In September 2022, I had the chance to go on a trip to London, the capital city of England. London has been on my bucket list for a long time. I had the whole trip planned out for 2020, only for the whole world to change thanks to COVID-19. The two years of staying at home amplified my excitement when I stepped on the airplane.
London is so big and has so much to offer, and everybody’s interests can be quite different (as evidenced by the difference between the trips that my friends and I took separately, despite going to the same city). Therefore, instead of sharing with you my detailed itinerary, I thought I would switch it up a little bit, and share with you my impressions of London, with tips sprinkled throughout. Some of these surprised me as well, so read on to find out more about my trip to London and my impressions!
London has so much offer
London is such a vibrant city. There are so many things you can do in London. There are tons of restaurants, shows, movies, museums, historical buildings, you name it. Whether you like modern or ancient, loud or quiet, you can most definitely find something that piques your interest.
London has so many museums
If you love museums as I do, you will enjoy your trip to London. There are over 170 museums in London, many of which are completely free!
Here were the museums in London that I visited:
- The British Museum
- The National Gallery
- Tate Modern
- The Tower of London
- Museum of Freemasonry (they had an open doors day when I passed by, so I walked in!)
- Charles Dickens Museum (I love Charles Dickens; The Tale of Two Cities is one of my favourite novels. Being able to visit where Charles Dickens used to live was a very nice experience)
Other museums that I will go visit on my next trip to London:
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- The Science Museum
- The National History Museum
There are also many other museums, like the London Transport Museum if you love the double deckers, the Imperial War Museum, and so many more!
The transportation system is epic
Coming from Toronto where our TTC is a straight line and a U, I loved London’s public transportation system so much more. I especially loved the trains. They were so fast and on time 99% of the time (that is counting a one-minute delay as a delay).
If you want to save money, I highly recommend that you stay in a town outside of London and then take the train to London. The hotel prices are drastically reduced if you are willing to travel a bit on the train. I love trains, so it was a bonus to be able to ride them every day.
Depending on how long you are staying, you may want to purchase either a weekly or a monthly train pass. Note that if you want to buy either kind, they will ask that you have a photocard. The photocard is free to get, but you do need to provide a passport photo, so make sure you bring one with you.
I used an app called “Trainline” when I was travelling in and around London. It was truly a great app. You can find the latest train schedules, buy tickets, and get refunds, all through the app.
The architecture in London is absolutely beautiful
I loved the architecture in London. It is so different from downtown Toronto where all you see are skyscrapers. There are still skyscrapers in London, no doubt, but no matter where you look, you can see lots of beautiful buildings that flaunt the beauty of history. Even some of the train stations had a history to tell.
Take day trips from London if you can
London is a beautiful city full of history, but day trips from London are just as amazing.
I initially planned to go to Oxford and Cambridge to see the universities, but the trip was cancelled so I ended up switching my plan and went to Stonehenge instead. The UNESCO world heritage site was beautiful. You can check out my detailed review of the historical site here.
Londoners are friendly
For some reason, before going to London, I had this impression that Londoners could be cold, and they walk very fast and mind only their business.
I was so wrong. Whenever I asked for directions, the locals would always help me and patiently point things out to me. I only met one rude person, who was standing in front of a church (how ironic!).
Groceries are not as expensive as I thought
I always thought that London is an expensive city, so I was surprised to find that the most common loaves of bread only cost around 60 pence per loaf, and 2L of milk cost only around £1.50.
Coffee is expensive though, with your typical espresso starting at around £2.50, and lattes, cappuccinos and other specialty drinks are more expensive. The price ratio between sandwiches and other quick snacks and coffee in coffee shops threw me off a bit. The ratio is much narrower than what you see in Canada, where food offerings are priced much higher than coffee. It was very interesting to see how different the relative prices of the same items can be across different countries.
Real estate, however, is still high, and so is rent.
No drip coffee!
Speaking of coffee, one huge surprise I found was that there was no drip coffee anywhere to be found. Not even in Starbucks. There was no blonde, no Pike Place, ever! I asked some of my British friends, and they looked at me with a confused expression, “what is drip coffee?”
Espressos had a much stronger effect on me than coffee. I can feel the sudden rush of adrenalin much more strongly than when I just sip on drip coffee in Canada. I had a hard time finishing the espressos I ordered, but it was nonetheless an interesting experience.
Everybody walks on the left!
People drive on the left and walk on the left. So keep left!
However, on escalators, people still stand on the right. If you want to pass, you pass on the left. This is surprisingly the same as in North America.
As I mentioned, London has so much to offer. My trip to London was only a few days, so I only saw the tip of the iceberg. There is still a long list of things I’d love to do. Here are some other top recommendations that I have.
Harry Potter Studio Tour
The Harry Potter Studio Tour is a hugely popular tour among many people I met. A friend of mine was a huge Harry Potter fan, so her trip to London almost entirely consisted of everything Harry Potter.
The Harry Potter Studio Tour is a must if you are also a Harry Potter fan. The destination is a 50-minutes drive from London. You can also go with a local tour group; many of them offer day trips to the Harry Potter Studio.
Restaurants and afternoon teas
London has amazing restaurants. They also have a long list of Michelin-starred restaurants. Some of the restaurants are reasonably affordable, at around £30-40 per person. Still expensive, but much less expensive than the ones in Toronto where the minimum is $150 per person.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to dine at many restaurants. I only went to one afternoon tea place, because, who doesn’t do afternoon tea while in the UK!
I wish I could have stayed longer to try more restaurants and afternoon tea lounges!
A tribute to Queen Elizabeth II
I was in the UK when the Queen passed. It was a solemn moment. Her photos were everywhere, in all the streets, the billboards, and the entrances of buildings. Flowers were everywhere. I will remember this forever.
I felt at ease and happy in London. There is still so much more to see in London and its surroundings, and I cannot wait to go back at some point.