Yes, no joke! I got four, possibly even five, sunny days IN A ROW in London. My friend wasted no time in telling me how lucky I was. Actually, she said something like *yeah sure, it’s like this all the time! (to me commenting why everyone said London has bad weather) We actually keep telling people the weather is bad so they don’t come and we get to enjoy this all by ourselves.* I think there may have been a slight hint of sarcasm there… 😉
Jokes aside, I was thrilled I got to really enjoy London’s outdoors. That first day, as I was standing on the banks of the Thames, looking towards the city and enjoying the sunshine, I was so excited to finally be in Europe! Sure, it was hard to leave the bubble, but the world awaits!! So finally, without further ado, here are my suggestions on what to do in London if you do see that bright warm yellow orb in the sky.
1. Walk along the Thames
There is so much to see and do, and always something going on along the banks of the Thames. Observe the boats going past, sit and enjoy a bit of people watching, or leisurely stroll along and see what there is to discover all the way from the London Eye to the Tower Bridge and beyond.
There’s an aquarium, museums, parks, restaurants (very important), an old ship, funky buildings and the Globe (aka theatre where they perform a lot of Shakespeare plays). And if that’s not enough, pick a bridge and head over to the other side 😉
2. Visit Buckingham Palace and go Royals spotting
I saw the royal family…twice! In one day! Granted, not many people are as lucky, but you never know 😉 Unaware and happily walking along, I decided to pop by the royal palace to check it out and see the change of the guards… not knowing it just *happened* to be the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. Must have missed that memo…
So I waited, saw a bunch of fancy Rolls Royce drive past, scores of police escorts, and then that was it. Oh wait, I did get to see the change of the guards too, which is pretty much what I came to see in the first place. I don’t know if it’s always like this or only because it was a special occasion, but to me it felt like they went all out today. Not only did I see a bunch of dressed up men walk around for a bit, but there were horses, there was a band playing, and a whole lot of marching in between.
Next up I decided to walk towards Westminster Abbey, seeing the sights along the way, only to get there and..Oh look! The Queen is in! So I saw them again. Pretty sure I got my royal fix for the day…
3. Run barefoot over the grass in Hyde Park
Heck, any one of the countless parks that London has to offer will do! Granted, don’t do it in winter when it’s really cold, but I guess you could if you reeeeaally wanted to. Hyde Park is gorgeous, particularly so on sunny days. Hire a lawn chair and just chill, go row row row your boat, gently down the little lake, or just wander around a bit and stumble across Kensington Palace. Equally beautiful is Regent’s Park, with it’s beautiful rose garden, plenty of fountains and gorgeous large meadows. Granted, you may have to fight the Londoners for their parks on sunny days, but it’s easy to see why.
4. Wander aimlessly through the city and just see what you’ll discover
If you do it on a Sunday though, like my friend and I did, you’ll find it somewhat a ghost town. Oh that’s right, nothing’s open on Sundays in Europe…I forgot about that. Having said that, you actually might like that. Plus there’s always at least one tourist hiding around the next corner, so you’re never alone for long :p So my advice is to ditch the map and just go for a walk, with no aim as to where you should end up. It’s the best, and in my opinion, the only proper way to discover a city. Besides, London has these clever information panels on every second corner which prevent you from ever getting really lost.
5. Do the touristy thing and go for a spin on the London Eye
The view IS pretty awesome from up there. Funnily enough though, as I was looking down on London from above, the only thought I had in my mind was *wow, it’s a lot smaller than I thought!* Mind you, that was me coming from two weeks in New York, and I think everything (with maybe the exception of Tokyo) was going to look small in comparison. Back to looking at the view now, you do get a great perspective of everything. Parliament, the river, the parks and palaces, the CBD including the Shard – you can see it all!
6. Discover one of the close by small towns on the outskirts of London
Or even better, explore the countryside (but I guess we’re just talking city here for the moment). My friend lives just 40 minutes outside of London by train and so I had the chance to see suburban/small town England (to an extent) too. Best of all are those real authentic English pubs. Mingle with the locals, have an ale, do as the locals do!
7. Stroll the suburbs
Notting Hill anyone? It may all be happening in the city, but take some time and wander the suburbs of London. Said suburb is really worth a look, particularly the Portobello Road markets. Amongst antique and book stores, shops filled with all sorts of bits and weird wonderful things, make sure you visit Hummingbird Bakery. THE BEST cupcakes ever! They are famous for their Red Velvet creations, but I had a chocolate brownie cheesecake wonder which was to die for!
8. Don’t forget to see the city at night!!
One of my favourite things to do in a place, especially in a city, is to go see it at night. It’s like seeing it in a whole new light..pun intended 😉 Is there anything better than standing on a bridge overlooking the Thames, London Eye in front of you, Parliament House to your left, and hearing Big Ben chime the hour?
9. Walk in the steps of history at the Tower of London
This is worth the visit just to take a tour by one of their legendary guards (known as Beefeaters). They are great at what they do, telling you all the juicy and gruesome stories of the fortress’ past, down to every beheading gory detail. Visit the museum, walk the walls and imagine what it was like all those years ago. Crowning it all though, are the Crown Jewels (god, I’m just full of puns today! :p). Talk about carrying the weight of the nation on your shoulders (or on your head I guess…)!
10. Go sit in a beer garden, café, or anywhere outdoors really, and enjoy a nice cool Pims 😉
My friend had been raving about this drink from day one, and boy did it meet up to my expectations! Yummy! Best enjoyed by itself or perhaps with a nice Sunday roast on the side 🙂
If only I had had one rainy day… I would have been inside one of the fabulous museums before you could utter *miserable weather*. Did I mention they’re all free!? I did kill a spare hour in the National Library, just casually reading handwritten manuscripts from Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, perusing priceless old books including Queen Elizabeth’s I journal, and checked out some scribbles which happened to be lyrics to a Beatles song, written by Paul McCartney. All in a day’s work 😉 ide one of the fabulous museums before you could utter *miserable weather*. Did I mention they’re all free!? I did kill a spare hour in the National Library, just casually reading handwritten manuscripts from Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, perusing priceless old books including Queen Elizabeth’s I journal, and checked out some scribbles which happened to be lyrics to a Beatles song, written by Paul McCartney. All in a day’s work 😉