AJ Travels :: London

London is one of the coolest cities I've been to. I love the juxtaposition of 1,000 year old buildings next to futuristic glass towers. It's only an hour flight from Dublin, so we decided to spend a few days exploring the city and being SUPER tourists.

We normally like to take a more leisurely approach to exploring cities, taking it a neighborhood at a time and just seeing where the day takes us. Since we only had four days in London, though, we decided to go full throttle and buy The London Pass for a few days of touristy fun. If you aren't familiar, you pay one price and have access to over 60 attractions including Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, and the Tower Bridge. We bought the pass directly from the app on our phones, and pulled it up in Passbook on iPhone to get into all of the attractions we decided to visit. Often this meant skipping a long line, and since we just had to scan the pass and go, it was much quicker than checking out at every place. We saved about $50 or so on tickets doing a two-day pass. My only regret is that we didn't buy the three-day pass, since it was only £6 more. We could have fit another 1-2 places into our last day since our plane left so late.

Our first day, we checked into our hotel (Park Plaza Westminster Bridge - great location!) and decided to book a tour of The Palace of Westminster to learn all about UK Parliament. I highly recommend booking the guided tour - we got to access parts of the palace that the audio tours did not.

Our next day began our super tourist day, and the first day of using London Pass. We managed to fit a LOT into our day, starting with a trip to Shakespeare's Globe, a recreation of his theatre and museum. As a theatre nerd, I thoroughly enjoyed learning the history! Next, we made our way to the Tower Bridge, wandering through the Borough Market (it smells amazing!) and dropping into the Southwark Cathedral

Next up, a walk across the top of the Tower Bridge. You can walk across glass and watch the cars below, finishing your tour in the engine rooms to learn all about how they raise and lower the bridge. Our guide told us that during peak season in the summer, they can raise and lower the bridge up to 12 times a day!

Second stop: The Tower of London, which is absolutely huge and amazing. This is where they keep the Crown Jewels, which was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. There's so much to explore here, we spent over two hours there. By the time we had finished, it was getting dark so we decided to try The London Bridge Experience next, something we might not have discovered if it were not on the pass attractions. This was by far the weirdest thing we did - the tour goes through the tombs under the bridge, but is actually kind of hilarious. It ends in a completely unrelated haunted house. 

After so many unnecessary chainsaws (seriously, this tour was so weird), we dropped into The Shard for a few cocktails while taking in a gorgeous view of the city. Protip: It costs £26 to book a ticket to the viewing gallery, but for free you can get the same view at Aqua Shard, and enjoy a cocktail while looking down on the city. After a wine or two, we headed to Coppa for dinner. I highly recommend Coppa! In the winter, they put igloos on the patio so you can dine with a view, and their prices were extremely reasonable. The Crispy Fried Truffled Gnocchi was *SO* delish. Now that I've literally told you everything in the next story, see it for yourself:

We got an early start the next morning, heading to Westminster Abbey. I basically devoured The Crown the week before we left, so seeing the place of so many royal weddings and coronations for myself was absolutely amazing. We did the audio tour on this one, which my husband was a little skeptical of, but ended up thoroughly enjoying. It's insanely old and beautiful, and one of my favorite things we did in London. It takes about two hours to get through if you listen to all of the guides and really take your time to explore. 

After that, we headed to the Churchill War Rooms, a museum and audio tour through the WW2. Let me start by saying that this is a fascinating tour. I definitely was more interested after watching The Crown, and Winston Churchill was such an interesting man. That being said - we were in there for over two hours! I was not expecting the tour to take that long. You'll want to make sure you have a solid chunk of day to tackle the whole museum. 

After a full day of tourist stuff, we did the most touristy thing of all - Warner Brother's Studio Tour, where they filmed a large amount of Harry Potter. Nerd alert! It was, by far, one of the most magical things I've seen. They have a large amount of sets, props, and costumes from the movies, and the tour reveals all sorts of interesting bits of movie magic. We booked the last tour of the day - 6:30 - which actually was pretty nice, because as rooms cleared out, you could get really great photos (like the one we got in the Great Hall!). This tour takes 2-3 hours, and I'm glad we did a night tour, since most other attractions are closed at night. It, of course, deserved a story all its own:

Our final day in London was a little more low key. We ate some proper English pies at the cutest little pie shop: Pieminister (CUTE NAME ALERT), explored the Tate Modern, and then spent the rest of our evening in a cozy wine bar in Leadenhall Market: Broker's Wine Bar & Restaurant. The wine was cheap, the pours were good, and they played nothing but David Bowie and George Michael. Plus, the owner came around and gave us snacks after an hour or so, which is clearly the way to my heart.

I loved London, and cannot wait to go back. I have a long list of other restaurants, bars, and attractions I want to see on our next trip! If you need me, I'll be looking up tickets for the summer.