four days in london
Every time my mom visits Italy we plan a trip to somewhere in Europe. During her most recent visit this fall we spent four days in London and despite everything being 30% more expensive for the American Dollar the international food scene was great, their public transit was efficient, and it’s a beautiful and walkable city. We were so impressed with how eco-conscious the community is and how technology forward they are.
Primestate Holborn Apartments – 7/10
$220/night – 2 bedrooms 1 bathroom apartment
The apartment we stayed at was less than a 10-minute walk from Chancery Lane station, about a 15-minute walk from the major landmarks, and had tons of restaurants in the neighborhood. It came with all the basics (shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, etc.), a fully stocked kitchen, and was very clean. We did have some issues though, the toilet seat was broken (still functional), the heater didn’t work in one of the rooms, and there was some odd stain/residue on the couch. We notified the property manager and with all these things fixed, we would definitely stay again.
FOOD & DRINKS
Kimchee – 8/10
We had kimchee, japchae, pork mandu, beef bibimbap, tofu bibimbap, salmon, and broccoli with soy and miso dressing. We really wanted tteokbokki and jajangmyeon, but tteokbokki wasn’t offered on the menu and they were out of jajangmyeon. The service was great and the food was delicious and I would return on my next visit to London.
Doughnut Time – 5/10
Donuts are so hard to find in Italy, so when we walked by Doughnut Time in London you bet we stopped. The donuts are larger than normal and over the top with unique flavors and toppings. If you’re from San Diego, think Donut Bar in downtown. Jaime had the Pump Up The Jam (vegan donut with raspberry plum jammed dusted with cinnamon sugar) and I had one that had a pink glaze, rainbow sprinkles, and was filled with birthday cake frosting. There was a little bit too much of everything and I only ate through half of it, but the dough was also nothing special. The donuts and shop were Instagram worthy if you’re into that.
Two Bridges Ale House – 7/10
During our night walk, we stopped for a drink at Two Bridges Ale House. It’s not the old pub you might think of when you think of English pubs, but it had lots of TVs for sports, the staff was nice, and they had a good selection of beers on tap.
Pret A Manger – 10/10
Londoners might hate me for this, but we really fell in love with Pret A Manger. When comparing to what Americans know best (Starbucks), there’s no comparison. Food is freshly prepared in house daily, their coffee and milk are organic, and they donate all their unsold food to charities at the end of the day rather than keeping it to turn a profit the next day. They’re everywhere and you can find them almost on every other corner. If you end up in London near the holidays, make sure to try their holiday turkey sandwich. We all stopped at a Pret before heading to the airport to pick one up and then purchased more when we realized there was a Pret at the airport.
Dishoom – 10/10
LET’S TALK ABOUT AMAZING BOMBAY INDIAN FOOD. If you can only eat at one place during your time in London, make it Dishoom. Dishoom was recommended to us over and over by both locals and travelers and WOW — it did not disappoint. Before eating at Dishoom my love language was a really great hamburger (I know, how American of me), but my love language is now Pav Bhaji with homemade buttered buns. It was the first dish that came out, we all took one bite, immediately called the waiter over, and ordered another. We also had the paneer pineapple tikka, chicken ruby, a bowl of grilled broccoli, snow peas, and kale mixed with chili and lime, garlic naan, and basmati rice. I had one of the best chais of my life, Jaime had one of the best old fashions he’s had in Europe and a watermelon sharbat, and my mom had the Bollybellini (raspberries, lychees, rose and cardamom with first-class sparkling wine and the only drink that was kept from their old menu).
Rock and Sole Plaice – 8.5/10
Such a great play on words. We had dinner at Rock and Sole Plaice following a recommendation from a Londoner for a place to get legit fish and chips. If you’re looking for a moist fish with a perfectly crispy batter and great pickled veggies, make sure to stop by Rock and Sole Plaice. It’s not cheap (even before the conversion rate to USD) and they charge to share a plate. After a regular fish & chips, large fish & chips, assorted pickled sides, and three beers we walked out the door with an $84 hole in our pockets.
The Rose Oxford – 8/10
While we were visiting Oxford, we stopped for a traditional afternoon light meal of cream tea before heading back to the big city. Cream tea consists of scones, clotted cream, jam, and of course tea. While you can find this in London, it’s native to the west UK. If you find yourself in Oxford during your trip to London, we recommend having it there instead of the big city.
Self-Guided Walking Tour – 8/10
The first night we arrived we looked up self-guided walking tours of London and went on a 5 miles walk around the City of London and Southwark. We visited the London Bridge, Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, and a few others. We did the Pool of London Walk. You can find the walk we did and others HERE. The walking tour is great if you want to get out and see the city on your own terms, but if you don’t already know the history the website doesn’t give you any additional information.
Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour – 10/10
If you’re not familiar with Sandeman, they offer free tours that are tip-based. If you have a great tour guide, make sure to tip them accordingly. If not, then it’s at your discretion whether to tip at all or not. We signed up for the free 3-hour walking tour and visited the homes of Queen and Prince Charles, Buckingham and St. James’s Palaces, Westminster Abbey, site of royal coronations, weddings, and funerals, House of Parliament, Big Ben (but not really because it’s still under construction after a year and a half of work), Trafalgar Square, and the Churchill War Rooms with our awesome tour guide, Peter. Peter is a Londoner, used to work for Parliament, and has a graduate degree in political history. Our tour was filled with so much history and there wasn’t anything about London Peter didn’t have an answer for. We enjoyed his tour so much that we signed up for his day tour in Oxford the next day.
Sandeman’s Oxford Day Tour – 10/10
Along with their free tours, they offer various paid tours around London and its neighboring cities. We purchased our tickets for £40 and the price included the tour as well as roundtrip train tickets to Oxford. Peter attended Oxford University which is another reason we signed up for the tour with him, we knew he’d give a more personal experience because he had first-hand knowledge of the city and its colleges. We highly recommend both Sandeman’s tours and Peter for a tour guide!
Tina Turner Musical – 10/10
The Tina Turner Musical debuted in London and is now performing in New York. If you love Tina Turner’s music (who doesn’t?!) we highly recommend the musical about her life. Head to Leicester Square to find discounted tickets for same-day shows.
The British Museum
The British Museum was on our list of things to do as it is with most people, but morally it’s not something we can recommend. While they do house a lot of history from around the world, many of these artifacts are stolen. If you Google “British Museum stolen artifacts” you’ll come across dozens of articles about countries asking for their artifacts back and the British Museum telling them no. This isn’t something the museum denies or tries to hide. At the entrance of their Parthenon exhibit (which is huge), they have a pamphlet explaining why they have not returned the Grecian artifacts even though Greece has asked for them to be returned. Only 30% of the sculptures remain in Greece. I can’t be the only one who thinks there’s something wrong with this picture. There was an Egyptian on our Sandeman tour that mentioned the British Museum has more real Egyptian artifacts than Egypt. The museum is free and donation based. We did not donate, didn’t finish touring the museum, and we can’t recommend it. Do better and be better British Museum.
We flew on a budget airline that mostly operates in and out of small airports. We landed at the Stansted airport and took the Stansted Express straight to Liverpool Station. The tickets are cheaper the further out you book and the number of people who need tickets. You’re also able to purchase roundtrip tickets that can be used within 30-days of your arrival. Wi-fi is available on the train and the train ride is about an hour.
The tube is London’s subway. Their network is extremely extensive, especially coming from Rome where we only have 2.5 lines, and you can get pretty much anywhere you need without too much walking or having to hop on a bus. The fare was surprisingly expensive (again, especially compared to Rome where you can go anywhere for €1,50 regardless of the distance), but you get what you pay for with an expansive network and reliability. Because there are so many lines in London, I highly recommend using apps like Google Maps or CityMapper to understand which lines to take in which direction.
Taxis were our most used mode of transportation. Since tube fares were fairly pricey and because there were three of us splitting taxi fares, it made the most sense for us to take a taxi when we weren’t walking. If you’re looking for a rideshare/taxi option, taxis are the way to go and are surprisingly affordable. Make sure to download the FREE NOW taxi app so you can request a taxi the same way you would with Uber or Lyft.
If you got to the end of this post, thanks for reading! I took a poll on Instagram about whether to section out my posts like this one (where we stayed, what we ate, etc.) or keep it as a story of our time in London day over day like my previous travel posts. Some people wanted both, some people wanted it in sections, some people wanted the story, so I thought I’d try something new for this post. It seems that information is easier to digest when it’s broken into sections, but I’d really love your feedback. Did you enjoy the structure of this post? Should I go back to writing them as a story of our time day over day? Should I keep them both and list where we stayed, what we ate, etc. succinctly with bullet points at the top and then follow with a story of our time day over day? Let me know in the comment section below.