Note to the reader: The pictures in the blog are from 2015. Once my children see that I posted these pictures, I will be in hiding.
History and culture can be the most fascinating part of a vacation. There’s nothing like coming back home and feeling like you’ve been to another world. In the States, we sometimes feel like we have old buildings, but across the pond, the history is understandably much older. London is definitely a city known for its safeguarding of history while not being afraid to embrace the new. Whether you are just dipping your toe into worldwide adventure or if it’s just your first time to England, London is an excellent place to start…and they speak your language!
If it’s your first time in London, it truly does feel like a movie set. It can take a couple days to get used to the red double-deckers or the sirens that sound like any Bourne movie. However, the people are so friendly, the accent is enchanting, and the sights are breathtaking.
On our visit to the Westminster area, we were able to check off most of the major must-dos. Westminster Abbey is so reverent. After you stand in awe for a few minutes, you can easily see the burial sites for everyone from King Henry V to Charles Dickens. Just around the corner you will see Big Ben, but the locals will refer to it by its rightful name Elizabeth Tower. Yes, it chimes. Yes, it’s everything you dream of. Yes, you will feel like it is tolling for you. Right next door you can enter the British Parliament. We did this and quickly found out that you can sit in on a session! You can come and go as you please, but you are allowed to watch actual people in the white wigs debating topics and discussing policy. This was an incredible find. In Westminster, to get the picture you really want, you can just walk across the Thames on the Westminster Bridge. This is the money shot that will immediately go to your Instagram.
Of course, there are other must-sees (too many to name). For example, you must see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. You must meet a real-life Beefeater at the Tower of London. You must walk across the glass floored Tower Bridge! You must fall prey to the tourist trap that is the London Eye. After all, you are a tourist. Do it.
If you want to do some things that are a little off the beaten path, and you should do those things…do ALL the things…, the Churchill War Rooms may be right up your alley. We went into the bunker where Churchill lived and commanded the military during WWII. A Thames River Cruise is both relaxing after a day of walking and is absolutely lovely. It will take you by the Globe Theater where Shakespeare first tested his talents. If shopping is on your list, you can’t miss Harrod’s. It’s a massive upscale department store with clothing, souvenirs, restaurants, and history. It has several floors that are underground, because they ran out of space, and every attendant is more than happy to give you a quick history lesson. One floor allows you to create your own perfume fragrance and another will take you to High Tea!
Eat! And don’t go to Burger King or McDonald’s. Go to places like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese that has been at the same location since 1538. As you descend down to the basement to eat, the smells are a delightful mix of cellar, history, fish & chips, and bangers & mash. The Blackfriar Pub is another place to eat local food and have a pint. It does not disappoint!
When your day is done, give the West End a visit. It’s London’s equivalent of Broadway. We saw Wicked and had a fantastic dinner. It really made for a beautiful evening of culture and memories.
Obviously, I haven’t been able to cover everything, but suffice it to say that there is plenty more to do and see. Whether you get there by foot, Tube, Double-Decker, or Black Cab, you won’t regret one minute. I’d love to help you plan your dream trip to this breathtaking city across the pond!
Dena Selvey has been with Once Upon A Vacation for five years. Dena and her family visit Disney at least once a year. Some of Dena’s favorite travel destinations include London, Rome, Germany, Norway, Sorrento, New York City, Chicago, and all places Caribbean. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to help plan your next adventure!