In my many visits to London, I’ve discovered one main thing: there’s never enough time to see and do it all! Londinium has been around for a couple thousand years and has experienced everything from medieval raids to artistic renaissance and royal revolution to religious reformation. The layers of history here require more than just a quick visit or a mindless wander through a museum. As a matter of fact, every single time I visit, I learn something new and add it to the big room in my heart I have for this most wonderful city.
When Virgin Atlantic gave me the chance to have an adventure in London with two Upper Class flights from NYC to Heathrow, I had to figure out, A. Who to bring and B. What to do.
I thought about having Rachel and Rick duke it out gladiator style in the backyard, but then I remembered I’ve already taken Rae to the UK – twice! Poor Ricky never gets to go anywhere. So I brought my husband along for this adventure in London and we didn’t think about how sad and dejected little sis Rae was at home at all.
Adventure in London
We themed our trip around adventure in London, though I use the term “adventure” lightly. Nothing we did was too epic or challenging, and ultimately, after walking 65 miles in seven days, I appreciated that! Here’s a quick peek at what we did in London, with more information to come soon:
Driving around in a classic Mini Cooper may not seem adventurous at first glance, but I was surprised at how harrowing it can be zipping around those tiny streets, even with someone else behind the wheel! (After last year’s rental car shenanigans in Ireland, we have agreed never to rent a car in the British Isles again.)
Upon arrival in London, we met our guide Laurence at Leicester Square for a 90-minute Landmarks tour around town. It was a perfect way to give Rick the lay of the land and get an abridged version of London’s top sites and history. Afterward, he had an idea of what he wanted to dig further into (the Tower of London) and what he might want to save for next time (museums). smallcarBIGCITY offers themed tours as well, so for all my Harry Potter fans, Beatles aficionados and Banksy art lovers, there’s an adventure in London for you, too.
I always say the best way to see a new place is to get high – so either a skyscraper or something like the London Eye – to get a birds’ eye view and orient yourself… BUT I also say that in cities with iconic rivers running through the center, you absolutely can’t miss the waterside experience. The Thames is truly the backbone of London history, so absolutely get on a boat when you visit! But which boat?!
There are so many options – public transportation, quirky pirate ships, private yachts. For this trip, we boarded one of the red Thames Rockets for a super fast zip toward the O2. The ride was made even better with a bumping soundtrack. Yes, I was singing at the top of my lungs for much of the ride, but no one could hear me over the two 315 horsepower engines. Definitely an experience worth checking out and far more fun than taking public transportation.
Click here to book a ride on the Thames Rockets
Up at the O2
Climbing up and over one of London’s largest entertainment complexes seemed like the ultimate adrenaline rush… but it was surprisingly chill. Even 170 feet up, I never felt unsafe or shaky or scared. To be fair, I’m not scared of heights, so for someone less inclined to scale tall buildings, they might have a completely different experience.
Up at the O2 outfits you with climbing gear, and after a safety briefing, you join a guide for the climb up and over the dome. You don’t need any climbing experience, just the ability to walk a couple of steep sections, aided by your climbing gear. I enjoyed being outside and taking in London from a completely different perspective.
Though you can’t see most of the recognizable London skyline from the O2 roof, instead looking down over Canary Wharf, the Olympic park and historic Greenwich, it’s a fun change of pace from museums. I know sometimes days upon days of history it can be a lot to take in, so it’s smart to switch gears during a big city trip.
The London Eye
The London Eye is the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel has become the UK’s most popular paid attraction with nearly 4 million visitors a year! It’s hard to believe that it was only supposed to be a temporary structure, because now the London Eye has become such an iconic part of the skyline.
If you’re going to do a Ferris Wheel anywhere in the world, the London Eye is one of the best. It hardly fits into the adventure category, but it is one of those things you just have to do when you visit London.
There’s no greater adventure than the one you take together… ermmm, did I really just say something that cheesy? Well, I kinda mean it, and as much as Rick fusses about photo shoots in the moment, we’re always so happy when we have beautiful, professional memories of our vacations. This was our first time using Flytographer, but it won’t be the last. Flytographer is a service that matches you with a professional photographer in cities around the world so you can go home from your vacation with more than selfies.
We worked with Jimmy on a rainy Monday night at Shad Thames and it just turned out to be magic. These are some of my favorite photos we’ve ever taken together, and they’re definitely my favorite souvenir of the whole week.
Where to Stay in London
I’ll chat more about this in a future post, but check out the two hotels we visited!
Hotel Indigo Leicester Square
Hotel Indigo is a brand I worked with even before I was a blogger, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart. I loved everything about this property; the art deco and West End theatre-district inspired decor, view of Leicester Square and London’s skyline and the central location.
For a relatively affordable London hotel that doesn’t offer too much in the way of extra frills, it really felt luxurious! Would stay here, or at any Hotel Indigo, again. Click here for more information on Hotel Indigo Leicester Square.
I love shiny, modern hotels as much as the next gal, but I’m a sucker for properties with a history. Give me textured wallpaper and antiques with stories to tell and I’m just gaga. The Chesterfield Mayfair is surrounded by opulence. Mayfair has been ritzy for hundreds of years, and the hordes of Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Mazeratis lining the streets indicate that some things never change.
We loved this spot for its location close to many of London’s loveliest parks and palaces, warm service and an enormous suite with accoutrements including a little tube of lip gloss at turn down. Definitely would return. Click here for more information on the Chesterfield Mayfair.
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Tell me which of these activities you’d most like to try! And for my next visit, I’d love your suggestions for adventure in London. Happy travels, friends!
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