This summer when planning out our summer vacation we stumbled across a great airline deal from Dallas to London. I was pretty ecstatic! I had never been to the UK before (unless you count a couple terrible times in the Heathrow airport) and had always dreamt of going. I have always been obsessed with all things “Royal Family” and love British history. Nathan was not nearly as excited as me, but as a fellow history nerd he was also pretty excited.
Our trip to the UK would be one week long. We thought about traveling around and staying in other cities. But, when I really wrote out my list of top sights I wanted to see, I quickly realized that a vast majority of these sights were in London. So, for this trip we decided to see as much as we could see in London and the next time we visit the UK we would venture out to other regions.
Where we Stayed
We stayed in the Hilton London Kensington. We were able to find a great deal for this hotel on the American Express website and as American Express Platinum member we have Gold Status with Hilton. One of the big benefits of Gold Status with Hilton is the FREE breakfast! The breakfast here was fantastic and we were able to start our days off on a full stomach! (If you were to pay for breakfast here it would cost £17 per person) Now the rest of the hotel was not anything to write home about. If we had paid full price for it, I would’ve been a little disappointed. It seems that the whole place could use some renovations. But the location was fantastic and the deal we got made it all worth it!
How to Get Around
When in London get an Oyster card! We were able to get one once we landed at the airport. I believe between Nathan and I we spent about £50 for one week of travel around London using their underground “tube” and the iconic buses. I actually really loved using the buses because you are able to take in all the sights of London!
We did take one Uber ride from our hotel to the airport and that cost us around £25. I thought that was a pretty good deal!
Kensington Palace and Gardens
When we landed in London it was about mid morning. We both knew that we couldn’t fall into the trap of being jet-lagged so we needed to keep busy and push through that day. So, being the type-A planner that I am I planned for us to visit Kensington Palace the afternoon that we got to London (I had even purchased our tickets in advance so we couldn’t chicken out). In retrospect I am so glad we did this! It really was a great way to beat being jet-lagged and knock out seeing one of my top sights. Kensington Palace was not too far from our hotel, in fact we walked to Kensington Palace from our hotel! It was a very warm summer day and a great chance to stretch our legs after a long flight. If you are a fan of Queen Victoria, Kensington Palace is a great place to visit. This year would’ve been her 200th birthday and they had some great exhibits about her life. If you aren’t that interested in the history, just walking around the Palace and Gardens would be a great experience!
Tickets to Kensington Palace are £17.50 per adult.
After touring the Palace and Garden we made our way back to the hotel and crashed for the night!
Food Tour and Tower and London
For our first full day in London we wanted to get to know to local cuisine so we booked tickets for the London Secret Food Tour! After seeing one of my favorite travel bloggers, Helene in Between, do this food tour, I knew we would love it! We started off our morning in London’s Borough Market and ended the tour in Hay’s Galleria near the Tower Bridge. Our tour guide was fantastic and was full of fun knowledge about good ‘ol London-town. We got to try SO many yummy treats on this tour! I’ve heard people say that food tours seem pricey, but this tour was 100% worth the money! (I should note that we did this tour on the hottest day ever on record for London and it was still amazing!)
After the tour we walked across the Tower Bridge and went to the Tower of London. Talk about history! To be honest, we really could’ve spent all day in this place. In fact I am glad we only had the afternoon here because we otherwise we would have spent the entire day here and missed lots of other sights around London. The entrance to the Tower of London is £24.70 and I recommend buying tickets ahead of time online so you can skip the ticket line. If you care to have a more in-depth tour there are Yeoman Warder tours given every 30 minutes and those tours are free. At the Tower of London you can also see the Crown Jewels (lets be real that’s why I was there) and that is also included in the entrance fee. Forewarning - there is no photography or videography of the Crown Jewels. We walked around the Tower of London until closing time and then made our way back to our hotel. What a day! According to my phone we walked over 7 miles this day.
Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms and National Portrait Gallery
On Day 3 we started off our day in Westminster Abbey. If there is any one historical place that I would say is a “must-see” this might be it. The iconic Abbey is filled to the brim with history! So many major players in history are buried here. The architecture here is just stunning. As soon as we walked in a wave of emotion hit me that I was actually standing in Westminster Abbey. This place was really incredible. If you are in London I highly recommend visiting Westminster Abbey! Entry price for adults is £21. I tried to buy our tickets online before we got there but had difficulty. If you are able to do so, I recommend doing that because the ticket line can get very long.
After Westminster Abbey we walked around and saw Parliament and Big Ben. Everything around that area was under construction and very crowded. To be honest this was a little disappointing so we headed off to lunch at the Red Lion Pub near Parliament. This place seemed a little like it was geared for tourists, but the food was good and the environment was exactly what you would picture an English Pub to look like.
Once we were done with lunch we headed across the street to Churchill War Rooms. If you were wondering where all the American tourists are, they will be right here! We had purchased our tickets in advance but still had to wait in a long line. But, honestly if you do have an interest in WWII history the War Rooms are worth a visit! If you aren’t that interested in Churchill and WWII then I would say to pass on this. We personally loved this tour and found it so interesting! Seeing all of the bunker rooms was so mind blowing! The life of Churchill is also fascinating and I really enjoyed learning more about him! Entry Price for adults is £22.
After the War Rooms we walked towards the National Portrait Gallery. Along the way we got to walk past 10 Downing Street. Boris Johnson had just been elected PM and it was a bit crazy around there. But I like to think Hugh Grant was in there dancing around (any Love Actually fans out there?). The National Portrait Gallery is in Trafalgar Square and has FREE entry! Honestly this was one of my favorite museums we visited and I highly recommend it. It started to rain around the time we went in so we just took our time wandering around the Gallery and relaxing.
Once again this was a jam packed day in London and we ended up walking around 9 miles!
On our 4th day in London we booked a tour to Windsor, Bath, Lacock and Stonehenge. I plan on writing a blog post dedicated to this tour because we did so much in one day. But I do like the fact we were able to get out of London for one day and see so many other iconic sites.
Buckingham Palace, Apsley House and Afternoon Tea
Our 5th day in London was everything I had dreamed of! We started off our morning in Buckingham Palace! Visiting Buckingham Palace had always been a dream of mine my whole life, and we were so lucky that we happened to be visiting London during a time when the Palace was open to visitors. Tickets to visit Buckingham Palace start at £26.50
After visiting Buckingham Palace we ventured to the nearby Apsley House. The Apsley House belonged to the 1st Duke of Wellington, best known for defeating Napoleon. Nathan has been very interested in learning about Napoleon lately so he was geeking out during this tour. This house was honestly gorgeous and full of such ornate artifacts. Entrance prices for adults is £10.50.
Once we were done with the Apsley House we headed to Selfridges for Afternoon Tea. Partaking in Afternoon Tea was an absolute “must” for me while in London. However, when researching places to go for tea I noticed that many places were very expensive. I eventually found that the restaurant, Aubaine, in Selfridges had afternoon tea for £25 per person. While that still seemed pricey to me, it was well worth it for the experience. The Afternoon Tea we got came with TON of food for the two of us. We made a valiant effort to finish our treats but didn’t quite make it.
In a funny turn of events my husband’s boss and his family happened to be in London the same time we were. So, after our tea time we met up with that family at a Pub. It was honestly so much fun being able to spend some time with friends while traveling! The pack of us ended the night at a Mexican Restaurant just for kicks and giggles so we could compare it to our beloved Tex-Mex.
St. Paul’s Cathedral and The British Museum
This was our last full day in London! We started off the day by visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral. One thing you should know about me is that my favorite movie ever is Mary Poppins. So, of course I needed my picture on the “steps of St.Paul’s”. St. Paul’s Cathedral is gorgeous! If you have the time and budget I recommend checking it out. Ticket price for adults is £20.00 (but you can save if you book ahead online).
After St. Paul’s Cathedral we made our way to the British Museum. This museum is HUGE and has FREE entry. But, being completely honest this was not my favorite museum. It was so crowded while we were there. There is no AC and between the heat, and the crowds, I started to feel really terrible and ended up having a migraine. I think I would’ve preferred that whole experience if there was a small entrance fee and less crowds. There is SO much to see in the British Museum so I don’t want to detour you from going. Just be prepared for crowds and have patience while you are there!
After this experience I was pretty exhausted and ready to head back to the hotel and relax for the rest of the evening.
Our time in London was jammed packed with as many historical sites as we could see! Although I do enjoy relaxing on vacation occasionally, I prefer to fill our days on vacation seeing as much as humanly possible! After all you can sleep when you’re dead! If you are a lover of history, London is the town for you! There is so much to see around every corner! I did not expect to love London as much as I did! I hope that one day I get to visit again!