London (requested by sweetubofhoney)
London (requested by sweetubofhoney) Reviews
Sep 06, 2007
London is an amazing city!!!
Things to do:
There is always something to do in London. I generally like to get a brief overview of a city before getting into serious sightseeing mode. Taking a bus tour is a good way to not only see some sights, but to also get an idea of the layout of the city and see what sights are close to each other and which are more out of the way. I took a tour with The Big Bus Company (http://www.bigbus.co.uk/index.html). They were great! Our guide provided a ton of interesting information about the city that I wouldn't have learned traveling on my own. When you buy your ticket, they also give you a ticket for a river cruise. This is another great way to see the city from a different angle. Also, if you buy your ticket online, you can save 2 pounds.
If you like museums, London has some fantastic museums! The British Museum (http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/) is one of my favorites. It is HUGE, and you can easily spend a few days in there! The Rosetta Stone can be found here, as well as many other amazing artifacts. There really is something for everyone at this museum. Another great museum is the Victoria & Albert Museum (http://www.vam.ac.uk/). This is another HUGE museum that has really interesting exhibits and is also free. My favorite collections were the fashion/jewelry and the childhood ones. A third great museum (free once again!) is the Imperial War Museum (http://www.iwm.org.uk/). Admittedly, I am not very interested in learning about wars, but I was very surprised by this museum. The Holocaust Exhibition is wonderful, and it is pretty cool to be able to see tanks and planes that were actually used in wars! There are plenty of other museums worth a look as well...The Natural History museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum are some others.
If you like art, I HIGHLY recommend visiting the (once again, free) National Gallery (http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/). Even if you don't love art, I still recommend it actually. I do not know much about art, but I really enjoyed walking around here. I was able to see some of the works of Italian painter, Canaletto. I absolutely LOVE him now! Water looks incredibly realistic in his paintings! Maybe you will discover a painter you really like!
I strongly recommend going to see a play or musical while you are in London. There are TONS of great shows in London. During my 4 months there, I saw many great plays. Unfortunately, they are probably all finished so I won't name them. The musicals I saw and loved were Wicked, Mary Poppins (a MUST SEE!!), Spamalot, and Lion King. There is a half-price booth in Leicester Square where you can get tickets at a discount. In order to get the discount, you have to get the tickets the day of the show, so I recommend going early!!
Besides musicals and museums, there are obviously other wonderful things to do in London. One thing I LOVED was having high tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace. Lots of hotels do this (Like the Savoy), but it is SUPER expensive. You can have tea at a palace, for much cheaper. The Orangery is the building right next to Kensington Palace...they serve tea and scones and cakes all afternoon, and you don't need a reservation. Buckingham Palace is fun to see. If you want to see the changing of the guard, make sure you get there super super early (at least an hour during the summer). After seeing Buckingham Palace, it's nice to stroll through Green Park which is right next to the Palace. London has some amazing parks. My favorite is Hyde Park. Next to Hyde Park is Kensington Gardens, which is where Kensington Palace is. Regents Park is another lovely one. St. Paul's Cathedral is very cool, especially if you are interested in architecture. Obviously, go see Big Ben and Parliament...they are beautiful. Walking along the river is nice too. The Eye is there (the big ferris wheel) too. If you want to ride the London Eye, but don't want to wait in the super long line, you can pay a little more money and skip the lines. If you are short on time, this is a good option. Go see Trafalgar Square (have your picture taken with a lion!). Harrods is another famous sight in London. Whether or not you can afford their high end goods, it's still fun to walk around. There are lots of hidden things (such as the family's handprints in one of the walls) that are really cool to see. If you want some amazing gelato, have some Morelli's (splurge for one of the big sundaes at the counter!!!)...it's amazing.
If you like guided tours that aren't very expensive, I recommend the London Walks company (http://www.walks.com/). They provide excellent information. I went with them on the Beatles Walking Tour. The guide is AMAZING. I took the tour with him in 2003 and then again when my Dad visited me in 2007. I don't think the Beatles have a bigger fan! The final stop is Abbey Road, where you can get your picture taken crossing the famous crosswalk (*Note: That road is very busy, and the public still use this crosswalk, so it may take a VERY long time for you to find a moment where no one else is crossing and there are no cars!).
If you like markets, Portobello Road is my favorite. I'm a little biased because I lived 2 blocks away, but it is famous for a reason! You can get some great souvenirs here that are a little less touristy (but they have the touristy ones too!), or you can just people watch. The weekends are the busiest (especially Saturday). The food is very good here too. I can recommend the jollof rice, the almond croissant, any of the fruit (sooo fresh!), or this AMAZING bakery called Hummingbird (http://www.hummingbirdbakery.com/flash.html). They sell GREAT cupcakes. Red velvet and carrot cake are my favs. While you are in the Portobello Road area, you can see the Travel Bookshop which was featured in the movie, Notting Hill. Notting Hill is just a wonderful little area. If you want to have a great meal while you are there, I recommend Churchill Arms (check out my review). Another great market is Spitalfields. Once again, Saturday is the busiest day.
If you want to shop, Oxford Street and Bond street are great areas to shop in. Another great area to shop or wander through is Covent Garden. I recommend having a cookie at Ben's Cookies. They are sooo fresh! Also, Picadilly Circus is a fun area to wander through. It is similar to Times Square in NYC (so I've been told, I was only there when I was very young). It is really cool at night.
Inspeaking of night, London has GREAT nightlife. Pubs are a very popular place to go to at night. They do close early though (at least compared to bars in Chicago), at around midnight. If you are going with a group of people and want to sit together, go early. If you are looking for a great pub in Notting Hill, I recommend Prince Albert's. It is popular with the younger (20s-30s) crowd. One really cool place (but a little pricey) is Jewel in Picadilly Circus. The chocolate mint martini is GREAT! Supposedly David and Victoria Beckham like this place a lot. If you are wanting some great mixed drinks, I recommend LAB (http://www.lab-townhouse.com/). The owner is a famous mixologist, and the drinks here are the best I've EVER had! Seriously, take a look at the website and check out the drinks they make! The tiramisu martini actually has marscapone cheese in it!!! If you want to go here, I strongly recommend making reservations...we made ours a few days in advance and we had a party of 10. If you want a kind of cheesy experience, check out Ice Bar(http://www.belowzerolondon.com/icebar/index.html). The entire place is made of ice, even your glass!!! You are only allowed to stay for 40 min., but it's a really fun experience...don't forget your camera!!! Reservations are also recommended, but it really isn't difficult to get the time you want. If you prefer to dance, my favorite place is Zoo Bar (http://www.zoobar.co.uk/)...if you go here, you'll have a great time! Another great place is The Walkabout. They play a bunch of different kinds of music, and it's a lot of fun!
If you want to see some sights a little ways outside of London, there are some great ones! Windsor Castle is not far away, and neither are great places like Stratford-Upon-Avon (home of Shakespeare), the Cotswolds (a really cute area with thatched roofs...very picturesque), Canterbury Cathedral, Stonehenge, and many others. If you are short on time, you could take a tour with Golden Tours (http://www.goldentours.co.uk/) or a similar company. I took a few tours with them, and quite honestly I wasn't impressed. It isn't there fault, but you typically see 3 sights in one day and these sights are very far apart. Therefore, you are very rushed. If you really want to see a certain place and you don't have a lot of time, then this is a very good way to go about it (by the way, Shakespeare's birth place was amazing!). However, if you have a little more time, it may be nicer (and cheaper) to take a train and go on your own. Outside of London, I recommend Bath (this place is a must see!) and Stratford-Upon-Avon. If you have time to see other areas of London for an extended amount of time, the Lake District is beautiful!
I hope you enjoy your time in London, it's a great city! Another great resource to check out is London's Timeout website (http://www.timeout.com/london/)...they will tell you what is going on while you are there. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me...as you can see, I love talking about London! My apologies for the lengthyness of this review.
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