There are many cities in the world for which one visit will simply not suffice. London is one of those cities and I’ve had the good fortune of visiting numerous times. The first time was in 1984 when I was seven years old, for a cousin’s wedding. I remember writing a letter to my dad, who would be joining us later, delighting in all the new words I was learning. ‘Boot’ for ‘trunk’. ‘Flat’ for ‘apartment’. ‘Crisps’ for ‘chips’. ‘Ice lolly’ for ‘Popsicle’. I was thrilled by the double decker buses, racing to the front seats on the upper level to get the best view – something I still do. It’s a fantastic way to see the city.
Riding on the upper deck of a double decker bus is one of the best ways to see the city of London.
Fast-forward to today and I’ve probably visited London about seven or eight times. But still, there’s so much that I’ve yet to explore. Each visit reveals new delights and previously unknown pockets of the city. Likewise, each visit gives me the opportunity to do the things that I LOVE to do in London. Here are some of the things I recommend doing while in this magical city:
Travel to London
First things first: Getting there. My favourite way to get to London is flying British Airways. It’s always great to travel with the national carrier of the destination where you’re headed; it gets you in the mood right away. Step aboard British Airways and the English accents will get you hyped. Then there’s the fact that British Airways flies in and out of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 – home to some of the best shopping in any airport around the world. I always pad in extra time for shopping whenever I’m flying through T5!
My perfect day starts with English Breakfast tea
I’m a tea drinker. The kind of tea drinker who can’t start her day without a hot cuppa of English Breakfast tea. Oftentimes when traveling, it’s hard to get the perfect cup of tea, steeped just right and with the right kind and amount of milk. Fortunately, you will never have this problem in London. The perfect cup of tea awaits around every corner. Buy: Don’t leave London without taking home some tea for yourself. Pretty tins also make great gifts for friends and family back home. I love the English Breakfast tea from Harrods and the Afternoon Blend tea from Harvey Nichols.
Explore on foot
You’ll never see all there is to see in London in one day, or one week, or just one visit. So I like to pick an area of the city I want to explore and just commit to it. Where to go: Picadilly Circus, Covent Garden, Notting Hill, Camden Market. Since museums and galleries abound in London, choose one as your starting point (The National Gallery and The British Museum are two of my faves), then explore from there. When you get hungry, grab some lunch and eat in Hyde Park, a historic backdrop for a picnic considering that this famed park was once Henry VIII’s hunting grounds.
Explore on public transportation
You haven’t experienced London until you’ve traveled down into the city’s depths to ride the tube or ridden around town on the upper deck of a double decker bus. I always get an Oyster card, a pay-as-you-go transit card that allows me to travel as often as I like on the buses, tube and National Rail services. Suggestion: Take the tube to Green Park and just walk. I like to stop in to see the spectacular lobby of the grand Ritz hotel (which you’ll recognize from the film Notting Hill), treat myself to macarons at Laduree, then stop at Fortnum & Mason to buy gorgeous tins of biscuits. I love the chocolate pearl cookies!
Shopping, of course!
London is one of the world’s best shopping destinations and there’s no shortage of shopping districts to check out. Where to go: Sloane Street is the city’s high-end destination for shoppers looking for designer anything and everything. Even though it’s a bit rich for my wallet, there’s still lots of fun to be had window shopping. Prada, Gucci, Cartier, anyone? My fave store is Ted Baker for gorgeous clothes and whimsical accessories. Things get more affordable if you head to Oxford Street in London’s West End. It’s home to department stores like Debenham’s and John Lewis, old English standbys like Marks and Spencer (I always beeline for their Food Hall for Pastilles, sugar-coated jujubes) and stylish chains like Topshop. For an exciting market experience, head to Camden Market in North West London. The open-air and indoor markets are home to a variety of vendors, selling everything from clothing and jewelry to food and home accessories and everything in between.
Catch a show
If you’re a theatre junkie like I am, try to catch a show. The West End, sometimes called London’s Broadway, is home to the best theatre in the country, and arguably, the best in the English-speaking world. Shows like Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera have now been running in the West End for almost 30 years, and the classic The Mousetrap is now in its 63rd year!
No trip to London is complete without stopping at the many sites and attractions that make London one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the world. Visit: The Tower of London, Big Ben, the Parliament buildings and take a ride on The London Eye for spectacular views. If you don’t like heights or if it’s a cloudy day, as it often is in London, walk along the Thames for picturesque, can’t-stop-Instagramming views. Museums: Visit the British Museum, dedicated to human history and culture. Don’t miss the Rosetta Stone, on display there since 1802. The Tate Modern is another favourite place to while away an afternoon, taking in British art that dates back as far as 1500, as well as contemporary pieces.
These are just a few of my favourite things to do in London but even all of this barely scrapes the surface of this mesmerizing metropolis. I’m already itching to go back!