No matter how many days we allow for London, it’s never enough, and our most recent visit was no different. I’m not sure what I was thinking when planning our itinerary, but somehow we ended up with only three full days*. I did however manage to plan the visit over my birthday, and what better way to celebrate than time in my favorite city! As always, I was on a mission to see as many new things as we could while still fitting in some old favorites, and I think we did a pretty good job of making the most of our time.
Arriving in the late afternoon after a long drive from York, and having had nothing to eat other than a light lunch during our stop in Nottingham, we were ready for an early dinner! Not in the mood for our usual wander, we decided on a repeat for dinner, Plum Valley in Chinatown. We’ve been here three times now and it never disappoints. Afterwards we walked around the neighborhood while eating our dessert, Tayaki, which are little fish shaped cakes filled with cream. Yum!
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Happy Birthday to me! Choosing our itinerary for the entire day with no objections from the peanut gallery was my birthday gift. I chose a museum and shopping! The Victoria & Albert Museum, or the V&A, was our first stop. I won’t lie and say the boys enjoyed the Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear exhibit, but as a lover of fashion I sure did! There are many things to see and do at the world’s leading museum of art and design and there was no way we would see it all in one visit, but we spent most of the morning trying.
If like me, you’re a shopper, you’ll love Carnaby Street! Located in the West End, Carnaby Street is part of a larger collection of 13 streets lined with shops, restaurants and bars. The iconic Union Jack hanging high above and the fun vibe of the area make this a favorite shopping destination. I love wandering in and out of all the shops, many of which are one of a kind. Like many places in a city as old as London, Carnaby Street has a long history dating back to 1682! The place to be in the 60s, 80s and still to this day!
Another great London destination is Covent Garden located on the edge of the West End. We usually find ourselves here at least once every visit and with beautiful architecture, street performers, entertainment, theater, shopping, museums and more you can’t go wrong. There is always something to see or do!
Corinithia Hotel Cocoa
While we don’t always stay at The Corinthia, we never pass up a chance for Corinthia cocoa in the lobby! A nice alternative to traditional tea, though they have that too, we’ve taken to sitting down in the Corinthia’s lovely lobby for a relaxing cup of cocoa at least once every visit and sometimes more…
We stumbled across this yummy place, and loved it so much we found ourselves back the very next day. The cinnamon rolls were my favorite! Alas there are no photos, as we ate them up too quickly for pictures!
The Changing of the Guard
In what turned out to be a very happy accident we got off at the wrong Underground stop just in time to see the Queen’s soldiers marching down the street on their way back from the Changing of the Guard! Super neat! Not one for standing around trying to see over the very tall person that always stands in front of me, we’d never even bothered to try and see the guard ceremony before. I highly recommend seeing it via happy accident!
The Royal Mews
The Royal Mews is responsible for the transport of the Queen and other members of the royal family via horse drawn carriage and motor car. Unfortunately we just missed the guided tour, but found the 45 minute audio guide to be quite adequate and enjoyed moving along at our own pace. During the visit you’ll be able to view many of the carriages including the Scottish and Irish State coaches, the Diamond Jubilee Coach, and the Gold State Coach, as well as motor cars, and even some of the Queens horses.
Camden Town a popular North London neighborhood reminds me a lot of Venice Beach, California. Fun & quirky! Shops filled with everything imaginable line the streets, from mainstream brands to vintage treasures. Camden Market is a maze of wonderful stalls and shops filled to the brim with tasty treats, funky art, clothing, toys, housewares and so much more! Somehow this popular neighborhood has managed to keep it’s “off the beaten path” feel, while at the same time making itself completely accessible to everyone!
As is often the case in London, it was quite a rainy day, and in the late afternoon when the rains came back with a vengeance we decided a movie in Leicester Square would be the perfect thing! Leicester Square is the heart of British Cinema, much like Hollywood in California, and many European movie premiers take place here. We’ve been to movies here before and we love the reserved seating, which has only recently come to America.
The perfect way to end our day, we had a delicious dinner at Dozo Sushi, in Soho, where both the food and service were excellent. The restaurant was packed and without a reservation we felt lucky to get a table.
The Houses of Parliament Tour
Waking up on the last day of our visit to London, we had big plans! A tour of Westminster Palace and the Houses of Parliament was first on the list! I was pretty excited about finally getting a peek inside this historic and important place. While on the 90 minute tour you’ll be treated to 1000 years of history, modern politics, and amazing art and architecture. I absolutely loved this experience, our guide was so knowledgeable and funny and the interior spaces were so beautiful I was in awe of my surroundings the entire time.
The Borough Market
The sun was shinning bright, so after our amazing tour of Parliament we set off for a walk along the River Thames and ended up at The Borough Market in Southwark. After exploring the stalls and vendors we grabbed lunch at the Market Porter, a famous Public House with an upstairs restaurant which overlooks the Market. We all enjoyed our food very much. For more information and even more photos of this awesome neighborhood check out 24 Hours In London!
Taking advantage of the continued sunshine we decided to keeping walking along the river crossing the famous London Bridge where we stopped to take photos of Tower Bridge!
The Tower of London
If you follow my blog, then you know that The Tower of London is probably one of my favorite places on earth and I can’t imagine a visit to London without stopping there! It’s absolutely on my must not miss list! A very family friendly place with ever changing exhibits I love that each time we go there is something new to see. This time we enjoyed the Crowns of the Past exhibit and the room replicas of the Medieval Palace dating back to the times of Edward I and Henry III.
Just as we were exiting the Tower the sky opened up and we made a mad dash for a taxi back to our hotel. It was time to pack for our next destination, (Bruges!) but we did find time for a lovely, but spicy, Indian dinner at Imli Street in Soho.
During our visit we stated at the Nadler Soho, which was conveniently located and walking distance to many places.
*We did get one extra day just before our return trip to the United States, but more on that later…