London wasn’t high on our “need to see list” but the cheapest flight out of Boston was to London and so we said “why the heck not” and spent 48 hours here. First things first, London has 5 airports. We didn’t really look too much into the distance of the airport to the middle of the city, I suggest if you have a short amount of time here to be mindful of airport location to avoid the long commute. We flew in Stansted which is about 35 miles from the heart of London or a 45 minute train ride. After a long flight, the last thing we wanted to do was sit on a train for almost an hour.
We were able to check-in to our Airbnb early, which was so convienent since our flight landed in the morning. Thats a huge perk of Airbnb compared to a hotel, we were able to check in and shower before noon without having to pay an early check in fee. We knew we were interested in checking in early and asked our host if they could accomodate to us. In the handful of times we’ve requested to check in early for an Airbnb, we have always been able to without paying for an extra night or an early check in fee.
The best way to fight jet lag is to have a busy day and keep going until its time for bed. The time difference can mess with you, but if you push through that first day and stay up until at least 9pm I promise you the transition will be easier.
After we showered, we hit the road to the nearest tube station. I wanted to be mindful of budget so I chose an Airbnb a little further from the sites but near a tube station that would take us straight into the heart of London. Public transit in London is affordable and super easy to use. I personally used Google Maps and entered my start and stop points and used the transportation services on the app. It was SO easy, told us exactly what train we needed and in which direction. I did not have a SIM card at this point in the trip and I honestly think London was completely dooable without having data on my phone. Many places had WiFi and when I planned our day I just screenshotted the directions and we were able to figure it out without issues. London was great and had signs all over the city with a map and common points of interest, this made locating our whereabouts and direction of travel a breeze. You can purchase one way train tickets, round trip or day passes. If you vaguely know where you’re going to visit that day, I would suggest just doing the one day travel card. They are priced based off of zone’s and the map of zones is at every station for reference. Everything on our to-see list was within zone’s 1 and 2, so we purchased accordingly. I think this was the most cost efficent way and then we had no reason not to ride the tube station the rest of the day.
We arrived at the Liverpool Street Station fairly quickly and made our way down the street towards our first sight: the Tower Bridge. On our walk, we suddenly were caught in the rain (of course the umbrella I packed was back at the Airbnb) and so we went into the nearest restaraunt for a drink. We grabbed a drink and some appetizers and waited out the storm (which passed fairly quickly). From this point on in the trip, I packed the umbrella in our day bag just in case. We came up on the Tower Bridge and we were excited as we were finally feeling like we were in London! Theres many bridges that cross the River Thames, but this one was gorgeous and of course very iconic. We made our way across and fought the crowds as this is a popular spot for photos. We were wrong at first and were calling it the London Bridge but this is actually the Tower Bridge! The London Bridge has been around for nearly 2,000 years but the Tower Bridge was built for looks and to appear older than it is.
After we crossed the River Thames, we walked a ways and decieded we needed to use the restroom from the drinks at lunch. We made our way to a donut and tea shop and bought some afternoon treats and was able to use their bathroom. We found that the easiest way to use the restroom while out and about was to go into a pub and grab a quick drink and use theirs. The public restrooms weren’t the cleanliest and they charge you 1-2 Euros to use. We then went strolling again, staying near the River Thames and scoping out the city views. We didn’t plan much this first day as we were both exhausted from an overnight flight so we just roamed and grabbed pictures of anything we deemed worthy. After a while, our feet told us it was time to rest and we decided that we would head back to the Airbnb. We made our way to the tube station and found our home for the night. James suggested we grab some dinner and eat back at the flat, even though we didn’t feel too hungry we knew that we needed something before we slept. There was a fish and chips place down the street and we decided that would be a fitting dinner in London and ordered to go. Food in our bellies and kicking our feet up, quickly lead to a restful night of sleep.
Since day one was a shot in the dark and no planning, I decided that I would put in a bit more effort to day two to make our last 24 hours in London worth while. I asked my facebook friends for any recommendations or must-do’s in this location and was so excited at the feedback. We had ideas! We had plans! First thing on our list was to make our way to Borough Market and grab an early lunch. Once we arrived at one of the largerst and oldest food markets in London, we scoped the grounds and planned our meals. My meal of choice was Scotch Eggs (holy crap was this delicious) and James choice was a salted beef sandwich (questionable but good).
What better way to follow lunch than with a cider. We saw a little stand with cider and chatted with the woman about the choices. She was from Ireland and we just couldn’t get enough of her accent! She was telling us that traditional English cider is suppose to be served warm and without carbonation, so we told her we wanted just that. She got to know our palates and what we usually enjoy and made a cider choice accordingly, we both enjoyed our drinks and continued on through the market. This market is seriously huge and so cool. We could have easily spent more time here, but grabbed from homemade fudge and headed to Buckingham Palace.
We looked into times and dates of the changing of the guard and unfortunately we couldn’t be present for this iconic ceremony. From my understanding, the dates may vary and so its best to check the schedule. Even though we missed the changing of the guard, visiting this beautiful palace was very neat! Be prepared for crowds, this place was packed with tourists from all over the world.
Next on the agenda was the Westminster Abbey, which is a large and stunning church. James and I find a deep interest in architecture and we just loved taking in all history and beauty of this structure.
Right down the street from the Westminster Abbey was the Houses of Parliment and Big Ben. Again, we were just loving the architecture. The Houses of Parliment and Big Ben were under renovation during our time in London, but you could still see the beauty of these buildings.
We crossed the River Thames and walked to the London Eye. We personally had no interest in riding the London Eye as it was pricey and the lines were outrageous. We just wanted to see the site for ourselves and take in all that London had to offer. We were told that buying tickets online ahead of time for the ferris wheel will save you quite a bit of time and money.
By this point in the day, I was impressed that we didn’t walk holes into our shoes! We could have easily taken the tube around and saved our feet some steps but we were too caught up in conversation and trying to see all that we possibly could on our last day there. We headed down some smaller streets in search of dinner and quickly found a love for the pub scene here. Everyone dressed in their business clothes, standing outside with their pints of beer socalizing. It was such a cool and unique vibe. I mean in the states we are so used to not being able to have alcohol outside of certain boundaries and majority of the time everyone is inside the dark and loud bar. These pubs in London were all about socializing! Don’t even get me started on the way Europeans treat alcohol compared to the USA (trust me, I have some strong opinions about how the USA has this ALL wrong).
We grabbed some food at a quaint little restaraunt and then made our way back to the Airbnb. This was when we witnessed our first outdoor urinal. Yes. You read that correctly, an outdoor urinal. I wish we would have taken a picture because it was so crazy (and not the only country we saw this in) but its just a stand up urinal thats outside to prevent men from peeing on the street. I don’t even know why I feel like its so important to mention, but its different and it threw us for a loop. (Don’t worry, James tested one out in Amsterdam!) Overall, we truly enjoyed our quick trip to London. There is still much more here we would have liked to see and obviously it would be ideal to have more than 48 hours.
Cheers to stop one of our European adventure!