What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the travel destination, London, England? Maybe it’s Buckingham Palace and the Queen, or maybe the London Eye, but the city has so much more to offer than these main attractions. No matter what you’re interested in, there’s something for everyone. London is the capital of England for a reason, it’s one of the most gorgeous cities in all the UK. The hardest part about visiting this beautiful city, is deciding on what to see and do. While Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral dominate the city’s historic church scene, the Tower Bridge and Tower of London is the prime feature of Victorian engineering. The British and Natural History Museum is an excellent way to buff on history, while the London Eye and River Cruise is full of excitement.
Afternoon tea in London is a must, and there’s no shortage of places to have it at. Mandeville for Tea is at the top of the list if you’re looking for an authentic British experience. Reform Social & Grill, found within the Mandeville Hotel, is the perfect spot to indulge in one of Britain’s oldest traditions. Not only does it offer one of the city’s best afternoon tea experiences, it’s inspired by the 1940’s and 50’s with its vintage décor tiered sandwich trays. From finger foods, sconces with cream and jelly, to lemon pound cake, apple turnovers and tarts, along with the best pot of tea you’ll ever have, afternoon tea at Reform Social & Grill is a day you won’t forget. I have an entire blog post on Mandeville for Tea here.
When it comes to iconic images of London, the traditional red booth telephone stands alongside red buses comes to mind. Although those red phone boxes are quickly diminishing, there’s still plenty to be found to capture that “perfect Instagram” shot. There’s actually one right down the street from the Mandeville Hotel.
Speaking of Instagramable locations, Hyde Park is London’s most famous green space, right in the heart of the city. Its manicured gardens, swan-filled lakes, fountains, statues and flower gardens are just a few of the reasons why you’ll fall in love with this park. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to check out Kensington Gardens, the flower garden is beyond beautiful.
Although the London Eye is one of London’s more recent additions, it has already become one of the city’s most noticeable and iconic attractions. It’s now an integral part of the skyline but is best seen from 442 feet up in the air. A 30-minute, continually moving, guided flight gives you a spectacular view of the entire city. The pod is large enough that you can move around freely, allowing you to get a birds-eye view of Windsor Castle, Big Ben, Palace of Westminster, House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral. On a clear day you’ll be able to see over 40km in each direction. Full blog post on my time on the London Eye here.
Speaking of iconic landmarks, Tower Bridge is the most showy and recognizable bridges in the city. Although it’s amazing to admire from a far, it’s even more beautiful up close and personal. Not only can you walk across the bridge, and for free, you can also access a glass walkway or steam engine room from above for a small fee. Although it was built in 1894, with the help of 5 contractors and 450 workers, this 11,000 tons of steel bridge looks just as beautiful today as it did back then.
Another iconic landmark would have to be Big Ben. It’s one of the most popular places to take photos when you come to London. The Houses of Parliament and its magnificent clock tower (famously nicknamed “Big Ben”) have become iconic symbols of London for centuries, and it’s hard not to imagine these two attractions when an image of London comes to mind. It was originally built as a royal palace and residence during the reign of Henry VIII, but in 1547 the building was given to the British Parliament, and it has been its permanent location ever since.
Buckingham Palace is, of course, home of the Queen, but is also the iconic location of the famous “changing of the guards”. Part of the excitement of seeing this, is the lead-up to it. Make sure you get there at least an hour early to secure a spot on the Victoria Monument round-about before the crowds come. The police on horseback are the first to arrive and they quickly take their place in front of the gates. You’ll then hear music, followed by the guards arriving from St. James’s Palace. The first to arrive is the band, then the soldiers on horseback.
The National Gallery is a lovely art museum that’s free to visit 361 days of the year. It was founded in 1824 and features over 2300 paintings, dating all the way back to the mid-13th century. I have to admit, I’m not an art buff, nor did I study it in school, but I found this museum very interesting.
Westminster Abbey is one of the world’s great churches, with a history stretching back over a thousand years and an essential part of any trip to London. Another major tourist attraction, so be prepared for a crowd. It was a little overwhelming the day we went, so we didn’t stay long.