07/01/2020

The Basic Babe’s Guide to London

Ello, loves!

I hope everyone is having an amazing post-holiday season and that your bank accounts aren’t as much of a barren wasteland as mine rn.

Let’s just say it’s been a BUSY few months for me to say the least. Busy, but nonetheless amazing (regardless of the crushing debt…kidding…ish).

As you may or may not know, early this past December, I was lucky enough to have travelled back across the pond to the UK where I visited my absolute favorite city in the world – LONDON (we also went to Scotland, but more to come on that adventure eventually).

Those who know me well, or follow me on pretty much any form of social media, have likely seen me profess my love for jolly old England (and the entire UK in general) countless times. I have been absolutely OBSESSED with the entire region’s history and culture since I was a kid, and it’s grown into both a lingering fascination and my most desired travel destination over the years. Like, I’d move there in a heartbeat if I could.

Since this was my second trip to London Town, and I failed miserably last year providing you with any blog content (so sorry), I’ve decided to combine the stops we made on both trips into one glamorous guide with a slight holiday-ish twist!

First Thing’s First

Now, when it comes to planning any vacation, the #1 rule is to DO YOUR RESEARCH. I can’t preach this enough. You will thank yourself immensely once you’ve reached your destination.

We booked our latest trip in August, and I basically spent every moment of my free time during the months of September-November watching travel vlogs, reading blogs and travel guides, plotting transportation routes, making reservations, and stalking my favorite UK influencers on Insta for inspo – something I didn’t do as great of a job of the first time around, I admit. This helped to keep us on track and avoid wasting any precious time when sightseeing or getting from one location to another (i.e. figuring out whether to cab it, take the tube, or walk).

Because of this severe obsessive compulsive planning, however, I now feel like I can provide an awesome guide for you to take advantage of if you find yourself in London (especially during the holidays)!

Lodging & Transportation Tips

Whether you choose to stay in a hotel or Airbnb when abroad, if it’s your first time in the city, you may want to look into staying somewhere near or within walking distance of the main tourist attractions so you can catch ’em all more efficiently.

I am a hotel girl through and through (I work in the hotel industry, so it’s kind of my thang), so I don’t really have any tips on booking an Airbnb. But, if you have any suggestions for those looking to book in London, please feel free to leave them in the comments below! I’d love to hear the pros and cons of Airbnb in comparison to staying in a hotel.

Personally, I preferred staying in Westminster both times (last year: Hotel 41, this year: Conrad London St. James) because we were SO close to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, The London Eye, and much, much more.

But, if you would rather stay away from the hoards of gawking tourists, good on you! I get it! However, I would recommend looking into travel times in terms of getting to and from your hotel, attractions, and eateries. I would highly suggest downloading the app, Citymapper, to make your life a hell of a lot easier. This app will not only help you determine whether to take the tube, a cab, Uber, walk, etc. from place to place by giving you an ETA for each option, but also price out those options for you and even tell you how many calories you’ll burn per option. Clutch.

Now, I typically choose walking as my preferred method when in London because I enjoy marveling at the mixture of historic and modern architecture up close, and, well, just soaking up the fact that I’m in London (because I adore this damn city if I haven’t said that enough). However, after taking a stab at the London Underground system, or the tube (NOT the subway), as it’s affectionately known amongst Londoners, I found it was really convenient as well.

Let me be real here, I did NOT want to be a tube supporter originally because, well, I am a lazy b*tch and just didn’t want to waste any time trying to figure out the system when I could much more easily walk or hail a classic black cab. BUT, the tube is such a quintessential part of the London lifestyle (not to mention there was a tube station directly across from the Conrad), that I’m glad we gave it a go after all.

If you’re interested in trying your luck on the tube, you should 1.) learn how to obtain an Oyster card so you can actually use the tube, and 2.) study up on tube etiquette. Yes, there is, in fact, tube etiquette. Learn it, live it, love it.

For a detailed breakdown of all of the above, I would recommend checking out one of my favorite YouTubers, Jess, and her website/channel, Love and London. She is a UK transplant from the US who makes videos for people who are coming to visit London. Her channel was one of my absolute go-tos when I was preparing for my trips. Love her – she’s living my dream.

Where To Eat & Get Your Drink On

Now, for those of you who enjoy not only a delicious meal, but also a juicy moment for The Gram, I have a few suggestions for you. Mind you, there are SO many outstanding places to grub in London, that I couldn’t possibly talk about them all, so I’m only going to mention a few that I’ve actually dined at myself. However, stick around until the end of the blog and check out the Google Map I created with a ton of restaurant, bar, pub, afternoon tea, and attraction suggestions to see more!

Peggy Porschen Cakes: This gorgeous floral-clad, pastel pink bakeshop is not only an Instagrammer’s wet dream, but also an amazing spot to caffeinate and grab a sweet treat. Whether you start your morning off with a chocolate croissant and a giant cappuccino, or swing by for cakes and tea in the afternoon, you can’t go wrong with any of Peggy’s seasonal goodies.

Coppa Club (Tower Bridge): Again, this place is 100% Insta-worthy with a great menu to boot! The biggest draw to this restaurant is their one-of-a-kind pod seating that overlooks the gorgeous River Thames and Tower Bridge. Such a glam backdrop, lemme tell ya! The pods outside on the patio are decorated seasonally – in the Spring and Summer they have a tropical flare, whereas in the winter months, they are transformed into woodland igloos. Super cute, and they’re open from breakfast to late night seven days a week.

The Rooftop: I am a SUCKER for a good view, and this restaurant does not disappoint where views are involved. Tucked atop The Trafalgar St. James hotel, this rooftop eatery and bar features gorgeous bougie cocktails (my champagne lovers, you will die), light bites, sharing plates, and brunch options. Not to mention if you are lucky enough to grab a table on their outdoor patio, you’ll be awed by the beauty of the surrounding London skyline and Trafalgar Square below.

The Culpeper: Ugh, this place got me HOOKED on the concept of a traditional British Sunday Roast because they just do it so damn well. Now, for those of you who have never heard of “Sunday Roast” before, it is a meal enjoyed across the UK that is typically served on Sunday (hence the name, duh), consisting of some type of roasted meat (whether that be chicken, beef, etc.), potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, vegetables, and usually a gravy of some sort. There are many delicious takes on this classic meal all over London (especially at the pubs), but The Culpeper puts just the right modern twist on theirs to leave you wanting more. I highly recommend, and would gladly go again and again, especially if I’m looking to warm up after a long, brisk winter day in the city.

Sketch: Ahh, the ultimate paradise for influencers and basic b’s of all kinds. Sketch truly lives up to its name, as it is one of the most quirky, yet elegant, restaurants I’ve ever been to. With its French flare and upscale menus, it’s definitely one of those “treat yoself” experiences. There are multiple dining rooms within the restaurant that operate for different meals/settings. For instance, the iconic PFG (pink feed goals) Gallery only serves afternoon tea and dinner, The Lecture Room & Library serve lunch and dinner, The Glade serves breakfast, lunch, and cocktails, The Parlour is all day dining / a music & cocktail bar, and, finally, the East Bar & Pods serve up delicious libations. If you’re looking for a dining experience you surely won’t forget, you can’t beat Sketch’s overall vibe, wacky uniforms, extreme decor, and unique cuisine.

Caffè Concerto: If you’re looking for a cute, classic spot for any meal of the day, I’d recommend Caffè Concerto (especially for breakfast – loved their healthier takes on a traditional full English breakfast). There are various branches of this cafe all over London (we went to the Whitehall location) that serve breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and carry a wide variety of pastries and cakes. Very yum.

Attractions & Tours

So, I know I’ve been rambling on for ages at this point, but I couldn’t end the post without mentioning a few of my favorite attractions and tour ideas.

Classic City Tours: Enjoy a tour in and around the city kicked back with the ragtop down in a classic Morris Minor. Nick, our driver, and Judy, our tour guide, were beyond kind and extremely knowledgeable. We were able to communicate with Nick pre-tour and customize our route. We let him know the areas we really wanted to see, and we hit them all and then some! We saw everything from Westminster to Borough Market to Abbey Road to Notting Hill. You name it, we saw it.

The Coca-Cola London Eye – but with an upgrade: The London Eye is an experience you won’t want to miss when you’re in London (especially if it’s your first time, like, it’s a must in my book), as it offers some of the most gorgeous views of Westminster and the city out there. BUT, my suggestion isn’t just to do The London Eye. Do The London Eye WITH AN UPGRADE. Yes, this will be more expensive, but, damn it, you guys, it is so worth it! Pick from one of the VIP experiences offered and book during sunset, if available, and you will not regret it. You get access to the Eye Lounge pre-boarding, get to skip the always daunting queue (or “line” for my Americans), and you don’t have to share your pod with as many people, which allows for a more personalized experience and room to snap those Insta pics. Seriously, these are some of my favorite shots of London.

Stonehenge Tour: Now, if you’re not fascinated by the prospect of Stonehenge, well, this suggestion isn’t for you, but if you are, I most definitely recommend taking a tour outside London to see the stones. Unless you’re limited on time, which I totally understand, I would recommend booking a full day tour that includes not only Stonehenge, but also a few other classic stops along the way. My suggestion would be to check out this tour, or one like it, that includes stops in Salisbury, where you can enjoy afternoon tea near the gorgeous Salisbury Cathedral, and Bath, home to the infamous Roman Baths. OR if you’re a real Stonehenge-aholic, look for a tour that allows you to get within the inner circle of the stones for a real up-close-and-personal experience. This will have a higher price tag on it, but super cool and something that most tourists flocking to the stones won’t have the option to do.

Christmas Attractions: London is home to some of the most festive sights you will ever see, and not short of fabulous holiday attractions like Christmas markets, festivals, ice skating rinks, shopping, and OTT street lights. If you’re lucky enough to visit London during Christmastime, I would recommend looking into the following: Winter Wonderland (festival), Christmas By The River (market), Christmas In Leicester Square (market), Southbank Centre Winter Festival (market), Covent Garden (lights/market), Oxford Street (lights/shopping), Carnaby Street (lights/shopping), Regent Street (lights/shopping), Kew Gardens (lights), Harrods (shopping), Liberty London (shopping), The Natural History Museum (ice skating), Tower of London (ice skating), and Skate at Somerset House (ice skating). There are so many more places you can go to get jolly AF in this city, so do your research and enjoy!

Bus Tours: We’ve all seen the iconic red double decker buses that London is known for, but if you want to amp up the experience a bit, look into a more unique bus tour. Sure, the Big Bus hop-on-hop off tours are classic, but I’d also suggest looking into B Bakery’s Afternoon Tea Bus Tour (there’s even a boozy option – the Gin Lovers Tour), a James Bond or Harry Potter Bus Tour, The Ghost Bus Tours, or even an evening Beatles-inspired bus tour. No matter which you choose, you’re sure to have a great time and see the city in a special way.

Well, darlings, that’s all from me for now. I hope you enjoyed this London guide, and, if so, let me know in the comments.

Also, don’t forget to check out my Google map below where I’ve plotted out some of my favorite hotels, restaurants, pubs, monuments, and attractions across London to help you navigate and plan your next trip to my favorite city in the world.

Until next time, babes. Cheers!

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Kaitlin + LS

Nine-to-fiver by day, blogger by night, and avid tea spiller always. Join me here on LS as I share my tips, tricks, travels, and personal style inspo.

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