London is one of my favorite places to visit as I enjoy the city’s diversity, history, energy, and creative lifestyle. As I created our itinerary for this trip, I wanted to make sure we saw as much as we could, each day filled with sightseeing, activities, and some free time. Staying in the center of the city made our getting around the city much more comfortable and enabled us to visit all the city’s highlights.
London has a remarkable history, along with an appreciation of art and a love for food. I will share with you a variety of markets to visit, historical places, sporting events, and a visit to London’s theatre.
Day 1: (Hotel Check-In, Walk the neighborhood)
I like to call my first day on vacation a “get acquainted day.” I learn the area and locate the bus (or subway) stations and get a real understanding of the city’s layout. Typically, this involves walking, asking questions, and getting a feel of how the city.
Arriving late in the evening, we took an Uber to the Park City Grand Plaza Kensington Hotel to drop off our luggage and freshen up before we headed out the door for an evening walk in the neighborhood, scouting for a pub or coffee shop.
Park City Grand Plaza Kensington Hotel
We got lucky in finding Scooter Café, a small coffee house with a spiral staircase leading to the basement of this quaint sitting area. The cold temperatures outside made me want a cup of hot chocolate to warm up my body. Their hot chocolate is the best I have ever tasted. It was so creamy the spoon could almost stand up in the cup. Although a very tiny space, the cozy atmosphere was a perfect place to start our vacation.
Day 2: (St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Queen Victoria Memorial, Wellington Arch, Apsley House, Parliament Square Garden)
The parade of royal guardsmen with immaculately precision of red and black uniforms along with horses in a full-body dress is a sight to see. If you want to get a good picture of the Queen Victoria Memorial, you need to go at least two hours before changing the guards, starting at 11:00 am.
After lunch, we enjoyed a beautiful day strolling through Parliament Square Garden reading the statues’ inscriptions. Winston Churchill statue is one of the most admired here. Across the street from Parliament Square Garden is the Westminster and the House of the Parliament. You can see Big Ben and the London Eye at a far distance from Parliament Square Garden.
In the afternoon, we checked out a few local coffee shops and browsed several boutiques.
- Changing of the Guards occurs at 11:00 am. I Recommend that you arrive there at least one hour prior.
- Buckingham Palace has a limited schedule for public viewing. Check the website.
- Official landmark buildings are closed on Sundays.
Day 3:(Portobello Market, Notting Hill, Camden Market, Horse Tunnel Market, Emirates Stadium)
Today, our goal was to check out London’s open markets and attend a professional soccer match in the afternoon.
As we entered the Portobello Market, vendors lined the streets, displaying exciting items for sale. Local shops along the street were open, giving shoppers’ options to browse as they visited the Portobello Market. Fresh produce, meats, flowers, antiques, along with other trinkets, can be found here.
After Portobello Market, we explored Camden Market, a very punk and eclectic shopping district. Londoners and young people were intrigued by punk rock and new-age style during the 1980s, making this area only into trendy items to visit.
Nearby is the Regent’s River, which offers different places to shop and eat. While in the area, we checked out the Horse Tunnel Market, which is underground. Here we found many unusual costume items and London gift shops.
Horse Tunnel Market
Following all the visits to the markets and shopping, it was game time!
We love soccer. We bought tickets for a match between Arsenal and Watford. As we got onto the subway, you could recognize those going to the game by the decorative outfits they were wearing of their favorite team. We arrived early to do a little shopping at the Emirates Stadium. It was so much fun being a part of the crowd, cheering and yelling for the teams. I highly recommend going to a match as this is an experience you will never forget!
Day 4: (Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, Albert Memorial, Round Pound, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey)
Today we are off to Kensington Palace. As we walked to the palace, we came upon an adorable red telephone booth, posed, and snapped a few fun pictures. The Kensington Gardens is a well-manicured park with statues and walking trails connecting to Hyde Park. The vegetation and landscape design make for a Feng Shui type garden.
Kensington Garden -Round Pond
Hyde Park- Albert Memorial
The Albert Memorial is in honor of Prince Albert and his achievements in the Great Exhibitions. In front of Kensington Palace, visit Round Pond with beautiful white swans swimming and model yacht enthusiast chartering their course.
To enter Kensington Palace will require a fee, plus you can purchase a headset guided tour, which we found helpful in learning the history of the people that once resided here.
Princess Diana raised William and Harry in this home and was the last person to live in the palace, even after her divorce. After her death, the house was vacant for ten years before the castle was split back into two apartments utilized by Prince Charles and Chief of Defense Staff. Royal gowns worn by Princess Diana and other royal women of the past are on display. Today the home is a museum and holds many family heirlooms of the royal family.
Next is the famous Tower of London, which has been in every textbook and many movies and fiction books as it is an authentic medieval castle built-in 1066. The tower is along the Thames River and was once used as a prison during the 16th and 17th centuries. Today it is home to the Crown Jewels and the Royal Mint of London. Close by is the iconic Tower Bridge, which has two vertical walkways to cross the Thames River, often confused with the London Bridge.
Tower of London
The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and the resting place for over 3,000 people who are either buried or commemorated and many among the most significant of the nation’s history. The present church is one of the most important Gothic buildings of the country and has held over sixteen royal weddings.
- Exploring this site will take a whole afternoon as it is so much of the world’s past is in one building.
Day 5: (Carnaby Street, Oxford Street, Chinatown, St. Clements Dane, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, National Portrait Gallery, Prince of Wales Theatre)
Today we would visit many of the popular England department stores and the National Portrait Museum. One of the most-shopped locations is Carnaby Street, which is in Soho. More than 60 independent restaurants, cafes, bars, and quintessentially English pubs are found serving more than 30 different worldly cuisines—another area to visit for shopping in Oxford Street. Here you will find an array of the high street, boutique, and luxury brands.
Royal of Justice Court
In the afternoon, visit the famous Piccadilly Circus where the bright billboard signs flash with an advertisement, and five different streets meet at one roundabout. How this area was named is interesting.
The famous designer of picadillo’s, which means a wide collar, Roger Baker, lived in this area. The word “circus” derives from the busy roundabout that many vehicles intersect to get to one place or another.
Not far is Trafalgar Square, surrounded by museums, galleries, water fountain sculptures, and many cafes. Outside the London National Gallery, you will find artists- performing music, mimes, painters, sidewalk chalk artists, and dancers.
I love photography, so we decided to visit the National Portrait Gallery. Although I do enjoy viewing paintings of portraits, my favorite was the photographs taken of Princess Diana. She was a lovely person. The gallery, opened in 1856, has the world’s most extensive collection of personalities and faces, from the late Middle Ages to the present day.
National Potrait Gallery
The Book of Mormon
In the evening we went to the Prince of Wales Theatre. I booked tickets to see the theatre production of the Book of Mormon. The play is a laugh out loud show about the sacred text of the Latter Day Saints movement. The theatre is cozy and historical as it has been home to the community of theatre since 1882. I would highly recommend seeing this play or any other play showing while visiting London.
Day 6: (Borough Market, Menier Chocolate Factory, Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel)
A must-see is the Borough Market. This market is full of fresh and exotic fruits and vegetables, as well as specialty items. Authentic food stalls serving up some delicious dishes to sample can also be a part of your experience.
Menier Chocolate Factory
Kings Cross Station is one of London’s busiest terminals and found itself a backdrop to films such as Harry Potter films. You can find Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾. Expect to wait in line to get a picture of the half-trolley in the brick wall underneath the platform sign.
Harry Potter Platform
St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Next, to Brick Lane, grab a bagel at the famous Beigel Bake once London’s slums have become the new vibe of eclectic style and popular with the young generation. The mural artwork, which is on every wall on all the side streets, was unbelievable! This area was named as one of London’s top foodie streets.
A stop at St. Paul Cathedral was next on my list to tour. St. Paul’s Cathedral sits on one of the highest points of London. It once was one of the tallest buildings in London, and the dome is still one of the highest in the world. Christopher Wren, the designer, met many challenges building this church but drew inspiration from Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Cathedral Church
Step across the street from Kings Cross Station to see St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, a combination of a hotel and terminal for Eurostar, a high-speed one bullet train from London to France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Day 7: (Spitalfields Market, St. Paul Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Brick Lane)
We began the day with a Spitalfields Market visit, home to many local artists selling various craft items and art.
Across the street is the St. Paul’s Courtyard to admire the beautiful landscape. We walked across the road to the Millennium Bridge. This steel suspension bridge that crosses the Thames River has a very futuristic look compared to most historical building structures. Many locals call it the “swaying” bridge because they feel it move as they walk across.
The afternoon was spent picking up a few last-minute gifts to take home and enjoying a cup of tea while people watching.
This packed seven-day itinerary will fill your time with many of London’s top sites while enjoying other remarkable places and activities the city has to offer. London is a fabulous city with a diverse culture, history, and unforgettable experiences.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.
Inshallah (God willing!)