It’s the end of January and my study buddy and I just finished our exams. Perfect time, to take an Eurostar train to London and to do some sightseeing on the British Isle.
7.15 a.m. we stood ready with our bags full of warm clothes at the train station in Leuven to catch our train. Nothing as easy as to travel by train from anywhere in Belgium to London. How you do it? Well, you take a train at the nearest train station to Brussels South (or Midi or Zuid, as it is called) and here you switch trains. This you do by walking to the Eurostar corner, by getting through security and by hopping on the fast-riding train. It’s easy as that! It takes you 3 stops and 2 hours to arrive in the city of London.
I will present you London throughout 5 walks:
- Southwark and the City
- Greenwich to Shoreditch
- Hyde Park and the musea
- Notting Hill
After leaving our bags in a too small 6-people hostel room (Smart Hyde Park View), we took our sandwiches with and had a lovely picnic between the geese and the swans in Kensington Park. After a rude ‘NO!!!’ on the question ‘Can we join you [on the bench] please?’ we finally found a seat. Having an outside lunch in Kensington Park at the end of January is the perfect way to start a citytrip. After lunch we took of to the lovely mews of South Kensington and we found our way to the metro to get out at the other side of the city: Tower Hill.
Tower Hill, is the tube stop near the Tower Bridge, a must-see in London. Walk 1 took us to Fenchurch Street, coming across The Sky Garden. We didn’t have a reservation to enter so we couldn’t get in. You can go to the top without reservation after 6 pm so we did go back in the evening. We strolled to St. Paul’s Cathedral and further to The Millenium Bridge, from which you have a stunning view on St Paul’s. As we aren’t such a modern art fans, Arne and I quickly walked through The Tate Modern Museum all up to the top floor. The view from this place is just WOW! We went on to the Globe, Shakespeare’s theatre which was disappointingly expensive. After another walk we took a break in a lovely bakery/coffee bar named Konditor & cook, which is located near The Borough Market. When looking at the map not knowing what do to next we met a lovely old man who want to show us some beautiful views and insider locations. He had interesting stories to tell and was a pleasant person to spend some time with, so we did. He took us to the city hall, he showed us were the 1660 fire started, he presented alternative views on the Tower Bridge and provided us with some more tips. Well, thank you Collin for making our first day in London even more special!
Walk 2 took us to the London Eye, Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), House of Parliament, Wesminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral to start with. We strolled through St. James Park towards Buckingham Palace. As we have always been lucky birds, we bumped into the ‘Change of the guards’, perfect timing although we thought it disappointing. We walked on to Trafalgar Square for a coffee, totally forgetting to look into Downing Street. As we afterwards heard there wasn’t much to see, we could live with this forgetfulness. Covent Garden with is original shops, great street artists and delicious coffees was next. One of my favorite London areas. Our journey took us to Regent Street, Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus, the major London shopping area and up to Chinatown, where the streets were beautifully lit with red lamps as preparation for Chinese New Year.
The next day (walk 3) we took the metro all the way to Greenwich. I have to say, this wasn’t my choice at all. Arne really wanted to check out this part of this city and after the old man we had met before and my cousin telling us we had to see this part of the city I said yes. After an hour of metro rides we arrived in this village in the city. I wasn’t disappointed at all! This part of the city is soooo cozy! A must-do. The Observatory Center was rather disappointing, but the view from the hill it is located on was wonderful. After a tea at the other side of the street as Greenwich University and some detours through Greenwhich’s cosy streets we walked through the tunnel under the Thames. YES WE WALKED UNDER THE THAMES! Ander there was nobody, not a soul, just us under the water. The tunnel was ugly but in some way it felt very special. Once at the other side of the river we continued or walk through the docks to Canary Wharf. Most people do it by tube but is worth the walk!
Do you know there is something as the Thames Path? It is a path just next to the river, from Canary Wharf all the way to the Tower Bridge. And yes, we walked it, the entire thing. My mom calls us crazy now. But it was worth it! The views were stunning and we only met 4 peeps with dogs on the entire path. London was ours!
Once at the Tower Bridge our new path took us to Shoreditch. Make sure you include this neighborhood in your London citytrip. It is just soooo nice! It’s an area full of youngsters, mulitcultural restaurants and the coolest shops. And oh, the street art. That’s just love.
We ended our third day, on which I explored two new neighborhoods which were both eye-opening, with the lights of the London Eye.
Our next walk (4) started with a stroll through Hyde Park. This day was a museum kinda day. After Hyde Park we enriched our knowledge in The Museum of Natural History and The Albert and Victoria Museum. The first one was wow, while we thought of the second as rather disappointing. Next was Harrods, a luxury and giant maze.
In the afternoon (Walk 5) we took the tube to Notting Hill, this neighborhood had a high ranking on Arne’s bucket list so it was a must-do for us. While Greenwich, Shoreditch and Covent Garden are cosy neighborhoods, Notting Hill isn’t. It is beautiful, don’t get me wrong. And if I had to live somewhere in London it would be here but except from Portobello Road this area is rather empty and cool. Portobello Road is a must do though, as it is one of the most charming streets of London. On our way back to the hostel we took a detour through Paddington an underestimated area with beautiful hidden spots.
Our last day was a half one. So perfect for visiting The British Museum. If you are only visiting one museum in London this should be the one. Def, this should be the one.
London at the end of January is definitely a good idea. Is it cold? Yes it is. So if you take a lot of clothes, if you are prepared to drink a lot of coffees or hot chocolates and if you are prepared to see a lot of wonderful things, meet a lot of nice people and enjoy, London is the place to be!
See you soon fellas!