Recommended - At least 7 days, 6 nights. (To thoroughly comb through the city of London, I recommend at least 7 to 10 days).
BEST TIME TO VISIT LONDON:
April to September
My Thoughts on London
London is considered my second home, because it’s where important members of my family live and were mostly bred. I have a huge affection for this metropolitan city because it makes one feel and come alive, feel understood, and it is notorious for phenomenal shopping. It is insanely expensive to live and exist here on ones’ foreign currency, but it’s always worth the trip. I attempt to visit once a year, or once every other year. Since it’s home for me, I don’t have a typical itinerary like I would every other city, but I’ll be glad to make some useful recommendations.
Airports to Fly Into
1. London Heathrow (LHR)
2. London Gatwick (LGW)
The two major airports in London are Heathrow and Gatwick. Heathrow being the friendliest and closest of them both. It connects to the underground station which offers very easy access from the terminals.
Where to Stay
I hand picked these locations for their proximity to London’s city center, underground tube stations, and the West End. For more of where to stay, do visit search engines on the web.
CITIZEN M LONDON BANKSIDE HOTEL
20 Lavington St, London SE1 0NZ, UK +44 20 3519 1680
On very rare occasions, when a hotel is called for, my favorite of all favorite hotels to stay in, in London, is the CITIZEN M Hotel. This trendy, colorful, streamlined and very sexy hotel is my number one pick for its price point. You get a feel of London (good use of tight space), but you also get a feel of Moulin Rouge in Paris (for its vibrancy and color). The 24/7 cafe and lounge is one of the sexiest spaces you’d ever plant yourself and makes for great bonding, connecting, or veg-ing moments. Check it out.
Le Méridien Piccadilly
21 Piccadilly, London W1J 0BH +44 20 7734 8000
There are a plethora of places to lodge in London, as the world wide web can attest to, but my next best lodging recommendation will be Le Méridien Piccadilly. It’s advisable to book well in advance however to secure less pricier rates. Albeit it’s number 2 in my ranking for where to stay in London, the Le Méridien chain is my favorite brand in the world. This hotel happens to be right on Piccadilly Circus which will situate you right in the heart of the very lovely city of London.
OTHER SUGGESTED PLACES TO STAY IN LONDON:
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane - Piccadilly, London W1J 7BX London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square - Grosvenor Square, London W1K 6JP
Where and What to Eat
Sketch is located on Conduit Street, in the West End. This is my favorite restaurant in London. This quirky 18th century townhouse offers tea, sandwiches, main courses, desserts, etc. It’s also one of the coolest lounges I’ve come across in a while, and a visit feels like a splendid outing. They offer the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted especially given that I am a sandwich snob. It’s also noteworthy to mention that the bathrooms at Sketch will transport you to a whole new Sci-Fi era, to the point that Sketch’s bathroom is now a tourist attraction in and of itself.
Every where in London. For more budget conscious travelers, visit Nandos. Their Peri-Peri chicken is to live for and their portions are very filling, while being completely affordable.
Fish and Chips
This London’s staple is a must try. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, especially health conscious nuts, but it’s imperative to at least try this ONCE. There are no particular restaurants that deserve a worthy mention in my opinion, because any old place will do, really. However, if you insist on a name drop, try Poppies Fish and Chips, they are quite good as well. Be that may, you'd have to make it all the way to East London for these bad boys.
What to See and Do
No visit is complete without seeing some of London’s most iconic sites.
These are my top favorite things to do in London, and carving out about 5 days for sightseeing is suggested if you want to see all that London has to offer. For more of what to do, please scan the web.
Near Westminster Abbey. No visit is complete without seeing this monumental clock.
Near London Victoria Station. (Most people have no idea of Little Ben. In fact, most Londoners are oblivious to its existence). Little Ben was erected in 1892; taken down in 1964; and then restored and re-erected on Dec 15th, 1981. It was offered as a gesture of France-British friendship.
For a bird’s eye view of Thames River, the Parliament building, Big Ben, and a panoramic view of the city of London, embark on the London Eye, Europe’s tallest ferries wheel on the South Bank of Thames River. No trip to London is complete without it. The London Eye does for London, what the Eiffel Tower does for Paris.
London’s suspension bridge built between 1886 and 1894. This bridge has become an iconic symbol of London.
At Knight’s Bridge. One of the most expensive shopping experiences you’ll ever have is at Harrods. On my very first visit to this famous department store, I could only afford to buy a sachet of tea. Thankfully, a lot has changed for me since then. At the Harolds department store, is where you’ll find Diana and Dodi Al Fayad's Memorial and Shrine. It’s a must visit.
West End. Visit for its square, bustling with action, packed with tourists which make for good people watching moments, and for the famous Eros; also known as “the statue of love”. It is believed that if you come here at midnight with your loved one, you could fall in-love and stay in-love forever. It all starts with a kiss at the statue of Eros. So pucker up when next you visit London… Also nearby are “the Great Horses of Helios.”
One of my favorite streets in London’s West End. This bustling street is packed with scores upon scores of people from all over the world indulging in the common art of Shopping. It’s Europe’s busiest street and houses about 300 major shops. My favorites being Mango and Zara.
Famous for its landmark pigeons, is a must see in the City of Westminster. It is built around the area formerly known as Charing Cross. There are hundreds of pigeons at this square, which makes for a messy, yet beautiful sight.
For art lovers like me, a visit to this museum on Trafalgar Square would hold you over. There are over 2,300 paintings dating back to the mid 13th century.
For a completely different perspective of London, visit Camden town. Notorious for its edge, its vibe, its market and its electricity, any one looking to change things up a bit would appreciate this town. It's a haven for punks, teenagers and tourists. You’ll also find some great shopping and some off the beaten path no name restaurants with amazing food. Totally worth the visit.
The streets of Soho feature ultimate dining, an active and vibrant nightlife, shopping, and it is quite energetic. A visit to this West end neighborhood is highly recommended. Dean, Frith, Beak, and Old Compton streets are the epicentre of activity day and night, and long-running Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club is also here. Shoppers indulge at Oxford, Carnaby and Regent streets, while theater-goers head to Shaftesbury Avenue.
Visit Tate modern in London’s Bankside for its unique interpretation of art.
On Coventry Street. This is an entertainment complex packed full of all the fun stuff young adults and kids love. Also nestled within it, is a “dare devil - drop of death” ride for people in need of an adrenaline rush.
The largest of four Royal Parks that starts from the entrance of Kensington Palace, through to the main entrance of Buckingham Palace.
City of Westminster. This is the official residence of the British monarchy, or the monarch of the United Kingdom. It’s also famous for a procession called “Changing of the Guards”. In my humble opinion, no visit to London is complete without laying eyes on its elaborate courts and gates.
No visit is complete to any country without experiencing its Chinese invasion. I particularly admire that in almost every country, there’s an ethnic enclave of Asians. These industrious group of people are fascinating to me and I always, almost, have to visit China Town in every country to see how they’ve adapted, embodied an area, injected their fascinating architecture, and/or interwoven their culture into a vastly new and different environment. Stop by one of the numerous restaurants for some delicious Chinese food while you are at it.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not
This museum at the London Pavillion, 1 Piccadilly Circus, displays rare and unbelievable humans, animals, objects, etc. It’s a wonderful place to take the kids for those traveling with minors; or a great place to drop by after a day out and about in London.
My Favorite Quotes
You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
- Samuel Johnson
A bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else.
It is not the walls that make the city, but the people who live within them. The walls of London may be battered, but the spirit of the Londoner stands resolute and undismayed.
- George VI
Oh, I love London Society! It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what Society should be.
- Oscar Wilde
London, thou art the flower of cities all! Gemme of all joy, jasper of jocunditie.
- William Dunbar
TIPS TO REMEMBER WHILE VISITING LONDON
1. VAT Refund - One of the most overlooked things while traveling for shoppers like me are the VAT refunds. Millions of pounds and dollars are forfeited each year just for this huge oversight, and it’s never in the travelers favor. It’s imperative that while you shop in London, you collect your tax forms so you get a full refund of the taxes paid on items bought. Visitors of foreign countries are charged the tax % on items purchased, albeit you don’t live there. Only residents of a country are privy to its taxes. So on your way out, at the airport, head to the VAT office and claim your cash $$$$. Be aware to leave ample time before check in, and do not check your luggage in yet, until after your taxes have been claimed. Reason for this is, you might be asked to unveil items purchased as proof, before being given a refund. I tend to arrive 3.5 hours earlier to ensure I’m squared away before checking in for my flight.
2. Buy a SIM card - For international travelers like me, who have to keep in touch with the outside world, a SIM card will be your very best friend. It limits the exorbitant costs being charged by your service provider by day, in spades, and keeps you connected for the duration of your trip. There are various packages one can vie for, ranging from 10 pounds to 45 pounds, depending on how many minutes and how much data one desires.
3. Take the TUBE - London’s underground station is one of the most sophisticated and most efficient train systems in the world. You can literally get anywhere in under 8 to 20 minutes.
4. Take UBER - Long before UBER, the underground tube stations were IT. Nowadays, for convenience, one can use UBER for a night out where you really want to dress to the nines without being subject to walking up and down flights of stairs (underground), in 6 inch heels.
5. Get on the city’s HOP ON HOP OFF bus to explore at your own pace and speed, without the pressures and confines of a prearranged tour.
6. Always remember to have your passport or a photocopy of your passport with you, wherever you go. This helps with the implementation of your VAT forms, and it also helps with sites that require a copy of your ID to enter.