I arrived at the London Luton airport and found my bus that would take me to the London Victoria station. After about an hour and a half on the bus I arrived in central London. I got out of the bus, walked around for a couple of minutes and found myself standing in front of Buckingham Palace.
Wow! It was quite a sight to see! I snapped some pictures, took some selfies, and took it all in for a moment.
Next, I decided to look up where my hostel was. Google says its 2 miles away. I thought for a second about taking the tube to get to my hostel. I glanced at the map and in between where I stood and my hostel was Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Take a train? Definitely not.
I started walking.
No park was in sight. I checked my map again. Wrong way.
I turned around and started walking back to Buckingham Palace. I see the park and start walking towards it.
There are tourists taking pictures, families having picnics, schoolchildren on field trips, and locals jogging through the park. As I continue walking I see calm ponds, grass fields, shade trees, and lots of birds that have gotten very comfortable around people.
It wasn’t a particularly warm day, but I was sweating. The backpack was heavy and my jacket was keeping me a bit warmer than I required at the time. I stopped and took my jacket off and took a moment to wish I had bought a more comfortable pair of shoes.
I glanced at my map. 1.7 miles to go. Onwards!
After a longer than expected walk I arrived at my hostel. I checked in, put my bags in the storage room, and left to find food. After a bit of searching I found a small shop that sold fish and chips. That sounded delicious at the time. It was!
After dinner (or supper?) I went back to the park and sat down on a bench. There were lots of people running and cycling. It appeared to be a very active city. At first impression it seemed like a city that I could live in.
I got out my phone to plan my day tomorrow. I only had one full day in London since everything is so much more expensive there and I wanted to save money. I knew the next day was going to be very full so it was time to start planning.
I opened up my Tripomatic app (awesome app if you’re traveling!) and starting adding all of the sites I wanted to see to my itinerary.
Here was the plan:
- Kensington Palace
- Royal Albert Hall
- Piccadilly Circus
- Admiralty Arch
- Trafalgar Square
- London Eye
- Big Ben/ Westminster Abbey
- Houses of Parliament
- Millennium Bridge
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- London Bridge
- Tower of London
Wow! Thats a ton of stuff to see in one day. The game plan was to see as much as possible for as cheap as possible. This meant that instead of purchasing any of the tours I would visit each place, check it out from the outside, read about its significance on Wikipedia and then head to the next place.
At this point I was exhausted. I went back to my hostel and fell asleep around 7pm.
I woke up at 7am. 12 hours of sleep was much needed. The jet lag was still wearing me down. Feeling refreshed, I went downstairs and ate my “continental breakfast.” This consisted of juice, corn flakes, and toast… I’m not sure if that really counts as a “continental breakfast,” but it was good enough for me!
I put my daypack together and headed to the tube station.
Ready. Set. Go!
First up: Kensington Palace.
Next: Royal Albert Hall. This is a large concert hall that Queen Victoria opened in 1870. This place still has many concerts every year and some of the most famous artists in the world have performed here.
Then: Harrods. This is the largest department store in all of Europe. Its very high end. There are over 1,000,000 square feet of space in the store and over 300 departments. I wandered around this place for a bit and they have everything! Its like an entire shopping mall all in one store.
After that: Piccadilly Circus. Its not a circus… it actually means “circle.” This is a famous road junction and has huge New York-esque light up ad displays on the buildings. It was built in 1819 by John Nash by instruction from King George IV!
Next: Trafalgar Square. This is a huge square with lots of street performers working for tips. There are huge statues and awesome fountains here. John Nash also designed this space… this guy really had his act together!
Then: Admiralty Arch.
And then: London Eye. This ferris wheel is huge! It was pouring rain when I was there so I didn’t spend too much time looking up at it.
Next up: Big Ben & Westminster Palace! The name Big Ben actually refers to the bell inside of the tower, but the uninformed tourists (thats me!) started calling the entire clock tower Big Ben and the name just stuck. It is officially called the Elizabeth Tower after Queen Elizabeth. The tower is part of Westminster Palace, which is also huge.
After that: Houses of Parliament.
Next: St. Paul’s Cathedral. There were quite a few weddings going on here while I was there. This cathedral is huge and very old!
Then: London Museum. I realized I was close to the London Museum and then I learned that entrance was free… so I went and checked it out as well! The museum takes you back to the time before London was even London and it walks you through history until present day. Its quite impressive how far London has come and everything that its endured along the way.
Next: Coffee and chocolate croissant break. Yum!
And then: Millennium Bridge. This bridge was constructed for the new millennium in 2000. Its a pretty cool looking bridge!
After that: London Bridge. This bridge is very intricate with its design. It appears very royal and impressive. As I was walking towards the bridge to cross it the bridge opened in the middle to let a ship pass through.
Lastly: London Tower aka Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress. This place was also very impressive. It was undergoing lots of restoration when I was there… which makes sense because its almost 1000 years old!
I saw everything on my list and more! London is an amazing place. Next time I’ll be a better tourist and pay for some tours and spend a few days in the city, but I think my Wikipedia tours worked out well for my budget.
I sat down, exhausted. I stared out into the sea of tourists for a bit and pondered what to do next. It was about 7:30pm. A few people told me a of a place called Camden and said it was a really cool, hip area. So I hopped on a train and went out there, not knowing what to expect.
I followed the crowd of people into a outdoor market. Vendors were selling all types of foods, cheap shirts and bracelets, and tons of other stuff. I kept walking around and found a cool outdoor bar and restaurant with live music. There was nowhere to sit so I passed through quickly.
I came across another restaurant and stood in line to order a burger and beer (I was so hungry at this point!). After about 15 minutes I got to the counter and ordered. “Whats your table number?” asked the bartender. I was by myself so I didn’t have a table. I told him this and he said I couldn’t order food then. I asked if there was anything he could do. He didn’t change his answer.
So I left and headed back to the tube. I was hangry (hungry + angry).
I found a place selling lamb meat and chips (french fries). Sold. I sat on a chair outside of a Subway and ate it all.
Now I had to figure out how to get back. I got on the tube and off I went. I got back to the hostel and quickly fell asleep after a much needed shower.
I woke up the next morning, packed my things, and headed to the Victoria bus station. I bought a ticket to London Gatwick airport and waited for the bus.
After about an hour and 45 minutes on the bus I arrived at the airport. I forgot to take my laptop out of my backpack as I went through security, so the security guy checked everything in my bag, but he was telling me all the cool places to see in Europe so it was all good.
I got to my gate, hopped on a bus, boarded my plane, and off I went to Brussels!
See you later London!
This post was written on a train from Düsseldorf, Germany to Hamburg, Germany.