My London Round-up

When we planned this three-month trip to Europe, Keegan and I decided our goal is to travel slowly. We weren't interested in a 6-countries-in-10-days sort of pace but instead wanted to take our time in each city or country so we could get to know the personality of each city beyond every must-see. We knew we wanted our lifestyle to stay as true to our everyday life as possible, just somewhere else. So we are visiting four countries in three months — England, France, Germany, and Portugal — with only one backpack and one additional bag each.

We started with 9 days in London. Keegan had been there once before — on a solo trip 6 years ago to London and Paris, his first trip to Europe — and I had never been before. We chose to stay in the Shoreditch neighborhood, and I'm so glad we did because it ended up being my favorite area in the city, and we had a quaint Airbnb with a terrace. It had a Brooklyn feel but almost felt more cool, if that's even possible. It's Brooklyn but smaller and more dense — more coolness per square foot, per se?

We achieved a pretty good mix of touristy destinations and stops away from the frenzy of summer visitors. Just as in every other city we visit, we found our favorite restaurants and coffee shops through Foursquare and word-of-mouth.

Somehow 9 days felt both not long enough and more time than necessary to get to know the city. It's more than enough time to visit if you just want to hit major tourist spots. We managed visiting no more than one must-see in a day so we could spend the rest of the day exploring stress-free, and some days were able to stay out of crowded areas altogether.

I'm compiling a list of my favorite spots here — a mix of our favorite tourist spots and otherwise — and I'm excited to share some of my film shots from our time. Enjoy!

All images shot on Fuji 400h film with a Contax 645 | Developed and scanned by Photovision

St. Paul’s Cathedral: It’s a stunning church! We loved walking around the entirety of the building and stopping to relax, read, and have a snack on the grass in the courtyard.

The Nightjar: We loved this jazz club! You can expect good live music and fancy, creative cocktails. We chatted with a couple a few tables away and ended up joining tables and sharing a bottle of champagne. So fun!

Ace Hotel, Bulldog Edition, & East London Juice Co.: Ace Hotel is a super hip hang-out spot in the U.S., and it wasn’t any different here. We loved that it was in walking distance from our Airbnb. We spent more than a few times sitting in the lobby reading and working all day while sipping coffee from the coffee shop connected to the lobby, Bulldog Edition. There is also a juice and smoothie shop next door. I think the hotel even offers the drinks on their lobby menu.

BunBunBun Vietnamese Food: We loved the food here so much that we went three times while we were in London. The place isn’t particularly cool or beautiful, but the food is amazing.

Buckingham Palace: A must-do on a first-time trip to London! We went in the morning for the changing of the guards ceremony. It was super crowded, so make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes early. If I were to go again, I would arrive even earlier and try to get a spot along the fence closest to the palace so I could see what was happening inside the gates. It was still fun to see the entrance and exit on the street though!

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town: The coolest bar we went to in London. It’s a speakeasy and has a secret entrance. Go into the diner on street level, ask to speak to the mayor, and the host will walk you through the door of a Smeg refrigerator down to the bar. You’ll exit through the diner restroom when you leave. Play it cool!

Tower Bridge: Another must-see spot. I didn’t know until I arrived in London that this isn’t actually the London Bridge. It turns out that’s a common misconception! The London Bridge is actually next to the Tower Bridge and is way less impressive.

Tower Bridge London

Kensington Palace & The Orangery: This was the highlight of my time in London. I loved walking around the palace grounds, and having tea at The Orangery was quite an experience. We had so many recommendations of where to get afternoon tea, and I have no complaints about where we ended up going! Next on my list is tea in the pink room at Sketch.

St. Pancras Station & Platform 9 3/4: Yep, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan! On this trip I started rereading the series, which was a defining part of my childhood. It was so fun to see parts of where the movies were filmed, and yes, I did wait in line to take a photo with the trolley going through the wall.

Dishoom: If there’s one restaurant you have to eat at in London, it’s Dishoom! It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. The space is beautiful and the food is extraordinary. We didn’t have a reservation, so we had to wait about an hour and a half, but it was well worth it.

Dishoom

Borough Market: We loved the energy of this spot! It’s a good spot to grab a quick bite to eat and either eat there (the curb is probably the only place you’ll find to sit) or take your food and sit by the River Thames nearby.

The Attendant: Delicious brunch in Shoreditch and a beautiful space.

Wahaca: I found good Mexican food in London of all places, WHAT? Yes, it was amazing!

The London Eye, Westminster Bridge, Big Ben, & Westminster Abbey: I’m lumping all of these together because they are in about a half-mile area. It’s quite crowded, so crowded in fact that I actually felt anxious being there, but these are all on the London must-do list. We reserved tickets in advance for the latest time slot to go up in the London Eye (Pro Tip: Buy tickets online in advance and pay the extra $5 or so to get into the fast-track lane!), and it was just amazing to see the sunset from the top.