London Calling - My Eclectic List of Things to Do
London is terrific in the fall. The tourist crowds of summer have dissipated, making it easier to see attractions and the weather is perfect for walking around. The city’s old trees are bursting with fall colours, and the parks are stunning. I spent 14 days in London this September exploring everything it has to offer and crossing off some bucket list items (like riding on the top of double-decker bus). Most people were surprised at what I didn’t visit on vacation (think Buckingham Palace, London Eye, and Tower of London). Here’s my eclectic list of my top favourite things to do.
People give me funny looks when I say that Kew Gardens was my favourite thing from my trip. Kew Gardens is a botanical garden that houses the largest and most diverse plant collections in the world with over 30,000 different species of plants growing in nurseries and glasshouses. It’s a magical, breathtaking place. The UNESCO World Heritage Site designation is not surprising, and it’s made significant contributions to botany and ecology. I only had about three hours to visit, but in hindsight, I’d suggest spending the whole day wandering this 300-acre wonderland. There is so much to see.
London will educate you on what makes world-class museums as the city is full of them. Even with two weeks available to me, I only saw four. My favourite is the Tate Modern, the place to see large scale modern art installations that are mindblowing. Where else could you see a giant pendulum swinging in Turbine Hall? The new Blavatnik Building has an observation deck that gives you the best views of London for free.
Barbican Centre and Estate
If you are a fan of brutalist architecture, then the Barbican Centre and Estate are a must. I loved wandering the Estate and discovering the grand architectural details. The Barbican Centre is the largest performance art centre in Europe so make sure to take in some art (and the Banksy) while you are there.
London is full of architectural gems, and Leadenhall Market is a standout. It’s one of the oldest markets in London dating back to the 14th century. This covered market is so old world, and as someone who hasn’t traveled to the UK or Europe much, I was stunned by the ornately decorated Victorian building.
Vintage shopping in London is incredible. I wasn’t expecting it to be a mecca. After spending an afternoon visiting Portobello Market, I kicked myself for not planning more shopping. There are a ton of shops and even more stalls lining the street. It’s a smorgasbord of vintage from high end to low end. Where else could I pick up an adorable 70s dress for £2? Be sure to stop by Pedlar’s Cafe for coffee.
Monument to the Great Fire of London
Do you love great views of the city and claustrophobic spiral staircase? Then The Monument to the Great Fire of London is right up your alley. The Monument (as it’s known) was completed in 1677 and built on the site of the first church that burnt down in the great fire of 1666. Visitors climb the 311 steps to reach the top of the 202 ft tall structure which boasts a magnificent 360 degree view of the city centre. Grab the ticket deal that includes The Monument and Tower Bridge for £15.
I’m a fan of the beautiful game, and I had to see it in a country that takes it very, very seriously. I traveled to Brighton to see my friend’s team, and it lived up to all my expectations. The crowd and energy were like nothing I’ve ever seen at a sporting event. There are lots of teams in the city to choose from but just remember which team’s section you’re sitting in.