Hello awesome travelers,
As I promised in my last post, this is going to be a full itinerary for a standard beginner’s visit to London, a whole potential week of London awesomeness from which you will be able to borrow ideas or even copy full days. As I recommended in part 1, this takes into consideration the location of things but also things that are happening on specific days (I will point those out), I will also write down my personal thoughts on some of the sites and add a printable map link for you, so feel free to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
The London Mega Touristic Day (Click here for printable map)
Every person who comes to London for the first time has a list of “must see” things, I mean we came all this way, so we might as well see the sites, right?! If you wish to do it ‘The Traveling Unicorn’ way I can fit most of those sites into one day with A LOT of walking so put on your most comfortable shoes and let’s go.
- Trafalgar Square – We start our day traveling to Trafalgar Square from which we can start our super touristic day out but first take a look around, appreciate the fountains and obelisk, the “I’m in London” feeling being in the center of everything, and the beautiful architecture of St. Martin’s in the Fields church and the exterior of our next stop, the national gallery.
- The National Gallery – is MY favorite London museum and possibly my happy place in the whole world. It offers a superb collection of old masters paintings but if you are not crazy about art or you are more of a modern art person you could just enjoy the beautiful exterior and architecture before moving on to the next stop.
- Buckingham Palace – One should see the changing of the guards at least once, if it’s your first time in London this could be a great time to do it. Walk into St. Jame’s Park from Trafalgar Square, on the way you can stop at the beautiful and picturesque Duck Cottage and then make your way to the palace. You can find all the information you need about the ceremony here including times, routs and recommendation of where to stand and watch. The changing of the guards starts at 11:00 usually and I recommend being there at lease an hour, even an hour and a half before if you want to get up close. After watching ALL OF THE FUZZY HATS exit the park back to Trafalgar Square, find Whitehall street to your right and start walking down it. On the way you will pass the Royal Horse-Guard and a memorial for the women of WWII, 10 Downing st. (the residence of the prime minister) and the stunning architecture of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
- Westminster Abbey – At the bottom of Whitehall st. you will find Westminster Abbey, the home of Royal weddings and past coronations, you can choose to go inside for a fee (book your tickets here) or just enjoy the beautiful exterior (I recommend going in), either way make sure you stop and appreciate.
- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament – A couple of minutes walk from Westminster Abbey you will find Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. A stunning structure that is under conservation work until 2021 so you will see less of its glory until work is done, but it’s on the way to our next stop anyway so why not?!
- Sea Life – London Aquarium – Cross Westminster Bridge (don’t forget to stop mid bridge to enjoy the view of London on both sides of the river Thames) and you get to the London aquarium, a highly recommended attraction if you are traveling with kids or like me, just like aquariums. It has been refurbished not so long ago so it is now bigger and better and it has a wonderful collection of sea life (plan your visit here). ***If you plan on doing more than one attraction you can buy discounted tickets on the first one you visit, so when buying tickets to the aquarium and if you are planning on going to the London Eye or London Dungeon afterwards make sure you check out what discounts they have to offer at the ticket office.***
- Right next door to the aquarium and possibly one of my favorite attractions is the London Dungeon (plan your visit here). The gruesome history of London is presented here in a fun and whimsical way, and whether you like it or not you go back to being a kid while learning about the less savory history of this magnificent city.
- Let’s talk about the London Eye for a sec… I think it is lovely to take pictures of but in my opinion going on it is a bit of a waste of money. Too much money for too little time, if you do decide to go up make sure it is a clear day or you will not see a thing, and the most beautiful thing you can see from it (Houses of Parliament) is being renovated so really not much to see, but again, it is only my opinion.
- And last but not least, if you still have some walking energy left in you, keep going on the same side of the river until you get to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater (plan your visit here). Whether you are a fan of the bard or not, the Elizabethan reconstructed structure is a site to see, you can also book a guided tour with tales of the history of the place and even catch a Shakespeare play.
I realize this is a lot to push into one day (Did you notice we were on foot all day?!) but it is a wonderfully touristic day that allows you to check off your list many of what you were planning to see, and leaves other days free for some more London magic to come.
An Awesome London Saturday (Click here for printable map)
There are some things in London that are either better or can only be done on a Saturday, so if you choose to do them here is a complete, fun Saturday for you. Because those are day dependent activities it is a bit more all over the place kind of day, enjoy the awesome London public transportation system 🙂
- Borough Market – We start the day nice and early (because around noon the place is so packed one can barely move) at Borough Market. On any other day of the week this is a lovely farmer’s market but on Saturday it turned into an stunning culinary experience. Dozens of booths containing everything from fresh breads to foreign and local cheeses, from baked goods to jams and fruit preserves. It is a celebration of colors, flavors and smells. Come hungry, bring a camera and be prepared to leave some of your money behind!
- Once you are full hop on a train and head to our next stop, Notting Hill, it is a bit of a ride but it will be worth it. As soon as you get off the train and come up to the street you start seeing the beautiful houses, each in a different color, which gives the neighborhood it’s famous facade. Walk around, enjoy the beauty, take some Instagram worthy photos on your way to our next stop.
- Portobello Road Market – Just follow the signs from Notting Hill Gate station and withing a few minutes you will be in this wonderful antiques market. On any other day this street has a collection of lovely shops but on Saturdays it comes to life with booths, music, market food and antiques that will make amazing gifts.
- The Hummingbird Bakery – Inside the market, on your left hand side, you will find the Hummingbird Bakery. Look for it or you will miss it as it is a small branch but it is also the original one and it is ALWAYS a good time for a cupcake!!! If you had to choose only one their red velvet is heaven, but I would try more than one if I were you 🙂
- After we are done with the Notting Hill area we head to Holland Park, a beautiful park that is just perfect for a Saturday stroll. Bring nuts or berries with you (you can get them at Borough Market, how convenient), the squirrels are friendly and are always up for a photo if you give them something yummy but please, make sure it is something such as nuts and berries and not something that can hurt our little, furry friends.
- Kyoto Garden – In the middle of Holland Park you will find the stunning Kyoto Garden, a little piece of Japan in the midst of London. I highly recommend a visit to this little corner of serenity.
- As it is not a super exhausting day this would be a great evening to catch a musical or a play at London’s West End, or if you are not so crazy about the theater, there are some great pubs in the area.
- Piccadilly Circus – In the West End you can also find Piccadilly Circus which is lovely, all lit up in the evening so you might want to take a walk in this direction before heading back to your accommodation for the night.
London Sunday is Always a Fun Day (Click here for printable map)
I absolutely LOVE a London Sunday! All the shops open late and close early so it’s a great day to do anything else but shopping. My idea of a perfect Sunday is this: breakfast, market, street art, hot chocolate followed by some more street art and a stunning dinner. Everything you do on this day is in walking distance, a little bit different and as the title suggests, fun!
- The Breakfast Club @ Liverpool Street – The Breakfast Club is a great place to start a day, there are a few branches so make sure you make your way to the right one. It is rare to get there and not already find a line so I recommend getting there about 30 minutes before you plan on having breakfast 🙂 At the Breakfast Club you will find a great collection of well, breakfasts. Healthy options along side decedent ones, the design of the place is fun and in the evening you can go into the fridge and find yourself downstairs in a secret bar.
- Spitalfields Market – A very short walk and a goat statue away is the lovely, covered Spitalfields Market. This market has unique designer booths where you can find beautiful clothes, hats, jewelry and souvenirs.
- Our next stop is about 15 minutes walk away, the art packed Brick Lane. A long street with many food shops and even more street art hiding in plain sight on every turn. On Sundays there is also a food market, a vintage market and street performers, the general vibe is that of a party. Make sure you turn into every side street and alley as they are packed full of high quality, super creative street art that you do not want to miss.
- Dark Sugars Cocoa House – In the middle of Brick Lane there is the most rich, amazing chocolate shop EVER! Pralines of incredibly imaginative flavors and hot chocolate that is to die for where they shave actual chocolate into your cup. Don’t skip!!!
- After you had this stunning hot chocolate keep on walking on brick lane, there is a lot more art to see. But when you are done make your way to Duck & Waffle. Make sure you reserve a place here a few weeks in advance as this is a very popular restaurant. Also make sure that at least one person at the table orders their flag dish, Duck & Waffle, it might sound like a bizarre combination but it really works!
- And if you still have some energy to burn head over to Shoreditch High Street where you will find a great collections of pubs and dance bars to spend your evening.
Let’s Go Shopping (Click here for printable map)
London is a great place to do some shopping! The most recent fashion in affordable prices and if you remember my last post, this is the reason we packed so lightly to begin with. Let’s be honest, it is super fun when someone asks you “where did you get this AMAZING top/dress/shoes?” and you get to answer “oh this, I got this in London!” In the map you will see more restaurants than usual but that is only because between each of them we go back to Oxford Street to continue shopping 🙂
- Let’s start bright and early at The Breakfast Club Soho as one should never go shopping on an empty stomach (I’m sure I read it somewhere…). Same rules apply as the Liverpool St. Breakfast Club, there is almost always a line so be prepared for it. The menu is the same throughout the franchise so you will get a chance to try more types of breakfasts 🙂
- You can start walking Oxford Street from 2 directions, Marble Arch and Tottenham Court Road, I prefer the later but you choose what works better for your daily plans. Either way start walking down Oxford Street where you will find all the best shops: Primark – great for basics, accessories and super cheap clothes; M&S – a bit on the older side of fashion but there is no competing with their lingerie department that is super reasonable and amazing quality for ALL sizes, Zara, Bershka, H&M, Stradivarius, Pandora, Clarks, Benetton, River Island, Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo, Top Shop, Disney Store and many many more! If you are looking for something it is most likely that you will find it while shopping Oxford Street.
- When you get to the center of Oxford Street, carrying some new shopping bags, turn into Regent Street for out next stop – Carnaby Street. This amazing street has high end shops but the real reason for visiting is the changing light art between the buildings and at times some very cool pop-up shops. So if you find what to buy there or not it is still very much worth a visit. Don’t forget to look up!
- On the way back from Carnaby Street to Oxford Street you MUST stop at Hamley’s – a 7 floor toy store for all ages. If you have kids, are a kid or have the spirit of one this store is just perfect! You have everything in that store: soft toys, consoles and computer sames, puzzles and board games and everything in between. Just keep an eye on the time as it literally flies in this wonderful place.
- With all that shopping we must have a little lunch break and what better place to have it than the best burger joint in town?! Patty & Bun @ James Street – Just a small turn off Oxford Street and possible 10-15 minutes wait there is this tiny little place for every burger lover, make sure to stop by and renew your shopping energy.
- If you did as I suggested and started your quest at the Tottenham Court Road side of Oxford Street you will finish your shopping spree at Marble Arch and if you take a left at the arch you might find yourself at the London Hard Rock Cafe. The food is great but what I love about it is the shop, as a traveler I have a collection of Hard Rock Cafe shirts from all the places I visited and had HRC. Whichever the reason, be it dinner after a long day of shopping or another shirt for your collection, it is worth stopping there before ending your day.
West London – It’s All About Nature (Click here for printable map)
West London is slightly less visited by first time tourists than the center, but it has a lot to offer and if you are indeed in London for a week or more you absolutely have time to visit the little gems the west of the city has to offer. This day can be taken easy, there are less activities but they take a bit longer. Wear comfortable shoes and don’t forget your camera. We will start our day at our farthest out point and work our way back to the center, of course this is all up to you, feel free to mix things around.
- We head to our most western stop and one of the most magical, Richmond Park – while not the most impressive park London has to offer, Richmond park has the best residents, while it takes a bit of walking if you have patience you will find beautiful wild deer roaming free. The beautiful creatures are breathtaking to look at and are incredibly photogenic. Just make sure to listen to the rules of the park, be respectful to the animals, stay safe and you are in for a magical experience.
- Kew – Royal Botanic Gardens – Our next stop are the stunning London Botanical Gardens. An amazing collection of trees, flowers and plants. Sometimes holiday decorations are infused into the usual scenery, or decorated sculptures… it all depends on what is on at the time but it is always wonderful!
- Heading back towards the western side of the city center, our next stop is, naturally, The Natural History Museum – One of the greatest museums London has to offer no matter if you are an adult or a kid. The museum collections are superb and of course, make sure to find out here what exhibitions are on at the time of your visit as the museum (much like most museums in London) hosts wonderful changing exhibits, among which is the Annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
- Out last stop is a divided and/or joint one: Kensington Gardens / Hyde Park – The two parks are joint together in the middle so if you have time and are so inclined you can visit both. Kensington Gardens allow you to visit the Kensignton Palace and I highly recommend having an Afternoon Tea at the Orangery which you can book here, it is a magnificent experience and one of my favorite English traditions. Hyde Park houses the famous Hyde Park Speakers Corner where you might encounter people presenting their point of view to anyone who might listen. Both parks are stunning and offer flowers, trees, sculptures, ponds, ducks and squirrels. Same rules always apply, the animals are used to human interaction and would love to take a photo with you but please, only feed them nuts and berries as to not harm them and if you see they are not into the interaction you offer please move on and be respectful, those are live beings and these parks are their home.
A Camden Kind of Day (Click here for printable map)
Camden is one of those places that allow you to be completely who you are, you will find every type of person in this place and if you ever felt the need to hide the fact that you like goth clothes or wearing only pink, in Camden you don’t have to. A collection of shops, markets, food trucks and pubs that makes a whole day fly by. Just remember to look up and take in the wonderfully decorated buildings and the colors and sounds all around you, they are a part of the magic that is Camden Town.
- We start the day by taking a walk in what is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful London parks, Regent’s Park. For such a metropolis, I love how many parks and greens London has to offer and Regent Park, with it’s ponds, bridges and trees is by far one of the loveliest and a wonderful way to start a day.
- Primrose Hill – While one can spend hours in Regent’s Park make sure you walk in the general direction of our next stop, Primrose Hill. We will not spend long there but it is still worth the walk as from the top of the hill you can see a panoramic view of London, and the hill itself is absolutely lovely, especially on a rare, London sunny day.
- From Primrose Hill we head to Camden Town tube station where our Camden day begins. At the station exit we turn right where we find everything Camden has to offer. A collection of small markets that allow you to shop for everything from novelty T-shirts, hand made arts and crafts, jewelry and music. The buildings are wonderfully decorated and if you look around you will also find hidden corners with some awesome street art.
- Before we go into the thickness of the markets I highly recommend you stop at Chin Chin Labs – While they offer a superb assortment of deserts, please do not skip on the hot chocolate with the marshmallow floof, the house drink and what they are famous for (make sure to ask for a glass of water on the side as if is super sweet).
- Explore the markets around Camden, my favorites are Camden Market and The Stables Market. While Camden Market has the most diversity and most beautiful thing you can buy and enjoy, The Stable Market has the best decor, as it is housed in what used to be actual stables once upon a time, and there are statues of horses all around, it also has some fun pubs if you fancy a drink.
- Sushi Salsa – Camden – For either lunch or dinner, this is the most perfect sushi spot in Camden. Ask for the “all you can eat” menu (it doesn’t show up on the regular menu so make sure you ask for it), it will give you 5 rounds of the sushi of your choice and I have yet to meet one person who finished all 5 rounds. Sushi made of super fresh fish, great ambiance and very affordable prices considering you really do get all the sushi you can eat!
- and as this is not a super exhausting day this would be another great evening to catch a musical or a play at London’s West End, or a drink at the pub… and another wonderful London day is done!
Baker Street and City Center (Click here for printable map)
There are some fun things around Baker Street that are worth a look, after which we will head to the center of the city, a super touristic yet super fun area that holds much in it. Not too much walking but still a lot to see and enjoy!
- Madame Tussauds London – I think the London Madame Tussauds is the best I have seen and while I will not go there on every visit I think it is good fun on your first visit, especially if you are traveling with kids but not only 🙂
- The Sherlock Holmes Museum – Two minutes walk and you are at the fantastic Sherlock Holmes Museum, a must for every Sherlock Holmes fan! They have masterfully created what would have been Holmes apartment if our favorite consulting detective was a real person. Famous scenes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories are portrayed in the different rooms and you can spend an hour or two loosing yourself in the world they created in 221B Baker Street.
- The Globe – Across the street from the Baker Street Tube station there is The Globe pub. If you haven’t had a traditional London pub meal yet, I highly recommend you stop by and have one: classic fish and chips, bangers and mash or a good pie will sort you out till dinner.
- Piccadilly Circus – One train and a couple of stops away we get off at Piccadilly Circus but this time during the day. Look around at the fountain and the famous illuminated screens.
- Walking down Shaftesbury Avenue we get to the beautiful Chinatown Gate – from here you can take a walk in China Town, scan the shops and when you feel like you are done with China Town go back to Shaftesbury Avenue and carry on walking to our next stop.
- Neals Yard – A tiny yard among the Covent Garden buildings that can offer food, drinks, a fantastic cheese shop and just a bit of a different vibe from the hectic city streets. But what is really special about the yard is the building that are colored in bold, different colors, I dare you to visit and not Instagram a photo 🙂
- Forbidden Planet London Mega-store – This shop is not for everyone but I am pretty sure almost anyone can find something they love in this nerd heaven! If you love comic books, board and card games and fantasy/sci fi books head to the lower level. On the ground floor you will find collectibles, statues, jewelry, clothes and begs, memorabilia, posters and toys for everything from Harry Potter to Star Wars, from Marvel to DC Comics and anything in between. It is possibly my favorite store in London!
- Covent Garden – A lovely courtyard with funky shops, surrounded by mini markets and pubs. Covent Garden is always decorated for something, especially around the holidays so it is always fun to visit. Street artist are around a lot but nothing is better than the opera singers and string quartets you can find there at times, singing among the restaurants.
- Dishoom – Covent Garden – If you love, like or even just fond of Indian food, do yourself a favor and have dinner at Dishoom Covent Garden (it is a franchise so make sure to book at the right one). Make a reservation here because it is always packed, and you are guaranteed top level of Indian cuisine. Don’t forget to enjoy a proper chai at the end of your meal. You will thank me later.
- On our way to our evening entertainment we should stop at Leicester Square – Take a quick look at the lovely square and also visit the Lego and M&M shop, both have fun things to buy and to look at. And now, after we took a picture with the Lego Queen, we head to our final destination for this day.
- The Comedy Store – The reason I recommend doing thins day on a Thursday is because while the Comedy Store is open 7 nights a week, in my opinion Thursday night is the best: 2 hours, 4 acts and one MC that is usually the funniest of them all. I have yet to have a Thursday night at the Comedy Store that I did not enjoy. To make sure you don’t miss out book your tickets here.
Of course this is not everything London has to offer, but if it’s your first time I believe you will do well to start with this my traveling friend, seven full days which you can copy, paste, mix and match, and a printable map for each (which is what made this post take FOREVER to come out) to make life super easy for you. It is not the last post I will write about London, I suspect a Christmas one is coming up, but I really do believe this is the best week for a London beginner.
If you need any more/different ideas, if you have any questions, if you want to run your plan by me and anything in between please feel free to contact me. I hope the first time you see London or any of those places, you fall in love with it just as much as I did.
Go wander, your Traveling Unicorn x