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
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 museumslike the British Museum. Furthermore, you can walk around London and enjoy beautiful vistas without charge. Here’s the list of 5best free views in London according to my humble opinion.
The South Bank
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
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 posthere.
Top tip: visit during the week, right around the opening time to avoid the crowds
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.
There’s no better way to start a day but to indulge in a bit of commercial magic: taking my photo at the 9 ¾ platform at King’s Cross was a fun experience. After my Harry Potter’s fan moment I was ready to do something completely different. I wanted to wander around beautiful Hampstead. Armed with nothing but a printed out blog post by A Lady in London I was eager to explore an affluent London’s neighbourhood often described as a colorful charming village full of Aston Martins.
Leaving the tube station Hampstead I looked around and smiled. I could smell the promise of a great day in the crisp air. I turned right and started walking uphill Heath Street while admiring the beautiful houses and their immaculate gardens. I actually felt like I was walking around an English village. I couldn’t believe that I was still in London. It was sunny but at 10 am there weren’t a lot of people out and about. Soon I saw a sign for Holly Bush pub but I didn’t come across Church Row street which I was supposed to according to the directions that I was following.
Never mind, I continued to walk on and soon reached a sculpture of Churchill in front of a shop. Why was he there? And was that his American counterpart with him? I marched on and came to a roundabout with a small lake/pond and saw a Jack Straws Castle. Wasn’t that a pub before? Now it seemed to be some sort of fitness center. I figured I went on too far and decided to go back down the street towards the tube station to try to find the Church Row street.
I couldn’t wait for the morning to arrive so I could start my second day of sightseeing in London. It was slightly overcast and chilly. I like crisp mornings so I decided to be brave and to leave my jacket at the hotel in hope of a warmer and sunnier weather later in the day. Despite having a tummy issue the previous day I managed to walk all the way from the Sky garden to the Trafalgar square but I didn’t say hello to Big Ben. This morning I felt all right and decided to begin my day by visiting Big Ben. As soon as I saw it as I was climbing out of Westminster station my face broke out in a big smile. Yes, I was in London. And it finally felt like I was in London.
I walked to the Westminster Bridge to take photos of Big Ben and the LondonEye for the eleventh time 🙂 What will be my legacy one day? Thousands of pictures of London, I presume (no, I won’t leave any chocolate or other significant material possessions). It was quite windy at the bridge and I almost had a Marilyn Monroe moment since I wore a red skirt which the wind kept pulling up. Just when I thought that I would need to get back to my hotel before I do the Tower Bridge Exhibition the sun came out and I didn’t feel the cold anymore (no need for a jacket after all). After asking some random strangers to please take my photo (yes, I don’t have a selfie stick and I’m kind of proud of it, but on this trip I did feel the need for one) I walked behind the Houses of Parliament towards the small but lovely Victoria Tower Gardens.
Who hasn’t heard of the Tower Bridge or the London Eye?But have you ever heard of the Monument in City of London? I have and I climbed it and I even got a certificate to prove it :).
My husband and I spent a week in Scotland in 2012. Of course, we had flights to Edinburgh via London so on our way back home we had a day in London before our return flight. It was his first ever visit to London and I tried to show him all the usual top tourist attractions and some of my personal favourites as well ( so I took him to my favourite pub for instance). However, in doing so I saw and did a couple of things that were new for me as well. One of them was to see FC Chelsea’s stadium ( he has a thing for visiting football stadiums which I don’t do when I travel alone). Then, I walked around St.Katharine Docks for the first time and I got to see the Tower Bridge opening up to let the ship pass under. Don’t they say it brings luck when you see that? He made fun of me later saying that I visited London so many times but that I had to take him along to get to see the Tower Bridge lifting 🙂 Ohh, and we saw the Royal family in Edinburgh (yes, I saw Kate & William and the Queen and her king in a car in a procession to the cathedral).
There are some things that you just have to do while in London. And going on the London Eye is one of them. However, I didn’t do it during my first visit because I was waiting for the perfect weather and I thought that it was a bit too expensive. Little did I know! So, fast forward two years and I’m back in London with my best friend and partner in crime (she’s a London lover as me) and we still had doubts about paying the expensive ticket to go on a giant Ferris wheel. That was in 2008 but during our October visit in the same year we finally decided to give it a go. We weren’t disappointed.