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20 Things to Do if You’re in London For the Holidays!

As Christmas approached, I decided to flee Naples, Italy and hide away in foggy little London town for a week. Finding a one way ticket direct from Naples to Gatwick London for $35 via Easy jet was also part of the draw. You just can’t beat the prices over here! My ticket coming back was a bit more expensive $170 one way but it was the weekend and the holiday’s were right around the corner.

Portsmouth England was my first port of call while deployed back in 2011. You may remember it from the opening scene of Les Miserables, where they are pulling the ship into dry dock. Yep, that’s Portsmouth England. Portsmouth is a quick train ride into London which is naturally where everyone ran off to as soon they set us free.

Because I’d already been to London while on deployment, I wasn’t so certain I needed to come back since I only have so much time to travel Europe, but boy would I have been wrong. A couple of years later and able to be on my own as well as a bit more travel hardened, makes all the difference.

London is the quintessential city, a place that never has a lack of things to do, food to eat, people to see. Removing the most touristy locations from your list, London still has plenty of things to see and do to keep you busy for however long you wish to visit. I came from Tuesday till Sunday and even though I was running from the break of dawn till well after dusk, there were still plenty more things I could have seen and done. Don’t even get me started on how badly I suffered having to skip all the museums for lack of time!

I did however, make a list of the things that I ran about doing during the week to make my trip to London the perfect vacation for a holiday getaway.

The Ritz for Christmas, London1. MR. FALAFEL

Mr. Falafel LondonWe’ll immediately start with food, better yet international food. I love all types of food and Naples Italy is pretty limiting, we get the best of the best in Italian food, seafood, and Mama Mia pizzerias, but there isn’t much in the way of variety so when I’m on travel I’m always on the look out for a variety of international foods.

Clare, my kiwi friend, told me about Mr. Falafel and as soon as I arrived in London and dropped my bags I was out the door lickety split, ready for a falafel. She wasn’t kidding when she said it was amazing! Located over by Shepered’s Bush, I recommend a stop into the small shop if you are in the area.

2. HARRODS

Harrod's London 2I’m not entirely sure that anything could have prepared me for Harrods. Thinking it was just like any big department store in the U.S. I walked in, had a look around, and realized I was in way over my head. There are 6 floors, filled to the brim with all the gifts you would need for the holiday’s, but you will break the bank doing so.

Walking down shoe alley it was easy to see that they have the latest and greatest of all fashion designer shoes, and on the top floor it was all perfumes being tested in giant glass bottles, which to be quite honest, gave me a bit of a headache by the time I got to the other end of the hallway.

Caviar bar Harrod's LondonChampagne & Caviar bar on the first floor when you walk in. Some of the higher end shoppers have attendants follow them around with trays of champagne while they shop so they don’t get too parched buying all of those gifts for Christmas.

Just makes me think of Pinot Noir, Caviar, I’m sure someone out there knows the reference.

Pinot Noir Caviar, Myanmar Mid-sized car You don’t have to be popu-lar Find out who your true friends are Pinot Noir In the boudoir In the boudoir Pinot Noir, smoke a cigar Revenge can be spectacu-lar
Harrod's Legos, LondonBuckingham Palace made out of legos in the toy section. There was one section dedicated to just fountain pens! I did buy a couple of cards from the stationary section. After a couple of hours exploring and not much in hand I went to meet Clare for dinner, and where did she want me to meet her? None other than Lauderee, eee!

3. LAUDEREE

LAUDREE IN LONDONFamous for their macaroons and based in Paris, Clare got me hooked and I stop in for a couple every time there’s a shop near by. They are the fluffiest, delicious, and most delicate macaroon you will ever try. It’s like eating a cloud that’s how good they are! My long love affair with macaroons began in Greece and I go out of my way for these babies.

Lauderee Macaroons, London NOT ParisMacaroons in all different flavors. **Swoon**

If you aren’t going to be in Paris any time soon but find yourself in London, now’s your chance. There’s a shop right next to Harrod’s!

After Clare and I had dinner I headed home to bed. I wanted to be up early the next day to explore.

4. ROYAL OBSERVATORY

Standing on Longitude the Royal Observatory, LondonThe next morning I was off to Greenwich London to learn about Greenwich mean time and to stand on the prime meridian in the exact place that longitude was discovered. The museum is located at the Royal Observatory up on the hill. There will be a full post coming about that soon, I’ve just had a hard drive mishap and the pictures aren’t available until I get them recovered. damn.

Greenwich, LondonThis is a beautiful part of town, where the maritime university is.

Greenwich Pub, LondonMy friend Caitlin had actually gone in search of the best fish and chips pub in town. She ate at over 6 different pubs throughout London in search of her favorite which she deemed to be the Greenwich pub right on the corner there^. I immediately took her word for it and set over to see for myself. I know that its all subjective but I have to agree that the batter on the fish was light and crispy, a perfect combination with less grease.

Fish & Chips Greenwich LondonReally great option for fish & chips thanks to Caitlin’s recommendation.

5. CHRISTMAS MARKETS

Christmas Markets in LondonI found the most amazing things in the Greenwich markets. A painter who did abstract oil paintings in London, a cartographer shop where I was able to get an original chart of Italy and Sicily which I’ve been on the hunt for quite some time, and a new pair of shoes. Christmas markets and the hustle and bustle of the town are the best.

At last it was time for me to get on the underground, switch to the overground, and head to Watford station and WB studios where the Harry Potter films were filmed.

6. THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter World London 94I won’t be shy about the fact there’s an entire post you can reference. Don’t worry I don’t give away any of the trade secrets or facts from the set, because I want you to have that experience during the tour, because it’s awesome!

Seriously, I stood in THE Great Hall where they filmed the movies. I’m a huge nerd when it comes to the books and it was just really cool walking through and standing on the sets. It makes you part of the whole experience.

Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter World London 66Gryffindor common room. I’m sure you recognized it. The best part is stopping through during the holiday’s when everything is decked out for Christmas.

Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter World London 70Diagon Alley, with Fred and George’s prank shop added. As you move from one area to the next it just keeps getting better and better, seriously! My jaw was dropped in awe throughout the whole tour.

Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter World London 51Hogwarts in the snow. I did not realize to what extent Hogwarts is scaled, and how mesmerizing it would look with snow covering it, lights twinkling through to blue and back. You should go if you’re in the area, trust me.

Arriving back into London well after 11pm, I had some food and headed straight to bed. It would be a sunrise start the next morning and a meet up with Kyle who was also visiting London at the same time.

7. DUCK & WAFFLE

Duck & Waffle before Sunrise LondonSituated on the 40th floor of one of the buildings, Duck & Waffle is the perfect place to have breakfast and watch the sunrise over the city on a clear day. If interested you’re definitely going to need to make a reservation in advance. Starting the morning at 05:30 so there would be plenty of time to watch the sunrise, Kyle and I sipped mimosa’s and sat back to wait.

Sunrise View Duck and Waffle, London 4As the sun starts creeping up on the Eastern side of the city, you’ll want to find a spot at the window to take in the view.

Sunrise View Duck and Waffle, London 3And wouldn’t you know, it was a clear morning, so you could see out across the city.


Sunrise View Duck and Waffle, London 2
The perfect place to take in amazing views of the city. This is the last time I’ll say it, but you’ll have to book in advance if you would like a sunrise breakfast here.

Sunrise View Duck and Waffle, London8. ICESKATING AT SOMMERSET HOUSE

Ice Skating at Summerset House London 3700Afterwards I convinced Kyle that iceskating should be our next event of the day so we were signed up for the 10:00 slot. Boy was I excited! I love ice skating and we were signed up to ice skate at Somerset House which is a perfect backdrop if you’re not at PPG place in Pittsburgh.


Iceskating Sommerset House 2I also booked in advance for this and tickets aren’t too expensive but there are a limited number of spots. We arrived a bit early and went to the coffee shop but decided on beer instead since we had already had breakfast, to which the cashier replied,”I’m not sure anyone has ordered a beer here this early, I like you two.” haha.

Ice Skating at Summerset House London 3Iceskating at Somerset House.

9. LONDON EYE

London EyeWalking over to the eye, I decided I would have to do it since I have never ridden. It’s 20 pounds for one circuit and almost 40 pounds if you want to pay for the fast track but there was no line so we were able to get right on with no wait.

The London Eye, one spin, LondonLooping up and around, slowly and steadily.

London Eye 2Inside the pod.

London 4 View From the LondonA great view of Big Ben from up here.

We found a quaint local restaurant for lunch and then walked down to the Thymes and followed it towards the Globe Theater.

10. SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE THEATER

Shakespeare's Globe Theater London 10I had my heart set on a tour of the Globe Theater, which is not Shakespeare’s original theater but I thought it would be nice to tour none the less, especially for some Shakespeare history.

Shakespeare's Globe Theater London 4This old style theater tells a whole story into the art of playmaking. From spring till fall there are performances at theater which you can buy tickets for to get an idea of the old style performances.
Shakespeare's Globe Theater London 5Seating at the theater was a tell all for social ranks. The cheapest tickets cost 1 pence and were for standing in the center. If it were to rain you would have no covering although I think that would be a good place to watch the show.

Shakespeare's Globe Theater LondonAs you can see the stage is raised up, the space under the stage represents hell, and during the performances cast members pop up from trap doors in the stage.

Shakespeare's Globe Theater London 2 Shakespeare's Globe Theater London 3To symbolize heaven.

Shakespeare's Globe Theater London 9 Shakespeare's Globe Theater London 8
Shakespeare's Globe Theater London 6

Shakespeare's Globe Theater 18In the summer I would definitely buy a ticket for a play here. They’ve just completed an indoor theater which is smaller in size but allows for performances year round.

Afterwards we went for a couple of drinks at the bar next door and then walked down the street for dinner. Wouldn’t you know that Star Wars was premiering this evening in London!? I didn’t even realize it otherwise I would been one to join the chaos just to see what all was happening on the red carpet. Dangit!

11. BB’S HIGH TEA DOUBLE DECKER BUS TOUR

High tea, double decker bus tourThe next morning Clare and I went for high tea on a double decker bus.

High tea, double decker bus tour 2I had begged her to go and originally had booked at Fortnum & Mason which is inside the Somerset House, but we decided that a tour of the city combined with tea onboard a double decker bus would be nice and opted for BB’s tea tour instead.

High tea, double decker bus tour 3There are different cakes and crumpets to choose from although I will say the food wasn’t the best I’d ever had. In fact it was too sugary and a bit hard for my liking.
High tea, double decker bus tour 4I admit, I did not know what this was when I originally saw it. I now know it’s a holiday popper though.

IMG_2090BB’s afternoon tea tour.

BB's double decker bus tour, London and High Tea High tea, double decker bus tour 5Our tea was served in mugs with lids because when driving around you wouldn’t want it to spill and scald yourself.

12. WAGAMAMA

Wagamamma RamenWagamama get’s her own spot on my list. Is it comparable to authentic Japanese ramen? Nope. It’s pretty much a restaurant chain and scattered all throughout Europe (except Naples Italy) and I do love soup so I enjoy a bowl of wagamama ramen which is why we stopped over and had some before heading to Trafalgar Square for christmas caroling.

13. CHRISTMAS CAROLING IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE

Christmas Caroling Trafalgar Square LondonTurns out the Christmas caroling was not everything we thought it would be, in fact it was just a group of older ladies singing acapella. We stayed for a few minutes to wait for Kyle and then headed to Hyde park and Winter Wonderland.

14. WINTER WONDERLAND AT HYDE PARK

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park London 9Welcome! This park reminds me of all the rides at Oktoberfest in Munich, except it’s Christmas themed. I didn’t ride all the spinny twirly rides because I knew I would feel sick, instead I opted to continue drinking and to wait for THE SWINGS, which is my favorite ride of all time.


Winter Wonderland Hyde Park London 2 Winter Wonderland Hyde Park London 4Winter Wonderland.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park London 5They have these swings and the ones that go really high up in the air.

Top of the Swings Winter WonderlandWe opted to go really high up.

Bow and arrow Winter Wonderland LondonThen we all tried our hand at the bow and arrow game which was actually a lot of fun.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park London 8& ended our evening with Smores’, roasting marshmallows over an open fire, jack frost nipping at our toes.

15. THE LION KING

The Lion King Musical in London!Clare and I had previously purchased tickets to see the Lion King which we went to see the next night, after watching Star Wars in the morning!

The show was fantastic. There’s a reason why they keep the Lion King on broadway much longer than anticipated, why the house was jam packed with not an empty seat in the place, and why the tickets are expensive. The show was impressive, captivating, and magnificent. I’m really glad I saw the Lion King on Broadway!

The Lion King Musical, London 3A stunning performance.

The Lion King Musical, London 4 The Lion King Musical, London!

16. GAMBLING AT THE CASINO

After the show I was a bit reluctant to go the casino but we did go and I had a good time.

Casino, LondonClare played craps and was able to win back her Lion King ticket and more! I sipped some G&T and just watched.

Winning the Benjamins

17. BIKE OVER THE LONDON BRIDGE

I would be flying out today. We had another early start to the morning with a second sunrise breakfast and then afterwards we rented bikes and zipped around the city, heading over to the London Bridge.

Biking on the London Bridge 2 Biking on the London BridgeA view of downtown from here.

Biking on the London Bridge 4Actually called tower bridge, I will still maintain my status as a typical tourist and call it London Bridge because that’s what I grew up knowing it as. 🙂

Biking on the London Bridge 6

18. HANGING OUT IN A PHONE BOOTH

Telephone Booth London 3I just had to make a quick phone call.


Telephone Booth London 4Hello? It’s me. If after all these years you’d like to meet?

19. STREET ART

Street art, LondonA favorite for me, Street art. These types of painting are what make my apartment look so bad ass.

20.  BIG BEN & BUCKINGHAM PALACE 

Big Ben while Biking, LondonFinally we biked over past Big Ben and to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard, but rain foiled our plans. Instead we sat in a cafe chatting and then took the underground back to our Airbnb to gather our things and go separate ways. I had to catch a bus to Luton and Claire was headed to meet up with a friend.

London, you’ve amazed, wow’d, and impressed me. Until we see each other again. xoxo.

This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.

Cassey

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