I’m so excited to share my London Travel Diary with you all on this gorgeous Friday morning. Believe it or not — we actually had PERFECT weather in London the entire 5 days we were there. It was such a fun trip with my mom and it’s been fun getting to go through all. the. photos. I took and put this together! I had a bunch of you guys asking for recommendations for hotels, places to eat, and things to do, so we made sure to keep a list… because, we were busy! We worked with our friend and travel agent Lorraine Whittemore (who helped plan our honeymoon in Italy last summer) — she did a phenomenal job with accommodation recommendations, booking advanced tours, and putting our itinerary together! If you’re planning a trip and need a little assistance (especially overseas), she’s your gal!
WHAT WE DID
“Changing of the Guards” ceremony at Buckingham Palace. It’s exactly what it sounds like — the new guards about to take over march into Buckingham Palace and the old guards march away. It’s a really intricate ceremony (lots of traditional marching), but it’s so, so interesting. I typically like to stay away from extremely crowded, touristy areas (I get insane anxiety in huge groups), but this was well worth it! The ceremony itself is about 45 minutes long, but you should definitely arrive early to get a good spot to watch (since part of it will be through the gates). We were actually advised to find a spot up by the Queen Victoria statue by Lorraine, which gave us more of a bird’s eye view of everything happening.
Strolled through St. James Park & Hyde Park. We were lucky enough to stay right across the street from Hyde Park, so we took a little stroll one morning through the park to enjoy the foliage. We also walked through St. James Park on the way over to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.
Tour of Westminster Abbey. We ended up doing an audio tour which I absolutely LOVE doing. It’s wonderful when you get a good group tour — but that hasn’t always panned out well for me in the past (you always get people not paying attention, slowing down the group, asking a zillion questions, or pushy and crowding the front). What I love about the audio tours is you can listen at your own pace (you can also rewind if you need to or want to hear something again). Westminster Abbey was stunning in every single way and we spent about 2 hours inside wandering around. For an English major, all my Brit Lit classes were coming back to me (and I swear my mouth must have been open the whole time when I saw the burial sites for Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots). OMG.
Tea at Sketch and Peggy Porchen. We agreed that in addition to a lot of touristy things, we wanted to have high tea a couple of times, so we picked the two girliest spots we could find and had so much fun. Sketch came highly recommended by just about everyone who has ever been to London (and it’s pretty famous on Instagram). It’s 100% an experience (the decor is out of this world and so hysterical), the little sandwiches were absolutely delicious, and we got to try about 10 different teas. The tea in London is no joke — so we were so excited to try a bunch of flavors and different kinds of tea (coming from two coffee lovers). We also spent a late afternoon at Peggy Porchen (prime real estate out front on the street), where we had some more tea (the Plum Tea, I’m still dreaming about) and some sweet treats.
Tower of London and the Crown Jewels. Probably #1 on my Mom’s list of what she wanted to do, and it was WELL worth the drive. It’s a little far away from downtown London (about a 30 minute drive with some city traffic). We got there late in the afternoon and grabbed the last tour of the day. We ended up on a group tour (which I was immediately nervous about), but ended up with an amazing tour guide who walked us through the gates and onto the former castle grounds. It’s now home to the Crown Jewels which was such a sight to see. They actually put you on a conveyor belt to look at the Crown Jewels (probably to prevent people from just standing around staring at them because THEY ARE THAT STUNNING). We actually sweet talked our way into going through twice. There’s nothing like seeing a 300 carat diamond… so I had to make sure that was ingrained in my mind.
Got lost in Notting Hill. We went over to Notting Hill one morning and started on Portabello Street (where they were setting up for the weekly market). It had just started to drizzle about 20 minutes after we arrived and I started to panic (because, London = rain), and then it ended up clearing up. We spent a few hours just walking around and taking pictures of the cutest doorways, ducking into little shops and flower markets, and then eating lunch at Farm Girl Cafe (more on that below). We also walked into the most adorable pet cafe EVER where I spotted a Mischa look-a-like and almost cried.
National Gallery. Knowing we were going to the Lourve in Paris in a few days, we didn’t want to be inside at museums the entire time (because the museums are enormous and we had such gorgeous weather), so we ducked in so my mom could see her favorite Monet “The Japanese Footbridge” painting.
Victoria and Albert Museum. We went in to see the Balenciaga exhibit which was incredible.
Big Ben & The London Eye. I’m someone who just likes to look from a far at things like these — so we didn’t ride the London Eye. Plus, my mom hates rides, haha. We walked up the Westminster Bridge to get a beautiful view of both (Big Ben was having a face lift, so we didn’t get the best shots of that). We then walked down the path by the river across from the London Eye to get one of my favorite shots EVER (the feature image of this post above).
Popped into Harrod’s. Okay, that’s not true… we wandered around Harrod’s for like 2 hours. I was in designer bag HEAVEN (and even picked out my next splurge). We also grabbed a few gifts on the main level because who doesn’t love little tin cans of goodies?!
PLAID BLAZER LOOK
WHERE WE STAYED
Lorraine had recommended the Grovsvenor Hotel (a bit of a splurge, but this was a trip we had been planning for quite some time, so we balled out). It was a great location (in the Mayfair neighborhood) and across from beautiful Hyde Park, and a short walk to Oxford Street, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. When we weren’t walking, UBER was so easy to use, so we utilized that as much as possible — mostly for dinners at night, and to longer trips to Notting Hill and the Tower of London.
WHERE WE ATE
Sketch. High Tea (we took one of the first reservations around 11:30AM)
Novikov. We actually ate here twice, once on the Asian side and once on the Italian side.
Farm Girl Cafe. A mostly vegan menu, I was in food heaven. It was one of the best meals of our trip.
Nobu. I can’t go more than a week without sushi, so we caved and went here for dinner.
Peggy Porchen. The cutest (most Instagrammable) place I’ve ever seen. Oh, and the cupcakes are phenomenal.
Cellarium Café & Terrace. We ate here (and had the most delicious carrot and coriander soup of my life) after touring Westminster Abbey.
PINK DRESS OUTFIT
FLORAL BOMBER JACKET OUTFIT
WHAT TO PACK
We had absolutely beautiful fall weather, so layers are essential! You can see a round up of my favorite outfits from London and Paris HERE — and I will be creating a separate packing post with example outfits (and ideas on how you can mix and match the pieces you bring along).
CAMEL COAT OUTFIT
PLAID DRESS OUTFIT