To introduce myself, I’m Chelsea and I’ve been Lauren’s assistant for the last few years. This past July I was planning a trip to the UK for my fiancé and I and found myself reading Lauren’s blog post from her trip to London in 2018. Even though it was years later, many of the suggestions she shared were still really helpful! I offered to write this blog post recapping my own trip to hopefully provide some more recommendations and advice for others who plan a similar trip in the future.
Below I’ve shared some of what we enjoyed doing on our trip, as well as info I wish I’d known going into it!
After an overnight plane ride, we landed at Heathrow Airport and began the first part of our trip, 5 nights in London. This was my first time in a city of this size and population – as a quick comparison London has a slightly larger population than New York City and is more than double the size. I could’ve easily spent an another week there and still not felt like I’d explored enough of what the city has to offer! We mainly traveled using the London Underground system (or “the Tube” as most people called it) and found it to be a super easy and affordable way to get around. Overall, we really enjoyed our time and would love to go back!
WHERE WE STAYED
The hotel is in the City of London and directly next to a Tube Station which made getting around super convenient, though there was also plenty to see and do within walking distance as well. We stayed in a Superior Double Room, which had nice features and included a mini fridge and desk area. The rooms are small but we found it to be plenty of space considering we didn’t spend a ton of time in the room. We didn’t book reservations to have drinks at the rooftop bar at the hotel because I figured there would be other places we’d want to explore instead, however I wish I had! There was almost always a line to head up there and it seems like it’s a very popular spot, even among locals. Overall the hotel and surrounding area felt really safe. The West End is another popular area to stay, though most places are pricier there.
PLACES TO EAT
The first dinner of our trip was at Lina Stores. There’s tons of locations around the city but we ate at the Bloomberg Arcade one and it was delicious! We started with the Burrata e Scapece di Zucchine which was the perfect light & refreshing summer appetizer. Then we split the Gomiti e Piselli, Tagliolini al Tartufo e Parmigiano, and Sedanini con Ragù d’Agnello. If you go, I would recommend making a reservation as it’s a popular spot.
This felt like the kind of meal I’ll probably talk about for the rest of my life. Seriously, it was that good. The restaurant used to be a favorite of Princess Diana, had a Michelin star, and is now run by an award-winning chef so I was immediately intrigued when first researching where to eat on our trip. Looking at the tasting menu we weren’t sure if it was going to be something we’d enjoy (some of the foods we’d never even heard of) however, it ended up being the most amazing food we’ve ever eaten. The level of service was also unreal. Once the staff realized we were visiting from the States, they took extra time to explain the dishes as they were brought out without us asking (but not in a way that was condescending). The servers were all super attentive while never feeling intrusive. To be upfront, dinner lasted about 3 hours, consisted of 10 courses, and was pretty expensive, but we found the experience to be worth it and would absolutely love to go back.
On the day we were at the Kew Gardens we decided to stop in here for lunch. We split the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Thigh Burger which was great and had a couple cocktails: the Hemsworth Margarita and The Budgie Smugler. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant.
We ate dinner here prior to the theater. I had the duck with butternut squash puree and some greens and it was excellent! It’s located in the “Soho” area of London.
I know, I know. Eating American style pizza in London feels like a crime but we really wanted to grab some takeout one night and restaurants close relatively early around London (even this place closed at 10pm on a Sunday night). We opted for the Detroit Pie and had it Detroit style. I haven’t had Detroit style pizza in Detroit so I can’t say if they did it justice…but I thought it was one of the best pizza’s I’ve ever had!
THINGS TO DO
We saw “Sister Act” at the Eventim Apollo Theater and had a great time! I’m not usually into musicals but I was really blown away by how talented the performers were. There’s a couple other theaters in London and the shows change regularly so lots of options to choose from!
If you’re someone who would rather ride than walk there’s some great hop on, hop off buses that will take you to most of the top tourist spots. If you think you’ll be visiting a lot of spots then look into purchasing the London Pass. It gives you admission into a wide range of places at a discounted price! *TIP: Most places offer free headphones to do self guided tours which is a nice way to learn more history but at your own pace.
This is located near Richmond – about a 25-45 minute Tube ride, depending on where in London you’re staying. It’s a lot of walking because it’s so large but it’s beautiful and houses some of the rarest plants in the world. They also allow you to pack a picnic and set up wherever you’d like throughout the gardens which I wish we’d known! *TIP: don’t go on a super hot day and wear something comfortable – the greenhouses are VERY hot and humid.
We were joined by some of my family this day so they rented a private car to take us but there’s lots of tour companies that drive this route regularly and pretty affordably! *TIP: on certain days and times you can see the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle so if that interests you then try to plan your trip around that!
This is another activity that requires leaving London but if you’re a Downton Abbey fan then it’ll be worth it to you. I don’t watch the show and still really enjoyed walking inside the castle and surrounding gardens!
TRAIN RIDE TO SCOTLAND
We headed by train from London to Edinburgh. It was a wonderful and relaxing trip and I’d highly recommend it as a way to travel throughout the UK. We traveled in first class (but only because it was a super affordable upgrade!) and had tons of room to stretch out. The train has free wifi and serves you a meal + unlimited beverages (including alcoholic) and snacks. If I could travel purely by train from now on I would! The views were breathtaking the entire way and we got to see a lot of the English countryside.
After a couple hours on the train we arrived in Edinburgh. I had visited about 12 years prior with my parents and Grandmother, who was born and raised there, so the city was somewhat familiar to me but I was still excited to be back. Edinburgh feels more compact than London but with way more hills so be prepared for lots of stairs and uphill climbs when exploring. That being said, it’s absolutely worth it! We spent 6 nights in Edinburgh and somehow only managed to be caught in the rain once (which is a miracle because it usually rains quite a bit in Scotland).
WHERE WE STAYED
We were joining up with my parents and sister in Edinburgh so we knew we’d need something that had plenty of room for everyone and this place exceeded our expectations. The host even had fresh flowers, a basket of fruit & shortbread, coffee, tea, and a container of milk for us when we arrived! The major downside is the amount of steps required to get to this top floor apartment. I think there were 7 or 8 flights of stairs and it was a pretty brutal climb with suitcases or after a long day of walking but I’d do it again because of how excellent the space was. The apartment didn’t have A/C but the breeze through the windows was more than enough and we truly never felt hot, even with it being a hotter than average summer. The noise from the bars nearby can be loud at times with the windows open but it didn’t really bother us. Overall the apartment was wonderful and I’d highly recommend!
PLACES TO EAT
We went to this brasserie for our first dinner in Edinburgh and it was delicious. We enjoyed some local seafood and steaks and then a couple dessert cocktails to end the night.
There’s a couple locations but we went to the one in City Centre since it was closest to our apartment. We all did the “Steak Experience” which is super customizable to your tastes. You’re offered a variety of steak cuts, sauces, salads, and sides to choose from. If you enjoy beef then you have to have steak while in Scotland – it’s some of the best in the world!
I could not recommend this place enough. The cocktails are so creative and we really enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant. For dinner we decided on having an assortment of appetizers to share just to carry on the theme of sampling new things. There’s locations all over the UK in case you’re visiting another area and want to give it a try!
THINGS TO DO
Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano with views of the entire city from the top. Full disclosure, we did not do this but the view is supposedly breathtaking and if you’re someone who enjoys hiking then it’s worth adding to your list for sure!
We did this last time we visited so opted to skip it this time but it’s a must for a first time trip, especially if you enjoy learning about history.
Here you’ll get great views of the castle as well as see the World’s Oldest Flower Clock!
This wasn’t a super scary tour but I still wouldn’t recommend it for young kids since some of the humor can be vulgar and you do go underground into dark vaults for part of it. That being said we really enjoyed it. It mainly focused on dark history more than paranormal sightings or ghost stories which I appreciated. You also aren’t underground for the majority of the tour which is ideal for anyone claustrophobic.
We went up and around Loch Lomond, which is the largest Loch in Scotland. The views were spectacular but if you’re someone who is easily car sick the roads will be winding and long so keep that in mind! There’s some smaller, closer Lochs though if you still want the experience.
This is near the ports and makes for a pretty walk. There’s a path from Edinburgh to Leith called the “Water of Leith Walkway” which we started walking but it’s a 5-12 mile walk depending on where you start it so we opted to catch a cab after about 2 miles on it.
Download the Free Now App: We weren’t able to get any Ubers or Lyft’s so this served as the equivalent and made traveling by taxi much easier.
- Dining is Different: Most places had a very leisurely mentality when it came to service. We found that servers would typically not bother you unless you signaled that you needed something and the checks usually don’t come unless you specifically ask for it, even if you appear to be done with your meal. Getting a box for leftovers was also not common practice. The option to tip was not available at the majority of restaurants since servers in the UK make a good wage without them. Some may include a service charge (usually around 10-12.5%) but will note that on the menu.
- Voltage Conversion: You’ll want an adaptor to make sure your items will work (make sure it’s UK not EU). I thought I was safe using those but ended up plugging my steamer into one and breaking it because while it adapted the plug it didn’t convert the voltage. This can be an issue with many hair tools as well so make sure that they have the correct voltage for the UK or that you purchase an adaptor that also converts the voltage to prevent this from happening.
Needing Something While There: After breaking my steamer I desperately needed a new one and quickly found there is no Target or Walmart equivalent that’s easy to access. I ended up finding a place called Argos where I was able to order a new steamer and pick it up about 2 hours later. It was super easy and it seems like there’s lots of locations around the city.
- Closed Toe Shoes: Maybe it’s because I’m not from a big city but I was shocked that even with nice dresses in the summer almost no one had shoes that were open toed. I ended up wearing my “dressier” tennis shoes 95% of the time.
- UK Phone Number: You don’t realize how many things you use your phone number for until you can’t. Many of the things we tried to book online asked for a phone number and wouldn’t accept our US one. I ended up downloading the “TextMe” app that gave me a UK number to use for a month for $1 and it was well worth it! People also use the “What’s App” quite a bit.