London has been on our list forever, but we're put off going because, well, money. With the UK's pound so much stronger than our dollar and London being a big city with a higher standard of living – well, we thought a budget trip would be a little hard to pull off. To top if all off, we even had a friend, Shan, who we dearly wanted to visit in her home city – so we knew we couldn't put off going to London forever!
The stars finally aligned when we planned a long British Isles trip during Tyler's vacation — London, Scotland and Ireland — and the pound fell a lot because, well, Brexit. This meant a trip that wouldn't annihilate our wallet was finally feasible, and it was time to get excited! So to London we went, to meet up with our totally amazing host, Shan, who helped us with planning, hidden gems, and even made us a proper English breakfast.
WHAT WE DID:
- Had a proper British fry-up: Tyler is super obsessed with breakfast, and his ideal breakfast is a hearty one with bacon and eggs. So he was definitely excited to have an "English breakfast," which usually includes greasy bacon, eggs, beans, mushrooms, sausages, tomatoes, toast, and of course, tea. Our amazing friend Shan had us over to make us breakfast one morning, but if you don't have a perfect British host, a good greasy English breakfast isn't hard to find!
- Saw all the sights along the South Bank: We spent a nice afternoon with good weather just taking a stroll along the South Bank, where there are lots of street performers and pop-up food stands full of drinks, snacks and ice cream. If you're short on time and want to see the sights, a walk along the South Bank is essential. From there you can see the London Eye, the Millenium Bridge, Shakespeare's Globe Theater, Big Ben, Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast — all within a stroll!
- Took advantage of the free museums!: We were really concerned about saving money while we were in London (hence the short stay), because of the strong pound and because it's a city with higher prices, much like NYC. So we were so pleased to find that almost all the national museums have free entrance (with suggested donation, of course!). We didn't have time for them all, but really enjoyed the British Museum where you can see the Rosetta Stone, an Easter Island statue, the Crystal Skull, a great Egyptian wing and a fantastic exhibit on Pacific Northwest Native Americans. We also popped into the Tate Modern, where our friend Shan works, where even if you're not into modern art, you can get a great free view of the city from its observation deck up top.
MORE OF WHAT WE DID:
- Nerded out with Harry Potter: Of course, there's plenty to see all around London, and lots of dedicated blogs and tours just for Harry Potter. We didn't dedicate our entire trip to it, but couldn't resist a photo-op at Platform 9 3/4 inside King's Cross Station — it gets crowded during the day, so go early in the morning if you want to avoid the crowds!
- Spend the evening in Brixton: We went out with our friend Shan one night, and she wanted to take us to Brixton, a vibe-y neighborhood with lots of hip markets. We started the night at Pop Brixton, which is a sort of food hall/marketplace with common seating built from old shipping containers. We started there with drinks, and then visited Brixton Market for dinner, which is a great combination of hip restaurants, vintage clothing stores and traditional, local shops.
- Ate on the cheap: To stretch our weak U.S. dollar, I made sure to do plenty of research on cheap eats before coming to London. Again, we were really mindful of our money on this trip and I knew food would kill our budget in a second if we let it. My strategy was basically to pin a ton of cheap eateries on my Google Maps ahead of time, and once we got hungry, I could just see what was nearby to us and go there! I've saved a number of them in the map I've shared below, but we particularly liked the Korean place Bibimbap on Charlotte Street (there's more than one location) and the Mediterranean restaurant Mem & Laz in Islington. We also stopped multiple times at the grocery chain/convenient store brand Marks & Spencer, which is quite similar to Trader Joe's, in that they have fun snacks and posh looking food that is all their own brand. It's a great place for souvenirs!
Text and photos copyright © Katie Currid, 2017. All rights reserved.