Morgan Morfe is a student at Union University and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in London, England.
London, England. A place that holds a population of almost 9 million people, over 250 languages spoken on a daily basis, and years of history right at everyone’s fingertips paired with the most modern fun raging about. It’s no wonder that this city is argued to be the most incredible in the world. So, you’ve heard about this fascinating place, you’ve bought your plane ticket, packed your bags, and are heading to London, but how do you explore a city that holds over 200 museums and more than 1,500 years worth of history in just a week? Look no further. This blog post will provide a seven day itinerary that will help you make the most of your time in London.
When you arrive, you’re going to be exhausted from travelling, so give yourself a few hours to unpack, shower, eat something, and take a short nap. You’ll never be able to enjoy this tremendous city if you’re groggy, tired and sluggish, so don’t feel like you need to hit the ground running a million miles an hour as soon as you arrive. Don’t schedule anything on your first day that requires you to be somewhere at a specific time; let this be your one day that’s completely flexible so you can get a feel for the city. Now, for your activities of the day:
- Activity 1: Purchase a 24 hour Hop On-Hop Off Bus Ticket and relax on a double-decker bus while a local Londoner informs you of where all of the big attractions are located. This is a great way to get your bearings of the city and the tour guide may even tell you some activities or places to eat that you hadn’t thought about trying. Either way, after a guided bus ride around London, the city won’t seem nearly as big or daunting, but it will in fact seem quite easy to navigate. (Which it truly is!)
- Activity 2: South Bank Walk. This is an iconic, classic tourist thing to do in London, but it truly is a must. You get to see Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the London Eye all within a few steps of each other and it’s absolutely breath-taking no matter what time of day it is.
- Activity 3: Have dinner at Tattershall Castle. This is a quaint restaurant on a boat on the River Thames that overlooks the London Eye. This is a perfect place to stop for a traditional fish and chips meal after completing the South Bank walk. You can continue to enjoy gazing at the London Eye and Big Ben as they light up the sky while you finish your dinner as well.
You’ve gotten a good night’s sleep, your camera battery is charged, and now an entire day in London lies ahead of you.
- Activity 1: Visit the Tower of London. There is no other place in the world that you can see crown jewels as big as these and have them be the actual jewels that are worn by Her Majesty. Pictures unfortunately are prohibited, but the memory of them will forever be etched in your minds.
- Activity 2: Take a look at Tower Bridge. It’s iconic, it’s beautiful and it’s also a staple of London. Lucky for you, you walk out of the Tower of London and it’s right there! If you fancy a different view of London, climb the 207 stairs to the top of Tower Bridge and look out over the river at the Shard, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and many other beautiful buildings that line the water. Make sure to go back and see Tower Bridge at night; it lights up the London night sky with it’s glowing shade of blue and truly takes your breathe away.
- Activity 3: See a West End Show. Theatre in London is nothing short of incredible; it’s hard to go wrong with any play or musical in London’s West End. Every single one will have you walking out of the theatre impressed, and feeling whatever is emotionally appropriate for the play you’ve seen: heartbroken at the tragedy of ‘Hamlet,’ joy and surprise for Elfaba in ‘Wicked,’ pure terror at ‘The Woman in Black’ or complete happiness during ‘The Lion King.’ These are just a few of the many plays that are offered everyday in London!
London is beautiful, but if you’re in England, it’s definitely worth your time to see the English countryside, which is unlike any other wilderness you have seen or will ever see.
- Activity 1: You can take a scenic 2-hour bus ride from London right to Stonehenge and enjoy the English countryside views on your way there. This is truly a magical place. When you really think about the fact that these stones have sat in their exact spot for over 1,000 years and you see how truly massive these stones are while contemplating moving them by hand as was done many years ago, your jaw will drop.
London is a hot spot to film movies and hosts major movie premieres. It wouldn’t be right to come to London and not pay a visit to some of the places that have given life to TV shows and movies like Harry Potter, Sherlock, Doctor Who, and Pride & Prejudice.
- Activity 1: Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour. Even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, you will be completely blown away by their impressive display of original costumes, sets and props. You will also get to experience how they filmed particular action scenes, like Quidditch matches, learn about special effects as well as gain a much better understanding of how fantasy movies are truly brought to life.
- Activity 2: While you’re on a Harry Potter kick, go ahead and head to King’s Cross Station where you can take your own picture jumping through the barrier at Platform 9 ¾.
- Activity 3: Round out your film day by going to 221B Baker Street. Note that the Sherlock Museum rests on Baker Street, but the actually door, knocker, and Speedy’s Café that you see in the TV Show ‘Sherlock’ is actually on North Gower Road just outside of the Euston Square Tube Station. Why not have a dessert at Sherlock’s Speedy’s Café before calling it another successful day in London?
Many London attractions are a lot closer together than you might think for a city. Take Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, Kensington Park, and Buckingham Palace for example–four beautiful places that you can hit in one walk.
- Activity 1: Start at Buckingham Palace and depending on the day, try to catch the changing of the guard, its elegant and unique! From there, you can walk through plush, grassy greenness and if you’re in London in the fall, you can see the leaves changing colours. Stop at Princess Diana’s Memorial, the Peter Pan statue, Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, and round your walk off by riding the paddle boats in Hyde Park!
- Activity 2: It can be a bit of a splurge money wise, but have High Tea. You will feel very British, very full, and very elegant at the end of your experience. So, put on your Sunday best and go enjoy scones, cucumber sandwiches, and traditional English breakfast tea for an afternoon.
- Activity 3: Jack The Ripper Walking Tour. Hear the thrilling tale of the crazed murderer during the 18th century by the very man who solved the case. This tour will take you through London to the spots where Jack the Ripper murdered his victims and his story as well as the story of how they finally discovered who was behind the murders will be disclosed.
This is your last full day in London, and it’s essential that you make the most of it and end your time in this glorious city with a bang.
- Activity 1: The unique sights and landmarks will have probably been a highlight of your time in London, so hop on a boat for a River Thames Cruise where they will serve you lunch while you float along the water looking at The Shard, Tower Bridge, the Olympic Stadium and many other iconic London sites. If you take an evening cruise, you will probably be able to catch one of London’s glorious sunsets.
- Activity 2: Parliament Hill. Unlike the London Eye or The Shard, this view is free! You can take a tube and a short bus ride to the top of Parliament Hill and see a curious contrast. You’ll be standing atop a large grassy hill while peeking through a clump of trees that open up to the city of London. It’s not often you can be standing in wide open wilderness space and see one of the world’s largest cities at the same time.
- Activity 3: Have dinner at the Old Bank of England. This is a true English pub where you can order some of the finest pies and fish and chips that England has to offer. What better way to end your evening in London than with delicious and traditional English food?
Alas, the day has come when you have to leave the glorious city of London. Your bags are packed, your passport is in hand, you’re double and triple checking the hotel room to make sure you didn’t forget anything before you head out the door. You hop on the tube one last time to head to London Heathrow Airport. You stop at Café Nero (my personal favorite London chain coffee shop) to grab one last chai tea latte before you catch your plane to leave the blissful wonder that is London and head back to reality.
The world awaits…discover it.