One of my all time favorite cites is London- I have been a handful of times and whether it’s a layover on the way to South Africa, a few nights after 2 weeks in Ireland or a week long stay I always discover something new about the city…
On the way to South Africa we flew British Airways connecting in London, as we would arrive at 9am and would not depart for Johannesburg until 9pm we decided to extend it to an overnight giving us 36 hrs to hit the hot spots.
After checking in to our airport hotel we took the Heathrow Express into the city. This is a great way to get city center in 15 min as a cab can take an hour and run you $60+ one way.
After wandering through Trafalgar & Leicester Square it was time for lunch. On a beautiful day the best place for a meal is Covent Garden: you are almost guaranteed to have entertainment as street acts & musicians are positioned next to every patio and courtyard.
The weather in London can change quickly so as the clouds started rolling in it was the perfect excuse to get lost in Harrods…As the largest department store in Europe (over 1 million sq feet) you could be there all day but here are my highlights:
- The Food Hall: Located on the ground floor- I dream of all that chocolate & the sushi bar
- Toy Kingdom: Anything you can imagine for the little one – even a £3,999.00 stuffed lion
- Princess Diana Memorial: Located at the base of the Egyptian Elevator
The Quick Visit
After a wonderful two weeks in Ireland we decided to stop back through London to visit some good friends for a couple nights. We stayed at my new favorite London hotel: The Park Tower Knightsbridge. It has a fantastic location, blocks from Harrods & Hyde Park and right next door to my go to bar!
On the Fifth Floor of Harvey Nicols is the lux bar where they make hands down some of the best concoctions I have ever had. We had time to grab a drink here on our layover but with the added time we went and settled in and watched Stani mix magic. *Stani Visciano heads up the cocktail masterclass and is a joy to converse with. You can order off their impressive menu but why I love it and keep going back is once he gets to know your likes and dislikes he whips up a bespoke drink on the fly.
I am very lucky to have some fancy Londeners as friends. On our last night we hit the town…hard.
First stop was champs at the flat, then a decadent dinner over at Marks Club then finished the night with martinis & dancing at Annabel’s!
The Extended Stay
A couple years ago I got “stranded” in London Town- I had over a week to explore and along with all the tourist things I also went off the beaten path.
-First thing you should do, especially if it is your first time, is purchase The Original London Sightseeing Tour. It is the most efficient way to see the highlights and comes with great commentary.
-The London Underground known as the Tube is the best way around and although it may look confusing it is very easy to navigate. If you are there for a long visit consider getting an Oyster Card- you will feel like a local in no time.
-If you happen to be around on a Sunday consider heading over to Westminster Abbey. *Request to be in the choir pews for the service.
-London has one of the best theater districts so make sure you make time to see a play. Lion King, Wicked & Billy Elliot are just a few I have seen there.
-The largest antique market in the world is over on Portobello Road. The market is open throughout the week but the day to go is Saturday. That’s when the bric-a-brac & antiques are available and you embark on a fantastic treasure hunt.
-The iconic London Eye is a staple of the skyline and offers the best views of the city. It takes around 30min and cost £29.50.
-Another fun attraction that is very popular is Madame Tussauds wax museum where you can cozy up to Beckham, Madonna & even the Queen herself- but you can’t go wrong with a little Robert Downey Jr.
-Buckingham Palace changing of the guard gives you a look into the pomp and circumstance of the Brits. During the summer it occurs everyday but if you are traveling in the off season check the schedule. Get there early- it begins around 11:30am.*Tip: Do not rush to the gate of the palace as the actual change inside is kinda lame- be on the street where you will see the horse guard and other regiments go by.
-Make your way over to the Royal Mews next to Buckingham to get up close to the Royal & State carriages. It’s fascinating to see what goes into a procession for the Queen.
-Head over to The Tower of London to be led around the old castle by a Beefeater and make sure to stop in and see the Crown Jewels- also it is here that Anne Boleyn lost her head.