You can go to many cities and feel like you have seen everything you need to see in a day or two. However, time and time again, I find myself strolling through London’s cobbled streets, experiencing the city’s particular style of organized chaos, and still come home feeling like there is still so much I haven’t seen.
Of course, the first time you find yourself arriving by train to Paddington station, or flying into Heathrow International, your first experiences are often the most predictable. Catching a view on the London Eye, queuing at Buckingham Palace with vain hopes of meeting the Queen, or waiting with your eyes to the sky for Big Ben to announce the time. In my experience, you don’t truly start to see or understand London until you have been there 4 or 5 times, and even then there are still things to discover.
Afternoon Tea at the British Museum
For instance, when spending the day in London, especially for the international tourist set, afternoon tea is a must. You can’t help but get into the British spirit with bottomless tea, mini crust-less sandwiches, yummy deserts and mini scones topped with delicious clotted cream and sweet jam. One unexpected place which I found for such a treat is the restaurant at the top of the British Museum. Tucked up high and out of sight, the British Museum restaurant provides a great atmosphere during tea time.
London is filled with hundreds of years of monarchy history, however, for a history-filled day trip I would recommend visiting Hampton Court. A favourite haunt of Henry VIII, Hampton court is spilling with sixteenth century grandeur. Plus, being outside of the main tourist-filled palaces of London, a day spent at Hampton Court provides a calmer, more relaxed trip through time.
Likewise, escaping the city to Windsor is an equally enjoyable day trip. The majestic Windsor Castle, still frequented by the royal family, is a must see for anyone interested in British history. As well, after visiting the palace, Windsor itself is a great town to explore. Filled with outdoor enjoyment, spend the day on the river with boat rides and kayak tours, strolling through expansive parks, or grab a fancy hat and spend the day at Ascot Racecourse. Windsor is also home to heritage centres, the Eton College Natural History Museum, the Theatre Royal Windsor, and the Windsor Guildhall, where Prince Charles and Camilla were married and where Sir Elton John and David Furnish had their civil ceremony. Come for the castle, stay for the town.
Exploring Greenwich village
Back in the heart of London, I also recommend take the river ferry up to Greenwich Village. There, you can find the National Maritime Museum and the impressive Cutty Stark – the last of the 19th century tea clippers that once sailed between Britain and China. Climb to the top of Greenwich Park to the observatory where the zero meridian divides the world into eastern and western halves, and is marked by a steel rod in the floor.
Similar to Windsor, simply by strolling through Greenwich Village one can discover quirky pubs and shops. While I enjoy a good museum, I can get overwhelmed by the number of museums available in the city. For me, I preferred aimlessly wandering through the streets of Greenwich. There is even a wonderful craft market tucked in the centre of Greenwich which dates back to the 1830s.
Regent’s Canal Walk
Finally, my favourite London discovery needs to be the Regent’s Canal Walk. A hidden gem of London, the canal winds its way through the city, providing a peaceful escape from the chaos. Running through Regent’s Park, past the London Zoo, the canal is home to a colourful collection of narrowboats and is at the heart of the city’s cultural scene. I would recommend starting around St. Pancras Lock, and winding your way to Camden Lock Market. There, you can take in the hustle and bustle of the market while you grab your choice of market food for a picnic lunch perched by the locks.
Thanks for reading, if you have any other favourite London Haunts then let me know in the comments below!