I am sharing with you today the detailed itinerary of my last citytrip to London. This is in a way my perfect itinerary for a first discovery of London, since I concocted it especially for Monsieur, whose very first trip to London was! So I tried to regroup in 3 days most of the unmissable visits in London, and here is what it gave …
MY ALMOST PERFECT ITINERARY FOR A FIRST TRIP TO LONDON
It was in London that I broke my walking record in one day a few years ago, that says it all! But if the best way to discover London is definitely on foot, taking the “Tube”, the London Underground, is one of the “must-do’s” in London and sometimes allows you to shorten the distances from one district to another. If before it was preferable to get an Oyster card and think about which package to take, things have become much easier since it is now possible to use London bus and underground with any European contactless bank card (at a few exceptions for the Netherlands, apparently). The system is really well thought out since you point with your card each time you use it but if you exceed the amount that a daily pass costs for example, you will not pay more, because the package will be automatically applied! Pretty cool, isn’t it?
For this route, I tried to limit the use of public transport as much as possible and I focused on zones 1-2, therefore central London. There are other cool places to see in Greater London (like Greenwich or Brixton for example), but I might do another article with these tours!
I would also point out that we made this trip in December, but if you are in London in the summer you can spend more time in the parks of London, in particular St. James’s Park, Regent’s Park and Hyde Park, for the most central.
DAY 1: THE CHIC DISTRICTS OF THE WEST (KNIGHTSBRIDGE, KENSINGTON, NOTTING HILL)
I dedicated the first day of our citytrip to (re) discovering the districts of West London: Knightsbridge, Kensington and Notting Hill. These are rather chic districts, rich in good addresses and with some essential visits.
After taking the tube from St Pancras Station to Knightsbridge, we started with a little shopping spree at Harrods, London’s historic luxury department store, worth seeing if only for its splendid Egyptian staircase and magnificent Food Halls where you will find lots of good things to eat.
Alternative: if Harrods isn’t your thing, you can go for a walk in the beautiful Belgravia district, around Belgrave Square Garden.
Right next door are three of London’s most popular museums, and all three of them free: the Victoria & Albert Museum (a huge art museum), the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. (Natural History Museum). We decided to visit the latter for 1-2 hours, but we could have spent even more time! The exhibition not to be missed is the one on dinosaurs.
To continue on the same theme, we took the “science afternoon tea” at the Ampersand Hotel, one of the best afternoon teas in London
Then, direction Notting Hill! You can take the metro, go through Hyde Park if the weather is nice or through the Kensington area – we opted for the latter option because of the metro stationary… This is the first time I crossed this area in west of Hyde Park and we discovered some very beautiful streets!
We then started our discovery of Notting Hill with some of its most photogenic streets with their succession of pastel-colored houses (near Notting Hill Gate underground): Hillgate Place, Callcott Street and neighboring streets.
Then we walked down Portobello Road, where the Portobello Road Market is, a large antique market. There is a way to find cool stuff whether it’s on the market or in the little shops on the street! For fans of the movie “Love at First Sight in Notting Hill”, which was shot largely here, don’t miss the Notting Hill Book Shop, the film’s bookstore.
We ended the day at the Electric Cinema , a historic cinema with a unique atmosphere! The cinema room is the most beautiful and comfortable that I have ever seen… If watching a movie in original version doesn’t bother you, I highly recommend this experience, one of my favorite places in London (especially they serve good things to eat!).
DAY 2: THE TOURIST CENTER OF LONDON (MAYFAIR, WESTMINSTER, SOHO, CARNABY, COVENT GARDEN, …)
The second day, we went to (re) discover what can be considered the tourist center of London: the districts of Mayfair, Westminster, Soho, Carnaby, Covent Garden, …
After an Indian breakfast at Dishoom in Soho, we went to see Buckingham Palace (on Saturdays there is no changing of the guard but if you are there on weekdays try to time your visit to attend that worth a look – the photo below is from a previous trip), St James’s Park, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey (from the outside, the inside can be visited but is chargeable).
Alternative: this is one of the big attractions in London that I have never done before because the tickets are really not cheap, but if you want to have a nice view of the city, the London Eye, the Ferris wheel from London, is also not very far. Another possible activity, which I have already tested, is a little cruise on the Thames. It is certainly touristy but it allows you to rest your feet!
We then returned to Soho where we ate at Bob Bob Ricard. For the afternoon schedule, there is plenty to explore in the surrounding area: Piccadilly Circus (London’s little Times Square), Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery (another free museum that I really like) , the small shops of Covent Garden and Carnaby Street, the bookshops of Charing Cross Road, the British Museum (free and unmissable too, but you have to make choices!) … In the evening we ate near Chinatown at the Hoppers, an excellent Sri Lankan restaurant in Soho.
The West End is also the theater district, and since it was my birthday we decided to celebrate by going to see one of the most popular musicals around, Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theater, a musical based on the universe. from the Wizard of Oz. On the other hand, I recommend that you take binoculars if you choose a seat far from the stage… the room is very large!
DAY 3: EAST LONDON (HACKNEY, SHOREDITCH, THE CITY, …)
The third day of this city trip in London was devoted to the “new” districts to the east of the city center: from Bethnal Green, via Hackney, Shoreditch, the City, with also a small tour by the south bank of the Thames. A paradise for street art lovers!
Alternative: I was very hesitant to take Monsieur to the quintessential alternative London neighborhood, Camden Town, the punk and gothic quarter, which also has a very nice market (Camden Town Market). In summer, you can follow the canal from Camden to Little Venice via Regent’s Park (possibly with a small detour to Madame Tussauds or the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street!).
For this last day, we left directly on foot from our hotel (the Mama Shelter, see below), and since it was Sunday, we started the day with a short visit to the Columbia Road Flower Market, before continuing our stroll towards the districts of Hackney and Shoreditch, two very hipster districts, with tons of street art.
If you have a bit of time before getting back on your Eurostar, and if you’re a Harry Potter fan, be sure to stop by Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, a few minutes away only from Eurostar boarding. In recent years, this place has unfortunately become an attraction on its own (you can’t take a photo yourself and you have to queue!) But the Harry Potter Shop next door is worth it to buy a few memories!
Alternative: speaking of Harry Potter, it is also possible to visit the Harry Potter studios (Warner Bros. Studio Tour) on an organized excursion from London (I told you about it in this old article, it’s really great !) and / or take a Harry Potter Walking Tour in London . The other best-known thematic tours in London are those in the Footsteps of Jack the Ripper , in the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes , in the Footsteps of James Bond , and even in the Footsteps of the Beatles (tested years ago already !).
WHERE TO SLEEP IN LONDON?
The hotel we stayed at on this last trip to London is the best hotel I have stayed in in London so far. We took advantage of a promotion to discover the recently opened Mama Shelter, which is located in East London (near Bethnal Green). This was my first stay at one of these funky, designer chain hotels, and although the room was a bit small (a classic in London), I found the place to be pretty cool. The little extra is access to a catalog of free movies, perfect to end the day comfortably in bed when you’ve walked too much! We didn’t try the hotel restaurant but it looked ok too. The hotel is located in an uphill area and is well served by public transport, making it a good base for exploring London.