At 33 years of age, I’ve visited London for the first time in my life! It’s honestly hard for me to believe I’ve never been there before.
It’s such a fun city, with some many things to see and to do. It has everything of the highest quality, and a special atmosphere, like the sort you feel in Manhattan. The feeling that anything is possible, and anything can happen 🙂
We traveled to London in early November. Before the trip, I’ve done extensive research and found out about all the recommended attractions. There are actually so many that we only had time for a small portion of what the city has to offer, but I’m sure we’ll be back there many times and I’ll make sure to update the list with additional recommendations.
We were in town for just over four days and enjoyed every single moment. Well, perhaps besides the one time we got caught in a down pour in the middle of a park and ended up completely wet with no shelter to be found, but that’s just a part of the London experience. Apparently, you should always carry an umbrella with you in London. It doesn’t matter what month it is, even in the middle of August. We stayed at a friend’s house in the northern part of London. If you’re looking for a hotel, I’d recommend choosing one near a metro station, that way you can reach anywhere in town. Some recommended areas to stay in are the Covent garden area, the Chelsea and Soho areas and the east side, which is less touristic and is reminiscent of the Florentin neighborhood in Tel Aviv.
Arrival from the airport to the apartment/hotel
Since our landing was at 1am, we decided in advance not to struggle with public transportation and arrange a lift straight from the airport to the apartment in North London.
I’ve seen many recommendations for Derech Hamelech car services, so I contacted them and asked if they’d be interested in a cooperation. They assented and booked us a ride according to our flight information. After passing passport control, we’ve noticed a guy holding a sign with my name on it. We had a lovely driver who took us to the apartment (A 50-minute ride), as well as giving us a pamphlet with recommendations about London. You can also book a shuttle with them, which is cheaper – It essentially means sharing a van with some more people on a distribution path among the hotels in town. In short, it was an excellent service and I will surely add my recommendation to the many others about them.
Another option is to get an Uber to pick you up at the airport (A cheap service, but sometimes requires a long wait for the uber to arrive). You can also take the train from the airport, but if you’re several people, it’s more worthwhile to get a ride. The train is also more recommended during day hours, rather than at night.
Public transportation in London
In London, the easiest way to get around is by metro and by bus. The metro lines pass every few minutes and take you to wherever you need to go very quickly. It’s recommended to get an Oyster card for public transport, it’s sold at kiosks and tourist information stalls. The card is a rechargeable card which costs 5 pounds. We spent an average of 10 pounds a day on public transport, per person. So, it saves you money, and is much easier than looking for a place to buy tickets at every time.
Our London itinerary
Day 1: Boutique café → Covent garden → Chinatown → Cocktail bar → Broadway show
Day 2: Food tour → Champagne with a view → Hockey game
Day 3: Breakfast at Pert → Bike tour → Lunch (Sunday Roast) → Jazz concert
Day 4: Café → Saint James park → Green park → Hyde park
Recommended activities in London
London is a very large city, so large that if you’ll want to get from one place to the next, you’ll likely have to walk for an hour (Or take the metro, of course). One of the best ways to see the famous sites in a short period of time is a bike tour. We got a tour with the Brakeaway company and had an amazing time. We had great weather, the guide was interesting and funny, and London is a great city to peddle in, in general (It has bike lanes most everywhere) – Especially on weekdays when it isn’t as crowded. You can read more about the tour in the post about the bike tour.
London is known for its variety of markets and great restaurants. There’s a huge selection and it’s hard to decide what to eat. We decided to go on a food tour (As we do in many of the destinations we visit), to sample the local English cuisine. We went on a tour with the Secret food tours company. It started in Borough market, then went on to two other restaurants. We were a group of 13 people and the tour was really nice, with lots of good food. You may read about this tour, as well, in the post about the food tour in London.
One of the must-do’s in London is a Broadway show. We had the chance to visit one in Manhattan (Where we went to the Book of Mormon and had a great time). So, this time we decided to go see wicked, which we’ve heard many recommendations for, and it was worth every penny. We paid 70 pound a person for a ticket for the middle of the 13th row. The seats were perfect and the show even more so. It’s a really funny, intriguing and thought out show.
I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t enjoy it. However, it’s only recommended if you’re able to comprehend English easily. While most of the musical revolves around singing, there’s also dialog and it’s hard to follow if you don’t speak the language. Show ticket purchase.
Champagne with a view
If you’ve read any of my posts before, you’ll likely know that Roman and I love looking for places with a good view and have alcohol and coffee there. London, it turns out, has several places to do just that. Many people buy tickets to the Shard, just to go up to the vantage point, take pictures and go back down.
A much more recommended option is to enter from the back and go up to the bar, so instead of wasting money on a tourist attraction, you can spend the same sum or less on a glass of wine at the bar and take photos of the same view.
It’s recommended to book a table in advance, as this is a popular place. When we got there there as no room, so we decided to go to the Oblix bar in the adjacent building, which is also a restaurant and have champagne there. The Oblix is on the 32nd floor, unlike the Shard which is on the 52nd floor, but it still had a perfect view of the city (Unfortunately, the weather had become a bit cloudy when we went up, but it added a dramatic twist to the pictures, so it wasn’t that bad).
Jazz show at a super cool place in Brixton
When I was on a family trip in Madrid, my brother showed me the wonders of the Airbnb experiences. Basically, besides the website offering rental apartments for traveling, they also opened an entire section about travel experiences where you can find workshops, tours and many other fun activities. In Madrid and Barcelona, we did food tours through them, and this time I found a jazz concert there which sounded really nice (And had many good reviews), it’s in a hidden gem in London.
I actually considered passing on it on the day of the show, as it was cold and the place was far from where we were staying (At a friend’s place in north London), but we decided to go and I’m really glad we didn’t give up on it.
Beyond the show itself being fascinating, with a highly talented set of performers, the place itself was really cool as well. It’s a container field with street food and alcohol.
What was nice about it is that we could buy food and drinks and enter the show. So, we bought ourselves a pizza (Which was fantastic! Stone oven pizza), and apple cider and sat like that at the concert. Jazz fans will surely enjoy, and if you don’t feel like a show, you can just visit this area for a nightly hangout. It has a great atmosphere with places to sit. The place is called The Pop Box in Brixton. Map.
A 30-Euro discount coupon on your first order from Airbnb.
Those who know me, know that really good cafés make me happy. So, of course, In London – Which is considered a city with many high-quality cafés, I had to look for a great coffee house. I found Attendant café through Instagram. I searched for #LondonCafes and saw many pictures, then ran across a picture of avocado toast which looked perfect and told Roman that’s where we’ll go. Let’s just say, if I live in London, it’ll be the café I visit every morning.
True, it’s not cheap, but it’s very high-quality and intimate, with great service. I ordered the avocado toast which comes with beet cream and tastes even better than the pictures and Roman had eggs benedict and enjoyed them a lot.
We also had Cappuccino which was great. They have 3 branches, we were at the one on Leather lane Map. It’s adjacent to the Leather lane food market, which is open on weekdays, so it’s another good opportunity to visit the market.
Best cocktail bar in the world
Speaking of alcohol, as sworn alcohol enthusiasts, we had to try London’s famous bar which has won the “Best bar in the world” four times in a row, Artesian bar.
It’s honestly hard for me to say it’s the best bar I’ve ever been to, but it definitely feels lucrative, and the prices are to match. If you come here, be prepared to pay 20 pounds for a cocktail. While it’s a lot of money for one cocktail, but since we love cocktails – visiting the place once was definitely worth it for us. We booked seats in advance (For 17:00, as there were none available later than that) and sat on the bar (We love sitting at the bar at cocktail bars, since watching the bartenders making our cocktails is a lot of fun). The cocktails were excellent and if you’re fans of the genre, it’s worth visiting at least once.
Parks in town
You can visit London without walking around it’s parks. You can spend a whole day just walking from one to the other, stopping for a coffee every now and then. I recommend starting with Saint James park, then going to Green park and then Hyde park. These three parks are adjacent to one another and so you can pass between them with no problem.
One of the fun things about London is the large selection of markets it has. One of my favorite markets to visit was Borough market, a large food market with a great selection of street food stalls, as well as high quality local produce like cheeses, hams, spices, breads and more. It’s open everyday besides Sundays, from 10:00 to 17:00. On Mondays to Wednesdays not all of the stalls are open, but it’s also less crowded. It’s recommended to come hungry.
The British museum
It rains a lot in London, and it can sometimes rain for hours, so if you’re looking for a roofed activity, you’ll be happy to hear that entrance to most of the museums in London is free. One of the city’s recommended museums is the British museum, showcasing a vast collection of world art and artefacts . You can rent an audio guide or buy a map with explanations about the museum. The museum is really nice in my opinion, and we honestly didn’t buy the audio guide which in retrospect I think was a mistake as I usually enjoy myself more in museums with the audio.
Address: Great Russell St.
Local hockey game
My friend, who lives in London, recommended I check the Alexandra Palace. She said it’s a place with many events and has a good vantage point over the city as it’s on a hill. While looking through their website, I’ve noticed there’s a hockey match. Since we’ve never been at one before, we decided this would be a good opportunity. We arrived at the game at 17:30 and it cost 7 pounds. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day, so we couldn’t see the city like we planned, but the game was lovely, and it was an interesting local experience. I don’t think it’s a must-do when on a short trip to London, but if you’re traveling with kids or enjoy watching sports, it could prove a nice attraction.
Sunday Roast lunch
Just like our tradition of Sabbath dinner, the English have the “Sunday Roast”. In most bars and some restaurants, on Sunday, you’ll find a special lunch. The menu will be different from the rest of the week and most of it will be roasted food with plenty of alcohol, as usual. We went to the restaurant our bike tour guide recommended, The Anchor & Hope (Map).
It’s a relatively expensive restaurant, but the food there is great. It was full when we arrived, and we incidentally managed to get a spot by the bar (It’s not the most comfortable place to sit, so I recommend booking a table in advance). We ordered a dish of roast carrots, which was good and a roast meat dish with potatoes. It was great as well! We ordered wine and beer too. The place has a great atmosphere. If you’re in London on a Sunday, it’s worth going to the bar at lunch and taking part in their tradition.
If you ask the locals, they’ll likely tell you they don’t frequent Camden market at all, but as a tourist I think you have to go there at least once. It’s a great place for special souvenirs and there are many food stalls as well. We had yam soup there, which was great and a dish of vegan Shepperd’s pie with vegan Mac & cheese which was delicious (The restaurant is called Vegan young, on the bottom floor at the market).
So, of course, Covent Garden is one of London’s famous locations and there’s no chance you won’t pass through it when you’re there, but I’ll mention it anyway as it’s beautiful there (Especially before Christmas with the holiday decorations).
Like many cities around the world, you’ll find China town in London as well. As soon as you arrive to the area, you feel like you’ve gone to China. I recommend going there after Covent garden, as they’re close to each other, that way you can have lunch there. We sat down at the Joy King Lau restaurant, which was very good. We ordered steamed shrimp dumplings there, which were excellent, so we ordered another serving. We also ordered Won Ton soup (A type of filled dumplings) and Roman had a duck dish that was great as well.
Before going to Saint James park, we went to have coffee at The Borough Barista café.
When we came downstairs, we discovered there are many business people who have meetings there and it was quite full, so we decided to sit on the top floor which is more pleasant. We had Cappuccino and a small cream cake. If you want a good coffee before the walk to the park, this is a good option.
Address: 15 Charles II St, St. James’s
The Pret a manger chain
This is a huge café chain in London (You’ll see their branches every few meters), we’ve seen a recommendation about them in the Derech Hamelech recommendations pamphlet, and it turns out it’s a chain of high-quality food where you’ll find many vegan and gluten free options.
The prices there are cheaper and it’s a great option for breakfast or a quick meal in the middle of the day. You can also sit down to work there on your laptop.