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A lot of you ask how I can travel like I do for short periods of time and still see everything so I thought I would write out what I did from my last trip to London. I should point out that I love this city and have been there a dozen times so I have done most of the things on a deeper level than what I suggest below. Also, as someone who travels by herself, I tried to give the best recommendations while making sure you are comfortable if you're solo styles like me. But this of course is just a guide of different ways you can spend your time in London and see ALL OF THE THINGS (and if you’re reading this while planning a trip there, I am super jealous and have FOMO).
Arrive at Heathrow in the afternoon. Take the Heathrow Express directly to Paddington Station. You can grab a taxi or the tube here to go wherever you need to.
You’re going to want to take a nap but DO NOT. This is how you’re going to survive and beat jetlag. Trust me on this.
Take the tube to Westminster. This is peak London with Big Ben (although under construction right now and currently looks like a Las Vegas casino parking structure), Parliament and Westminster Abby. This is where I go every time to feel like I am in London. You can walk around (and I will layout my favorite walking path later) or if you’re getting hungry (or always like I am), head to Covent Garden and my favorite pub- The White Lion!
The White Lion is classic London pub with the bar downstairs and the most adorable sit-down restaurant upstairs (complete with a dumb waiter). While famous for their dinner pies, I always order the fish and chips because it is not London without it and they do them right here.
When you finish dinner, walk around Covent garden and if you feel the need to get those Fitbit steps, you can walk over to Leister Square or Trafalgar Square.
One of my favorite chains in London is Pret-a-manger- think a healthy 7-11 meets Starbucks. While their coffee is divine (and trust me, you’re going to need it), the reason I love them is for their Daily Greens pressed juice that is grab-and-go but always fresh. I always grab one before heading out to explore.
Take the tube to Westminster but instead of heading out to see Parliament and Big Ben, head to the left and follow the signs to the embankment. I hope you're wearing comfy shoes because we’re going on a 5 mile walk.
Walk along the embankment and you will see some of the famous London Skyline including the London Eye and the Shard hotel (If you have longer than 72 hours, I highly recommend both).
You’ll walk to St. Pauls Cathedral- If you’re feeling up for even more cardio, you can climb the steps to the top of the dome. However, you have to commit to it- you cannot turn around if you get tired but trust me the views from the top are amazing.
Once you catch your breath, head back down and cross the Thames using the Millennium Bridge. Stop on the bridge and be a tourist like me because it’s a pretty awesome pic of new London + old London.
Once you walk over the bridge, you will be on the south bank, right by the globe Theater and the Tate Modern. If you have time, definitely go explore, but if not, keep heading south towards Tower Bridge.
You will know you are in the right spot when you start seeing more and more tourists haha. Tower Bridge is quintessential London! Stop and take as many pics and selfies as you want because it never gets old.
Follow the signs and cross the bridge. You can stop along the way and take in the sights of the Tower of London and all of the city.
Once you cross the bridge, you will be at the Tower of London. Follow the signs to the entrance. Again, if you have time, this is one of the top attractions of London with an incredible story and history. You can walk down to the water and take in more sights of the Tower Bridge and London.
Depending on your timing, you can either hop on the tube here and head back to your hotel or you can take a nice little Thames river cruise back to embankment.
This little 5-mile walk should only take a few hours so you will probably be getting hungry. I headed to Peggy Porschen because I am that basic Instagram bitch but there are tons of little cafes to stop and grab a bite to eat while resting your tired feet.
I recommend going back to the hotel and resting a couple hours before heading back out. London nightlife and theater are not to be missed. Head to a show (of course I recommend Hamilton, Wicked or Book of Mormon) and grab a drink nearby.
You will be feeling tired at this point so embrace it and get to bed somewhat early so you don’t get hit with jetlag.
Now that you have seen most of the touristy things, time to start acting like a local and go shopping! London has incredible shops and streets full of stores wanting to take your money (just remember, the exchange rate kinda sucks so I tend to buy things I can only get in London or souvenirs).
Oxford Street is home to the famous Selfridges (watch the PBS show too because its amazing). Selfridges is like Harrods but not nearly as intimidating and doesn’t require you to bring snacks in case you get lost (although I did get trapped in the elevator for a few minutes haha). Aubaine at Selfridges is another Instagram fav- While I was not personally impressed with the food, they have rosé so it makes up for it haha.
After eating, drinking and buying all the things, you will probably feel like you need to workout… and have no fear, Lauren’s 5k guide to London is here!
Lauren's London 5K
I'm including a screengrab from my apple watch of the path I took but will write it out here as well. I have found this is the best way to see more of the sights while getting your heart rate up and burning off some of the fish and chips.
Get off the tube at embankment and get ready to go!
Follow the signs for Trafalgar square and say hi to the Lions (and if you’re feeling like Mary Poppins, feed the birds! – except don’t, they frown upon that).
Head south through the gate and you will end up on “the mall”.
Run down the mall/ St. James Park and you will end up at Buckingham Palace. Say hi to the queen (and Harry) and circle around.
Run down (or through) St. James Park- Just don’t get attacked by any of the swans- They are actually somewhat vicious but you will get in trouble if you hurt them so don’t let them hurt you.
You will end up back at Westminster Abbey, Parliament and Big Ben. Run across Westminster Bridge, and then back and head down the embankment back to the tube…
And VOILA! A very touristy but distracting 5k!
I should note you could also do this as a normal walk and expand to Leister Square and Covent Gardens but I am a fan of “symmetry” and the 5k worked for me haha.
If you sweat like I do, be prepared to get looks on the tube as you head back to your hotel- but whatever, you’ll be having an endorphin high so Yay you!
Depending on what you’re craving for dinner, there are lots of options- and contrary to popular belief, British food is actually really good. Dishoom is super popular if you’re craving Indian and Maggie Jones is perfect if you’re looking for a side of history and royalty with your chicken (which is really really good).
End the night at Bob Bob Ricard and a glass of bubbly where you can literally request champagne on demand!
Time to head home. I usually try to go for a walk and take in “London” before heading to the airport since I know I will be sitting for 10+ hours on the plane. If you are flying out of Heathrow, take the Heathrow Express from Paddington- If you’re out of Gatwick, there is the Gatwick Express out of Victoria.
Get to the airport a little early so you can do some shopping since Duty Free!!! I also usually buy a Longchamp bag since they are like $100 cheaper than back home (#treatyoself).
Pass out on the plane while dreaming of your next trip to my favorite city in the world!