Top 5 Things to Do in London
Below are my top 5 favorite things I did while on my trip to London, along with some tips to help you plan.
London has been at the top of my travel list for as long as I can remember. I was so excited to have the chance to travel there, and I wanted to highlight five things that stood out to me on the trip and made the experience extra special.
Warner Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter
Our first stop on our London trip was the Warners Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter. We arrived in London on Sunday and went on the tour on Monday. The tour is located in Watford, about a 45-minute train ride from central London. We will get into directions in a minute, but first, let’s start with purchasing tickets.
We purchased our tickets about three months in advance. We bought them from the official website, and cost about 55 US Dollars a piece. They do book months in advance, so I would plan to buy no later than two months in advance.
After booking your tickets, the next thing to figure out is to travel to and from the tour. If you are staying in London as we did, the best and most cost-effective way is to take the train. There are two train options you can take an express and a regular. I would recommend taking the direcct train from London Euston to Watford Junction as it saves a lot of time and has fewer stops. The direct train cuts the time from over an hour to 40-45 minutes. From the Watford Junction station, buses are stationed right outside that will shuttle you to and from the studio at no cost.
Once you arrive at the studios, this is truly when the magic begins. I do not want to spoil the fun at the beginning of the tour, so I will skip ahead to some of my favorite sites I saw after entering. Some of the magical things you’ll see include costumes worn by the cast during filming and props that you may recognize. You can walk through many sets including: Dumbledore’s office, the Ministry of Magic, and the Forbidden forest. As you are walking through the sets, there are staff members available throughout the tour to answer your questions. They will also show you some of the BTS magic they used during filming. There is also a great outdoor section where you can walk through Privet Drive, see the bus from the Prisoner of Azkaban, and walk across the bridge from Hogwarts. Don’t forget to walk through the Hogwarts Express and see how they have decorated the direct cars to match scenes from all the films.
Overall, if you are a Harry Potter fan, I absolutely think making the trip is worth it. It is amazing to see the BTS of movie-making magic, tour the sets, and see the costumes used in the films. It takes about three or more hours to walk through and is worth the trip to Watford.
A Visit to the Sky Gardens
I had seen this experience mentioned a lot and knew I had to do it when visiting London. The Sky Gardens are located 34 floors up the 20 Fenchurch Street building. There are two ways you can visit the Sky Gardens. One is to book tickets (which are free.) Free access tickets are released every Monday through their website. You can book up as far up as three weeks in advance.
You can also go another route and choose to book a reservation at one of the restaurants, which is the route we chose to take. We dined at Darwin Brasserie. If you have a reservation, no ticket is required to get into Sky Gardens. You simply hop into the reservation line and make your way up to your dining option. There is a separate line for people with tickets.
Not only was Brasserie super yummy, but it had such a beautiful view of London.
After dining, we took a few minutes to walk out on the deck and see the view. It was helpful that there are special markers on the glass panel that point out the sights you are looking at. It is really a stunning 360 view of London, and you can see it for miles. I totally recommend making the trip, whether it's to dine or just to see the views.
La Bodega Negra
For a fun little nightlife moment in the West End, I recommend making a reservation to dine at La Bodega Negra. I had done my research beforehand into the most interesting and best spots to eat, and this is one place I had seen mentioned countless times. Of course, I had to see for myself how good the food was, so I instantly made a reservation.
There are no signs indicating the restaurant, so it is good to know in advance what to look for. The restaurant is hard to miss with its flashy neon signs advertising adult videos and private dances.The restaurant used to be a sex shop, and they have stuck to the theme. After entering you are escorted downstairs where it opens up into a stunning speak easy type of vibe restaurant.
The food was great as well as the cocktails. I went with the Portobello & oyster mushroom tacos and a margarita, of course. It was all so tasty, and I would absolutely recommend. Not only is it good food, but it’s a unique experience as well.
Explore the Streets of Nottinghill
Honestly, one of my favorite things I did while in London was visit Notting Hill. I absolutely think it is a must if you take a trip here. From finding filming locations to visiting cute biscuit shops, I loved my time here. We went to Notting Hill on a Saturday specifically to make sure we were able to see the market. The market fully takes over the main street for miles and has so many cute vendors to shop from. From shopping bags to wall art, to cute, thrifty clothing finds.
I walked around the market for about an hour and then we hopped off the path to visit some stores. Our first stop was the Notting Hill Bookshop. Fun fact about me.... any new city anywhere I visit I have to find a bookstore. I absolutely love to read, so you can always find my suitcase packed with at least one purchased book from a trip. This book store was so cute, and I purchased a few good titles before heading out to grab some food and visit the cutest little bisucit shop ever called Biscuiteers Notting Hill. I grabbed a little Corgi biscuit, and then we were off to find some filming spots. We of course had to see the infamous blue door from Notting Hill and then we were on a hunt to find the Love Actually pink house. Both are super easy to find and all within walking distance.
Overall, I had the best time in Notting Hill, I absolutely adored this cute little part of London. From bookstores to shopping to great food and treats, it is a total must do on your trip to London.
Attend the Ceremony of the Keys at The Tower of London
The last thing we did on our trip to London was attending the Changing of the Keys Ceremony. The first thing you should note about this ceremony is it can be extremely hard to get tickets. It’s about 6 dollars a ticket. You can book your ticket online on the first Monday of each month. Tickets are limited and go fast so definitely be prepared tp purchase.
The tour starts at 9:30 pm, and you are let onto the property by a guard after showing your ticket information. You are then taken onto the Tower grounds and given the history of the ceremony by the guard. They fully explain the origins of the ceremony, as well as, the guidelines that need to be followed. You need to be completely silenced during the ceremony and no filming can be done at all. You can take images before and after the ceremony, just not during.
Overall, it is a great and unique experience. It is also amazing to be on the Tower grounds at night. The ceremony is beautifully done and a great piece of history to witness.
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