To start off this summer, I spent 2 weeks exploring Europe. The first 5 days of this trip came in London where my good friend Michael was studying abroad. There’s so much to do & see in London, I feel like I just barely scratched the surface. With that said, I was able to cross off several bucket list items. Some I’d recommend, others I’d steer clear of.
Things to do:
- London Eye: Seeing & riding the London Eye was near the top of my list. After all, I’d seen thousands of photos of the iconic Ferris wheel. We made the trip there, but to be quite honest, it’s a bit overrated. I’d recommend only going for a photo, riding the ferris wheel is rather expensive & the area is littered with people trying to sell you things. We opted not to ride the eye. Sometimes Recommended.
- Big Ben: Located right next to the London Eye, Big Ben was under construction. There’s nothing to see here in the immediate future. Once renovations are completed I’d combine it with the London Eye for a photo pit-stop. Not Recommended.
- Tower Bridge: Often mistaken for the London Bridge, the Tower Bridge is the picturesque bridge you want to visit. Alike the London Eye & Big Ben, the Tower Bridge is ideally reserved as a quick photo pit-stop. Given its location right next to the London Tower, I’d recommend combining the two. Sometimes Recommended.
- London Tower: The London tower is essentially an old castle turned into a museum. It was fun to explore & learn a bit of history. Recommended.
- Camden Market: This place blew me away. I was anticipating a small outdoor market with a few different food trucks. The reality is, this place has dozens of food options & hundreds of storefronts. You can easily spend a full day here eating & shopping. Highly Recommended.
- Kensington Gardens/Kensington Palace: The gardens & palace are an essential pit-stop of your London adventure. It’s filled with history & you’ll be able to better understand the royal timeline. Highly Recommended.
- Buckingham Palace: Home of the royal monarch. Check ahead of time to verify if you’ll be able to go inside. We showed up when the Queen was still at the residence & couldn’t go inside. Sometimes recommended.
Where to stay:
When it comes to accommodation in London you’ll have a multitude of options. I personally stayed on both spectrum’s with a few nights in a local hostel & another in the luxurious Arch Hotel.
- Airbnb: I did not personally stay in an Airbnb during my time in London. With the average price ranging from $70-140, I’d recommend this as an option for people traveling in groups who intend on exploring the city for most of the day. You’re not going to be pampered, but you can generally get a great rate if you split the room with friends/family.
- Hostels: Theirs so many different hostels that you can stay at within London, each with their own personal flair. I stayed at the SafeStay London within Holland Park. Below is a breakdown of what you can generally expect at hostels:
- Budget friendly – Generally speaking, you can find a bed in a shared room for $20-40
- Easy to make friends – Oftentimes hostels cater to individuals or couples traveling. If you’re looking to find people to explore the city with. Hostels are generally the easiest place.
- In house restaurant/bar – This one will vary the most by hostel, as many places only offer breakfast. However, if you can find a hostel with food, it’s often very affordable. You can get decent comfort food for $3-6, as was the case with the SafeStay.
- Tight/uncomfortable sleeping accommodations – If you have trouble sleeping due to noise, light or heat. You’re generally going to have some discomfort sleeping in most hostels. While the place I stayed in London was one of the nicer hostels I’ve ever stayed at, I still had to deal with all 3 issues to an extent. If you’re not hyper-sensitive, a sleeping mask & pair of headphones should help you cope with the light & noise.
- Luxury: Located in Central London, the Arch London provided me with an ideal break from hostel life & allowed me to recharge in luxury. I was fortunate to stay here for free in exchange for some photo & video content on my social media accounts.
- Location: located within walking distance of Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens/Palace. The London Underground is never too far away, providing access to other parts of the city as well.
- Room: Where do I begin? Aside from the unbelievably comfortable bed, the room came equipped with a massive TV & stocked mini bar (non-alcoholic items were free). The bathroom had a tub/shower combo with a waterproof TV inside. In the morning, I made myself a cup of coffee & watched some TV to get my day started.
- Restaurant: I had breakfast at the Hunter 486 (in-house), the spread included an assortment of buffet style offerings as well as a hot menu to choose from. I got fruit, berry muesli, fresh squeezed OJ, coffee, scrambled eggs & smoked salmon. It was the perfect way to start off the day following a night out in London.
- Other: Arguably my favorite part of the hotel was the Martini Library. The library is a relaxing lounge playing jazz music & catering to a sophisticated cocktail experience. It’s a nice area to get away from the crowds & read up on the history of London. My favorite feature is near most seats, you’ll find a button that alerts the service staff you’d like a Martini. Within a few minutes someone would come & take your order to deliver you a refreshment.
London offers something for everyone. Before visiting London, it was a city to cross off the list, not necessarily somewhere I’d want to return. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My experience included great people, great food, great accommodations, great nightlife & tons of history lessons. I can’t wait to come back soon!
Have you been to London? Let me know what I missed! I’ll certainly be back.
Looking to pamper yourself on your next stay in London? Check out The Arch Hotel: https://www.thearchlondon.com/
Make sure to check out the London YouTube video, stay tuned for videos from Sicily & Rome coming soon: