In May 2016, Alex and I took our very first international trip as a couple to London and Paris. This was my first trip to Europe, and I was SO excited! I had just graduated from nursing school, and rather than focusing on the NCLEX, I spent most of my free time planning what we were going to see, do, and eat each day!
We stayed in Kings Cross for 5 nights. We love to walk and get lost, which really allowed us to experience London like a local. Kings Cross was central to almost everything we wanted to see, and it is also where the international train station is located — a major bonus for our trip to Paris.
We were pretty jet-lagged our first night in London, so we stayed close to our hotel and explored Camden Town. If you are ever in London, you MUSTvisit one of the many markets — Camden Market, Borough Market, Portobello Road Market, Covent Garden London, the list goes on and on! The markets are full of unique shops, bars, and cafes, and you could easily spend hours exploring. We ended our evening with a traditional British shepherds pie.
Camden Town Market
Camden Town Market
Exploring Camden Town
A traditional British dinner — shepherds pie, mashed potatoes, and peas
After a long, long sleep, we started our first full day in London at Tuttis, a cozy little British cafe. (We ended up coming back here every morning because we loved the traditional breakfast!) With full bellies, we walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, and Tower Bridge.
Porridge for breakfast
Saint Paul’s Cathedral
Tower of London
Tower of London is an absolute must-see! It is a historic castle off the River Thames, built in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The castle has served as a fortress protecting the city, prison, royal residence, an armory, treasury, public record office, and home of the Crown Jewels of England. It is also where Anne Boleyn was beheaded by Henry VIII! Definitely plan to spend several hours exploring the grounds.
We ended our evening at Shakespeare’s Globe, where we saw a Midsummer Night’s Dream. While tickets are a bit pricey, the play was a highlight of our trip. Book tickets early for good seats!
On day two, we woke up early to see Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. This was definitely very cool to see, but I probably wouldn’t do it again… there were so many people and it was often hard to see the ceremonial spectacle.
The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace
Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace
From Buckingham Palace, we walked through St. James’s Park to Westminster Abbey, the House of Parliament, and Big Ben. Of course we had to get an obligatory phone booth picture!
St. James’s Park
House of Parliament
House of Parliament & Big Ben
Obligatory phone booth picture
Ready for afternoon tea, we made our way to Sketch! Sketch is a quirky 18th century townhouse tea room and Michelin-starred restaurant.
Afternoon tea at Sketch
The famous bathroom pods at Sketch
After getting our tea fix, we set out on a walk and discovered Carnaby Street and Covent Garden. The next time we go back to London, we are staying in the Covent Garden area! We ended up at Gordon’s Wine Bar for an early happy hour. The wine cellar is located in an underground cave, dating back to 1890.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
On day three, we explored Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. The gardens at Kensington Palace were absolutely beautiful, and we really enjoyed the palace tour. We once again got lost and found ourselves at Harrods, the world’s most famous department store. We spent the evening exploring Nottinghill, and I fell in love with the neighborhood and beautiful row houses!
The gardens at Kensington Palace
Our fourth and final full day in London was a bit dreary, so we headed to the British Museum. The museum is huge and you could easily spend days exploring, but our feet were tired, so we inevitably found ourselves at a British pub enjoying a Samuel Smith ale and shepherds pie!
Our last traditional English shepherd’s pie
Our biggest lesson learned from this trip? While its important to plan out what you want to see and do — because time is inevitably limited, it’s equally important to plan for time just getting lost. We discovered some of our favorite neighborhoods (Covent Garden, Nottinghill) by just getting out and walking around with no plan!