Hello everyone! I’m fresh off a fabulous adventure in London and my word, did I have a ball! I had never been to London before (well, past the airports anyways!) and I’ve heard nothing but great things over the years so I was really excited to finally get to see and explore this incredible city.
Our Journey to London
Let me begin by telling you about why we went. Basically I am a huge Harry Potter fan and so my other half booked the trip for me (us!) so that I could go to the Harry Potter Warner Brother Studios. It all started with this!
My London Adventure began with a short flight from Dublin Airport to London Luton with Ryanair. We got a great deal on the flights and we even got my fav priority boarding for an extra €4 each! (You can read more about my Ryanair booking tips here). Although Luton is quite far from London City Center, it was actually the closest airport to our hotel, which we chose based on its close proximity to both Harry Potter and London City Center.
Our Hotel – Clayton Crown Hotel Cricklewood
I love Clayton Hotels here in Ireland and I was delighted when Paddy booked us into the Clayton Crown. The Clayton hotels are a modern, 4* hotel chain and their UK counterpart did not disappoint. Friendly staff, beautiful lobby and delicious food. It ticked all of our boxes. My only downside to our stay was that they gave us an internal facing room which looked out onto the on-site pool. Handy for pool access and quiet at night but very dark during the day. Luckily we weren’t there to much during the day so we just got on with it.
The hotel is located just north of the city centre in the Cricklewood area. Reaching London was so easy from the hotel. You have two busses that stop right outside – the 16 goes to Victoria and the 189 to Oxford Circus. If you prefer to take the tube, Kilburn station is a short 8-10 minute walk from the hotel.
Our Highlights – Top London Attractions and Things to Do
Wicked the Musical:
Wicked was a dream come true. What an incredible musical and story. We attended on Thursday night as the tickets were much lower in price than the weekend ones and they cost us just £19.50 each! We were high up but the view was still perfect and the show just blew me away. I sobbed to Defying Gravity! I pre-booked the tickets online before I went and there was loads of availability.
Harry Potter Studio Tour:
I will dedicate an entire post to the studio tour but wow was I blown away. I loved every moment of the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour and as a massive Potter fan, I was completely in awe the whole time. Getting up close and personal with actual sets, costumes and artefacts from all of the 8 movies was quite special. Stay tuned for the full review which will of couse feature 5,000 photos lol!
Tower of London:
Having watched The Tudors years ago, I’m quite fascinated by the history of the Royal family back in those days and the significance of the Tower of London. Although it appeared pricey to enter at £25 per person, you are giving free reign to explore as you wish. Walk among the grounds, venture into the many towers (the winding staircases are terrifying!), enjoy a walking tour that recalls the history and witness the Crowned Jewels on display. There is also really great views of the Tower Bridge which is quite nice for those photo opportunities.
Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, The Shard:
We walked A LOT in London, more than we probably expected and while we were out and about exploring the city we came across many exciting things including Hyde Park, Marble Arch, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, the Shard and Big Ben. To be honest, everywhere you turn in London, there is something famous to take in and enjoy. We had a lot of fun exploring on foot.
London Restaurants – Where to Eat
I couldn’t start this without mentioning our favourite restaurant which was Bodean’s BBQ Tower Hill. We ate here after our Tower of London tour and the food was just AMAZING! Great quality food, fabulously friendly staff and a lovely atmosphere. I’d definitely eat here again, although I wasn’t a fan of the uni-sex toilets! We also ate in the Bar + Kitchen restaurant, just off Piccadilly Circus and this was a fabulous restaurant. The service did let down the experience, as did our starters but we loved our main course. We also enjoyed a delicious meal in Pizza Express which we noticed were dotted all over the city. The pizzas here were artisan in nature and very tasty as was their deserts! We enjoyed another meal in our hotel bar which was also so so nice.
Top London Tips – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!
Stay on the outskirts of London for a better hotel deal:
I like a good quality hotel and I was much happier staying just a short ride outside of the city in a 4* than paying for a low standard B&B for the same price right in the centre. If, like me, you travel on a budget, don’t be afraid to look at the surrounding areas. It worked very well for us.
Plan your journey from the airport to your hotel before you travel:
My biggest lesson was that I did not research a cheap alternative to get from London Luton Airport to our hotel which was only 25 minutes away. We were told we would have to wait 1.5 hours in the cold for a bus to London City Center which wasn’t what we wanted and we were then told to get a train but no information was provided on nearest station etc. (Luton Airport staff were not the friendliest). As a result we had to pay for a taxi for our very short journey and we were charged an extortionate price. My advice? Plan your transfer before you go and do not get a taxi from the airport.
Buy an Oyster Card:
London’s public transport is the best I’ve ever experienced and this is all aided by the brilliant Oyster Card system. Oyster Cards cost £5 or so to buy and you can top them up as needed! They are valid on on all trains and busses, kinda like a Leap Card here in Dublin I presume? (Spot the culchie lol!). But in all seriousness, we found the system fantastic and so cheap to use! Its well worth purchasing one as soon as you arrive in London.
Don’t be afraid to use the Tube:
Oh my god, I was terrified to use the Tube because when I first looked at a map of it, there was about 500 lines!! Ignore this, go to a station, tell the customer care person where you want to go and they will tell you what train to get. I found all London transport staff in the Tube stations so helpful and friendly and they really don’t mind helping you on your journey. The Tube became our BFF in London! I highly recommend you face that fear and use it! I’m glad I did.
Be Prepared to Spend:
London is the most expensive city I’ve ever visited and I don’t think I was fully prepared for that. Attractions are expensive, taxis are expensive and eating out is expensive. Before you travel, look up what you want to see / do and try to estimate the cost so that you don’t get any surprises on arrival.
Do not do a London Hop On / Off Bus Tour:
Lesson Learnt. We purchased a hop on/off bus tour on our first day and if the rude staff weren’t enough to put us on a downer, the insane traffic made the experience quite painful. After 40 minutes of being stuck in the one place, we finally got off the bus and explored by ourselves. I wouldn’t recommend a London hop on / off at all. Its just too busy. I must note that I do generally recommend these, but our experience doing one in London was horrendous and pricy at £32 a ticket!
Overall, we were so impressed by London and how big and exciting it is! To finish off my London Guide, here’s a few of my top booking tips to get the best London deals!
5 Tips for a Budget Trip to London
- Book flights well in advance and keep an eye out for a Ryanair SALE – they always have cheap flights to London from €9.99 each way!
- Travel mid-week to bring the cost of your accommodation, flights and more down.
- Pre-book as much as you can in advance so that you’re not eating into spending money on arrival. EG show tickets.
- Research and use public transport from the surrounding airports to the city center.
- Keep an eye on hotel deals on the likes of booking.com.
So there you have it, a review of my fabulous trip to London and a collection of my best tips. I really enjoyed my trip to and I will definitely be returning again soon. If you’ve been and have some tips to share, why not add them in the comments below!