Visiting London has been on my bucket list since the last time I was there in August of 2014. When I arrived with my brother, who has never been here before, we knew that our time would be limited. Even though we had allotted a full three days in London, there was so much to do and see in this incredible city that we had to cut it down to ensure we wouldn’t exhaust ourselves entirely.
During the strange and wonderful time in my life during which I was a ministry school student, I lived in Willesden Green, just outside of Notting Hill. Yes, like that one movie. No, Hugh Grant wasn’t there. During that time, I didn’t have much of a chance to be a tourist. Thus, I decided that this time I’d fully embrace my role as a foreign explorer.
Don’t be above taking a tour bus. London makes this especially easy with all of the different tour companies and guides that offer day, 24-hour, evening and even 48-hour hop-on-hop-off tours. This means you can get on a tour bus and ride until you find somewhere that interests you and then get off. You can get right back on and keep going on the next bus whenever you’re ready. It’s basically the 51B of London. I highly recommend staying on the bus for the first ride ’round so you can make note of which places you’d like to visit. London is fairly sprawled out, so it helps to calculate the walking distances for future reference.
If you’re going to be here for a little while, the London Underground, affectionately referred to as “The Tube,” can be relatively inexpensive for a day or two. But if you’re going to be there for much longer than a few days, you’ll want to learn how to navigate the bus system.
Big Ben is unfortunately under construction until 2021. Like many major cities, London is often being fixed and expanded upon. It definitely doesn’t hurt to check and double check before visiting a certain site to ensure that it’s available for tourists. That being said, there are plenty of other famous landmarks that London has to offer. (Much of these landmarks were enjoyed from the comfort of the double-decker bus!)
Shopping and dining
London can be on the pricier side, but it doesn’t have to be. Many places include student discounts with ID, and there are always cheaper eats to find around the city. One of my guilty pleasures is called Nando’s. Nando’s is a popular chain restaurant that serves delicious PERi-PERi chicken. Just like in the movie “Elf,” you can find the “world’s best fish and chips” at every corner chippy you encounter.
For shopping, Tesco and Poundland is where you can find most things food and otherwise. Boots serves as a sort of CVS for anything Tesco and Poundland may not have. For cheap clothes, places such as Topshop, Primark and the city’s numerous thrift stores are great options, aside from the usual H&M or Forever 21 shops you’ll see across the city.
History and tradition
The Tower of London serves as a reminder of history and is still actively used today. There are always at least two guards at any given point, and they always seem to look professionally charming.
Something that many Americans seem to forget is just how old the rest of the documented world is. Our school is just celebrating it’s a 150th year, which seems impressively old until you visit a site that’s older than your country. Some of these sites include Saint Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. These sorts of attractions do cost money to get into, but you can often use a student discount. The experience is certainly worth the price. There are often guided tours and other ways to interact with the history that’s far superior to reading a textbook.
Arts and culture
There are so many excellent museums and galleries to visit in London that it can be a little daunting. My brother and I intended on visiting two in one afternoon, but we soon realized that each museum takes at least one afternoon all on its own.
On this particular trip, we managed to visit both the National Gallery and the British Museum, both of which are free to the public! The British Museum collection includes the massively important Rosetta Stone, mystifying mummies and Egyptology. The National Portrait Gallery holds thousands of, you guessed it, portraits from throughout history. Including this one of Ed Sheeran.
That’s all for now! I can’t wait to see where our beloved double-decker bus adventures take us next.
Contact Lauren West at [email protected].