This holiday season, we took a trip to London that lasted just a few days, but was full of interesting and exciting new things. Take a peek into our latest trip and see what places we recommend checking out while in the big city.
This is our third (and shortest) time visiting London. We’ve never been during the holiday season, so it was a real treat getting to see all the Christmas decorations the streets and stores had on display. We visited some familiar favorites like Fortnum & Mason as well as a new attraction inside London’s Battersea Power Station.
If you’ve never been or are looking for someplace new to go during your visit, we have a few recommendations of places to visit, and of course, where to eat! Since there’s SO MUCH to see and do in London, everything down below is based on where we went during this most recent visit. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments at the bottom of the post! We love exploring places, so any recommendations are welcome. 🙂
First things first, we’ll start with the food. After all, half of our trips are planned around new places to eat!
We CANNOT recommend this place enough! We have it every time we visit London, and we’ve even gone to the one in Edinburgh because we can never miss an opportunity to go here. It has some of the best Indian food we’ve ever had and the atmosphere is always so warm and inviting. We even have the cookbook, we love it so much. Sadly, we don’t have any photos of the food to share because we got too excited to eat it before taking pictures.
Our favorite things to get are the Chicken Ruby (a must), the chocolate chai, vegetable samosas, spicy lamb chops, and the Chicken Berry Britannia (biryani). Plus, some garlic naan and roti. This time, we also got the Prawn Koliwada and Gunpowder Potatoes which were also extremely good.
They usually bring out a small thing of three different chutneys to try with your food. All of which tasted really good with the prawns.
Fair warning about getting a table though. We highly suggest booking a reservation as far in advance as possible since it’s such a popular restaurant. If you don’t have one, you may have to wait outside in line for at least an hour before getting a table. It’s not so bad though since they come out with free chai for you to drink while you wait!
2. The Wolseley
The Wolseley is THE place to go for brunch. It’s located on Piccadilly Street, and is a less than 5 minute walk away from Fortnum’s. If you stay at The Ritz, you’ll literally be right across the street from the restaurant.
The place itself has a very pretty old world interior and just makes the whole brunch experience feel a bit more special. This is also another staple of ours when visiting London.
Now for the food itself. One of the best things on the menu is the Eggs Benedict (it’s so good!). We also got a full English breakfast and the French toast, both of which were also really tasty. The French toast was super soft and the English breakfast was generously sized with some good quality sausage. Still not brave enough to eat the blood sausage though!
We also got some hot chocolate with whipped cream which helped to warm us up from the frigid cold outside. It has a layer of chocolate on the bottom and hot milk on top. Just plop in the two chocolate sticks (pictured below) and stir to combine everything. It’s delicious!
3. The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason
We always go to Fortnum’s whenever we’re in the city, but we had never eaten at the ice cream parlor inside. This was a first for us, and after reading about the Knickerbocker Glory in one of the Fortnum & Mason cookbooks, we had to try it.
The Knickerbocker Glory is an indulgent combination of strawberry and vanilla ice cream, pineapple, raspberries, whipped cream, Italian meringue, and raspberry coulis. And it was ahh-mazing! You can even read about the interesting history of the Knickerbocker Glory on their website.
Pictured above on the right is the banana split and the build your own Super Sundae with Black Forest and strawberry ice cream, double chocolate sauce, chocolate buttons, and chocolate crunch. All in all, it was a really satisfying dessert. It didn’t even matter that it was 32°F outside and the ground was covered in snow. Definitely check it out!
While not exclusive to the UK since it’s a French company, we’ve been to Paul a couple of times in London. It’s nice if you’re looking for something quick but still high-quality. It’s a chain cafe and bakery, so you’ll find a few of them scattered around the city.
The sandwiches are really good and it’s a great place for getting a coffee and a pastry. This time around, we got the Montagnard sandwich (coppa ham and Comté cheese) and the Pavout Poulet sandwich (thick-cut chicken with cream cheese). We also got some chips to go with it and festive desserts – a snowman cake and a chocolate bell cake.
5. Dark Sugars Cocoa House
After walking around in the freezing cold trying to find a taxi, we stumbled upon this chocolate shop near the University of Greenwich. We were desperate to get out of the cold even for just a few minutes, and this place was calling our name.
Not only was the shop packed with a huge variety of chocolate, it also gave you a small glance into West African culture. When you step inside, you’re greeted by music from Africa as well as the smell of chocolate made specifically from Ghanaian cocoa beans.
We had never seen a place like it before and they had so many interesting and good looking treats. We ended up filling two bags worth of chocolates! We recommend coming here for a unique experience as well as some delicious chocolate goodies.
1. Fortnum & Mason
No trip to London would be complete without going to Fortnum & Mason! It’s one our favorite places ever and we’re always ordering things from them online throughout the year. If you’ve never been, the flagship store on Piccadilly is the one to visit. It’s a massive six floor department store with just about all the tea, biscuits, and indulgent goodies you can think of.
You can even have afternoon tea at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the top floor or get speciality groceries on the bottom floor where you’ll find a plethora of spices, vegetables, and meats. And as mentioned above in the food section of this post, they even have an ice cream parlor!
Each floor has something different with the ground floor being the one to house all the tea, coffee, biscuits, jams, confectionary, and a massive stock of different types of honey. They even have a floor with fragrances, beauty products, and accessories, plus one to create your own hamper full of goodies.
Besides the floors with food, one of our favorite parts of the store is where they have all their teaware. Over the last few years, we’ve been building up a collection of teaware from Fortnum’s. So if you’re a fan of hosting afternoon tea like us, you can find all the teapots, silverware, and serving plates you need to bring the experience home!
We could go on forever about Fortnum’s, but we HIGHLY recommend checking it out for yourself if you’re ever in London.
2. St. Paul’s Cathedral
Cathedrals are one of our favorite places to visit whenever we’re in a European country. Being from the US, we don’t really have buildings as ornate and as rich in history as they do in places like England. I mean, it was built a third time after Vikings destroyed it in 962 AD. Talk about historic!
Every corner of St. Paul’s Cathedral is photo-worthy. From the clock tower outside to the heavily detailed interior, there’s just so much to look at. One thing to note: don’t forget to look straight up and down to admire the ceilings and the floors! It’s easy to get caught up looking at arches and the overall atmosphere of the place, but the little details are what make it special.
Before coming to St. Paul’s Cathedral, we had no idea that a part of it was used for some of the Harry Potter films. If you didn’t know, the Dean’s Staircase is where they filmed Harry and other Hogwarts students going up and down the steps of the Divination Tower. As soon as we looked up, we instantly recognized it.
It’s easy to see why it was used since it’s so picturesque. The guide told us that it was designed by Christopher Wren in the early 1700s and was made to appear as if the stairs are floating. They were specifically engineered to support themselves with no other system in place to hold them up, which is why they look so interesting.
It was a nice surprise to stumble upon a place where some of our favorite movies were filmed. I’m honestly surprised we didn’t know about it before, considering we used to know all the little Harry Potter facts back in the day. I (Celeste) can even quote entire movies as I’m watching them which can get pretty annoying to other family members, but it’s fun. 🙈
Sadly, we didn’t have time to climb the 528 steps (not the Dean’s Staircase) to the top of the cathedral. It was our last day in London and we had other places to see before we left. If you do get a chance to go to St. Paul’s Cathedral, definitely climb the steps. You’ll be able to see London from the top of the dome.
3. Lift 109 at Battersea Power Station
Speaking of views of London, Lift 109 is one of the city’s newest attractions. It’s located in the Battersea Power Station which has a beautiful Art Deco design. We didn’t get a chance to take photos of the outside, but the Lift 109 website shows you just how amazing it looks. If you’re a fan of Pink Floyd, you should be able to recognize it since it’s on the cover of their Animals album.
As stated in the name, it’s an old power station that has recently been converted into an entertainment and shopping center. In one corner of the building you’ll find Lift 109.
Lift 109 is a glass elevator that takes you to the very top of the power station. From there, you have a complete 360° view of the entire city of London. It’s amazing! Before you get to the top, they take you into an interactive room with fun visuals to amp things up a bit. The whole experience was really fun and that moment where you reach the top is the best part. We were really lucky to see the London skyline after it had snowed.
Looking out over the city really puts things into perspective on just how huge London is. So many of the famous landmarks were dwarfed by the size of the city. If you look closely, you can even see the MI6 building in the distance (pictured below). We highly recommend going!
4. The Painted Hall + The Grounds of The University of Greenwich
We LOVE baroque and rococo-esque style art, so this was such a treat to see. The Painted Hall is an open and elaborately painted space within the University of Greenwich. It was painted in the early 18th century by an artist named Sir James Thornhill.
The paintings and the hall itself are stunning to walk though. From the detailed artwork to the tall, intricate pillars along the walls, every inch was meticulously decorated. We highly recommend going!
While we didn’t do too much exploring due to the freezing cold, walking through the grounds of The University of Greenwich was a treat. The combination of the old pretty buildings, the London fog, and the gravel was surreal. It felt like we were in a movie set in 18th or 19th century London. Think Sweeney Todd or The Limehouse Golem (we love these types of movies).
While we were out in the bitter cold looking for a taxi back to the hotel, we saw the top of a ship behind some buildings. It looked MASSIVE. We didn’t know it was there, so seeing the top of a big ship looming in the distance was a bit surprising. It makes sense though since this part of the university is the Old Royal Naval College.
If you’re interested, you can get on board the ship which is named the Cutty Sark. We would’ve liked to see it. It was just way too cold for us to go and we had little time left in our day to explore. An interesting find for sure though!
If you’ve made it to this point in the post, thank you so much for reading! It was a short trip, but still full of fun and interesting things. If you try any of our recommendations or have any more to share, leave a comment down below. We’d love to hear from you! ♡♡