There was and is so much to like about London. So many sites (and sights) to see, so many things to do. As a recap, here were some of the things we liked best:
- Getting Around and Transportation. It is simple to get around. I mean, really simple. Readily available, clean, professionally driven and traditional black cabs abound (all we rode in took credit card, but we always used pounds). Uber is available seemingly round the clock and the Tube is easy to navigate (once you figure out the pay as you go, one way or round trip ticketing system at the kiosk and determine what will work best for you). The city is also extremely walkable, which we did most of the time. There is also really good and readily available signage for pedestrians at many major intersections and throughout the parks directing you to the popular tourist sites. We never hopped a double decker bus, but those also seemed very frequent and easy to use. I used Ulmon’s offline London map app (no data roaming required) and it was fantastic. I strongly recommend. I never pulled out my paper map once.
- Cleanliness. This place rivals Japan for cleanliness. We loved that about Tokyo, Kyoto (and Japan generally) and also loved it about London. Not a lot of graffiti, barely any trash and people clean up after their pets. The respect for public places is obvious, at least wherever we went (which was all over). In a lot of Europe we’ve visited, they just haven’t seemed to have embraced the pooper scooper and dog waste bags. Not so in the Queen’s city. Cheers, chaps. Well done.
3. The food. Yup, I said it. The food. This place isn’t all stereotypical boiled meat, tea and crumpets (and have you ever had a crumpet? Delicious.) and fish and chips. At least its not anymore. We’d heard about how good the Indian food is, so we had to test out that theory. Theory proven, the reviews are accurate. We went to Chakra in Kensington and it was delicious. Its a little on the upscale side, but that’s what we were going for. We already referenced Mazi in Notting Hill for Greek food. The best Greek food outside of Greece we’ve had. We had Italian (pizza with freshly carved prosciutto and mussels and cockles) at Saporitalia on Portobello Road, fish and chips at Blackfriars Pub and lots of sandwiches (try to Coronation Chicken sandwich, if you like curry) at various museums and our little café where we had breakfast near our place in Bayswater. We also did the mix and match charcuterie and cheese plate with wine pairings for lunch one day at La Cave a Fromage in Notting Hill. Roll the dice and let them pick the cheeses, wines and meats for you. They’ve got skills.
All meals were great. Perhaps Melissa’s obsession with pre-trip restaurant research paid off, but every place we went the service was great, you could reserve many on OpenTable (a plus if you don’t want to ring up international call minutes) and the food delicious.
4. High tea. As we mentioned previously, we did a river cruise on the Thames for high tea. It was fun and a great experience (plus we had great weather with which to take in the views). We’d recommend it either this way or at another spot (lots of upscale hotels host it as does the café at the Tate Modern). We chose Bateaux London for the cruise. Be sure to check out the dress code in advance. Its not super fancy, but no shorts allowed (nope, the bloke with short pants on wasn’t me, but he was there). I imagine their dinner cruises have a more dressy standard as well.
5. Free stuff. Last but not least, if you’re on a budget (and even if you’re not) there’s a lot to do that is free. London is not cheap, so a few freebies sprinkled in help conserve the pounds, regardless of the size of your bank account. The parks are sizable and you can be with the crowd or by yourself and there’s a lot to look at. Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and Green Park are all huge, with many options near water or shady trees. We really liked the flower walk near the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington Gardens. We also liked the flower garden by Kensington Palace. There are also several smaller parks you can check out (Victoria Tower Gardens by Parliament for one. Behind St. Paul’s cathedral there are a couple of gardens where we found crowds at lunchtime. Postman’s Park, which we wrote about in our Off The Beaten trail post is another good option right near St. Paul’s as well.)
In addition, while the major sights charge you to go in, most of the museums have free admission. We found this to be so at The London Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Serpentine Galleries (to which we never made it back to after we tried on the day it was closed) and the British Museum. They all take donations, and that’s what keeps them free, so drop in a bit for the cause. The museum websites are all pretty good and those which do charge pretty much tell you so on their website. If you do have to pay, buying in advance online and skipping the queue is the way to go. Some places require a printed-out ticket, so a little trip planning while you have access to a printer will pay off. Many are closed on Mondays, so be sure to do your homework on open days and times as you plot your course.
For more on the museums we visited, visit our post here.