When you hear “London,” you most likely think about Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. These are fantastic places to visit, but you might also consider the following adventures.
Ceremony of the Keys
The Beefeaters hold a special evening ritual at the Tower of London when it’s time to lock up the joint. Tickets are hard to come by because only a handful of people are allowed each evening to experience a night-time tour and this ages-old event. If this interests you, go to the Tower of London website the instant you know your London dates so you can attempt to book your spot.
While you’re near the Tower of London, be sure to walk across the Tower Bridge. There’s a footpath that keeps pedestrians away from traffic, and there are historical markers at the center of the bridge. You’ll also get sweeping views of central London. If you wish to linger in the area longer, consider having lunch or dinner on Butler’s Wharf. It’s quieter than the “hub” on the west side of the bridge, and you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Tower Bridge.
What’s a trip to England without experiencing this British custom? We’ve enjoyed simple, delicious teas in villages around England. But when we’re in London, we like to live large for one afternoon. Dukes Hotel is a boutique hotel that Sir Ian Fleming used to frequent, which is why you’ll see a few James Bond mementos hanging on the walls of its bar. High tea is served in different areas of the hotel including in living room-type nooks and an atrium. You can’t wear jeans or tennis shoes (trainers), but you can be comfortable in decent-looking tourist gear and still meet their dress code. The food was delicious and so plentiful that it served as both a late lunch and dinner. Kensington Palace was another treat. Unlike the coziness of Dukes, the Orangery is light and spacious. If you don’t have a table with a view where you can gaze upon the palace itself, the chandeliers, statuary and service will remind you that you’re on royal grounds. Both venues at the time we visited charged approximately 60 GBP per person. We actually found them to be more affordable than other teas offered in town, with better food and surroundings. If you’re a tea-lover, you’ll want to visit the Fortnum & Mason store, which offers every kind of tea product imaginable.
Many museums in London do not charge admission fees. You can check this website for a listing.
National Gallery – This is one of our favorites to visit. In addition to the art on display, it sits on Trafalgar Square which is home to our favorite lion statues. Around the corner is a quaint, interesting church called St. Martin in the Fields. (free)
Churchill War Rooms Museum – After visiting the World War II museum in Caen, France, we had a much clearer understanding of the military strategies that were negotiated and planned. Even without this background, we would still have thoroughly enjoyed touring Winston Churchill’s bunker in London. I couldn’t imagine living underground for that long. (paid admission)
Tate Modern – We’re not huge fans of modern art, but we do appreciate a good museum. Part of what made this an interesting place to visit was the walk across the Thames on the Millennium Bridge and entering what used to be an old warehouse. If you don’t like art, it’s a fine place to use a free, clean restroom. (free)
Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street – We are big Sherlock Holmes fans. We visited this museum the summer after having read the complete works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was such a treat to see the setting of so many scenes. We got a kick out of the museum docents describing happenings as if they’d actually occurred. “And this is where Sherlock fired his revolver at the wall.” (paid admission)
Note: For any paid attractions, consider pre-booking your tickets so you don’t have to wait in the ticket queue.
For some reason, traditional fish and chips just tastes better at a pub. Maybe it’s the atmosphere with the dark wood paneling. Or maybe it’s because it costs far less here than at a restaurant. I have to eat fish and chips at least once while I’m in England. If you’re not a fan of this dish, you might be interested in the history of various pubs. Each one has its own story. If you’re interested, here are some of the oldest pubs in London.
Selfridges – Shopping is definitely not my favorite pastime, but I do love a stroll around this place. You can educate yourself about what those in the know are calling fashionable. I prefer to spend my time browsing the food area. There are always samples being offered. There are also some fine foods available for take-away or counter eating. If you’re planning a picnic at a London park, this is a great place to pick up your supplies.
Harrods – Like Selfridges, Harrods has a lot to offer. You can compare and contrast them on the same trip, or promise yourself to visit the other when you return to London.
If you are even the slightest fan of Paddington Bear, you’ll love Paddington Station. Next to Track 1 is a Paddington statue and bench. We’ve taken photos here each time we’ve caught the train since 1998 to visit family outside of London. For the big-time Paddington fans there is, of course, the obligatory Paddington store in the retail area. We’ve actually never been in that shop. Instead, we spend our time at the Mad Bishop and Bear while waiting for our train. This pub offers tasty grub at decent prices where you can monitor the train updates on their wall display.
You can spend two weeks in London and not even scratch the surface. On the cutting room floor for this blog includes, attending a play at the Globe Theater, walking along the Thames, moseying around Notting Hill and Portobello Road Market, relaxing on a park bench in Berkeley Square, and strolling around the Bond Street neighborhood and enjoying stops in the lobbies of The Ritz and The Savoy.
If you’re scratching your head and wondering, “Why is there a travel-related post in a time management blog?”, the answer is simple. Escaping on a get-away allows our brains and bodies to take a break. Going on a vacation – no matter how long and no matter where – will do wonders for your productivity. But sometimes planning for the type of vacation that will lower your stress levels (and doesn’t add to it) can take some time. To help you out with this, I’m sharing my travel tips with you. Happy Travels!