Lake District Itinerary: Your 2 Day Lake District Guide

Helvellyn summit looking down to Red Tarn in the Lake District

If you’re planning on visiting the Lake District and are looking for a 2 day Lake District itinerary, then keep reading to really see how you can have a fun-packed couple of days in Cumbria!

There really is something for everyone. And you’ll be booking your next break to get back as soon as you can!

Here’s how to spend a weekend in the Lake District!

Day One of Your Lake District Itinerary

Have breakfast in Keswick.

So where is the best place to start any good blog post on a guide for two days in the Lake District?

Well, with your stomach and making sure that it is filled and ready for the day ahead!

That’s certainly where we would begin any good adventure for the day ahead. And being local to Keswick, you really can’t find a better place for a choice of cafes and restaurants throughout the day.

This bustling tourist market town offers a wide variety of food, so you won’t be struggling for a new place to visit each day that you stay here.

The Merienda Café in Keswick is one of our favorites. We’ve been a few times now and each time we remember why it is that we keep coming back!

They have an excellent choice for breakfast and brunch to kick start your day. The Merienda cafe offers gluten-free and vegetarian options, so there is no fear that your needs won’t be accommodated while you’re here.

My personal favorite is the porridge, just because it’s a healthy and hearty meal, as well as a warm way to begin your day.

It’s sure to keep you going until dinner time and with the option of blueberries, honey, and banana to add to your breakfast: it’s just a great option.

They also do a mean full English, but they do it their own way. It’s a little unique, but it’s well worth trying. My mouth is just watering at the thought of it again now!

Take the scenic drive to Fleetwith Pike.

Being in the Lake District can cause you to get stumped with a million different possibilities for the day ahead. But that’s what we’re here for, and boy do we have a treat for you!

This is where we really begin the guide for two days in the Lake District. So once you’re in your car, head down the B5289 leaving Keswick as you head south.

It won’t be long until you will see the fells and mountains of the area all around you. Their slopes come right down to the roadside as you drive through the up and windy route that is Honister Pass.

It’s a view that has to be seen while on any Lake District itinerary, and so we just have to bring you this way to Buttermere!

You will pass Honister Slate mine on your left-hand side, and this is where we’ll be coming for some well-needed lunch.

But for now, you drive past this and begin the decline towards Buttermere itself. You will see some small lay-bys dotted around alongside the road and this is where you’ll want to be pulling up and parking.

View of rocky and grassy summit of a mountain the Lakes District, on a partly cloudy day.
Fleetwith Pike is on the left — which you’ll be climbing!

The start to Fleetwith Pike

Parked, backpacks on, boots tightened, and map at the ready, here we go! Begin your walk by following the road down to the base of Fleetwith Pike.

You’ll know what mountain it is when you can see a white cottage ahead of you on the road. When you see this, then you want to be looking on your left for a path leading off from the road.

Once you’ve located the path, head left and continue the easily-located path to the base of the ridge. From here, it’s a straightforward path that simply heads up.

There are no major complications here, just keep an eye on your footing and the easy scrambles as you make your way up this epic fell… and make sure that you take a moment or two to turn around!

Take in the views as you head up. So often we look in front of us, but at times like this, it is just as important to look behind too.

For us personally, the views from the top of Fleetwith Pike are some of the best in the whole of the Lake District. So for us to help guide you for two days in the Lake District, we only go on what we’ve witnessed and experienced, to get the best couple of days for you!

Celebrate at the summit of Fleetwith Pike.

When you reach the top of the mountain, you’ll be welcomed by a cairn and views that stretch for miles around you.

Towards the south-west is the famous Haystacks that holds some great memories and so much history in Cumbria too!

As well as this, the sight over Buttermere and the fells around towering down towards the lake are stunning.

I’m sure you can see this for yourself in the photo below — and when you’re there in person, I guarantee you it feels epic to be looking around you from the top!

A rock cairn overlooking green fells and small hills and a blue lake in the Lakes District
Fleetwith Pike is on the left — which you’ll be climbing!

But by now I’m sure you’ll be getting a little peckish. I mean, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be seriously hungry and ready for some lunch!

So let’s get moving again and get back for some food before our afternoon of cliff-hanging begins.

From the top of Fleetwith Pike, continue heading in the same direction as before over the top of the summit and locate a less distinct path here.

It will lead you down toward the Honister slate mine. When you get to a slight junction you will want to bear left here, and this will take you to lunch.

Fuel up on lunch at the Honister Slate Mine.

It is easy to find the Honister Slate Mine. When you see the building and car park in front of you, then you know that you have arrived.

Make your way through the car park and to the main entrance of the building. Once you’re inside, you will find the Sky Hi cafe that they have, and this is when you can go to town on ordering anything you like from the menu.

They have a good choice of food, and if you need warming through after your walk, then there are hot options available too. For us though, it was a hot day when we had been walking, so something cooler and lighter was needed.

Here you can take some time out and enjoy looking back through the photos of your walk so far. Even on a cloudy day in the Lakes, some of the views you can see will still amaze you. It will give added contrast to the skies and fells that you see too!

Once you’ve finished your lunch, it’s time to get those hard hats on and get onto the side of the rock face for more adventures!

Brave the heights on the Honister Via Ferrata.

To guide you through two days in the Lake District, we’d have to advise you to get booked in for this activity in advance!

Make sure that there are free spaces for the day that you’re going to be in this area of the Lake District. You can find more information about the whole experience on their website too.

When you’ve got yourself checked in then there will be a brief safety briefing for the activity ahead.

For those of you who haven’t done a via ferrata before, you’re going to be in for a treat. It’s something special for sure, and it’s not every day you have the option of climbing along the rock face of a mountain and hanging there watching the world go by!

If you have a fear of heights, this might not be the best choice for you, unless you’re ready to face that fear head-on. If so, then let’s do this together!

A group of four people climbing on iron ladders and railings (via ferrata) in order to ascend a cliff
Hazel and Zoe (truefreedomseekers) on the Via Ferrata in the Lake District

As you make your way through this activity for an hour or so, you’ll get to grips with feeling out of your comfort zone.

But you’re not alone — they have great guides for this in the Lake District. They go through the whole experience with you, along with a group of others just like you. So no need to fear, you’re always in good hands!

Simply jump in and absorb it all. It’s truly fun, and although my legs were well and truly shaking most of the time, I loved it. It’s something to look back on and smile, even laugh at how we were throughout the whole thing! Hazel even managed to split her trousers climbing up the metal ladders!

So it’s a great way to build some memories and feel truly free as you climb up the mountainside to the top for those seriously stunning views again.

Have some of the best fish and chips at the Old Keswickian.

When the via ferrata experience is completed and you’ve walked back to the slate mine, it’s time to get back to the car and head into Keswick for some serious fish and chips!

Head out of the slate mine and turn left onto the road, and go back to where you drove earlier this morning to get back to your car. Then you want to be heading back up the road and into Keswick.

A traditional high street in England with a man looking inside the restaurant that says "Old Keswickian" and has posters for fish and chips.
Some of the best fish and chips in Cumbria the Old Keswickian.

When you’ve parked up in the little town, simply head to the town center. Follow the crowds and it won’t be long until you smell the incredible smell that is fish and chips!

The Old Keswickian is located on the corner of the main high street. Now, it is entirely your choice to eat in or take out. There are benches dotted around the streets, so on a summer evening, it can be a great place to do some people watching too.

They really are some of the best fish and chips in Cumbria though, and you won’t be disappointed — I’m certain of it.

Head to the Castlerigg Stone circle.

Now how do you end a full packed guided first day in the Lake District? Well, even here, you can unwind and enjoy the slower pace. After all, you are on holiday!

So we couldn’t recommend heading to the east of the town and out into the countryside for a spectacular end to the day.

Castlerigg Stone Circle is a true hidden gem in the Lake District. There is so much history to the area, and once again, the views and aura of being in such a grand structure are worth the last slog up the hill to find it!

It’s about a half-hour walk from the center of Keswick, but when you’re there, you can simply sit down and enjoy simply just being there.

A circle of large stones casting a shadow in the late afternoon sunlight on Castlerigg in the Lake District.
A view from Castlerigg Stone Circle just outside of Keswick

Wait for the sun to go down for a true experience and see the stones glisten as the last of the day’s light hits them. Now that’s how you switch off and really enjoy being in the moment!

Day Two of Your Lake District Itinerary

Have breakfast at the Pooley Bridge tea rooms.

Welcome to day two of your weekend in the Lake District and day two of your guide!

We hope you’re ready for another big one…. and if you are, then you’re going to need a good breakfast to get that energy stored up!

We start day two at Pooley Bridge, which can be driven to from Keswick. It’s around a half-hour or so drive, and once you’re here and parked, then the day is ready for you.

The Granny Dowbekins Tearooms offer a great selection of breakfasts to get you started for the day — of course, you can enjoy a good cup of tea alongside this too!

Today, there is a bit more of a schedule to keep to because of the Ullswater Steamers, but more information about their landing times at each stop can be found on their website. So check them out to make sure you can fit everything in for your trip.

Take the Ullswater Steamer across the lake to start your walk up to Helvellyn.

Once on the Ullswater Steamer, you can take a seat for the beginning of the day and look over the side of the boat at the water beside you.

Take in the views across the other mountains and fells in the Lakes as you travel along the water to Glenridding.

A jetty point where you can disembark from the steamboat, with a white smaller boat visible, and some hills on the lake in the distance.
Glenridding jetty point on Ullswater in the Lakes

When the steamer pulls up at Glenridding jetty, hop off and head out through the car park and cross the road here too.

Head right at the road for a short period of time before detouring off left. This path starts to climb up through another car park and then out of Glenridding.

This, folks, is the path leading up to the third highest fell in the Lake District: Helvellyn.

Follow the clear and somewhat steep path in places as it climbs up the banks of Helvellyn. You might meet and join others on their walk too, but go at your own pace. There is no rush to climbing any mountain, so take your time, stop as often as you like, and simply enjoy being here!

As you near the famous gap in the wall, it isn’t much longer until you see the beauty that is Red Tarn in front of you. This main path guides you to the tarn on Helvellyn in the Lake District. 

To either side of this are the glorious ridges of Striding Edge and Swirral Edge: one to climb up to Helvellyn, and one to walk back down from the top. But first, let’s take a break for a well-earned lunch break.

Enjoy a tasty packed lunch on the fells.

You cannot go walking across the fells in the Lake District without having to take a packed lunch with you most of the time!

Now when it comes to packed lunches, we are the leaders. We make sure that we have enough food to feed an army! This is simply because we are constantly hungry and snacking is a big part of fell walking for us, to keep your energy up along with being healthy too.

Some of the best snacks and packed lunch ideas are fruit, nuts, cereal bars, energy bars, along with sandwiches or soup in a Thermos if it’s an especially cold day in Cumbria.

Always take enough water with you too so that you don’t get dehydrated. This is a must if you’re walking in the summer months for sure!

Something that you just have to have on you at all times when in the Lake District is Kendal mint cake.

It’s insanely nice and hits the spot as a real energy boost when you need it. You can pick it up in most local and larger stores around the Lakes, so there is no excuse to not try it out! You won’t regret it. Our two-day guide to the Lake District wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t give you some local food or snack advice!

So enjoy your packed lunch at the side of Red Tarn whilst looking up towards the ridges of Striding and Swirral Edge, knowing it will soon be your turn to take them on yourself!

Ascend Helvellyn via Striding Edge and come back via Swirral Edge.

Backpacks zipped back up and bellies full, it’s time to face the beast itself: Striding Edge and the final ascent to Helvellyn.

Take your time as you head up the ridge on the left of Red Tarn and truly enjoy the exhilarating climb to the top of this amazing mountain.

Helvellyn summit looking down to Red Tarn in the Lake District
Helvellyn summit looking down towards Red Tarn in the centre, Catstye Cam on the far left

From the top of Helvellyn, you’ll have insane views across the whole of the Lake District and beyond.

If you’re lucky enough to have the summit mostly to yourself, then enjoy walking to each and every edge of the plateau and take in the views from each side.

Get your camera or phone out and get some snaps! We do each time to make those memories easier to look back on, and to show others where we’ve been too. It also helps with our blog to show you what to expect too!

Head towards Swirral Edge on the northern side of Helvellyn and head down this ridge.

Part of the way back down you’ll see a detour path on the left. This heads towards Catstye Cam.

For your two-day guide to the Lake District, depending on how you’re feeling, you might want to take the detour up here. It’s worth it to see the sights looking back towards Helvellyn! But if you’re feeling a little worn out, just keep heading down back to Red Tarn.

From here, you follow the same path down which you came up. This is the easiest and most direct way back to Glenridding.

Have dinner at the Helvellyn Country Kitchen.

When you’ve hiked back down to Glenridding, it will be well and truly time for some good grub!

A great place to head for a hearty meal is the Helvellyn Country Kitchen. They have some great hot meals like burgers, along with chips, paninis, and salads if you’re after a healthier option.

For us, after a long day walking you can’t beat a good greasy dinner to finish the day off. But each to their own, so there are options for everyone here.

If you’re feeling particularly hungry — which, let’s be honest, you should be after the walk you’ve had! — then take a look at the Helvellyn Country Kitchens desserts and cakes.

You really can’t beat them to finish off any meal… and maybe a good local pint to wash it all down!

Head back to Pooley Bridge on the steamer.

After you’ve filled your stomach to the bursting point, head back towards the Ullswater Steamers and jump back on to head back to Pooley Bridge.

Check the timetable throughout the year to make sure you have plenty of time. Depending on the time of year, it depends when is the last steamer back to Pooley Bridge.

This is why it’s essential to check the planned timetable for the day in the Lake District for the steamers, and this goes for all the lakes as well as Ullswater. 

When you’ve got back to the car then jump in and let’s take a drive to the final stop-off point for the day: Aira Force.

It’s a relatively short drive to Aira Force. The parking for this is located at the north end of Ullswater, so just keep following the main road from Pooley Bridge until you see the signs to pull in.

Head towards the waterfall of Aira Force.

Park in the large parking lot, and then head towards the only way possible: the waterfall of Aira Force.

As you get closer to the waterfall, you’ll start to feel as though you’re in a fairytale! The woods get denser, and there are some lovely bridges and stone paths that lead over the streams below.

Aira Force waterfall in the Lake District

It’s possible to get utterly lost in time and lost in general whilst walking to the waterfall.

We have got lost here in a downpour, and when we finally made it back to the car we were in hysterics laughing at just how soaked we really were!

So rain or shine, it’s the perfect way to end a busy day climbing in the Lake District.

When you get to Aira Force, take a seat on the wall or stand and just become mesmerized by the water tumbling down. Let yourself drift into a calm place and reflect on the last two days in the Lake District.

I know for us, any adventure in the Lake District is special. So we hope you’ve enjoyed this Lake District itinerary, and truly got the most out of your weekend in the Lake District.

So that’s your fun-packed two-day guide to the Lake District from us!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading and are ready to get your boots strapped on tight! Comment below for more information or your thoughts on the plan too. We’d love to hear from you. And if you need more resources, be sure to check our blog for more Lake District articles.

About the Authors

Two women, Hazel and Zoe, smiling and wearing glasses while visiting the Lake District of UK.

Hi, we’re Hazel and Zoe (True Freedom Seekers), who have a deep passion and interest in the Lake District of the UK. After visiting Cumbria over five years ago, we now make our way back to the Lakes at any time possible to enjoy more adventures while we’re there.

We regularly climb the Wainwrights and now blog on our journeys along the way. Along with information pages so you can get the best advice possible when you visit too.

You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Medium

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21 Cool Things to Do In & Around Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and one of the largest cities in the UK. It’s also one of the easiest cities to get to from London, with direct train and road links.

In 2011, it was ranked 6th in the National Geographic’s list of alternative places to visit, which means it’s one of the most visited places in the UK, with over 25 million visitors each year. 

What’s nice about Cardiff is that it lives up to the hype. There are so many things to do in Cardiff, both inside and around the area. 

If you visit as part of a Wales road trip (which I highly recommend), it’s easy to park up your vehicle and explore the city for a couple of days. Once you’re done, you can add some of these alternative ideas to your itinerary. 

Things to Do in Cardiff Center

There are lots of things to do around Cardiff Center – here are five of our favorites

Visit Cardiff Castle

This spectacular castle is built on foundations dating from 50 AD. The city grew up around it and it’s been destroyed and reconstructed many times. But the latest reconstruction (mostly from the 1800s) is magnificent.

The interior is incredibly opulent – it was designed by the world’s richest man (at the time!) Make sure you buy tickets to visit the Arab room and the castle apartments — they’re breathtaking.

Go to St Fagan’s

St Fagans houses some of the oldest buildings in the city. Over 40 houses, gardens, and other buildings create a living museum, representing an old Iron Age village.

It’s brilliant for kids and adults of all ages and is a fantastic way to learn more about the history in the area.

Visit the National Museum

This is a great place to come should it rain. Side note: ALWAYS expect rain. It’s Wales!

This museum houses a huge collection of art (both modern and older), and some incredible depictions of the history of the area and the animals which wandered Wales- including woolly mammoths and dinosaurs! 

Visit Bute Park

This wonderful park is a haven in the city center. There are 130 acres of gardens and parkland, which once belonged to Cardiff Castle.

The river runs through it and there’s plenty of space to spread out, making it a wonderful place for walks, picnics, or sunny Saturday afternoons. 

Enjoy a coffee in Roald Dahl Plass

Named for the famous children’s author, this is a large square in central Cardiff.

It’s home to the Senedd (famous striking government building) and the Millennium Centre (home to many sports and artist performances).

The square itself often hosts open-air concerts and it’s a wonderful place for people-watching and soaking up the atmosphere of the city.  

Other Great Things to Do in Cardiff City

Visit Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay is actually 2 rivers, which form a large freshwater lake in the heart of the city. It used to be tidal, but now locks provide access for boats.

Years ago, the Bay was the hub of the city and was where the coal ships were loaded up. You can still wander around many of the docks and pier heads, which have mostly been regenerated and turned into smart bars and cafes. 

See the Norwegian Church

Whilst you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit the Norwegian Church Arts centre- a rescued wooden church which was rebuilt in 1992. Roald Dahl used to attend this church as a child, and it now is a venue for charity work and small concerts, conferences and art exhibitions. 

There are many other incredible and unique things to do in the centre of Wales- such as white water rafting!- but let’s focus on some things to do outside the city centre.

Visit the marvelous Caerphilly Castle

If you like castles you must visit the second largest castle in the UK. It’s impressively built and surrounded by artificial lakes, which aided in its defences. 

This isn’t the only thing that makes it famous though; it also has a leaning tower that has leaned 3 meters since 1648! Who needs to go to Pisa?

Check out Llandaff Cathedral

The heart of the Church of Wales, this is actually one of 2 cathedrals in Wales (the other is Roman Catholic).

You can walk around the Cathedral whenever there is no service on- it has some beautiful architecture, windows, and history to discover. 

See Castell Coch

Yep, it’s really called that (and yes, you can snicker). This Gothic castle is just outside Wales and was constructed by the Normans to control the trade route. 

The roof of the castle is totally at odds with many of the other UK castles- it looks more like something from one of the German fairytale castles! 

Check out Barry Island

Despite its name, this is no longer an island (although it used to be!).

This area is well-known for its beach and pleasure park, but it is possibly more famous as the home of Gavin and Stacey (from the hit BBC TV show)

Cross the Newport Transporter Bridge

This is possibly one of the coolest things in the entire area and I highly recommend everyone add it in when they’re planning a UK road trip.

It’s one of a handful of working transporter bridges in the world, and it’s a great way to take your car or camper across the River Usk. It can take 6 vehicles and 120 pedestrians – or if you’re feeling really brave, you can walk across the top. 

Opened in 1906, it is an electric-powered gondola that goes between two towers that are at a slightly terrifying height of 242 feet each. Definitely not one for those who have that fear of heights, but it is exciting and it’s a challenge to see how well you manage up there. For adults, it costs £2.75 and for children, it’s £1.75.

Best Things to Do Near Cardiff (Within a 60 Minute Drive)

Here are some other incredible places which are all within an hour of Cardiff:

Take the Brecon Mountain Railway

Trains are a fantastic way to explore the countryside, especially when it’s a steam train- it’s a great way to watch the world go by. 

This mountain railway travels through foothills of the Brecon Beacons, alongside Pontsticill reservoirs until it gets to Pant, just north of Merthy Tyfdil. The main station at Pant opens at 9:30 am, the last train leaves at 5pm or 4:15pm depending on the time of year from Pontsticill. Return Adult currently costs £13, children return costs £6.50 (15 and under). All children under 5 receive free entry

Delve into the National Showcaves

This is one of the most sizeable cave systems in Western Europe. The caves were uncovered about a century ago and inside are underground lakes, rivers and several breath-taking waterfalls. There are 4 different caves- you can even get married in one of them! 

 Also, for the kids, there is a dinosaur park with more than 200 life sized dinosaur models. Admission rates allow entry to all the attractions. It’s currently £14 for Adults and £9.50 for children aged 3-16. Children under 2 go free.

Wander through Tintern Abbey

This is one of the most well preserved monastic ruins in the country, despite the fact that it’s been decaying for nearly 500 years.

This beautiful abbey sits on the banks of the River Wye and was the second of its type to be built in Britain. It has become a haven for artists who want to draw, paint, or photograph it, as well as for history lovers and dog walkers. 

Stroll around Margam Park & Castle

Margam Country Park is perfect for a relaxing day around nature. There are wild deer and farm animals that you can pet, a train that goes around the park, a stunning castle, and vast amounts of grassy areas and open space. 

You can also visit the house at the center, go to the café, and also to the fishing lake. For the kids, there’s a children’s play area. Entry is free, although you need to pay for parking.

Visit the Big Pit National Coal Museum

The Big Pit is inside an old coal mine that was operational until 1980. Here, you can take one of the world-famous tours that go 300 feet underground and get to see and understand what life was like for those thousands of men who worked in the mines. A real-life miner accompanies you and shares stories of life in the pits.

There are also tours above ground that are multimedia and exhibitions. Entry to the Big Pit is free!

Hike up Pen y Fan in Brecon Beacons National Park

Pen y Fan is the highest point in South Wales. It’s a steep climb but worth the trek and the feeling of accomplishment after!

There are two routes you can take, either straight up and down or you can go the “horseshoe” route which is longer but possibly slightly easier. Be aware, the weather at the top of Pen y Fan is not often the same as below- so make sure you pack appropriately. 

Visit the stunning Saint Mary’s Priory

Known as Wales’ Westminster Abbey, this priory contains some of the most important medieval treasures in Britain.

There are more than 10 alabaster chest tombs and the 15th-century wooden sculpture, known as the tree of Jesse, which has been described as one of the finest medieval sculptures in the world.

Entry is free but donations are welcomed here.

Stroll through Dyffryn Gardens

Dyffryn Gardens are the beautiful grounds which surround a gorgeous Grade II listed house built in 1893-4. The gardens stretch for 55 acres and are open all year round.

They’re ornate, beautiful and peaceful — perfect for a wander and explore, or even a picnic if the weather is kind. 

Do go chasing waterfalls

There are some incredible waterfalls in this area, especially around the Brecon Beacons. One of the most famous is Aberdulais Falls which is now owned by the National Trust and is closer to Swansea than Cardiff, but can be reached within an hour

In the Brecon Beacons, there are a series of waterfalls called the waterfall walk. This incorporates Henrhyd Falls: the highest waterfall in the National Park, with a drop of 27m and the home of the bat cave in the 2012 movie The Dark Knight Rises. 

But, honestly, the most impressive waterfall is Sgwd yr Eira, which is the waterfall you can walk behind! It can be a little hard to find using sat-nav, but it’s well worth the effort and the walk to get there. 

So there you go — 21 incredible places to visit in and around Cardiff. Whether you can only visit for a day or have a week or more to explore, there’s plenty to see and do in Cardiff area, Wales.

About the Author

Kathryn Bird decided to get out of the rat race whilst she was still young enough to enjoy it. Together with her husband and cocker spaniel puppy Mac, she explores Europe by motorhome and motorbike, sharing her experiences on the award-winning travel blog Wandering Bird. In two years they have visited 19 countries and driven nearly 50,000 miles in their motorhome- not including the times they were lost! 

Off the Beaten Path London: 17 Quirky Hidden Gems in London

Big Ben. Westminster Abbey. The London Eye. London Bridge.

These things are all quintessentially London, but let’s face it, they’re extremely crowded and a lot of the magic is lost.

If you want to see London without the crowds, you’ll need to go a bit off the beaten path in London, beyond just central London.

Luckily, I have Anissa from London Travellers, a London local, here to share with me all her favorite London hidden gems and show you a secret London that few tourists get to experience!

Here are her top recommendations for hidden gems in London for you to explore.

Off the Beaten Path London: 17 Hidden Gems Worth Exploring

God’s Own Junkyard

Located in East London, God’s Own Junk Yard is one of London’s hidden gems and offers a multi-colored neon art gallery. Just note that where it’s located is not the best area in London, and when I visited, I went past the place. It’s easily missed!

Some of the items include a multi-colored neon arrow pointing downwards with bulbs around the edges. The bright neon “Laughter” lit in the middle of the arrow. Why not see the British Union Jack flag brightly lit in red and blue neon lights? Or see a bright neon Santa next to his sleigh with his red and white costume?

The creator, Chris Bracey, has worked with Vivienne Westwood’s store to install neon lights for her storefront, David La Chapelle, and Selfridges in the past. There are hundreds more to choose from. If you have a retail fashion store, a bar or night club, ask in store for details; it’s a shop too! Enjoy cakes and coffee and spend at least an hour here.

Highgate Cemetery

If you love cemeteries, then you’ll love Highgate Cemetery. Situated near Archway Tube Station, and the upper-class area of Hampstead Heath (another London hidden gem), Highgate Cemetery is said to be haunted. Several important people such have been buried here, for example, Karl Marx is buried here.

Check out Egyptian Avenue where you’ll find rows of subterranean passageways on a hillside, used to be used for religious purposes. All around you, you’ll find stuccoed brick in the area.

Check out Waterlow Park where you’ll see great views of London. You can sit by the rows of benches just enjoying the green space and relaxing, looking at wildlife and historical 18th to 19th-century buildings.

Find a place where you can sip your coffee and eat cake and relax for a bit. Don’t forget to take photos of the stone gargoyles on either side of the stone steps, enjoy yourself by the lake and have a picnic.

Be sure to check out Lauderdale House while in the area, an intimate art gallery where you’ll see numerous art collections and another hidden gem in London

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath is an upper-class area of London and not far from Highgate Cemetery. You can easily walk there and combine two London hidden gems in one outing!

One of the most popular open spaces in London, Hampstead Heath is by far the best out of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. With 800 acres of woodlands, you will see a great view of London from the top of Parliament Hill.

If you’re coming from Trafalgar Square, it’s around 30 minutes from Leicester Square on the Northern Line. Alternatively, take bus numbers 88 and 214. Here are some activities you can do in Hampstead Heath Park.

You can swim in the open-air Bathing Ponds and Parliament Hill Lido during the summer (these are usually for residents of the UK rather than tourists, so check ahead of time). You’ll also find the lovely Kenwood House located here.

There are various paid sports events and sports activities, especially for families with young and older children. For sports lovers, you can go fishing, practice your athletic skills, play cricket, ride a bike, go swimming, or play tennis. There are also sports clubs from rugby, running, croquet, bowling and many more.

For wildlife and nature, you can spot woodpeckers, bullfinches, stag beetle, grass snakes, and many more. Although you rarely see beautiful colorful flowerbeds, you will still enjoy green trees turn orange and yellow in autumn, then disappear into leafless trees in winter.

You will often see bats and up to 25 different types of butterflies, along with foxes, hedgehogs, deer, a duck pond, and many more.

Check out Golders Hill Park and Golders Hill Park Zoo (free), adjacent to Hampstead Heath Park for more open space greenery and wildlife.

House of MinaLima

Located in the heart of Central London, Soho, behind Shaftesbury Avenue, House of MinaLima is a Harry Potter gift and merchandise shop. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, then this place is for you!

The storefront looks like an arcade: red all over with small light bulbs surrounding the name of the shop. It’s situated below a pink bricked house; you can’t miss it.

You will often see several black and white Harry Potter billboards, a replica of several posters and billboards you’d see in the movies. Other items include the flying envelopes that the Dursley’s kept from Harry, a statue of Hedwig, a large artwork of the Marauder’s Map on the floor (you can step on it), many books on witchcraft and wizardry as well as the Dark Arts. See the exhibition downstairs for more surprises!

Situated behind Shaftesbury Avenue, the major West End theatre district, House of MinaLima has several members of staff who would be willing to help you choose your Harry Potter products. They’re the real Harry Potter fans.

If you haven’t had enough of the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden, then visit the shop when you get back to London (if you have enough time, that is). The store closes at 7 pm.

Still want more Harry Potter? Take a Harry Potter themed walking tour with my favorite tour company, GetYourGuide.

Read reviews and book your tour today!

Brick Lane

Historically, Brick Lane was the place in London where the poorest of the poor lived and congregated. Many years back, Jack the Ripper claimed his many unfortunate victims in this area; however, now, it’s a place for trendy fashion and it’s the home of many Asian communities.

Situated in the East End of London, you can see the multi-cultural aspect of London here. Brick Lane Market opens every Sunday, selling street food and drinks from around the world. During the rest of the week, Brick Lane is also a place for several curry houses scattered around this area.

You can usually smell the hot spices mixed with different aromas of food as you walk past. Sometimes you can still feel the heat from the hot pan as you choose your dishes!

As for retro fashion, make sure you wear your best vintage outfits to fit in. You’ll see a different side to London, a sight not normally seen in Central London.

The community on Brick Lane is largely Asian, particularly Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian. Although it’s remarkably busy, you’ll enjoy the community feel, and you will see several Asian shops selling saris, headscarves, jewellery, street food, restaurants, and cafes.

Along with the multicultural community and retro fashion all around you, you will see a lot of colorful street art adorning the brick walls and storefronts.

On Brick Lane, you will see a large artwork of a pelican, (a photo popular on social media!), a large painting of a lady in orange/purple street-style outfit with her large silver necklace around her neck, and many more. Take advantage of taking several photos when you pass them!

Don’t forget to give the buskers (playing all kinds of music, from Caribbean to R&B) your attention while in the area as well, and give them a tip if you like the music!

Brick Lane is young, vibrant, multicultural, colorful, and artistic all rolled into one. A place not to be missed!

Kayaking and canoeing along the Thames

Most tourists do a hop-on hop-off bus tour or take a river cruise along the Thames. To do something a little different, why not canoe or kayak and enjoy the cool breeze as you see the many famous landmarks in London?

Kayaking and canoeing are not for the faint-hearted and not for beginners. The current in the River Thames can actually be very fierce and when it’s windy, it’s wise not to go out. I have seen experienced swimmers struggle getting out of the water because of its currents. Make sure you know the risks and go with a licensed guide!

The great thing about kayaking and canoeing in London is that it covers the quieter side of London too if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. These places are not always the most scenic, but if you’re into grazelands and abandoned spaces all overtaken by wildlife, then its an interesting sight!

You can also mix it up with a little adventure and go by jet boat! Check out RIB boat tours here.

Little Venice

Located in West London, Little Venice consists of boat houses, Georgian houses, waterways, and much more. You hardly feel as if you’re in London at all here!

It’s quiet in some areas and crowded in other areas. Connected to Regent’s Canal and the Grand Union Canal, as you walk further up into the canal, you will see Camden Lock, Camden Market near Regent’s Canal, and Portobello Market near the Grand Union Canal. Those two markets offer vintage, quirky, and trendy atmospheres and more crowds, whereas other areas are a bit quieter.

The crowds of people will make you feel a part of the friendly community and the quiet areas will give you peace. Don’t forget to check out some of the Georgian houses and see how locals live in council estates scattered around the canal.

Why not ride a boat and enjoy the ducks paddling along with you with the currents? I guarantee you that you will have a chance to avoid the crowds, and enjoy some peace in nature.

Book your Regents Canal boat tour today!

Another great thing about the areas near Little Venice is the classic and quirky cafes along and above the canal.

It’s a great feeling, sipping tea and coffees or cocktails in the evening, hearing crowds of people talking, and seeing the lights from boathouses twinkling in the night sky.

Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market is situated near London Fenchurch Street and Monument. If you happen to visit the Sky Garden, give Leadenhall Market a visit before or after.

As you step inside the cobblestone pavement in the market, you will be surrounded by many luxurious shops dating back to the 15th century. Sip some luxurious coffee in one of the coffee shops among businessmen in their suits. Buy some cinnamon pastries or sugary waffles, chocolate croissants, and various cakes to take away.

Not enough? Why not visit the New Moon pub, a brightly lit golden pub for traditional British fish and chips? Other than buying cakes, sipping coffees, and eating fish and chips, you can buy flowers at the florist, fresh meat from the market, or taste fine wine in a casual wine café.

There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes to choose from here, and it’s a welcome contrast to the vibrant working-class Borough Market and vintage Portobello Market.

It’s not just the shopping you’ll experience; it’s the historical architecture all around you. The brightly lit pathway lines many shops and as you look above, you’ll see the exceedingly high arch-shaped glass roof. As you arrive in the middle, above, you will see an extremely high dome-shaped roof. It’s a guarantee that you’ll be surrounded by stunning architecture!

Experience Pie, Mash, and Liquor

Traditionally, pie, mash, and liquor was the food of the working class in the 19th century. This dish consists of mashed potatoes and pie, usually served with gravy called ‘liquor’ (which is actually non-alcoholic), made from the stock leftover from stewed eels.

People usually eat this traditional meal with mixed vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, or peas. Complement it with a traditional British tea with milk. The taste is salty and filling at the same time. The presentation isn’t elaborate, but it’s the flavor that counts.

You can eat it for lunch or dinner, and it can be found in British pie and mash cafes or some traditional British pubs around London.

If you happen to see English cafes scattered outside Central London, the settings consist of simple flat chairs and simple tables. Regular locals will usually eat in these types of places; that’s the beauty of experiencing the British culture, seeing how and where regular Brits eat.

Here are 5 recommended Pie & Mash cafés worth a visit.

  1. Mother Mash: 26 Ganton Street, London, W1F 7QZ, England (Soho).
  2. Castle’s Pie and Mash Eel: 229 Royal College Street, London, NW1 9LT, England (situated near Camden Town and popular with tourists).
  3. M Manze Tower Bridge: 87 Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 4TW, England (follow the road from Tower Bridge and head South)
  4. Goddards at Greenwich: 22 King William Walk, Greenwich, London, SE10 9HU, England
  5. Fuller’s Pie and Ale House: 33 Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9LA, England (situated in near St. James’ Park)

All Hallows by the Tower Church

All Hallows by the Tower Church is situated next to the Tower of London. The nearest tube station is Tower Hill. It’s the oldest Anglican church in London and still holds services to this day.

After your tour at the Tower of London, why not give All Hallows by the Tower Church a visit? Later on, you can eat at the Coppa Club Tower Bridge restaurant, famous for its igloos by the River Thames, overlooking Tower Bridge and The Shard (be sure to make a reservation in advance!).

All Hallows by the Tower Church has survived many disasters including The Great Fire of London and the German bombers during the Blitz. It can also be easily missed since everyone will be attracted to the Tower of London.

If you’re into Roman history, the history of Anglo Saxons, and Ernest Shackleton, then this place is for you. Compared to Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, there are not usually a lot of people here, so it’s an intimate experience if you don’t like crowds.

Check out the crypt museum and the many multi-colored glass crests on the stained-glass windows. It’s historical, spooky, creepy, and interesting at the same time!

The Operating Theatre and Herb Garret

The Operating Theatre and Herb Garret Museum is in the South East of London. This place was used to store herbs for medicine, and it’s one of the oldest surgical theatre in London between the 18 – 20th Century.

If you’re a science buff or you’re into the history of medicine, this museum is for you. Here, you will see a collection of different flavored aspirins ranging from mint to coffee and usually taken with milk or water.

Other interesting items include a red velveted surgical box with its complete silver surgical tools. The item that most caught my attention was the blood testing kit. Seeing it, I could imagine how much it hurt when the thick syringe went into the skin to take blood samples!

In different areas of the museum, you will see other items: a 17th-century wooden hospital trolley, a 19th-century urinal glass shaped like a vase with a handle, a rusty tinned ward lantern, and a tool known as a blade scarificator, used for bloodletting. Bloodletting was intended to draw blood from a patient to cure and prevent future illnesses. Most of the time, they used to use leeches to extract blood.

It’s great fun for all the family (if you’re not squeamish or have very young children, that is) and educational if you’re curious to see what life was like during the 18th to the 19th century.

The museum is situated next to London Bridge Station. If you happen to visit The Shard, Borough Market, or the Southbank area, then you can’t miss this London hidden gem museum.

See the deer in Richmond Park

Richmond Park is situated in the southwest of London. There’s no other place to go deer watching than Richmond Park! Richmond Park was a recreational and hunting ground for the royal family for more than 1,000 years, but now everyone can visit.

Richmond Park is the second-largest of the royal parks in London, and it consists of 2,500 acres of green space with lots of paths for walkers and lanes for drivers. As you reach the Richmond area, you can feel a bit of a rural village vibe in London.

Although a busy and popular area for locals and tourists, by mixing with nature and wildlife, it’s a place that makes you feel at peace — as a bonus, all that green space boosts your immune system, a contrast to the stressful, a contrast to the sometimes stressful urban area of Central London.

While deer spotting, don’t get too close! They are not pets; they’re wild animals. People have been injured feeding them. If you go by car, if you’re lucky, you can see them close as you drive by (but be careful not to hit them!)

Check out the café and Isabella Plantation for beautiful walks among plants, trees, and flowers. You can go cycling, walking, picnics, dog walking and see a great view of the Thames in Richmond Hill from the hilltop. See if you can spot Mick Jagger’s house!

Secret Bars

If you want to try out something different from the usual partying areas scattered in every corner of Soho, you must try out several secret bars, which London is well known for.

Hidden from the busy life of the city, this post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging a few obscure secret cocktail bars around London. Here are 4 recommended secret bars in London to visit.

The Luggage Room

The luxurious, cozy, and dark cocktail bar has an intimate setting hidden in the aristocratic area of Mayfair. The Luggage Room offers 19th century-inspired alcoholic drinks up to the current period. If you want to experience the lively atmosphere, make sure you check in during the weekends by 10 PM to get in.

The simple black door has a silver lion knocker. It can easily be missed and be mistaken for an abandoned house. However, as you reach the basement, you’ll feel like you’re on the set of the Great Gatsby movie.

The afternoon tea cakes and sandwiches taste the same as the afternoon teas served around London, but the sweets and savories taste so different from the other restaurants and cafes in London.

Check out the marble fireplace, the leather menu imprinted with the club’s initials, a selection of cocktails that used to be served in the medieval times down to the peanuts. These small details are what make the place memorable, especially when you’re spending time with your family and friends!

The Little Yellow Door

The Little Yellow Door Cocktail bar is situated in the colorful and fashionable area of Notting Hill. This bar has a 19th-century Victorian feel to it, and its theme makes you feel that you stepped into someone’s flat as you get that cozy feeling of being at home.

Here, you can have dinner parties, Sunday roasts, bottomless brunches, and house parties. Although the food is average and tastes similar to other pubs around London, the atmosphere is unique and the theme of feeling like you’ve stepped into someone’s flat is such a good idea.

Lunch ends at 5 PM, and if you like R&B and hip hop, head downstairs to dance a while downstairs. Take advantage of the DJ booth, a vinyl station, a fancy-dress box, poker, and backgammon tables if you’re hiring the place for a private event. You can play Jenga and other board games in the bar area as well.

Evans Peel Detective Agency

Situated in Earl’s Court, Evans Peel Detective Agency is a speakeasy bar hidden in Central London. Like the Luggage Room, Evans Peel Detective Agency will make people feel like they’ve stepped into the set of the Great Gatsby!

The great thing about this speakeasy bar is that once you arrive in front of the door, a waiter playing a detective will tell you they’ve solved your case. Be prepared to have a story ready and play along with the dialogue as they guide you to your table.

The professional mixologists have excellent knowledge of modern classic cocktails. As for the decor, you will see many detective themed items in the 1920s, including maps, magnifying glass, and many more to add to the ambiance.

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

Situated in Bishopsgate, you can visit this London hidden gem before or after visiting Spitalfields Market, a retro vintage and antiques market like Portobello Market. Like Evans Peel Detective Agency, it’s also a speakeasy bar.

When you arrive at the Breakfast Club bar, tell them that you’re there to see the mayor. They’ll escort you to what looks like a large fridge that will lead you down to a cozy, dark, and lively underground pub!

Try the Basic Kitsch cocktail for their signature vanilla, raspberry syrup, and lemon sweet and sour cocktail. It’s an average price for the atmosphere; I’ve seen many bars that are more expensive. I recommend it!

 The Hardy Tree

The Hardy Tree consists of hundreds of 18th century tombstones which were placed close together around a large ash tree by novelist Sir Thomas Hardy.

It’s a bit bizarre, but in the mid-19th Century, London was in the middle of a great railway expansion, which they thought would affect the souls buried in the nearby graveyard.

Sir Thomas Hardy thought it was a good idea to pile the burials near the ash tree so they could rest in peace. However, it’s thought the people buried here aren’t resting in peace to this day.

Weeds and algae have grown between the tombstones and people have had bad luck here — some say the souls resting here can commit an act of “bodysnatching”. Visit this tree if you’re brave enough — good luck!

Cruise the Thames on an old paddle steamer

There are many companies that offer cruises on the River Thames. You can choose from exploring the city with live entertainment, fine dining with wine, and fireworks display if you choose to come for NYE and experience the Tower Bridge lift, a rare occurrence nowadays!

We went with Dixie Queen, and the service there was amazing. As you board the Dixie Queen, you feel like you’re stepping inside a mini-Titanic cruise ship. The wooden stairs with brass handles will take you to the second floor of the dining area. There were around fifty chairs and tables covered in white tablecloths. Large white candelabras are placed on each table.

We went to the lower deck; this deck consists of several intimate booths and blue couches complemented with dark wooden tables. The upper deck consists of a bar for alcoholic beverages, and you can also opt for buffet service if you prefer.

At the end of the boat, there is a great space for dancing, live entertainment, and a balcony for fresh air.

It’s recommended to take in these sights at night, since London can be rather dense and industrial around the Thames. During the day, the view isn’t as beautiful at night, when it’s all lit up!

Interesting landmarks covered include the former Battersea Power Station, Palace of Westminster (Big Ben), The London Eye, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, Cutty Sark ship, Greenwich The O2 Arena, and the Thames Barrier to prevent from flooding.

Dixie Queen is the busiest, but you can choose from the Elizabethan, Edwardian, and Equity. Equity is for private tours of no more than 6 people.

Postman’s Park

If you happen to be in St. Paul’s Cathedral, make sure to check out Postman’s Park, nestled behind. It’s a great place to get away from the busy atmosphere, and a great place to have your lunch. You’ll be surrounded by giant ash and oak trees, green plants, and tall 14th-century Tudor houses.

The special thing about this park is the Watt’s Memorial to Heroic Self. It consists of memorial plaques of over 40 people who have sacrificed their lives to save others. The memorial opened in 1900 and dates to the 19th Century. One plaque is above; two other plaques include:

Thomas Griffin, a laborer who died in a boiler explosion so he could search for his mate. Died 12 April 1899.

Alice Ayers, a daughter of a bricklayer, saved 3 children from a burning house. Died 24 April 1885.

It’s worth reading all the plaques and imagining what they had to go through risking their lives, taking a moment to honor their sacrifices.

Jack the Ripper Tour

For those who don’t know Jack the Ripper, he was a notorious criminal back in 1888 who targeted women. Nearly all of his victims died within the Highgate and Whitechapel area.

If you love true crime and a good mystery, this highly-reviewed walking tour will offer you just that. I enjoyed hearing the macabre stories, though it is definitely not for young ears!

The tour usually last about 2 hours, and they’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have about Jack the Ripper. You will see the various alleyways he used to lure in his victims, you will visit the Ten Bells pub where one of his victims used to work, and you will get to see the historic Spitalfields Market, a vintage and retro market near this area.

Before or after this tour, check out Wilton’s Music Hall, the oldest music hall in London dating back to the 19th century, another hidden gem of London. It kept its original décor including its pillars, balcony, and stages, and it’s well worth a visit.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Annisa, an Indonesian national living in London. I’ve been living here since 1991. My family and I packed our bags to pursue a better way of living.

Since living here, I noticed London is rich in history and culture and I had an idea of writing about it in a blog, London Travellers. As a resident here, I’ve learned the ins and outs of London and every time visitors see London, there’s always something new to see and do. It’s impossible to see everything in a short amount of time, so that’s why I made it my mission to write about London and give visitors tips and tricks for planning a great holiday.

For more tips, check my London guide and my London itinerary.

For more information on London Travellers, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.

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11 Off the Beaten Path Places to Visit Near Edinburgh

Edinburgh is stunning. It is no surprise that millions of visitors choose this beautiful, magical city when looking for a European city break. Yet, as hard as it sounds to be to pull yourself away from endless things to do within this marvelous city, the surrounding area has so much to offer.

An hour’s drive from Edinburgh can make you feel as if you have entered a new world. From exciting coastlines to majestic hills, endless historical attractions, whiskey distilleries, there is an infinite list of places to discover outside of Edinburgh.

This offbeat Scotland guide will look at 11 of our favorite off the beaten track places to visit near Edinburgh.

The top 11 off the beaten track places to visit near Edinburgh

While there are plenty of cracking places that you can visit by car from Edinburgh, we have highlighted our favorite non-touristic regions that people don’t usually add to their Scotland itinerary. This is a great opportunity for you to discover the true, rugged beauty of Scotland – without the tourist crowds.

Take a walk on one of North Berwick’s beaches

Sandy beach on sunny day with houses on shore

This region offers the best of both worlds for its visitors. You can enjoy a relaxing afternoon in Yellowcraig Beach which is one of the largest beaches in the North Berwich.

If you are looking for something more exciting, why don’t you check out Misely Bay Beach? Here, you can explore the beautiful rocky coast that stretches over the northern part of North Berwick. You can simply enjoy the breeze while appreciating the scenic coastal views.

What about teatime on a sea cliff?

Cliffside castle on a rugged coastline and water

You definitely don’t want to miss this one! Enjoy a hot cup of tea on a sea cliff while in North Berwich at Drift Cafe. This cliff-side café is situated near Tantallon Castle – another great attraction in North Berwick.

The coffee shop is owned by a local family that transformed their land into an amazing, must-visit cliff-side cafe. Enjoy the scenic view while sipping a hot ‘bevy,’ as the Scots would say.

Explore Preston Mill And Phantassie Doocot in East Linton

Still water, trees, blue sky, and an old watermill

Okay, so we might have gone all-in on North Berwick above. Let’s head south towards East Linton and check out Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot.

At less than one hour drive from Edinburgh by car, you don’t want to miss this picturesque 18th-century watermill.

Situated near the edges of the River Tyne, this architectural peculiarity was featured in an episode of the Outlander TV series – you will definitely recognize it if you are a fan of the show!

Big Outlander fan? You may want to consider doing an Outlander day trip to all the filming locations. Check itinerary and tour details here!

Here, besides admiring the quirky architecture, you can learn about the everyday life of a miller. I am still amazed at the amount of work these guys and gals put in during their daily routine. And I thought I thought it was tough being a blogger…

Check out the Bridge To Nowhere near Dunbar

Sunset at a bridge with both entrances covered in water

This is by far one of my most favorite places to visit near Edinburgh.

Located in the Belhaven Bay, the bridge cannot be crossed or reached. The bridge was mainly used by those who wanted to cross over the Biel Water, a river which flows through the village of Biel, to reach Dunbar.

The best way to experience this magnificent view is when the tide comes high swallowing the land around the bridge. This is when the “Bridge to Nowhere” comes to light. The bridge will look as if it is a standalone structure in the middle of the sea. Trust me, it’s extremely Insta-friendly!

Admire the ruins and the complex stonework of the 15th-century Rosslyn Chapel

A stone chapel with archways and detailing

Conspiracy nuts, get your tin foil hats on!

Also known as the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, Rosslyn Chapel was founded in 1119 and been linked strongly to the Holy Grail, the ‘true’ history of Christianity, the remains of Jesus Christ and (less strongly) to portals to other dimensions and, of course, aliens.

Whether or not you believe in conspiracy theories or, like me, simply enjoy entertaining fantasy, even the most skeptical people can’t help but feel a certain sense of mystery in the complex, symbolic stonemasonry of the interior.

This is definitely a great spot for great history lovers, too. This chapel was built as a Roman Catholic church. Soon after, it became a Scottish church during the Scottish Reformation.

The church is still active and accessible to visitors who want to experience old, antique Roman architecture. It is now considered as one of Scotland’s architectural treasures. Trust me – you will be amazed by the complex and magnificent carving and stonework.

I actually walked into a few people while I was staring at the ceiling details – true story.

This site has become more popular recently since the release of the Da Vinci Code book and film, but it is still a far enough away from the nearest major tourist destination (Edinburgh) to be fairly quiet and retain its ‘off the beaten path’ status.

Tip: No car? It’s easy enough to get here on a tour from Edinburgh that includes a stop at the Glenkinchie whisky distillery as well. Check tour itinerary and details here.

Don’t forget about the urban art scene of Glasgow

Art museum lit up at night

Where are the street art lovers?! Located alongside the River Clyde, Glasgow (my home city) offers its visitors a modern, vibrant atmosphere, completely different to Edinburgh.

The city hosts an incredible number of free-entry museums and other attractions. However, my favorite thing to do in Glasgow is hunting down street art.

If you are out and about this center, you will come across a good amount of amazing street art.

Check out the artist Smug’s work, who is one of the best-known street artists in Glasglow. His mural portrays Glasgow’s Patron Saint – Saint Mungo, who was buried in the Glasgow Cathedral.

Some of the well-known areas where you can find excellent street art include the Yardworks, Maryhill Road, and the city center Mural Trail.

You can easily access Glasgow from Edinburgh by car or train. By car, it takes around a 1-hour drive to get here. However, the time varies depending on the traffic. Avoid traveling here at rush hour: it is pandemonium!

It wouldn’t be a Scotland guide without a decent whisky distillery mention, now would it?

White distillery building with whiskey barrels outside

When in France, drink wine. When in Germany, drink beer. When in Scotland, it has to be whiskey (spelled whisky in Scotland).

And no, I’m not talking about blended bourbon. I’m talking single malt, Highland whisky. Even if you hate whisky, give Highland single malt a try. It might just change your mind on the spirit.

I know we promised to cover places within a 1-hour drive of Edinburgh, but you have to travel a bit further north to experience a good whisky. It’ll be worth it!

My pick would be the Glenturret Distillery, 1 hour and 20 minutes outside of Edinburgh. Creiff itself is stunning, and it’s worth a visit in its own right. The Glenturret Single Malt is a fruity whiskey with a nutty finish and a personal favorite. Be sure to pick up some extra for friends as they make excellent gifts from Scotland!

The distillery itself claims to be the oldest in Scotland, but as with all PR claims, take this with a pinch of salt!

A tiny bit closer to Edinburgh is the Glengoyne Distillery situated in Dumgoyne, to the north of Glasgow.

Glengoyne Distillery is close to 1 hour from Edinburgh. Since its establishment, it has been offering tours and tastings of unpeated unique ale whisky, applying gradual and conventional techniques.

I personally love it here, as the distillery’s car park is also the car park for a brilliant hike into the Campsie Fells!

One wintery day, after a rather wet hike, a few friends and I stopped into the distillery. This was more to get out of the rain than anything else.

The distillery was dead at 4:30 PM on a Monday afternoon (it gets dark really early here in the winter) and the tour guide (out of boredom I guess) proceeded to allow our group of soaking hikers to test several of their finest malts – for free! Such is Scottish hospitality.

Another favorite spot is the Deanston Distillery which is a famous whisky distillery in Doune located beside the River Teith. It offers malt whisky as well as tasting tours. You should definitely check them out.

Keep in mind with distilleries that it is advised to book in advance.

I really recommend paying a visit during the cold season, as most of the tours take place indoors and with whiskey brewing, you will definitely heat up. This will take the whole experience to a new level.

Another note: If you are planning to drive, you have to keep in mind that the Scottish driving laws are strict, so don’t get yourself in trouble! Even having one whisky sample can put you over the limit. Most Scottish people avoid even a sip of wine if they are driving.

For this reason, if you don’t have a designated driver, I recommend a guided tour leaving from Edinburgh, who will take care of transportation for you so you can imbibe to your heart’s content. Here are a few you can choose from:

Birdwatch at the Scottish Seabird Centre

Lighthouse on island with cliff, boat, and seabirds

Also located in the North Berwick, this is another great off the beaten path destination near Edinburgh.

The Scottish Seabird Centre is a charity that organizes bird watching boat trips. Sounds pretty tame right? Well…

Obviously, the best thing about this place is you get to see tons of different types of airborne wildlife. Granted, this might be a nightmare for some, but unless you are terrified of birds, I would recommend including this in your itinerary.

I myself was surprised at the sheer variety of seabirds we have here in Scotland. As we are close to both mainland Europe and the Nordics, a whole host of seabirds live in and migrate through Scotland.

Scotland is known to have the world’s biggest colony of Gannets’ nests, reaching up to 150,000 nests every single year. At the Scottish Seabird Centre, you will have the chance to learn more about some of the local species and witness a huge number of birds.

You have to visit between April and December. That’s the only period where the center offers boat trips. The boats go around the island’s tiny rocks where you can see the birds’ nests. This is especially cool during the early spring period into the late summertime.

Some boat tours even go to Bass Rock. This is a worthy experience for sea bird lovers, don’t miss it out.

This place is also easily accessible by car, and it is only a 50 min to 1 hour drive away from Edinburgh.

What about Falkirk?

Two giant horse head sculptures lit up at night

If you are interested in modern architecture and engineering, then Falkirk is worth a visit. One hour away from the center capital, Falkirk is located in the Forth Valley to the northeast of Edinburgh. Featuring amazing structures, this place usually goes forgotten despite its historical importance.

The Kelpies are two towering sculptures of the mythic beasts, depicted in horse form.

I know what you’re thinking – “30-meter high horse heads! Woo.” But trust me: visit the Kelpies at night. They light up, and it’s pretty cool.

Another structural and architectural marvel is the Falkirk Wheel. The best way to describe the Falkirk Wheel is as a lift, but for boats.

This architectural masterpiece reconnected the Forth and Clyde Canal for the first time since the 1930s and lifts traditional canal boats from one canal to another.

Tip: Traveling without a car? This tour goes to Loch Lomond, the Kelpies, and Stirling Castle in a day trip, and won an award for being one of the best tours of 2019. Check itinerary and tour details here.

Explore Linlithgow, the birthplace of queens

The small town of Linlithgow sits 40 minutes to the northwest of Edinburgh. The main, albeit very much ‘on’ the beaten track, place to visit here is Linlithgow Palace. It was here that the famous Mary Queen of Scots was born.

However, exploring the town itself is a delight. You can get lost exploring the quaint canals, watching the colorful canal boats drift by.

To get off the beaten path, Beecraigs Country Park sits just outside of Linlithgow and is well worth a visit. This four-star attraction is home to a large herd of native red deer and highland cows, said “heeland coos” – they’re the big fuzzy ginger cows native to Scotland.

Tip: No car? No problem. This Outlander tour takes you to Linlithgow and other places from the popular series.

Connect with nature in the Glen Coe highlands

Mountain with waterfall in foreground at sunset

We have saved the best for last.

Glen Coe is a must-see place. Off the beaten path and in the heart of the Western Highland, this glen formed from a prehistoric volcano is one of nature’s wonders.

While the history of this region is not a pleasant one, the Glen Coe (also known as Glencoe) is famous for being spectacular. Once you reach this area, you will be in awe of the beauty of the place.

Many photography enthusiasts come around this area to snap remarkable and unforgettable pictures of the mountains here. Indeed the peak of Buachaille Etive Mòr, Gaelic for The Great Herdsman of Etive (Glen Etive lies behind this mountain), is the most-photographed mountain in Scotland.

Glen Coe has featured in many different movies, including Harry Potter and Braveheart.

If you could visit one place on this list, I would recommend visiting Glen Coe. It doesn’t get more off the beaten path in Scotland than this!

About Graham Grieve

Over the past 25+ years, Graham has traveled the length and breadth of the country on camping overnighters, hillwalking adventures, road trips, and random getaways. During this time he has accumulated an intimate knowledge of Scotland, which he shares on his site, My Voyage Scotland.

Where to Stay in London: First Time Guide to London Neighborhoods & Hotels

One of the most overwhelming parts of planning your first trip to London is deciding where to stay in London for the first time – and better yet, finding the best area to stay in London that won’t break the bank. London is not an affordable city by any stretch of the imagination, and that is even truer when it comes to finding a hotel in London.

London is composed of 32 boroughs which make up Greater London, and many of those boroughs break down further to be divided into neighborhoods as well.

I’ve been to London three times and I’ve stayed in three different London neighborhoods: Bloomsbury, Shoreditch, and Stratford. While I loved staying in Central London and Shoreditch, I don’t think I’d stay in Stratford again, as the neighborhood didn’t feel safe as a solo female traveler.

So if you want to know where to stay in London – for a first time or repeat visitor – keep reading! Also, check out my 4 day itinerary for a London first-timer.

Best Areas to Stay in London, by Neighborhood & Budget

London is not a cheap city and as a result, it’s hard to recommend places that fit squarely into what I personally consider “budget.” This post is about hotels in London, so I’ve excluded hostels unless they have private rooms available as well. However, if you’re a solo traveler on a budget, you may want to look into different hostels in London – I usually use Hostelworld to do all my hostel searches.

Here is a rough breakdown of what I mean by the different budget categories.

Budget: Under $100 (low season) / under $150 (mid to high season)

Mid-range: Under $200 (low season) / under $300 (mid to high season)

Luxury: Upwards of $300 regardless of season

Bloomsbury

This is where I stayed in London the first time and I’d definitely recommend it to fellow London first-timers. It’s in central London, but it’s a bit away from some of the most touristic spots (London Eye, Big Ben, etc.) but still walking distance from them. There are plenty of Tube stations nearby as well as King’s Cross station which is super useful if you plan to travel around England by train or do some day trips from London which are just a quick train ride away.

But far and away my favorite thing about Bloomsbury is that it’s home to the world-class British Museum, which is free (though you can and should donate what you can). This meant that every time I was coming home, I’d pop into the British Museum for literally just 30 or 40 minutes at a time to check out a new section without getting overwhelmed and feeling like I needed to try to see everything.

It’s also home to London University and as a result, there are plenty of restaurants that cater to more student-friendly budgets. I was able to find some truly budget-friendly meals here, such at Bibimbap Café just across from the British Museum, where you can get a delightful Korean meal for about 5 pounds.

Close to Bloomsbury is Soho, a thriving LGBT friendly London neighborhood, which is another great choice for where to stay in London for first-timers.

Budget: The best-reviewed budget hotel in Bloomsbury is Alhambra Hotel, located right across from King’s Cross. With very budget friendly double rooms with a shared bathroom (and rooms with a private bathroom for slightly more) this is a great place to stay if you don’t want to sacrifice location but you are also on a tight budget.

The design is quite simple and stripped down, but rooms are comfortable, a full English breakfast is included in the room price (very helpful considering how much food costs in London!), and the staff is friendly — plus, that location!  Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: This gorgeous Georgian townhouse is nearly 200 years old and used to be the home of the famous artist, Sir John Everett Millais. The highly-rated Arosfa Hotel in historic Bloomsbury is stylish yet central, just a short jaunt from the British Museum.

The rooms are beautifully decorated with different themes. Some are more classic, with wood paneling and warm earth-toned curtains and even a fireplace, whereas others have more personality, like funky wallpaper and black-tiled bathrooms. Either way, all rooms can enjoy the lovely lobby, the garden with a small glass gazebo, and a hearty continental and cooked breakfast. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury: Right on lovely and quiet Russell Square (across the street from the most rad London phone booth of all, incidentally, decked out with parrot-themed wallpaper!), I first noticed and photographed the building that the Kimpton Fitzroy is in before even knowing what it was. The exterior is gorgeous, with a beautiful rich terra cotta exterior, but the inside is even more lovely.

The Kimpton Fitzroy is a Grade II-listed landmark building rich with historical details, making you feel like you’re staying in a palace more than a hotel. Inside, the interiors are luxe with a contemporary edge, designed with an eye towards classic modernity. There are several dining options within the Kimpton – from a casual coffeehouse slash wine bar to a more luxurious hotel bar to an upscale restaurant to afternoon tea in a courtyard.

A short walk away from the British Museum, several theaters on the West End, and the National Gallery, the Kimpton Fitzroy is luxurious yet surprisingly affordable for a London 5-star hotel in the heart of town (I’ve seen rooms for under $300 in the off-season). Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

City of London

Technically, the actual “City” of London is quite small and encompasses only one small part of what we commonly think of as, well, London.

The “City of London” excludes several of its most known places, such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the London Eye. Rather, the City of London includes the Tower of London, Tower Bridge (mistakenly known as London Bridge), the Bank of England, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

I haven’t stayed here but my friend Megan did when staying at the citizenM Tower of London. I went to visit her and cowork with her for a few hours in their gorgeous bar on the 8th floor with jaw-dropping views of the Tower of London.

I loved being in such a central location surrounded by history everywhere, from the Tower of London with its intense and often dark history to the beautiful Thames River to the gorgeous Tower Bridge and the historic Old Spitalfields Market. This is truly the heart of London and a great place to stay!

Budget: For such a central location you’d imagine that the prices would be outrageous but there are still a few deals to be found in City of London. Premier Inn London Bank near the London Monument is an excellent choice, close to London Bridge and the Shard. You can also cross the bridge and walk to Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern from here. Rooms at Premier Inn are simple, as befits a budget hotel, but well-equipped and private with basics you’d expect (plus some extras!).

Each room has a private bathroom, a hairdryer, tea/coffee maker, WiFi, a work desk, blackout curtains, and a TV. Despite being a budget hotel, each room has a king-size Hypnos bed with a pillow-top mattress and your choice of pillows, great for a cozy night’s sleep in the heart of London without breaking the bank. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: I didn’t stay at the citizenM Tower of London, but I did visit my friend there and then later stayed at the Shoreditch location for three nights on my next trip to London. For the price, this hotel is amazing. Every single common area is bursting with creativity and artisticness, with a touch of irreverence and a sense of not taking itself too seriously.

Every common area is inviting, and there is a general vibe that makes the hotel lobby and bar areas places to see and mingle rather than just rush through on your way to your room, which I really enjoy. The rooms are small and compact but exceedingly well-designed and modern. Every room has its own iPad with which you can control the lighting, movies/TV, etc. There are so many wonderful thoughtful touches for the modern traveler, from USB chargers everywhere to in-wall adaptors that fit plugs from not only the UK but the US and Europe as well. And for the price, it’s quite an amazing deal, especially if you’re in London on the weekdays (it tends to be more on the weekends). Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury: I’ve stayed at a number of Hilton hotels over the years (mostly because my mom is a Hilton Honors credit card holder – I don’t have that kind of money!) and always been impressed by the quality of their hotels, and it seems like Hilton Tower Bridge is no exception based on the reviews! The rooms are massive and there are excellent views of both Tower Bridge and the Shard (which is it just opposite from), one of London’s most iconic new skyscrapers, from the hotel.

It has all the amenities you’d expect from the Hilton name – massive luxe bathrooms with showers and bathtubs, great city views, enormous rooms with king-size beds and working desks, that sort of thing. There’s a world-class bar – TwoRuba – where you can get inventive cocktails. And while it’s certainly not cheap, it’s actually quite a good value for the Hilton name in one of the most expensive cities to sleep in in the world. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Kensington

Bordered on the east side by Hyde Park and the north side by the colorful Notting Hill, Kensington is one of the best places to stay in London for the first time if you want to be in the center of the action. The architecture is predominately gorgeous Victorian buildings and beautiful embassy buildings with true London charm.

Kensington and the immediate area around it is home to some of London’s best museums, such as the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The beautiful Royal Albert Hall is here, which is one of the most photogenic buildings in London, as well as the eponymous Kensington Palace. It’s also quite close to Harrod’s, London’s most famous department store and a must-visit for shopping fans, as well as Buckingham Palace and St. James’ Palace.

If you want a typical London experience in the heart of it, and you’re willing to pay a little more for it, Kensington is a fantastic choice.

Budget: There aren’t a ton of budget options in this neighborhood, but there are a few. The best-rated yet still affordable option I could find was Ravna Gora Guesthouse, which has small but well-designed rooms in the heart of Kensington. The cheaper options here have a shared bathroom; however, it is still possible to find a room with a private bathroom for under $100 for a double given the time of year.

They also have some of the more affordable family-sized rooms on offer in London, so if you are traveling with children on a budget it may be a great choice. Breakfast is not included but can be added for an additional price, about 7 pounds. Overall, the guesthouse isn’t anything particularly special, but it is affordable, friendly, central, and clean, which is about all you can really ask for for a budget hotel in central London. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: It’s hard to find an affordable hotel in a neighborhood as popular as Kensington, but there are still some better deals to be found such as Hotel Moonlight. With sumptuously decorated rooms that look far more sophisticated than the price tag would suggest, the rooms are small but have more than you’d expect – from a microwave to a coffee maker to a proper bathtub in each room, perfect for soaking your sore muscles after a long day of hitting the pavement.

One major bonus is that they have smart TVs that hook up to Netflix (assuming you have a subscription) which is a lovely touch when traveling. Even better, each guest receives complimentary snacks upon check and free use of a mobile smartphone that is GPS-enabled so you can use maps, etc. while walking around London in case you don’t have an unlocked smartphone with a British SIM. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury: Of course, there are plenty of luxury options in Kensington given the general chicness of the neighborhood. Number Sixteen is the most stylish choice of them all, a gorgeous boutique hotel just a few steps from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The interiors are chic and beautifully designed by Kit Kemp, one of the most renowned interior designers in the world. In her opinion, “there is nothing less cozy than a room that feels too formal” – and that’s exactly the philosophy behind Number Sixteen’s decor.

Each room is unique so that you feel more like a guest in a home than in a mass-produced luxury hotel. But my favorite feature of Number Sixteen is the zen private garden, complete with a pond with lotuses and a small gazebo, which is a real treat in a city as bustling as London. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Marylebone

For a lovely residential neighborhood with a small village feel rather than a big city buzz, while still being central London, look no further than Marylebone. Home to some seriously stylish boutiques (as well as the super-gaudy and definitely skippable Madame Tussaud’s, which decidedly does not fit into the neighborhood’s feel), this is one of the trendier yet calmer neighborhoods in London.

There is lovely Georgian architecture everywhere you look, the highlight of which for me is the Wallace Museum, which coincidentally is home to one of the most affordable afternoon teas in London – I had a fantastic tea there for around 15 pounds. Fans of Sherlocke Holmes shouldn’t miss the museum dedicated to him, naturally located at  221b Baker Street.

Sandwiched between two green spaces – Regent’s Park on the north corner and Hyde Park to the south – Marylebone is a delightful breath of fresh air, close to the hustle and bustle of Central London while feeling a world apart from it.

Budget: Marylebone is more affordable than its chic boutiques would suggest. Just a touch outside the confines of the budget category I outlined above, the Marylebone Inn is a fantastic choice if you have your heart set on Marylebone yet don’t want to pay a fortune. Set in a traditional London home, Marylebone Inn is just a short walk from Regent’s Park and the theaters of the West End. The rooms are simply decorated but spacious and offer a good value for money in this area.  Check out prices, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: Stretch your budget just a tad and you’ll find even better options in Marylebone. Nottingham Place Hotel is one of the best-reviewed boutique hotels in the neighborhood with over 1,000 reviews. The interior is seriously stylish, with gray, gold, and black touches that bring the design together beautifully.

Rooms are sparsely yet elegantly decorated, ranging from studios to one- and even two-bedroom suites. Each suite has a separate workspace, so they’re a fantastic place to stay in London if you’re expecting to have to work at the same time as you travel. Breakfast is available, but not included in the price, so keep that in mind when booking. Check out prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury: For a beautiful yet unfussy luxury experience in Marylebone, The Arch is a fabulous option. A lush yet not overwrought boutique hotel with spacious, colorful rooms, it’s located in the heart of Marylebone close to Hyde Park.

But what guests say truly stands out about The Arch is the staff, who go above and beyond to provide an unforgettable experience for each guest (even four-legged ones, who are welcomed at the hotel, for the record!).

Composed of 7 Georgian townhouses which have been connected to make one luxury hotel with a handful of dining and drinking options, each room is well-appointed with TVs, working desks, tea/coffee facilities, EU/US adaptors, rain showers,  and more. The Arch is comfortable luxury at its finest, at prices that are reasonable given the quality of the experience and the location in London. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Shoreditch

Shoreditch is hands down one of my favorite places in all of London – after all, I have written a whole neighborhood guide to Shoreditch. This district of London is known for its street food and street art, and if you are looking for a hipster-y, slightly gritty neighborhood with plenty of amenities, Shoreditch is the place to go.

There are countless excellent restaurants in Shoreditch, including some delicious Indian food on Brick Lane (famous for its curries) and Vietnamese on Kingsland Road (aka Pho Mile). And don’t forget the legendary salt beef beigel, the 24/7 street food snack that made Brick Lane a can’t-miss destination in London.

There’s Boxpark, the world’s first “pop up mall” in a series of shipping containers, which is a great place to drink and dine in a casual setting, There are so many fantastic bars, cafés, and bakeries that it would truly take the better part of a year to explore the whole dining scene in Shoreditch.

While it’s not technically on the Tube but rather the Overground, it’s still quite easy to get to Shoreditch and I never felt like I was too far away from Central London when I stayed there. I also loved being around so much street art and creativity, plus it’s a great place to stay on a budget as the constant street food markets offer a delightful variety of international cuisines for well under 10 pounds.

I’ve gone from Ethiopian to Mexican to British food in a manner of minutes in Shoreditch, which is one of its greatest strengths. If you consider yourself a foodie – and don’t have a huge fine dining budget – stay in Shoreditch and you’ll be happy you did.

The citizenM in Shoreditch

Budget: An excellent budget option in a budget-friendly neighborhood, Point A is the place I’d tell someone to stay if they were trying to do a London trip on a tight budget. For a budget hotel, it has a bunch of personality, including a jukebox in the lobby where guests can play their tunes free of charge.

The design is modern and well-designed, if a little sterile for my personal taste and not quite as stylish as citizenM (pictured above). There are tons of modern perks – USB chargers, ability to change the lighting colors and ambiance, air and heating controlled by remote, etc.

However, many of the rooms do not have windows (you can check on Booking.com to see whether or not the room you are looking at has a window – it’s well-marked so you won’t accidentally get a no window room), so just keep that in mind when looking. Still, prices are regularly under $100, so it’s a great choice in the heart of East London. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: I personally stayed at the citizenM Shoreditch on my recent March trip to London and absolutely loved it. The hotel itself captured the vibe and ambiance of the neighborhood itself so well, with the graffiti-esque explosion of art in the public spaces that mirrored the wonderful street art all around Shoreditch.

I felt like it was a lovely nod to the neighborhood while still creating a warm, cozy space to get away from the busy London streets. The rooms themselves are on the small side but they’re very well laid out. For example, underneath the bed is an expansive area to stash your luggage, and the bathroom is well-placed to make the room feel as big as possible.

The staff is incredibly friendly and welcoming and I enjoyed snacking and drinking at the bar when I was too lazy (and cold) to go outside. But what I love best about citizenM is the modern technology that makes me feel like I’m living in the future, like the remote-controlled blackout curtains to the iPad that knew my name upon arrival to the easy self-check-in process.

It’s fantastically priced (for the record, I stayed one night complimentary and paid for two nights out of pocket) and I’d happily stay there again. Check out prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury: For a trendy yet luxe experience in the heart of Shoreditch, look no further than Ace Hotel. This maverick brand of hotels specializes in creating design-focused, trendy hotels that appeal to travelers who prefer unfussy luxury.

The rooms are music-themed as befits Shoreditch’s grungy DIY vibe – expect touches like record players with expansive record catalogs to listen to and acoustic guitars in the rooms. There’s a buzzy hotel bar serving up inventive and delicious cocktails and a lovely, lively rooftop area for guests to hang out on and gets views of the skyline from Shoreditch’s unique vantage point.

If you want a faceless and typical luxury experience, this isn’t the place, but if you want something that fits the vibe of Shoreditch, this is the perfect luxury choice for the neighborhood. Check out prices, reviews, and availability here.

What to Wear in London in Winter: Your Easy London Packing List

London in winter is lovely, especially in the period right before Christmas.

The Atlantic jet stream keeps the winter weather rather mild compared to the rest of Europe which regularly drops below freezing, yet it’s still cold and crisp enough that you want to bundle up in all of your coziest clothing.

If you’re planning an upcoming wintry UK trip, you’re probably wearing what to wear in London in winter – I’ve been to London in winter twice and early spring once, and each time I’ve been able to refine my London packing list bit by bit.

Whether you’re planning to spend 4 days in London this winter or even longer exploring the UK in the cold, this wintry London packing list will keep you warm and toasty through all of it.

Since shopping in London is so expensive thanks to that dastardly strong British pound, I recommend you buy what you need to pack for London in winter beforehand, as it’ll save you money and time on your London trip.

How to Dress in London in Winter

I lived in New York for nearly a decade. When I first arrived in New York from California, I remember feeling a weird sort of pressure to look ridiculously fashionable all year round, even when the temperatures were low. I tried and failed to look cute in wool pea coats before realizing that those were made for people with warmer blood than mine.

You don’t need the warmest ever clothing for London in winter, since the average winter temperatures range between 2 °C and 10 °C (that’ll be 35 °F and 50 °F, for my fellow Americans out there who are confused by the metric system). It rarely snows, though it is possible.

However, I do find London winter to be colder-feeling than the temperature suggests because of all the humidity in the air from the Atlantic jet stream, so you may want to take the actual temperature reading with a grain of salt.

If you’re planning on walking around London a lot, you will want to dress warmly so that you stay comfortable and motivated to see as much of this beautiful city as you can, especially around Christmastime in London when the city is at its prettiest!

You also don’t need to dress impossibly posh. Newsflash: not everyone in London is as stylishly dressed as Kate Middleton. Dress neatly but comfortably and you will fit in fine in London.

Generally, Londoners don’t wear extremely bright colors in the winter: think mostly shades of tan, gray, and black, with a few stylishly colorful accessories.

That said, if you want to punch up your wintry London outfits with your usual colorful clothing, no one will bat an eye – London is a city where locals frequently express themselves and their personalities through their clothing.

Warm coats everywhere! You don’t have to dress like a street style model to look appropriate for winter in London.

London in Winter Packing Basics

There’s no need to buy an entirely new wardrobe to pack for a winter trip to London, especially if you come from a place that already has cold winters.

This list may seem silly for people who live in, say, New York or Central Europe who are used to cold winters. But for me, I needed help to understand what to pack for London in the winter.

I’ve outlined a few of my favorite London winter clothing necessities below, in case you need some cold weather clothing recommendations coming from a warmer climate.

However, if you already have all the cold weather gear you need, feel free to skip below, where you’ll find a more general London winter packing list.

Best Outerwear for London in Winter

What coat to pack for London in winter depends on how warm you like to be. I personally run cold and come from a place where winter barely exists: where people freak out and pull on the Uggs and jackets as soon as temperatures drop below 50 °F/10 °C.

Two years after I moved to New York, I finally invested in a North Face down jacket and it made my quality infinitely better than when I arrived and kept trying make flimsy wool pea coats work. This is the North Face parka that I bought. I love that it comes down to mid-thigh, which makes a world of difference over a jacket that ends at the hip. You have no idea how much heat you lose in that area!

Me and my beloved North Face on a winter trip to Istanbul, which has similar winter weather to London

However, I do think that jacket may be a bit overkill if you’re planning to just visit London in winter and nowhere colder. Instead, I’d probably recommend a version with inner layers that you can remove, like this 3-in-1 Thermoball Triclimate jacket from North Face which includes a small down layer, a waterproof shell, and the ability to combine them both into one.

While North Face gear is pricy, it will last you a lifetime, as North Face quite literally has a lifetime guarantee (hold onto your receipt though just in case). This isn’t sponsored – I’ve paid out of pocket for every piece of North Face gear, just for the record! I tested this guarantee when my zipper came unstitched after two years of heavy use, wearing it every day including when I was biking to work in the winter. North Face promptly fixed it up and sent it back as good as new.

If you can’t afford to invest in a warmer jacket at the moment, I’ve also had success pairing a small down liner underneath a less-warm jacket or coat to create a ‘hack’ of the above jacket. I’ve used a small down jacket from UNIQLO – the Ultralight Down. (You can buy a knock-off version here)

I do this when it’s not too cold (read: around 40°F / 5 °C  but no colder) and I want to get away with wearing a cute coat that isn’t exactly winter-approved, like my leather jacket. I simply add it as a layer between my sweater and my cute jacket. It’s not the most streamlined look, but it is good if you don’t want to spend a lot on a winter coat or are packing the light the way I was for this winter trip.

My typical London outfit: Black leather jacket + down liner, hat, jeans with leggings underneath, and ankle boots.

Best Shoes for London Winters

London gets very little snow in the winter, so there’s definitely no need to pack snow boots. What you do need, however, is something waterproof, as London is quite rainy all winter.

One of the most classic shoes to wear in London in winter are wellies, aka rain boots. I’ve worn my Hunter rain boots during New York rainy days quite often and they’ve always held up nicely, but I don’t typically travel with these as they’re hard to fit in a carry-on and uncomfortable to wear on the plane. However, if you’re traveling with a larger suitcase and you can fit a pair of rain boots, these would do quite nicely for London.

For me, the winter boot I can’t live without are my Blondo waterproof leather boots. I bought this pair in 2008… which means I’m celebrating my 10-year anniversary with them this year, which is longer than most of my friendships and definitely every relationship I’ve been in. In 10 years of heavy use, I’ve only had to get them resoled once, which set me back about $60 in NYC. However, for a pair of shoes I wear on average 3 months per year, it was 100% worth it. It’s no wonder it made the cut for my favorite travel shoes!

It’s been literally a decade since I bought these boots, so the exact original version I bought is no longer available, but these look exactly like the ones I have. 

One of precious few full-length photos I have of me wearing them – back in 2012! They’re still in fantastic shape.

However, sometimes I don’t want to pack heavy boots, and for those trips I’ve opted for my lovely Dansko ankle boots. They have a faux-wooden sole so they’re super stylish and the black nubuck leather is basically scuff-proof. They’re not technically waterproof, but I have waterproofed them and they now hold up great in all types of weather. They’re also super comfortable for long walks. You can see them in the photo of me in the staircase above.

One last not: Be sure to pair your winter boots with proper wool socks. No matter how insulated your shoe is, it won’t do much good if you are wearing thin, crappy cotton socks (another thing that took me several years to learn… why do I suck at winter so badly? Oh yeah, California). I invested in these Smartwool socks after much hemming and hawing about the price and I’m so glad I did. You don’t need that many pairs because you can actually re-wear them a few times before they get smelly because wool is so odor-absorbent and magical.

Accessories for London in Winter

This is really what makes or breaks whatever you decide to wear in London. As long as you have a hat, gloves, and scarf, you can almost get away with wearing whatever you want – as long as you have the right jacket and shoes.

In terms of a hat, I recommend wearing a tightly-knit hat that fits firmly on your head, covering your ears completely. Bonus points if it is lined with fleece! I lose my hats constantly so I go through several each winter, but I do recommend a beanie-style knit hat kind of like this one.

In winter, you can’t tear me away from a hat!

When it comes to gloves, you’re going to want something that is touchscreen compatible and warm, but you don’t need something waterproof or crazy high-tech. I recommend a simple pair of gloves like these ones. You’ll have your hands in your pockets most of the time anyway!

For scarves, I recommend the biggest, most wrappable scarf you can find. If you can tolerate wool (I can’t, except for socks, because of my ultra-sensitive skin), then get the wooliest monstrosity you can find. I tend to go for something huge, chunky, and made of acrylic which is easier on my skin. I prefer an infinity style knit scarf for winter that I can wear super tight around my neck to keep in as much warmth as possible.

Now, I’m going to let you in on my #1 secret weapon when it comes to what to wear in London in winter… fleece lined leggings. These leggings are magic when it comes to surviving just about any winter. If you can tolerate wool, you’ll probably be even warmer with something like these merino wool leggings. But since I can’t, I substitute fleece-lined leggings like these ones. On a cold day, I typically wear them underneath a pair of jeans and I am toasty warm all day long. I prefer the ones without feet because they sag less during the day, and then I can wear my own warm wool socks with them.

I think that’s pretty much it in terms of accessories. If you get cold really easily, you may want to throw in some thermal tops to wear as a base layer as well. 32 Degrees (my preference) and UNIQLO make good ones.

Clothes to Wear in London in Winter

If you’ve followed my advice up to this point — warm jacket preferably with down, fleece-lined leggings, all the winter accessories — you can actually get away with wearing pretty much whatever you want with them. I tend to choose a lot of sweater dresses because I am lazy when I travel and don’t like to pack a lot of different things that I have to mix and match. But you can also just wear jeans and sweaters on your trip so long as you have the appropriate winter accessories, shoes, and outerwear.

My cozy sweater dress in London (I obviously added layers before leaving!)

Here’s my basic London packing list, winter edition (enough for 1 week – feel free to add or subtract depending on the length of your trip!)

  • several pairs of fleece-lined leggings, such as these. 3 pairs should do you well for 1 week.
  • 1-2 base layer thermal tops (I run cold!)
  • 1-2 sweater dresses
  • 1-2 pairs of jeans or pants, to wear over leggings if especially cold
  • 2-4 warm sweaters, wool if you can tolerate it. 100% cashmere sweaters tend to be everyone’s favorite but I wear synthetic or acrylic sweaters with a base layer underneath.
  • 1 thick jacket (optional if you run cold!)
  • 1 thin down jacket (better for people who are used to the cold or don’t want to pack a lot) + other jacket to layer with, preferably waterproof
  • 3-5 pairs wool socks
  • 1 pair waterproof leather boots or similar
  • optional rain boots
  • 1-2 knit hats
  • 1 pair gloves that you can use with your smartphone
  • 1-2 enormous warm scarves, especially infinity style wrap scarves
  • 1 large-ish cross-body purse or backpack for day use

What Else Should Be On Your Winter in London List?

Once you’ve figured out what to wear in London in winter, you can focus on the details of your London packing list. Nothing is really that London specific but are related to how you’d normally travel, anyway. London has basically everything you need, so don’t be worried if you forget anything. There is a Boots or pound shop on nearly every other corner that should have what you need.

Toiletries

  • Lip balm: I tend to get dry lips in winter from the cold air and overheated buildings. Be sure to bring a good quality lip balm with you – I love this Aquaphor.
  • High-quality moisturizer: For the same reason as above – the combination of winter weather plus heat will do a number on your skin. I use Shiseido moisturizer on my face most of the winter.
  • Sunscreen: Don’t discount the need for sunscreen even in the winter! While London is cloudy, you can still get harmful UV rays on cloudy days. I like  Biore sunscreen for my face as my skin is quite sensitive and acne-prone and this is really gentle on my skin.
  • Hand sanitizer: Perfect to use after getting off the Tube or any place with less than sanitary conditions. I carry a mini bottle of Purell like this one.
  • Kleenex
  • Everyday make-up
  • Basics like shampoo, body wash, etc.
  • Deodorant (please)
  • Prescription medicine, if you need it

Electronics

  • High-powered portable battery pack: Your phone battery will get run down very quickly on a cold winter day in London, so be sure to pack a portable battery charger like an Anker battery pack (this is what I swear by as a blogger who needs fully charged electronics at all times!)
  • Camera: I personally use a Sony A6000 mirrorless camera, which is the perfect travel camera for producing professional-quality photos without taking up much space or weighing too much. I have several lenses for it but most people will be fine with the kit lens. Be sure to pack several extra batteries as well, for the same reason as above (winter weather = zapped electronics)
  • Adaptor, if visiting internationally: If you are visiting from continental Europe, North America, South America, most of Asia – basically, anywhere that doesn’t use UK plugs – you’ll want an international adaptor for sure.
  • Phone and charger
  • Laptop or tablet and charger
  • Kindle, if you use one
  • Noise-canceling headphones, if you have them

Random

  • Reusable water bottle: London tap water is good quality. Save money and the environment with a reusable metal water bottle. Pretty much any café or restaurant will be happy to refill yours as London is pretty zero-waste savvy.
  • Reusable bags: There is a 5 pence charge per plastic bag, which isn’t a lot money but you still should bring your own reusable tote bags anyway to do your part to reduce plastic use
  • Whatever else you’d normally pack for some time away from home!

The Epic London Bucket List: The Best of London in 4 Days

It took me 3 visits to London for the city to finally sink under my skin. I found it expensive, crowded, and honestly, a bit overrated.

But finally, I get it: you need to give London its due. You can’t visit for a day or two and cross London off your list. I’d say you need a minimum of 4 days in London to even start to understand it: 5 days in London or more is even better if you can swing it.

I think that the problem I had when I first visited London is that I spent too much time seeing all the traditional tourist sites and not enough time exploring the neighborhoods that make it so diverse. As someone who used to live in New York for 9 years, I should have known better that there is more to a city than its most iconic attractions (though of course, those are worth seeing too).

What makes a city on the scale of London truly special is in the details: its colorful neighborhoods, its authentic ethnic eateries, its quirky local bars where you can rub elbows with locals, as well as its famous touristic sites.

A historic market in London

London has a charming diversity of neighborhoods, from the beautiful pastel rainbow houses of Portobello Road to the funky street art and rough edges of Shoreditch. You can eat amazing Vietnamese food on Kingsland Road and have delicious curries on Brick Lane, then go for a traditional afternoon tea at one of London’s finest hotels.

Explore the variety of what London offers and appreciate it for its people as well as its landmarks, and you’ll have a better understanding of why people are so charmed by the English capital — myself included.

My 4 days in London itinerary will bring you to all of the most iconic landmarks (and give you tips on how to reduce wait times and save money along the way), but it’ll also show you a slightly hidden side of London that I’ve found in my repeated visits to the city. I hope this post will help you love London as much as I do.

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Planning your first trip to London? You need to read this London itinerary, with all the best things to do in London mapped out in an easy-to-follow format. This London travel guide includes the top London attractions, restaurant recommendations, food lover tips, best photography and Instagram spots, tips on where to stay in London, tips for Harry Potter lovers and budget travelers, and a few London secrets!
Planning your first trip to London? You need to read this London itinerary, with all the best things to do in London mapped out in an easy-to-follow format. This London travel guide includes the top London attractions, restaurant recommendations, food lover tips, best photography and Instagram spots, tips on where to stay in London, tips for Harry Potter lovers and budget travelers, and a few London secrets!

Day 1 of your London Itinerary

I’ve included maps for each day of your 4 day London itinerary so you can best visualize how to spend each day. Riding the tube in London is expensive so I’ve tried to cluster activities as much as possible to minimize your time (and money) spent on transport – one of my biggest London travel tips is to reduce your transport costs by walking as much as possible. Luckily it’s pretty easy to see most of Central London’s main sights, so you won’t need to spend a ton of time on the Tube.

That said, if you want to get out and explore some of London’s neighborhoods, you will need to hop on the Tube at some points. The London Underground is an iconic experience and I highly recommend using the Tube to get around the city when walking just won’t do.

The city’s black cabs are notorious for being insanely expensive. Luckily, Uber did just get permission to operate in London again, which makes Uber a viable (though still not very budget-conscious) option.

Walk through history at Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is one of the most historically significant buildings in London, if not the entire U.K. This coronation church boasts over 1,000 years of history and still provides daily services for worshippers.

It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site for its continued importance and relevance in British history as well as for its religious art masterpieces which date back to the 12th century.

Westminster Abbey has hosted royal weddings (most recently between Prince William and Kate Middleton — Harry and Megan got married at Windsor Castle), so it’s a must on a royal-themed tour of London.

It’s also the final resting place of 17 monarchs. Be sure to check out the beautiful architecture inside the church between the choir and the high altar, which is the setting of royal coronations.

Westminster Abbey is one of London’s most popular tourist sites, and as a result, I recommend making it a priority to visit early your first morning in London. Do note that unlike many churches, there is quite a steep entry fee associated with visiting Westminster Abbey: 23 GBP, about $30 USD.

It’s easy enough to visit on your own, but if you can swing spending a little extra, I strongly suggest upgrading to a guided tour with a skip-the-line ticket to both save time and gain historical context about this immensely fascinating building. Just seeing it with your own eyes is impressive, but knowing the fascinating 700-year history behind it is priceless.

I recommend this one because it includes a skip-the-line pass, entrance fees, a guided tour, plus a viewing of the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, the next activity on this itinerary, so it fits perfectly in your London itinerary.

>> Book your tour with skip the line entry here <<

Watch the changing of the guards at the iconic Buckingham Palace

Anglophile or otherwise, you can’t miss Buckingham Palace, the current home of Queen Elizabeth and home of UK sovereigns since 1837. Today, Buckingham Palace acts as the administrative headquarters of the monarchy as well as a day-to-day residence for some of the royals.

Buckingham Palace is most known for its Changing of the Guard ceremony which occurs daily at 10:45 AM. The ceremony is free to watch and probably one of the most popular things that can be done in London. Be sure to show up at least 15 minutes early (a half hour is even better) to see the pomp and celebration.

Inside, the palace is next-level extra with a whopping 775 rooms. The drawing room and grand staircase are especially jaw-dropping. However, you can see only the inside by purchasing a ticket to the State Rooms.

If you want to go inside, you’ll have to plan your trip around it, as it’s only open two months a year – in 2020, it’ll be from July 25 to September 27. If you happen to be planning your London trip during that time, you definitely should check a tour of the inside of Buckingham Palace (book way in advance here, as spots are limited given the short opening period).

Even if you can’t go inside the Buckingham Palace during your time in London, make sure you save time to see the changing of the guard: it’s a true must-see, whether you’re in London for 4 days or 1.

Stroll through Saint James’ Park

London has tons of green spaces, and in the city’s rare moments of sunshine, you can see Londoners flock to the parks to get a sweet, sweet hit of that elusive Vitamin D.

Saint James’ Park is one of the most beautiful and well-trafficked parks in London due to its location, but you can still find plenty of pockets of quiet in the park.

Check out the area by the pond for a peaceful scenic walk to refresh your eyes from all the beautiful buildings (and get you ready to see more!). It’s especially lovely in the spring, when daffodils and tulips are everywhere the eye can see.

Circle back to spy on Big Ben under the scaffolding

Is there any building in London that’s as visibly synonymous with the city as Big Ben?

While the name of the clock tower is actually the Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben is the popular nickname for the tower at the north end of the Westminster. To get really pedantic on you, Big Ben is the name of the bell, which was the largest bell in England for 23 years (but has since been unseated, because I guess England likes big bells).

The tower housing the clock is 96 meters tall, making it an easily recognized symbol of the United Kingdom, and it is so iconic that it’s become a cultural monument recognized throughout the world.

However, if you visit Big Ben over the next four years, you’ll be a bit disappointed as it’s currently undergoing some renovations and won’t be looking its handsome proper self until 2021 or so.

Cross Westminster Bridge

If you want one of the best views of Westminster Palace, you should cross the Westminster Bridge for picture-perfect photos over the Thames. Unfortunately, as I wrote above, Big Ben is undergoing a serious facelift so you won’t quite be able to get this exact iconic shot, but it’s worth the lovely walk over the bridge all the same.

Sometimes you’ll see performers and the like on the bridge so crossing the bridge in itself can be quite the cultural experience. Do watch your bags here, especially while taking photos, as it can be crowded and thus an easy target for pickpockets.

Get a great view of (or on!) the London Eye

The London Eye is a bit polarizing: some say it’s not worth it, others say its an essential London itinerary item, especially for first-timers. Personally, I generally balk at spending a lot of money for a view – after all, it took me 9 years to go to the Top of the Rock in New York.

However, for many people, a trip to London wouldn’t be complete without a ride on the London Eye. I’m not here to argue for either side as I see the merits of both points of view (pardon the pun).

However, what I will say is that if you do want to ride the London Eye, you should definitely take a few pointers in mind to save some money, but more importantly, time. No matter what you do, be sure to book a ticket in advance as the wait can be extremely, painfully long and nothing ruins a vacation faster than waiting in a long line – especially with kids in tow.

I strongly recommend booking tickets online in advance (you can do so here) to skip the line. Pick the option that says ‘fast track’ if you want to skip the line, as the standard ones will still involve quite a bit of waiting. The fast track tickets are a little more money, but considering how precious your time is in London, given you only have 4 days, I think it’s worth it to get to zoom past all the people waiting in line!

>> Book your fast track London Eye tickets here! <<

If you’re traveling with kids (or the young at heart!) they will love the 4D experience that comes included on your London Eye ride if you book online.

Meanwhile, adult travelers – couples or group of friends alike – can opt to add a glass of Pommery-Brut champagne for about $8 USD extra, which is not a bad deal to enjoy one of the best views of London with some bubbles to celebrate! Book London Eye fast track + champagne tickets online in advance, as you can’t get this same deal in person.

Go for afternoon tea

afternoon-tea-wallace
Tea for one at the Wallace

Having an afternoon tea experience is one of the most quintessential bucket list items on any London itinerary. There are lots of unique ways to go for tea in London – there are themed afternoon teas, like Winnie the Pooh, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or an Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea.

Alternately, you can pair your afternoon tea with some sightseeing by doing an afternoon tea river cruise along the Thames, taking in some of the most beautiful sights in London along the way. It’s one of the most beloved London activities (and it’s relatively inexpensive to boot), with nearly 700 positive reviews averaging 4.6 out of 5 stars. Check reviews & book yours today here.

If you’re on a tight budget but want to do tea, I recommend going for afternoon tea at the Wallace, which costs 19.50 GBP, a relative bargain given the lovely environment and generous portions: I was stuffed after my tea!

It’s pretty likely that you’ll be really full after your afternoon tea, so after getting some rest at your hotel, plan on a light dinner.

I’d recommend going to a traditional English pub – it’s a must-do experience in London. Pubs traditionally will have some food that you can order alongside your pints if you’re still hungry after your tea. Then, get an early rest as your next day is pretty packed as well!

Following a vegan diet? There are so many great vegan restaurants in London worth checking out!

Day 2 of your London Itinerary

Since you saw a lot of the most famous British sights on your first day, day 2 of your 4 day London itinerary is all about arts and culture.

This day’s itinerary will take you through some more famous landmarks in the city before ending in one of London’s coolest neighborhoods, Shoreditch, where you can check out street art and eat delicious curries to your heart’s content. We’ll start with the Tower of London: a great place to start the second day of a walking tour of London.

Learn the history of the Tower of London

Built in 1066, the Tower of London is one of the oldest and most recognizable landmarks in the city, functioning as a royal residence for centuries. With defensive walls and a quadrangular castle interior, it’s incredibly photogenic and in remarkably good condition for being almost a millennium old.

While the Tower of London is beautiful today, its pretty façade hides a very dark past. The Tower of London was once used a prison for those accused of treason, and the gate through which these prisoners entered became widely known as the “Traitor’s Gate.” Heads of executed prisoners were often displayed along the gate as a warning to new arrivals, Game of Thrones style.

Now, the Tower of London has a far more sunny role: welcoming travelers eagers to see Britain’s famous crown jewels as well as learn the history of this iconic building. Tours cover the crown jewels, of course, but also go over the royal armories, the Bloody Tower, and more.

As this is another must-see on everyone’s London itineraries, naturally, waits are long. Outsmart the crowds by purchasing a skip-the-line ticket in advance, so you don’t have to queue to buy a ticket. It’s actually cheaper than buying it at the door. You can book yours here today and enter hassle-free, sweeping past the lines with a mobile voucher.

>> Save 10% and skip the line by booking your Tower of London ticket online <<

Cross the memorable Tower Bridge

London Bridge is a misnomer: the famous bridge in London is actually called Tower Bridge. Walking across it is one of the most iconic things to do on any London itinerary, and the best part is that it’s free – a rarity in an expensive city like London.

True transportation geeks can take a tour of the Towder Bridge for an additional cost. You can enter inside the actual bridge and see the Victorian-era engine room that operates the drawbridge, as well as see exhibitions of the history of this famous bridge. The engine room is particularly interesting, with coal burners, steam engines, and hydraulic technology.

However, those afraid of heights may not be happy to hear that the bridge has a see-through glass floor walkway over the bridge itself (giving a whole different meaning to the refrain “London Bridge is falling down”!).

Check out the Shard

If you didn’t do the London Eye — or you just love epic views and don’t mind spending extra on both — you may want to take in the view at The Shard instead. It has an outstanding view of the Tower of London (whereas the London Eye has a better view of Westminster Palace).

Of course, it is rather expensive – we’re talking £21.50 when you book well in advance and £30 on the day of.

However, it is a slightly less touristy option compared to the London Eye, which is often ultra-crowded, so if you want sky-high views without as many people around, I’d opt for The Shard.

Even if you don’t go up the Shard, it’s pretty cool to look at from the exterior: 95 stories of modern architecture looming over the South Bank.

It was designed by an Italian architect and is one of the most distinctive pieces of modern architecture in the city (the other being the ultra-weird Gherkin near Shoreditch).

Don’t waste time waiting in line! Tickets cost more on the same day, so book in advance and receive discounted admission – plus a glass of complimentary champagne!

Drool your way through Borough Market

Borough Market is one of the oldest and largest food markets in London – a city that is full to bursting with food markets.

There are tons of high-quality food vendors selling some of London’s more affordable eats – you can find delicious sandwiches, paellas, and more. Read a complete guide to Borough Market here.

The market also sells produce and specialty foods, particularly imported European food items like Italian pasta and sauces. There’s also butchers selling fresh meat, high-quality fruits and vegetables, and deliciously tasty pastries.

Get a blast from the past at the Globe Theatre

London has had a lot of famous residents over the years but perhaps none so iconic as Shakespeare. The Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank is a copy of the original Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The original theatre dates back to 1599, but lived only a few short years: it was destroyed by a fire 14 years later, rebuilt a year later, then demolished 30 years later.

It stayed exactly this way until 1997, when architects endeavored to reconstruct the original building, poring over the available evidence in order to create a faithful approximation of the original.

Today, The Globe Theatre is home to several plays throughout the year; alternately, it can be seen on a guided tour for true Shakespeare nerds like myself. Pre-book 30-minute guided tours of Shakespeare’s Globe here if you want to learn more about its history.

Get cultured at the Tate Modern

Give your wallet a rest with Tate Modern, where admission is blissfully, beautifully free! One of my favorite things about London is that most museums offer free admission, because they are state-funded (with the exception of special exhibitions, for which there is an extra charge). Of course, any donations for the museum are well-received.

Tate Modern features provocative modern art with a heavy focus on the past century. It’s a great place to spend an hour or two and since it’s right next to The Globe Theatre, it’s a natural stop on your London itinerary.

Pro tip: if you thought the Shard was too expensive, there’s a free viewing platform at the Tate Modern! It is only 10 floors vs. to the Shard’s 70-odd stories, but the free price tag is hard to argue with.

Take the Tube to Shoreditch

Take a 15-minute walk to either the London Bridge or Borough metro stop, where you’ll take the Northern line to Old Street. From there, you’ll be in the heart of Shoreditch, one of my favorite neighborhoods in all of London.

What you’ll want to do in Shoreditch depends on how much time you have. I highly recommend taking a walk down Brick Lane and checking out the street art in that area and around Redchurch Street, which is the other center point of street art in Shoreditch.

Besides checking out the street art, I recommend walking to Old Spitalfields Market, which is a historic marketplace with lots of delicious street food and fun shops to explore. Princelet Street and Wilkes Street are two really cool streets with historic buildings with gorgeously painted doors and shutters.

I’ve actually written an entire post on things to do in Shoreditch so you can check that out, but note that many of the attractions on that post are focused on what you should do if you’re in Shoreditch on a Sunday when all the markets are thriving.

Eat Indian food on Brick Lane or at Dishoom

British food gets an unfairly bad rap, in my opinion. The joy of a multicultural place like London is that you can get delicious food virtually everywhere! One of my favorite cuisines in the world is Indian, and there’s no better place than Shoreditch to enjoy it.

Brick Lane is home to countless Indian eateries each vying for your patronage. Ignore Aladin, as it’s overrated. Try to get a good deal from one of the other guys instead – they’ll often throw in a free bottle of wine or free appetizers in order to win your business.

If you’re prepared to wait (or you’re eating at an absurdly early hour) you can check out Dishoom, which has some of the best Indian food in the entire city.

However, waits can border on the truly ludicrous — often upwards of one hour — so if you only have 4 days in London I’d understand if you don’t want to spend a few hours of a day just waiting in line.

Day 3 of your London Itinerary

The culture-fest continues with some of London’s best museums, all of which are wonderfully free! I also recommend trying to obtain tickets at a discount to one of London’s plays or musicals.

If you have something specific you want to see, then you may want to shuffle the order of this itinerary so you can be at the TKTS booth when it opens. But if you just want to see any show, this is the most convenient way to structure your day to minimize walking time.

Start at the British Museum

The British Museum is one of the most interesting museums in London, although it must be acknowledged that the means by which the British Museum acquired the majority of their pieces is ethically pretty crappy (#colonialism).

Still, for better or worse, countless artifacts from around the world exist in the British Museum, and entry to enjoy them is free with the exception of any special exhibitions you may want to see.

Established in 1753, the British Museum has gone through several incarnations, including its most recent renovation which is infinitely photographable. Like virtually all museums in the U.K., it is a public institution, meaning that admission is free and donations are accepted but not solicited.

The scope of the British Museum is wild, focusing broadly on the culture, art and the history of human beings, spanning several millennia of human history. Many of the most famous historical objects in the world are housed in the British Museum, including the remains of Egyptian mummies and the legendary Rosetta Stone.

My personal favorite wings are the Egyptian, Japanese, and Korean wings. There’s simply no way to see it all, so grab a pamphlet and choose 3-4 sections to focus on during your time at the British Museum. It would take 4 days in London to even cohesively cover the British Museum, so don’t even try! Just focus on your own personal highlights and your experience will be all the better for it — trust me.

Explore the area around Covent Garden

Between Charing Road and Drury Lane is the small but lovely district of Covent Garden. Full of street performers and musicians, Covent Garden is a beloved destination for those who enjoy culture, food, shopping, and Britain’s national sport – day drinking.

There’s plenty to see around Covent Garden, which boasts famous attraction sites such as Freemason’s Hall, the Covent Garden Market, the London Transport Museum, the Somerset House, and the Royal Opera House.

You can pick and choose what you want to see, but I personally just enjoy walking around the main area near the subway station and seeing the different performers and indulging in a bit of window shopping.

Go for a Harry Potter-themed walking tour

As a certified Harry Potter geek, I highly recommend doing a Magical London walking tour. This tour covers Kings Cross Station, including the famous Platform 9 ¾ trolley, and Diagon Alley with hits like the Leaky Cauldron, sights that inspired J.K. Rowling’s writing, and much, much more over the course of 2.5 hours.

You’ll see over 20 magical sights on your walking tour through London with your enthusiastic, Harry Potter-loving guide, who will be full of fun facts, trivia, and quizzes along the way!

Tours come in several languages – English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German. Tours start at noon in English and 10 AM and 2 PM in other languages. This tour is exclusive to Get Your Guide, so book in advance today!

Check out the National Gallery

Yet another free museum! To me, the best thing about London museums being free is that you don’t have to feel guilty when you don’t see everything (which is a miserable way to see a museum, anyway).

Even if you just stop in and stroll around for 20 or 30 minutes, it’s enough to see some of the art and take in the gorgeous architecture of this 19th-century building. The National Gallery specializes in art from the mid-13th century onwards, stopping at 1900 (where the Tate Modern steps in).

See the iconic Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square in central London has beautiful fountains, monuments, and statues and has been a significant landmark since the 13th century. It’s also been an important flashpoint for political rallies, such as the Million Women March in 2017.

It is one of London’s top tourist attraction sites, and tourists flock here every year. Sure, you’ll have to battle a bunch of selfie-stick wielding tourists, but it’s a London icon for a reason, so it’s worth a quick pass, especially if you’re already in the area for the National Gallery.

Photograph colorful Notting Hill

From here, you’ll want to hop on the subway to the district of Notting Hill. Trust me.

If Instagram has any impact on your travel planning, you’ll likely already have Notting Hill on your London itinerary. North of the posh district of Kensington, Notting Hill is one of the districts in west London and it’s known for its colorful pastel buildings. Besides its gorgeous houses, it’s also home to high-end shopping, trendy Instagrammable restaurants, and beautiful terraces.

This district captivates tourists with its charm and pastel-colored houses. In the spring, Instagram girls descend on the neighborhood in a fit of wisteria hysteria. In August, every year, people celebrate Notting Hill Carnival, one of Europe’s biggest street carnival parades, complete with marching bands, costumes, street food, and calypso music.

Hunt for treasures at the Portobello Road Market

If you’re a geek for antiques, you can’t miss the Portobello Road market — it’s the world’s largest and best known antique and second-hand clothes market. It is located in the Notting Hill district and has over a thousand dealers. Yup – more than a thousand. Extra much?

It is one of London’s most loved landmarks and has the widest range of antiques in all of Britain. In addition to selling antiques, the market is also a haven for lovers of food, music, books, and fashion. There is a lot of treasure to discover in the Portobello Road market, so be sure to allocate a couple of hours to explore it thoroughly.

Return to Central London for dinner and a show

Assuming you booked a theater ticket for the night, you’ll want to head back to London’s West End area by the evening for an early dinner and a show.

Be sure to give yourself adequate time to return to Central London from Notting Hill! I very nearly missed my showing of People, Places, & Things and had to sprint across London in a mad dash (0/10, highly recommend avoiding – especially when you’re a Yankee like me who’s not used to looking the ‘wrong way’ down a street!).

I recommend eating at Rosa’s Thai in the 7 Dials neighborhood near Leicester Square for some of the best Thai food in London at affordable prices. I’d prefer to eat before my show, personally, but it is open until 10:30 so there is a chance you could make it after your show, depending on how long it goes. If not, there are still plenty of great places to eat around 7 Dials, so you can just wander and find something that is open.

The play I saw, while excellent, is no longer being shown, so here are some current plays that look phenomenal and have excellent reviews. The Phantom of the Opera is a classic for a reason (check prices here); Wicked, another favorite that’s been imported from New York Broadway (check prices & availability here); and TINA – The Tina Turner Musical for something a little offbeat, modern, and different (check prices & availability here)

Day 4 of your London Itinerary

By now, you should have seen most of the London top sights, so focus instead of a half-day trip somewhere outside of London followed by a walk in one of London’s more unique neighborhoods.

Start the day with a half-day trip

Depending on your level of nerdiness, there are two day trips I recommend: A Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studio tour or a half-day excursion to Stonehenge.

Wizard nerds like myself will be in heaven at the Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter studio tour, which you’re likely to share with upwards of 6,000 of your fellow geeks on any given day (it is literally the highest-rated attraction in the world). 

This enormous studio in Leavesden, England (about 90 minutes away from London) was used for much of the filming of the Harry Potter movies. It’s now a permanent exhibition that offers an authentic, behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Harry Potter films. Studio tours include transport and entry and allow you 3.5 hours to explore Diagon Alley, see Platform 9 and 3/4, pretend you’re in Dumbledore’s Office, and get crunk off some Butterbeer.

It can be a pain to get here independently with public transit, so a shuttle is way preferable. Book your Harry Potter Studio tour here!

People who prefer history will want to opt for a trip to Stonehenge, where you can see some of the oldest and most mysterious man-made structures in the world. Stonehenge is over 5,000 years old, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and weighs a combined massive 40 tons. No one knows how the rocks were installed here or their significance, making it one of the longest-enduring historical mysteries.

The views heading into the English countryside are worth the trip alone!

While easy enough to get to Stonehenge independently, a guided tour simplifies transit, streamlines travel time, and provides interesting historical context for the wonders of Stonehenge. If the simplicity of a guided day trip appeals to you, book your Stonehenge day trip here.

Return to London in time to explore one or more of its neighborhoods

On the last of your 4 days in London, don’t try to jam in any more sights or museums. Instead, just spend the final evening exploring one of London’s many exciting neighborhoods, photographing the pretty buildings and taking in the neighborhood vibes.

If you want a posh neighborhood to stroll around, you can’t miss the fancy streets of Belgravia. This neighborhood is where you’ll find upscale townhouses, embassies, and the nicest hotels in London, not to mention plenty of window shopping opportunities. Hyde Park is also great for a stroll.

Another great neighborhood to explore is Camden in northwest London. You’ll find lots of funky boutiques with unique exteriors, an outdoor market, and an eclectic mix of cuisines, not to mention historic landmarks like the Chapel of St. Etheldreda. Amy Winehouse fans will enjoy seeing a statue dedicated to her, as she used to live in Camden.

Finally, another option is Soho, where you’ll find excellent nightlife options, including cocktail bars, restaurants, and plenty of trendy boutiques that are almost definitely out of your budget.

Where to Stay in London

London is as huge as it is expensive, and picking a place to stay can be difficult. I’ve written out a massive guide to where to stay in London for first-timers here, explaining the different neighborhoods and highlighting the best deals in each.

My advice for staying in London on a budget is a bit controversial, as I recommend staying close to the city center rather than trying to save a few bucks by being way far out. For one, if you only have 4 days in London, you don’t want to spend 2 or so hours of each day on the Tube going back and forth to your hotel each day. Plus, that can be rather expensive!

The best London hotels and hostels are central enough that you can walk to most major attractions, eliminating wasted time and tube fare. You may pay a few dollars more, but trust me, it’s worth it – and there are some excellent value hotels in London these days.

Budget: If you are traveling solo in London on a strict budget and are looking for a central hostel, I recommend SoHostel, which is located in a central London location walking distance from sights like Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. The décor is bright and colorful, a step above a lot of dingy hostels you’ll find. The dorm rooms are a bit Spartan, but that’s a hostel for you! There’s also a nice in-house bar where you can meet fellow travelers if you’re not feeling up to checking out London’s nightlife independently. Check rates, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: My last time in London, I stayed at the citizenM in Shoreditch and recommend the experience highly. Basically, citizenM is a chain of hotels that are cozy but not fussy, fusing quirky décor, affordable prices, and high-tech amenities (we’re taking shower doors that change color, remote-operated blinds that block out all light when you want to sleep in, and a 60-second self-check-in service). They’re always located in central areas and the prices are super affordable for what you get. The rooms are small, but cozy, with outlets and drawers thoughtfully placed to maximize space. I stayed at the hipster Shoreditch location (check rates, reviews, and availability here) but I’ve also visited a friend at the more central Tower of London location and it was a dream – those Tower views are second to none (check rates, reviews, and availability here).

Luxury: If you’re after luxury, don’t worry – London has got you covered. There is an insane number of 5-star hotels in the city. For understated yet classy design in a central SoHo neighborhood, I recommend the quaint, boutique Charlotte Street Hotel (check rates, reviews, and availability here). For a more classic stay, The Beaumont is one of London’s tried-and-true 5-star properties With amenities like a sauna, hammam, and spa in the hotel – plus lovely little added bonuses like free daily dessert treats from the stff and luxe heated marble floors in the bathrooms, it’s one of the nicest places to stay in London if you have the money for it. Check rates, reviews, and availability here. 

Offbeat London: 12 Cool Things to Do in Shoreditch

I’ll admit it – my first few times in London, I never got the love for the city that everyone else seems to have.

But then I realized that I was planning an itinerary that was way too focused on Central London — basically, the same mistake that most tourists make when they visit New York City. Never leaving Central London is akin to never leaving Manhattan.

Once I started to get past London’s most well-trodden sights, I started to really understand why people have so much love for this city and London’s many neighborhoods.

I based myself in Shoreditch last time I visited London for a 3 day weekend and thought it was a fantastic base for traveling around London. There are plenty of things to do in Shoreditch to keep you busy for several days, but it’s also convenient enough to be close to anything you want to do in Central. Prices are also significantly lower for food and drinks than Central London, and I found the selection and quality of the restaurants to be much higher as well — win/win!

My Top 12 Things to Do in Shoreditch

Please note that a handful of the suggestions are specific to Sundays, when Shoreditch really comes to life and is at its best. Sundays are also the most crowded – but the busy, outdoor atmosphere is part of what makes Shoreditch so enjoyable on Sundays.

Eat a salt beef bagel

things to do in Shoreditch - eat a salt beef bagel

Some things are just classic for a reason, and Beigel Bake’s salt beef bagels are just one of those things. The line is long basically every time of day (and considering the place is open 24/7, that’s saying something).

Normally I’m a long line skeptic. I associate them with Instagram fads like freakshakes and rainbow bagels and whatever crackpot, diabetes-inducing sugar bomb trend du jour is. But if it’s a classic, I’ll make an exception.

The line moves fast, the bagels are piping hot and tender, and it made this former New Yorker with strong feels about bagels (including the proper way to spell bagel) very, very happy indeed. Meltingly tender corned beef, a slick of hot mustard, and a juicy pickle — so simple, but so, so good.

Not pictured: tears of joy

Admire the street art

Shoreditch is probably best known for its vibrant street art scene, full of beautiful murals taking up entire buildings and walls. The street art in Shoreditch is incredible, probably some of the best I’ve seen anywhere. It’s ever-changing, but the streets off of Brick Lane and Redchurch Street are probably two of the best places to start.

As a bonus, it’s one of the best free things to do in London!

Here are a few of my favorite pieces from my most recent trip to Shoreditch. All the photos were taken in early March 2018 – so pieces will likely disappear and replaced by new ones over time.

Not sure how to best experience the street art scene, or want to get some guidance on the history behind the neighborhood? Get Your Guide offers street art tours of Shoreditch and the East End that come highly recommended.

I didn’t have time for it on my last trip, but I wish I had as it would have been nice to know the context of some of the art.

Check reviews, prices, and availability here!

Eat delicious Indian food

I’ve gone for curry on Brick Lane twice and had mixed experiences. My first time, my dinner was excellent, but of course, I’m a bad blogger and can’t remember the name of where I ate. The second time, I was determined to do more research. I had heard excellent things about Aladin – I mean, if it’s good enough for Prince Charles, it’s probably good enough for me, no? – but I was actually pretty disappointed with it. And I settle for inauthentic Bulgarian Indian food on the regular, so it’s not even that I’m picky.

The samosas were just sad, with skin more like a wonton than the satisfyingly heavy pastry dough you typically get. The chutneys weren’t right, either. My curry was decent, but nothing special, and all my friends felt pretty much the same about their food. They offered us a 20% discount outside, which was nowhere to be found on the final bill, and we had to inquire to get it removed.

Instead, I’d recommend skipping hyped-up Aladin and trying another place on Brick Lane. Promoters of the restaurants are always outside touting special deals, which you can work off one another to your advantage. But for the best Indian food in London, you should try your luck at Dishoom, one of the best restaurants in London, a small chain of London-based restaurants serving up some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had in my life.

Lines are always long — I waited 20 minutes my first time at the Covent Garden location and was told I was lucky — and have been quoted at upwards of an hour on other occasions. But the food is excellent and worth the wait or the early dinner.

Or try some delicious Vietnamese food on Kingsland Road

Shoreditch also has a great Vietnamese food scene, with tons of restaurants slinging pho and other Viet classics at affordable prices on “Pho Mile”, aka Kingsland Road.

I’m pretty picky about my Vietnamese food — being from California will do that to a person — but I felt that the food was really authentic and delicious. My choice was Viet Grill – it had a nicer atmosphere then the others, plus specials and overall good prices. I got the pork chop plate with rice, fried egg, pickled carrot and daikon, and an imperial roll. So simple, but so good — why mess with a classic?

Check out the vintage markets

I’m definitely not cool or skinny enough to pull off vintage clothing — but I have a lot of fun browsing it, making up outfits in my head and playing with ridiculously oversize sunglasses.

The Vintage Market in Shoreditch is open in a downstairs warehouse just off of Brick Lane Thursdays through Sundays, and it’s worth popping into for a quick browse or impulse buy!

Sample street food all along Brick Lane

Brick Lane is one of the most famous streets in London for a reason, and it’s vibrant on this street all week long in London. However, Sundays bring Brick Lane to life even more than it usually is, with tons of street food with cuisines from all around the world represented.

Everything from richly fatty tonkatsu ramen to Ethiopian food with spongy injera bread can be found on the streets and in the small markets just adjacent to Brick Lane. I could spend days and days eating my way through the stalls here, but I opted for tacos, since I have such trouble finding decent Mexican food in Europe, and was really pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was.

A little lost? For a Sunday street food tour that takes you from all corners of the culinary world in a single 3.5 hour tour, check out the Shoreditch Sunday street food tour, ranging from British to Ghanaian to Jewish cuisines and beyond.

Book your street food tour today!

Pop into all the tiny markets off of Brick Lane

Brick Lane is the nexus of activity on Sundays, but there are lots of little alleyways and side street markets that are also worth a look for unique souvenirs and window shopping.

It’s great to be able to support local artists through these pop-up markets. We went to the Backyard Market and the Tea Rooms Market, both located in an side street off of Brick Lane, and enjoyed perusing the stuff on offer there.

Visit the historic Spitalfields market

Another market? Hey, that’s what Shoreditch is all about on the weekends.

The Old Spitalfields Market is a dynamic indoor market with more than 40 food stalls and 30 shops, where a market has been ongoing since 1638. It’s one of London’s oldest markets and is incredibly popular with locals and tourists alike.

Unlike the other markets mentioned above, the Old Spitalfields Market runs 7 days a week, so if you are visiting Shoreditch on a weekday this is one of the places you can’t miss.

 Peruse the historic Spitalfields houses

There’s just something so aesthetically pleasing about the historic homes of Spitalfields, don’t you think?

Princelet Street and Wilkes Street have some of the most beautiful Georgian-era architecture, with beautiful brickwork and perfectly painted shutters. If you’re an avid Instagrammer, this is probably one of the more photogenic streets in all of London.

Love photography? You can also sign up for a travel photography tour in East London, where a professional photographer will help you set up your shots and develop a unique photography style with their guidance.

Save yourself a spot and book today!

Enjoy drinks on the roof of Queen of Hoxton

Queen of Hoxton is one of Shoreditch’s best-loved bars, and its rooftop is especially loved in the summer.

It’s still really cozy in the winter, as every year they bring in a giant themed tent (this year, the theme is Moroccan-inspired décor) so you can still enjoy the rooftop bar without freezing your butt off.

Want more rooftop bars? The city’s got loads of them! Here are 10 more cool rooftop bars in London.

Explore the shops, stalls, and bars at Boxpark

I have no idea why hipsters love shipping containers so much… but there’s no denying that Boxpark is pretty freaking cool.

The bottom level is filled with quirky design shops, coffee shops, and affordable restaurants, whereas the top level is where you’ll find the bars and some delicious late night eateries. Super compact and right in the heart of Shoreditch, you’ll certainly end up walking past Boxpark at some point or another, so be sure to give it a visit!

Visit the Columbia Road Flower Market

I wasn’t expecting to be so impressed by the Sunday Columbia Road Flower Market… I mean, it is just a flower market!

But the flowers on offer are such a riot of beautiful colors, with all sorts of unusual types of flowers and plants that I don’t normally see on offer.

Even standards, like the tulips pictured above, are more vibrantly colorful and unique than I’ve seen anywhere else in the world. For photography lovers, it’s definitely one of the most Instagrammable places in London!

I was awfully tempted to buy flowers to take back to my hotel room — before I realized that my money would be better spend on more Indian food.

Where to Stay in Shoreditch

When I chose Shoreditch as my base for my most recent London trip, part of the appeal was getting to stay at the citizenM Shoreditch, which just opened in fall of 2016. I first heard of citizenM when visiting my friend Megan at her hotel at the Tower of London location and enjoyed the design.

The rooms aren’t huge, but all in all, I was super happy with my stay at citizenM and would gladly book again in the future, and I would recommend it without reservations to similar-minded travelers to London. In a city as expensive as London, it’s really rare to find mid-range accommodations in centrally-located parts of the city, so citizenM is filling a much-needed gap in the market.

One of my favorite things about citizenM is how the public space is incredibly energizing and creative – design-focused without being stuffy or pretentious.

citizenM has reinvented the concept of the “lobby”, turning it into a creative, communal space complete with a bar, long coworking tables, and tons of private nooks and crannies where you can enjoy a coffee, drink, or a chat. It also seemed to be quite a popular space to work.

Had I been in a more responsible mood that weekend, I likely would have taken advantage of the fast WiFi and the vibrant but relaxed atmosphere to get some work done.

The rooms at citizenM are compact and utilize the small space well. However, if you’re the kind of person who needs a super-spacious room to spread out all your stuff — citizenM is not the place for you. The rooms are comfortable with sufficient room for two people, but I wouldn’t say they’re roomy.

What the rooms lack in space, they make up for with super high tech perks like a wall-mounted flat-screen TV with lots of movies (including, um, an extensive and free selection of adult films) that you can watch for free from your in-room iPad. I especially liked all the bedside plugs (and loved how they had different socket types so that if you forgot your UK adaptor like I did, you weren’t screwed). Touches like that are important to me and really improve the quality of my stay somewhere. As a blogger with approximately 17 electronics I need to charge at one point or another, having all the USBs and plugs in a convenient bedside location was a nice plus.

Check prices, rates, more photos, and availability here!

You could control the blinds and blackout curtains with a bedside switch and play with the lighting as well, which was a fun and super convenient touch. I felt a bit like I was in the Jetsons living in the future as I was playing with all the controls!

All in all, I was happy with my stay at citizenM and would gladly book again in the future, and I would recommend it without reservations to similar-minded travelers to London. In a city as expensive as London, it’s really rare to find mid-range accommodations in centrally-located parts of the city, so I’m glad for places like citizenM. Check prices, rates, more photos, and availability here.

Have you been to Shoreditch? What have I missed that I should put on my list for next time?

Note: I received a complimentary night at citizenM and paid a media rate for the remaining two nights. All opinions are entirely my own.

2 Days in Edinburgh: A Budget-Friendly Edinburgh Itinerary

The U.K., on the whole, is not a budget destination. But with one of my best friends in the world living in London, how could I resist the opportunity to visit her? I spent a week with her in London and we went to Edinburgh for 2 days for a quick weekend getaway.

Edinburgh’s center is very walkable and compact. This makes 2 days in Edinburgh a good amount of time to get a feel for the city’s vibe – or if you’re rushed, you can even do quite a lot with just 24 hours in Edinburgh. Of course, though, if you wanted, you could spend a ton more time exploring every nook and cranny of this extremely lovable city.

 While some of the things to do in Edinburgh are expensive (like the pricy-but-worth-it Edinburgh Castle, which cost me nearly $27 for a ticket plus audio guide), there are still many amazing cheap and even free things to do in Edinburgh.

This 2 day Edinburgh itinerary works as part of a larger Scotland itinerary or as a standalone weekend trip. It balances out some of the pricier Edinburgh attractions with plenty of wonderful free things so that you can tackle Edinburgh on a budget.

free things to do in Scotland
The Edinburgh castle doesn’t come cheap, but it’s well worth it!

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