First thing’s first. Let’s start with the obvious: getting into the city. It may be daunting as London has three different airports in three different regions of the greater London area. We’ll start with Heathrow.
If you’re flying into Heathrow, the most economical way to arrive in Central London is to buy an Oyster card in the airport and take the Underground Piccadilly Line train that runs from all terminals, and journey time is 50 – 60 minutes. The fastest route into Central London is via Heathrow Express, the non-stop trains that run to Paddington every 15 minutes, and journey time is 15 minutes from Terminals 1, 2 and 3 (a few minutes more from Terminals 4 or 5). London taxis are available outside each terminal. The cost to Central London is £45 – £70 and the journey time is about one hour. Buses and more rail options exist, but I wouldn’t mess with anything else, unless you want to arrive in style, in which case you can hire a private chauffeur.
My pick: London Underground
If you’re flying into Gatwick, take the Gatwick Express, the fastest route between the airport and Central London. Non-stop trains run to and from London Victoria station every 15 minutes and take about 30 minutes total. Buses include National Express (to London Victoria, operate once an hour with a journey time of 1.5 to 2 hours) and easyBus (non-stop from Gatwick with prices from £2. Buses depart every 15 minutes at peak times and run from 4am until 1am.). Taxis are also on offer, taking around an hour to arrive to Central London.
My pick: Gatwick Express
If you’re flying into London City Airport, get excited. It’s one of the easiest and most accessible airports in London due to its location just 6 miles east of Central London. The airport has its own stop on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which takes you to Tube interchange stations such as Canning Town, Stratford and Bank. Buy an Oyster Card for this. Bus routes 473 and 474 serve the airport and accept the Oyster Card as well. Taxis and private cars are available.
My pick: Docklands Light Railway
My advice for seeing London is simple: travel like a local. This means buying an Oyster card and using the Tube. It’s actually very easy to use and you’ll have more money to spend at Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols because of it.
Shop Til You Drop…or Run Out of Money
London rivals the various iconic fashion cities of the world: NYC, Paris and Milan. My advice would be to get lost in the famous department store of Harrods and then venture to Harvey Nichols, not missing the 5th floor sushi bar. Pop into Top Shop and Burberry along the way, as these British staples are a must-see-and-shop while in the neighborhood of Knightsbridge. You can spend lots of time and money here, so beware.
Okay. Fine. Maybe riding the London Eye is a wee bit touristy, and maybe the line to buy tickets is long, but I see it as a chance for an amazing photo op of the city. The higher you go, the better the view.
A highlight of my recent trip to London was definitely my heli ride with The London Helicopter. I was invited by Dave Burt, creator of the IG account @London,to see the city from the sky, and what crazy would turn that down? Not this girl. From the smooth ride to the amazing staff, I couldn’t recommend a better activity while across the pond!
View, views, and more views. That’s pretty much what I’m all about. See that shard of glass looking building in the photo above? That’s what we’re talking about. A great option for seeing the city lights is visiting the Shard bar on the 31st floor of the building.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, National Gallery, British Museum, Tate Modern…and the list goes on and on. London does a lot of things well, but one thing’s for sure – it definitely knows its exhibitions. If you’re looking for a fix of culture but not a clue where to start, take a look at Visit London’s suggestions here.
Borough Market – Breads and fruits and vegetables, oh my! This market is for the hungry at heart, as they will be blessed with beautiful cuisine set up for client’s viewing and tasting pleasure.
Portobello Market – Vintage and antique finds make my heart sing, and Portobello Road does just the trick. Held in Notting Hill, get lost in Portobello Market wandering the street stalls that offer everything from fruits to posters and vintage jewelry and clothing.
Old Spitalfields Market – This vintage and second hand market includes an eclectic range of shops and restaurants to enjoy in the trendy neighborhood of Shoreditch.
Tea – Mmmm. Tea time is the best time. Head to The Dorchester, The Milestone or The Berkeley.
Ye Old Cheshire Cheese – What’s in a name? Everything in this case! Why wouldn’t you waltz inside this fine establishment? If you’re looking for a laid-back British pub, this is your place.
Bubbledogs – Champagne and hotdogs – a match made in heaven.
Bob Bob Ricard Restaurant – It has a “Press for Champagne” button at every table. Enough said.
Department Stores – The famous Harrods and Harvey Nichols British staples aren’t just department stores. Talk a walk into the food areas and you’ll want to spend more time salivating over the delicious offerings rather than shopping.
Hakkasan – This Michelin Star award-winning restaurant offers modern Cantonese cuisine, world-class mixology and dramatic design. Just go. Your tastebuds will kindly thank you.
Chiltern Firehouse – I wasn’t impressed with the size of the menu, but when my eggs with black truffles came to the table, the soupy mixture tasted so much better than it looked. Perhaps I’m not selling it at the moment, but the restaurant is a beautiful spot for a scrumptious brunch.
Sketch – This is quite possibly the weirdest yet most amazing dining experience of my life. Both complex and unique, this menu and its food presentations will blow your mind. The best part: the bathrooms. I kid you not. Think Mork and Mindy pods, if you’re old enough to know what that is.
Restrooms at Sketch Restaurant
Where to Stay
The Milestone Hotel: English opulence can be found throughout these hotel grounds. Located in the coveted Royal borough of Kensington, the 5 star hotel is in every way an English country mansion. Read more from my stay here.
Bvulgari Hotel: Located in the esteemed neighborhood of Knightsbridge on the edge of Hyde Park, the Bvlgari Hotel & Residences London is beautiful British luxury like you’ve never seen before. During my visit, I couldn’t help but to stare down the most beautiful body of water I’ve ever seen.
Millinneum Gloucester Hotel: This hotel is conveniently located just steps from the Gloucester Road tube stop, making it almost unnecessary to tug along an umbrella in the questionable London weather (which is daily).