So recently we went to London for two nights. It was a xmas gift for me from Chris which was lovely as it is a place we have both been separately, but never together. We went Friday to Sunday (love that I now don’t work weekends) and travelled via train. The grand central from Hartlepool is super quick and easy. We get on at Hartlepool station and it is roughly 3 hours on the train which isn’t bad at all.
Chris had already got us tickets for a show, we went to see Aladdin which I have written a separate post on, but the rest of the weekend was pretty much undecided. We both wanted to avoid the typical touristy places as we have both been several times previously so we decided to visit some museums instead.
We travelled on Friday after work and arrived there around 9pm. We hopped in a cab which cost arund £12.00 to get us to our Travelodge. Chris had to book the hotel last minute as we were supposed to be staying in a friend’s apartment but they had to be out due to their tenancy ending. The travel lodge was right near the tube station so easily accessible. Travelodge is really easy to use, this particular one was okay, had DIY check in and check out services and was in a good location BUT I definitely wouldn’t recommend a Travelodge over somewhere like a Premier Inn – they are quite basic.
If you’re planning a trip to London, I would recommend you travel about via their tube system. It is so easy to use – you literally follow the map – and so cheap to use too. We basically used our contactless debit cards (credit cards can be used to) and you basically swipe in and swipe out of each stop and you will be charge a maximum day fee. I think our fee was about £6 each day which is fab for the amount of travelling we did.
On the Saturday morning, we caught the tube and travelled to South Kensington station. We got off the tube and followed the underground tunnel to the museums.
We went to the V&A Museum followed by The National History museum, both of which are actually free which is great for London. You can make donations to both museums should you wish to as this helps them to keep running.
The V&A museum (named for Queen Victoria & Prince Albert) was opened in 1852 and finished off in 1899 & is a museum for art & design. The museum is spread over six levels and houses 2.3million objects some of which date back to the Medieval & Renaissance periods. The collections split into Europe, Asia, Modern & Materials and Techniques. It isn’t the most exciting museum for a lot of people but it I have a little bit of an obsession with Greek & Italian history so those were the areas I really found interesting. There were also a lot of areas with ancient statues and even doors & stair wells taken from ancient buildings and transported into the museum. A lot of the old doors, statues and ornaments looked as though they could be from Harry Potter too – very magical looking.
The museum was massive – you can buy a guide for a £1 donation – and I suggest you spend a couple of minutes beforehand getting the actual lay of the land and decided the bits that you don’t want to miss – especially if you’re pressed for time.
The V&A museum also hold exhibitions which are available to see at an extra price. They had a Balenciaga and Winnie the Pooh exhibition on at the time we were there. We also had coffee and a cake in the museum too for a reasonable price. The meals looked great too.
After the V&A museum, we then made our way over to The Natural History museum. This museum was split into different coloured zones. Now, we did visit on a Saturday so there were a lot of parents with prams and small children (which is not our scene), so if you could go through the week then I would. The guide to the natural history museum was £1 also and I think having one makes your journey around a little easier.
We entered into the red zone which was all about Earth’s beginnings so you rode an escalator “through the earth’s crust” to the next bit of the zone. Most of the information in this museum was on a hands on interactive format which is great for kids. I think one of the stand out parts of the red zone was the earthquake simulator in a supermarket based on real footage which you watch as you stand and shake.
Next, was the green zone which primarily the birds and creepy crawlies section. Needless to say, we weren’t in here long before we went through to the blue zone which was the “cool” part – the dinosaurs! This is also the part with the whale bones and the stuffed giraffes & a lot of skeletons. We skipped the orange zone as at this point we had had enough of museums. The orange zone was more zoology.
The natural history museum had quite a lot of places to eat but still full of cake we avoided them. I think we would have eaten at the T Rex Grill if we were hungry though! We did visit the small shop though to pick up a couple of pens, obviously!
We left the National History Museum and went straight into Harrods which was along the street. The green hooded awnings stand out from a mile away. I wanted a couple of Harrods pens (again, obviously!) so we made our way to the Harrods gift boutique (I think on the 5th floor). We had a browse through the different makeup and perfumes but I am trying to not buy as much with the beauty products I have currently overflowing. We also thought about eating in Harrods as they have quite a few small restaurants (again I think on the 5th floor), but we decided to go near the theatre instead.
We did take a ten minutes to have a walk around the food court in the bottom of Harrods. Next time we go to London, we will probably spend a bit more time in Harrods – especially at the champagne bar!
Knightsbridge tube station is right near to Harrods so we got on the tube there to make our way to Covent Garden where we had another coffee and had a good wander around. Covent Garden is a fab little place with plenty of places to eat, quite a lot of buskers and street art and some lovely little boutique shops like Charlotte Tilbury & Chanel.
We decided to go to a small diner style restaurant at the opposite side of Covent Garden as Chris fancied a burger. We had burgers and cokes and then wandered for a little around the theatre area before making our way to see Aladdin which was AMAZING. You can read all about it here. We then made our way back to the hotel and enjoyed a couple of drinks before bed.
London Day Two
Chris had never been to Buckingham palace so we made our way over to the palace on Sunday morning using the tube again. We arrived at 11am for the changing of the guard which doesn’t happen on a regular basis so you need to check online for up to date information. The changing of the guard is quite ceremonial and is also a big deal security wise so you’re not allowed cases and large bags with you.
After taking it all in, we then popped back on the tube a couple of stops to Oxford Street to do some shopping. Primark in Oxford Street is MASSIVE and it even has a Harry Potter themed section with all of their Harry Potter wares for sale – I picked up some cute slipper socks & a wand pen.
We also went to several high street stores as well as a look around Harvey Nicks. We then decided to go for lunch in a pub, The Green Man in Berwick Street, which was standard pub grub but lovely. After this and being shopped out, we made our way back to the tube station, which was then only a couple of stops to Grand Central Station.
We decided to have coffee and cake in Grand Central Station so went to Patisserie Valerie on the upper court. I got an apple tart and latte and Chris got the afternoon tea package with clotted cream scones and a pot of tea. All were lovely, but they weren’t the proper Patisserie Valerie experience as their main focus is takeaway so plates were paper and cups were the takeaway kind.
A highlight of Grand Central Station is the Harry Potter trollies in the wall to get your photograph taken with and the Harry Potter shop (which is quite expensive, so if you have a couple of kids, go to Primark in Oxford Street instead).
We then made our way home on the three hour train journey again. Grand Central rail is so easy and efficient & depending on the train, they have plugs to charge your phone or laptop as well as plenty of tables to sit at too. There is also a proper refreshments cart too.
Do you have any recommendations for future trips to London?