Buckingham Palace Guard - London, England, United Kingdom - by Anika Mikkelson - Miss Maps

Miss Maps London: A Quick Guide to The Big Smoke

When you think of “London” what comes to mind??
For me: Fish and Chips, Red Telephone Booths, and The Queen.
London is so much more than those three, and when planning a trip, the options really are endless.

Here is a self-guided whirlwind tour of London. Take your time – don’t try to do it all in one day. And if you’re there for just one day, make the most of your time by picking those places that really pop out to you.

Miss Maps Tours London

Start in Hyde Park, moving on from there to Buckingham Palace and Westminster Cathedral. Westminster Abbey is just next-door, followed by the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. If you can, visit Big Ben at the top of the hour to hear the bells chime.

Head NE on Whitehall to Trafalgar Square and on to the Royal Courts and Saint Paul’s Cathedral via Fleet Street and Cannon Street.  Near the cathedral, you’ll find Millennium Bridge, which is a stunning piece of architecture, made even more captivating at night. Crossing over the Thames River leads you to The Globe Theatre.

After feeling Shakespeare’s presence (and maybe even watching a play!) head back west to The London Eye. Ride or not, your choice. If it’s a clear day, it may be worth a go though tickets are a bit expensive: Adults ride for £28, or you can book in advance for as low as £21. You can reserve them online HERE

From there you can see Big Ben from across the river, an entirely different site at night than during the day. Enjoy the spirited chaos, turn yourself around and get ready for a nice riverside hike over to Borough Market. Closed on Sundays, the market sits right next to The London Bridge.

Cross over the bridge if it has not yet fallen. Walk on the eastern side and you’ll find yourself looking down the river at Tower Bridge and The Shard. If you previously decided against riding The London Eye, then grab a drink in The Shard’s 31st level bar for an equally impressive view of the city.

For one last London experience, take the Underground’s Jubilee Line from London Bridge toward Scanmore. Get off at St. John’s Wood. Exit the station, follow the signs and you will soon come to Abbey Road! Do your best to replicate the Beatles’ famous 4-man walk (this is your time to trust a stranger with your camera as a photo of you crossing is a must-have souvenir). Nearby is Abbey Studios and a few Beatles-themed shops and cafes.

And if you’re really in the mood, take a Big Red Bus (#31 to from Abbey Road to Westbourne Park Station). What’s there? Paddington Station – where you’ll find a statue of The Paddington Bear himself.

There is so much to do and see – take your pick, wander, get lost, explore. You’ll find your way and enjoy your stay no matter what you come across! Soak it in, you’re only in “The Old Smoke(what a name!) for a bit.

London Eye, Palace, and Swans. So classic- London, England, United Kingdom - by Anika Mikkelson - Miss Maps
London Eye, Palace, and Swans. So classic- London, England, United Kingdom – by Anika Mikkelson – Miss Maps

Getting Around

The Underground and Overground:
Before you take your first trip on the Underground, purchase an Oyster Card from one of the machines for £5 and load it with some money (I started with £10 and loaded as it was necessary)
Check in to the tube by tapping your card at one of the entrance gates (look for a green arrow), and keep your card handy to check out once you exit at your destination. You’ll notice that each time you tap, a balance appears on the small screen.
Don’t Forget! Before you leave London:
If there’s less than £10 left on the card when you leave, you can get a full refund of that money. Find a machine and tap the card on its yellow pad. Follow the directions and you’ll get a refund of the remaining balance as well as the initial £5 you used to purchase the card. Bonus: You get to keep the card as a souvenir!

Get High on a Red Bus: Ride on the upper level of a bright red double decker bus. Adults: £1.50 per journey, with £4.50 cap per day when using your Oyster card.

Traveling via public transport? CLICK HERE to visit TFL’s website to plan your trip and check for the latest travel updates.

Use Your Feet: Walk around as much as possible. It’s a huge city so sometimes the public transport is necessary, but otherwise… walk!
Note: Cars drive on the left in London, which also means that as a pedestrian, you need to first look to your right to see if any cars are coming your way. If you forget, most busy streets actually have this friendly reminder painted on them.

London Underground - London, England, United Kingdom - by Anika Mikkelson - Miss Maps
London Underground – London, England, United Kingdom – by Anika Mikkelson – Miss Maps

Eat and Drink

Afternoon Tea. We loved our time at The Orangery of Kensington Palace, though tea is available all throughout London so keep your eyes open. It’s quite the way to feel proper and elegant, if only for an hour or so. Remember to let your pinky up.

Try a new kind of pie. We’re not talking apple here. We’re talking Steak and Ale Pie, or Chicken and Mushrooms. Available all over, but a small survey of visitors voted Square Pie in Old Spitalfields Market a favorite. No matter where you go, make sure to slather on the gravy (sometimes called “Liquor”)
Bangers and Mash: The British way of saying “sausage and mashed potatoes”. If you can, plan your trip to correspond with British Sausage Week in November. Because, why not?!
If you make it to Greenwich, delight in the creativity of Heap’s Sausages and select from names like Pork-A-Leekie and Lethal Lucifer.

Fish and Chips: I learned this is only authentic if you’re on the coast. But eat it anyway, it’s tasty. Must-have sides: Mushy Peas and Mash. Together, separate. Your choice.

Wash it all down with a pint of Hobgoblin or a glass of Pimms No.1 mixed with lemonade.

Budget friendly find: You can find cheap eats at any of the Wetherspoon restaurants. They have meal deals with drinks included that put most other restaurants to shame. Good food, good beer, and good (busy) atmosphere. Look to their website and search for locations HERE. This is not a sponsored post, but I honestly went there four times within a week, it’s that good and that affordable.

Note: In many restaurants and pubs it is common to order your food at the counter.
First find a spot and check out the menu. Make note of which table number you’re at and assign someone to return to the counter to order (make sure to tell them the correct table number). Grab your drinks while you’re up and the waiter will bring your food out you when it’s ready.

Culturalize Yourself

Experience world-class performances at shows such as Billy Elliot, Wicked and The Lion King. You can find last minute tickets on sale, and can find performance schedules HERE

Visit one (or ten) of London’s FREE Museums. Take your pick: The British Museum (British history) , Tate Modern (modern art), Natural History Museum, Science Museum.. you name it! I found THIS GUIDE particularly helpful.

Get Out

From Paddington Station, you can take a train to Windsor. The town is lovely with many shops, cafes and of course: The House of Windsor. The Queen’s Standard (flag) flies from the Round Tower when she is in residence. To get there, simply purchase a ticket at Paddington Station to Windsor. You will first go to Slough, then make a transfer in Slough to Windsor. It is all included in the same ticket. Tip: Return Fares are only £10.50 to Windsor if you travel on Sunday. Otherwise they are £10 each way.

Greenwich is a borough of London located on the southern side of the Thames River. There, you will find many gems such as the National Maritime Museum (free), as well as grand ship named Cutty Shark. Hike up the city’s Greenwich Hill where you will find the exact location of the Prime Meridian (you can stand directly on it without paying, just ask and someone will point the way). From the same spot, you can also visit the city’s only Planetarium (free) and see the Queen’s house and expansive lawn just ahead of you. The city’s downtown also has a hidden food market that’s worth a visit. To get there, take the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf. From there, you can then take the DLR south to Greenwich or just walk – which involves crossing under the river via a pedestrian tunnel. How great is that?

These are my own tips for you, dear travelers. You must have some to add! Add them in the comments below. CHEERS!



5 thoughts on “Miss Maps London: A Quick Guide to The Big Smoke

  1. That’s a great thing to know about the refund for getting around! Afternoon tea also sounds divine. Glad that you had a good time!


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