I first visited London in 2017, and boy was I unprepared! I had never been to a city so large, spread out, and full of people. My ADD went into overdrive trying to process every sensory thing coming at me. You can read about my previous experience here. I only got 24 hours in London the last time I was here. With a bit more preparation, I was excited to spend a week in this gorgeous, historic city!
HOW TO GO:
This year, I came across an amazing deal on Skyscanner for a last-minute flight to London. With a little under a month to prepare, this would be my most spontaneous trip ever. If you know me then you know I am not a spontaneous person; I am someone who craves structure and enjoys proper planning. While I was feeling overwhelmed with a lot of life happenings, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. I figured a solo trip to London was a great way to kill two birds with one stone!
As I mentioned above, I found this flight on Skyscanner. I frequently use this app for random searches, seeing where I can buzz off to at a moment’s notice. I normally save or watch flights to my dream destinations abroad, even occasionally look at domestic locations too. Using their “Search Everywhere” feature, putting in the month of November just to see what popped. I was absolutely shocked when I saw a flight to London for only $430! Right before the holidays, flights like this are normally $1400 at minimum, so of course, I thought it had to be a hoax. I went to the airline’s website to confirm and, sure enough, the tickets were there.
I am terrible at making decisions, I can argue both sides of almost any situation. This decision took me almost 2 days to make. Figuring out the things that I could better use that money on or whether or not my mental health was really worth the hop across the pond. I talked to my partner about it and he gave me the extra nudge I needed to throw my card on the table. London here I come!
I had heard some not-so-nice things about IcelandAir – about them being a budget airline, uncomfortable seats, and super strict luggage rules. I’ll be honest…they were amazing! A decent selection of in-air entertainment, my own pillow/blanket, and great legroom. I flew on a 2-3-2 sized plane out of Seattle, landed in Reyjkavik for a 1.5-hour layover before bouncing to London Heathrow.
The only spot of trouble I ran into was with my carry-on bag in Reyjkavik. The flight attendants in Seattle didn’t have any problems with it and it fit perfectly fine in the overhead bins. When I went to board my flight to London, the IcelandAir flight attendant made me try to fit my back in their size box. I was forced to remove items in order to make it fit, even though when those items were inside my bag fit perfectly once on the plane. C’est la vie!
WHERE TO STAY:
With less than a month to plan it, I booked this trip with very little forethought to where I would stay. When I mentioned to roommate the killer deal on flights he opted to tag along. He works in retail and with it being the week of Thanksgiving/Black Friday he’d only be able to come for part of the week before flying home ahead of me. We discussed our choices and decided the majority of our time together we’d stay in a hostel. After all, we weren’t coming to London to hang out in a hotel the whole time!
We booked at The Generator Hostel, one of the best hostel chains and top-rated in London. We got a great rate for the 5 days we spent there, opting for a private 2 bunk room with complimentary towels and shared showers. The hostel comes with a laundry facility, a cafe, a bar, and a chill-out area. I am a light sleeper and one of my favorite things about The Generator is that they are really aware of ‘quiet hours’ and do what they can to enforce them. They have a separate entrance after 10 pm, monitored by a security guard. I even saw someone out by the main street trying to keep people leaving a close pub relatively quiet before walking into the hostel!
The Generator is about a 5-minute walk from the closest underground station (Russell Square). Also, about a 10-minute walk from St. Pancras and King’s Cross Station. Either of these stations will lead you into bustling parts of the city. If you don’t mind huffing it through the brisk weather then you can always explore the city on foot! Right when you land be sure to get your Oyster Card set up at the airport. You can load the card up with as many funds as you think you’ll need. I put £50 on mine and it lasted me the whole week!
My last night in London I wanted to treat myself a bit. I checked out of The Generator and headed over to the Hotel Indigo London. Nestled in the middle of bustling Leicester Square, this boutique Art Deco hotel was a just the pampering I needed. Friendly staff, comfortable rooms, great rooftop bar, delicious food, and only minutes walking distance from London nightlife. I was shocked for as busy as the streets were outside, I didn’t hear any of the noise from inside my room. I cannot recommend this hotel enough!
WHAT TO DO:
We crammed a lot into these 6 days, many of which I’ve written separate posts for but here’s a quick overview of what we did!
Harry Potter Mania –
I grew up with the books, I have symbols tattooed on my body, and I look forward to the day I can tell my children about ‘The Boy Who Lived’. There are quite a few Harry Potter related activities in London. Our first stop was Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station followed the next day by a tour at the Warner Brother’s lot where it was filmed. Be sure to buy tickets in advance, they sell out regularly! I opted to go with a group bus so that I didn’t have to worry about travel to and from since it’s about an hour outside London. You can meander the museum on your own, then just be back at the stop for the tour bus to take you back! Read all about that magical tour here.
Go See A Show –
You can’t come to London without seeing a show at the infamous West End. They have plays, musicals, comedy shows etc, so even if you’re not a theatre geek there is sure to be something for you! I opted to see Ian McKellen’s one-man show. I’ve long been a fan of his work and the opportunity to see him in such close proximity was one I couldn’t pass up. The show was an absolute delight and if you’re able to see it before it closes in January then you must!
Visit a Historical Site –
With a city as old as London, it’s hard to not feel a bit of history around every corner. My personal favorite is the Crown Jewels and Tower of London tour, but I’ve also done Windsor Castle, and of course a trip to London wouldn’t be complete without visiting Buckingham Palace. No matter what, you can view goodness knows how many churches for free. They are a beautiful site to see regardless of religious affiliation.
Christmas Markets –
If you visit London after the 2nd or 3rd week of November, you’ve arrived just in time to see Christmas decorations go up! There are a lot of options to choose from around Central London. Thankfully, I’ve done a lot of the hard work for you! Read here for my top favorite Christmas Markets or displays in London!
Go On A Bus Tour –
If it’s your first time in London, then what better way to start getting familiar with the city than a bus tour. Even though it wasn’t either of our first times in London, I came across B Bakery Bus Tours and thought it was the cutest set up! The food was really good, they give you the choice of alcohol should you want it, the guides are friendly and informative, and you get a souvenir cup at the end!
WHAT TO EAT:
Nestled in the heart of Covent Garden is the cutest little gingerbread house! Balthazar is the place you go when you want to indulge in delicious food while relaxing in a classy atmosphere.
The Breakfast Club SoHo-
Ranked as one of the best breakfast places in London, you’ll hardly ever see The Breakfast Club without a line out front. There are several locations but the one in SoHo was recommended to me by multiple people. This bright and homey restaurant had amazing eggs benedict, delicious coffee, and a breakfast sandwich that’ll make your mouth water!
Pret a Manger –
If you’re not a big breakfast person or if you’re in a hurry, find a close by Pret a Manger. I prefer it to Costa, which you can also swing through in a pinch. Pret has great tea and coffee, and their fresh pastries are absolutely scrumptious. Always sad that we don’t have them here in Washington so I take advantage of it when I’m abroad.
Dishoom has been listed as top for London, everyone is talking about it and so many people recommended it! We headed over to the Covent Garden location around 4:30/5 and the line was already buzzing. We waited over an hour to get seats but thankfully the hostesses made sure everyone had a great time. The waiting area is outside, in London in November that isn’t the most comfortable of places to be. They had heat lamps set up, and people periodically going around with hot cups of chai tea. It made the wait seem so much shorter than it was. The food was great and the drinks were delicious. I would definitely eat here again, but maybe check out another location that may not have such a long wait.
Ping Pong Dim Sum –
We had been shopping at Selfridges all day and I was starting to get hangry. We checked the maps and the only thing that sounded good to me was dim sum. Thankfully, we found this small corner restaurant called PingPong that hit the spot! All the food was yummy, we grabbed a little bit of everything but you’ve gotta try the pork dumplings!
Patty & Bun –
They have a few locations but I hit up the one in SoHo for some late-night eats! There was definitely a wait and for such a small space they were packed. When I finally got seated, I had the ‘Ari Gold’ Cheeseburger on a yummy brioche bun. It was so yummy and whatever is in their house-made ‘smokey p&b mayo’ I need ASAP.
I waited online for over 8 hours but I finally got reservations for the famous Coppa Club igloos! They only do this around the holidays and they get booked out insanely fast. We managed to get the last slot of the night for our first evening in the city. We stuck to tapas, appetizers and drinks but it was so great. You really come more for the atmosphere than the food but it was worth it. We had a blast getting to know the other table that shared the igloo with us. It’s right in front of tower bridge so we had a great view, plus they have space heaters inside so it was toasty warm for the full meal. Definitely want to come back in the warmer months to enjoy the patio view, sans igloos.
I am not a big sweets person but when we were walking through SoHo we came across one of the most gorgeous window displays I’d ever seen. After practically drooling on the L’ETO window I had to go inside. I got a delicious raspberry puff pastry and Douglas got the tiramisu. Holy cow they were amazing!
My last night in London I was feel extra decadent. A short walk from my hotel was this pastry shop a few had recommended to me. I generally do not like “filled” pastries, mainly because they’re so messy, but I didn’t want to leave London without giving Maître Choux a try. I can’t remember exactly what it was called but it was a gilded chocolate hazelnut choux pastry. While it didn’t convert me into an adoring filled pastry fan, it was certainly delicious and worth the mess!
Overall, my roommate and I had an absolute blast in London! The weather wasn’t cooperative but it’s about the same as it is in Seattle. We made the most of our time there, cramming in all that we possibly could. I have a feeling I will never see all of London, but I’m going to keep trying. 🙂
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