London is one of those destinations that has been on my must see list for years, and I was lucky enough to spend several days there as part of a two week vacation earlier this fall! We spent two nights there at both the beginning and end of our trip, with most of the time spent in Cyprus (more info to come on our adventures in Cyprus!).
Getting There & Around
Our flight landed at Gatwick and we jumped on the express train to Victoria Station. This was a really easy way to go, simply buy tickets from the machine and hop on the next train for a 30 minute ride. There is plenty of luggage space and we had no problem finding seats. Same thing on the way back – super easy, quick and comfortable. For sightseeing we took the Original hop on, hop off bus and did a ton of walking!
I had originally looked at AirBnb options, but we ended up booking with points at two different Best Western properties in the Victoria area, the Corona and the Victoria Palace. Both had very small and somewhat dated quirky rooms (one of the rooms had a significantly sloped floor!) but they were clean and in a great area.
The Marquis of Westminster: This popular spot was basically across the street from our hotel and had an inviting neighbourhood pub feel downstairs and a dining room upstairs. The service was friendly and quick, the food was tasty and it was busy with a mix of travellers and locals. We ended up going back several times for dinner and drinks and sampled the sausages & mash, meat pie, a giant pork chop with bubbles & squeak, the black pudding scotch egg, and of course several pints of local ale and cider.
Dishoom: We were hoping to try at least one Indian meal during our time in London and this restaurant happened to be close to our walking adventure route and also highly rated on yelp. We ended up stopping mid afternoon and it was relatively busy for such a random time of day. The interior has a warm vintage feel and is meant to be reminiscent of a Bombay cafe. Settled into a cosy table for two with cocktails in hand (pimms for me, gimlet for him) we shared the pau bhaji appetizer, which is a comfort food style dish of mashed vegetables served with buttered rolls. The rich slow cooked lamb and black lentil dahl were also perfectly spiced and delicious. Even the greens we ordered (because… healthy!) were spiced with chili and lime – not your standard afterthought of a side dish. A great restaurant pick that we were so happy to stumble upon during our wanderings.
Borough Market: I could spend a week eating here! We perhaps a little over ambitiously decided to walk from our hotel, which was quite a trek. Definitely worth it to work up a proper appetite for the excessive eating required at such a food lover’s haven. So much to try – fish & chips, sparkling wine with cheese, cornish pasties, more cheese, olives & cornichons and spicy sweet red peppers. Despite a rainy day, the place was packed and fun to just wander around. Also enjoyed the chance to window shop with a sparkling wine in hand.
DDK’s Cafe: This little cafe was in the neighborhood and offered a full English breakfast, so we gave it a try prior to our long day of travel to Cyprus. Although breakfast is a pretty safe bet most places,we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. Everything was delicious, fresh and well prepared. This was my first true English breakfast complete with tomatoes and beans – a good way to start off a long day of travel.
Turmeric Latte: Ok, I know stopping for a latte at Starbucks isn’t exactly travel blog post worthy, but I had to mention trying their latest trendy offering. Especially since it was (is?) not available at home in North America. I’m completely on board with the many health benefits of turmeric and the latte was pretty tasty, but honestly nothing special. Would I order it again? Probably not…
Seeing the Sights
After a mid morning arrival and a long overnight flight the laziness of the hop on hop off bus was a perfect way to get an overview of the main sights in London. We tried out both the pre-recorded audio tour and live tour guide – both were pretty good, but the pre-recorded did tend to be a bit off on the timing, and interaction with a live human is kinda nice too. We were lucky to do this on a Sunday, so the traffic was moving pretty quickly and we were able to see a ton of sights in two hours. Apparently on busy traffic days you can see things much faster walking!
Speaking of walking…that is how we spent basically the rest of our time. It is our favourite way to see a city! Along Oxford street, through Hyde Park, past Buckingham Palace, around Westminster Abbey, past Big Ben (under construction), across the bridge to Borough Market. Of course, the key to this type of sightseeing is fitting in numerous snack and beverage stops! We ended up getting cheap tickets to see the very popular musical, Wicked, one night too. It was a fun night out, even though we’ve both decided we aren’t really musical enthusiasts.
Overall, I completely loved our time in London and will definitely be back. It is a convenient gateway to the rest of Europe and a perfect stopover before (or after) venturing further afield. Next time I hope to spend a few hours in one of the great free museums, take the tube, have a few more pints, check out Harrods and take a boat ride on the Thames.
Anything to add to the list? Happy Travels!