This is blog post #1 of our three part series about our UK vacation. You can read about the Edinburgh portion of our trip here and about the Scottish Highlands portion here. You can also view our 3 Days in London travel guide here.
As we write this, we are currently somewhere over Manitoba, Canada, about 8 hours into flying, on our way back from 6 incredibly fun and magical days in the United Kingdom. This trip was extra special for us because it was our first trip outside of North America together and both of our first times visiting Europe. However, it definitely won’t be our last! When we decided to go to Europe this year, we struggled to choose where to go. We both had been dying to visit London for years, which made it an obvious choice, but we wanted to tack on another country afterwards. We originally planned to go to Ireland, but after hearing how amazing Scotland is, we switched our plans and decided on Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands. This trip was a year in the making and we dreamt about it daily, which means the expectations were VERY high, and we are so happy to report that it was even more incredible than we could’ve imagined!
We did so much in 6 full days, so we are breaking up our blog posts by region. We’ll kick things off just like we kicked off our trip, with London. To read about the rest of our trip, check out our Edinburgh and Scottish Highlands blogs!
Day 1: London
After a red eye flight on a Thursday night, a connection in NYC, and a long wait in customs, we finally made it to our Airbnb in London very late on a Friday night. In typical A+K fashion, we got only a few hours of sleep (we tend to get very little sleep on vacations because we want to enjoy every single second of the day!) and hit the town right after sunrise on Saturday morning. While we were exhausted, this was the best decision we could’ve made. One thing we learned during our first European trip is that everything opens later there, so we had the city (mostly) to ourselves.
We kicked off the morning at Trafalgar Square, which was such a magical experience for us. It was our first real glimpse of London in the daylight and the combination of the architecture, morning light, double decker buses, and views of Westminster brought the biggest smiles to our faces and got us so excited for the rest of the trip. We couldn’t believe that we were finally in London!
After Trafalgar Square, we walked around a handful of super cute areas—Covent Garden, Neal’s Yard (so colorful and cute!), and Carnaby Street. While none of the shops were open, we loved experiencing these areas without the crowds. Each area was adorable and unique. One thing we worried about going to London is that it wouldn’t feel different enough from the US, but these areas had so much charm and we quickly realized we would have nothing to worry about.
The next area we visited, Fitzrovia, was definitely a spot we could see ourselves spending a lot more time in. It felt more residential and the streets were lined with coffee shops, cafes, and red brick buildings. We grabbed coffee at one of the coolest coffee shops we have been to, a place called The Attendant, which is a former underground restroom turned into a coffee shop. The space is super tiny and cool and they make great coffee!
The city was starting to wake up at this point and we headed to Camden Market. This market wasn’t originally on our itinerary, but when doing some last minute research, we discovered this spot called OSU Coconuts, which makes gluten free and vegan coconut pancakes that look AMAZING. They have a stand in the market and we reworked our entire itinerary so we could get some of these pancakes. We got to the market right before it opened (highly recommend—it gets busy!), watched boats go through the locks, wandered around the stands as they set up, and tried to decide what foods we would splurge on. However, we struggled to find the OSU Coconuts stand. After 30 minutes of searching we finally found them setting up, only to discover that they wouldn’t be serving pancakes that day. I was pretty crushed, but tried to not let it affect my mood. As a planner, one thing that I used to struggle with a lot was getting really upset when things didn’t go according to plan. I’ve worked super hard on improving this and not letting situations like this bring me down and while I still have more work to do, I did not let the lack of pancakes defeat me. 🙂
In the end it worked out great because we got to try some other foods instead, including: gluten free and vegan cookie dough, beef and lamb kebabs, fried halloumi cheese, and a grilled PB&J. We really enjoyed this market. It’s definitely touristy, but we loved the energetic and colorful vibes, as well as the diverse assortment of merchants. We rolled out of there very full and happy!
We then made our way to the Tower of London, which we only walked by because we are cheap, before walking across the beautiful Tower Bridge. While this is just a bridge, it was one of the things we were most excited to see because it is so iconic. The views are also really nice as you walk across. From the bridge, it was a pretty easy walk to our next stop: Borough Market.
Borough Market was another place we were super pumped about because we love markets! We arrived around 1:30 PM or so and the place was a madhouse! We squeezed through crowds to get to a couple stands we wanted to try, including Roast Hog, before grabbing coffee at Monmouth. We didn’t stay at the market for too long because it was so busy, but we definitely plan to go back here in the future, just maybe right when they open. 🙂
One super awesome thing about London is that they have a bunch of free museums (however they reallyyyyy push you to donate)! Although I am not a huge museum person (Adam loves them!), we knew it would be a shame to not visit one. After a lot of debating, we chose the British Museum because it is a classic, but we were also really interested in the Museum of London. We swung by St. Paul’s Cathedral on the way to the British Museum to admire it from the outside (once again, we are cheap and didn’t want to spend money to go inside). The museum was crazy busy (clearly that is a theme in London!), but had some cool exhibits like the Rosetta Stone, Easter Island statues, and mummies!
Our final activity for the day was supposed to be the London Eye. This was another thing that I was most excited for. We bought tickets weeks in advance for 7:30 PM so we could hopefully catch the sunset from the top, but what we didn’t know when we bought these tickets is that once you arrive at your designated time, you have to wait in a super long line to actually go on the London Eye. The wait was over an hour and we were not too thrilled about wasting an hour of our trip in line, especially since we wouldn’t make it on until it was late, so we made the really hard decision to skip it. The hardest part was knowing we lost $65, which for our style of traveling, could have gotten us a lot of coffee or a couple meals. But in the end, we feel like we made the right decision for our sanity. We ended up watching the sunset from the River Thames, overlooking the Palace of Westminster, which was beautiful!
Very tired and hungry at this point, we went back to a spot from earlier in the morning, Carnaby Street, to have dinner at Mother Mash. This area is super neat. It’s an alley with a bunch of other bars and restaurants and hanging above the alley are all of these colorful lights! We sat outside to soak up the view while we ate some delicious bangers and mash, meat pies, and mushy peas. Post-dinner, we ventured to La Gelateria to indulge in massive amounts of gelato (all of their gelato is egg free…SCORE!)—the perfect way to end our first day!
Despite quite a few things not going according to plan on our first day, we had a blast exploring the city and eating tons of food! Traveling isn’t always smooth sailing and this trip taught us a lot about rolling with the punches. The entire day felt so surreal as we saw so many sights we have dreamt about for years and we definitely fell madly in love with London!
Day 2: London
Our second day in London wasn’t a full day due to our flight to Edinburgh at night, but we made the most of every second we had! We woke up early once again and wandered around the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey before grabbing breakfast at the Breakfast Club in Soho. It was Adam’s first traditional English breakfast experience, including his first time trying black pudding, which became a fun experiment the rest of the trip to see which place had the best version of it.
We spent the rest of the morning walking through St. James and Hyde Parks, checking out Buckingham and Kensington Palace, and quickly walking through Notting Hill before grabbing lunch at Dishoom. Dishoom is a super popular Indian spot in town that I discovered years ago when researching London. Since it gets super busy, we went at lunchtime so we could make a reservation (they don’t take dinner reservations for parties under 6). Oh my gosh we loved this meal! We got the Chicken Tikka, Chicken Ruby Curry, rice, veggies, and their amazing homemade chai drink! So. Dang. Good!
Our final big activity in London was a bucket list item for Adam: attending a football game. Our trip was one week too soon for Premier League games, but we lucked out and the FA Community Shield game (Chelsea vs. Man City) was happening during our trip so we attended that instead! We were worried the game wouldn’t be as exciting since it wasn’t a season game, but the game was packed and the energy was so much fun—it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for Adam.
After the game we grabbed a quick dinner at Nando’s Peri Peri (yum!) and headed to the airport for our flight to Edinburgh! We had such a great time in London. The city is beautiful and full of so many hidden gems (like awesome alleyways), delicious food, and tons of history! To read about the rest of our trip, check out our Edinburgh blog and our Scottish Highlands blog.