If you're heading to London anytime soon, make sure to pack a good pair of walking shoes! We must've logged about 50 miles walking during our week there. We considered getting the London Pass, but to truly get your money's worth, you'd have to commit several days to seeing all of the sights included! You could have your pick of double-decker bus tours if you wanted to, but we preferred to take our own time walking. There's just so much to see with each step!
On our first full day there, we decided to take the Tube down to Piccadilly Circus and do some sightseeing from there. A lot of the major tourist destinations are not far from there, and in just a short walk, we made our way through St. James Park and the Horse Guards Parade to the river Thames, where we could see London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Department of Defense and many of the bridges just by standing along the Westminster Bridge.
The only thing we did pay to go inside and see was the Churchill War Rooms, which I'd highly recommend (unless you're claustrophobic!) The Churchill War Rooms are a network of secret underground chambers that was home and headquarters for Winston Churchill, his family and his team during World War II. It was chilling to see where some of the war's most important decisions were made - and the precision to which that cutting-edge technology (at the time) has been preserved. There's also a big museum that chronicles Churchill's life and legacy. Make sure you take some time and look around the Map Room, which was my favorite part!
During our break between Part I & Part II of Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, we explored a bit of Carnaby Street with a stroll through the sneaker boutique Size? and the iconic Liberty department store. Liberty looks like an old gingerbread house from outside, but inside you'll see a lot of upcoming and modern designers. I personally loved the shoe section, Nike's own corner and the Christmas Shop on the fourth floor. :)
Another day was dedicated to Oxford Circus and shopping around Regent Street. I'm not a big Topshop shopper when I'm at home, but the Oxford Circus Topshop is a place I could live in. I especially loved the bottom floor, where you can find a selection of London indie brands in the promenade in front of the cafe. It's hard to resist supporting local brands, even inside of a mecca like Topshop!
I also checked out Niketown London and stores we don't have in Seattle, like & Other Stories, COS, River Island, Marks & Spencer, Selfridges, etc. While Jacob snuck off for a workout at Carlson Gracie's gym in Kensington, I jetted over to Harrod's, which I couldn't bear leaving London without seeing. I'm so glad I did, because Harrod's is almost indescribable. It's a London experience unto itself! The ornate design and architecture of each of the rooms; the immaculate designer boutiques and art galleries (which were way out of my budget but still nice to look at); the neverending food hall choices. You can really spend an entire day getting lost at Harrod's a la Lindsey Lohan and Natasha Richardson (RIP) in the Parent Trap 2. Harrod's is the Beyonce of department stores. It's what all other department stores want to be when they grow up. My feet were killing me, so I had a light early dinner to sit and just take all of it in.
Our last full day in London started off in Camden Town to take in Camden and Stables Market. There's a big, green sign that says Camden Market right when you come up from the Camden Town underground station, but that's not it. That's the procession of tourist trap vendors who want to sell you screenprint tees and postcards before you even get to it. Camden Market itself is about a quarter-mile walk away, so stay strong amongst the vendors and keep going! The Market is full of delicious food and handmade goods, but also full of people. Before it got to be too much, we took in the sights at CyberDog, What Goes Around Comes Around vintage, Cereal Killer Cafe and the maze of fun vendors. Make sure to get a matcha latte at Yumchaa to keep warm, and don't forget to pay homage to the queen Amy Winehouse at her statue in Stables Market!
On the way back to Shoreditch from Camden Town, we stopped through King's Cross to see the city's Platform 9 3/4. There's a long queue and a gift shop that are worth going to if you're not visiting the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. We walked through the impressive St. Pancras International train station and resisted hopping a train to Paris before heading into the British Library. The Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery inside the library is easily the most impressive exhibit I've ever seen. I can't believe there are so many works of art there, and it's free to see them! There you'll see original and/or early versions of the Magna Carta, Beowulf, the Bible and other religious works, Shakespeare's notebooks, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, the Beatles, Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo. In. SANE!
I wanted to give a special shout out to my fiancé. We spent Saturday at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre (an expansive complex where you can do literally every sport imaginable) for the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation's London Open. For someone competing on holiday, he only had to cut a pound in weight and still placed third in his division. That's bae right there!