Our top tips for the perfect trip to London
We went to London to explore some of its most iconic attractions and learned a thing or two along the way. From the best view in town to our new-found love of queuing, here are some top tips for your trip to the capital.
Don't forget to look up
Sometimes the journey is a destination in its own right. This has never been more true when it comes to travelling around London.
Our first stop was the Tower of London, but that wasn't the first landmark we saw. We arrived at St Pancras station and were greeted by its beautifully restored Victorian roof and the imposing Gothic hotel. Plus the diverse crowd of commuters and tourists created a real buzz that built on the excitement of being in the capital.
And then there's the tube. Love it or hate it, no trip to London is complete without going underground. Embrace the hustle and bustle of this iconic commuter route and you'll feel like a proper Londoner – as long as you stand on the right when using the escalators, anyway.
Just remember, when you get off the tube and onto London's busy streets on your way to your next stop, don't just stare at your feet – look up. Impressive architecture can be found around every corner, with beautiful, historic structures sitting side by side with modern skyscrapers, meaning you're never too far from a perfect photo opportunity.
There's more to the Tower of London than the Crown Jewels
The Tower of London was founded by William the Conqueror towards the end of 1066 and has since been a palace, a fortress and even a prison. From when the tower first came into sight on our walk along the River Thames, it was clear there was going to be more to see than we had bargained for.
First there's the White Tower, which is arguably the world's most famous castle keep. Here you'll find the 350-year-old Line of Kings exhibition, displaying historic royal armour from the likes of Henry VIII, Charles I and James II. Also worth a visit is the stunning 11th-century Romanesque Chapel of St John the Evangelist, fit with beautiful stained glass windows and pillars constructed with Caen stone which are sure to leave you awestruck.
Elsewhere you'll find exhibitions about its history as a prison, locking up famous fugitives from Guy Fawkes and Elizabeth I to the Kray twins, the polar bears, kangaroos and other exotic animals that kings and queens used to keep as symbols of power, the iconic Beefeaters guarding the tower and of course the ravens. No one knows when the ravens came to the Tower of London, but legend has it that the White Tower will fall if the ravens ever leave, so looking after them is a big task for the Ravenmaster.
But the Crown Jewels are amazing – you'll have to take our word for it
Kept under armed guard and comprising over 100 different objects and 23,000 gemstones, the Crown Jewels are a sight to behold. No photography is allowed in the Jewel House though, so you'll have to take our word for it – or see them for yourself.
As well as the crowns, orbs, sceptres and regalia used in coronations and other royal duties, you'll find a wide array of trinkets and treasures that hold cultural and historic significance. A personal favourite was the Grand Punch Bowl, commissioned by George IV in 1829 before his death a year later. This 1-metre-wide silver-gilt drinking vessel can fit around 144 bottles of wine, making it the perfect accompaniment to many a boozy royal gathering.
We'd recommend heading to the Jewel House early to explore the Crown Jewels at your own pace, as it can get very crowded at peak times.
Tower of London Breaks
Explore the Tower of London and enjoy an overnight stay at a London hotel with breakfast included.Find out more...
Fancy a drink with a view? Head up The Shard
Exploring the Tower of London proved to be thirsty work, and luckily for us our drinks break was just a short hop across Tower Bridge.
The Shard is an iconic part of the London skyline, but did you know that you'll find bars and restaurants within it that boast some of the best panoramic views of the capital? And, while we'd definitely recommend booking The View from The Shard for the highest and most impressive viewing platform in London, you can head up for a drink and a bite to eat without pre-booking.
We headed up to the award-winning Northern Chinese restaurant and bar Hutong, which first involved passing through an airport-style security check. Being a company that sells airport products, we felt right at home. And once we reached the 33rd floor and enjoyed the first sip of our cocktail, it felt like the start of a holiday.
With delicious dining options, expertly crafted drinks and uninterrupted views of the London skyline, you won't want to leave.
The View from the Shard Breaks
Admire the spectacular view from The Shard and enjoy an overnight stay at a London hotel with breakfast included.Find out more...
Borough Market street food is out of this world
It was going to take something special to force us out of our seats at The Shard, and the sights and smells of street food haven Borough Market just a stone's throw away certainly delivered.
A visit to Borough Market will take your weekly shop to another level. We found 20 different cheesemongers serving varieties from seemingly every corner of Europe, carefully sourced meats and charcuterie, condiments ranging from Granadian jams and jellies to Venezuelan salsa, the freshest fruit and veg, sweet treats, quality wines and spirits and everything in between.
And then there's the street food. Our only regret was that we couldn't try it all! But what we did have was exceptional. The falafel wrap from Arabica was loaded with fresh flavours from the Middle East, Applebee's Cajun-spiced fish wrap packed a huge punch and the pork ciabatta with honey truffle and parmesan from The Black Pig was out of this world. We're definitely going back to try more.
The best things in life are at the end of a ridiculously long queue
Usually we'd be put off by even the smallest of queues, but if this trip has taught us anything it's that the reward at the end of the queue is often worth the wait.
Case in point: Humble Crumble. We must've been queuing for 20 minutes for a taste of their signature shortbread crumble and, after our first bite, we were ready to queue all over again. Each crumble comes with either an apple or a mixed berry base (or both, if you're feeling adventurous), twice-baked shortbread or granola, and a choice of custard, cream or yoghurt on top. Needless to say, we were all very glad we left room for dessert!
You'll be tired by the end of the day
There's so much to see and do in London so you're going to want to pack as much into your day as possible. This is sure to tire you out by the end of the day, so don't forget that morning coffee!
And do yourself a favour: don't be like us falling asleep on the train journey back home. Book yourself an overnight stay at a top London hotel so you can relax after your big day out. By booking with Holiday Extras, you can package your hotel stay with some of the best London attractions – including the Tower of London, The View from The Shard, and so much more.
London Short Breaks
Make the most of your trip to the capital by booking a top London attraction packaged with an overnight stay and breakfast the next morning.Find out more...