London, London, London. Man, Fergie gets me every time.
So I was in London for Easter weekend, which was such a fun time to go. The weather was perfect and there quite a few classy British things that worked well with the holiday.
1. The Underground
I just wanted to start by saying that the public transportation system in London is amazing (and I lived in Paris for the semester, so having the Metro set that bar pretty high). I got an Oyster Card (costs £5 to get the card) at the train station right when I got there, put £15 on it, and used it for the rest of the trip (a Single Journey Ticket costs £4.90, but it’s only £2.40 with the card). It works for the Tube and the red double-decker buses!
Wow. Soho is so cool. This was by far one of my favorite areas to explore. Piccadilly Circus is at its center, and there are countless haunts to be found on the streets here. My favorite place was Dean Street Townhouse, which is partly because it is a beautiful place to sit for a while, partly because it is under the Soho House umbrella (which I’ll explain more), but mostly because I went for afternoon tea service on Easter Sunday.
Their tea service was amazing. It was everything you’re imagining, just add a glass of champagne. Afternoon Tea is £21 and includes a pot of tea and three tiers of heaven: cucumber & cream cheese, smoked salmon & horseradish, and Burford Brown eggs & mayonnaise tea sandwiches on the bottom layer, fruit scones with homemade preserves & clotted cream on the second layer, and traditional British pastries and cakes on top!
Back to the bit about Soho House. They have hotels all over the world, each one with a different personality according to the place, but you have to be a member to use the amenities. I’m not a member (yet), but that doesn’t keep me out of the restaurants. They have one in Chicago with amazing brunch that I frequent during the school year.
Anyway, Soho House was started in London (hence the name), so they have a wide variety of locations there. My friend and I are both Soho House fans, so after finishing our tea, we hopped to another nearby Soho House venue: Cafe Monico. One of the coolest, classiest bars I have ever been to with one of the best cocktails I will ever have (Cafe Monico Smash). Then, we continued our “Soho Crawl” by heading over to Chicken Shop for a beer and some fries, followed by another cocktail at Hubbard & Bell, which is right upstairs. We finished off the night with pizza (and one last cocktail) at Pizza East in Shoreditch, which actually required a quick jaunt on a double-decker bus.
This whole evening kind of just kept going without a real plan, but it was one of my favorite London memories. All this to say, even if you don’t follow my same cocktail-strewn path, afternoon tea is worth the hype.
3. Borough Market
Please go here. I hadn’t heard of this place before this trip, but it was a highlight for sure! It’s basically an established open-air market where vendors come to sell their specialty food from all over the place. It was a snack-lover’s heaven…so I pretty much loved it.
Make sure to find the booth for Bath Soft Cheese Co and get some vanilla ice cream in cone, cup, or shake form. All magical.
4. Trafalgar Square
This is just one of those classic Central London sights that’s classic for a reason. The large square lies right in front of the entrance to the National Gallery (definitely peek in there if you like museums) and is centered around Nelson’s Column, which is guarded by four lion statues. That was my favorite part, but the entire area just has cool vibes. Highly recommend.
5. Big Ben & Westminster Abbey
You gotta see this one for obvious reasons. I mean, it’s pretty much the picture you take to prove you were in London. I got the best view of this ole guy from Westminster Bridge, which has beautiful lampposts and a good view of the London Eye on the other side.
If you keep walking past Ben, you’ll find Westminster Abbey. Well-known as the location of William and Kate’s wedding, it also hosts church services now and then. I went to the Easter Sunday Service here and it was pretty lovely.
Remember that scene in The Parent Trap when her mom asks if she wants to go out to lunch then “spend the rest of the day getting lost in Harrods?” She wasn’t kidding. This classic department store is massive, and I actually did get lost a couple times. Very fun to explore though!
The forest green awnings dawning the iconic gold lettering line the outside of the building, which made it easy to spot. After a bit of shopping, we stopped at the café for some tea, but there’s also a champagne bar if you’re there in the evening! I managed not to buy anything…until I was about to walk out the door and spotted a green tin filled with chocolate chip cookies! I still have it on my dresser (but the cookies are long-gone).
Then, to continue the theme, we walked toward the outer edge of Kensington to find the townhouse where they filmed The Parent Trap. It was just as I imagined, and so fun to see in person. We also wandered over to Notting Hill to pay homage to another one of my favorite movies. Sadly, I did not run into Hugh Grant.
7. See a Show
London is famous for its theatRE (spelled the British way) scene. They have shows hidden in every nook and cranny of the city, but I opted for one of the big names that grace the boards of the West End and saw Wicked. So fun.
8. Abbey Road
Like so many before me, I went and took the classic picture in honor of The Beatles. It was worth going, and I’m glad I did, but just know that you will not be the only one with the idea. Little crowds are always huddled on each side of the crosswalk waiting for cars to pass so they can get their snapshot.
9. Duck & Waffle
This is not a typical spot, so your welcome for cluing you in. My friend who was studying abroad in London actually told me about it, and it was pretty fun. Basically, it’s a really good view with a fun atmosphere. You get into an elevator that takes you 40 stories up to the top floor where a 24-hour restaurant and bar is waiting for you. That was a big part of the charm for me—it’s still hoppin’ at 1am, which is when I was there. I tried (no surprise) the Duck & Waffle dish, which did not disappoint. The cocktails are too expensive in my opinion, but do whatever floats your boat (and sinks your wallet).
10. King’s Cross Station
Embrace your inner Harry Potter fan and go take a picture with the trolley sticking out of the brick wall at Platform 9¾ because I did and it was great. Then go sit to the side and just watch the line of people pose for their pictures because I did and it was hilarious.
One more thing: I’m guessing you’ll walk along the River Thames at some point or another, so be sure to walk past the Tower Bridge! It’s the iconic one that everyone thinks is the London Bridge and honestly should be because the real London Bridge is super meh. The Millennium Bridge is also worth seeing (Harry Potter fans will recognize it as the one that death eaters broke in the Half-Blood Prince).
Oh yeah, I didn’t put Buckingham Palace on here because even though you have to go, it really isn’t that special…we bought red velvet cupcakes and ate them for breakfast on the royal front yard to make it a little more fun because princesses eat cupcakes for breakfast and they matched the guards’ uniforms.
Enjoy this amazing city! Just leave the guards alone.