If you follow me on Instagram, you know by now that I just got back from an amazing four days in London with my little girl. I'm so excited to share with you the things we did and saw, and my top recommendations for this wonderful city.
In case you missed it, the reason we were in London was because Charlie had a work trip there. I was planning on holding down the fort alone, but Eleanor's passport came in way sooner than anticipated. When her passport came in, I thought to myself, would it be the craziest thing ever to fly to London with my four-month-old alone (Charlie's flight had a layover and I knew we wouldn't want that?)? And basically do a solo trip with her there? The answer is yes - it absolutely is and was crazy, and it was worth every single second of it!
If you haven't been to London, it is one of the world's largest and most vibrant cities with SO much to do. Due to needing to test negative for COVID to get back into the United States, we opted to do almost everything outdoors during our four days in London. Thankfully, London is known for its gorgeous architecture, markets and amazing parks so there was plenty to keep us busy! Even without COVID, I highly recommend making the time to check out all of the parks, markets, palaces and historical sites.
Getting to London
One of the best parts of London is how EASY it is to get there! It has a huge international airport (Heathrow) which makes it an ideal spot for an international trip.
Once you arrive at Heathrow, you have a few options for how to get downtown. The first option is taking a taxi. This is going to be the most expensive option and depending on when you arrive, the traffic from Heathrow to downtown London is really not great. It can take up to two hours to get downtown! For that reason, I don't recommend taking a taxi to your hotel.
The fastest and most stress-free way to get from Heathrow to London is the dedicated airport train, the Heathrow Express. This takes just 15 minutes from Heathrow to Paddington Station running every 15 minutes. Once you get to Paddington Station, you can take a taxi, Uber, or walk to you hotel. This is what we did, and it was SO easy to figure out! You can buy a round-trip or one-way trip ticket here. One thing to note is that if you book your Heathrow Express journey at least 90 days in advance, you could get a one-way ticket for just £5.50!
Getting Around London
There are lots of ways to get around during your four days in London. First, you should know London has an AMAZING public transportation system! This includes their bus system and train ("the tube"). I opted not to spend much time on the tube because not all of their train stations have elevators (or "lifts" as they call them). I would have a stroller with me from walking around with Eleanor, so that would be a challenge. If you plan on going alone, or want to wear your baby, then the tube is a great option. You can buy individual tickets for each ride, but many people visiting the city get an Oyster Card. This allows you to travel on almost all of London's public transit options and can save you both time and money.
Personally, I was SHOCKED by how walkable London was and think the best way to get around is by foot! With the exception of the hop-on hop-off bus, and one taxi ride, we walked everywhere.
Another way to get around is by Uber or their Black Cabs! You can use the app FREE NOW to call a taxi - it's very similar to the Uber app. If you're traveling with a baby/kids, one thing that's nice about taking a taxi is you can simply put your entire stroller in the backseat (standing up and locked - it doesn't need to be folded or anything!). This just makes getting around SO much easier and more seamless.
I definitely do NOT recommend driving yourself around London. There are congestion fees in downtown London, parking is insanely expensive, and traffic can be a nightmare. Save yourself the time and money!
Where We Stayed
I LOVED where we stayed in London. Let me emphasize that London is a very expensive city. If it weren't for Charlie's employer paying for him to stay in this hotel, we probably would have worked harder to find a more budget-friendly hotel. That said, this hotel was amazingly centrally-located and extremely nice. We stayed at the London Hilton on Park Lane in Mayfair. It was located right next to Hyde Park, and across the street from Buckingham Palace.
London Itinerary Day 1: Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square
We took a redeye flight on Sunday night and arrived in London around 7AM local time. From the airport, we took the Heathrow Express to Paddington station. While it would have been easier to catch a cab with all of our luggage and stroller, we were SO excited to be in London and decided to walk to our hotel to drop our luggage off (check-in wasn't until 3PM). I've found that the best way to avoid jet-lag is to just force yourself to stay awake as long as possible until it's a reasonable time to go to bed. So, we avoided napping!
Stroll Through Hyde Park
As I mentioned above, London has so many gorgeous parks, and Hyde Park is one of them. I highly recommend walking through Hyde Park and people watching. Hyde Park is one of London's eight Royal Parks - it covers 350 acres, and offers so much greenery, flower gardens, walking and biking paths, and a playground. You'll also see people riding horses!
Visit Buckingham Palace
After walking through Hyde Park, we walked over to visit Buckingham Palace. As you probably know, Buckingham Palace is the most famous palace in the UK. It serves as the primary London residence for the reigning sovereign of the United Kingdom. If you want to see the Changing of the Guard, you can check out this schedule. Regardless, I highly recommend at least walking past Buckingham Palace and taking it all in!
Walk to Parliament Square (Big Ben and Westminster Abbey)
From Buckingham Palace, we walked over to Parliament Square. This square is a really popular/busy one and is surrounded by famous buildings. This includes Westminster Abbey, the United Kingdom Supreme Court, the UK Supreme Court, and the Houses of Parliament (which is where you'll see Big Ben!). It was so exciting getting to see so many famous London spots that were on our list within just a few minutes!
Westminster Abbey is one of England's most famous churches, and the architecture is stunning (see picture below). If you plan to visit Westminster Abbey, make sure you leave extra time to get in and see everything as it is a popular place and it takes a while to explore. You can skip the ticket line by getting your ticket online in advance here.
St. James's Park
From Parliament Square, we started making our way back to the hotel in Mayfair because it was almost finally time to check in! We walked through St. James's Park to get back in the direction of the hotel. This is another one of London's eight Royal Parks, and I just can't get enough of all of London's gorgeous green space!
We made our way back to the hotel and picked up sandwiches at Pret on the way back. Charlie went off to a work meeting and dinner, and Eleanor and I passed out early because we were exhausted from the time difference. We also knew we had a full day of exploring ahead of us the next day!
London Itinerary Day 2: Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Borough Market
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
On my second day in London, Eleanor and I decided to use the hop-on hop-off bus with Big Bus Tours and it was amazing!! This was my first time doing a hop-on hop-off bus tour, and I couldn't recommend it more. It included headphones and an audio tour throughout the route. It was such an easy way to see so much of the city and learn about the different neighborhoods and location. I really got a feel for London by doing this!
I knew I wanted to see the Tower of London this day. Because it was on the opposite side of town, taking a taxi would have been extremely expensive. Similarly, taking a bus or tube would have been overwhelming with the stroller, lack of elevators, etc. So, this was perfect!
We took the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus to stop 17, which was the Tower of London. We walked over to the Tower and right in front of it, you have a PERFECT view of the Tower Bridge, which is London's most iconic bridge. Many people think this bridge is the London Bridge, but it's actually not!
Tower of London
Visiting the Tower of London was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. The Tower of London is described as "a secure fortress, royal palace and infamous prison where you can explore 1000 years of history." You can buy tickets either outside of the Tower, or from the hop-on hop-off bus company I recommended above once you get off the bus. Once you're there, you can visit the world-famous Crown Jewels or you can just walk around outside and take in the amazing architecture and read the plaques. The ladder is what I chose to do!
I should also note that if you are bringing a stroller, it is extremely bumpy and filled with cobblestones. Thankfully, there is a spot where you can leave your strollers. I recommend bringing a baby carrier and packing light so that you can carry your valuables along with you.
London Bridge & Borough Market
Once we were finished visiting the Tower of London, we crossed the Thames River via London Bridge and walked over to Borough Market. Borough Market is the most popular and one of the oldest markets in the entire United Kingdom! If you're looking for a place to eat, this is the spot. Borough Market has tons of food stalls and also is filled with baked goods, cheeses, fresh produce, and more.
While at Borough Market, I stopped for lunch at fish! Borough Market because I was DYING for some classic English fish & chips! Wow, it did NOT disappoint. I was so happy to sit down, enjoyed some fried cod and "chips" (fries), their classic mashed peas, and an aperol spritz. Highly recommend!
From here, I started walking over to the closest pick-up spot for the hop-on hop-off bus and headed back to the hotel. I met up with Charlie after his day of work meetings and we walked over to a Tapas bar right near our hotel called El Pirata for a Pimms Cup (a classic London cocktail!), pan con tomate, and papas bravas. It was a really great local spot sitting on a side street near our hotel. It just felt really authentic and nottouristy at all!
London Itinerary Day 3: Piccadilly Street/Circus, Covent Garden, All the Food!
This was one of my absolute favorite days while there! I didn't take any public transit this day or any buses/cars, and got everywhere by foot. It was SO fun walking around and exploring/getting lost in the city. Here's what we did on day three!
Fortnum & Mason
I left the hotel early in the morning and walked down Piccadilly Street, which is one of the most icon streets in the city! It has a ton of nice hotels, royal parks, world-class museums, and fancy department stores. While walking down the street, I stopped into Fortnum & Mason which is a fancy department store with tons of treats and goodies. Of course, I picked up some chocolates to bring to the park later - there was SO. MUCH. CHOCOLATE. there!! Walking around, there was classical music playing and all I could think to myself was how amazing this place would be during Christmas. It really felt like something out of a movie and I recommend stopping here.
From Fortnum & Mason, we kept walking and walked all the way to Covent Garden which I LOVED. It was my favorite market of all the ones I visited that trip. There were so many cute craft vendors with little trinkets, and then more luxurious shops like Jo Malone and more. I found a little spot outside in the square to sit with Eleanor and get an aperol spritz after walking around the market. On the way to Covent Garden from Fortnum & Mason, you'll also pass Piccadilly Circus which is a famous town square in London. It is said to be like the "Times Square of London." This is definitely not somewhere I'd enjoy spending much time, but a must-see nonetheless!
Lunch at Dishoom
Did you know that London is known for its Indian food?! When I posted I was going to London, I got ~100 messages on my Instagram letting me know that I HAVE to eat at Dishoom, which serves small Indian plates. I didn't have intentions of eating at a ton of restaurants while visiting, but I knew I wanted to eat at Dishoom. There is a Covent Garden location, so it was really easy to just walk right over after visiting the market! Wow, this might have been one of the best restaurants I've ever eaten at. I recommend making a reservation in advance. Based on all of your recommendations, I ordered the House Black Daal, Chicken Berry Britannia, and Bowl of Greens. OMG. Drooling just thinking about it, and couldn't recommend this restaurant more!
Bask in Green Park
After eating at Dishoom, I walked over to Green Park, which is another Royal Park in London! It is right next to Buckingham Palace. While you're there, you can rent a "deck chair" (or lawn chair) and sit and people watch/soak in the sun in this gorgeous park. I packed along my Gathre mat which I bring everywhere, found a spot in the shade, and read my book while Eleanor got in some tummy time. I loved the vibe in this park.
Dinner at Dalloway Terrace
If you're looking to have dinner at a restaurant that feels like you're sitting in Anthropologie, look no further than Dalloway Terrace. We made a reservation based off a recommendation from an Instagram friend, and took a black cab over here for an outdoor dinner. The terrace is filled with the most exquisite flower wall and it felt magical in there. I recommend an aperol spritz, the buffalo burrata appetizer, and the Thai green coconut curry 🙂
London Itinerary Day 4: Harrods, Kensington Gardens/Palace, Afternoon Tea
Charlie left for Amsterdam for more work meetings this morning, so it was another wonderful day strolling London with my daughter. This time, we went west from our hotel and checked out a whole different area of the city!
Even if you don't like shopping, you have to check out Harrods. It's one of the most famous luxury department stores in the world. It was founded by Charles Harrod in 1835 and grew to be the best-known British department store in the world. It has been visited by celebrities, politicians, royalty, and the British elite. If you visit Harrods, you NEED to go to the food hall! It is an unbelievable food emporium and the perfect place to pick up to-go food and bring for a picnic. Even if you aren't planning to eat there, it's definitely worth a visit!
Kensington Gardens & Palace, Princess Diana Memorial Fountain
Of all the parks I visited, Kensington Gardens was my favorite! The gardens are another one of London’s royal parks and covers 265 acres. It’s a beautiful green space and if the weather is nice, I recommend just strolling around.
While you're in Kensington Gardens, walk on over to the Kensington Palace. Kensington Palace a grand 17th century home that was first used as a royal residence by King William II and Queen Mary II. It continued to be used as a royal residence by a British monarch through the reign of King George II. Since then, it has been used as the residence and workplace of “minor royalty”, and is still an active working royal palace.
Another place you'll be able to visit while in the Gardens is the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. This is technically in Hyde Park, but very close to the Kensington Palace!
Afternoon Tea at Number Sixteen in South Kensington
I knew I wanted to go to afternoon tea while in London, but it was overwhelming how many places there were to do it! When someone on Instagram recommended Number Sixteen to me and told me it was outside in a garden, I was immediately sold. Wherever you go, you should definitely make reservations in advance! If you don't know what afternoon tea is, it originated in the aristocratic homes of England in the 19th century. It is a light meal composed of sandwiches, scones with butter and jam, sweet pastries, and tea (you can also get champagne if you so choose!). Number Sixteen was just a short walk from Kensington Gardens, so it worked out perfectly into the structure of our day! The setting of the tea was just stunning.
Grab a Coffee at EL&N
EL&N is known for being "the most Instagrammable cafe in the world" - and this is extremely accurate! On the walk from afternoon tea back to the hotel, I walked right past EL&N and decided to stop inside for a latte to-go for the walk home. I recommend finding time to stop by and grab a coffee or pastry here. It was SO cute!
In London, there is something called a "Meal Deal" offered by most local grocery stores. While there, because I wanted to save money on meals, I took advantage of this from Tesco (a local supermarket). The deal is that for just £3, you can get a sandwich, snack (chips or fruit, for example) and soda! This went such a long way in helping me save money while I was there.
London Itinerary Day 5: Heading Home!
On the fifth day, it was time to head back to the United States. This was quite the long day of travel, alone with a four-month-old. I woke up, took a black cab to Paddington Station, and took the Heathrow Express to the airport. I then flew from Heathrow back to Washington Dulles.
Overall, it was such a lovely time and I'm so glad I decided to go on this trip. I was absolutely terrified and felt insane for taking what was essentially a solo international trip with my four-month-old daughter. But, I'm SO so so happy I just went for it. It's been less than four days since returning home and I already don't remember the hassle of getting back, but know the memories I made there will last me a lifetime.
Not feeling an international trip? Check out this itinerary I shared recently for a week in coastal Maine!