Incase you didn’t know yet, I intend to be Anthony Bourdain when I grow up. So, inspired by his show “The Layover” on the Travel Channel, I’ve decided to do my own version of 48 hour layover based on my personal adventures.
London was the last stop on our 4 city European adventure in May 2014, so by this point we were pretty skilled in foreign sightseeing, and wanted to pack in as much as possible for our last 2 days before we returned to real life. By the way, if you want to know how we got to London for $5 each, check out my article titled “HOW TO: FLIGHTS TO EUROPE FOR $5 !“.
How To Get Around:
London is the gateway to Europe with many direct flights from all over the world. For this trip we flew from Miami (MIA) to London Heathrow (LHR). In London, we transferred to a flight to Paris (CDG) the same day. After spending a week in Paris, Amsterdam and Dublin, we were excited to relax and explore the London scene for our last 48 hours in Europe. London was perhaps the easiest city to navigate during our Europe adventure (mostly because everything was in English).
The cheapest and easiest way to get into the city from LHR is to take the London Underground Piccadilly Line for about $12 one way and takes about an hour. There are 3 stations which are accessible through underground tunnels at the airport. We exited the line at the Covent Garden station and had to wait in a line for the elevator up to ground level where we walked to our hotel. (tip: be prepared to walk and pull your roller bag on brick streets if you plan to exit this station and walk to your hotel.)
Other transportation options from the airport include the Heathrow Express, taxis, and of course, our go to, Uber. The Heathrow Express takes you into town in 15 minutes for about $35, so if you are in a hurry take this rather than the Piccadilly. Once you are in town taxis are plentiful and use unique cars compared to American taxis. We opted to use Uber for most of our automobile needs and were AMAZED with the quality of service in all four European destinations.
Where We Stayed:
We arranged the hotel reservation through Travelocity’s Top Secret Hotels, for more information on how to use this service, refer to my past blog for “How To: Hotel Room Hacks“. We chose a 5 star hotel in Covent Garden based on the central location to the activities we wanted to make time for. The ME London was the result in this case. Check back soon for a full hotel review, but I do have to mention how amazing the room was!!
Upon check in, I did my normal joke about wanting an upgrade if the penthouse is available for no extra charge. The guy laughed and said he would make sure we are on a high floor and that we would love our room. He was right. The room had a private balcony, picturesque views, the best shower room of my life, and awesome mood lighting. This place is perfect for young couples. (tip: check out my earlier article for more ideas on how to get upgrades)
Activities to do in London:
Big Bus Tour:
I know it’s cliche, but I love the Big Bus Tours on all vacations. You get to learn so much about city and take so many photos on the way. Plus the fact that you can get on and off at any time let’s you plan your day around how much fun you are having, rather than sticking to a schedule, or paying for a ride everywhere you want to go. And for those of you still doubting the fun: Patrick hates tourist traps, I practically had to beg to get him to board, but he will admit that the ride was one of the best parts of the London trip. (tip: The Big Bus London ticket is valid for 24 hours from when you board, so you can spend one whole day touring, then take the bus the next morning to the site that you wanted to visit for a day trip. #moneysavingtravelhack!)
The British Museum:
I had a lot of fun at the British Museum. We spent almost a full day here, and purchased the most souvenirs of our trip at the shop inside. The museum runs on a donation basis, so even though it is free to go inside, do your part and drop a little cash in the collection boxes. There are artifacts from all over the world inside, so for those of you history geeks, you can get lost for hours. I attribute lots of my Trivia Crack skills to these museums.
Covent Garden Shops:
We stayed right on the edge of Covent Garden, so this was our go to spot for food, drinks, and fun. The area gets a bit crowded, and you also do not want to wear heels in the rugged brick streets. But there are a ton of creative little carts and shops to wander around for hours.
Walk Through the Parks Outside of the Palace:
I wish we had a little bit more time to enjoy the greenery of London. We only passed through Hyde Park on our way to dinner from Buckingham Palace, but the short time we spent there was very memorable, especially for nature and people watching.
Admire the Architecture:
London architecture is breathtaking. Especially coming from such a new city like Miami, the old buildings are so detailed and have so much color depth. I’ll just let a couple photos speak for me here:
Restaurants in London:
Nobu- Old Park Lane:
As a couple, we have a tradition to hit all of the Nobu restaurants in every city. This tradition isn’t just for the trendy name; the food is top notch amazing everytime. The service is always fast and very informative, and the menu is different at each restaurant. My favorite dishes at the London Old Park Lane Nobu were the Tiradito ‘Nobu Style’, and the Black Cod with Miso. Although as I said before, the food is always amazing, and the staff will always guide you in the right direction when navigating the menu. Here’s a little teaser photo, mostly because I was too busy eating the rest to remember to take any more photos!
When trying to adjust to jetlag, sometimes you just need a burger and a shake. Shake Shack is actually a frequent choice of ours even in Miami. The ShackBurger is my go to, while Patrick tends to lean towards the SmokeShack. Either way, the burgers come with the special ShackSauce, and the crinkle fries with a chocolate shake are not to miss. The only reason I don’t rate Shake Shack at a 5 stars is because of the calories ;).
Hi Sushi Izakaya Covent Garden:
Our first night in London we wandered around our hotel neighborhood looking for some light food before we did some walking around, and found Hi Sushi Izakaya. When we were in London, the pound was nearing an all time high; so I may be biased, but this place was a little expensive for the amount of food we ordered. Although the location, atmosphere, and service was great. And I really needed that glass of wine ;). My tip: get the chicken bun.
Fire & Stone:
Fire & Stone was located in Covent Garden close to where we stayed, so it seemed like an obvious choice. The pizzas are innovative and cooked to a crispy perfection. We ordered the Cape Town Pizza which included:-spicy beef, pepperoni, mozzarella, fresh green chillies, and topped with sour cream & parsley. I never would have dreamed of such a concoction, but now that I am thinking about it again, maybe I should try and make one. The waiting list seems to be long most of the time, but I would vote it as the best pizza I had during our Europe trip.
Peyton and Byrne:
We had an amazing Strawberry Cheesecake Fairy cake after the museum at Peyton and Byrne. Great for small delicious treats on the go.