Lost in London - 18 Places in 2 days!
“I’ve been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day.”
- Walter Besant
London's been on my mind a lot over the last few weeks because it had been my plan to return there this Summer after enjoying it so much last year... we really had no idea that we would be living in a different world now though! Unfortunately, London has been hit quite hard during the COVID-19 pandemic and my heart goes out to the city. We will return to your lovely city at some stage but for now, I'll return with a virtual tour back through my photos and memories!
Flights & Accommodation
I booked reasonably priced return flights from Dublin via Aer Lingus. I stayed in quite a basic hotel (The Gresham Hotel) for the weekend, however, it was located in a great part of the city, it was clean and with breakfast included. The hotel is in Paddington which is very close to Hyde Park and Little Venice. I did not know at the time that there is a Little Venice in London so I was upset to have missed a visit to it when I was staying so close by! Because it was pretty much last minute when I booked my trip, I found it difficult to find somewhere central and at a reasonable price at that stage. I searched Booking.com and this is where I found and booked The Gresham Hotel. The hotel was just under £100 per night....though I think it was the smallest single room that I have ever stayed in!
Districts of London
I chose the opening quote, from Walter Besant, for this post because Besant's words reflect the number one thing that I love about traveling; exploring! The advantage of large cities (like my absolute favorite, NYC), is that you can walk by foot to explore all day without spending much money. I love getting lost in a city and discovering new areas! London is composed of so many different districts, all with their own personalities, stories, and uniqueness.
With only two days in London, I still managed to cover quite a lot of ground and made it to the districts of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the City of Westminster, South Bank, Southwark and Bankside, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, City of London (the Financial District), Covent Garden, SoHo, Trafalgar Square, South Kensington and Knightsbridge.
Getting around London
I walked by foot for most of my trip, however, I also found the tube super easy to follow and very quick to help you get around the city. I spotted a lot of underground stations everywhere I went to in London and, even when I had to make a connection to get to a particular area, I found it quick and with little waiting time at both stations.
Streets of London
As mentioned, I spent a lot of my two days in London walking (I covered 27k steps on one of my days! 🙈) and soaking up the atmosphere while exploring and taking in the culture of the city. During my walk, I discovered impressive architecture of both old and modern, colorful graffiti, book and food markets, plenty of great museums, and I enjoyed the beautiful sunset over the River Thames and city skyline.
(1) HYDE PARK /
KENSINGTON PALACE & GARDENS
It was late on Friday evening by the time I made it out to my hotel so, I decided to get a good night's sleep and start exploring early the next day instead. As I was staying close by Hyde Park, this is where I started my day. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I was very thankful for the nice weather because there is a lot of the park to explore!
Hyde Park sits immediately beside Kensington Gardens and both are Royal Parks of London (with Hyde Park being the largest of the Royal Parks in London covering 142 hectares (350 acres)). Hyde Park is located not too far from the main entrance to Buckingham Palace and the park is divided by the Serpentine and the Long Water lakes.
Kensington Gardens covers 111 hectares (275 acres) and it shuts at dusk while Hyde Park remains open much later into the evening.
Hyde Park is quite big so you could spend a lot of time here! It was a very sunny day when I visited so I thoroughly enjoyed my walk around the park. Hyde Park website provides a lot of information about the park. The website also provides you with the opportunity to explore the Great Exhibition virtual tour. This famous exhibition was housed in the beautiful “Crystal Palace” building in 1851 before the building was burnt in 1936.
Free speech and demonstration are a well-known feature of Hyde Park with 'Speakers' Corner' created as a location for free speech/debate since 1872. There is a lake in the park, Serpentine lake, and you can take a boat ride here. Rotten Row is a popular track that was a fashionable place for upper-class Londoners to horse ride during the 18-19th century. Another feature of the park is the many statues and memorials including the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial, and The Cavalry Memorial.
Some beautiful arches surround the Park. The main entrance, at Hyde Park Corner, was designed by Decimus Burton (constructed in the 1820s). Burton also designed Wellington Arch which opened in 1928 and was restored between 1999 and 2001.
Many large concerts have been held in Hyde Park throughout the 20th century. There are also sporting facilities, including football pitches, a tennis center, cycle paths, and horse riding is popular here too.
KENSINGTON PALACE & GARDENS
To the west of Hyde Park, you will find Kensington Gardens and the royal residence of Kensington Palace. The Palace has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are some of the young royals who currently officially reside here! You can visit parts of Kensington Palace (the State Rooms are open to the public) and the Palace displays many paintings and objects from the Royal Collection. Click here for more details.
You are free to wander the peaceful gardens where you are sure to see many squirrels running up begging for food from you! Also, keep an eye out for the Italian Gardens, the Peter Pan Statue, Serpentine Gallery, The Albert Memorial & Princess Diana Memorial Garden, Queen Victoria Statue, and Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.
(2) BUCKINGHAM PALACE
I think anyone visiting London is well aware of this residency and administrative headquarters of the U.K. monarchy! Just along the perimeter of Hyde Park is where you will find Buckingham Palace (in the City of Westminster). St James's Park sits right by the palace too.
Outside of the main entrance, by the Victoria Memorial and gardens, is a popular spot in London for celebrations and mournings. Many people may recognize this area from seeing gatherings here on t.v. The palace has 775 rooms and its private garden is the largest private garden in London. The palace is in use for many receptions, State banquets, garden parties, visitors of Parliament and foreign Ambassadors throughout the year. The State Rooms are used for official and state entertaining and are open to the public during some summer months (with some tours operating for part of winter too).
The palace is very much a family home to the Royals. It became the principal royal residence in 1837, on the accession of Queen Victoria who was the first monarch to reside there. There was a brief time when Queen Victoria retreated from London while in mourning for Prince Albert who died 14 December 1861. The Queen remained in seclusion, rarely appearing for her people, and gained the nickname of 'Widow of Windsor' retreating to Windsor castle for much of this time.
Visiting the Palace: Click here to see photos of the interior of the palace and to book tickets, find out the palace opening dates, etc.
Changing of the Guard: I was disappointed to have missed the Changing of the Guard - it was canceled for the weekend that I visited. This link is a useful guide for information on the changing of the guard.
The Queens Gallery: The Queens Gallery was opened to the public in 1962 and it exhibits work of art from the Royal Collection. It was constructed after a German bomb destroyed the palace chapel during World War II. The gallery was then built on this site.
The Balcony: The balcony is a popular feature of the palace due to the Royal family often standing here to greet crowds at celebratory events (such as Royal Weddings).
Peggy Porschen Cakes
Not too far from Buckingham Palace is the pretty and popular Peggy Porschen Cakes. This bakery is the ultimate fairy-tale setting! It is composed of beautiful pastel colors and has a whimsical decor that sweeps you into a dream-like world. I visited the Bulgarvia bakery (there is another located in Chelsea too) which was very small and so, most customers were opting for a takeaway when I visited. Champagne is on the menu so it's the ultimate girly brunch spot! ...Just perhaps be willing to wait outside for a little while for a table because their website advises that they do not take reservations.
Other Brunch Spots
You could write several articles on places to dine in London so I will keep it brief on dining for this post! A useful guide for brunch spots is this article and it was how I discovered Peggy Porschen cakes. Another location that I really really wanted to visit was The Farm Girl in Notting Hill, however, after a long walk over (with many distractions along the way) I was met with a HUGE and very slow-moving queue. In the end, I had to leave as there was so much more I wanted to fit into the day. 😢 I visited over the weekend so I'm sure this is why it was even extra busy.
Read on for some Chinese restaurant recommendations (under the Chinatown section) and click here for a vegetarian and vegan listing for Carnaby street.
Palace of Westminster
(Government Buildings / Big Ben)
The government district of Westminster is a short stroll from Buckingham Palace. Here you will find the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) with a ringing bell from its famous clock tower, Big Ben, located at The Elizabeth Tower. It is owned by the monarch in right of the Crown. The Houses of Parliament has over 900 years of history and has survived a fire in 1834 to 14 bombs during the Second World War! Most people are familiar with the iconic photos of Big Ben overlooking the River Thames and it is a well-known landmark of the London skyline. The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and this area is one of the most visited tourist attractions in London. It is located very close to Westminster Abbey and a short few minutes walk to Westminster Cathedral. It is possible to visit areas of the Palace, click here for further details on this. Unfortunately, Big Ben was still undergoing construction refurbishments when I visited so I was unable to get a nice photo here!
Like the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey is mainly structured in a Gothic style of architecture. This church is one of the U.K.s most notable religious buildings and where coronation and burial of the English and British monarchy traditionally occurs. Many royal weddings have taken place here too (16 to be exact!).
There's plenty to see in Westminster Abbey including The Lady Chapel, Coronation Chair (which is the centerpiece of coronations for over 700 years), Poets' Corner (Charles Dickens is buried here as well as over 100 other famous writers and Poets being buried or memorials located here), The Queen's Window (beautiful stained glass), Pyx Chamber, Royal tombs (resting place of seventeen British monarchs), The Quire (daily choral services), The Cloisters (place of meditation, exercise, and annual rituals), Chapter House, Abbey gardens, and Modern Martyrs (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and St Oscar Romero feature in these 10 statues of modern martyrs found above the Abbey's Great West Door). Click here for more information on visiting Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Cathedral is another stunning building found in Westminster and it too is only a short walk from Westminster Palace and Westminster Abbey. It is the largest Roman Catholic church in England and Wales and the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster. The cathedral opened in 1903 and is of Byzantine Revival architectural style.
Other areas around Westminster worth noting include Number 10 (home to the British Prime Minister; not accessible to the public for tours though) and, St James's Park.
(5) LONDON EYE
(South Bank District)
London Eye (Millennium Wheel) is located on the South Bank of the River Thames and is c. 10-minute walk from the Palace of Westminster - you can see in the above photo the outline of Big Ben on the opposite side of the River Thames to the London Eye. You can get a better vantage point for a photo of the Ferris wheel by walking along the opposite side of the River Thames than to where London Eye is located or, from the bridges over the Thames. This is where you will see some of the most popular photos of the wheel taken from. London Eye has become another iconic part of the London skyline and is Europe's tallest cantilevered observation wheel.
I was not brave enough to go up the observation wheel but if you are then click here to book tickets to gain a 360-degree sky view of London city! Tickets are usually cheaper to buy online at £37.00 p.p. and £32.00 for a child, however, they are currently on sale at £27.50 p.p. online to 30 December 20. The wheel is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the U.K. When it opened in December 1999 it was the highest viewing point in the U.K.... until The Shard opened its observation deck in 2013 (at a height of 245-metre)!
(6) SOUTH BANK AREA
After crossing the beautiful Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges, which offers a fantastic view of the Palace of Westminster and London Eye, I was very pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the Southbank Centre food market! I was very lucky because it was a beautiful sunny day, and so, I could wander the market and enjoy the views of the River Thames while munching on some Churros Garcia (hot Spanish Churros and chocolate). 😍 I didn't even feel any guilt eating these excessively sweet treats as I was walking it off throughout the day! 😆 There is also a Winter Market held here over the Christmas season.
Located just beside the Southbank Centre food market, under Waterloo Bridge on Queen’s Walk, is the Southbank Centre Book market. Another lovely gem I wandered upon and stopped off to browse through the secondhand and antique books in the sun.
South Bank is the cultural district of London and, without even knowing this at the time, I could sense the hub of creativity while walking the area. Londons Eye is located along here too and South Bank is a nice area to walk along the River Thames and enjoy the views over the Palace and other London landmarks. Sea Life London Aquarium, London Dungeon, Jubilee Gardens, Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre, and BFI Southbank are all located in South Bank. Click here to learn more about what is happening in the area of South Bank.
(7) SHAKESPEARES GLOBE
Just beside South Bank is Southwark district and this is where you will find Shakespeares Globe. Less than 5 minutes from the Globe is where you will see the fantastic William Shakespeare Mural (scroll through the above gallery for a photo of this).
This Globe theatre is also an education center and a cultural landmark. It is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre which was an Elizabethan playhouse for which William Shakespeare wrote his plays! A fantastic thing about this theatre (especially during COVID times) is how ahead it is digitally; it was the first in the world to make its plays available as video-on-demand (in 2015 Globe Player was launched)!
So popular is this theatre that you will find replicas and interpretations of the design and architecture in other countries around the world, such as, Germany, Argentina, Japan, Italy, the U.S., and New Zealand. Its website is great, providing not only streaming but also online workshops, podcasts, teaching resources, and a virtual tour of the theatre. Click here to view its website.
Tate Modern is located c. a 5-minute walk from Shakespeares Globe, however, I decided to continue walking to London Bridge and then loop back over the Millenium Bridge (to Tate Modern) on my way back to the hotel. This meant that I would arrive in time for sunset views from the Tates observation floor.
(8) BOROUGH MARKET
Also located in Southwark District is Borough Market which is one of the largest and oldest markets in London with roots dating back to at least the 12th century. The current buildings were designed in 1851, with additions in the 1860s, and the Art Deco style entrance was added in 1932.
I only visited the market because I'd heard so many references to it throughout the years so I wanted to experience it first hand. You will mainly find specialty foods, such as fresh fruit and veg, pastries, cheese, and milk on sale here with traditional European products also imported and sold. Food lovers would probably love this market but, for me, just a quick walk through the market and grabbing a coffee in the beautiful glass atrium by the entrance to the market sufficed. It was a pleasant walk over to the market with some nice streets close by (a lot of films were shot in the surrounding streets) and it's located close by many other landmarks including London Bridge, The Shard, Shakespeares Globe and Mural, and Anchor Bankside pub so the market is worth a pop into if you are visiting any of these.
Borough Market website is great and it has adopted well to COVID times by offering online ordering, recipes, digital events, and articles. Check out its website for opening times and further details about its reopening following its shutdown due to the COVID pandemic.
(9) THE SHARD
"A skyscraper that is recognised immediately and which is already considered London's new emblem"
- Emporis Skyscraper Award judges
A mere 5-minute walk from Borough Market is where you will find The Shard (Southwark district). The Shard is one of the most famous buildings of the London skyline! The building itself was even much more impressive when I saw it in reality than in photos. Its beautiful silhouette emerges very nicely at sunset with spectacular views of it while walking along the River Thames. The way the light hits the building makes for an impressive sparkle from the sunlight (gaining its reference of the 'Shard of Glass').
The Shard is a 95-story supertall skyscraper standing at 309.6 meters (1,016 ft) in height and it is the tallest building in the U.K. (and the sixth-tallest building in Europe). It was quite recently built with construction beginning in March 2009 and practical completion achieved in November 2012. Renzo Piano was the project's architect and he designed it as a spire-like sculpture emerging from the River Thames. He was inspired by the railway lines next to the site (scroll through the below photos for views of the railway lines). The Shard impressively features 11,000 panes of glass, covering 56,000 square meters (602,779 sq ft). It won first place in 2014 at the Emporis Skyscraper Awards which recognized buildings over 100 m (328 ft) completed in the 12 months prior.
Observation Deck of The Shard
A visit to the observation floor of The Shard was one of the only things on my to-do list that I had opted to pay for during my quick visit to London! The observation floor opened to the public in 2013 and it has London's highest and best view, offering paralleled 360-degree views for up to 40 miles, on floors 68, 69, and 72. There is plenty of space up here for everyone to wander around to enjoy the views and get fantastic photos of the city. The Shards location in the center of London makes it a perfect location for views over some very well known landmarks in the heart of London, such as the beautiful Tower Bridge!
Though tickets were pricey, I was not disappointed with the views from here! The clear sky on the day that I visited helped with this too! Click here to book tickets; tickets are currently at £25 p.p. with other options available too.
(10) LONDON TOWER BRIDGE &
TOWER OF LONDON
Also located in Southwark district, though even more iconic than The Shard, is London Tower Bridge. This connects Southwark to the Borough of Tower Hamlets (beside the City of London). Few have not seen photos of this suspension bridge which is the ultimate London landmark sitting over the River Thames. The Tower of London is found close by the entrance to the bridge too. The bridge was built between 1886 - 1894 and was constructed with two beautiful bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways. The bridge deck is accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians. In 2008 it was announced that the bridge would undergo a "facelift" over the following four years and at a cost of £4 million. This included new paint of blue and white and the installation of a new lighting system that provides both feature and atmospheric lighting. Click here for more information and historical facts on Tower Bridge.
I didn't realize until I was walking across the bridge that you can enter the bridge's twin towers, the high-level walkways, and Victorian engine rooms. You can also see films, photos and interactive displays about the bridge as part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. There is however an admission charge for this; click here for more details.
Tower of London
On the Borough of Tower Hamlets side of London Bridge (located beside the City of London), you will find the historic Tower of London or, officially 'Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London'. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London and is protected under the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
This tower is steeped in a lot of history stemming back to its founding towards the end of 1066. It has served as a royal residence, survived several besieges, served as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, a prison, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and is famously home of the Crown Jewels of England. It has survived several bombings too!
There is a traditional belief that ravens protect the kingdom. There are thus six ravens kept at the Tower under the care of a Ravenmaster. These ravens can be seen as part of the tour available in the Tower of London. It is also possible to view the Crown Jewels, which are still used in royal ceremonies today, as part of the tour. Click here for further details on the tour.
(11) ST PAULS CATHEDRAL &
St Pauls Cathedral
Approximately a 20-minute walk from the Tower of London you will find the large and impressive St Pauls cathedral (located in the City of London). The cathedral is only a 10-minute walk across the bridge from Shakespeares Globe too.
This stunning Anglican cathedral sits beautifully at the end of the Millennium bridge. The cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of London. The original church on this site dates back to founding in AD 604 with the present cathedral dating back from the late 17th century. The cathedral was constructed in an English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren and it is a very popular sight of the London skyline with its dome among the highest in the world! The cathedral stands at 65 feet (111 m) in height and was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1963. Many services and celebrations have occurred here such as, Jubilee celebrations and it was the venue for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.
There is a fee for tourists to enter the cathedral, find out more information about visiting the cathedral here.
Millennium Bridge opened on 10 June 2000, at a cost of £18.2 million, and is one of the five major Thames bridges The City Corporation looks after (the others being Tower, London, Blackfriars, and Southwark).
Quite embarrassingly for the British Millennium project, the bridge had to be closed for fixtures due to vibrations after only two days of opening. Its official name is London Millennium Footbridge and it is a suspension bridge for pedestrians that connects the beautiful St Paul's Cathedral to Tate Modern. It frames St Pauls Cathedral beautifully. The bridge has featured in music videos, t.v. shows, and films such as Harry Potter.
(12) TATE MODERN
TATE BUILDING & ARTWORK
As mentioned earlier, I skipped Tate Modern on my initial walk along the Bankside area of Southwark, deciding instead to loop back on the way back to my hotel to gain sunset views from its Observation deck later in the evening. Note: it is important not to confuse this museum with Tate Britain which is another of the Tate Group of Museums. I prefer modern art and this is why I chose to visit Tate Modern.
About the Tate Building
On the opposite side of Millennium Bridge to St Paul's cathedral is where you will find Tate Modern which, as a modern and contemporary art lover, was number one on my places to visit in London! I am not alone in this because the Association of Leading Visitors listed it as the number one art museum to visit in Britain (and number 6 in the world!). However, this museum is not only of interest to modern art lovers; it also offers wonderful 360 views of London (including an outdoor section on the 10th floor to admire these views from)! For those on a budget and who don't want to spend so much money on the views from The Shard or, London Eye then Tate Modern is a good alternative option because the museum is free for general admission (with a fee for major temporary exhibitions). There is also an option to pay what you feel appropriate for the museum if you so wish. In fact, all National galleries and museums of the U.K. are free into which is great!
Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world and it holds the British national collection of art from 1900 to the present day (as well as international modern and contemporary art). The museum opened in 2000 on what was previously the site of Bankside Power Station. The building for Tate Modern was designed by Herzog & de Meuron with the aim of keeping to an urban, raw, and industrial design. The brick style of the museum (to match the original power-station building) I was not a huge fan of... but I appreciate what they have achieved in keeping to the roots of an industrial style and I like the twist design of the Switch building.
I wanted to see the views from the Tate at sunset, however, this meant that I had walked all day long and, because Tate Modern is so big, you require a lot of energy to enjoy walking all of the floors of artwork! I would thus like to return and spend more time here when my legs are not so tired! The museum has 8 areas with a named theme/subject within its main collection as well as work from the Artist Rooms collection and it holds temporary exhibits too. The museum also houses a performance space, Auditorium and seminar room, Clore Education Centre, shops (selling books, merchandise, and prints), a cafe, espresso bar, restaurant and members' room, and a community garden! The museum has 10 floors, click here for a map of the museum (download it under 'visiting tips').
Tate Museum houses a very impressive display of modern artwork. I arrived here late in the day and I spent a lot longer on the observation floor than I had planned to. This meant that I didn't have that long to walk around the museum and enjoy the artwork before closing time, however, I was still very impressed by the number of famous artwork pieces that I saw! The Tate Moderns website offers many online exhibitions which are a great alternative (especially during the current COVID times) for when we are unable to visit and see this impressive artwork in reality. Click through my above gallery to see some of my favorite pieces from my visit including work by Pablo Picasso, Antony Gormley, Ed Ruscha and, Piet Mondrian.
Tate Viewing Level
As mentioned, the 10th and top floor of Tate Modern offers fantastic 360 views of London and it could be a great alternative if you are on a budget because it is free in - as opposed to The Shard and London Eye. There is even an outdoor observation section that you can walk out on to take some fantastic shots from. There is also an indoor bar area where you can sit and enjoy the views over some snacks and drinks. See the above photo gallery for some of the photos that I took from the observation floor during my visit. Click here for more information on the viewing level.
(13) NOTTING HILL
Located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is the picturesque Notting Hill. It was c. 30-minute walk from where I was staying in Paddington. A lot of people are familiar with this area through mainstream media such as the infamous 'Notting Hill' film starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Initially, I headed towards this area to eat brunch in Farm Girl, however, the queue was very long and slow-moving so I decided to skip it because I had a lot more ground to explore instead of standing in a queue! 😢 It was the weekend so that's probably why it was so super busy. Instead, I grabbed a coffee in Amoret and headed towards Portobello Road. Even just aimlessly wandering Notting Hill I stumbled across so many pretty and colorful buildings, terraced Victorian townhouses, and I ended up on the busy Portobello Road. One thing that took from my visit to this area was the fact that tourists were out in full force and they wandered around on the middle of the roads taking photos (I know I was one of them too 😂 ...but I do try to be respectful when visiting a quiet area like this!).
Notting Hill is known for being boho and having quite a lot of artists. It was previously known for slum housing but has since been gentrified and is now quite an affluent area. Every August bank holiday you will find celebrations here for Europe's biggest street festival, Notting Hill Carnival, which has a Caribbean festival theme. You will also find some great smaller art galleries in this area (such as Graffik Gallery), bookshops (such as the popular The Notting Hill bookshop), the Museum of Brands (if you are interested in the history of British consumer culture), theatres (such as the Gate Theatre which is the smallest “off-West End” theatre), the Tabernacle (offering a vast array of cultural arts and is an entertainment venue) and of course a choice of bars, brunch spots, and restaurants too.
I found my way to Portobello Road market area where you will find the likes of antiques, fruit & veg, fashion, and second-hand goods. The market was not even open the day I visited (Sundays) but still, there was a large volume of people so I wasn't able to browse as much as I would have liked to here. I would say that it would be wise to arrive super early, before it gets too busy, if you want to visit this market! The market is nearly a kilometer long!
(14) COVENT GARDEN &
ROYAL OPERA HOUSE
I still hadn't been to central London and was quite far away from it in Notting Hill. The tube is very quick and easy to follow (with stations found all over the city) so I hopped on a tube over to Central London to explore the West End area.
Covent Garden area is a great shopping and dining destination in London’s West End and it includes luxury stores such as Mulberry and Burberry. It has lovely pedestrianized paved streets to wander the shops and the market has roots as far back as 1654 when there was a small fruit and veg market in the area...but the area then became popular as a red light district! Due to the growth in the area at that time, leading to congestion, the market moved to a new location in 1974. You will still find the New Covent Garden Market located at Nine Elms (c. 5km from Covent Garden).
The old market building in Covent Area re-opened as a shopping center in the 1980s and it houses a vast array of merchants. It contains a craft market as well as cafes and small shops (jewelry, antiques, clothing, etc.) in its shopping center. Covent Garden Market is located in the beautiful glass building in the square of Covent Garden. Click here for the market directory. Street performers are popular in the Covent Garden area too; with the main courtyard known for its classical music street performers.
Neal Street is located in the Covent Garden area and it is another popular shopping street; especially for shoes! This area has a lot of bars, pubs, and plenty of restaurants to choose from too.
Other popular venues in the Covent Garden area include The Royal Opera House (considered a landmark building of London and is often referred to as 'Covent Garden') and the London Transport Museum. Leicester Square is located just off the perimeter of Covent Garden area too.
(15) LEICESTER SQUARE
Located in the City of Westminster, just beside Covent Garden, is Leicester Square. Honestly, I just stopped by here because I remember MTV having studios overlooking the square many years ago, and so, I wanted to quickly walk through to see the area for myself. The area is somewhat of an entertainment hub and offers some large cinemas. Film premieres have often been held here too. You will find a tkts booth in Leicester Square which is the official place to purchase cheap theatre tickets in the West End.
Leicester Square hosts many events, including the Chinese New Year celebrations, and it has a large casino (Hippodrome Casino) which can accommodate 2000 patrons. If it is more of a family-friendly attraction that you are after then visit the world's largest Lego store which is located in Leicester Square too. The square park in the center of Leceister Square includes a fountain and statue of William Shakespeare.
It is a central location and only a short walk to Chinatown, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, and Regent Street (for shopping). Click here for more information on the area and what is happening in it when you visit.
Also located in the City of Westminster, and only c. 2 minute walk from Leicester Square, is where you will find the colorful Chinatown. Here, you will see the streets decorated in a multitude of Chinese symbols and lanterns.
I pleasantly stumbled across Chinatown while walking over to Trafalgar Square from Leicester Square and it's worth a quick walk up and down if you are in the area. It's quite a small area with some of its streets pedestrianized. Keep an eye out for its beautiful main Gate (there are four gates!) which is located at Wardour Street. The area holds some events during the year but the most popular event is that of London's Chinese New Year celebrations!
If you like Chinese food then some of the authentic restaurants found here are worth a visit. Find a list of some of the most popular restaurants in Chinatown here and a list of some of the best Chinese restaurants in all of London here. Or, if its treats you are after then stop off at the popular sweet spot, Bubblewrap, check out their Instagram page here! If you look closely in Chinatown, you will also find a speakeasy with experimental cocktails; that of the ECC.
Piccadilly Circus is located a few minutes walk from here, however, I skipped this as it was one of the only places I remember visiting in London many years prior!
(17) TRAFALGAR SQUARE
Just a quick c. 4 minutes walk from Chinatown and Leicester Square is where you will find the popular Trafalgar Square (located in the City of Westminster). Trafalgar Square is owned by the Queen, though managed by the Greater London Authority, and it is regarded as the official center of London.
There are several renowned museums, galleries, and historical buildings found in this area. One of the most popular museums being that of The National Gallery which is home to over 2,300 paintings from the 13th century to 1900. This impressive museum stands in the heart of Trafalgar Square with the 69-foot (52 m) Nelson's Column located right in front of the museum and at the center of the Square. The Column is guarded by four monumental bronze lions. Horatio Nelson is the man found at the top of the column. Nelson commanded the British Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar and died at the battle in 1805. This battle is what Trafalgar Square is named after. There are two fountains in the Square and the beautiful St Martin-in-the-Fields Anglican church is located on the Square too.
The Square is popular for its political rallies and demonstrations (there was a large one gathered here when I visited!) and as a place for gatherings such as New Year's Eve celebrations.
(A) CENTRAL LONDON
Oxford Street: Oxford street is popular for its choice of both designer wear (such as John Lewis) to high street fashion (such as Primark, Topshop). It is said to be Europes busiest shopping street and houses c. 300 stores! Department stores such as Debenhams, John Lewis, House of Fraser, and the hugely popular Selfridges are all found here.
New Bond Street: If it's high-end fashion you are after then a trip to New Bond Street is for you! Popular among celebs, Bond street boasts designer stores such as Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, Chanel. Click here for the website of the street.
Regent Street: Also located in the West End, Regent street offers impressive architecture dating back to when the street was built in 1819 under the direction of architect John Nash. An example of this is seen in the above gallery, the beautiful Tudor building housing Liberty London, which was built in 1924. It houses high-end fashion and homeware. Click here for the website of the street.
Carnaby Street: A pedestrianized street found in SoHo which has many independent fashion retailers and a large selection of eateries (over 60) including some popular vegan eateries. Click here for the website of the street. Click here for a vegetarian and vegan listing for Carnaby.
Savile Row, Mayfair: Known for its bespoke male tailoring and old fashioned style. Click here for a GQ magazine guide to Savile Row Tailors and bespoke suits!
Mayfair: For exclusive and designer shopping. Check out a listing of its shops here.
Jermyn Street: Popular for its gentlemen retailers. It too has a website, click here to view it.
St. Jame’s: Upscale, high-end fashion and dining located beside Jermyn Street (close to Buckingham Palace). Click here. for the website of the street.
Covent Garden Market: For a variety of shopping from up end and hip fashion to souvenirs, arts, and crafts. Click here for its shopping guide. Don't forget that the popular fruit and veg market is held here too!
Located South of Hyde Park, Knightsbridge is one of the finest shopping areas in London and you will find the large department stores of Harvey Nichols and renowned Harrods here. Sloane Street is located in this area too and it boasts some very high-end luxury stores such as Gucci, Chloe, Tom Ford, Valentino.
(C) NOTTING HILL
Located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Notting Hill is popular for its boho style and if it's quirkier, unique, and vintage shopping (with some high-end chic designer wear too) that you are after then a trip to Notting Hill is worth considering. Portobello Road and its market, as well as some nice eateries, are found here too!
I already referred to some of the amazing markets found in London throughout my post but they are worth another mention here! For example, two of the most popular being Borough Market for food and Camden Market for fashion.
I was quite shocked at just how much I fit in with only two days in the city! I was on my own and walked A LOT so, if you don't plan to constantly be on the move, be conscious that you won't fit in as much as me. I spent very little money because most of what I saw was free too! There are so many areas to wander and explore for free (if the weather is good!) On my next trip, I intend to take in a West End Show (as mentioned, the official TKTS booth is located on Leicester Square). Any further tips for my next visit would be much appreciated!? Art attractions and brunch spots especially!
Also, the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus (close by Chinatown), enjoy a cruise along the River Thames or, take a trip over to Greenwich area (where you can take the Emirates Air Line cable car over the River Thames and visit the National Maritime Museum).
Thanks for reading! xx
* Click here for photo blog of my trip to London