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London is one of my favorite cities in the world. I’ve been a few times, but my dream is to visit during Christmas. That probably has something to do with my love of Doctor Who Christmas specials. When I signed up for the British Airways Visa, the goal was for Reese and I to spend Christmas in London. But when Declan came along the timing just wasn’t right. Instead, we found ourselves with a Travel Together Ticket that expired shortly after Declan turned 6 months old.
Rather than let it go to waste, my mom graciously agreed to watch Declan for us. To make our trip to London even better, I used British Airways Avios to book round trip tickets in lay flat business class seats for our first points and miles trip. Off we went for 7 nights in London at Springtime. Or as it turned out, 7 nights for Reese and 11 nights for me.
Day 1 – Travel Day
We flew out of San Francisco (SFO) on the red eye to London (LHR). Before our flight, we enjoyed the British Airways Lounge at SFO. The lounge was small with an adequate selection of food and drinks. We loved having a place to relax before the flight. However, we made the mistake of facetiming Declan before we got on the plane. We were already have a hard time leaving him for the trip, but seeing his face just made it worse. Luckily, Reese dragged me on the plane and off we went.
Day 2 – Arrival Day
Our flight arrived in London at 2pm local time. We took the Heathrow Express into the city, got a quick bite to eat at the train station, and went straight to our accommodations at the Hilton London Hyde Park.
Our room was a King Deluxe Room with a View. The hotel is located above the Bayswater tube stop which made it very easy to make our way around the city. The room was large for London and the view of Hyde Park was nice. However, it was pretty loud since it was over a busy street. The furniture in the room was oversized and we found ourselves tripping over the armchair more than once. Of course, we didn’t spend much time at the hotel so we should have gone with a standard room instead.
For our first dinner in London, we walked to a nearby pub and then back to our room to catch some sleep. I don’t plan itineraries with a lot of downtime so this was our only evening to relax.
Day 3 – Changing of the Guards and Afternoon Tea
We started out our first full day in London with the The Original London Sightseeing Tour: Hop-on Hop-off. Look, I know that hop-on hop-off bus tours are cliché. You can have a much more authentic experience on your own, but it’s a good way to see a lot of highlights quickly. Reese didn’t want to spend hours at historical buildings and I had already seen them. This tour was a great compromise for us. We managed to catch the changing of the guards walking tour which was included with the bus tour. Our tour guide took us to a great location to watch the guards far away from the crowds at Buckingham Palace.
That afternoon we went to the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel. I highly recommend splurging on this activity. The traditional sandwiches, cakes, and other treats were all delicious. The tea was very unique and refilled frequently. The Alice in Wonderland theme was well done and carried throughout from the decor to the food to the tea. This was such a fun experience. I think Reese even enjoyed it although he was one of only a few men in the place.
Day 4 – British Museum, London Aquarium, and London Eye
The next day we had breakfast at Ponti’s Italian Kitchen before taking in the amazing collection at the British Museum. There was so much to see that we rushed through to get a quick glimpse of everything. This is definitely somewhere you could spend an entire day.
Afterwards, we went to the London Aquarium. We used the Skip the Line: Sea Life London Aquarium ticket from Viator to walk right in. Reese loves zoos and aquariums so we spent a little more time here taking in the tranquil exhibits.
After Reese saw his fill of sea life, we did the London Eye: Champagne Experience. I scheduled our tour for sunset, but we did not catch a glimpse of it through the clouds. We had a lovely time and the champagne experience just made it that much more special. If you do the champagne experience, spring for the second glass. You have to buy it in advance on the ground.
Day 5 – Harry Potter Studio Tour
I am a huge Harry Potter fan so no trip to London would be complete without a visit to the Warner Brother’s Studio where they filmed the movies. The studio is quite a ways outside of London but Viator has a lot of great options to get you there like this one: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.
We chose to take the train ourselves because I wanted to explore at my own pace. Reese was happy to take the train so he could eat one of those little breakfast sandwiches from Pret-A-Manger that are in practically every station. Make sure to buy your tickets to the studio tour online in advance then take the train at Euston railway station in London to Watford Junction. When you arrive at Watford Junction, catch the shuttle bus to the studio. Entry is timed so be sure to arrive on time.
The studio tour was amazing. The sets, props, and wardrobes are straight from the films and still hold a little bit of that movie magic. We drank our fill of butter beer at the studio cafe before taking the train back to London.
Day 6 – Tower of London, Tea on the Thames, and Lion King
We ate breakfast at the Borough Market before heading to the Tower of London. It was an off day for the market, but there were still plenty of vendors to make it worth the visit. The Tower was as impressive as ever. We didn’t have time to do the Beefeater led tour, but Reese enjoyed the armory and I loved the Crown Jewels.
Afterwards, we went on a Thames River Sightseeing Cruise with Afternoon Tea. This is another great way to splurge on afternoon tea. The food and tea were lovely but the bubbly took it to the next level. The views from the river were also wonderful.
For dinner, we ate at the Savoy Grill before seeing the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. At Savoy Grill, Reese refused to order the beef wellington with me so I had something I can’t even remember. Whatever it was, it was delicious. (But I’m sure it didn’t compare to the beef wellington.) I think Savoy Grill is great for dinner before or after a show. They have special menus just for that. We both loved the Lion King, but it somehow managed to be even sadder than expected.
Day 7 – Stonehenge, Bath, and Lacock
The highlight of our entire trip was the Inner Circle Access of Stonehenge including Bath and Lacock Day Tour from London. We had to catch a very early bus for this but it was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had. We arrived at Stonehenge before it was open to the general public and got to walk inside the stones.
It was amazing. This was my third time visiting Stonehenge, but my first time inside the stones. This definitely blew those other visits out of the water. If you are visiting Stonehenge in the future, I strongly encourage you to take this tour. You never know how much longer it will be available.
After Stonehenge, we made a quick stop in Bath. I’m not the biggest fan of Bath but it’s a frequent pit stop for Stonehenge tours due to their proximity. I recommend skipping the baths themselves and exploring the quaint little town instead.
By the time we got back to London, we were both exhausted from the long day. We grabbed a bite to eat and then went to see a movie. Parents of a six month old, remember? We hadn’t seen a movie in a theater in months.
As you can see, I relied extensively on tours booked through Viator for this trip. Read more about Booking Tours & Activities with Viator. They are my favorite source for vacation activities.
Reese and I had one more day long adventure together during our trip to London, read more about it in Trip Report: London Part 2. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise of why I spent four extra nights in the UK while Reese went home as planned so stay tuned.