Visiting London has always been on my travel bucket list, but somehow I never really got around to it. Until a few months ago, when me and my sister got invited by our parents to join them on a little pre-christmas trip.
Day 1 | Christmas lights everywhere
We left home at six in the morning and arrived at the hotel in Shoreditch* around 1:00pm (we flew from Amsterdam Schiphol to London Luthon Airport). It was my sister’s 24th birthday that day so we started our trip with some things that she was most excited about seeing (read: shopping). I’m personally more of a cultural/historical sightseeing freak, but I must say anything in London – even such thing as an m&m store – looks (sort of) exciting around the holidays.
*scroll down to the bottom of this post for more details on the area and the hotel we stayed in and where to get vegan and gluten free food
Getting around the city
We took the metro from Liverpool Street (close to our hotel) to the Oxford Circus Station. We used two (free) apps that were incredibly useful for finding our way around the city: the London Offline City Map app and an underground tube map (don’t remember which one exactly, but there are many to choose from).
We walked from Oxford Street to Piccadilly Circus
And from Trafalgar Square to Leicester Square
We actually did Harrods on the second day of our trip in between the bus tour and the London eye, but it’s not something I would recommend doing, since we didn’t have enough time. Harrods gets crazy busy around the holidays (who would have thought). It’s not too far away from the underground.. I’m not sure how exciting Harrods is during the rest of the year though (I honestly didn’t think it was exciting period, except for the outside christmas decoration). But if you’re there around the holidays and are planning to visit, just make sure you have enough time.
Day 2 | The most spectacular view of London
Hop on Hop off tour
It’s the perfect way to see any city if you have a limited amount of time. An open bus tour or rather a Hop on Hop off bus tour. There are two major companies that offer these tours in London: The Original Tour and Golden Tours. One is a bit more expensive than the other but offers more perks. Just walk up to any bus tour stand in the city for more information. Both companies offer multiple tours. We decided to go with The Original Tour and got on the “yellow” line that took about 2,5 hours and drove us passed some of the most important sights of London: the Tower Bridge, London Tower, Big Ben, Westminster Abby, Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, etc.
For those of you who don’t know how the hop on hop off concept works, it’s really simple actually. You just buy a 24 hour or 48 hour ticket and during that time you can take as many tours as you want. You can hop on and hop off the bus whenever you want, where ever you want.
Nearing the end of our tour we got off the bus close to the London Eye. The Original Tour company got us tickets for the London Eye with a small discount. We first watched the London Eye 4D experience movie in a nearby building, then we got into one of the capsules and slowly went up to enjoy the magnificent view over the city. We got there at the best time of the day, right around sunset, which made it even more spectacular.
Day 3 | A good work out
St. Paul’s cathedral
From our hotel in Shoreditch we walked to the impressive St. Pauls Cathedral and did an interesting audio tour. I’m one of those people who wants to listen to every single audio fragment but I could only go so far without annoying my family, so after a while we decided to end the tour and walk up the 528 steps to the top of the dome.
Afterwards we got on the Original Tour bus again which took us to the London Tower and the Tower Bridge. We got off, had a nice stroll enjoying the views and then went back to our apartment, picked up our luggage and went back to the airport.
Where to stay in London
For this trip my parents took care of the accommodation and to my surprise we ended up in a very upcoming area of London, called Shoreditch (some serious trend spotting fokes I got there). We stayed at the London Apartments Shoreditch, on Redchurch street.. about a 15 minute walk from Liverpool Street Station (underground) and just a 2 minute walk from Shoreditch High Street Station (train station).
The Shoreditch area
I was honestly blown away by the vibe of this area.. which has a very interesting history. A HuffingtonPost article describes it as follows..
Back in the day, this was the haunt of the Elizabethan artsy set (think Shakespeare), but the creative types upped sticks (literally-they took their theaters with them!), and the area degenerated into a crime-ridden slum. Case in point: it was another famous showman, a Mr. Jack the Ripper, who perhaps best characterized it in the 19th century. A serious pummeling a few decades later during the Blitz didn’t do much to liven things up, though a vibrant Bangladeshi/Pakistani community began to develop in the Whitechapel area to the west in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.
Then, in the 1990s, creative types-think edgy contemporary artists (Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, et al) and forward-thinking design and media geeks-once again moved in, drawn by the urban-grunge vibes, the multiculturalism, and the cheap rents. They transformed Shoreditch’s aging industrial buildings into funky lofts, open-plan offices, and buzzing nightclubs.
Review of the apartment
The apartment was clean, although there were a few spots of dust here and there. Didn’t bother me too much though and I’m usually pretty picky with these things. The bathroom was nice and clean, but there were some broken tiles. Again, that didn’t really bother me. The wifi was excellent and there were even a few plug adapters for us to use to charge our phones and cameras. All lights and electronics worked and it was a pretty quiet street so you were sure to get a good night sleep.
The only downside about this place is that it has no reception, so you have to call when you arrive. We called about 10 minutes before we got there and only had to wait about 2 or 3 minutes before someone showed up to let us in and hand us our keys. So it wasn’t a big deal.
London Apartments Shoreditch
79 Redchurch Street
As expected.. 3 days is not nearly enough time to properly enjoy this city. For me it was the first time visiting London, so I’ll definitely have to go back some time soon. But it was a fun experience and it has definitely sparked my interest into exploring the UK further.