Our Trip To London – Where We Stayed, Ate, & Activities We Enjoyed

London is one of our favorite cities in the world and we were so excited to get back after missing it for a couple of years!  We love the food/pubs, the people, the sight seeing and history, the shopping and so much more!  We were also really excited to take Eloise and Henry and show them so many of the things that made us fall in love with the city way back when!

 

For those who have never been to Europe, London is a perfect place to start.  Obviously, there is no language barrier which makes things a bit easier.  The flight is relatively quick and the ease of travel within the city makes it even more appealing to us.  You can also get just about everywhere else in Europe via plane or train from a local airport or train station.  We’ve either started or finished most of our European adventures from London.    

London is massive! There is so much to do and you could never even begin to scratch the surface if you’re only there for a week.  So many incredible things to explore and such an awesome city.  Below you’ll find how we got there, where we stayed, and some recommendations based on our trip highlights.  

How we got there:

London Heathrow (LHR) is one of the busiest airports in the world in terms of daily passengers in-and-out. This also means that there are several direct flights here from the US everyday on multiple different airlines.  We chose to drive from Indianapolis to Chicago (3 hours or so), then board a flight direct from O’Hare to Heathrow.  The flight was about 8 hours.  

 

Once you land in London you have a few options when it comes to how you get to your hotel:

 

Heathrow Express: This is a train that goes directly (no stops) from Heathrow to Paddington Station which is central London.  It only takes about 15 minutes which is super convenient.  We didn’t go this route because for us to get from Paddington Station to our hotel would have been an extra car or tube ride and with 2 kids, a stroller, and 2 weeks worth of luggage, it just didn’t work for us.  Check a tube map and see where your hotel is from Paddington, if it’s close, or you don’t have as much ‘stuff’ as we did, this is a great option. It’s also cheap (about $6 each way) if you book in advance.  

 

The Underground: Also known as ‘the tube’ is one of the best/easiest subway systems in any city we’ve ever been to.  We used it our entire trip except for to/from the airport.  The ride is an hour with all the stops and depending on the time of day – a potentially crowded train car.  More on this as a daily option later! I wouldn’t recommend this to/from the airport if you can help it. 

 

Car Service: This is the route we went.  Yes, it’s the most expensive, but as far as convenience for our group it just made the most sense.  A quick google for London or Heathrow airport transfers and you’ll find plenty of options with lots of reviews.  It cost about $100 – tip included, but we had the kids in car seats (many services will provide car seats for you upon request and for a fee), the luggage in the trunk without any worry about train platforms/elevators/etc, and we were dropped off in front of our hotel.  The one factor you have to consider here is timing: if your plane lands in the morning, which many coming from the US do, you are going to be part of the morning rush hour of people driving into the city.

 

Important Airport Transfer Travel Tip: Do not get into a taxi cab at the airport heading to your hotel unless you have pre-negotiated a fare. Ever.  Anywhere.  By pre-booking we avoided this, but just make sure you ask before the ride starts at a minimum.  Most big cities have pre-determined fares, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.  If you don’t know, ask.  If they don’t have a straight answer for you quickly, find another ride.    

 

Another option for booking car services is to use the hotel concierge (depending on where you’re staying).  They can book this for you and add it to your bill.  Never hurts to call and ask!

Where we stayed:

We stayed in two different hotels on this trip and we would highly recommend both of them!

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge 

The location of this hotel is just about unbeatable.  It’s in Westminster, close to just about everything ‘touristy’ you’d want to do, and a very quick walk to either the Westminster or Waterloo Underground stations.  We booked a room with a view of Big Ben for a few extra pounds and it was beyond worth it.  Our view of Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, the river Thames, and the London Eye was spectacular.  We could have sat there all day and enjoyed the red double decker buses driving over the Westminster Bridge.  It was like a never ending postcard. 

 

Beyond the view, we had tons of space, a kitchenette and a separate room for the kids to sleep in.  The room was super clean and the hotel staff were all very friendly.  We ate at the restaurant downstairs one evening for dinner and the food was very good as well as ‘kid approved.’  

It will be hard for us to not stay here again the next time we’re in town – it was that good all around.

 

The Landmark London

We wanted to try and stay in a different part of London on our next leg of the trip and so many of the things we wanted to try out happened to be near the Landmark in the Marylebone neighborhood.  This turned out to be one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed in! We booked a family room which came with tons of extra space for the kids to move around, and made it very easy to spread out all of the luggage.   We also read about a family package and had to give it a try: for a small fee, the hotel staff set up a play tent in the room for the kids.  It came with some fun headlamps, stuffed animals, and milk and cookies! It was a huge hit with Eloise and Henry and was such a cool touch for a hotel to offer!

Where we ate:

Southbank Centre

Just next to the London Eye is a really fun outdoor food truck market that we happened upon and it was absolutely worth the stop!  They have tons of great food, drinks and a carousel that Eloise insisted was the fastest she’d ever been on!  This is on the south bank of River Thames and the view in the evening of Big Ben over the water was spectacular. Right around the corner is Jubilee Park which is a huge fenced in public playground that was great to get some energy out at the end of the day.  

 

Dishoom:

When I asked for restaurant recommendations, this was hands down the #1 response.  It happens to be in one of our favorite neighborhoods in London on Kingly Street near Carnaby Street (there are 8 total locations).  You all did not disappoint! Bryan and I had never had Indian food before, so I think we may have set the bar pretty high for our future visits.  The staff was incredibly helpful in helping us pick out a few things to get started and we kept ordering! It’s all food to share and so delicious!  We’ll be back!

 

Heddon Street Kitchen:

We had heard about this Gordon Ramsay restaurant and were shopping at Picadilly Circus, so we stopped in for dinner.  It’s beautifully decorated, great for kids, and the food was awesome! If you saw my stories or tik tok, order the fish and chips, it is enormous and SO good!  It’s enough to share.

 

Carnaby Street:

I’ve written about this in a previous London post, but it truly is one of our favorite parts of London.  It’s just off the Oxford Street tube station, where Oxford and Regent Streets meet.  There are a ton of walkable shops and restaurants and just a lot going on.  It’s a ton of fun and something we look forward to.  The Clachan is a personal favorite of Bryan and mine – we’ve been there on 3 separate trips: first time alone, second with Eloise, third with Eloise and Henry.  It’s a pub that was built in 1898 and it has so much character.  There’s always a crowd outside after work and we love to have a beer or a cider and hang out in front or grab a table if there’s room.  It’s a great spot to have a drink and take a break!  Make sure to check out Kingly court as well, it’s 3 stories of awesome food!

 

Home Marylebone

This is in West London in the Marylebone neighborhood on High Street.  There’s a bunch of really cute shops here and some great restaurants.  I wish we had another day to explore this neighborhood but this place was absolutely the best food we had.  All natural with lots of healthy and gluten free options.  The highlight might have been the Gin Serves.  I had the Wild Berry which came with raspberries, blueberries, mint, and tonic.  Bryan had the Portobello Road that came with grapefruit and juniper berries.  Everything we had here was delicious!

Activities we loved:

Peppa Pig themed Afternoon Tea

We try to have afternoon tea when we’re in London, but we thought Henry would probably prefer to go play than sit at a fancy afternoon tea with all the fixings! So, Bryan and I found Brigit’s Bakery who has renovated a smaller double decker bus and offers a Peppa Pig themed Afternoon Tea.  Eloise and I had the time of our lives and the food was amazing, all while getting a great tour of London.  Highly recommend especially if you have a Peppa lover in the house!

 

Borough Market

Bryan and I visited Borough Market on our first trip here almost 10 years ago, and we knew the kids would love it.  It’s a huge outdoor farmer’s market with just about every type of food you could ever dream of and it’s awesome!  Tons of fresh fruit, fish, meat, chocolates, coffee, pastries, and so much more.  Don’t forget the glass of prosecco to walk around and enjoy!  Get off at the London Bridge tube station.  From the market you can also check out Shakespeare’s Globe theater as well as London Bridge – both walkable.  

 

Princess Diana Memorial Playground:

We spent half a day walking through Notting Hill which was super fun and a really cute neighborhood.  Yes, the travel shop is actually there!  You can either walk or take the Underground from there to Queensway or Notting Hill Gate and the park is on the Northwest corner of Hyde Park at Kensington Gardens.  The park is awesome and it seemed very fitting that all of the children playing there were having a blast at a place created to honor such an amazing woman.  Our kids would have played there all day if we had let them.  It’s worth a stop to check out!

 

**International Travel – Phone Tip:

Before you leave, log in to your wireless carrier’s website (or call) and ask about their international plan.  AT&T’s is $10/per day, per line (+ $5 for any additional lines) to have unlimited service while you’re abroad.  Yes, there is wifi all over the place, but if you’re concerned about being connected, this is a great option. You can use your phone just like you’re at home without concern of any extra fees.   

 

Getting around in London – The Underground:

As previously mentioned, the Underground is one of the easiest and best subway systems we have used in the world.  It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s almost kind of fun trying to get from A to B.  Train stations are everywhere throughout the city.  Be careful, not all stations have elevators, so if you have a stroller you may need to fold it up.  We found that it was easier to fold the stroller and take the escalator most times.  The elevators can be a bit hard to find and are more 

 

A Handful of London Tips:

  • Everywhere we made a purchase took a credit card.  The only time we used cash or coins was to tip at the hotel when someone helped with our luggage.  
  • Make reservations when possible for dinner. Especially if you’re there with kids, jump on open table and find a spot day of if possible.  
  • Use the Underground as much as possible! It’s so easy and can really get you from place to place fast.

 

If you are headed to London soon, enjoy every minute! It’s definitely one of our favorite spots!

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