorite, one which we seem to keep coming back to is Westminster. Before we went I was a bit skeptical - we love hanging in places which aren't touristy and Westminster is the epitome of tourism in London. What we love is that you can spend a full day trying to see Buckingham Palace, the gardens & the Changing of the Guards but staying in this area allows for you to pass by or stop on your way to or from where you're headed for the day without having to dedicate a full day to visiting these spots.
Here are our suggestions:
Reubens at the Palace: One of our all time favorite hotels - this was the first place we checked into on our honeymoon and loved every minute of it! Our room overlooked Buckingham Palace & while the staff knew us by name, it never felt overwhelming when you entered or left the property. They have a beautiful afternoon tea and a late night bar. It's a quiet hotel perfect for a romantic trip, or even a trip with family or friends!
The Chesterfield Mayfair: Sister hotel to Reubens at the Palace and within walking distance, but very different vibes. The Chesterfield Mayfair is off of a busy street in the heart of Mayfair with a hustling and bustling lobby. The rooms are a bit bigger than Reubens and you see many more children however it is still upscale and elegant. Another stunning bar area and the hotel also offers afternoon tea as well!
The Nadler Victoria: This is a no-frills hotel with minimal guest to staff interaction however they were great! We stayed here on our last trip for a long weekend over the pond and just wanted somewhere to lay our heads at night. Again this is in the heart of everything bordering Victoria and Buckingham Palace, very modern & sleek.
What to See: You've got your typical sites that are 'must sees' if you've never been to London such as: Big Ben, Westminster Abbey & Parliament, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, The Shard & more...
We love to visit all of those spots time and time again however we've found a few of our favorite sites over the years which may or may not be off the beaten path:
Winter Wonderland (seasonal): This is a popular attraction worldwide over the winter holiday season and worth making your way through the crowds. There's a large German beer hall, a bar which spins 360 degrees, amusement park rides and games for adults & children alike, as well as many different spots for food and snacks. It is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit with a big group of friends or your SO.
Stroll through Notting Hill: Talk about classic London. Notting Hill is stunning with all of the townhomes in an array of colors. Portobello Road is undisputedly one of the most well-known streets in the area & the target antique market in the world is situated in Notting Hill, the Portobello Road Market.
Harrod's: Arguably the most popular shop and tourist spot in London, Harrod's is a unique shopping experience unlike any other. You can grab tea, snacks and gourmet food options and shop for high-end clothing all under one roof.
Selfridges: My personal favorite place to visit when in London, this is due in part to the PBS show about Mr. Selfridge, but mainly because of the experience and feeling I get when I enter. There's electronics and other luxury items on the first floor, plus one of my favorites - the champagne and oyster bar on the first floor. We typically skip the shopping on the upper floors because we get stuck here...worth it!
Burlington Arcade: We love a good macaron from Laduree and there is a quaint little shop mixed within the luxury shopping at the Burlington Arcade. It's a beautiful shopping area to walk through & to snack on some sweets.
Bond Street and Mayfair: Shopping, shopping shopping! If you're looking to pick up luxury items, here's the place to do it. Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Dior & more...check out the full details here.
Where to Drink & Dine: It's hard to try new places when we've fallen in love with a little pub or a restaurant there because it is so special every time we go. It's not like having your favorite at home where you can go whenever you please...it's that internal debate of try something new and explore, or stick with that spot you love. Over the years we've tried to do a mix of the two resulting in some amazing new finds!
AquaShard: Views & drinks - you can visit the 31st floor for drinks and light fare but get there early so you can get a seat by the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the entire city of London. The snag though; we all know London weather...it's a rare occasion when you can catch an unobstructed view without rain, rain clouds & fog. But when you do...wow!
Sexy Fish: The ultimate swanky, sexy bar & restaurant experience. We've never hung around for dinner but if you want to catch a celebrity sighting, or be around some of London's most stylish & trendy people, Sexy Fish is where you want to be. Pull up at the bar, or any of the high top tables and be prepared to be wowed by the cocktail menu. On our last trip, one of the drinks included edible diamonds and another had mushrooms in it. The time before that, one of the drinks was served on a lit runway...talk about a cocktail experience!
Regency Cafe: Be ready to order or be ready to get called out. This is a popular breakfast spot for tourist and locals alike, but don't get caught in a tongue tie or not knowing what you want to order when you get to the 'top of the queue.' If you find yourself there and don't know what to order, simply go with the classic Full English Breakfast & tea. A quick stop and then off on your day!
Sketch: If you've been on Instagram, you've seen images of Sketch. All pink everything in their afternoon tea room; and all other areas are filled with eclectic artwork. I had to do a bit of convincing to get my husband to go due to the girlishness of photos but once he was there, he was ALL in. First timers, we had to go with the champagne afternoon tea & would without a doubt do it again next time we're over the pond. Each person chooses their tea, the sandwiches and other sweet treats arrive to the table and then the champagne is poured table side throughout the afternoon. When we were there they had a string quartet playing classic favorites both English and American and the bathrooms...not only are they 'Instagramable' but seasonal - the decor is always changing.
Bob Bob Ricard: Three words: Push For Champagne. This is another one of those - if you've been on Instagram - chances are you've seen the door bell style button located at the booth tables with that phrase. And they aren't kidding. You push the button, champagne arrives. So if you enjoy the bubbly and an exquisite meal - Bob Bob Ricard should be on your London itinerary!
Galvin at Windows: Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful and amazing food to accompany the views at this Michelin Star Restaurant overlooking Hyde Park. You have the option of choosing your own dishes, doing a tasting menu or trying late night bites at the lounge area. It's eclectic and hip while serving some delicious options to appeal to all.
Are you planning a trip to London? Reach out for more suggestions or with any questions - we love to share our favorites in hopes that they become yours too!