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.
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.
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.
Exactly ten years ago I visited LONDON for the first time. I’ve spent amazing time discovering London with my best friend M. and vowed to visit it again. After ten years and 11 visits to London I’m still in love with the best city in the whole world. And there’s still so much to do and to see. This year I went to London on my own and after initial missing-my-best-friend-to-share-London-with feeling I actually enjoyed wandering around London by myself. However, I do want to share my 12th visit to London with my best friend! When will it be? I don’t know. I don’t actually have plans of visiting London in 2017 ( shocking! I know 🙂 ) since there are other cities I want to explore in 2017 which have been pushed aside because of my constant visits to London (you can read all about my London adventures on my London Posts page).
I’ve been to London 11 times but this year I visited for the first time the beautiful and affluent London neighbourhood called Hampstead. I spent a wonderful day walking around Hampstead’s charming streets and I bumped into a few celebrities (Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson, be still my heart 🙂 ). Moreover, I almost got lost in the huge forest-like Hampstead Heath park. There you can find one of the most recognizable properties run by the English Heritage and immortalized in Richard Curtis’s movie Notting Hill. Of course, I’m talking about the Kenwood house. My reason for visiting this stately home was the aforementioned movie with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. It’s one of my favourite feel-good movies.
London has stolen my heart years ago even before I’ve actually visited it for the first time. I roamed its streets many times, did all the major tourist attractions, found my favourite spots but I haven’t done it all. It’s impossible to see everything in London. I reckon that Londoners themselves haven’t exhausted all the possibilities that London offers. On my most recent London trip in May this year I’ve explored some new things. One of them was the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Like many of you I have walked across the Tower Bridge many times. I took numerous photos of this London icon but I couldn’t have imagined before that one day I’d be walking between the two towers high up above the Thames.
About Tower Bridge
The Tower Bridge was built in the period between 1886 and 1894. It was officially opened by the future king Edward VII and his wife Alexandra of Denmark. The bridge is 240 m long while its two towers are 65 m tall. The central span between the two towers is 61 m. The bridge still raises to let the big ships pass under it but today computers do all the hard work. Previously, it was all done by the hydraulic system. The bridge didn’t look like this always. In 1977 it was repainted in blue, white and red to commemorate Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
About Tower Bridge Exhibition
I booked my ticket online and got one pound discount. The ticket is valid for one year from the date of purchase. I decided to visit it on my second day in London after I said hello to Big Ben. There was a group of school children at the gate but I didn’t have to wait for them because there’s a separate entrance for groups. Beware! I had to climb many, many, many steps but it was totally worth it. I got down by lift though. Your visit starts in the north tower, then you cross the walkaway and its cool glass floor and proceed to the south tower.
What can you see in the Tower Bridge Exhibition? Naturally, you can learn about the history and the construction of the Tower Bridge. You can also learn about some other famous bridges in the ˝Great Bridges of the World˝ display. What I found very interesting was a display on all London bridges. You can watch a short video and see the bridge raise as well if you haven’t seen it in real life. Of course the best part is to enjoy the beautiful views of London. Since you’re right next to the Tower of London you can look down on that historical castle. You can enjoy the views of St Paul’s and the rest of the City of London as well as admire the Shard and see all the way to Canary Wharf.
Whenever I visit London I like to see some of my old favourites and I like to experience new things. Luckily, there’s no shortage of new places and new experiences in London. When I saw everyone (by everyone I mean travel bloggers) raving about the new free views of London I knew I had to see it for myself on my next trip to London. Three years passed between my last two trips to London in the meantime. When I booked my flights for London four months ago I also investigated how to experience the best free views of London by visiting the Sky Garden.
About Sky Garden
The Sky Garden is located in one of the newest skyscrapers in City of London built in 2004. The address is 20 Fenchurch Street and the skyscraper has been lovingly nicknamed Walkie-Talkie. It’s 155 meters tall and the Sky Garden spans three storeys and offers 360° views of London. You can admire the views of London from several observation decks and from an open-air terrace where the use of a selfie-stick is prohibited. Sky Garden rightfully holds the claim of the highest public garden. If you get thirsty or hungry go to Sky Pod Bar or to City Garden Bar. There are also two restaurants: Fenchurch restaurant and Darwin Brasserie. If you want to have a meal at those restaurants then you should book in advance and you use a separate lift from the tourists who are just visiting the Sky Garden.
How to reach Sky Garden
The nearest tube station is the Monument. From there walk for a couple of minutes.
How to visit Sky Garden
Even though the visit is free you need to book it in advance. You can usually do it up to two-three weeks in advance of your planned visit and you need to print out your booking confirmation and bring it with you for your visit. Also, you need to have your ID or your passport with you for your visit. Arrive around 10 minutes before your scheduled visit and wait in queue. Then you’ll walk through airport-like security and be prepared to have your bag searched. After that you’ll enter the express lift with the rest of the people and be at the Sky Garden in a matter of seconds. When you leave the lift, you have all the time you need to admire the views of London and maybe have a drink or eat something. There are also toilets. There are several guards who control whether visitors obey the rules eg. no food or drinks at the open air terrace and no selfie-sticks.