I’m finally here with a recap of our three days in London! It’s hard to imagine our trip was over a month ago now (you can read about our time in Edinburgh here) and it’s been fun putting the finishing touches on this post. Travel posts are a doozy to write–I’m actually working on a post about what goes into pulling one together–so I’d written part of this on our flight home and filled in the gaps + sorted through photos over the past couple of weeks. Given how time consuming they are, I feel like these types of posts always end up going live after my intended publication date! But the good news is that you’re about to get overloaded with a ton of photos + recommendations (particularly in the way of food) so if you’re planning a trip to London or just looking to fall into a case of Monday wanderlust, I’ve got you covered!
Where we stayed
We were tempted to stay at a hotel but lodging is so expensive in London that I also started looking at Airbnbs. My cousin and her husband were staying with us for one night so our options were either to all get a hotel for Saturday night and have J and I stay there the rest of our trip, get a hotel Saturday night and have the two of us move somewhere less pricey on Sunday (kind of a pain given how much we were trying to pack in sight-wise), or to find a rental that would accommodate four people but not charge us for four people for all three nights. We luckily found a well-located Airbnb that fit the latter–they just charged us an additional £60 to check in early and have my cousins stay with us on Saturday.
The Notting Hill location was wonderful–it’s a little further from some of the main attractions, depending on what you’re planning to do, but I loved getting to more thoroughly explore the neighborhood and as far as London goes (it’s MASSIVE!), Notting Hill is still very central. Honestly, I wouldn’t really recommend our Airbnb unless you’re really comfortable with basement living…it was pretty humid despite the time of year, and simultaneously cold because I don’t think the heat worked at all. The washer was also pretty grimy but we packed intending to do laundry based on the rental’s laundry capacity, so just something to keep in mind if you come across that listing. Notting Hill is so charming but old buildings can be quirky and basements come with their own set of quirks :)
If you’re looking for a hotel, Jackie reviewed The Bailey’s Hotel a couple of years ago and it seems great! I didn’t remember her review till we’d booked our Airbnb but next time, I’d definitely try booking there.
What we did
I’m going to break down what we did by day and then include a more detailed recap of the food + drink spots below!
SATURDAY // We love nothing more than to hit the ground running so I intentionally packed a lot into our first day! We met up with my cousins at the Airbnb and walked into Kensington for lunch at Dishoom. After lunch, we hopped on the tube to the Tower of London–I did a tour when I was younger, but we didn’t prioritize it this time around–and walked around the area before taking the tube back towards the Trafalger Square area and checking out Neal’s Yard. My cousin and I wanted to check out the Mulberry sample sale (which was really meh–we were there about 10 minutes) so the boys grabbed beers and we hopped on a bus to Chelsea for dinner at La Mia Mamma. Unsurprisingly, we were all pretty wiped by the time dinner ended around 9:45pm so we headed home for the night. It was the perfect day to kick off our trip!
SUNDAY // I woke up with a weird ear thing (more on this in a sec) and my cousin was feeling really under the weather, so they took an earlier train back home to Manchester and J and I went to the nearby Electric Diner for breakfast. We walked to the nearby tube station and took the underground to Regent Street, which was delightfully empty given the day of the week and early hour. I’d planned to treat myself to a Mulberry bag (I got this in oxblood) so we visited their flagship store and popped in and out of stores before our early afternoon tea reservation at Sketch.
We capped off the afternoon with a visit to the Churchill War Rooms before heading back to Notting Hill for a casual pub dinner and an early night! The War Rooms are really cool and in my opinion, worth the ticket price even if you aren’t a Churchill history junkie. The museum is really well done and is easy to digest…it’s underground so would be a good late afternoon or rainy day activity if you’re looking for something indoors. We bought our tickets online ahead of time!
MONDAY // I was feeling pretty crappy this morning–I found out later that I basically had a clogged ear + a minor cold, so it felt like a weird type of cold where I wasn’t achy but felt really physically uncomfortable until I went to the doctor when we got back to DC. This definitely meant moving at a slower pace (and getting later morning starts) than we’re used to, but my body was telling me to slow down and I had to listen! We made it to Granger & Co. around 9am and after breakfast, took the scenic route to the tube and walked down the famed Portobello Road (where I took about 50 pictures of doors, of course).
We walked by the main tourist attractions–Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and along the Thames before stopping by Gordon’s for a drink. After resting our feet, we hopped on the tube to Borough Market where we had the famed grilled cheese and donuts for lunch! The War Rooms were the only ticketed activity we opted for this trip…since we were so short on time, we prioritized covering more ground and took mental note of where we’d want to go back.
You’ve probably noticed by now that we took the tube a lot…London is huge! We tried to batch our sights by proximity and while it worked for the most part, we were still hopping across town quite a bit. This isn’t a bad thing because the tube caps your daily spend (more at the end of this post) and it’s very easy to navigate, but something to keep in mind when you’re only there for a short visit and trying to pack a lot in!
Post-lunch, we headed to the V&A before walking through the Kensington Palace gardens on our way back to Notting Hill. It blows my mind how close you can get to the palace (you can do tours, too) and that Will + Kate and Meghan + Harry (though not any more) essentially share their backyard with so many visitors. It was beautifully overcast and so nice to people and dog watch as we crossed through the park! I’m bummed that we missed the Diana exhibition by a couple of weeks but would consider a tour of KP next time we’re in town.
We went home for a few minutes to change before dinner and drinks in Soho–we made a whole night of it in a way we don’t often do in DC, which was so fun. Then it was off to bed for a 7am train to Edinburgh!
The Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace (where H+M announced their engagement!)
Where we ate + drank
Dishoom: I was so excited to eat Indian food in London and wanted to try the highly acclaimed Dishoom. They don’t take reservations for dinner so my cousin booked us for lunch at the Kensington location on Saturday. We let them order since they regularly visit the one in Manchester, and everything was phenomenal! Not having to make decisions after an overnight flight is ideal and we were very happy to eat whatever was put in front of us. The four of us shared a bunch of things and I truly don’t think you can order wrong!
La Mia Mamma: I’ve been following Rosie’s London-based blog for years so had to comb through her London posts while planning our trip. She wrote about La Mia Mamma last fall and it did not disappoint–the concept is so interesting! “Mamas” come in from Italy every few months and cook their specialties, so you’re getting authentic dishes that may feel unfamiliar but are the epitome of Italian comfort food. We were really impressed by everything, particularly the antipasto spread!
Electric Diner: This was a recommendation from our Airbnb host and it was wonderful! We got there around 9am on Sunday morning and were seated immediately, but it was pretty full. I think everyone was a local and many had young children–it’s definitely kid-friendly, but not overwhelmingly so. J had an omelette and I had the vegetarian English breakfast. If you’re in Notting Hill and want to try a neighborhood spot, I’d give this a go!
Sketch: There was no way we were going to visit London and not have afternoon tea! I asked for recommendations on Instagram a few weeks ago and while I wanted to visit every single place, we could only fit in on this trip and I settled on Sketch. My cousin wanted to go too (I made her promise she’d go next time she’s in London, since they ended up having to miss it!) and I made our reservation exactly 28 days in advance since it’s so popular. It 100% lived up to the hype and I would absolutely recommend it for a unique tea experience. It’s a different spin on the traditional afternoon tea and a little pricier than others, but it’s so unique and delicious. A couple things to note: They’ll make you coatcheck your shopping bag (I was unprepared for this and was reallllly annoyed to have to hand over my new Mulberry bag and would have planned to just buy it after tea if I’d known) and the food is bottomless, even though they don’t tell you outright–just confirm with your server that you can request more of whatever you love, and they’ll happily bring you seconds!
Granger & Co: We were seated right away but it got busy so quickly–I’d definitely say to go early, even during the week! This place is deservedly very popular…I had their signature ricotta banana pancakes and J had the corn fritters. Both were so good that I insisted we go halfsies :)
Gordon’s Wine Bar: Gordon’s is the oldest wine bar in London and is a favorite of locals + visitors alike. We stopped in for a drink around lunchtime on Monday and it was a great place to recharge after a few hours on our feet. It’s very cavernous (likely not for you if you are easily claustrophobic!) and incredibly charming–it’s easy to forget where you are and what time it is!
Borough Market: Do NOT miss Kappacasein for the grilled cheese! It’s hyped for a reason and is incredible–I’m still thinking about it! For something sweet, the filled donuts at Bread Ahead are equally phenomenal.
Haymarket Hotel: My cousin is an interior designer and a Kit Kemp loyalist, so was spot on with her recommendation to grab a drink at the Haymarket Hotel while we were in Soho on Monday night. It’s kitschy and cool and unlike any other hotel I’ve seen–kind of eccentrically simple, if that makes sense. Look at the bathroom pictured above!
Berner’s Tavern: My cousin also recommended Berner’s for a drink and it was one of the coolest restaurants + bars I’ve seen! It’s a Michelin-starred restaurant attached to a hotel, but the have a decently-sized bar and it’s very buzzy and upscale. Their bar is stunning (pictured with the yellow lights before) and if you’re looking for a more formal ambiance, it’s a great place for a cocktail.
The Palomar: Another rec from both my cousin and Rosie, so I knew it was going to be good! The Palomar is a modern Middle Eastern + Israeli restaurant with shared plates. It’s in the bustling Soho and made it easy to have drinks at Berner’s and Haymarket, both of which were a short walk away. The food and service were wonderful, but my cold was really catching up with me by this point and I was fading fast, so I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I’d have liked to. Tables book up quickly so make a reservation a few weeks early if you can, or check back closer to your desired day like we did–even on a Monday night, every table was full.
Random things to note
+ If you’re visiting London, definitely plan to take the tube! It’s so convenient and if you’re used to public transportation at all, it’s very simple to navigate. We got an Oyster card at the airport when we got in and gradually added money to it throughout our stay. I knew they’d give back the card deposit (5 pounds) at the end of our trip, but didn’t know whether the balance would be refunded, too. Turns out you get it all back in cash–we did this at the Heathrow tube station ahead of our flight on Saturday. If you get an Oyster Card, they also cap the amount of money you can spend in a day, which makes traveling across the city more affordable. It varies based on how far you travel since the city is broken up into zones, but it’s far more affordable than taking an Uber (which we only did on our first night!).
+ Speaking of the tube, I’d recommend it for getting to and from the airport, especially if you’re flying into Heathrow, which is pretty far outside central London. It takes about an hour but is the most cost-effective way to get into the city; if you’re looking for something quicker, there’s the Heathrow Express. You can book tickets in advance and get a heavily discounted rate, so it’s something to consider if you’re trying to save time!
+ We did a good deal of shopping on this trip (more than I’ve ever done abroad, at last) and one of the best incentives when shopping abroad is VAT refunds. Katie did a great post on this and our experiences were pretty similar! One thing to note: You have to go to the VAT refund counter in the terminal from which your flight is departing. We tried to go to another one and they turned us away after we’d waited in line…luckily we had enough time, but I’d never heard this before so keep it in mind if you’re using public transportation and are tempted to go to the closest one so you can pack up your things (they may ask you to show your items, so we had them easily accessible vs. packed into our suitcases until our refunds were processed).
And there you have it! A recap of our three days in London. Let me know if you have questions about any of the above–we didn’t eat a single bad meal and had a wonderful visit, and I only wish we had an excuse to head back sooner!
Also, a quick note: Most of these are iPhone photos! My camera stayed in my bag more than I’d have liked while I felt under the weather, but I’m impressed at how well our little phones can pull through…it’s almost hard to tell which images came from what device!
P.S.S. What I packed for our trip (one week in a carry-on, of course!).