Lovely London in the Summer: A 4-Day Travel Guide
London is my favorite city in the world…but you probably haven’t heard me say that before. 😉 The fall semester of my senior year of college, I studied abroad in London and quickly fell in love—because of the city itself, but also because of the transformative work God did in my heart while I was there, and the friendships that were forged. Back in June, I returned to this magical city for the first time since I left, in celebration of what God continues to do in my life as a result of the work He started there. I can’t wait to share more on that soon but for now, I’m excited to share some snapshots from my trip. My first experience in London, I was there for four months and got to settle into the rhythms of London life like rainy walks to the grocery store and red bus rides to church. This time, I got to take it in as a tourist. That, in combination with seeing it in a different season this time gave me a fun and fresh experience in my favorite city.
There are several airlines you can find cheap flights to London on if you catch them at the right time, but this trip the cheapest I found was Norwegian. Bonus for any Bay Area locals—you can now fly nonstop to London from Oakland (OAK is about 15 minutes from my house rather than the 45 to SFO, so I’m always happy when I can snag a flight out of there!). Some of my favorite sites to scan when looking for cheap flights are CheapOAir and STA Travel, plus the apps Skyscanner and Hopper, which is what found the winner this time.
I love when it works out to stay with people I know in a place I’m visiting, because it means time with a friend, while experiencing the city more closely to how the locals do—not to mention avoiding expensive hotel fees. For this visit, my friend Hana was gracious enough to host me in her beautiful flat in Streatham Hill, which is in south London. Hana was a first-year British student my semester abroad, and we were flatmates. It was so nice getting to see her again! We stayed with Hana for the first three nights, then an Airbnb in west London for the final two nights, as it was closer to the places we were visiting those days.
The best way to get around London is by utilizing public transportation, aka the London Underground or “Tube,” red buses, and trains—all of which operate on the Oyster card. You can get your Oyster card at the airport upon landing, after which it can be topped of at most tube stations. I know people who have rented cars for their trips to London, but that mainly comes in handy if you are visiting places outside of London as well—maybe Stonehenge, Oxford, or northern England's Lake District. Even then, you can get trains or buses to those places if you prefer. As for London itself, trying to park a car could be a hassle, plus London’s transportation is an enjoyable part of the experience if you ask me!
FOOD IN LONDON
As I’ve said before, my personal philosophy when it comes to food and travel is simple: if you eat cheap, you can see more places. But unlike Iceland, where we bought mainly groceries and ate out only once, in London we ate out once a day, usually for dinner. Though, our meals out were generally in the £10 range (around $13), with one splurge for our afternoon tea at Sketch, which you’ll find in “Day 4” of this post. Fish and chips and a pub visit are also musts. Other than that, drink all the tea you can because it’s as delicious as they say! 😋
WHAT TO WEAR IN LONDON
London sure does know seasons, seeing as the last time I stood in this spot I was wearing a red raincoat and chunky scarf. Though it was sunny during our June trip, London is known to get rain year-round. But whether rain or shine, the summer months in London are muggy. If that’s when you’re visiting, it’s best to bring light and airy clothes to keep cool. I brought blouse and jean outfits as well as dresses, and ended up being very thankful for the dress days. Side note—Kirsten and I ended up wearing similar outfits almost every day which was totally unplanned, but funny. Finally, be sure to pack comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing LOTS of walking. The white Nike’s I’m wearing in the photo above were perfect, because they went with everything and kept my feet comfy.
OUR LONDON ITINERARY
Though London in the fall and winter will always be my personal favorite, I was excited to experience it in the summer—and it was SO beautiful! Gone were umbrellas and raincoats, replaced instead with sunnies and blankets spread wide for picnics across every park. London truly is lovely in every sense of the word, and I don't think there is a bad time of year to visit. As for trip length, there's so much to see all across the city but a couple days is definitely doable to hit the highlights. Below is a photo journal of mine and my friend Kirsten's trip. It also serves as a four day guide to see London in the summertime—and I hope it helps as you plan a visit of your own.
Technically, we had 4 1/2 days in London. By the time we flew in from Iceland and got our stuff settled into my friend Hana's flat on our first day, it was early evening and we decided to celebrate with champagne atop the highest view in London via The View from The Shard. It offers a 360 degree view of the city, and the open ceiling skyscraper definitely creates a unique sensation.
Just over a week before we left, the horrific and heartbreaking London Bridge and Borough Market attacks happened. For this reason, the London Bridge area was covered in flowers during the time of our visit, and it was deeply sobering. Seeing the outpouring of love from all those standing in solidarity with London was overwhelming. Continuing to pray for this city.
My first Sunday at the church I attended in London during my semester abroad, the pastors took me and some friends out to Nando's for lunch, and it quickly became one of our favorites. Think of it like a non-fried Chick-fil-A with more side options—yummy chicken with delicious dipping sauces, plus salad and mashy peas (at least, that's what I get because you know, when in London). Kirsten and I found a Nando's in the south river area after finishing up at The Shard, in perfect time for dinner. 😋
Fun fact? This footbridge earned the nickname "Wibbly Wobbly Bridge," because on its opening day, strong winds caused it to sway over a foot each direction. It was promptly closed for repairs and hasn't swayed since, but in the process it became the first London bridge that was more expensive to repair than it was to build. This is also the bridge that makes a cameo in Harry Potter. Oh yeah, and that's St. Paul's Cathedral shining in the back!
This pretty little junction is known for its neon signs, theater buildings, and shopping.
This beautiful public square is surrounded by a couple museums (which, by the way are free in London). From here, you can easily get to Buckingham Palace and Parliament Square. Speaking of, my second favorite view of Big Ben is found on the street across from Westminster Abbey—it's the iconic shot with the red phone booth. Any guesses on my favorite?
Let's just say, major progress was made between me and the London Eye. I'll go on any roller coaster but for some reason, ferris wheels terrify me. Though it has now been surpassed by three others, it was the tallest observation wheel in the world when it was first erected—and let's just say my first ride involved a little bit of panic. But this time, I was totally fine and got to take in the beautiful view it offers.
B-BAKERY AFTERNOON TEA BUS TOUR
This was a Pinterest-find on Kirsten's part, and one of our favorite experiences from the trip! The B-Bakery Afternoon Bus Tour is exactly what it sounds like—a red bus tour of the city, while you're enjoying an AFTERNOON TEA. If you want to know what could make riding around London hearing its history more delightful, it's filling your belly with bottomless tea and mini pastries while you do. Highly recommend.
You can't visit London without checking in on the royals and futilely attempting to make the beefeaters' stone faces budge. At the very least, it's the one time you can truly shout, YAS QUEEN.
KING'S CROSS STATION (PLATFORM 9 3/4)
Another HP staple, this spot is found at King's Cross rail station and yes, there's a line to snap your shot.
This shopping strip and outdoor market is magical at Christmastime—picture string lights, pine trees, and roasted chestnut scents with hot cocoa in hand. Then in spring and summer? It comes alive! Beautiful little blooms were everywhere during our visit to Covent Garden, officially making it one of my favorite spots—year-round.
BIG BEN (VIEW FROM WESTMINSTER BRIDGE)
If you guessed it, you were right! This is my favorite view of Big Ben—specifically, the view where the tunnel under Westminster Bridge perfectly frames it. Shoutout to my bestie Kelly for introducing me to this view our first time there. Another fun fact? Big Ben is actually the bell inside of Elizabeth clock tower.
ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL
The ornate design and rich history that fills the interior of this Anglican style Cathedral is every bit as beautiful as the view offered from the top of its exterior.
One thing I never did when I studied abroad in London was the upper walkway of this beautiful bridge. There's even a glass floor you can walk on to see the bridge and water below. Scary as it is pretty. 😉
THAMES RIVER CRUISE
Our tour guide was pretty punny, so this was like the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, but better.
This outdoor marketplace is filled with food carts and restaurants, and it's where we closed off Day 2 with some Mediterranean grub at Café Brood—it was delicious! This was an especially fun night because Hana joined us, and we ended up lingering at our table and making conversation with the friendly Brits next to us. Then, we finished off the night with a drink by the river as the lit-up buildings sparkled on the water below.
The largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, every inch of the Windsor grounds is stunning. From the beautiful gardens dotted with brilliant colored roses, to the ornate and intricate details of the interior, to the gorgeous stone. We spent half a day here and enjoyed every minute.
UNIVERSITY OF ROEHAMPTON (BOROUGH OF RICHMOND)
It was on our route back from Windsor, so of course I had to stop at my old stomping grounds. This is where I lived for four months during my semester abroad, and my favorite spot on campus (other than friends' dorms and my own where so many memories were made) was this picturesque tree that dips into a lily pad ridden pond, complete with swans. Like, seriously? This campus is beautiful, and it was so special to be able to return.
This is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and it sure is fit for royalty. The palace and gardens are always lovely, but during our trip they had an exhibit on the fashion of Princess Diana, which I loved. For each dress on display, they noted the events Diana wore it to. My favorite moment was reading about how at one event, Diana "deliberately and conspicuously removed her gloves before shaking hands with an AIDS patient," a gesture which "made international headlines and helped dispel public fear of the disease."
THE CHURCHHILL ARMS PUB, KENSINGTON
I'll be honest, we went here to see the famous blooms covering the outside of the pub. Thankfully, the food served on the inside (Thai, to our surprise), was great too. We even got to meet up with our friend Chelsie from Biola (where I went to school in southern California), who was on the last week of a London work assigning while we were there—this totally made our night!
Our Airbnb for the final two nights was about a two minute walk from Hyde Park (think Central Park, but London), so we decided to start our final day with breakfast in the park. It was bustling with activity! There were yoga classes, sunbathers, dog-walkers, and plenty of picnickers. This was such a fun way to feel like a Londoner and enjoy the city in the sun.
This district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is known for being a fashionable area, and Kirsten and I agreed. These photos were taken on the street our Airbnb was on, and we had a lot of fun pretending we were “posh” enough to live there.
If you read this post, you already saw a lot more photos from this afternoon tea experience and know how thoroughly I enjoyed every minute of it. In short, pinkies up in an all pink room—how can you go wrong? This was one of my favorite experiences from the whole visit.
REALITY CHURCH LONDON
When I was at Biola University, I attended Reality LA, and lead Pastor Tim Chaddick's teaching was transformative in my life. A little over a year ago, Pastor Tim and his family moved to London to plant a church there, which is now Reality Church London. Needless to say, it was pretty neat getting to visit.
BYWATER STREET, CHELSEA
If I could pick any place to call my own, it would be the pink house on Bywater Street in Chelsea, London. HEART. EYES. 😍
THE FISH HOUSE OF NOTTING HILL
No better way to finish a London trip than with some good 'ole fish and chips. YUM.
I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my trip to the loveliest city! Have you ever been? Let me know your what your favorite spot was in the comments or if you've never been, tell me the one thing you'd want to do most!