As a self-proclaimed “Londoner,” I can barely go a month without enjoying some time in my favorite city. Luckily, I have a few friends who love the place just as much as me…
I studied abroad at Regent’s University way back in 2014 (I can’t believe it’s already been three years). That is where I met Heather, and if you’re an avid reader here you’ll know I do plenty of traveling with the gal. Through her, I met Jaime who we visited in 2015 while she was studying at the University of Westminster. This year Heather’s little sister Ali is doing the same, so the three of us along with our friend Sydney just had to take her there and move her in safely, show her around, make sure she knew how to do everything…basically be her study abroad mothers—highly unnecessary, but we’ll do anything for an excuse to go to London.
With three of us having lived there and two new to the town, we made our five-day-trip a perfect blend of tourist activities and local living—I don’t care how many times I’ve been, a photo with Big Ben is always cute. To follow is a guide (complete with links!) for those of you looking to have a little fun in London
a la Jet Set Bets.
We arrived in London early one morning and headed into the city to check into our place. We utilized the Heathrow Express, and we loved it! It leaves every 15 minutes from the airport and takes only 15 minutes to get downtown—much quicker than using a car service or taking the tube. The Heathrow Express costs £25 one way or £37 return and you disembark at Paddington Station in central west London.
Our beautiful flat for the week was located steps from the Bakerloo line and just across the street from the lovely Regent’s Park—where we used to live! It’s also just down the street from The University of Westminster so we were close to move Ali into her dormitory. We utilized Airbnb for our stay and had a fantastic experience as usual! I love using Airbnb for my trips. If you haven’t before and would like to try it out, you can get $35 off of your first booking with Airbnb using my link here: https://www.airbnb.com/c/babernethy1
People tend to whine about the rain in London, but it honestly doesn’t rain everyday. January does tend to be a wet month, though. Thankfully we love London no matter what the weather, so we handled the rain with grace just like Duchess Kate would do. It of course puts a bit of a damper on outdoor activities and wearing suede boots, but it makes it just more enticing to have one more pint while sitting near the fireplace at the pub.
Our first day consisted of shopping on Oxford Street to get Ali some necessities at Primark and other stores for her dorm room. My favorite stores on Oxford Street you must check out when shopping in London are Selfridges & Co.—for all of your designer needs, Liberty, Topshop, & Other Stories, Ted Baker, and All Saints. Some of these shops are nestled in the Oxford Street and Regent Street area. Other great roads to shop on in London are Kensington High Street and Marylebone High Street depending on the area you’re in.
Our late lunch stop was at Bill’s a surprisingly not-chain-like and totally Instagrammable spot on Baker Street and other locations in the UK. I had the shepherd’s pie (no surprise there). The Marylebone area where we were staying has many great dinner options as well as awesome pubs. We ended the evening at The Prince Regent pub on Marylebone High Street. My favorite thing about British pubs is that they’re so cozy. Unlike an American bar filled with TV’s playing football and neon signs (eye roll), pubs often have melted down candles, fireplaces, velvet curtains, and chandeliers. This one in particular was extra charming.
Our second day we battled the rain (and we needed our hair to still be in place for our afternoon reservation), so we did what any smart girl would do and hit up Harrods. Harrods is basically the biggest department store of all time. It’s lavish, some of the prices are absurd, and it’s totally necessary you go. There are multiple restaurants and tearooms and bars inside it as well as a massive food hall. There is even a shoe heaven and a tech gadget floor. Harrods is for everyone.
It was likely the most fabulous experience of my life.
After Harrods we made our way to the most important stop of all, our afternoon tea at Sketch. Sketch is downright extravagant. It’s become famous on social media for its plush, pink interior and outer space-like bathrooms. What Instagram can’t tell you, though, is how good the food is and how yummy the tea options are. We were served an array of gorgeous French pastries and finger sandwiches that made us think we were dining in Le Marais. My favorites included salmon and caviar and the sparkling rosé was crucial to match our surroundings. It was likely the most fabulous experience of my life. Make sure to book ahead and don’t forget to stop in the restrooms on your way out. Your life will no longer be the same. Apparently there is an artist hired every two years to overhaul the restaurant’s designs, so the glamorous pink gallery will be going away soon (and likely replaced with something even more opulent!).
We made our way down through Piccadilly Circus and south to check out Big Ben and meet a friend of mine. From there we hit up an awesome outdoor cider pub on the south bank for some catching up at the Southbank Centre Winter Market. It’s a great place year round as it changes with the seasons and there’s many different events going on (like roller skating and a circus!).
In the morning I headed to Soho with a British mate for a spot of coffee. Where we went, though, was not a shop for just any old European espresso. It was an Italian chocolate shop that serves coffees and pastries called Said dal 1923. Said boasts, hands down, the world’s best cup of coffee. Their secret is crafting incredible, molten Italian chocolate and pouring it All. Over. The. Cup. You’re drinking not only delicious coffee on its own, but coffee with white, milk, and dark chocolate drizzled all up in it. At times messy, it’s the perfect pick-me-up and so, so fun to drink. If it weren’t 1,000 calories a cup I’d probably make it my morning coffee joint on the regular. We then walked over to Covent Garden for the usual Ladurée macarons—lemon, always.
After moving Ali into her new university, we went over to Camden Market for some food and shopping. The markets in London are fabulous for trying food from different cultures and finding great souvenirs. Camden is super edgy which I love. It has that goth, rock-n-roll vibe and the market is always a crowd pleaser.
Sunday was our last full day and we had yet to see the beautiful Tower Bridge. We headed to the London Bridge station on the south bank, got our photo ops, and walked to another fabulous food market, Borough Market. Except don’t go to Borough Market on Sundays because it’s closed. So we made do with a really cool pub (with a really cute bartender) for lunch called Whiskey Ginger on the Borough grounds for some burgers and funky cocktails. We then headed to Covent Garden’s Jubilee Market for some coffee and cupcakes, because yum.
Our evening began at The Volunteer, another darling pub around the corner from our flat near Regent’s. After a few pints, many stories about boys, and a couple bottles of prosecco, we were bound and determined to stay out late. We had a lovely multi-mile stroll to find the nearest open pub, only to be bamboozled by early-to-bed Sunday nighters. Thank goodness for late night pizza delivery, though. For the second night in a row we managed to get a pizza delivered to the flat around 3am (thanks HungryHouseUK!) and didn’t even get deported after we blasted The Life of Pablo (God bless Kanye) and Boys Like Girls (#emostage).
You can’t go to London without eating a full English (baked beans and mushrooms included) so we ended our amazing trip full to the brim with a top-notch breakfast. After some last minute packing, we were back on the Heathrow Express and soon 35,000 feet above the Atlantic.
Thanks for the lifelong memories Heather, Sydney, Jaime, and Ali! This was a trip for the books.
And thank you for reading. I hope my travel guides can help you plan your getaways, or at the very least, be a little bit of a getaway in your mind. London is truly the best city on earth.
Xx Jet Set Bets