It was a long time coming, but we finally made a trip out to the U.K. We were able to spend 4 days in London exploring as much of the city as possible. Our days were broken up into two trips because we traveled to other cities/countries in between flying in and out of London. Even though our visit was interrupted with other travels, I feel like we still saw a lot of what the city has to offer.
Another thing to note, London is one of the cheapest airports to fly into when visiting Europe. So it’s a good starting and ending point if you’re looking to visit other countries as well.
Best Area to Stay in London for First-Time Visitors
In order to choose the best area for my trip, I first jotted down ideas of what I wanted to see during my 4 days in London. As many of you know and can probably tell from my photos, I love architecture and street photography so I was looking forward to visiting the mews.
Show me all the pretty facades, please.
If you’re like me, you’ll want to look for a place anywhere near Earl’s Court all the way up to Notting Hill.
If you love shopping and want to be close to plenty of high rated cafes and restaurants then check out the Carnaby area or anywhere near there.
Notice all the locations are surrounding Hyde Park. Since London is so big, I feel like staying around Hyde Park is a good plan for first-time visitors.
Hotel Moonlight– This was our first hotel located in Earl’s Court. We stayed in the cheapest room possible which is actually in the basement. I kept joking that London is so expensive that we have to sleep in the dungeon!
However, when we arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find that the room was lovely. We had plenty of space for 2. The room even had a little kitchen area.
Everything was spotless, the bed was comfortable, and I couldn’t be happier with the location of the hotel. If you’re interested in Hotel Moonlight, check availability here.
The Adria Boutique Hotel– It’s hard to choose a favorite hotel in London because all of our stays were fantastic, but the Adria really stood out to me. So much so that I made a whole blog post about it.
The Adria is located in South Kensington. It’s a traditional Victorian townhouse with a mix of modern touches and a facade worth photographing. The inside is so luxe and I really enjoyed the boutique feel. Plus, they offer quite a spread for breakfast. Click here for the latest prices.
Hotel Indigo in Leicester Square– Hotel Indigo is located in the West End’s theatre district near Chinatown and Soho/Carnaby. We were close to everything including the famous Regent Street. The view from our corner room was also pretty great.
I had cafes/restaurants listed that I wanted to try and when we stayed at Hotel Indigo we were within walking distance to most of them.
I booked the room with my IHG card anniversary points.
With our stay, we also got free drinks at the rooftop bar. As you can see, the view from the rooftop is gorgeous! Check availability here.
As always, Airbnb is a good option as well if you can find a cheaper price in an ideal area. We didn’t go with Airbnb for this trip because we were arriving early in London.
Whenever we arrive early, I like to book hotels so that they can hold my luggage until check-in time. You don’t want to be dragging luggage around while you explore a new place.
Some cities offer luggage lockers at the airports, train stations, or sometimes businesses offer this service, but it can be a hassle. And because of how Airbnb works, it’s not easy to get your host to hold your luggage when they’re trying to get guests checked out.
Therefore, hotels are the way to go if you’re landing at 8 am and check-in isn’t until 3 pm. If this is your first time trying Airbnb, click here for $40 off your first booking.
Where to Eat in London
London has plenty of well-rated restaurants and cafes. We were not disappointed with any of our meals! Apologies for my lack of food photos though, I’m usually too eager to eat to take any.
Over Under Coffee– This was right down the block from Hotel Moonlight and they offered coconut milk! The coffee was great and Jorge loved his avocado toast. They have various small plates to choose from for a quick breakfast. The place is tiny with seating for less than 10, but people seem to move in and out quickly.
Monmouth Coffee– Another coffee shop with great reviews and delicious coffee (no coconut milk though). I believe they have 2 locations. We visited the one in Covent Garden.
St. John’s Bakery– A little bakery located in Neal’s Yard (great photo spot). They offer cream/jelly stuffed doughnuts among other bread and pastries. Their bakery dog was wandering around the yard so that of course drew us in.
Bageriet– Heavenly Scandinavian pastries. I cannot wait to visit any part of Scandinavia *aiming for Copenhagen this year*. The pastries are always amazing and Bageriet did not let us down.
Pierre Herme– I was so happy to see that they have a location in London! We ran into this place as we were walking to Monmouth Coffee. These are some of my favorite macarons from Paris and a must try if you’re visiting London. I believe they also have a Laduree (a very popular Parisian shop) around the same area (Covent Garden) in case you want to compare them yourself.
26 Grains– Definitely stop here for breakfast one day. Everything is fresh and so good! I had such a simple breakfast but it was full of flavor. 26 Grains is also located in Neal’s Yard.
Addie’s Thai Cafe– We were in the mood for Thai food and standing right in front of The Churchill Arms. This is the gorgeous restaurant you see all over Instagram feeds (photo below).
We were about to go inside to eat, but as I read the reviews, I kept seeing how they have bad service and a limit of 1 hour per table because the place is so popular.
The popularity is more so based on how the restaurant looks not how great the food is. So I searched further for a place that had good reviews for the food, not the looks.
Addie’s kept coming up on top so we gave it a try and loved our meal! It seemed to be more of a local spot, which we always love finding.
Flat Iron– After limiting our food in Morocco, I was in the mood for a burger and J was in the mood for a steak. Flat Iron had great reviews (and long waits). We just wanted something simple and good.
Their menu is small, they specialize in flat iron steak so that’s essentially all that’s on the menu. The burger was a “special”. The food was excellent and worth the wait. We visited the Soho location and walked around the area as we waited.
Bailey’s Fish and Chips– A no-frills place with delicious fish & chips! Another restaurant filled with a lot of locals coming in and out. They only have a few chairs by a counter to eat, but the prices are great and the fish and chips (and mushy peas) are a must while in England.
What to Do in London in 4 Days
Considering we only spent 4 days in London, I’m very aware that we barely scratched the surface on all the things the city has to offer. Below I’ll list things we did and loved, and also things I wish we had time for.
Don’t miss afternoon tea! England is the land of tea and London is a popular place to experience it. I went with Charlie & the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea and loved the experience! We got gold chocolate eggs and everything. I booked our tea ahead of time with One Aldwych.
Afternoon tea can be PRICEY. We paid $120 for two of us but it includes unlimited bites of savory sandwiches, themed sweets, and of course the amazing options of tea.
If you’re traveling with children or simply love Disney, there are lots of afternoon teas that offer these themes. You can also book a guided bus that does afternoon tea while you’re learning about the city. With so many options, I’m sure you’ll find one that’ll fit your style.
My sister and niece recently went to London as well and found a gem of a spot for a much lower price called Fait Maison. Their tea time wasn’t themed but it was oh so pretty! They loved it and do recommend it.
A lot of bloggers also like visiting Sketch. Sketch is a beautiful restaurant and their tea room is completely pink. Due to its popularity, it’s also one of the pricier afternoon teas so we skipped it.
Explore the Mews
Plan a self-guided walk of London’s mews. This was my top priority when visiting London. I had been swooning over the mews/architecture in photos for years. I knew that I had to see as much of it as possible.
Since we started off staying at Hotel Moonlight, I created a guide that starts from Earl’s Court all the way up to Notting Hill. We walked for hours exploring those neighborhoods plus all the in-betweens.
To make it easier for you, I’ve mapped out my point to point walk below. Of course, we went further into these neighborhoods after visiting the mews. It says 1 hour and 51 minutes but it took us more like 5 hours.
Visit the Markets
London has so many cool markets to choose from and I swear we tried to make it to at least one. However, the city is so spread apart that we didn’t have time to go to any. There were two main ones on my list that maybe you can explore.
Old Spitalfields Market is located on the East End of London. So if you’re in that area make sure to check out the artsier neighborhoods I talk about below. It has everything from antiques to yummy looking food.
One of the main stops I wanted to make there is Wheelcake Island. It’s a food cart that sells these fluffy Taiwanese pancakes called wheelcakes. Please go for me and let me know if they’re amazing.
I also wanted to visit the Borough Market. It’s London’s oldest food market and it’s filled with stallholders who really care where their food comes from. Many are farmers, fisherman, bakers, etc. Think farm-to-table type stuff. Right up my alley!
See London’s Street Art
Explore artistic neighborhoods such as Shoreditch and Brick Lane. London is full of amazing artists and murals and this is a good way to get a little taste.
If you’d rather a guide, check out this cool tour that offers a 2-hour art walking guide through some of London’s art-filled neighborhoods: Click here for latest prices.
Do the Touristy Stuff
If it’s your first time visiting London then check out all the touristy stuff that’ll make your heart sing! Go photograph Big Ben, warning in late 2018 it was still covered in scaffolding.
Go check out the changing of the guards. Cross Abbey Road where the Beatles took their famous photo. But of course, expect all these places to be packed with tourists.
poor cars having to deal with tourists on Abbey Road *husband included*
Below are other popular things you can do in London that are loved by many visitors.
Visit Tower Bridge, one of the most famous bridges in the world: Check availability here.
Don’t miss the view from the London Eye: Click here for tickets.
If you’re going to do a cruise, use it as a taxi! This hop-on-hop-off cruise offers 24 hours of river views plus stops to discover new parts of the city: Click here for tickets.
If you love the royals then a visit to Kensington Palace should be on your itinerary. Learn more about their history and how they live with this self-guided tour: Click here to book.
Catch a Show
London is known for its theatre scene so why not check out a play while you’re there? Though it’s not normally my thing, while I was in London, I noticed there was a Motown musical that I wish I would’ve had time to see.
If you’re a Friends fan and heading to London you need to check out FriendsFest. Especially if you haven’t been to LA or visited the original Friends set. The people who run FriendsFest recreate a lot of the show’s sets with many of the original props.
You can sit in Monica’s apartment, Joey’s apartment, the Vegas chapel where Ross & Rachel got married, etc. It varies slightly every year. Check the site to see if they’ll be in town when you are.
Read More: See the Original Central Perk
London Day Trips
If you’re looking for a day trip, consider taking a drive out to the Cotswolds or exploring another colorful city like Bristol. We visited both of those areas (not as a day trip) and loved them. I’ll be writing about those very soon.
Prefer a guide and transportation? The tours below make it easy to see beyond the city.
If Stonehenge is on your list, then this half-day tour from London should be a good fit: Click here to book.
If you want to see beyond Stonehenge, this tour also includes Bath and the English countryside: Check availability here.
Again, if you love the royals you can visit the weekend home of Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. This tour doesn’t offer transfers, but the local train from Paddington only takes 47 minutes to arrive: Click here for tickets.
As mentioned, we loved the English countryside and think it’s definitely worth a visit even for just a few hours. This 11-hour tour takes you to some of England’s most romantic cities: Click here for latest pricing.
I hope this guide was helpful. As you can see, London has lots to offer and we can’t wait to return. There is still so much to do and eat!
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