Being a Tourist | London #1

You may have noticed from my Instagram feed, I’ve been falling in love with London and the skylines in particular. It’s that time of year when everyone comes Christmas shopping here and my parents come to visit. As a northern girl, I love the chance to get a little bit touristy in my new town (hello, London!), and this past month I’ve been in major tourist mode, so thought I’d share my favourite experiences you might like to try!
Covent Garden
This is my favourite time of year to visit Covent Garden, which might explain why I’ve been every weekend for the last 4 weeks! From the end of November, the Christmas lights have been on, with one of the biggest Christmas trees I’ve ever seen, a 22ft reindeer and the 100,000 balloons that everyone loved on Instagram have been replaced with giant mistletoe. I love wandering through the Piazza and there’s also a whole host of pop up shops making their entrance in the square, including one of the most beautiful stationery shops I’ve come across: Kikki, as well as Lulu Guinness (my bank account definitely winced as I left but hey ho!), and of course Harrods. It’s pretty busy but I don’t think there’s anywhere more festive feeling in London, and if you wander further along the Strand you can end up at Somerset House Ice Rink, sponsored by Fortnum and Mason – full of Christmas gift ideas and treats, or stop at my absolute favourite pizza place homeslice for the biggest pizza you’ve ever seen!
London Eye
Having been on the London Eye when it was first put up on a school trip, my friend Anna suggested going up when she came down to visit from Newcastle a few weeks ago. I must say, it’s gone up a little price wise since I last hopped on, but we splashed out on the Champagne Experience. This means you can skip the queues outside in the rain (and it was raining when we arrived!), and sit inside the Champagne Bar upstairs. While they recommend you arrive 45 minutes before your scheduled time, unless you want an extra glass of champagne before you go round, you only really need about 20 minutes to pick up your tickets and wait to be picked up.
We were lucky enough to have a break in the dark clouds, and see pretty far! We also had a really good guide in the pod with us who pointed all sorts out, and even quizzed us for the chance of a second glass of champagne as we went round the eye (which both Walsh and Anna won – I did not…). I would definitely recommend the champagne experience for the priority boarding and queue jump, as well as the less crowded pod meaning you could roam around and see everything. I even recommended it to my Dad who went round just a week later and enjoyed it!
Hop on/Hop off tour
I have to admit, when my Dad first suggested the hop on, hop off bus tour for his London visit, I was a little…unsure. Having seen tourists go round and round looking cold and miserable on the open top bus tours round London, I wasn’t sure if I could see any value in it. However, I hate to admit it, but I was totally wrong.
After a little bit of research, we went with The Original Tour. As it’s a little out of season, you get 48 hours on your ticket instead of just 24, so you could really take advantage of the different routes (and the river cruise!) if you wanted. We started off on the top deck (luckily sheltered from the wind by half a roof) on the yellow route, which included a live guide. The live guide was definitely a major plus, as I was able to learn so many things about my new home, and even facts about my walk to work (who knew?!). Walsh and I also used up some of our clubcard points on this one, meaning we got a 48 hour ticket in exchange for just £8.50 in points each.
Camden Town
When I used to visit London, Camden was the craziest place I’d ever laid eyes upon, and being a little on the emo side of the trends, I loved visiting Criminal Damage and picking up all kinds of plastic accessories. While Camden is still one of craziest places I’ve been, it’s gone a little bit touristy and a little less underground in my opinion. However, it’s unlike anywhere else you’ve ever been or will go, and for that reason alone it’s worth a visit. Wind your way through the tiny tunnels and up and round the stables. Find your way to Cyberdog and take in everything. The Chin Chin Labs in Camden are also high on my list of places to visit, being listed as one of London’s top hot chocolates.

At over £25 a ticket for the top of the Shard (aka the 72nd floor), it’s something I need to find an occasion for to visit, but it is high on my list. However, I have visited AquaShard, the bar and restaurant on the 31st floor (similar height to the top of the Sky Garden). My best friend Laura appears to have a little obsession with heights when down in London, so this is the first stop of many to come. We dressed up a little and took to the lift. We arrived about 7pm, hoping not to have to queue (you can’t book just for drinks), and we went straight up. We weren’t able to get a seat, but we purchased two cocktails – just a little steep at £16-£20 a cocktail – though it’s free to go up to AquaShard so cheaper than buying a top view ticket. It was however, one of the nicest cocktails I’ve ever had. Going up at night gave us an amazing view we just couldn’t stop looking at and walking round the edge to see the whole of London. Definitely a place to go for something a little special!

Hope that’s given you a few ideas for the winter months! I’ll be writing up my top tips for places to eat and hidden treasures I’ve found soon!
Caroline
xo

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