Explore London, England
My first time to Europe was an amazing 9 day long trip exploring three different countries. I will break down an Explore Blog for each country to keep everything simple and direct. Personally, I loved London! This is the country that resembled the United States the most out of the three. Because of that, if you are a new traveler I would suggest London because you won't feel out of your comfort zone at all!
The easiest way to get around in London is the tube/train system. They call it the Underground and the stations are easy to recognize because they say it very clearly. I'll add a picture of their signs to give you an example. When you first get to their tube station, you will get an "oyster card." I was there for about 3 days so I got a 2 day pass for 27 pounds. It worked out great! It lasted the whole time I was there.
All forms of Uber are available but Lyft is not.
I used an app called “Tube Map - London, England.” It’s free and made it really easy for me to get around.
Unlike when visiting a 3rd world country where $1 USD = 50 of their currency, in Europe it doesn't work like that. Both the pound and the euro are stronger than the US dollar. Keep this in mind when you're thinking of how much spending money you should take and what you're really paying for things compared to a USD. When I went in January of 2020 the exchange rate was about $1 USD to 0.78 Pound sterling. I didn’t exchange too much money and mainly used my American Express card.
There are a number of well known clubs in London if that's your scene. The clubs are a little spread out but a few are off of the Piccadilly Circus stop. You basically have to know a promoter in the area to get on the guest list to get into clubs here. It works a little differently from the States. You can easily find a promoter by going on Instagram like you could do in the States.
If you're more into the bar scene the area to go is ShoreDitch. When you get off the tube, there are a bunch of bars with some open until 1 and some open until 4. It's a fun and diverse area.
Seeing as how I went in January, yes, it was cold. It was not unbearable at all. Coming from the south in the States, I was able to get along just fine with a trench coat. There was no rain the whole time I was there but the sun did go down earlier than expected, typically around 4pm. All in all I was very happy with how the weather turned out. Even at night, I was able to stay warm with just a coat and gloves while having a dress under it.
Must See Sights
London Eye - The ferris wheel you've seen in every picture of London. You can buy tickets at the location or order them ahead of time online. There are other tourist locations around the London Eye and there's people selling bundle deals to go to more than one place.
Big Ben - Little to my knowledge, I didn't know that Big Ben was under renovations when I got to London and it will be for about another 2 years.
Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace - This happens every morning and was actually very interesting to watch. There are lots of people watching so if you don't make it early enough to be against the gate I suggest going against the outside ropes or in front of the fountain for the best view.
Trafalgar Square - This area in Central London is busy with shops, restaurants, museums and street performers. You can walk there from Buckingham Palace. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and tea time in T Square.
I felt very safe in London, even at night. I stayed in Chelsea right by the football stadium and always felt comfortable in that area as well. As a woman, this is always something I keep note of. My head is always on a swivel and I'm constantly checking my surroundings. I felt very comfortable in London because I easily learned the tube routes, there were people that looked like me, the city was clean and we were not haggled by strangers.
I would consider the food to be about average. We tried fish and chips in London and in Paris and it was actually better in Paris. I wouldn't say it was bad at all but I didn't eat anything there that I thought was exceptional. What I will say is that there is a ton of diversity in food in London. I wish I had eaten in Chinatown because I have a feeling the food there is really good. Oh, and Mcdonalds there has spicy chicken nuggets!
Personally, I really enjoyed my trip to London and will definitely be back. Last year I mentioned the idea of living there for about a year without every going there. Now that I have, I feel more strongly about that than before. There is plenty to do outside of the tourist attractions, people were friendly and willing to help and it really does feel like a cleaner New York.