London is a short trip from Stuttgart direct on Easyjet and several other airlines. Book your train tickets into the city online in advance from the airport to your destination. It saves a lot of time waiting in lines on arrival as well as when heading out to catch the train back to the airport. Our friend from Florida was in London that weekend as part of her own European adventure, so we wanted to meet up before her last stop in Stuttgart. Her friend generously let us stay with him in his waterfront flat too.
The weather was overall a success in June, still cold, only rain on one day which was more of a mist really.
The first thing on my to do list was to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We were running late and thought we could stop at the Palace, then get some brunch after. As we approached the gates, the crowds were already packed. We thought this was the norm until eventually we noticed the traffic flow moving inside the gates to the Palace circle and gardens. We follow and grab a nice spot stationed in front of the circle to wait. After the time passed from when the usual change of guard happens, we realize, it is the Queen’s Royal Birthday celebration and parade today so the program must not be happening as usual. It was going to be a long morning. So exciting!!
At first, the guard gets into place and the parade of horses begin to march though. Following the horses, the focus shifts to the carriages one by one that arrive with Royal family members until finally Queen Elizabeth arrives. The family gathers on the balcony and the bands begin with more horses in parade. In the end, the Queen comes out alone and waves to all, the cannon strikes, and the Royal Air Force flies over the to palace with color smoke.
Afterward walking around the palace to the carriage guard-house, the change of the guard happens there as the old come in and the new march on. Watch the video:
Our next stop, now four hours plus later, was food. We headed up toward Piccadilly Circus and found a grocery market along the way. Water and sandwiches were the perfect (and cheap) snack until we found a lunch spot.
Being London, Fish and Chip shops were a must do item.
Google advised the top three and we mapped the closest one to us as our goal. Golden Union fish and chips shop won. We took ours to go, found beer to go at the pub nearby and settled in Soho Park a short walk away to sit outside.
For breakfast, we ate at the famous Breakfast Club, arriving early so the line wasn’t bad. The food was fresh and awesome, the bill for 3 people was about $75, hard to believe but that was a good value for London.
Of course a trip to London would not be complete without a cup of tea. We stopped at the roof bar/restaurant Vintage Salt at the department store Selfridges who served their teas in gorgeous blue china tea sets.
The London Eye fast track was about $65 per person but worth it not to wait in line. The entire ride around takes 30 minutes and is not as scary as some may think being in a glass bubble high up in the sky. It moves so slowly you barely feel it. The 360 view is great to see where you’ve been and where you still need to go.
The London Bridge (which is actually a normal un-impressing looking bridge) and Tower of London where the Royal jewels are kept, Tower Bridge (which most assume is the London Bridge) and more sights, we took on the next day as they are at the opposite ends of the city to the other attractions.
Taking the Tube system is expensive, day passes are 12 pounds. Don’t confuse the day pass for the tram and bus day pass which is cheaper, they are not the same thing. The Tube system is an underground city in itself and is much larger and longer to walk through than New York’s metro system it seemed. The busses are easy to hop onto as well, just pay attention to the schedules online and not at the actual stops because on the weekend some services re-route ( we also learned).
Shopping: I miss shopping so much. Germany is nothing compared to London and other major cities in that arena. The main, very long, shopping street in the city is Oxford Street with department stores and the majors like H&M, Zara, Gap, tourist shops and so on. We prefer the little unique boutique side streets with local bars and shops going toward Soho Park. All good to spend the weekend walking and shopping.
Aside from a Wholefoods (!) which we had to walk into for a moment of home, there are really good beer bars and shops with local and international brews in London. It wasn’t hard to find something new. Here are a few of the locals we tried: