UK Road Trip Part 4: London

To read about my previous destinations, check out my itinerary or my northern and southern road trips.

I stayed in London for five days and managed to see a lot during that time. Technically London wasn’t part of the actual road trip because no way was I driving in that crazy city, but it was a nice end to the trip. There are seemingly infinite blogs out there about what to do in five days in London, but ask yourself, are those written by budget travellers who got ripped off by their car insurance company so they have even less money to spend in a super expensive city than expected? Trust me when I say you can still enjoy yourself in London while strapped for cash. There were some tourist destinations I missed as I’d visited before, but my travels did take me past icons such as the Tower of London, Westminster and London Eye so these could be incorporated on the way. Here are my suggestions for what to do with five days in London:

Day 1: Catch a show– OK some cash required. Fortunately very little however; I watched Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for 30 pounds for both parts- 15 pounds each for some of the most sought after tickets going at the moment, and I only bought them a week or so in advance (they’d just released more). Subtext: London is the greatest city in the world.

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In Leicester Square, on the way to the theatre (actual theatre was covered in scaffolding.)

Covent Garden- I have a soft spot for Covent Garden. I think because it was one of the few places I went multiple times last time I was in London so it feels familiar somehow. Plus it’s super pretty decorated for Christmas.

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Covent Garden at Christmas

Day 2: Victoria and Albert Museum– Cultural artefacts are always more of a draw card for me at museums than animal/plant specimens, so the V&A drew me in over the Natural History museum over the road. There was, however, an outdoor skating rink outside the Natural History museum, one of several in London during the festive season. +1 to Natural History museum, and winter in London. Another bonus: over the road was a coffee shop with one of only a few decent coffees I had in England. (The others were in Oxford and Bath, as it happens.)

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National History Museum’s skating rink

Kensington Gardens and Palace- How does the Royal Family just casually have a palace in the middle of a park, in the middle of the city? I don’t know but I do know that I love Kensington Gardens. The smaller size of this palace makes it nice for an afternoon visit after a walk around the park. Plus the gardens had friendly squirrels who posed for photos.

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Kensington Palace Grounds

National Gallery- I’m not much of an art aficionado. It seems like a nice skill to have, but most of this cultural pastime is lost on me. I did visit the National Gallery though, and found it a) a nice break from the freezing temperature and b) contained several pieces from artists I actually did know, such as Monet’s waterlilies.

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Trafalgar Square, outside the National Gallery

Day 3: Buckingham Palace- I did the touristy thing and watched the Changing of the Guards, then walked through St James’ Park to the Thames. It was beautiful, but also so cold I couldn’t feel my face.

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Buckingham Palace

Greenwich- at the river I caught a ferry to Greenwich for the afternoon. I walked up to the observatory, which has some stellar views (pun not intended but I’m quite proud). I went into the observatory- time and space don’t really interest me as a subject but they had a house set up as it would have been when families lived there; anything that tells me a story about how people used to live is enough to overcome my disinterest. I walked back past Greenwich University. It’s a pretty part of London and there was a lot more to explore, but by then I was pretty tired and cold so headed back north of the river.

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View from Greenwich Observatory

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Old Royal Naval College

Shakespeare’s Globe- I managed to catch the last tour of this historical venue and finally saw inside the theatre I talk so much about when teaching Shakespeare. There were other exhibitions going on so I recommend not going last minute as I did, but definitely try and go when you can. I liked that it was its own little world in the middle of a busy part of London and being reminded of how much his work has influenced culture.

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Shakespeare + fairy lights. New favourite view.

Day 4: Stonehenge and Salisbury- I’d been planning to do this trip while in Hampshire but couldn’t because of the snow. There was so much more to see in London but I didn’t want to miss out again. It’s an easy day trip from London- you catch the train to Salisbury then there are tour buses that run from the station to Stonehenge and back, with commentaries. Stonehenge itself was interesting- it was pretty amazing the way they managed to build it, although when I got there a group was re-enacting some sort of ritual inside the circle, featuring Santa Claus and possibly a Star Wars character, so excuse the collection of figures in the photo. I know Stonehenge was originally used for such things, but it was more distracting than experience enhancing.

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Stonehenge

Salisbury was nice too. I went to the Cathedral, which was beautiful, but couldn’t see all of it as it was closed for a BBC carols service, featuring what I assume was a live nativity as I saw someone leading a donkey in. (Reason why I love England #138)

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Salisbury Cathedral. Not pictured: live donkey.

Day 5: Camden markets- I was hesitant to go to the markets initially, because I’d seen how crazy busy Portobello road markets get and you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t make her cope without personal space. Nevertheless, it was a part of London I’d never seen so I went early enough to escape most of the crowd and enjoyed the experience. I then went for a rainy walk up Primrose Hill.

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Camden markets

Charles Dickens museum- I’d had dinner with friends living just down the road from this museum and wanted to come back and visit it. It’s quite small, but interesting, and Christmas was the perfect time to visit Dickens’ home. As mentioned, I love a historical house situation so I took my sweet time (for a change) wandering around and reading the signs. The whole Bloomsbury area is also good for spotting blue plaques, about where notable people, particularly literary in this case, lived and/or died.

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Charles Dickens Museum

Winter Wonderland- I spent my last night in London at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It was, appropriately, like a culmination of all the Christmas markets I’d been to combined- a fair ground meets Christmas markets with just about any type of comfort food. It was busy, but didn’t take long to get in and wasn’t too crowded once you got there. You could go with a large budget or minimal and still enjoy yourself.

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(Only photo I got of) Winter Wonderland.

So there you have it, my five days in London and the end of my trip. Comment below if you have any questions about road tripping or travelling the UK in general.

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