As many of you know, I had the incredible opportunity to celebrate the New Year in London earlier this month. My family had been planning the trip for quite some time and when the trip arrived, I couldn’t believe it was actually happening!
It was a short and sweet trip, only about five days long, but we were prepared for that! We squeezed a week’s worth of fun into our short little time across the pond! We had an itinerary planned months in advance, and I think that’s one of the main things that helped us. I would definitely suggest doing the same, no matter the length of your stay. Anyway, without further ado, here is a little recap of what we did in London, with some highlights, recommendations, and tips + tricks along the way ✨
My family flew in overnight on Virgin Atlantic! For the first time, we got to experience flying “premium”, which is Virgin Atlantic’s middle area between first [“upper”] class and standard economy. Premium seats came with more leg room, bigger seats, free drinks, nice meals, etc. It was truly great, we really enjoyed it! My family cheers-ed before we took off, and then tried to sleep most of the flight, because we were going to arrive at around 7am London time.
We landed, grabbed our bags, greeted our driver, and headed to the hotel, The London Edition. We checked in, [the place was WOW!] but our rooms weren’t ready yet so we started walking around town looking for a place to eat. Guillaume, the front desk employee we grew to have such a great relationship with, suggested The Breakfast Club or Soho Joe, and the Breakfast Club had a long line so we chose Soho Joe. [They’re right next to each other.] It was a perfect little British diner and my food was amazzzzing. Just from the little walk around town I was already in love with the streets and the decorations!
After we ate we went back to the hotel, and the room I was sharing with Jen was ready. So the four of us went into our room and my parents and sister took a quick nap while I showered and did a face mask. The room was stunning! So beautiful and modern, and somehow still timeless. [Also, it smelled incredible. Something I’ve never really taken notice of before when traveling, but I noticed it extensively here. When I was unpacking back home afterwards, all my clothes still smelled like London😭I kind of want to email the hotel and ask what they use, hehe] Anyway, then we headed downstairs because my grandparents had just arrived in. We met up with them, and my aunt and uncle for some exploring and lunch!
We walked through a lot of the Soho area, including some of the theater district and Chinatown. Then we found a fun pub and enjoyed some drinks and lunch food before heading back to the hotel to greet my other aunt and uncle and cousins who had just arrived.
After everyone had arrived, we had a little time to relax in our rooms, get changed, etc., and then meet back down in the lobby for drinks before heading out to dinner. The first night we had reservations at KETTNER’S TOWNHOUSE, which is a French restaurant and hotel. They also have a champagne bar, which we spent some time at before dinner. The food was PHENOMENAL, let me tell you. My truffle fries had actual truffle on them…. Like… hello. I loved my entire meal, from appetizers, to dinner, to dessert. [Petit fours]
After dinner we walked back to our hotel and everyone was pretty much exhausted. Landing in the morning London time was definitely the way to go, however, it does eventually hit you and we couldn’t wait to go to take nice long showers and go to sleep!
The next morning, my family had plans to do a private tour of the Churchill War Rooms before it opened to the public! This was such a great opportunity, however, they could only take ten people and we’re a party of 12, so my sister and I were chosen to be the ones who missed out. We were bummed, but the tour was at 8am, so I couldn’t be too disappointed because we got an extra hour of sleep!
One big thing to note about the London Edition: breakfast at Berner’s Tavern [the hotel restaurant] was included in our room rate !! This was unreal to me. This was not your standard continental breakfast or even an amazing breakfast buffet. This was a complete and full sit-down breakfast at an incredible upscale British restaurant. I ordered lattes each morning, and then tried many different breakfast dishes. My sister usually started with a smoothie and ordered something small with a croissant on the side or something similar. [Pictured below is a vanilla waffle with strawberry and raspberry salad, hung yoghurt, and toasted pistachios.] I’m telling you guys, this place was A M A Z I N G.
After breakfast we caught a cab to the Churchill War Rooms to meet up with the rest of the fam and our tour guide, Janet. However, there was a beautiful park right across the street, so of course Jen and I did not pass up an opportunity to take a quick pic!
Janet took us on a private bus and we headed straight for the Tower of London. Along the way she pointed out so many cool things and told us so many stories about places and the culture. [One was the street where they filmed part of Mary Poppins Returns!] Once we arrived she explained we were going to make a BEELINE for the crown jewels. ****PRO TIP #1**** Get to the Tower of London before it opens, and go STRAIGHT for the crown jewels! Seriously. When we got to the Tower, there was already a line, so we could have gotten there even earlier, but because we knew exactly where we were going, we were fine. We walked right into the building and got to take our time looking at everything and going through the different rooms. However, when we walked out, we passed a queue that was over an HOUR long! I couldn’t believe it. Janet reallllllly helped us out with that one, and I will definitely be sharing that tip with anyone I know who goes to London. Seriously.
After the crown jewels, we toured Beauchamp Tower and Bloody Tower and Janet explained so many cool parts of the history of these areas for us. She was truly a wealth of knowledge and I learned so much in such a short amount of time! After the Tower we got back on the bus and drove around a little bit, passing some iconic spots, including Kensington Palace! Then we were dropped off for the day at Harrod’s, where we were going to have lunch. However due to holiday traffic [and just the fact that it’s Harrod’s] it was soooOooOoO crowded, and some of us opted to eat elsewhere. We walked down a few streets until we found a cute restaurant called The Kitchen of Knightsbridge. It had many different types of food, but mainly pastas and pizzas, which sounded sooooo good to us, so we stopped in. I had the most amazing pasta and my parents both got different types of pizza!
After we finished eating, we had some free time and I was so excited because that meant we had time to go to the one place I reallllly wanted to go, which was Sketch London. This is a must!!!! ****PRO TIP #2**** Plan ahead to visit Sketch. If you want to do more than just cocktails in the space bar, make a reservation!!!! Otherwise, just show up anytime after 3pm and be prepared that larger groups might not all get a seat! [There’s plenty of standing room though] And soooo worth it. This place is WILD. I loved every single part of it, including the FAKE FALLING SNOW!? 😍Every room is themed differently, including the bar, and don’t even get me started on the bathrooms!! For cocktails, I had the “Grow A Pear” and the “Dopamine” and they were both incredible. My family had such a great time just hanging out in the Ciroc Bar, chatting and sipping while enjoying the music.
Eventually though, it was time to head back to the hotel. We walked down the beautifully decorated roads [it got dark so early each night!], took a few pics, and stopped in a few stores. Once back in our room, we rested a little bit and then met in the lobby bar for the pre-dinner drink tradition.
Dinner that night was at Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa. Not only was the food amazing, but so was the VIEW!! This restaurant sits right across the street from St. Paul’s Cathedral, and our table was against an entire wall of window, giving us the most stunning view of the church. This made a beautiful backdrop for the evening and made it hard to forget we were dining in the most amazing city.
The next morning we woke up just as early as the day before. We had plans to meet up with Janet again at 9:30, so we got breakfast at Berner’s Tavern [amazing again] and then headed out to the bus. Janet took us to Westminster Abbey and gave us a wonderfully educational and interesting tour. It was insane to see how many royal people were buried inside and hear all of the stories about things that have happened there. Not to mention how beautiful and exquisite the church was! It was also extremely different from the churches I have seen in Italy, and hearing Janet talk about the differences was fascinating to me.
After touring Westminster Abbey, we drove around a bit again, including past Buckingham Palace and then we got off the bus at St. Paul’s Cathedral, right by our previous dinner spot. We didn’t have enough time to go inside [the lines were crazy long], however Janet told us numerous facts about it, walked us around the outside, etc. We then all went our separate ways for lunch and my family ate at Wildwood, which was SO MUCH FUN! It’s a chain, and they have some locations with cinemas, so our table had movie theater seats. It was such a fun vibe! Our server was great, the food was incredible, drinks were 10/10… all in all it was just a great atmosphere!
That night was New Year’s Eve, so Jen and I got dressed up and did our makeup while listening to music and drinking champagne. Then we did a quick photo shoot in the hotel lobby, and headed to Berner’s Tavern for our reservation. The restaurant was doing a pre-fixe menu for NYE and it was phenomenal. I truly couldn’t believe this was real life… eating fancy food, drinking champagne, at a nice restaurant in LONDON. By this point, I was madly in love and NOT ready to leave.
After dinner we just enjoyed each other’s company, ordered drinks at the hotel’s third bar called The Punch Room, and then watched fireworks from my grandparent’s window who had a great view of the London Eye. ****PRO TIP #4**** If you go for New Year’s, you can purchase tickets to Fireworks for only £10, however, try to find a spot to watch them from instead !!! We had purchased tickets, but we were going to have to stand outside in the cold, bored, without cell service or alcohol [sorry, just telling it like it is] for about four hours. We opted to not go, and once we saw the crowds on TV while we were watching them right outside our window, we knew we made the right choice!
Our last day we got to finalllllly “sleep in” a little. We still met for breakfast, and then all walked to the Piccadilly Circus area for the London New Year’s Day Parade. ****PRO TIP #5**** Now this, do buy tickets for. A lot of people were just standing against barricades, however we had purchased tickets so we were in stadium level seating under a large overhang. This gave us a GREAT view of the parade, a comfy seat, and a bathroom to use. 10/10 would recommend. The parade was sooo cute. It had lots of different cultures, music, interests, etc. We loved it!
After the parade we went back to the hotel for a little bit of rest, and then it was time for Afternoon Tea at The Wolseley. This was the PERFECT place to get tea. They really go all out, and as a tourist, it’s a must-do. Our table of five split two British Afternoon Tea and one Chocolate Tea, and it was definitely enough food! The finger sandwiches, scones, and desserts were sooo yummy, as was the tea! [And my French 75 ;)] This was definitely one of my highlights for sure.
After tea we went back to the hotel and tidied up/packed [CRYING] and then we headed down for our last drinks-before-dinner in the lobby. We then all walked to The Ivy, which was the restaurant I was looking forward to the most. If there was ever a time when asked “If you were a restaurant, what would you be?” I would answer “The Ivy.”
The decor is me, the vibe is me, the menu is me… I seriously almost cried. I was wearing my favorite outfit I had packed and I just could NOT believe it was my last night in London… By the end of the night I asked my mom to call and try to change my flight [which she did, but it did not work out.]
Anyway… if you’re in London, definitely put The Ivy on your list. They have a separate list of champagne cocktails, and at one point the entire restaurant smelled like truffle. I thought for a moment I had died and gone to Heaven.
The last night was also when I passed the Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design and I felt my stomach drop through the sidewalk. The whole night was just a feeling of my heart about to burst and a strong sense that I would be back to London very very soon. I really hope this is true and I can’t wait to return someday, whenever that will be. London absolutely swept me off my feet. I am head over heels in love and I hope you have the chance to visit someday as well.
So, I was asked to cover restaurants, hotels and shopping! I cannot rave about the places we ate at enough. Truly. I don’t know how my family chose such incredible restaurants but they did! As for the hotel – I want to LIVE at the London Edition. I cry just thinking about it. I miss Guillaume at the front desk. I miss the way my room smelled. I miss breakfast at Berner’s Tavern. I don’t know why anyone should stay anywhere else when in London. And shopping – well, Harrod’s is a popular one, they have the most beautiful and luxury brands of all time. It was just SO dang crowded. As was every Zara, H&M, and boutique we passed. Made it very hard to shop. I wonder if in the summer time things are different…
I was also asked the Top 5 “Behind the Scenes” London things to do that you won’t find on Trip Advisor!
- Sketch is definitely one of them. Even the front of the building is pretty hidden… it’s not a “well known tourist attraction” but it’s definitely ~the place to be.
- Another fun behind the scenes thing we did was take the elevator at the One New Change plaza across from St. Paul’s Cathedral to the roof. This gave a really nice view of all of London. It’s obviously not as good as the view from the London Eye, but it’s dang close and it’s free. There’s also a restaurant and bar up there, which wasn’t open when we were there but it’s on my list for the next time I’m in London!
- Carnaby Street, [especially at night in the holiday season!] Lit up lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody lined the street… so beautiful!
- Shop at Skinnydip London!! I fell in love with this brand last summer when I was shopping in LA and when I found them in London, the prices were UNREAL!! Soooo much more affordable. I got the cutest wall calendar for 2019, and a pair of funky sunglasses I’m in love with!
- See a movie at the cinema in Leicester Square! I didn’t get to do this, but my aunt, uncle and cousins did. It looked UNREAL. Going to the movies is a totally different experience over there, so if you have time I’d put it on your list!
I hope this little travel diary/travel guide has helped you. Please comment if you have any specific questions or requests I did not cover!! I want to help in any way I can. Cheerio, friends! ♡