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London Travel Guide
London for spring break? I say YES! We usually go to Florida for Spring Break with the kids to get some sunshine and enjoy the beach. But after checking flights, a round trip ticket to London was LESS than a ticket to Florida. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so we booked our flights and went. In the guide below I will share where we stayed, what we ate and what we did. I will also share some tips and suggestions for your trip.
As I mentioned above, the price of airfare played a big role in picking London. Another reason was that the city has so much to do and see. It’s packed with history, and we knew that we’d have plenty of activities for the whole family. Being an English-speaking country would also make things easier for us and our kids.
Travel Tip: When looking at flights, expand your destinations to other countries. I like to use the United travel map to check airfare. Enter your travel dates, origin and you can easily see airfare to destinations across the globe. That’s how I found the tickets to London
Where we stayed.
When looking for accommodations, we wanted something in central London to make travel within the city easy. We also wanted a hotel with a pool, to keep the kids busy on our slower days. We picked the Waldorf Hilton. The hotel is located walking distance to the London Eye, The Parliament Building, Westminster Abbey as well as bus and subway (called the Underground or Tube) stations. Our room had 1 king bed and 1 sofa sleeper.
Travel Tip: The hotel rooms in Europe are much smaller than what we’re used to back home. We had 2 adults and 2 kids traveling and not every hotel can accommodate this many people in 1 room. You might want to consider adjoining rooms if you have a bigger group. However, a pull out sofa is very comfortable to what you may expect and it is a very common sleeping arrangement around Europe
Before we dive into our activities and all the tasty food we ate, let’s cover how to get around London. As I mentioned earlier, the city has a fantastic public transit system in place. Pretty much anywhere you want to go can be reached by either bus (double decker) or subway (tube). I used apple maps to find our destination, and then changed the travel method from Drive to Transit to display which bus or train to take.
Travel Tip: Check with your wireless provider on what options they have for international travel. We have AT&T and it costs $10 per day extra to use our phones in London. Calls, texts and data are all included.
Both bus stops and tube stations are very well marked and easy to find. To pay for your fare, be sure to have a credit card handy that allows tap to pay. You can also use google pay on your phone. For the bus, you tap on the scanner at the front of the bus.
For the tube, there are entrance gates at each station which allow you to tap and pay via card or google pay to open the gate and enter. One thing to note, each tube station also has a gate at the exit so be sure to tap with the same credit card or google pay on the way out. This allows the system to track your travel and charge based on the distance and exit platform. It will not charge you twice.
Kids travel free with a paying adult on the bus and tube, so we only had to tap twice for the 4 of us.
Travel Tip: When traveling with a large group via bus or train, make sure to have a tap card per each adult. You cannot use the same credit card more than once as the system tracks your travel per card.
The bus operates the same was as stateside. Each station is announced before. If you want the bus to stop, you must press a STOP button located by each seat. If no one presses the button and there’s no one at the station, the bus will not stop.
The same applies when you’re at the bus stop waiting for your line. If you see your bus coming, stick out your hand so the driver knows you’re waiting, and he or she will stop. We did not know that was the case and saw our bus come and go and wondered why it did not stop at our station….
What We Did
Our trip was for 7 days, and we wanted to maximize our time to see as much as we can. After doing some research beforehand, we picked the sights and activities that we wanted to do. A full 7-day itinerary is listed at the end of this guide.
Most flights from the US to Europe are overnight. Our flight landed in London at 9AM local time and we arrived at the hotel, by taxi, around 10:30AM. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we dropped off our bags and went off.
This is an iconic attraction, located right on the river Thames. It’s similar to a Farris wheel and each pod holds a group of people and gives you some of the best views of the city. Total ride time is about 30 minutes. You must purchase your tickets for a specific time, which you can do it on your phone or with an agent at the ride.
Travel Tip: Depending on the line at the ride, you can purchase a Fast Track ticket to skip the ride. It’s about $20 more per ticket. Lines were long every time we passed the Farris wheel.
A short walk from the London Eye is the iconic Big Ben Clock Tower. It’s located right across the river. Big Ben has been undergoing a restoration since 2017 and the inside is closed to tourist. You can still see the outside and take some cool pictures from the bridge.
This is a historic royal church that still has daily service. You can purchase a ticket to tour the abbey right on sight. It includes a self-guided audio tour. Many noble and royal families are laid to rest there including Queen Elizabeth and Mary I. It is also the location that held the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II as well as the wedding of Price William and Kate. The architecture is one of a kind with ornate engravings and sculptures.
The Making of Harry Potter
Next up on our itinerary was a tour of Warner Bros Studios where they filmed all Harry Potter movies. This is located about 30 minutes outside London and there are several different tours available from different companies. You can also book directly on the Warner Bros website but by the time we were looking, all tours for our dates were sold out.
We booked through a tour company called City Wonders. The ticket includes train transportation from London to the Studio, shuttle bus from the train station and a semi-private tour with a guide through the studio. We met at the train station at 11AM and finished everything at 6PM. It’s a long but super fun day.
At the studio you see the Great Hall, lots of props, costumes and stages from the movie. There’s also a cafeteria which sells hot dogs, burgers and Butter Beer from the movie! The studio tour includes a lot of interactive activities and a massive gift shop at the end.
Travel Tip: You can go back and walk around the studio after the guided tour section is over. If you decide to do so, be sure to finish an hour or so before the studio closes to beat the rush for the shuttle bus.
To be completely honest, I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan but I loved, loved this tour. Seeing everything behind the scenes and learning all the secrets from the tour guide gave me a whole new appreciation for movie making. And our kids loved it!
Tower of London and Buckingham Palace
These are 2 must have visit places in London. The historic Tower of London where you can see the crown jewels and Buckingham Palace where the royal family conducts business. Like our Harry Potter experience, we booked a guided tour from City Wonders. This is a half day tour that starts in the morning and wraps up by lunch time.
The Tower of London is the only place that needs a ticket, and you can easily do both on your own. However, our guided tour included an early entry to the Tower of London, where you can see the opening ceremony and talk with a reel Beefeater! This was a great perk and worth the price of admission. After the opening ceremony, head inside to see the crown jewels first and then explore the rest of the castle. Otherwise, we will be stuck in a long and crowded line of visitors wanting to see the same. It’s one of the oldest castles in London and is packed full of history.
After the Tower of London, our tour group headed over to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. This is a traditional ceremony where you can see the horse and foot guard change take place.
Travel Tip: Buckingham Palace is open for inside tours during the summer months only.
Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Roman Baths
Talk about a busy day! We knocked out 3 major sites in 1 day! Be aware, this tour takes 12 hours (yes, you read that correctly, 12 hours) but is so, so worth it. If you want to see British history this is a must see! We booked this tour with Evan Evans.
The tour starts at a coach bus station and heads off to Windsor castle first. This took about 45 minutes, and we were in the historic town of Windsor. After we made our way to the castle, we had about 90 minutes to explore before meeting back at the coach. It was a bit rushed, but we still were able to see the key parts of the castle, and grab a snack on the way out. As part of the tour, you are allowed inside St. George’s Chapel where the late Queen Elizabeth II is laid to rest. The tour includes full access to the chapel, the state apartments of King Henry VI and Queen Mary’s doll collection.
Next up was Stonehenge. Took a bit over an hour to get from Windsor to Stonehenge. You make your way to the stones and are free to explore on your own. I must say, this was a very cool part of the trip. Seeing those large stones in person was something special. The whole place had a different feel about it. This is probably the best place to sit down and grab something to eat before the bus leaves.
After Stonehenge, we headed to the city of Bath to see the Roman Baths. This is a big structure inside the city that was built by the Romans and powered by natural hot springs. You can see the baths, learn the history and at the end even try a sample of the natural hot springs water! Be sure to try it, it has an interesting mineral taste….
After seeing the Roman Baths, we still had some time left before meeting the bus, so we walked around the town. I could have easily spent a full day there! Beautiful town with gorgeous architecture that is completely different from any other place in England.
Finally, we headed back to London, and this was the longest leg of the trip. Took about 2.5 hours to get back and you’re dropped off at the train/tube station. Highly recommend this tour!
Travel Tip: Walk inside Victoria Coach station and walk along the gates to find the Evan Evans tour group. Also, bring a small backpack with some waters and snacks for the day!
There are opportunities to purchase food at all 3 locations, but with limited time at each location you might not have enough time to purchase somethings. Especially if the lines are long.
London has a lot of shopping areas but none of them area as famous as the department store Harrods. It’s a very big department store that carries some of the most exclusive brands in the world. Yes most things there are out of reach price wise for most people but it’s still fun to visit and see what’s there.
My son loves World History and exploring military ships, submarines, etc, so this was a no brainer. Located on the river Thames, HMS Belfast is a retired British warship that’s open to the public.
We purchased tickets at the gate and spent a good 2 hours exploring the ship and learning it’s history. They also have a cool game for kids to play as they walk around the ship. If you like military history, this is a must see!
Kensington Palace Gardens and the Natural History Museum
These are 2 free, yes FREE, must-see places. They are located right next to each other making it easy to see both on the same day.
The palace itself was closed to tour the inside but you can still explore the grounds and the park. British royalty still lives here and it’s cool to see how it all looks. The park is very well maintained and has a lot of great monuments to see including the latest statue of Princess Diana revealed by her two sons in 2021.
I still can’t believe the Natural History Museum is free! The building itself is magnificent and inside you will find a lot of great natural history exhibits. From dinosaurs to bugs to birds, there’s something for everyone.
We started in the morning and were finished with both by early afternoon.
Travel Tip: Even though the museum is free, you have to reserve a ticket. You can do it in advance and won’t have to wait in a VERY long line when you arrive.
One last thing that we did was to just walk around the city and explore! There’s so much history here and each street is lined with historic buildings, landmarks and shops. We felt very safe walking around with the kids during the day as well as at night. There’s always a lot of tourists out and about and everyone seemed very helpful. No advance bookings or tickets needed.
Some place to see around town:
- Piccadilly Circus
- Trafalgar Square
- St Paul’s Catherdral
- Tower Bridge
What we ate
Food is obviously a big part of what I do, and I want to share with you all what we ate on our trip. From traditional British fare to new school creations, there is something tasty for everyone here.
When I think of London, pubs are the first place that come to mind. The city is littered with them. They are almost on every other street corner. It’s a neighborhood spot for not only a beer but also a tasty meal. Most will have a similar menu, filled with British staples.
Travel Tip: When deciding on which pub to visit, look for ones with fresh flower planters out front. From what I’ve been told, those are the ones you want to visit.
The one right by our hotel was called the Wellington. We tried the fish and chips, a steak and ale pie and mac and cheese for the kids. Everything was super fresh, made to order and tasted great! Fish and chips is a classic British dish and this place didn’t disappoint. Nice crisp breading on the fish, thick cut fries, served with a homemade tartar sauce and mashed peas. Delicious!
Now I know what you’re thinking when you read steak and ale pie above. No, it’s not a dessert pie. Meat pies are big pastries filled with meat, veggies and sauce. It’s like a whole dinner plate wrapped in a flaky pastry. Some are topped with mashed potatoes. Some have a pastry crust. Whichever one you get, they are all delicious! This was one of my favorite foods in London.
Technically a drink, a British beer is a must have at a local pub. Ask for a local brew, get it in a pint glass and enjoy every last drop. One thing that’s different about ordering beer in Britain compared to the US, is that it doesn’t come ice cold. It’s served a bit chilled, which takes a little getting used to, but I must say after having a few pints, they are much more enjoyable that way.
Just like everywhere else around the world, you have your staples of McDonalds, KFC, etc. There are also a number of British fast-food stapes that are delicious. One of them is a sandwich chain called Pret A Manger. This is a fast-food sandwich shop and is delicious! You walk in, grab a sandwich you like, pay and off you go. Everything is made on site, and they have a great selection. This is a great spot for a quick bite when you’re out and about.
Another great fast-food spot is Leon. Presented as a “healthier” alternative, they have a menu filled with chicken and rice bowls, wraps and veggie dishes. We tried the chicken bowl with chili sauce, fries and nuggets and everything was delicious.
Indian cuisine is very popular in Britain. And one of the restaurants I was told to visit the most is Dishoom. It’s a Bombay inspired restaurant with a great vibe inside and an even better menu. All portions are served small and meant for sharing at the table. We went there for lunch and tried the masala prawns, chicken curry, chicken ruby, chicken tika and naan bread. Everything was very flavorful, super fresh and honestly some of the best Indian food I ever had.
Travel Tip: Don’t skip on the drink. The India Gimlet is a great pairing to the food menu.
Another tasty British staple is the Cornish pasty. In short, it’s a turnover shaped, baked crust pastry filled with meat and veggies. It’s a full meal all wrapped into one. Perfect to eat on the go, it’s a great way to satisfy any appetite. We had ours in the town of Bath when visiting the Roman Baths and they were delicious. And to show how important these are in British culture, the name “Cornish Pasty” is protected and only a pasty made to specific recipe in Cornwall can be called a “Cornish Pasty”.
The Full English
Another must try while in London is a proper, full English breakfast. These are offered in many restaurants and some pubs that open early. We had ours at Delaunay, a restaurant right down the street from our hotel. So, what’s in a full English? You have your choice of eggs (typically fried), bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, mushrooms, black pudding (not the kind you’re thinking), baked beans and toast.
Yes, that’s a big plate. And if you finish everything, you’re good until dinner. It’s a very hearty and filling way to start the day. And really nothing sounds unusual about it except for 2 items, the black pudding and baked beans. I’ve never had baked beans for breakfast, but they were delicious. Adds a little sweetness and protein to the meal. So, what is black pudding? It’s a traditional British blood sausage. Made with either pork or beef blood, meat and oats. Yes, I know it sounds gnarly, but it’s very tasty! It doesn’t taste like blood or minerals; it’s tastes like a hearty sausage. So, if you find yourself in London, be sure to try a full English and eat the black pudding.
Afternoon tea is a classic British tradition. It’s an early afternoon meal consisting of small sandwiches, pastries, scones and tea. A meal between lunch and dinner. All enjoyed with a cup of tea. Walking the streets of London, you will find plenty of tea and pastry shops offering an afternoon tea service. We had ours at our hotel, as most will offer it as well. And we were not ready for how much food and teas varieties we would be offered.
The full service was a 3-course meal. It started with small sandwiches and finger foods, moved to a sorbet pallet cleanser and finished with dessert and scones with jam. All paired with different teas. It’s really a great experience, even if you’re not a fan of tea.
If you’re in London, a visit to the Borough Market is a must! It’s a big, and I mean BIG, outdoor market packed with food vendors offering ready-made dishes, fruits, veggies, cheeses, meats, etc. It’s a melting pot of cuisines from all over the world. As you make your way across the market, you’re hit with all these amazing smells from the different food stalls. Believe me when I say this, there is something for everyone here. We tried the fried chicken, mac and cheese, meat pies and Greek wraps. I wish I could try more but we were so full! This, in my opinion is one of the best food destinations in London.
Heddon Street Kitchen
Once we decided we were coming to London, one of the foods that I wanted to try more than anything else was a Beef Wellington from a Gordon Ramsey restaurant. Yeah, I know that celebrity restaurants aren’t always the best, but this is Gordon Ramsey! And his famous beef Wellington! We made reservations at Heddon Street Kitchen, it’s one of his restaurants that was closest to our hotel. The beef Wellington service is $110 and it serves two. When it arrived it looked good, but not great. All the times that I saw Gordon criticize contestants on cooking shows for how they cooked their rendition of this classic dish, I saw the same issues with ours. The mushrooms layer was very uneven, the pasty wrap was not tight and had gaps in some parts. The beef inside looked great. It came with a sauce, that I quickly poured over and grabbed my slice. I wish I could say that that first bite was everything that I ever wanted. That the hype was real. But unfortunately, it wasn’t. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as good as I was hoping it to be. The mushroom flavor overtook the entire dish. The beef itself could’ve used more seasoning. Now, my wife did enjoy the meal and we did finish everything. If I was to do it again, I would still go just to say that I tried Gordan Ramsey’s Wellington.
We also got a dessert, the sticky toffee pudding, and that was AMAZING. It made up for the lackluster Wellington. It’s a delicious, moist sponge cake, covered in toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream, as served in Gordon’s restaurants. The dessert was heavenly and made the visit worthwhile.
Our last full day in London was Sunday and a Sunday Roast was the perfect way to finish our trip. Being it another British staple, Sunday roasts are offered at most restaurants and pubs around the city. So, what is it? It’s a perfectly cooked prime rib, served with potatoes, steam veggies, Yorkshire pudding (I know, lots of things are called pudding here that are not pudding), and gravy.
We went to The Hawksmoor for our Sunday roast. This was another restaurant that came very highly recommended. They had other menu options available as well, but we were only interested in one thing. And from a look around the restaurant, so was everyone else. You could see plates coming out the kitchen filled with delicious looking beef and all the sides.
We each got the Sunday roast, even the kids (they have a kids version available that’s a smaller serving) and it was everything that I wanted the beef Wellington to be. The beef was tender and flavorful, the Yorkshire pudding was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The potatoes were crispy on the outside and very tender on the inside, all covered in a delicious gravy. This was my favorite meal of the trip. If you’re in London on Sunday, get a Sunday roast. And if you can, make a reservation at Hawksmoor to get the best one.
Travel Tip: Sunday roast is served earlier than a traditional dinner. We had our reservation for 3PM as the restaurant can’t guarantee they will have beef available after 5PM. So skip lunch and grab a Sunday roast for an early dinner.
We were here for 7 days and barely scratched the surface of the food scene. With all the pubs and shops around town, the options are endless. So, if you find yourself in London, skip the US chains and give the local restaurants a try. I promise that you will be pleasantly surprised.
Our 7-Day Itinerary
- Arrive in the morning and check into hotel
- Ride the London Eye
- Grab a quick lunch at Pret A Manger
- Walk and explore Big Ben and Westminster Abby
- Walk back to hotel and visit local shops
- Dinner at local pub
- Sleep in a bit to adjust to the time change
- Quick breakfast at the hotel
- Making of Harry Potter studio visit and tour
- Leon or other quick spot for dinner
- Quick breakfast at the hotel
- Morning tour of Tower of London
- Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guards
- Late lunch at Dishoom
- Relax at hotel pool
- Dinner at local pub
- Quick breakfast at the hotel
- Windsor castle tour
- Stonehenge Tour
- Roman Baths tour
- Food and snack along the way
- Full English Breakfast
- Explore local area
- Afternoon Tea Service
- Visit Harrods
- Dinner at local pub
- Breakfast at the hotel
- Visit HMS Belfast
- Lunch at Borough Market
- Relax at Hotel
- Late dinner at Heddon Street Market
- Breakfast at hotel
- Visit Kensington Palace Gardens and the Natural History Museum
- Sunday roast at Hawksmoor
- Walk around and enjoy the last evening