Europe is huge. It has a large collection of diverse countries that makes it one of the most interesting places to visit. Part of its allure is the mixture of cultures and beautiful landscapes but also how easy it is to experience one after the next. Just thinking how short the distance between London and Paris is can make anyone giddy with excitement.
That is why, because of how easy it is to travel from one country to the next, many wonder “Who needs ETIAS?” Eventually, everyone will need one and it will definitely be a must. However, we still have a few years left before we start concerning ourselves with that.
Again, Europe has so much to offer that it is impossible for a first timer to navigate it all alone. Even when you have friends with you. Having said that, there are some staple destinations that you can choose from. On the other hand, where you should go will highly depend on how long you are planning to stay in Europe.
If you are planning to stay for a week I suggest the first places that should be on the top of your list are London and Paris.
Is there anything more to say? The city itself is as iconic as it can be, and it has almost too many landmarks to choose from. Take Big Ben, one of the most photographed buildings in the world (which is unfortunately undergoing maintenance till 2021). Or what about the Tower London and the Tower Bridge - two quintessential London sites. If you fancy royalties, you may even stop by Buckingham Palace and say hello to the queen (although, the Queen does not necessarily live there).
Best Things To See in London
Not to be confused with London Bridge, this is one of the London’s top landmarks. It also serves as a museum showcasing how it was built while simultaneously having panoramic views of the city. However, it is not for the faint of heart because all that separates you and the road or the River Thames is the glass floor you will be standing on.
The Tower Bridge is still operational to this day! Be sure to time your visit perfectly.
Although not the true name of the tower - that would be Elizabeth Tower - Big Ben has been its moniker that almost everyone uses. Like I mentioned above, Big Ben is currently closed for maintenance until 2021 and the famous ringing is surly missed in the city.
The palace serves as a working office nowadays, but the public is also allowed access inside on special tours if you time your trip right. You can also the changing of the guard every day - an iconic sight to behold. At the very least you should definitely visit the famous roundabout and take a quick picture in front of the huge gilded gates.
Once the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, it is the most visited (and expensive perhaps) tourist attraction in the United Kingdom. The eye gives you a good vantage point to see the entirety of London worth the cost of admission alone. Also, during summertime when the days are longer, and its opening hours are extended, the view on the London Eye gives everyone a beautiful sunset view.
Regardless what season it is though, or whether you ride day or night, the view from the Eye is simply breathtaking.
Tips For a Perfect Trip to London
However, if you are new to London, there are certain things that you need to remember.
Enjoy on a Budget
As expensive as London can be, there are things that you can do to soak in its culture without having to spend too much. For example, entrance to many museums are free. Take the Victoria and Albert museum a sprawling complex that is a must visit if you are interested in the arts and fashion. The Hunterian Museum on the other hand focuses on the medical side of things, while the Natural History Museum and Science Museum are great places to pass the time if you want to hang with dino bones.
Do Not Stay in the City Too Much
If you get the chance, I highly encourage you to go to the countryside.
If that is not your cup of tea, then day trips are quite abundant around London. Take your pick from Stonehenge, The Roman Baths, or The Cotswolds. Speaking of travel, your best bet is to purchase an Oyster Card to get around the city. Alternatively, you can use a contactless card, or Apple or Google pay on your phone.
Always be Prepared for Rain
It may sound cliché, but people in London complaining about the weather is not to be taken lightly. There is definitely a reason rain is synonymous with London. In fact, it rains almost a third of the year in the city. If you are on a holiday for a week in London, I would make expect it to rain at least twice. Pre-plan some indoor activities for these days or be sure to carry a poncho or umbrella.
Watch Out for the Traffic
London is backwards to us Americans….. everything is on the right-hand side of the road. Quite peculiar for those who are used to the opposite side of the road. That is why, it is important that you look left and right before crossing, otherwise, you will be prone to accidents. Anyways, there are signs on the road which definitely help indicating which way to look.
London is a huge city, and many travelers call it their favorite destination in Europe. It is easy to see why – people from all over Europe come together here, and sometimes, put down roots here. No matter how diverse their population is though, London has its own identity which never falters. The long history and rich culture are easily seen and stand proud, tall, and strong among its many landmarks. A testament to what the United Kingdom is all about.
First time Europe travelers always dream of seeing this sprawling metropolis and is a large reason it is one of the staples of Europe. Let London be your stepping stone - the first encounter you have with European culture - and from there expand outwards to the many other countries a short distance away.
One of the most common questions I get: What is the best camera for travel photography? I personally love my Nikon D5600. I use the kit lens and a Sigma wide-angle lens (for Nikon) which I am genuinely obsessed with.
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).