This past weekend I went to London to visit my sorority sisters who are studying abroad for the month of May. I was bursting with excitement to see them, but it was very difficult to tell them goodbye after just three short days. I made the best of it and we lived it up in the short time we did have together. I stayed at the Comfort Inn Buckingham Palace with their class and it was very nice and centrally located. It was two blocks from Victoria station and about a 10 minute walk from Buckingham Palace. There were two Comfort Inns located on that road so be sure you determine which one you want to reserve because our hotel was much newer than the other one.
I had been to London two times before this visit a few years back. I didn’t think it was possible, but each visit gets better every time!! It is such a beautiful city and there are so many historical things to explore. I gain a greater love for the city each time I visit. I took the Eurostar train from Belgium into London. It was about a two hour trip. It was nice to have a break from flying. I suggest you purchase an Oyster Card when you arrive to use for public transportation to get around the big city more economically. I inquired about how much money I should put on it for the amount of days I would be in the city. For three days, I deposited 20 pounds on my card and it was the perfect amount for the number of days I was visiting. I actually used mine a lot. When you return it to the visitor center in the station, you get your five pound deposit back and your remaining balance. London is a very big city, so in order to see all there is to see you will definitely need to use public transportation.
~NOTE: The UK’s currency is the pound sterling. Unfortunately, the conversion rate from pounds to dollars/euros isn’t the greatest so everything is a little more expensive than most places, but London itself is an expensive city.
The Museum of London
The Museum of London is a great place to visit to learn about the history of London ranging from the Great London Fire to the Blitz. The museum has an array of exhibitions which provide a great deal of information about specific events and facts related to London. Admission is FREE and there is FREE WIFI. It is located about six minutes away (walking) from the Barbican underground stop.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
WOW! St. Paul’s Cathedral will always be one of my favorite cathedrals and is of the English Baroque style. It was built in 1675 and is the church where Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married in 1981. Admission is 16 pounds for adults and seven pounds for children. THIS IS A MUST SEE!! It is a beautiful church and you should definitely take the stairs up to the whispering gallery. They also have audio guides available (free of charge). Be sure to visit the crypt beneath the church. This is where Lord Nelson is buried. Winston Churchill’s service was held in St. Paul’s as well.
~NOTE: Pictures are NOT permitted inside St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The Churchill War Rooms
I am so glad I got to visit these War Rooms and the Churchill Museum. Admission was 16 pounds and if you are interested in the history of the London Blitz and Churchill’s influence I highly recommend going!! Audio guides are available as well. I suggest booking your ticket in advance to ensure admission.
There are an abundance of Pubs throughout the city and can be found on just about every corner in London, but remember, you must order your food and drink at the bar. No one is going to come to your table to take your order. We ate at the Shakespeare pub one evening near Victoria station. It was quite good and reasonably priced with good service.
Wimbledon (founded 1877) was absolutely gorgeous and located in a quaint area. For those of you who don’t know, the Wimbledon Championship is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. Its venue is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. London only allows 39,000 people to be on the property during the tournament, which is not that many when you look at other top sporting events in the world. Apart from the championship, Wimbledon is a prestigious private tennis club with 590 members and no more. The one thing that really interested me and one point they emphasized during the tour is the following quote, “Wimbledon doesn’t care about how much money is in your bank account.” The tour guide elaborated by explaining that to be approved as a member you must demonstrate decent tennis skills, an interest in being an active member not a passive one, and at least three recommendations from current life time members. The yearly membership fee is only 95 pounds!!! That was far less expensive than expected considering that it is the most prestigious tennis club in the world. In order to be a member, you are also required to attend a social event where club members observe your behavior and how you interact with other members. Of course, you must always wear white when you play! The main concern is about your skills on the court and how you represent yourself in society as a good citizen. Leave your money at home. If you have children under the age of 18 they also have access to use the facilities for free as well, but once children reach the age of 18, they must join the waiting list. Currently there are 550 people on the waiting list. There were six members who passed away last year, so a few of those waiting will be chosen.
While on the two hour tour we got to see the courts, the broadcasting facilities, the journalism rooms, the players private tea lawn, and their private facilities. We also got a glimpse into the locker rooms but you couldn’t go in because there were actually members there to play tennis. You are also not allowed to take pictures of the members while they are playing. We then got to see multiple grass courts including centre court. We also got to see where the players collect their prize money and where they are picked up in their private car provided by Wimbledon after their day of play. They are either given a Jaguar or a Range Rover. The vehicles are given out depending on the player’s height and how many people are in the player’s private party.
After the conclusion of the tour, we went into the museum which is absolutely beautiful! Many tennis outfits of past champions are on display and also both the men’s and women’s trophies. It is a great way to learn even more history about Wimbledon. The admission fee is 25 pounds per adult to tour the full facility and museum, but there is a less expensive option to only see centre court and the museum. I highly recommend touring the entire facility while you are there and seeing the museum. The museum does include audio guides.
I really enjoyed Kensington!! There is a fashion exhibit there that contains all of Diana’s dresses and it is magnificent. The grounds of Kensington are beautiful and highly suggest visiting this famous palace. You can access Kensington from the underground stop called “High Street Kensington”. Diana and Charles lived in Kensington Palace and that is where William and Harry were raised. Diana continued to live in Kensington even after their divorce. It is located in Kensington Gardens and is easy to get to.
~Fun fact: It will soon be the full-time residence of William and Kate. They will occupy the storied halls later this year. Prince Harry lives there as well.
THIS IS A MUST MUST MUST SEE!! Go get your picture in front of the palace and watch the changing of the guards! If you plan your travel at the right time you can even tour Buckingham Palace in August and September when the Queen is living in her summer home Balmoral. I got to tour Buckingham the first time I went to London and it was amazing!! You get to see 19 gorgeous state rooms! I recommend that you plan your trip accordingly and book your tickets in advance.
I went to the broadway show, Kinky Boots, at the Adelphi Theater. You can take the metro to Embankment (District and Circle Lines). My friends and I purchased our tickets for 22 pounds each which is actually very inexpensive for a broadway show. I am a theater buff and have seen many of the shows currently on stage, but not this one. All of the shows are wonderful with incredible talent, so just pick out the show that appeals to you the most! You can’t go wrong with any of them.
List of MUST SEES that I saw on previous trips to London:
- Tower Bridge
- The Tower of London-Crown Jewels
- Tour of Buckingham Palace in August or September only (Queen is at Summer Palace, Balmoral)
- The Royal Mews (The Royal Carriages)
- Watch the “Changing of the Guard”
- Diana’s Memorial
- Westminster Abbey
- Take a trip out to Windsor Palace, it’s beautiful!!!!!
- The London Eye
- Hyde Park
- The Globe Theater
P.S. “Mind the Gap”