Recently I’ve received an e-mail that put a smile on my face. Why? Because I got invited to an afternoon tea to one of the most luxurious London hotels. A free afternoon tea in exchange for my review here on the blog sounds fantastic, don’t you think so? But there’s a slight problem. The kind lady who sent me this invitation didn’t realize that I don’t actually live in London. Although, if you check my about page you won’t get confused about my location but I do admit that my blog name might be slightly misleading.
However, I chose The Red Phone Box travels as the name for my travel blog simply because I’m crazy about London and because I’ve visited it many times. My loyal readers and blog friends know all these too well but I guess that someone who just stumbled upon my blog might think that I live in London when they see so many London posts. Unfortunately, I don’t live in London. I live in Croatia. I did live briefly in England a long time ago (but not in London). My obsession with London (and to be quite honest with all things British) is something that I developed through books and movies from my childhood (you see, watching telly is harmful for young children 😉 ). I was in love with London even before my first visit in 2006.
Over the past 11 years and my numerous visits to London I’ve seen and done more or less all the major touristy things. I’m a creature of habits when it comes to London so no trip to London is complete without seeing some of my old favourites such as Big Ben and the Tower of London or having a drink in my favourite pub in Bayswater. However, London always surprises me with something new, be it a new free attraction or a starry encounter.
So, here’s a list of my quirky London moments
-almost bumping into actors Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson in the same day whilst wandering through Hampstead
-pretending to be in a Harry Potter movie at 9 3/4 platform at King’s Cross Station
-trying to find the London stone in the City Of London
-having my photo taken with Peter Pan in the Hyde Park
-searching for film locations from the Notting Hill film (the bookstore and Kenwood House among others)
˝By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show˝. Samuel Johnson
No matter what happens in my life the London mood is always there. Lurking behind closed curtains, hiding in the shadows behind my house, the London mood is never too far from me. It waits patiently until I look the other way and then it hits me in the face with full force. Just like that the London mood overcomes me and I can’t resist it. I have to look through all my London photos, read about other people’s trips to London and think back about all my past visits to this glorious city. As the saying goes : ˝London is a bad habit one hates to lose (by anonymous).
The best things in life are free. Do you agree? This saying also applies to London which is otherwise a very expensive city. Luckily, there are plenty of free activities in London such as visiting world-class museums like the British Museum. Furthermore, you can walk around London and enjoy beautiful vistas without charge. Here’s the list of 5 best free views in London according to my humble opinion.
The South Bank
probably the most iconic view of London
A stretch of land in Central London by the Thames River from the Westminster Bridge to the Blackfriars Bridge. This is nowadays an entertainment and commercial district full of different activities and attractions. From the The London Eye (which is a great attraction but rather pricey) and the London Dungeon to the National Theatre there’s something for everyone here. Free activities include watching the street art performers and enjoying the view of the Westminster and St Paul’s cathedral. Magnificent view no matter the time of the day or the weather! And it’s never the same! I’ve been visiting London for the past 10 years and I’ve witnessed significant changes in London’s skyline. There are new skyscrapers now around St Paul’s jostling for a good position.
Top tip: Go for cocktails at Oxo tower and enjoy the night view of St Paul’s
Tower of London & Tower Bridge
can you see Big Ben?
If you want to look down on the Tower Bridge and the historical Tower of London as well as be smack right in the City of London this is the place for you. There are several cafes at this location as well as a garden (kind of) but the biggest draw of this skyscraper are the beautiful views. It’s completely free but you have to make a booking online. For more information check my post here.
Top tip: visit during the week, right around the opening time to avoid the crowds
the view of the Canary Wharf and the Queen’s House & the Old Royal Naval college
Exactly a year ago I visited London. It wasn’t my first visit nor it would be my last. On 11th of May 2016 I visited London for the 11th time! And it was the first time that I actually spent several days in London on my own. Previously, I’ve been to London with my best friend and occasionally on my own for a day trip but this was the first time that I got to spend 3 full days roaming the streets of London just by myself. And it was great!:) I blogged quite a bit about it so I’m just going to remind myself (and you, dear readers ) of some of the highlights of that trip.
There are a lot of green spaces in London. From the Royal Parks to the small private gardens you’re never too far from a naughty squirrel or two. Whatever the season it’s always enjoyable to spend some time in one of the many London parks. They offer more than just beautiful flowers and trees. You can do sports, have a drink, listen to some music, see a play or entertain your kids. I’m sure all the parks in London are wonderful but here’s the list of my favourite London parks.
You’ll find the Kensington palace, the Albert Memorial, the Peter Pan statue and the Princess Diana memorial playground in this beautiful park. It’s the first park I’ve ever visited in London. My best friend and I stayed at Bayswater area so we took advantage of our proximity to the Kensington gardens park and spend a lot of time there. We strolled through the park and came across a lot of playful squirrels. A few years later I finally visited the Peter Pan statue too.
Kensington gardens park
St James’s park
You can see the pelicans here! How awesome is that? You can also take great photos of the Buckingham palace from this lovely park. I’m not sure whether I saw my first squirrel ever here or at the Kensington park but you can always see friendly squirrels in St James’s park.
view of the Buckingham palace from the park
It’s one of the biggest parks in the Central London. You can rent a boat and paddle across the Serpentine lake or just rent a sun lounger and relax in the sun if you’re too lazy to take advantage of one of its sports pitches. There are restaurants and cafes within the park too. If you visit it on a Sunday don’t miss the Speaker’s Corner and listen to people sharing their opinion with the world. I spent some time at Hyde park during my 11th trip to London last year too.
London is the best city in the world! But visiting London can also be overwhelming simply because there is so much to do and to see. You could spend a lifetime visiting London and you still wouldn’t see it all. If you’re visiting London for the first time and you’re only spending a day or two there don’t be temped to find that cool bookstore you saw on Instagram or that cute cat café you pinned on Pinterest just because you think you’re too cool to do tourist attractions. There’s a good reason everyone takes a photo at Westminster Bridge with Big Ben in the background. Why? Because it’s the symbol of London. Yes, you can visit that new hipster brunch place your best friend went to or go on that street art tour everyone’s raving about the next time you’re in London but if you miss seeing Big Ben or Tower Bridge you’ll regret it. So, what do you want to remember your trip by? By visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Tower of London) or …?
Do visit the well-known tourist attractions and cultural and historical landmarks on your first visit to London and leave the trendy new places for your next visit especially if you’ve only got a day or two to enjoy London.
Here’s the list of 5 Unmissable London Sights
1. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
Did you know that Big Ben is actually the name of the giant bell inside the clock tower? The real name of this clock tower is Elizabeth’s tower nowadays but its name used to be St Stephen’s tower.
The current Westminster palace aka the Houses of Parliament was built in 1870. You can visit it if you book a guided tour (for more information click here ).
2. Tower Bridge
Walk across the Tower Bridge and take hundreds of photos of it. It’s very Instagram worthy!:) If you’re lucky you’ll see it raised to let the ship pass under it. Moreover, if you want to learn about the bridge mechanics or walk on the glass floor 42 m above the Thames visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition.
3. Tower of London
During the history the Tower of London has been a fortress, a royal palace and a prison. Nowadays a tourist attraction as well as the home of the Crown Jewels. The oldest part of this UNESCO site is the White Tower which was built for William I (the Conqueror) in the eleventh century. You can admire it from the outside or buy a ticket and visit it. For more information click here.