A Few Days in London

London Travel Blog

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Marble Arch before entering Hyde Park

London is one of my favorite cities and I am lucky to have some great friends who live there.  In early July, 2009 I visited for a few days vacation.  The trip started off interestingly enough as we were getting ready to land in horrible weather.  As we were beginning our descent, we heard a large thump.  The pilot advised that the plane had been hit by lightening and apparently, this happens four or five times yearly (and is fairly common).  Needless to say, while the crew was calm, the passengers were all wide-eyed. 

Once I made it into London by train, I picked up a cab.  London taxis are some of the friendliest cabbies in the world and they know their routes.

The lights of Piccadilly Circus
  To become a cab driver, cabbies must pass an exam to learn the shortest distances between locations.  I have heard that roughly 1/3 pass the test and that the exam is extremely difficult. 

I am usually in London just to visit friends, but there is so much to do.  A few of my favorite places are as follows.  I would recommend traveling by Tube, which is easy and extremely user-friendly.  Buy an Oyster card before traveling the Underground as it is much cheaper than paying for individual journeys:

1.  The Royal Academy of Arts--This art museum is located near Piccadilly Circus Tube Station and is a fantastic spot.  I try to go anytime I'm in London as there are always interesting exhibits.  During the summer, the Royal Academy hosts the Summer Exhibition, where both known and new artists are selling some of their works.

Royal Academy of Arts with a banner advertising the Summer Exhibition
  I enjoyed seeing what was selling and what wasn't.  Some of the art is traditional and some is modern.

2.  The Tate Modern--This art museum has very modern art, which you will either love or hate.  The Tate itself, however, is worth visiting just for the architecture as the architects turned a power plant into a museum.  I think the entry hall is spectacular.  The Tate Modern is located on the South Bank of the Thames near the Southwark Tube Station.  Just walking from the station is a lot of fun as the light poles leading to the Tate are all painted orange (follow the orange light poles to the museum).  There is also a great cafe in the Tate to look out at the Thames River.  You can have a cup of tea and experience a fantastic view.

British Museum--Most of the museum is free and there are lots of great artifacts

3.  Borough Market--This market is open Thursday through Saturday near London Bridge.  Locals mainly frequent this market, which has an amazing variety of foods.  There are also free samples to save money.  I never miss a visit to the Borough Market.

4.  Liberty of London--Liberty is a department store off Regent Street near the Oxford Circus Tube Station.  While Harrods is more famous, I like exploring the 3rd and 4th floors of Liberty, as there are all sorts of material samples.  If you are interested in different prints/fabrics, it is interesting to see what you can find.

5.  Wallace Collection--The Wallace Collection is located near the Bond Street Tube Station in a historic house.  This museum is practically deserted and filled with fantastic paintings and artifacts.

St. Paul's Cathedral
  Even though you are not far from the shops along Oxford Street, the Wallace Collection seems to be overlooked.  You can have entire rooms to yourself to view paintings. 

6. The Grenadier Pub--This pub is very hard to find but is located near the Hyde Park Corner Tube Station.  Legend has it that this pub is haunted as this used to be a soldiers barracks.  There are clippings on the memo board of guests who have spotted the ghost.  The Grenadier is also famous for its Bloody Marys and yes, they are really good.

7.  Harrods--I can't afford much at Harrods but I would recommend that any visitor to London go just to visit the Food Halls.  The assortment of foods are fantastic and I had to splurge on my last visit on some cookies (biscuits) and tea.

Millennium Bridge which is a pedestrian bridge across the Thames. This bridge had some problems when initially built as it swayed in the wind.
  The store, while really expensive, is a beautiful store and worth just looking at.

8.  A Walk along the South Bank--One of my favorite parts of London is along the South Bank.  Between London Bridge and Westminster Tube Stations there is a great walk along the river filled with lots of historic sites and lots of street performers as you approach the London Eye.  I could do this walk over and over as there is always something to see.

9.  Cabinet War Rooms--Located down the street from Parliament are the Cabinet War Rooms where Churchill conducted some of the British government's operations in World War II.  This is another museum that few people visit and I can't recommend this enough.  The history is incredible and it's a nice break from the hoards of tourists around Westminster Abbey.

Tate Modern
  It's interesting seeing the last military maps from the war and what conditions were like living underground.

10.  London Walks--If you are looking for something fun and inexpensive in the evenings, London Walks has a tour that meets near Tower Hill Tube Station called the "Jack the Ripper Tour".  It can be a little creepy exploring dark alleys and learning about what happened in the past.  Much of the "Jack the Ripper Tour" is now in the London insurance area.   Be careful of locals sneaking up after a few pints and shouting "Jack the Ripper". 

Ever since the British Invasion, I have been a fan of London.  My dad bought me my first Beatles album when I was eight and I think my interest in the United Kingdom (and London) started then.  I first visited in my twenties and try to visit whenever I can.  I have tried to list a few things that are a little different from the typical tourist itinerary and that are somewhat budget friendly (at least by London standards). 

 

 

 

 

 

aneilcontractor says:
london ma dream !!
Posted on: Dec 19, 2011
sarahsan says:
Well written and very informative. London is one of my favorite cities too!
Posted on: Aug 09, 2009
Dr_Seuss says:
A much more productive visit than mine. Stopped off on the way home and all I have is pictures of pubs and football match :)

Great pointers in your blog
Posted on: Aug 05, 2009
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Marble Arch before entering Hyde P…
Marble Arch before entering Hyde …
The lights of Piccadilly Circus
The lights of Piccadilly Circus
Royal Academy of Arts with a banne…
Royal Academy of Arts with a bann…
British Museum--Most of the museum…
British Museum--Most of the museu…
St. Pauls Cathedral
St. Paul's Cathedral
Millennium Bridge which is a pedes…
Millennium Bridge which is a pede…
Tate Modern
Tate Modern
Entry hall in the Tate Modern
Entry hall in the Tate Modern
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
Big Ben
Big Ben
Trees wrapped on the South Bank …
Trees "wrapped" on the South Bank…
Another view of Big Ben and Houses…
Another view of Big Ben and House…
Street performers on the South Ban…
Street performers on the South Ba…
The London Eye--on a clear day you…
The London Eye--on a clear day yo…
Another view of the London Eye
Another view of the London Eye
A local pub near Borough Market wh…
A local pub near Borough Market w…
Anchor Pub on the South Bank--If t…
Anchor Pub on the South Bank--If …
Lloyds of London building--People…
Lloyd's of London building--Peopl…
Wallace Collection--one of my favo…
Wallace Collection--one of my fav…
Cafe at the Wallace Collection whi…
Cafe at the Wallace Collection wh…
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photo by: ulysses