Last February, I travelled to London for a month. Many have said to me that winter is not the best time to see the beautiful city, and I can only agree for weather reasons – freezing cold! But with proper cover and enough layers, you should be ok. In fact, at the end of my trip, London only proved that no season would make it unworthy of a visit – it’s so pretty!
I stayed for a month mainly for business, thus my typical weekdays were spent at work and in the evening, when it wasn’t sub zero, I would stroll around the city center and gaze upon how quiant yet impressive, modern yet elegant and busy yet solemn this European city is.
In this blog, I will be sharing with you a summary of how and where I spent my weekends in London. But before that, here are some facts to consider when planning your trip:
- London is divided into five zones, zones 1-2 are the most central areas and like the arrondissments in Paris, the higher the number, the further it is from the city center
- BUT – because the transportation system is superb, it is very easy to get around London by bus, subway (underground) or trains. If you are staying long like me, consider getting an Oyster Card that you can use anywhere within the city. I also tried using my credit card (visa contactless) once when I took the bus (my oyster card ran out of load). Check here for more information: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/contactless
- There’s a lot to see, and do. Majority if not all museums’ entrances are free, unless there’s a special installation/event that you’d like to visit
- Thursdays are late opening nights. Majority of the shops are open until 9-10pm – other days are only up to 8pm or earlier. They close extra early on Sundays, generally about 3-5pm.
All set, let’s go!
I had to start with all the tourist checklist. Ironically, the Big Ben is under construction so I would have to reserve that for my come back trip! 🙂
Notting Hill (Portobello Market, travel book shop, the blue door – you’d relate if you know the movie :-))
Abbey Road Studios
My dad is big fan of The Beatles and I grew up listening to their songs – kinda like my nursery rhymes so when I learned I was going to the UK, this place topped my list to go!
One of the historical buildings in London, which has now become a center of arts and culture. The building is pretty, and the place is picturesque. However please be aware that tripods are not allowed, a guard came to me after setting it up to say that it’s not allowed!
Houses of Parliament
I would say this was my first “wow” moment in London. It was far better in person than in photos. Definitely a must-see! Would’ve been much prettier with the Big Ben though.
I didn’t go inside the church. I felt that the view right here was already a reward
Ok, we all have heard of the London bridge but maybe what’s on your mind is not actually that bridge but this one:
Yes, this is the tower bridge. London bridge is right opposite it and it was literally just a bridge:
You can purchase a ticket to go up the Tower bridge with this view (which is pretty high)
St Paul’s Cathedral
Though I went on a Sunday, it wasn’t very much crowded. This is a very picturesque place, would you agree?
St Katherine’s Dock
This place concluded my weekend. I dined in at Kilikya, a Turkish restaurant. The ambiance was nice and very relaxing. My homesickness kicked in though, that’s why I went home straight right after eating, and explains why I only had these photos:
Hillsongs London at Drury Lane
My first weekend’s highlight! The service is held at the Apollo Victoria. It was very timely that they moved the service at this theatre as the West end show moved into the Dominion Theatre. God is full of surprise, Apollo Victoria was literally just 7 minutes walk from my apartment. For more info, check this out: https://hillsong.com/uk/
National History Museum (Friday night)
A rare moment in London seeing the National Museum all covered with snow! For someone who’s seeing it for the first time, don’t you think the snow added a magical-look twist to it?
I came here after work so I was rushing, did not manage to see the entire collection but this set up was enough for me to say that the place was huge.
And while I look for the V&A Museum which is very near to the National History Museum, the snow made me feel like Christmas is coming. Do you agree?
Victoria & Albert Museum (Friday night)
This is one of the museums that’s open late on Fridays. Christopher Robin’s Pooh had a special installation at the museum when I went and I paid £8 to enter – it was all worth it! I got to learn about the history of the character and the very creative author behind it.
The museum is HUGE. If you are an art enthusiast, I think you need at least 2-3 hours to enjoy the place
The weather condition made me completely unsure and hesitant to go to this park though based on my readings, it’s worth going. Eventually I was glad I did! It was freezing cold and just nice for a hot chocolate drink to kick off my second weekend in London nicely. This literally feels like walking in the winter wonderland!
I had to stuff myself with food as the cold weather was taking all my energy! I had a nice breakfast at the Lido Cafe. I imagine that during summer, people would prefer to sit outside as the cafe gives a nice view of the lake. For winter months, everyone make their way inside to feel warm (just like me)
Now this was a detour! I initially planned to go see the Roman bath, Stone henge and Windsor Castle. However, it wasn’t ideal due to the weather conditions, snow’s everywhere! My colleagues advised me not to go as even the marathon at the Roman bath area was cancelled due to weather uncertainties.
What to do, I shall still make the best of out my weekends in London right?
There are different ways you can take to go to Bicester Village. They have Shopping express bus and a private car service. I took the national train from Marylebone to Bicester which took me about 45 minutes. I paid £26.50 for two-way ticket.
I ate at the Farmshop. A bit pricey but the food was nice, and the cocktails too.
And my highlight at Bicester?! This dream bag!
OK. Did you see that happy face? Didn’t care about how messy my hair was. So inlove with my first Celine purchase (and probably it’ll take ages before I get my second piece)
Alright, let’s move on!
- Tate Modern
I must say this was my favorite museum visit in my whole stay! The place was very modern compared to the other museums I went to (V&A, National History, National Portrait Gallery). Don’t forget to go up to the roof top and be rewarded with the city view. Scroll down for a teaser 🙂
- Greenwich (Royal Observatory, The Prime Meridian)
Surreal! This place houses the prime meridian which divides the eastern and the western hemisphere.
On the way to the Royal Observatory, you’ll pass by the greenwich park which makes the long walk unnoticeable
Oops, and how can I forget the quaint houses accentuated by a color-pop doors like these:
- High Tea at OXO Tower
A very English kind of Sunday with my colleagues! I’m so glad to have experienced the real “high-tea” with the St Paul Cathedral view!
Tip: If you plan to have a high-tea and you’re are a light-eater like me, I encourage you to only have light soup for lunch or skip if you can. It’s so filling!! I couldn’t even eat breakfast the next day!
I spent my third weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland. Check out my blog about Edinburgh to find out how I spent my two-day weekend there.
And.. Last but definitely the least, a visit in London will not be complete without a visit to the Royal Family’s most famous palace:
- Buckingham Palace & St James Park
Probably the most unforgettable lunch break I’ve had! My colleague brought me here during our lunch break and I am so thankful to her! If not, I wouldn’t have had the chance to see the most famous Royal Family’s house. All because my weekend was so full that I (almost) forgot to pay a visit here.
Starting with a signature happy tourist pose:..And my “I’m not yet ready” pose:Finally, an instagrammable shot taken from the St James Park which is right next to the palace:
How come I feel I’ve seen so many places in London when I only had two weekends in fact? I guess my weekday spontaneous whereabouts played a huge part! Watch out for my weekdays whereabouts on my future blog post – from the National Portrait Gallery, famous landmarks such as the Trafalgar square, food adventures to shopping areas like the streets of Oxford, Regent, Bond, Mayfair, Picadilly Circus and a lot more!
After all, London is one of the cities that’s so easy to love. Its beauty is so effortless. It’s definitely worth my first-ever visit in Europe! A place that will always have a space in my heart 🙂