This week we’re off on a journey to the home of the King and the capital of England. Yes, that's right, we’re off to... London.
This week, our travel spotlight illuminates the timeless grandeur of London, a city where history and modernity converge beneath a skyline pierced by ancient spires and contemporary steel. From the ceremonial pomp of Buckingham Palace to the avant-garde buzz of Shoreditch, London offers a ceaseless whirlwind of experiences. The scent of roasting chestnuts mingles with the tang of international street food, while the murmuring Thames carries secrets of the city's past. Whether you're a culture enthusiast, a foodie, or an urban explorer, London's rich tapestry awaits, promising endless avenues of discovery in the world's quintessential metropolis.
What you need to know…
🚆 Travel time: Getting to London is a breeze, irrespective of your starting point. If you’re travelling by rail, there are direct train services from major cities like Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Manchester, with journeys averaging around 2hrs. Several international airports are within easy reach (Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted), plus you're never too far from the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras International if you're coming from across the Channel. By car, London sits at the heart of the motorway network, including the M1, M4, and M25, linking it to all corners of the country.
🌡️ Weather: Today, it's 13°c with intermittent showers.
😋 Must-try dishes: London has a huge breadth of amazing food options - from street food stands in Borough market to incredible Michelin star restaurants. If you’re looking to try some local dishes, then what better place to start than with some pie and mash. If you’re feeling brave, why not pair it with some jellied eels - a staple of the East End! Looking for something sweeter? A quintessential Afternoon Tea is a must, complete with scones, clotted cream, and jam. There’s an abundance of places to get a good afternoon tea. Some of my favourites include The Ritz, Claridge’s or The Lanesborough.
🚲 Getting around: London's expanse is vast, but its public transport system is top-notch. The Tube will be your lifeline here, connecting you to all major areas. For shorter distances, the iconic double-decker buses are a great option, and for a scenic route, try the Thames Clipper service along the river. If you prefer cycling, London's Santander Cycles (affectionately known as 'Boris Bikes') are available for hire.
💬 Key phrases & slang:
Shhh, he’s on the dog and bone (Shhh, he’s on the phone)
Fancy a cuppa? (Would you like a cup of tea?)
It’s tipping it down (It’s raining heavily)
Not my cuppa tea (Not to my liking)
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What to do in London?
Decorate a ceramic “aubergine” (well not actually but I’m trying to avoid profanity filters)…
Most popular London attractions…
🏰 Steeped in a rich history, the Tower of London isn't just a fortress; it's a gateway into the nation's most gripping tales. During my visit, the Crown Jewels exhibit shone not only with literal brilliance but also with storied provenance. During the Yeoman Warder tours, you’ll hear tales of intrigue, and the view from the battlements offers a panorama of the London skyline (and you’re right next to Tower bridge!). Tip: Witness the Ceremony of the Keys, an ancient locking ritual performed nightly.
🎡 Next, the London Eye offers a breath-taking perspective of the capital’s skyline. The slow ascent in one of the glass capsules is a serene experience, climaxing in a view that stretches to Windsor on a clear day. The river below mirrors the city’s lights, making an evening ride a sparkling treat.
Descend into the London Dungeon for a chilling journey through the city’s dark past. Live actors, thrilling rides, and interactive shows bring history to life. My pulse quickened at the 'Drop Dead: Drop Ride', and the macabre tales spun by the characters will linger in your memory.
🖼️ The National Gallery is an art lover’s haven, with masterpieces from Da Vinci to Van Gogh gracing its walls. The ambiance is contemplative, the art is amazing, and the entry is free, making it an essential stop for anyone with an eye for beauty!
👑 Madame Tussauds provides a brush with fame through lifelike wax figures of global celebrities. Snap a selfie with the Royals or challenge your favourite sports stars. The Marvel Super Heroes 4D experience combines iconic figures with impressive effects.
🏛️ Lastly, no visit to London would be complete without stepping into Westminster Abbey, a coronation church since 1066. This architectural marvel is a repository of Britain’s collective memories, with its Poets' Corner and the tombs of kings and queens. It's a living pageant of British history.
My Insider tips…
These are my suggestions on the best non-touristy things to do in London. Here the focus is on sharing unique, unusual, quirky and amazing things to do.
🌆 The view from One New Change's rooftop offers an unrivalled, open-air panorama of the London skyline, with St. Paul's Cathedral so close you could almost touch its iconic dome. No ticket is required, and the experience is enhanced by the shopping and dining below. Tip: Visit at sunset for a mesmerizing display as the city lights up.
(As of the writing of this newsletter, the rooftop has been closed for essential maintenance work, so keep an eye on their website for when it reopens).
🏟️ Test your nerves on The Dare Skywalk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Climb the stadium’s exterior to reach the apex and step onto a walkway 46.8 meters above the pitch – a thrill-seeker’s dream with views to match. And for the bravest, try ‘The Edge’. A 42 metre controlled descent from the top of the stadium!
🏊♂️ For a refreshing break from city life, the outdoor pools in Hampstead Heath are an iconic London experience. With a mix of natural and man-made pools, this is a delightful spot for a summer dip amidst the greenery of one of the city’s most beloved open spaces. While summer is the obvious time to go, the Ladies’ and Men’s ponds are open year round, giving you a great opportunity to enjoy some cold water swimming!
🦜 OK so this next suggestion is a bit left-field, but it was something that surprised me the first time I saw it. When walking around Kensington Gardens, make sure to look up as you may spot something that seems rather out of place. There is a feral population of green (ring-necked) parakeets. Spotting these green birds in London’s parks is a free and unexpected delight. These bright avian residents add a tropical touch to the leafy landscapes of the city’s green havens, such as Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
🍆 OK I’ll be careful with my language here as I know a few of you using work emails have been caught out in the past with some emails being blocked for profanity 🤦. Craft something truly unique at one of Adele Brydges' workshops, where you can decorate a luxury ceramic “aubergine” (ok it’s not an aubergine - but use your imagination!). It's an adult and artisanal activity that promises a personalised touch to your pleasure.
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Where to stay in London?
Pan Pacific London/Booking.com
First up…Save 💷
🏢 In the heart of the city, The Corner London City offers a modern retreat with an urban flair. Just a stone's throw from the buzz of the city's financial district and a brief walk to the Tower of London, it's an enclave of contemporary comfort. The accommodations boast sleek design, comfy beds, and conveniences like a bar and kitchen with a delicious Vegan sustainably sourced menu. Its proximity to renowned local eateries and cafes serves as your culinary passport to London. Why stay here? With its family-friendly atmosphere and sophisticated style, it's a prime base for a rich urban adventure.
🎳 The Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch, set in the creative heart of East London, is a fusion of the area’s edgy artistry with luxurious comfort. This historic building transformed into a contemporary hotel provides a retreat with spacious rooms adorned with plush furniture, deluxe bath products, and complimentary Wi-Fi. The hotel's entertainment options, including a private cinema and bowling alley, offer unique relaxation after a day of city exploration. Why stay here? For travellers seeking an immersive cultural and luxury experience, the Courthouse Hotel stands out with its rich heritage and modern flair, amidst one of London’s most dynamic neighbourhoods.
Trying to narrow down two hotels for this section was difficult as London is packed full of incredible hotels. However, here’s two (outside of the obvious) you should really consider if wanting to splurge…
🌟 The Pan Pacific London marks a sanctuary of luxury in the heart of the city's bustling financial district. Steps away from Liverpool Street Station, this elegant hotel offers a tranquil escape with its fusion of Singaporean hospitality and British charm. Guests can unwind in sumptuously appointed rooms, indulging in amenities that cater to both relaxation and productivity. The hotel's dining experiences, including a patisserie and a fine dining restaurant led by renowned chefs, offer a journey through global flavours with a local twist. Why stay here? Perfect for the discerning traveller, Pan Pacific provides an oasis of calm amidst the city's fervour, complete with a well-being floor that includes a fitness centre and spa for ultimate rejuvenation.
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