Oh London, how I love you. This city brings me so much joy. The first time I visited London, I was a sophomore in high school, and from that day forward, I adored it – even more than Paris!
My study abroad group was in London for a long weekend, and then I went back after my classes ended to visit one of my sweet friends from my church who moved there with her husband. I’ll recap both trips to London in this post!
During my trip to London, my group stayed in a hostel literally feet from St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was a pretty nice view… 😉
From the first second we got off of our bus, I remembered why I loved London so much in the first place. The architecture, people, and culture speak to me like few other cities do!
From St. Paul’s, we walked about a mile and a half to the London Eye. I literally could not stop smiling as I took the city in. I was scared of heights as a child, which is why my family didn’t go on the London Eye when we were there, but the view is AMAZING. I thought it was so worth it. I definitely recommend going at sunset, which is when we were there. Watching the sun go down behind the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben was magical (which is why I have about 100 photos of it).
After the London Eye, my friends and I decided to walk to Buckingham Palace. It’s a long walk, but again – so worth it. I love to walk around cities as much as possible because you get to know it so much better. Last time I was in London, my family and I were able to go inside the palace, which was incredible. This time, we just walked around St. James’ Park and then went right up to the gate of the palace to try to see the Queen. 😉 I actually saw a light go on and off in one of the windows – which gave me an “oh right, this is someone’s real home!” moment.
On our second day in London, we started off with Westminster Abbey. I can’t help but go into any cathedral I see, and Westminster is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, photos aren’t allowed (I tried to take one anyway and got caught!) so I don’t have any of the inside, but you should visit it and be surprised!
My favorite memories from Westminster:
- Walking down the center of the cathedral with the majestic music from the audio guide ringing in my ears and feeling like it was my coronation. 😉
- The Henry VII chapel was one of the best parts – both because of the architecture and because of the historical figures who are buried there. When I walked up into the chapel, its beauty actually took my breath away. I wish I had a picture to share! This is where Elizabeth I and Mary I are buried, and so many more people that I’m fascinated by!
- Poet’s Corner is another famous spot in Westminster – so many poets, authors, and playwrights are buried there, including Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, and Robert Browning!
We also visited the Churchill War Rooms. I couldn’t believe I was actually walking through the secret bunker where Churchill and his Cabinet lived and directed the British war effort during World War II. It was amazing to see Churchill’s books and maps, plus I noticed that they had the same breadbox in the kitchen that my mom has today!
After the war rooms, we took a boat from Parliament to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. I fell asleep on the boat because I was so relaxed! We were also able to climb to the top of Tower Bridge and look out on the city and down to the Thames and all of the cars on the bridge. It was such a cool experience!
The Tower of London is probably my favorite historical site in the city because of the fascinating stories that it contains. Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey are two of my favorite historical figures, and both were executed in the Tower during the reign of the Tudors. Elizabeth I was also imprisoned here for a time by her sister before she became queen. It shocks me that a place that is so beautiful contained so much sadness.
There’s a legend that if the Tower ravens ever leave, then the monarchy and the country will fall – but thankfully I spotted lots of ravens!
London was wonderful with my study abroad group, but it was completely different to experience it with my friend who actually lives there! We met at King’s Cross station after I got back from Scotland, and I was able to learn so much from her about what it’s like to really live in London. Every time we took the Tube or a train, she made sure to explain everything to me so that I knew why she got off at certain stops or got on certain cars. It was so fascinating!
The first morning that I crashed with my friend and her husband, her husband baked scones for breakfast. I cannot even describe to you the deliciousness that is homemade scones with strawberries and clotted cream. He sent me the recipe and I recreated them with my sisters at home, but they weren’t quite as good as his!
After scones, my friend and I left for the British Museum! This was probably what I was looking forward to the most in London! I could spend my entire life in museums, quite honestly. That’s probably why I identified so strongly with the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as a child- where a brother and sister run away to live in a museum. The British Museum is probably my favorite of all time. The exterior is just beautiful, for one thing, but there’s thousands of years of history packed inside!
Favorite works from the British Museum:
- The Rosetta Stone
- The Elgin marbles from the Parthenon
- The Sutton Hoo war ship
- The Standard of Ur
- All of the mummies from the Egyptian exhibit
- The Enlightenment exhibit
After we left the British Museum, my friend and I stopped for afternoon tea. This was another one of my favorite parts of the trip! We drank Earl Grey out of teacups and ate Victoria sponges, scones, and macarons. It was raining outside, but warm and cozy inside with the tea! Afternoon tea is such a special time, so I wouldn’t want to do it too often or it might lose its magic!
Another place that I visited with my friend and her husband that I highly recommend checking out was Shoreditch. This part of London used to be run-down, but now it’s vibrant and creative. I just loved Shoreditch and could barely talk because I was taking everything in! Here you should just walk around and observe the people and the street performers. It’s relaxed and super hip!
That was such a special time with my friend – I loved seeing what it’s really like to be a Londoner (aka my dream!)
Other favorites from London:
- Tate Modern Art Museum
- Shakespeare’s Globe
- The Millennium Bridge
- The Emirates Air Line
- Canary Wharf
p.s. check out my Oxford travel guide for more of my study abroad adventures!