Why I went here? The primary reason for my return trip to London was to go to Wimbledon. I realized how much I missed it so I went back a few more times in a span of two months.
Best time to visit? Late spring into summer is the best time to go to London. The latter however, can be a bit temperamental with the occasional showers grazing the skies, but overall, the weather is warm and the city is buzzing with activities left and right.
Best way to get there? There are five major airports that serve London but if you are coming from the United States, you are likely to land at Heathrow airport. Getting to London from Heathrow is easy with public transport. The Piccadilly line for the Underground has stops on all terminals and there is an express train service that departs Terminal 5 every thirty minutes towards Paddington station.
What to see/do? I would not touch on the more obvious sights and attractions. Those I have already listed on my first guide for London. What I will include here are things and places that I found most enjoyable from my repeat visits so let me start with something not likely on most people’s short list and that is to visit Greenwich. This borough, just a short boat or train ride away southeast of central London is definitely worth visiting. There is a museum dedicated to maritime history, an old naval college, and remnants of what used to be a palace where Tudor sovereigns such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were born. It hosts an open-air market on weekends and has a variety of traditional pubs to choose from. Outdoor markets are also something of a London staple. I have only been to Portobello Market in Notting Hill and to Borough Market and liked them both, however I have a preference for the latter. The Borough one is dedicated to food whilst Portobello has everything you can possibly imagine: from produce to antiques and they are all on display on Saturdays. My love of history, particularly war history, led me to visit the Imperial War Museum. Though a good chunk of it is under renovation in preparation for the centennial anniversary of World War I, the museum hosts a couple of really good exhibits on secret wars (the history of the security services: MI5 and MI6) as well a detailed exhibit about the history of the Holocaust. It is definitely worth a visit for any war history buff. William Shakespeare is synonymous with London as he is in his birthplace of Stratford Upon Avon so try to catch a play at The Globe Theatre where the Royal Shakespeare group performs on a daily basis. The performances are top notched considering the actors here are some of the most well trained folks in their craft. The site is also worth seeing since it is a replica of the original theatre in London that premiered Shakespeare’s plays. Book early because tickets are hard to come by. Lastly, a visit to the British Library is worth doing. They have a couple of rooms for exhibit that showcase an impressive collection of priceless artifacts: from the original scrolls of the Magna Carta to the Beatles’ original recordings.
Food and drinks: When I returned to London, I was determined, more than ever to find good pubs and to have that quintessential and traditional pub experience. The first one, I stumbled upon in Greenwich because their sign said that they specialized in pies so I went in and was pleasantly surprised about the quality and price of the food. Little did I know that Goddard’s in Greenwich is one of the best pubs in London. The other pub I found took a bit of research. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, located right on the Strand is surprisingly well hidden. It is one of the oldest traditional pubs in London. I highly recommend it if you want to experience the true atmosphere of pub dining. Locals frequent the pub and the food is relatively inexpensive for London prices.
Where to sleep? London accommodation is definitely not cheap and finding areas that are will be quite the challenge. Lately, I have been utilizing AirBnB for my accommodation needs and did that on my first return visit to London this past summer. The advertised rooms/apartments depend primarily on reviews so what you will often see is what you will get in the end. The challenge is which area to choose from. As I have mentioned on my first guide for London, deciding on your agenda will be key to where you ought to stay. London is quite a large city and despite its reliable public transportation system, it can save time if you stay in the areas you wish to focus on this second, third, or fourth go around. Some of the areas I will recommend are South Kensington, Notting Hill, Queensway, and Southwark.
Day trips: Friends convinced me to use my last rail card day to visit Cambridge. I was hesitant at first, but am glad now that I went. It is definitely one of the prettiest towns I have even been. While there, pay a visit to some of the colleges (Trinity, Queens, and Kings surely) and take on punting at the river Cam. I will also recommend visiting the Neolithic sites of Stonehenge and Avebury. The former is easier to reach because of the abundance of day tours available to visit the site but that also means that it will be crowded. If you do not have much time to spend outside of London, this is a viable option, however, if you have the time, my suggestion is to visit Avebury instead. The town is best reached by car, but unlike Stonehenge stones, which are heavily monitored and can only be viewed from afar, Avebury stones can be examined closely and you can literally walk up to them and touch them. The town of Avebury also has a few other sites that are worth visiting.
Why I would go back? London is still my favourite city in Europe. It is rather clear that I enjoy London a whole lot. Otherwise, I would not find myself coming back here over and over. I have had the opportunity to do most of the things I wanted to do in the city however, I still have yet to see a show on the West End or catch a performance at the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.