If you know me, you know London is my absolute favorite place on earth. I even feel like my love of London is something I’ve become synonymous with — after all, there’s a giant Union Jack flag hanging in my room. And my Instagram bio reads “A Brit trapped in an American’s body.”
So when any excuse to visit London comes up, I take it. And one of my best friends moving there to get her Masters definitely qualified. As fate (and luck!) would have it, two of my other close friends would be in Europe at the same time: One is working in Paris for six months and the other just finished her two years of service in the Peace Corps in Namibia and was doing some European traveling before heading back stateside. The timing worked out perfectly for us to all congregate in London for an amazing weekend together.
Wearing this leather jacket in front of the Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe.
Now, I’ve been to London six times, and one of those was my study abroad experience, where I lived in the city for four months. So though I’m not a true Londoner, I’m definitely more in the know than your average tourist. So this weekend, I was more focused on spending time with my friends and walking through my favorite neighborhoods than hit up museums and the Tower of London. That being said, I like to be always on the go when I’m there, walking around and soaking up as much of the city as I can (to hold me over until next time!)
I landed around 11 on Friday morning and hit the ground running, taking the Tube into the city. I transferred at South Kensington to Victoria station, where I stored my bags for the next few hours. Highly recommend doing this if you need a place to stash your stuff for a few hours in London. I just did it on my last trip to the UK, this past week, when I had a few hours to kill before meeting up with my travel group, too.
Though I’ve always taken the Tube into the city when I’m on my own dime, but those days may be over. I just took the Heathrow Express for the first time on my most recent trip, and OMG, my life is changed. The Tube can take about an hour, and that’s just to get into South Kensington. Heathrow Express takes 15 minutes to get to Paddington station. It’s a bit pricier, but if you are running on limited time, it’s really incredible.
I left Victoria station and walked over to Peggy Porschen Cakes, an incredibly Instagrammable spot that I’d had on my to-visit list for quite some time. The decor definitely lived up to the hype: Metallic pumpkins and ornaments lining the doorway, and cute pastel plates and cups. I ordered a slice of cake and a cup of tea — the perfect warm welcome to London.
The rest of the afternoon I went on a long, long walk through London. Over to Sloane Square, down King’s Road in Chelsea, then up through Chelsea into South Kensington. Then up to Kensington Gardens, where I went to Kensington Palace. I’ve been through the interior rooms of the palace a few times, but they currently have a new exhibition going on — Diana: A Fashion Story — with tons of Princess Diana’s most iconic outfits on display. If you’re in London while the exhibition is going on, I highly recommend checking it out. Even if you’re not a huge royal fan, it’s just an incredible display of gorgeous clothes.
It was the most beautiful fall day. At that point, the leaves hadn’t really changed yet in New York, so it was so nice to see all the yellow and orange in London! I left KP and headed up to Notting Hill, and then walked back around down through Kensington. I caught the tube at High Street Kensington, went to pick up my bags at Victoria station, and then headed to London Bridge area, where my friend’s dorm is. We all met up there and then headed to dinner at O Ver, a really delicious Italian restaurant nearby. We got drinks at a pub afterwards, the perfect London nightcap.
The next day it was off to Granger & Co. for breakfast. If you’ve never been, put it on your to eat list in London! They have the fluffiest pancakes, and they’re the must-order item on the menu. They have several locations throughout the city, but we went to the one in Clerkenwell, right near where I used to live in London when I was studying abroad. We walked down Gray’s Inn Road over to Primark, which is the least expensive store on the face of the planet. I grabbed a cheap beanie (which I ended up using a TON over the course of the entire trip.) We then headed down to Trafalgar Square, and finally, over to Covent Garden.
I convinced the group to go to drinks at Bob Bob Ricard, a swanky restaurant in Soho with the cutest “Press for Champagne” buttons equipped at every table. Though I didn’t actually press it (we were only going to order one drink, and I didn’t know if pressing it would actually bring out a bottle of Moet or something?! Haha.) Our cocktails, however, were delicious! The food is all Russian-inspired, so if you want to have dinner there, that’s what’s you’re in for!
We, on the other hand, were looking for something a bit more affordable. So we hopped in an Uber and shot over to East London for dinner on Brick Lane, a street that’s famous for its wide variety of Indian restaurants. Our restaurant was called Jasmine and it was delicious, but I don’t really think you can go wrong on Brick Lane. It also had the funniest illustrations on the wall. There were all these really sexual pictures of men and women in like, intense warrior gear. And then there’s one of Princess Diana. It was actually hilarious, and I couldn’t resist taking a photo with it.
The next day we headed to North London to the Camden Markets. This area of London has a totally different vibe than say, Kensington. It feels very punk, very Hot Topic, almost (but not in a suburban mall way!) — but is so cool! There are tons of stalls, stands and markets, from food to t-shirts to jewelry. I picked up a tiny gold knot ring that I haven’t taken off since, as well as a pair of earrings and a donut.
We then walked along the canals over to Primrose Hill, one of my favorite parks in London. It’s set on top of a hill (as the name suggests!) and gives you a really gorgeous view of the city. It’s right on top of the better known Regent’s Park.
Primrose Hill is right near a really gorgeous area in London, so we walked around for a bit before sitting down at a pub for an afternoon drink. Such a lovely and perfectly London-esque way to spend the afternoon.
We also had so much fun playing around with Portrait mode. I swear, some of the photos are better than the ones on my SLR! The candy-colored houses made for a pretty stunning backdrop, too.
My friend lives right near Borough Market, so I also made a point to try the famed grilled cheese. Oh my gosh, y’all, IT LIVES UP TO THE HYPE. Seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life. The stand isn’t actually inside the market, it’s like a little storefront RIGHT outside. If you can’t find it, just ask someone for directions. Everyone knows!
That night we went to dinner at Oldroyd, which has British foods but serves small plates. We had already eaten quite a bit that day, so splitting smaller dishes was just right for us. The restaurant is in Angel, a fun area in London with a lot of shops and restaurants. It’s also right near Kings Cross, which was convenient for the two who were heading to Paris that night. I caught one myself, to Brussels — my next post! — the next morning.
It was such a special weekend, to share time in my favorite city with three of my favorite people. And it was just the start of an incredible trip!