Let me begin by saying I am not a travel writer nor do I think you should use my travel diary as a means for planning a trip to London*. This is my first London experience so if you want a completely honest account from a Seattleite, you’ve come to the right place. In the age of travel blogs and Instagram, we see a lot of perfect content which makes traveling look more glam than it always is. I love to read professional travel blogs but it is nice to see how “real” people travel sometimes. *For planning purposes, I would recommend a local who is an absolute pro.
Without further ado, here is my first chunk of photos! I have plenty more that I took on my iPhone and shared a lot on my Instagram stories so if you follow me there, some of this may be familiar. (P.S. You can see my past travel Instagrams by searching #tinycupofcaketravels.)
1) The DoubleTree near the Tower of London is a great hotel – extremely clean, great service, and modern interiors. If you have an executive room they offer complimentary breakfast and every evening there’s a happy hour with unlimited beer, wine, and awesome hor d’oeuvres. (We loved the executive lounge a lot!) However, one side of the hotel was facing a huge construction site. A huge, noisy construction site. I would also note that while it’s conveniently 1 minute away from the Tower Hill tube stop, there’s really not a whole lot in the area for tourists.
2) Those that are pressed for time should skip the Tower of London. I honestly didn’t think it was worth the admission. It’s definitely fun to learn about British history and see a lot of really old stuff. However it feels pretty gimmicky and again, overpriced. By the way, it’s not accessible at all with cobbled roads, tons of stairs, and narrow paths.
This view of Tower Bridge is from inside the walls of the Tower of London however we also got an amazing view from our hotel. You can walk across the bridge or see it from alongside the water. Nearby are the Thames river cruises. The actual river is murky and not pretty, but I hear the views from the river are awesome. The bright blue doors you see above are doors to actual homes within the Tower of London walls. It blows my mind that people reside there, as it seems like such a tourist trap. Pretty cool to see but obviously, you have to keep your distance and there are guards everywhere.
Sadly, we didn’t visit during a time when Buckingham palace is open for public tours. It’s still an impressive place to visit even from the outside and you save 23 pounds, woohoo! Similar to all the popular tourist spots the grounds near the palace are filled with people. We didn’t get great photos of us outside of the palace because of the crowds either. (All of the amazing travel photos you see with no crowds in the background? Those were taken by extremely dedicated people who are willing to wake up at the crack of dawn. Not this girl. As much as I do love a good Insta opportunity, I also enjoy my sleep.)
Near Buckingham, I suggest taking a stroll through St. James’s Park. (It gave me major Boston Common vibes.) Honestly any place in London where you get a bit of greenery, water, and the historic architecture is a must see. I was constantly in awe at the beauty of all of the old buildings!
One thing to note if you’re visiting the touristy spots in London – you may want to research what restaurants you want to eat at beforehand and map out where they are. Assuming you do a lot of traveling on foot, there aren’t a lot of great spots near major attractions. Expect a lot of chains like Pret, some pubs, or just an overall lack of restaurants. You can walk for a few miles around the big attractions and not see a spot you’d want to dine in. Spoken from experience :)