We did a short two days in London before taking the train up to Edinburgh. And surprisingly, got a good taste of what London was all about in that short amount of time.
We love doing short first-time stays in new cities, that way we know if we want to come back for an extended stay later (we’re exploring more of Edinburgh this October).
We flew into the Gatwick Airport in London using Wowair (after stopping in Iceland for 5 days).
Hopping on the tube was super easy from the Gatwick airport. T-Mobile has great international plans, so we were able to use the public transit option on the Google maps app, but I also read on a few blogs to download another app called Citymapper. And it was great, too! I would highly recommend using both to see which you prefer.
Here in Los Angeles, we have a huge car culture, so public transportation can sometimes be a daunting task, but these two apps made it super easy. The apps will tell you walking directions to each station, which platform to get on, and also tell you when your stop is coming up so you get off the train at the right place.
Buy an Oyster card, you can travel in Zone 1 for a capped rate per day. Very easy and cheap:
When all else fails: ask the locals. Someone is always willing to help you find your way.
I got lazy in London and left my big Canon camera at the flat most of the time. So, thanks for enjoying the phone photos I took everywhere.
We stayed at a great little Airbnb near Tower Bridge and St. Katharine Docks for our two days there. Entire private flat, two bedrooms, and super walkable (and affordable!). Here’s the link:
Initial thoughts: everyone in London is so well dressed! A far cry from the relaxed beach bums in LA. 🙂 Also, we loved that everyone goes to the pub right after work (see below in Leadenhall Market). We wandered around Tower of London, all around the bridge, over the bridge, and the catacombs at All Hollows.
Drank beer at a few pubs along the way.
Enjoyed some walks in the evening by Tower Bridge:
The second day, we took the tube west to check out Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.
Buckingham is a bit crowded, but easy to get right to the fence and see the changing of the guards (they were not wearing the traditional red outfits the day we were there).
We initially were a little sad when we saw Westminster Abbey was closed for tours due to Parliament. BUT, we learned from one of the ticket sellers that instead of tours, you can still see part of the grounds, Westminster Hall, and watch the Parliament discussions. You go through security and then are instructed where you go. You can leave when you’d like to as well.
I didn’t take photos in Parliament, because well, it wasn’t allowed. Google it though, and you’ll see the rows of green benches.
I geeked out at Leadenhall Market, which inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter (and where they filmed some of it, too!)
And more beer at Old Tom’s Bar:
We ended up eating at The Dickens Inn several times. We had the same waiter each time, a wonderful Italian man; I wish I remembered his name. He was so sweet and treated us like locals. Go to this restaurant! Not only was it convenient to where we stayed, but we actually stayed at Tower Bridge off a recommendation to be near Dickens Inn from a friend of mine who grew up in London. Every other restaurant just didn’t seem as inviting or unique to the “England experience” that we wanted.
We tried a great little French breakfast place, Côte Brasserie, on the morning we left London and that was also right on St. Katharine Docks. Also extremely welcoming service and great food. As you can see: the early bird gets the entire restaurant. You’d think by my photos that London is deserted….
We booked tickets from King’s Cross to Edinburgh here: https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com
Kings Cross station itself is really beautiful, too.
We left at 11a on a Wednesday and the train was practically empty (this was in October).
So, our quick love affair with London was over. Off to Scotland we go!