I've dreamed of going to England for the longest time. When I finally planned a trip to go to London last year I was so overwhelmed by all the attractions the city has to offer. Since London is so expensive, there were attractions that I found weren't worth the cost to do. Instead, I found lots of free attractions that I really enjoyed. I spent an amazing 5 days in this city and I cannot wait to go back. Here are a list of attractions you should see and ones you can skip!
DAY ONE-- WALK AROUND THE MAYFAIR & KENSINGTON NEIGHBOURHOODS
Oxford Street- See
Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping streets in Europe. It is most popular for it's high end retailers and department stores. Other than the shopping the street has got beautiful architecture and great restaurants too!
Natural History Museum-- See
The Natural History Museum is a free museum where you can learn about dinosaurs, wildlife and science. London weather can be a bit unpredictable so it's good to have a plan in case of rain. There are lots of artifacts and great displays to keep you busy for a few hours.
Hyde Park-- See
Hyde Park is one of eight royal parks in London. It is also home to Princess Diana's Memorial Fountain. Depending on the season you visit, you can also take part in some of the water sports or other activities the park has to offer. It's a great change of pace from the busy city.
Piccadilly Circus-- See
Piccadilly Circus is one of London's busiest squares. It has a lot going on and is packed with tourists taking pictures or people watching. There are tons of shops, restaurants and theatres surrounding the area. It is most famous for having a large amount of advertising billboards. The circus is similar to Times Square in New York, you'll probably find it a lot busier at night, as most people are done with other activities and usually just lounge about in the area.
Kensington Palace-- See
Kensington Palace was the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Currently, it is the royal residence of Prince William, his family and also Prince Harry. To get inside you will have to pay £14.40 ($26 CAD). Make sure to see the Princess Diana exhibit!
DAY TWO-- VISIT THE HISTORIC SIDE OF WESTMINSTER
Buckingham Palace-- See
Buckingham Palace is only open to the public for a limited time during the summer, if you are lucky you are visiting London around then. Otherwise, you are like everyone else who gets to the palace just to stand around and take pictures. This palace is home to the current Queen Elizabeth and is also used as an administrative headquarters. Try to plan your trip on a day where you can see the changing of the guards!
Westminster Abbey is a 700 year old gothic church. The outside is beautiful and I'm sure the inside is too, however this is another place that I skipped. The entrance fee is £20 ($37 CAD) online and £22 ($40 CAD) at the door. On Wednesdays evenings, however, it is only £10 ($18 CAD) but that is some serious cash. As a non-religious person I cannot be bothered to pay that amount of money to walk around the building. I was content with just being outside and walking around the building.
Palace of Westminster-- Skip
Palace of Westminster is a parliament building and is where the two Houses of Parliament meet. The Palace is another architecturally beautiful building. However, it is another expensive place with visit if you want to see the inside. For a guided tour tickets are £25.50 ($), for a self audio tour it is £18.50 ($).
Big Ben-- Skip
Big Ben is the most iconic clock tower in the world. It is located right beside the Palace of Westminster. Unfortunately, it is currently under renovation until 2021, so you won't be able to see much.
London Eye-- Skip
The London Eye is a gigantic Ferris wheel that offers an amazing 360 degree view of London. The Ferris wheel sits right off of the Thames River and is the tallest observation wheel in Europe. So why skip it? The cost! A standard ticket is £22.95 ($42). There are free alternatives available if you want to see London from up high.
Trafalgar Square- See
Trafalgar Square is a public square in Central London. There is lots to see like sculptures, statues and fountains. It is very historic and is a great place to take pictures. Also, it is within walking distance to The London Eye.
DAY THREE-- EXPLORE THE CITY OF LONDON
Sky Garden-- See
Here is an alternative when looking for views of London. Sky Garden is located in the "Walkie-Talkie" building and is a free three storey public garden, open terrace, restaurant and bar with a 360 degree view of London. You can actually see the London Eye from here and the view is much higher. All you have to do is book your free tickets on the Sky Garden website.
Leadenhall Market-- See
Most famous as the Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, Leadenhall Market is normally a historical market in the busy financial district. It's not as big as it looked in the Harry Potter movies but it has very beautiful architecture lots of shops and restaurants.
Ruins of St. Dunstan in the East Church-- See
The Ruins of St. Dunstan is the remains of a gothic church destroyed during World War II. It is a public garden now and is a very peaceful place to sit or wander around. Not many people seem to frequent this place so it could be considered hidden gem. It is just north of the Thames River and London Bridge. It is also walking distance from Leadenhall Market and Walkie Talkie.
Tower of London-- See
The Tower of London is officially the Queen's royal palace and fortress. It is also home to the Crown Jewels which are still used today in royal ceremonies. Although there is a cost of £22.70 ($41 CAD), you can take a free tour with the Beefeaters. There is a lot of history to be learned here and is worth the price.
Tower Bridge-- Skip
The Tower Bridge is the most famous suspension bridge in London. You can actually go up into the tower to see exhibits, the engine room, great views and the glass bottom floor but for £12 ($22 CAD). Considering you can get a free view from other attraction there isn't much appeal to go inside the power. The outside is a lot more fun to take pictures of.
Thames River-- See
The Thames River is the longest river in England. It always amuses me that we consider bodies of water as an attraction, but it really is a nice walk to walk along and take some pictures of. Sailing along the Thames is another great way to get beautiful views of London's iconic attractions.
DAY FOUR-- EXPLORE MAYFAIR & SOHO
High Tea-- Do
Your trip to London cannot be complete without having Afternoon Tea. Afternoon tea is one of Englands most cherish past times and is copied all around the world. You can literally find afternoon tea anywhere in London. The prices differ depending on what type of experience you are looking for. I went for the traditional afternoon tea at The Ritz Hotel which was quite pricey, £57 ($104 CAD) to be exact. It was definitely worth the price and was the highlight of my trip!
Even though every major city has a Chinatown there is just always something so fascinating about it. Obviously there are lots of Chinese restaurants, supermarkets and other things but it also feels like you are in China with all of the red and gold decorations.
Carnaby Street-- See
Carnaby Street is a famous pedestrian shopping street in London. However, what makes this street stand out is that there a lot more independent shops and restaurants here. Also, during the winter months the light displays are what draws people in.
National Gallery-- See
The National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square and was founded in 1824. There are 2,300 paintings displays ranging from the 13th century to the 1900s. There are free events but some of the exhibits you need to buy tickets for.
DAY FIVE-- WEST LONDON & WESTMINSTER
Portobello Road-- See
If you've ever watched Angela Lansbury in Bedknobs and Broomsticks then you would have heard about Portobello Road. Portobello Road holds the world's largest antiques market so you can practice your bargaining skills. There is also lots of books, clothes, food and music.
Covent Garden has a great selection of restaurants, bars and shops. It can be quite busy depending on the time of day. There are often live performers so it's a great place to relax. The architecture inside is also very beautiful.
Notting Hill is a very trendy area. This area has cobblestone streets and Victorian houses. Portobello Road is also in this neighbourhood, so there's lots to do. Make sure to find Churchill Arms, the pub with all the flowers on the outside. Also, make sure to search for the colourful houses.
Little Venice-- See
Little Venice is a neighbourhood in Paddington with similarities to Venice in Italy. There are houseboats lined up the canals, waterside cafes and picturesque scenery. In the warmer months boat rides become more frequent but you can also go canoeing.
Neal's Yard-- See
Neal's Yard is a lively and colourful courtyard between Monmouth Street and Shorts Garden. It's a great place to people watch while having a drink. There a bunch of cafes, bars and small shops.It can be quite busy so go later in the evening.
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