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Roaming Around the Royals: 72 Hours in London

Knoxville > London...

checking Apple Watch to see our departure time for our flight to Charlotte on the Flighty app

Our first flight was from McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville to Charlotte Douglas International Airport but, unfortunately, it was delayed by an hour. This caused us to miss our connecting flight to London and instead of arriving at 9:30am, we were now going to land at 11:30am. This was a bummer for us because we had booked tickets to tour Buckingham Palace at 1pm and there was now no way to make it on time - and we couldn't get a refund, either. All this to say, we learned a valuable lesson: be careful scheduling excursions on your arrival day!

Nevertheless, the hum of the engines and the sight of the ramp agents and traffic controllers bustling outside the plane quickly distracted me from the unfortunate turn of events. I couldn't help but imagine the adventures that awaited me from across the sea! From strolling through the charming streets of London to visiting iconic landmarks like the Tower Bridge and Westminster Abbey, I could barely contain my excitement. The plane took off and as I looked out the window and saw the world getting smaller and smaller, the thought of all the new experiences, sights, and sounds that awaited me in London filled my heart with joy and exhilaration.

The Woolpack Pub in London
The Woolpack Pub

Finally, we made it safe and sound to the beautiful city of London! We picked up our rental car and made our way towards our Airbnb, about a 45min drive. On our drive, we got to see a few iconic landmarks like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, and Buckingham Palace - and even though seeing the beautiful palace was a bittersweet moment for us, it was an amazing sight. For our first night, we looked up nearby pubs with authentic British cuisine and found this amazing spot: The Woolpack. The food was amazing, the atmosphere was fantastic, the servers were friendly and we had an all-around great time.

Day One...

Our Airbnb was conveniently located right by the Tower Bridge and Tower of London, which were our first stops for today! We started off the morning making the short walk from our Airbnb, across the Tower Bridge, and to the entrance for the Tower of London. They opened at 9am, so we planned to arrive about 30mins early. We were thankful we did because the line even at 8:30am was long, but it continually grew as we were waiting. If you have the Tower of London on your itinerary, be sure to budget some extra time to get there early - and if you don't have it on your itinerary, you should definitely add it.

the tower bridge pov from the Tower of London
The Tower Bridge

Not only was the Tower of London amazing itself, it offered spectacular views of the iconic Tower Bridge! We opted for the audioguide tour of the tower, but there are also options for self-guided and guided tours (led by the Yeoman Warders - aka guards of the tower). Our audioguide was super helpful in explaining to us the importance of where we were and the role each room and place played in history.

When visiting the Tower of London, you'll also get a chance to see the Crown Jewels! Each one was absolutely spectacular and it was so interesting to learn about the people that wore each piece, as well as why they were important and where they came from. We truly enjoyed our time at the Tower of London, but there was still so much more to see and do before the light faded!

St. Paul's Cathedral

We made our way by bus for a quick stop at St. Paul's Cathedral. I couldn't tell you what impressed me more: the insane exterior architecture or the amazing interior design of the huge cathedral. We also happened to arrive during the cathedral's Eucharist service, a time of prayer and thanksgiving that takes place each day at noon. While we only popped in for a few minutes, it was a beautiful sight to behold.

From St Paul's Cathedral, we hopped aboard the bus again and headed for our next stop of the day: Westminster Abbey! The bus service we used was so helpful throughout our London adventure. We booked through Big Bus Tours for their 48hr option and didn't regret it at all. It also comes with some special add-ons like walking tours, a river cruise, and an evening bus tour if you chose!

Westminster Abbey

Our bus quickly arrived at our destination and we eagerly entered the beautiful building. So much history took place in this iconic landmark and the information from our audioguides was almost overwhelming! My favorite was the 'Poet's Corner,' where authors and artists like C.S. Lewis and William Shakespeare have special memorials for their amazing and inspiring work that impacted many people not just in England but around the world.

C.S. Lewis memorial inside the Westminster Abbey
C.S. Lewis Memorial

After spending about 2 hours exploring Westminster Abbey, it was late afternoon so we searched for a nearby place to enjoy dinner. After dinner, we had a London by Night bus tour planned that came with our hop-on hop-off bus passes. But we were running short on time so we decided to eat somewhere quick (Shake Shack) and hopefully make it in time for the tour. Sadly, we missed it but I was able to capture this pretty amazing picture that made up for it. We ended our day back at our Airbnb absolutely exhausted - not only physically from the long hours and never ending walking, but also mentally from all the history and information that we had learned. But, it was GREAT first day and I wouldn't change anything about it.

Houses of Parliament with Big Ben in the background
Houses of Parliament
Changing of the Guard

Day Two...

We started off our second day in London with a fantastic Changing of the Guard walking tour that we booked through Get Your Guide. Highly recommend doing a walking tour for this event because the guides know all the best places to be and when to be in them. Our specific guide was very fun, entertaining, and informative keeping us on our toes from start to finish. Fair warning though, people get pretty pushy when it starts so you'll need to stand your ground or else someone will cut in front of you and block your great view of the event.

The end of our walking tour left us right where we needed to be for our next stop: Churchill's War Rooms. This was a very cool place as the location of the museum was literally in the actual underground rooms that the War Cabinet used during WWII. If this is on your itinerary, definitely budget 2-2.5 hours to fully explore the museum. Admission includes an extremely helpful audioguide - and if you're not aware yet, I love a good audioguide. Definitely worth the visit!

Blake Lively's Dress from the 2022 Met Gala
Blake Lively's Dress from the 2022 Met Gala

After exploring Churchill's War Rooms, we made our way to Kensington Palace, the home of Queen Victoria until she took over the throne. The palace usually offers two different tours: the traditional tour that shows what Queen Victoria's childhood was like and a seasonal exhibition-type tour. When we visited, we started with the exhibition, which was centered around the outfits worn to the Met Gala and how they compare to the outfits worn to historical balls and dances. I personally preferred the side that talked about Queen Victoria's childhood as that type of history was more interesting to me. When planning your trip to Kensington Palace, be sure to check if and what exhibition they are having!

To end our second day in London, we headed to His Majesty's Theater to enjoy the spectacular Phantom of the Opera. It was bittersweet because when I planned this trip out, the theater was still Her Majesty's Theater, but when we actually visited it was His Majesty's Theater. The play itself was spectacular and the actors, music, and vocals were phenomenal. If this type of thing interests you, I would highly recommend adding to your itinerary for one of your nights.

the stage at His Majesty's Theater
His Majesty's Theater

Day Three...

We only spent a little bit of our third day in London as the rest of our day was spent outside of London at Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey), but that's another blog for another day. For our last few hours in London, we made a spontaneous decision to ride the London Eye. We had originally voted it off of the itinerary but that changed when we realized we did actually have an opening for it. It offered the most insanely amazing views of London and I for one am very glad we opted for it. It was hard to get pictures because of the windows, but I did my best!

Houses of Parliament, viewed from the London Eye
Houses of Parliament, viewed from the London Eye

That wraps up our incredible journey in London. From the moment I set foot on English soil, I was captivated by the country's rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. These few hours in London were a perfect blend of exploring iconic landmarks, immersing myself in the local customs, and indulging in culinary delights. I know for a fact that I will be back to visit London again very soon, so until next time!


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