London

Updated: Apr 16

as'What a whirlwind! What a city! It blew my mind ten times over.

So much to see & do, I could not sit still for a moment.

To be able to see the history of this two-thousand year old city through it's buildings, monuments and artifacts is incredible.


The wealth is astounding, the power palpable.

Everything is so grand! The architecture extraordinary.

The old and the new mixed together so artistically. The museums are enormous, housed in incredible buildings.


The churches are out of this world.


So much of it is about power, so much of it is about war and death. A reminder of our brutal past and how far we've come.


~


It felt so good to be out in the world again!


I did a lot of research in order to get the most out of our time there.


I find trips go so much smoother when they are planned out and you don't waste precious time when you're there.


I hope you too will be able to visit this incredible city one day!


I hope my guide helps you have a great trip too.


I will be posting more photos & videos on my Instagram



My favourite thing was:


St. Paul's Cathedral *highlight

https://www.stpauls.co.uk/

£17 / Triforium (attic) Tour £7

Tour 90 minutes + 90 minutes to 2 hrs to explore the cathedral


St. Paul's Cathedral is a piece of art. An incredible feat created by artisans over 300 years ago. We don't make buildings like this anymore and it's a shame. London is filled with these extraordinary buildings and it's mesmerizing!


To give you an idea of how much Londoners value their buildings, in World War II they stationed soldiers, who were architecture students, in the cathedral as the city was being bombed. Their lives worth risking to save this amazing building. They put out the fires from the bombs and saved the cathedral.


St. Paul's is as grand as it gets. It's dome the highest in the world. You may recognize it from Diana & Charles' wedding. Apparently they chose it over the customary Westminster Abbey because it lent itself much better to being televised. It's much more open and airy than Westminster Abbey.

We went on an intimate behind the scenes tour of the attic 'Triforium" of the cathedral. We happen to be the only ones on our tour (it could have been up to 15 people). We were very lucky!


On our tour, we got an incredible view of the interior of cathedral from above, saw beautiful works of art and visited a room with a detailed wood model of a proposed, but rejected, design for the cathedral. It felt like such a privilege to be there.


We then walked up many many many stairs, through secret stone corners and spiral staircases to a circular balcony at the top of the dome overlooking the city - spectacular!


Audio guides are available to listen to as you walk through the cathedral. We later found out that we could have asked for a free tour by one of the very passionate volunteers in red sashes. Next time!


Also for next time, we will visit when choir is singing (which they call Quire), usually at 5pm, but make sure to double-check the schedule if you plan to go and listen.



The Tate Modern

free / there are some special exhibits that are paid

https://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern

90 min to 2 hrs

The Tate is just a 10 minute walk over a pedestrian bridge from St. Paul's Cathedral, so we managed to squeeze it in.


The best part was an installation in the main hall where balloons that looked like squid aliens floated up and down. (see video on my Instagram).


Go if you're a fan of modern art, it's all very strange and housed in a rather austere mostly windowless building. Personally, I would skip it.


It really depends, I guess, on what shows are on display.





The Natural History Museum *highlight

free / there are some special exhibits that are paid

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/

90 min to 2 hrs

The main attraction for me was the building. Beyond the sheer size of it, it's incredibly beautiful. The central hall, Hintze Hall, was astounding! If you do nothing else go there and take it in. The size and intricate design is a wonder and to top it off there's a giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling! You can walk up and all around it.


Make sure to take a peek at the Darwin Centre that is just past the Hintze Hall. It's a giant modern building shaped like an egg within the building, so creatively incorporated. It looks like an alien ship!


Other favorites:

  • Human Evolution display - fascinating!

  • Dinosaur display

  • 1400 lb meteor

These museums are so big, at a certain point it becomes overwhelming. After about 90 minutes, the brain starts to swell.









Victoria & Albert Museum

free / there are some special exhibits that are paid

https://www.vam.ac.uk/


The V&A is right across the street from the Natural History Museum, so it makes sense to visit them on the same day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon.


Another massive stunning building with a beautiful inner courtyard housing over 2 million objects like jewellery, pottery, sculptures, furniture, costumes, rugs, etc, in 145 galleries.


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(note the size of the people on the last photo to give you a sense of how big this room is)


Highlights:

  • Cast Courts - two dramatic 2-storey rooms housing huge plaster casts of sculptures, including Michelangelo's David.

  • Jewellery Gallery - a intimate glass tomb housing 6000 items


Kensington Palace

£19.50

https://www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace


I have to admit I was disappointed with Kensington Palace. The rooms they allow you to visit are a bit drab. Not what you'd expect. I'm sure there are many palatial rooms, we just don't get to see them.


The only redeeming feature was that Princess Diana's wedding dress was on display. It felt quite poignant as I had been listening to her biography in preparation for my visit. Make sure to give yourself enough time to visit her memorial garden at the end as they close it at 15:45pm. It's quite beautiful.


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You may want to book a high tea or lunch at the Pavilion which is right beside Diana's Memorial Garden. The Pavilion itself is quite simple, it's the location that makes it special. Make sure to reserve, otherwise it will likely to be fully booked if you try and walk-in.



The Goring Hotel

https://www.thegoring.com/


On a quiet back street, The Goring is a small family run hotel a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace. What makes it interesting is it's surprising history, for such a quaint hotel.


Every Monarch has been a guest, Churchill held meetings here in World War II, Margaret Thatcher lunched here everyday and Kate Middleton stayed here the night before her wedding.


I just slipped through on my way to The Changing of the Guards, it was surprisingly small and, although high-end, simple. Maybe next time I'll book a high tea here.



Buckingham Palace

£65

https://www.rct.uk/visit/buckingham-palace


At certain times there our tours of the Palace available, check the website. I was not able to attend.

Changing of the Guards:

https://www.householddivision.org.uk/changing-the-guard-overview


On certain days at 11am a ceremony, that's taken place since the 1600's, parades in the forecourt of the Palace. It's worth seeing if it's something that interests you. It's a little long and gets a little boring in the middle but still worth seeing in my opinion.


But where is the best place to stand?

I stood in the circle rotunda in front of the palace, so the guards parade around you. It was a great spot to watch the guards marching in and out and then, at the end, see the Queen's Private Guard march by (highlight).


I found it helpful to ask one of the Police officers what was going to happen. He explained where the guards would be coming from, so I could position myself in the perfect spot. Two different sets of guards and bands come from two different streets. When facing the palace stay on the left side, as all the marching comes in on that side.


The other option is to arrive early and stand right against the Palace gates so you can watch the goings on in the forecourt. There will soon be people jammed up behind you at least twenty deep. You will miss the marching in and out but you will see the main "show". They shout out and march back and forth and then the band plays some songs (Coldplay when I was there!).


Make sure to pay attention at the end when it feels like it's over, the Queen's Private Guard march by on huge black Stallions in regal wear. They're stunning!



Aspley House *highlight

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/apsley-house/

£11.30


Aspley House is just a couple of blocks from Buckingham Palace, so it's perfect to go right after the Changing of the Guard. You may also want to stop in at The Wellington Arch (£5.90) which sits right in front of the house. The arch is nothing spectacular but it's neat to go up the spiral stairs to the top and look at the view.


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I read that this was the most resplendent house in London and they weren't wrong! A thousand times more bling than Kensington Palace. The dazzling house is filled with treasures. Watch the video on the website for a preview.


The home of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century. His victory over Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815 made him the most celebrated man in Europe. Amazingly his great great great grandson lives on the third floor of the house (the first two floors are on display).



Celeste Restaurant at The Lanesborough Hotel

https://www.instagram.com/celesterestaurant/


Right across the street from The Aspley House is The Lanesborough Hotel


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