I have just returned from a fantastic trip to London a few days ago… maybe I should say in England, as this time I pushed myself beyond the borders of the British capital. I returned to my favorite place for the third time almost three years after the last time and I found it very different, starting with the skyline along the Thames. This has given me the idea of a dynamic London, wanting to be the protagonist of the world scene, as it was in its glorious past.
The trip lasted 5 days and 4 nights, including travel days. Since it was my third time in London, the idea was to explore areas of the city not visited during my previous two trips (this doesn’t mean that I didn’t visit the classic attractions). Ah, I forgot: as in the first trip, I travelled alone. Here’s how I set the trip:
- Day 1: arrival in London and afternoon discovering Kensington district
- Day 2: visit to Stonehenge and Bath
- Day 3: Camden Town, Covent Garden, West End, Westminster
- Day 4: Greenwich, Westminster and Notting Hill
- Day 5: return to Italy
Day 1: arrival in London
Unlike the previous two trips, this time I landed at Gatwick Airport, the second biggest airport of the city. While the main airport, Heathrow, is located near London and can be reached by the Piccadilly Line, all other London airports are several tens of kilometers away from the city, including Gatwick.
From Gatwick to London
There are several possibilities to reach the center of London from Gatwick airport: the first and fastest one is by the Gatwick Express, a train that takes you to Victoria Station in about 30 minutes; of course you pay the speed, in fact, a round-trip ticket costs more than 30 pounds. The second option is the National Express coach: depending on the traffic conditions, you may reach Victoria Station in about an hour and a half and compared to the train, it costs more or less half the price for a return ticket; another option is the easyBus shuttle service offered by the airline EasyJet: by booking it in advance, you can find one-way tickets for just £ 2. In my case, National Express was cheaper at the times I was interested in, also because I made the tickets a few days before departure.
My arrival in London
I landed in London on time, around 1:15 pm local time. After the customs checks, I took the National Express coach to Victoria Station one hour later. As soon as I arrived in central London, I moved by tube to Hammersmith, where I stayed in a small hotel. The room was small, about 10 square meters including the bathroom 😀 but cozy and clean. Leaving the suitcase, I took my backpack and camera and moved to Kensington district, just a few tube stops away.
Kensington is a very elegant district, with rows of Victorian-style white houses. Afert getting out from the South Kensington tube station, I went to the Museum of Natural History. At that time, obviously, the museum was closed. Not bad, because I had visited it on my last trip to London. I highly recommend it, especially if you are a lover of natural sciences and dinosaurs. A short distance away is the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world’s most important museum of applied arts, and the Royal Albert Hall, a temple of music in London. It is a concert hall where the world’s greatest music stars perform.
Walking around the circular perimeter of the Royal Albert Hall and arriving at the back of the concert hall, you arrive at Kensington Gardens. Once they were the gardens of Kensington Palace, but now they are part of London Royal Parks, which are open to the public for free. Coming from the Royal Albert Hall, you immediately meet the Albert Memorial, a monument in honor of Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria.
My goal was to get to the Peter Pan statue, but unfortunately the sun had almost set and the statue was on the opposite side of the park, so I finally decided to give up. So, tired of the journey, I abandoned myself to a pleasant walk through the paths of Kensington Gardens. Previously, I had seen London in winter and summer, but now I can say that spring is my favorite period – of course, I still have to see it in autumn – because the city has a very pleasant atmosphere for the eyes, thanks to the many trees in bloom of different colours, from pink to white, to wisteria.
The second trip day was dedicated to the visit of the megalithic site of Stonehenge and the Georgian city of Bath. While planning the trip, I decided to push myself out of London for a day. There many options available you can choose. In fact, there are many places that can be reached from London for a one-day trip, both with organized tours or planning tours on your own. For more details about my day out of London, I invite you to read the post dedicated to this day.
The day started early. At 8:30 I got out of the hotel towards Camden Town. It is located in the northern part of London, in the Borough of Camden. Going to Camden Town means entering the most transgressive area of London, where normality leaves room for extravagance and eccentricity. As soon as you leave the tube station, you are already immersed in Camden High Street.
There are immediately shops with eccentric signs, some of them are gigantic so much to occupy the upper floors of buildings – the are real works of art.
At one point, there is a corner of Camden Town, where it seems to be in Amsterdam: this is Camden Lock. It is a double lock that regulates the passage of the Regent’s Canal.
Camden Town is not just small shops, but above all markets. The most famous one is Camden Lock Market. Walking in this market means to immerse yourself in a myriad of perfumes and smells coming from the many stalls, where ethnic food from all over the world is prepared. Even though it was 10 in the morning, walking in that market made my mouth water. Walking through the market, you may also come across the statue of Amy Winehouse or a dummy with a skull-shaped head in front of a clothing store… this is Camden Town!
After the Camden Lock market, the next goal of my tour was Primrose Hill. It is a small hill near Regent’s Park, from where you can admire an extraordinary panorama of the London. From Camden Town you can get there in about 20 minutes on foot and along the way I saw many beautiful houses… Oh Gosh! How I love British style houses!!! Arrived at the top of Primrose Hill, alas, I was a little disappointed, because, despite the day was beautiful and hot, I found a bit of mist to ruin the landscape.
When I climbed down Primrose Hill, I came back to the Camden Town tube station, walking another way than the first leg and discovering other really nice London corners.
From Camden Town I moved by tube to Covent Garden. The main attraction is undoubtedly the covered market, consisting of three parallel buildings with neoclassical porticoes. Honestly, I was not particularly impressed by it, perhaps because it was overcrowded at that time and I couldn’t really enjoy it. Next time I’ll try not to go on Saturday.
From the Covent Garden covered market, I moved a little towards an evocative and little known place in London: Neal’s Yard. Fortunately, many people don’t know it. At least here I didn’t find a lot of people! It is a colorful little square, where walls, balconies, doors and fixtures are coloured in pastel shades. It seems to enter a fairy-tale world.
From Covent Garden, the West End is really close. This is the theater district, where the most important musicals and theater plays of the world are represented – the London Broadway, we can say. Walking, for example, I came across the theater (the Palace Theatre) which hosts the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child show and many others.
Nearby, there’s also another picturesque area of London: Chinatown. It’s amazing how it seems go from one city to another, just crossing a road. Yes, Chinatown is not just London’s Chinese district; entering it gives the impression of being catapulted into China, where everything is written in Chinese (even street names are indicated with Chinese characters). The lanterns suspended above the road are beautiful to see. A truly unique place in London; I advise it!
Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Westminster
The tour then continued in Piccadilly Circus. I was impressed to see it without its famous billboard screens. In their place, at the moment, there are scaffolding with billboards. But in a few months everything will be restored.
The elegant Trafalgar Square was the next stop. It was crowded with people and it was awful to see tourists climbing on the lions under the Nelson column, although there was a ban. Unfortunately, the malpractice of mistreating monuments is not typical only of Italian historic cities.
Then, I walked around Westminster, but it was so overcrowded, that it was difficult to take pictures.If you can, avoid going there in the central hours during the weekend!
For the last trip day, I decided to go to Greenwich. From Hammersmith, the most convenient – and most interesting – way to get there was to take the tube to Westminster, and then board a boat to Greenwich (you can get there in other many ways).
Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Park
Before going to Greenwich, I decided to take a little detour. I could not leave London without visiting the Queen, so I went to Buckingham Palace. It was a pleasure for the eyes, because the flowerbeds of the square in front of the royal palace were full of yellow and red tulips.
To go to Westminster, I crossed St. James’s Park, my favorite London park. There I could play with squirrels and see the beautiful spring colours.
From Westminster, I left for Greenwich by the 11 am TRS (Thames River Services) boat. Compared to other shipping companies on the Thames, this allows you to reach Greenwich in about 60 minutes, making only one stop near the Tower Bridge. The others, however, also stop at other piers, thus lengthening the navigation time by a few minutes.
It was a very sunny and warm Sunday, especially to be early April. Greenwich was crowded with both tourists and Londoners who, taking advantage of the beautiful day, had moved to Greenwich Park for a picnic or sunbathing. Little parenthesis: I had put umbrella and k-way in my backpack; I should have put sun cream in it, because I went back to the hotel with my face sunburned in the evening. Could I ever imagine finding so much sunshine in London in April? 😀
What to see in Greenwich
When I arrived in Greenwich, I saw the Cutty Sark historic clipper ship – I saw it only from the outside, because I had to pay an entry ticket and, honestly, I’m not a big fan of sailing ships. Very interesting is the National Maritime Museum, with free admission, which traces the history of the British navy. The most photographed building in Greenwich is undoubtedly the Royal Naval College, with its colonnades and symmetrical buildings; going further, there is the Queen’s House, a Palladian-style royal residence. Behind the Queen’s House is a large park that culminates on a hill: Greenwich Park. Going up the hill, there is the Royal Observatory, where the line of the Prime meridian is drawn. I also gave a short ride to the town of Greenwich and found it really nice. I will talk in detail about my visit to Greenwich in this article.
Return to Westminster and Notting Hill
In the afternoon, I took the boat back to Westminster, where I stopped for a while to take some pictures.The last leg of my London tour was Notting Hill. It seems almost a tradition, since I always end my London trips there. Despite being the third time I saw it, it still amazed me. The colourful houses and flowered trees created a beautiful bond; it was a sight for sore eyes!
Even though I had been walking around for miles since early in the morning, I decided to return to Hammersmith on foot. It took me about 25-30 minutes, but the temperature was pleasantly mild and I wanted to enjoy the last moments around London.
Am I tired of London? Not at all!
According to Samuel Johnson, “If a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. I could not but agree with this statement. My third time in London didn’t make me tired of this city, on the contrary I was even more willing to visit it. For the moment, I have just said goodbye to London, with an idea already in mind of what will be the program of my next trip to the British capital.
Here are two videos from my YouTube Channel about this trip to London: