Although now is not the time to be traveling, I find myself day dreaming of traveling and where I want to go first once it’s safe.
“Anyone who is bored in London is bored of life” This quote by Samuel Johnson resonates with me every time I find myself in London. I feel alive in London and I’m the best version of myself.
If you find yourself in London for 72 hours the itinerary below will show you a side of London that’s just off the tourist trail. London is great for solo traveling as there’s enough to keep you occupied on your own with museums and shopping but if you need some company join a group walking tour with like-minded people who share similar interests.
Arriving in London
If you’re arriving from the United States, most flights are red eye’s meaning you land in London VERY early in the morning. If you arrive at London Heathrow, the airport is quite a way from the middle of the city and could be 45-60 minutes by taxi. A long journey, but also a costly one as fares can range from 48 to 90 pounds depending on time and traffic.
Thankfully there’s an alternative that’s both cheaper and quicker- The Heathrow Express. It’s an express train to Paddington and only takes 20 minutes. Once you arrive at Paddington, you can take the underground or grab a taxi to your preferred hotel location. Fares on the train can be as low as 10 pounds if you book in advance.
The Heathrow Express allows you to also book Transport for London (TFL) tickets at the same time. It’s a great benefit as you’ll land in London ready to go by either underground or bus.
I recommend staying in Kensington- it’s a beautiful area of town that’s iconic London with streets of white row houses with black and white tiled porches with tree lined streets and courtyards. Venture out on Gloucester road and grab a coffee and some breakfast at one of the many café’s lining the street. Find your way to the Gloucester road underground and head to South Kensington. It’s an area of museums with my favorite being the Victoria and Albert. You’ll also find the natural history museum if that’s more to your liking.
There’s a tunnel underground at South Kensington station that will take you directly to the museum entrance which is perfect if it’s especially cold or rainy. The Victoria and Albert museum has a variety of exhibitions, but my favorite is the history of fashion. From the 1800’s to modern day there’s a gallery of gowns and iconic fashions throughout the decades. There’s periodic rotations and updates to the fashions and I never get tired of it.
The Victoria and Albert museum has a beautiful courtyard that’s perfect for resting and admiring the beautiful flowers and building façade. If you’ve built up an appetite or just want to rest, duck into the museum café. From tea and cake to lunch entrees you’ll have choices, but the main event is to sit inside. Twinkling chandeliers and intricate marble walls provide a breathtaking backdrop for some much-needed tea and cake.
After you’ve enjoyed your wander around the museum head back to the underground and head two stops to High Street Kensington. Make your exit from the station and head right. As you pass the various stores and cafes, you’ll eventually see Kensington Palace. It’s surrounded by a beautiful lawn where locals go for a run or even practice soccer. Kensington Palace is open for tours and it’s worth taking a walkthrough. Still home to the royal family it’s easy to daydream what it would be like to live there. Meander around the Kensington streets and discover the architecture and local area including Mews areas. Mews were where horses and carriages were held but now are lovely homes and narrow streets showing off London at its finest.
Get back on the Circle line head to Sloane Square, a sophisticated shopping area. From Sloane Square head to Elizabeth Street as you’ll slowly but surely leave Kensington for Belgravia. From boutique stores and flower shops I do believe Elizabeth street is one of the prettiest in the city. Join the Instagram crowd outside of Peggy Porschen’s café. Covered in pink inside and out the atmosphere is dreamy, and the decorations match whatever season is present. Flowers in spring or mushrooms in autumn its impressive. I still daydream about the Victoria sponge cake-vanilla cake with raspberry jam and cream. If the weather is nice, grab a table outside and enjoy your cake and tea while people watching.
For an insider view of London, book a tour with Amber- An American Tour Guide in London. She has a great variety of tours from covering Mary Poppin’s London, Bridget Jones Diary or she can give you the best viewing for Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Her tours are informative, fun and provide a view of London unique compared to other general tours you might find.
Covent Garden and East London
Although a tourist hot spot, Covent Garden is worth checking out as it’s full of charming restaurants and shops. Diver deeper into the streets and you’ll miss the tourist crowds. My favorite spot in London is a garden tucked way just behind the main market. If you make your way across from the market, you’ll see Actor’s Church-St. Paul’s, go through the gate and inside you’ll find the garden. It’s full of greenery, flowers and when the sun sets the lampposts and string lights provide the perfect comforting glow. The garden is so quiet but its right in the middle of Covent Garden providing moments of peace in an otherwise busy place.
It’s time to move farther East. If you stay on the circle line, make your way to Liverpool Street. It’s a fascinating display of old and new London as you’re very near the Tower of London but there’s also many new skyscrapers and modern buildings that have been added over the past 10 years. Historically the East end was working class, a place where immigrants could make a name for themselves in the various factories that came around with the industrial revolution. You’ll still find ancient buildings and narrow streets along with modern coffee shops and one of a kind stores selling anything from clothes to. The street art scene is top notch and the people watching can’t be beat. Locate Spitalfields market, an indoor market that changes by the day from clothing to antiques.
After you’ve wandered through the market, wander among the side streets taking in the locally owned shops and pubs that fill up with the after-work crowd. Make time for the Street Art tour with Alternative London- you’ll learn so much about the Street Art scene along with history of the local area. The tour is pay what you think it’s worth and lasts over an hour. After your tour you’ll be sure to have worked up an appetite and Poppy’s fish and chips will be waiting for you.
Delightfully small and inviting, you’ll have options of what kind of fish you’d like. I went with Cod and it was a huge portion of fish and the chips were crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. Tarter sauce, mayo and ketchup are served in tiny jars with the Poppy’s logo. The place is bustling, and you might have to wait for a seat but it’s a true London experience.
For sunset views, book a ticket to the Sky Garden on Fenchurch Street. Tickets are free but timeslots can book up quickly so pre-book before you arrive in London. Another option is to have a reservation at the restaurants which will also grant you entry to the garden. Floor to ceiling windows for 3 stories on the 35th floor of the building provides amazing views all around the city. The interior is filled with gardens and greenery providing a stark contrast to the urban views below. Although beautiful any time of day, you can’t beat the sunlight sinking down over London.
Day 3 Saying Goodbye to London
Most flights to the states from London can leave early in the morning so you might not have much time on your last day. Try to book as late of flight as possible so you can get the most out of your time. If flying international, it’s recommended to get to the airport at least two hours in advance. Plan this time accordingly as you’ll need to get to the Heathrow Express and to the terminal your flight Is leaving from.
As a farewell tour, find a pub or restaurant that serves a full English breakfast. You’ll be full as the breakfast includes eggs, toast, boiled tomatoes, baked beans (yes it sounds weird but honestly, it’s so good) and hash browns. Once your tummy is full of breakfast and tea, make your way to Westminster. Although Big Ben will be under construction for another year, I love crossing the bridge to the London Eye. Standing on the bridge people watching and soaking in London views will be the perfect wrap up of your time and leave you wandering when you’ll next be in the city. Happy wandering!