Recently, my mom, daughter, and I took a 2-week trip to Ireland with a 3 1/2 day side trip to London, England. While our stay in London was brief, we really enjoyed our visit to this historically beautiful city. If you’re planning a trip to the London area, be sure to check out these tips to get the most from a trip to London, England. Cheers!
After spending the majority of our time in Ireland, we took a ferry from Dublin, Ireland, to Holyhead, Wales, then took a train from Holyhead to London, England. It was a beautiful way to see the scenery, and I’ve already decided I want to go back and spend time in Wales. It’s a gorgeous country!
The train took us directly to the Tube Station, London’s subway system, which is huge and everything public transportation should be. You can get anywhere and everywhere on The Tube, and we did!
Before you head to London, read through my tips so you’re prepared and have the best time possible!
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO TO LONDON
#1 – Buy an Oyster card
An Oyster card is what you will use when riding The Tube, and you’ll ride The Tube a lot. Go with the pay-as-you-go option. The card itself costs £5. We put £30 on our cards initially. No matter how much you ride The Tube in any given day, your card will never be charged more than £9.60/day, so £30 can take you through the city for almost three full days.
You can check your Oyster card balance and refill it at every station. Whatever credit you don’t use, plus the £5 charge for the card itself, is fully refundable. There are agents in every station to help you, too.
Oh! Kids ride at a discounted rate, but you will need an agent to help you with that, so the first time you buy one, grab an agent and ask for help. They’re super nice.
#2 – Pay Toilets
If you don’t have pounds when you get to the first Tube station, you’ll need them before hitting the loo (the toilet). The toilets in The Tube stations and many other places around London are 30 pence, so make sure you have that ready before running to the bathroom.
#3 – Pay Attention to the News
There’s a lot going on in London right now, and it can be a scary place because of the political unrest and terrorist attacks. Plan your trip cautiously. A few days before our trip, terrorists attacked tourists on the London Bridge.
And the day before we arrived, there was an election in an attempt to vote out Prime Minister May. It wasn’t successful, so our first day in London was met with a few protests throughout the city.
Overall, we never felt unsafe. (The police officers were brandishing high powered rifles everywhere.) However, we did avoid some of the more touristy places, and we never left our flat at night.
#4 – Plan Where to Stay
This might sound like a “Captain Obvious” thing to say, but plan your accommodations carefully. The city of London is huge, and just like here in the Atlanta, GA, area, the metro area goes on for miles.
I recommend using the Tube map and try to stay in Zone 1 or 2, and within walking distance of a Tube or bus station. You will do A LOT of walking, and you may want to go back to your room in the middle of the day, so staying close to public transit will be your best bet.
#5 – 221B Baker Street
Any Sherlock fans? (Me! Me!) We visited 221B Baker Street, home to Sherlock Holmes. It was a very cool museum dedicated to the original Sherlock Holmes from the books by Sir Arthur Conan O’Doyle, but not the current-day show “Sherlock”. However, you can definitely see similarities in the Sherlock set and the actual home.
Overall, if you’re a fan of the show or the books, it’s worth a visit.
#6 – Hyde Park for Picnics
Hyde Park is to London what Central Park is to New York City. It’s massive and beautiful and the perfect spot for a picnic lunch to give yourself a break from the walking you’re sure to do.
When ordering lunch at any restaurant along the way, tell them you want “takeaway”, which means “to go”. Grab your lunch and head to Hyde Park. Even on a random Tuesday afternoon, there were hundreds of people, some relaxing and eating lunch like we were, other flying kites, some sunbathing.
NOTE: Pay attention the trash cans throughout England (which are few and far between, unfortunately). They are big fans of recycling, so make sure you put your trash in the proper bin.
#7 – Harrod’s Department Store
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is my favorite movie of all time. She has breakfast while standing in front of the window of Tiffany’s jewelry store at Harrod’s in downtown London.
Y’all, Harrod’s is no joke. First of all, let me be clear: it is NOT your typical department store. With shops by Gucci, Christian Louboutin, Harry Winston’s, and more, I doubt you’ll be doing any really shopping there. But it is a sight to see!
There are six floors, themed elevators elaborately decorated, massive chandeliers, marble tile…amazing. Tiffany’s was the least expensive jewelry store there. We even saw Mont Blanc ink pens for £48,000. (At current exchange rates, that’s about $62,000.) We didn’t touch anything, but we did enjoy the visit!
P.S. The only thing we did spend money on at Harrod’s was sweets! They have a HUGE food floor with chocolates, truffles, macarons…everything you can imagine. Check it out:
London is a really beautiful city, full of historical buildings and culture you won’t find anywhere else. It’s busy, like most major cities, and there is a lot to see, so prepare to walk quite a bit, but it’s a memorable trip you’ll be happy you made time for!
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