Just a few days ago I landed safely back here in Nashville after a week across the pond. To say that London was a huge source of inspiration for me is an understatement. From the people, to the sites, stores, and restaurants, each had an expressive style all their own and I fell in love with their uniqueness.
It seemed like a daunting feat to try and get a taste of the city in a week when I booked my trip, but luckily for me I was visiting my friend Hillari who moved to England two years ago so she knew all the ways to squeeze in as much of the city in 7 days as possible.
With that being said, here are my top sites, stops, and stores for a week in London:
1) AFTERNOON TEA AT SKETCH
Sketch is a restaurant located in the Mayfair area of London. With a simple exterior, the outside of the building is much more reserved than the interior. Once you enter inside, you're greeted by a staircase covered in dripping pink paint, and art exhibits adorn the walls. Once you've passed the staircase, you enter into a room filled with a variety of greens and blues. Music plays softly in the background as you pass by velvet curtains to enter the Gallery Room in the back. The Gallery Room is covered in a palette of soft pinks and filled with hundreds of black and white illustrations that cover the walls like wallpaper. The chairs are a matching pink velour that coordinates with the wall color.
The afternoon tea comes with a complimentary caviar tasting and a tray filled to the brim of miniature sandwiches and colorful desserts. The tea is presented in a teapot labeled "ghosts" with the sugar cubes in an "its gonna be okay" bowl and the tea cups with a "forget about it" message at the bottom. These little sayings along with the illustrations on the wall made the room definitely feel a little more light-hearted.
To me the most important stop at Sketch is the restrooms (or as they say in London, "toilets"). Once you walk through the back door, you're greeted with two white staircases. The one on the left is lit by small blue lights, representing the men's staircase. The right, red. As you walk up the stairs, you start to get a peek of the colorful rainbow tiles that fill the ceiling and seconds later, the egg pods. These are actually the toilets, and they are quite the experience.
Be sure to not forget to take a bathroom selfie while you're there so people will believe you when you tell them you went to an egg-shaped toilet.
2) ALICE'S ADVENTURES UNDERGROUND
We actually stumbled across this experience when my friend Kristen mentioned the ad in the tube and thought it would be a fun source of entertainment our last night in London. When I say we had no idea what to expect, we literally had NO clue.
Alice's Adventures Underground is located in a somewhat hidden spot at the end of a street in Waterloo. Once you enter the main doors, you're greeted with the most whimsical, floral illustrations that adorn the walls. You can purchase tickets here, as well as eat dinner, have a few drinks, and play croquet with the flamingos. There's even a photo booth to snap a few pics in if you'd like.
When it's time for your showing, you and your group will enter through to an extraordinary land. The front room is filled with antiques, photos, and oddities and you might notice a rather eery music playing. There's definitely a sense of anticipation in this room because you know that something's going to happen, but you don't know what...
There's a rule that no photography or videography is allowed in Alice's Adventures, and even though I wish I could show you pictures of the detailed, colorful sets, it's something you must see for yourself! The talented actors + actresses do an incredible job of telling the story of Alice, and the plot twists make the story even more exciting. It's a must-do if you're brave enough to try something totally unexpected.
3) BIG BUS TOUR
The Big Bus Tour is the perfect way to get to see a great amount of the city without wearing yourself out. There are multiple ticket options, but it pays to get the premium ticket which is about £43. The premium ticket is a 48-hour tour which allows you to travel around London on the river cruise and the night tour, so you can see the city in all of its lit-up glory (which is breathtaking!).
4) A WALK IN WINDSOR
Windsor is about an hour train ride from London. Not only does Windsor welcome you with a glorious view of the the Windsor Castle, but it has plenty of castle-themed stores wrapped around its surrounding streets. From fudge shops, to restaurants, to small boutiques, there's plenty for everyone! One of our favorite things was the Funkywood restaurant and the mile-long walk right outside the castle's gate. (Shhh- I've heard that the Queen occasionally joins in for a stroll down the walk.)
5) A DAY IN BRIGHTON
For all of the free-spirited travelers, this little sunshine city is for you. Brighton is about an hour and a half train ride from London. As soon as you enter the city, you get an idea of its authenticity- the people are very eclectic and the stores are too. If you're interested in bringing home unique souvenirs, I highly suggest shopping in Brighton. There are vintage stores galore, clothing stores, and even tattoo parlors if you're wanting a permanent piece of memorabilia.
About a mile from the train station is the Brighton Pier. The Brighton Pier has everything from an arcade and ice cream shop to a small amusement park at the end of the pier. And if you're hungry, be sure to stop in at the restaurant for a great serving of fish 'n chips.
Don't forget to dip your toes into the water before you head back to London!
6) SHOPPING IN SOHO
Soho is the perfect place for shopping high-end fashion. From Burberry to Coach and Anthropologie, they've got it all. The streets are lined with all of these incredible stores, along with some great pubs for a quick drink or food, too. If you have time, be sure to walk over to Chinatown and hit up Hamley's Toystore on your way- it's filled with toys for all ages!
7) AN ENGLISH BREAKFAST
If I'm honest I had never even heard of an English Breakfast until about two weeks before my trip. For those of you who haven't had the chance to try one, the majority of them include bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes, baked beans, black pudding, and mushrooms. Before we headed out on a day's adventures, we stopped in at Plum + Spilt Milk for breakfast. Although I opted for their advocado toast (I just couldn't turn down the avocado!), there were definitely elements of the English Breakfast - eggs, sausage, and tomatoes. My friend ordered the English Breakfast, so I enjoyed seeing how it was presented.
8) DINNER AT WAHACA + DESSERT AT SNOGS IN SOUTHBANK
Southbank was the first place that we went to when we arrived in London because of its many attractions (markets, London Eye, views of Big Ben, etc), and we went back a few times. Nested in its own corner in Southbank is Wahaca, a Mexican-inspired restaurant that, according to my friend Hillari, is hard to come by in London. Wahaca features a colorful setting and their a la carte options are great to share with friends. I highly suggest their hibiscus margaritas, too. YUM!
Just a few hundred feet from Wahaca is Snogs. Snogs are located all over London, but this one specifically is pretty special -- it's a double decker bus! I highly recommend taking the stairs to the top to get a great view of the skyline. It's pretty epic (and not to mention eating ice cream on a double decker bus!).
9) NIGHT TOUR OF THE TOWER BRIDGE
I've always thought that the London Bridge would be the picture-worthy bridge that I'd have to capture when I visited the city, but as soon as I got to London, Hillari shared that the Tower Bridge is much more famous than the London Bridge. We took a tour of the bridge at night, and it was pretty incredible. With lights highlighting all of the architectural details, the bridge was pretty incredible to see as cars passed below the main tower. If you decide to take a stroll across the bridge, be sure to take notice of the Tower of London where the royal jewels are kept and a lot of history has happened. There's even a tour available if you're interested in learning more.
10) BUCKINGHAM PALACE
Who can visit London and *not* see Buckingham Palace? Buckingham Palace is located right off of the Green Park line and through the Green Park walkway. With it's gold-encrested gates and crests, it's simple but elegant. The atmosphere is very reserved and quite other than the tourists taking pictures outside of the gate.
A really great opportunity happens when the changing of the guards happen. You can view the schedule here if you're interested in viewing. You can also take a tour of Buckingham Palace July through the beginning of October if you'd like to see the interior.
Well, friends, that's a wrap on my top things for London. I can't wait to go back and explore some more and share with you even more experiences! And stay tuned for a recap video of our amazing trip.
Cheers to travels!