Hotel Review of Britannia The International Hotel London, Canary Wharf

Location: A

When I first booked a hotel in Canary Wharf, I admittedly had done no research on the area and had just booked the hotel because it was so close to where I needed to be for a couple of days. Judging by the layout of the area on Google Maps and the name “Wharf” I envisioned some industrial setting with murky brown water and heavy smog. Instead, I discovered that Canary Wharf is actually a clean, modern, major business center of London with big time banks posted up in giant skyscrapers and a couple of nice malls to boast. Canary Wharf isn’t going to give you that historic English feel you can find in other parts of Central London but it is nice and offers nice conveniences like plenty of shopping and dining at places like Nandos, which I’m always down for.


The hotel is right in the middle of this area and it’s a short (3 minute walk) from the Canary Wharf Underground station, which is very convenient. Because the hotel is so close and Canary Wharf is a nice pocket of London, I give the location of this hotel an A.

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Service: A+

I didn’t have too much interaction with the staff members. They did offer room service which was connected with their pizzeria but I didn’t try it. However, everyone at the front desk was very helpful and friendly. The concierge bag check-in was also free, which was a nice little surprise.

Facilities: B

The hotel looks a bit outdated even from the outside, especially juxtaposed to so many brand new skyscrapers rising up in every direction. The inside isn’t much better but it’s still nice. Outdated, but still nice and clean.


Rooms: A

My room on the 11th floor was surprisingly spacious for London standards. The bed was a bit firm but still comfortable and could have easily slept two people. The furniture/wallpaper/curtains could’ve definitely used some renovating but I’m not going to complain too much about a slightly scuffed desk and nightstand unless it looks horrendous.


The room didn’t have a cramped feel at all and the view from the wall window was pretty great as you can see. Unfortunately, there was no fridge or microwave in the room so no left overs for me.


One of the great things about the room was that it had an AC unit that worked great and was a blessing to have on a pretty warm day. To all those people who say you don’t need AC in London – you’ve got to be kidding me!


The bathroom was okay. The shower/bath was a little tricky getting out of because the walls to the bathtub are pretty high so I can only imagine how tough it would be for someone shorter or perhaps not in good health to keep their balance. The bathroom came equipped with a bidet and large sink so it really had the European feel to it.

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Internet: D- 

The internet was free which was nice but the speed was less than 1MB. In fact it was around .2-3 mb from about 5pm to 9pm, after which it crept up to around 2mb I think. I had to use my phone for anything internet related because the connection was so bad. So try to avoid the peak hours if you need to rely on wifi… for what it’s worth, I used the wifi earlier in the day in the lobby and it wasn’t that bad.

Bang for Buck: A-

For about $200 USD, given the location and the short notice which I booked this hotel, I have to give it an A-. If the room and hotel had a bit of a more modern feel I think I could go with an A but still, it wasn’t a bad place to spend a night whatsoever considering the view I had on the 11th floor.

Overall: B+

I feel like I could’ve gotten just a little more for my money but overall I think it was a solid hotel for what I needed. If needed be, I would stay there again and wouldn’t be afraid to recommend it to a friend if the price was right.

Britannia The International Hotel London, Canary Wharf FAQ

What restaurants are at Britannia The International Hotel London, Canary Wharf?

You can find the following restaurants:

Jenny’s Restaurant
The Pizzeria
The Conservatory Bar
Friday’s Pub

How far away is Britannia The International Hotel London, Canary Wharf from Heathrow Airport?

The hotel is approximately 1 hour 9 minutes from Heathrow Airport by car.

How much does an Uber cost from Heathrow Airport to Britannia The International Hotel London, Canary Wharf?

You can find Uber rates from Heathrow Airport to Britannia The International Hotel London, Canary Wharf for as low as $70.

What is the phone number for Britannia The International Hotel London, Canary Wharf?

The phone number for Britannia The International Hotel London, Canary Wharf is +448712220042.

The Harry Potter London Tour Review at Warner Brothers Studio

If you like Harry Potter and you’re going to London you pretty much have no choice but to do the Harry Potter London Tour at Warner Brothers Studio.  From strolling through the cobblestoned Diagon Alley to checking out Weasley’s crooked dining room, everything in the tour is extremely well done and there are thousands of props to see along with the rebuilt scenes from the movie.

I’ll try to give you an idea of what to expect along with a sneak peak at some of the amazing sets without spoiling too much of the fun for you and who you how to get tickets for your studio tour.

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The Harry Potter London Tour Experience

Your Harry Potter London tour experience begins before you arrive at the studio.

Get sorted by the Sorting Hat

The first thing you have to do is get selected to your respective house. That’s right. Go to the official Harry Potter site,, sign-up, complete the questionnaire and let the Sorting Hat determine your fate. I’d like to just point that I did get chosen for Gryffindor (*ahem*) while Brad ended up with good ole Ravenclaw.

Some of the questions you’ll answer online are actually kind of thought provoking and will make you think about some odd scenarios but the test only takes a few of minutes. For the true Potter fans, finding out your house before you go is a must.

Related: Hocus Pocus Filming Sites in Salem, MA Guide 

Harry Potter
Not braggin’ – just sayin’

There’s also a whole gaming community on the site where you can earn points for your house by competing in wand duels and things like that but after getting it handed to me in my first few attempts I gave it a rest pretty quickly (some of the people on that site are pretty serious and on a different level).

Harry Potter London Tickets 

The second thing you need to do is book your tickets online you can do that here as far in advance as possible. This is especially true if you are wanting to visit any time close to the holidays.

In such a case, you need to book at least a month ahead if not longer to have a chance at getting your preferred time slot. If you’re visiting at any other time of the year, you should be okay waiting even only a few days before your visit but do try to still book early.

Tickets cost £47 ($63 USD) per adult (16+ years). Ages 5 to 15 are £38 ($51 USD) and must be accompanied by an adult. Children four and under are free.

They also have a family packages. With those, two adults & two children OR one adult & three children can get in for £150.

It seems pretty steep, but this is one of the pricey attractions in London (it’s actually located outside of London) where you’ll actually get your money’s worth. If for some reason you have to re-schedule you can do so but it’s £10 to reschedule your tour so try get your date right the first time.

Harry Potters Cupboard on Harry Potter London Tour
Harry Potter’s Cupboard

One thing we found out is that you can actually enter your tour before your designated time. Try to keep it within reason but we were about 45 minutes early for our designated slot and they just let us go right on in. When choosing your time slot one thing you might want to think about is doing a later tour. The reason? Field trips! 

I’m assuming UK schools are like the US in that they usually don’t do field trips later in the day so your chances of being hit with endless herds of school children may be less. Of course, this is Harry Potter, so you’ve got to expect for tons of kids to be running around but during our tour (which was around noon), there were endless droves of school children pouring in, which made it kind of hard impossible to get good photos of some of the sets. So just think about that when planning.

Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall

During the tour, you are free to roam about the movie sets at your own pace with the one exception being the Great Hall. In there, you’re only given something like 15-20 minutes before the next group arrives so it’s a little quick (though you can always hop back in the room once the next group enters).

Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall
Harry Potter Studios London: The Great Hall.
Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall
Harry Potter Studios London: The Great Hall.
Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall
Harry Potter Studios London: The Great Hall.

The Harry Potter Studio Tour London Great Hall is pretty stunning and lining the walls are uniforms and costumes worn by the characters of the different houses, including some of the original attire worn by none other than Harry Potter himself.

The tables are set with all of their fancy silverware and decked out in the most delicious-looking fake food you’ve probably ever seen. Apparently, the producers used real food in the first Harry Potter but after old food started causing a nasty stench in the place they moved to decorative props instead.

Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall
Harry Potter Studio Tour London Great Hall.
Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall
Harry Potter Studio Tour London Great Hall.

Tons of extremely detailed sets and props to check out

From there it’s off to wherever you’d like to venture.  You’ll be amazed by the thousands of props on display. The attention to detail that went into making everything from the wand boxes to the potion bottles is utterly mind blowing.

Wands at Harry Potter Tour London
Cauldrons at Harry Potter Tour London

The studio has all of the major sets you’d probably expect it to have. You get to see the Gryffindor common room, the dorm rooms, Dumbledore’s “office,” the potion room, a room from the Weasley’s house, and a bunch more. At each exhibit there are little information panels with tons of interesting facts about the props that you’d likely never know. Also, while we didn’t do the headset tour, I was told that there’s plenty of interesting info to learn while doing those.

As of March 2015, they have Platform 9 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express. And now they even have the Forbidden Forest.

Gryffindor Boys Dormitory Harry Potter London Tour
Gryffindor Boy’s Dormitory
The Entrance to Dumbledores Office Harry Potter London Tour
The Entrance to Dumbledore’s Office
Dumbledores Office on Harry Potter London Tour
Dumbledore’s Office
Weasleys Dining Room Harry Potter London Tour
Weasleys Dining Room
Snape in The Potion Room on Harry Potter London Tour
Snape in The Potion Room

Harry Potter Tour London green screen experience

Although we didn’t, you can opt for a green-screen experience where you can actually ride a broom in front of a green screen and get some kind of sweet video/photos made. I think they even dress you up a little with a scarf and cloak. I’m not sure what it costs to do that but it seemed like a lot of people weren’t passing up the opportunity to do a little broom flying.

Motorbike on Harry Potter London Tour

After you’re done exploring the first building you move into the cafe area. Here, they sell hotdogs and other food items  (even breakfast dishes before 11:30) so you can relax a little bit and get off your feet if you want. The one thing you have to try here is butterbeer!

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Harry Potter Studio Tour London Butterbeer!

First, butterbeer is not alcoholic so don’t get too excited. It tasted just like cream soda to me (which I liked but Brad didn’t care for). The foam on top of the “soda” is extremely sweet and tastes like butterscotch.

I saw where some recommended only getting one cup for two people but honestly the cups are so small I recommend going with one cup for each person. I’m not 100% sure, but I think each glass of butterbeer costed about £3.

Foamy butterbeer at the Harry Potter Studio Tour London
Foamy butterbeer at the Harry Potter Studio Tour London!

After you drink up on butterbeer you head outside into the parking lot for some more interesting set pieces. There’s the triple-decker purple bus that you won’t miss as soon as you step out, the Covered Bridge from Hogwarts, Harry’s house, and if you visit during the winter, you’ll be showered with a bit of snow as you walk outside.

Harry Potter London The Knight Bus
Harry Potter Studio Tour London Knight Bus
Harry Potter Studio Tour London
Harry Potter Studio Tour London bridge.

From there, you enter into the third portion of the tour. Once you enter the third building  you’ll come across a number of fascinating props and costumes used in the different movies.

One of my favorites was seeing Voldemort’s little (disgusting) veiny corpse from the Deathly Hallows II and some of the other moving props. It’s really something to see these props close up and it gives you more appreciation for the artists who likely spent hundreds of hours working to create these props.

Voldemort creature at Harry Potter Studio tour London
Harry Potter London

Harry Potter London Diagon Alley

After that, the next main attraction is Diagon Alley!

It’s really cool to see the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shop, Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, and a few others. The lighting changes from dim to bright pretty quickly as you walk through so be ready to adjust your camera settings if you’re shooting manual with a DSLR. Overall, Diagon Alley was one of the coolest portions of the tour and really make you feel like you’ve entered into the world of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter London Diagon Alley
Harry Potter London Diagon Alley.
Weasleys Wizard Wheezes shop
Ollivanders Wand Shop

Harry Potter London Tour Hogwarts set up

The final attraction that awaits you is the magnificent Hogwarts model.

The model of the castle and the surrounding rocky mountain upon which it’s built, is simply phenomenal. It was much more massive and far more life-like than anything I’d imagined it would be. As the lights dim in the room, yellow lights twinkle throughout the castle, creating a life-like appearance where you’re left almost anticipating someone walking out of the castle.

Hogwarts model Harry Potter London
Harry Potter London Tour Hogwarts.
Hogwarts model Harry Potter London
Harry Potter London Tour Hogwarts.

If you visit in the winter the castle is topped with “snow” and really is spectacular. It may surprise you how long you spend in this room as there’s plenty of different angles to admire this work of art from.

Harry Potter London Tour Gift Shop

Once you leave the last exhibit you end up in the gift shop.

It’s a pretty large gift shop with tons of different types of souvenirs, from wands to sweaters and scarves to candies from the movie and all kinds of different stationary items. As you might expect, it’s all pretty overpriced, especially the clothing items. We left with a magnet and a chocolate frog so we got out of there without splurging which was great but if you intend on getting any kind of clothing souvenir keep in mind that it’s going to cost you.

Warner Brothers Studio FAQ

How much are tickets for adults?

The price per adult (ages 16 years and above) is £47.

Do I need to buy my tickets in advance?

Yes, you need to purchase your tickets in advance. If you are planning to visit during a holiday, make sure to purchase them far in advance.

How long does the tour last?

On average, you will spend about 3.5 hours at the tour.

Where can I get butterbeer?

You can purchase butterbeer at the Backlot Café. It can come in a frothy drink or you can get it in ice cream form.

Is butterbeer alcoholic?

No, the butterbeer is not alcoholic.

According to the website, “Butterbeer is suitable for those with gluten, wheat and nut allergies. It does, however, contain trace amounts of dairy so it is unsuitable for vegans or anyone with lactose intolerance.

Can I get sorted by the sorting hat?

You can get sorted before your visit by going to the official Harry Potter site,

Are there special exhibits?

Yes, you can enjoy a special seasonal exhibits at different times in the year. These include: Hogwarts in the Snow and A Celebration of Slytherin.

Are there places to eat?

Yes, you can enjoy facilities like the Chocolate Frog Café, Hub Café, the Food Hall, Backlot Café.

What are the main attractions?

Main attractions that you should check out include:

– Great Hall
– Forbidden Forest
– Diagon Alley
– Platform 9 3/4 /Hogwarts Express
– Knight Bus
– Privet Drive
– Hogwarts Bridge

In addition, there are tons of costumes and special effects that you can check out.

How can I enhance my visit?

You can enhance your visit by picking up an activity passport which includes things like a Golden Snitch hunt, puzzles and trivia. You can also get souvenir stamps at key points throughout the tour.

You can also download the free Wizarding World app – the official Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts companion. This is a great way to find out more details about the area of the studio tour you are in.

You can also rent a digital guide for £4.95. Digital Guides are available in the following subtitled languages; English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin), Brazilian and Portuguese.

Is parking free?

Parking is free of charge and is a short walk away from the main entrance.

However, you can also purchase priority parking which is located next to the entrance. This will cost you an additional £10. Priority Parking is only available to pre-book online ahead of your visit and cannot be purchased on the day.

Can I take photos of the tour?

According to the website, “taking of photographs and capturing video footage with handheld cameras and mobile devices is allowed in all areas of the Studio Tour, apart from the pre-show cinema and green screen areas.”

Final word

Overall, the Harry Potter London tour is a must-see attraction in London for any Harry Potter (of any age). I didn’t hop on the Harry Potter bandwagon until about a year ago and I thought this place was pretty amazing so I could only imagine how other must feel who’ve read all the books and seen all the movies over the years.  It’s a little pricey but the way that this place captivates your imagination is priceless and completely worth the visit.

The London Eye (Tickets, Fast Track, and is it Worth it)?

The London Eye is one of the most iconic landmarks in London. Tons of people flock to the London Eye for the unique experience and fantastic views of landmarks like Big Ben and Westminster Palace.

In this article I’ll talk about what you can expect on your London Eye visit and give you my recommendations for the best London eye tickets.

London Eye History

The London Eye, Europe’s tallest Ferris Wheel, was built in the year 2000 to celebrate the millennium. It’s a massive structure (by London standards) that stands 443 feet tall and is made up of 32 pods which each represent one of the bureaus in London.

The London Eye was originally meant to be temporary; however, it was such an attraction that they ended up keeping it around. While the London Eye has proven to be quite a touristic draw, many still wonder whether a trip to the London Eye is worth the cost.

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Is the London Eye worth it?

The London Eye
The London Eye seen from below.

London Eye Tickets

The first thing to know about the London Eye is that there are a ton of different types of packages for London Eye tickets. The standard adult admission ticket — which requires you to select a certain time slot starts at £24 per adult.

London Eye fast pass tickets

The prices go up depending on whether you’d like a fast track and/or flexi ticket.

The fast track ticket will have you waiting in no more than a 15-20 minute line (we only waited about 3 minutes) and considering how long the line can get during peak hours, I’d recommend the fast track for you if you’re at all on a time crunch.

Keep in mind that the standard entry queue time can be around 45 minutes.

You can get your fast pass tickets here.

London Eye flexi tickets

The flexi option can allow you to show up at any time during a designated day or if you pay a little more, you can show up at any time on any day during the week of your choice. If you’re interested in getting the flexi + fast pass tickets to avoid the line, you can buy fast pass flexi tickets here


The London Eye offers a ton of specialty packages that you can look into if you’re in the mood of splurging (these range from £28-50 per person). Some of these include glasses of champagne, chocolate and wine tasting, and even whiskey tours.

You can also book your own private capsule tour so you can experience the view all to your lonesome with romantic additions of champagne and truffles but that’s a pretty pricey option at £360.

Personally, I don’t think it would be worth spending that much money for a mere 30 minutes of privacy but if you could afford to do so, you probably wouldn’t be questioning whether such an experience would be worth the money to begin with.

At the top of the The London Eye.

London Eye Hours

The Coca-Cola London Eye opening times vary throughout the year, typically the attraction opens at 10:00 and closes between 18:00-20:30.

You can check here for the latest hours.

Where is the London Eye?

The London Eye is located directly across from Westminster, where you’ll find Big Ben.

You can take the Tube to Westminster Station and walk the bridge to the London Eye for a more scenic route. Or if you can take the Tube to the Waterloo Station, which is right next to the London Eye.

London Eye map
Map of the London Eye.

The London Eye Experience

The London Eye takes thirty minutes for one rotation, thus you’ll have thirty minutes to take in the views, which is plenty of time. In fact, after about 20 minutes into it, you’ll likely feel like you’ve “seen it all.”

Tip: to help keep yourself occupied considering downloading the London Eye App.

  • Get the London Eye App for Android
  • Get the London Eye App for Apple
The London Eye View
An iconic view of Big Ben from the London Eye.

I think they stick about 28 people in each capsule which may sound like a lot but the capsules are pretty spacious and I think there’s enough room for you to comfortably enjoy your experience.

I didn’t realize it but this eye of London never stops rotating even when they load and unload the occupants. It moves so slowly and smoothly, however, that it’s not an issue. (Note: if you are disabled they will stop it momentarily so that there’s no issues loading you on and off.)

The London Eye View

The entire ride up and down is pretty smooth as well. From the time you step into the clear capsules, it’s only a matter of minutes before you ascend over the River Thames and have the birds eye view of London.

A few more minutes and you’re approximately 440 feet in the air and can see the skyscrapers upstream on the River Thames, including The Shard. If you look really closely with a zoom lenses or binoculars you can see the Tower of London and even, Tower Bridge. On a clear day, you can see as far as Wembley Stadium.

The Shard from The London Eye

There’s a couple of tablets in each capsule that will help you point out the buildings that you’re looking at which makes it a bit more interesting of a ride. I’d done a lot of research so I knew what most of the buildings were that we were looking at but it was still pretty helpful to give it a glance here and there.

Tablet in capsule of The London Eye

From time to time as the London Eye gains elevation, you can feel an occasional shift in the capsule as the rotating mechanisms change but nothing that should startle you too bad. In fact, you may not even feel anything at all. The capsules are all outfitted with air conditioning but if the sun is hitting your windows directly, it can get a little warm as ours did so you may need to ditch the jacket or sweater once you get in.

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One of the best views in London

The view from the London Eye is, in my opinion, one of the best in London.

Sure, the Shard is higher and offers a more far-reaching view. However, the Shard is much further upstream along the River Thames so you’re not offered that “money shot” with Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster right in front of you. To me that’s the quintessential London shot and one of the reasons I feel like it was worth the cost.

The London Eye View
View from the London Eye.
London Eye view Big Ben
View from the London Eye.
Bridge view from London Eye
View from the London Eye.

I do kind of wish we would have timed our visit about an hour later when the sun was setting. We got in the London Eye around 7:15 pm and the Sun was still sitting pretty high considering it is late May. However, I think capturing the sunset from the Eye would’ve added a lot of drama to the photographs and it also would’ve been nice to see London lit up at twilight.

The glares in the windows aren’t too bad but you’ll likely have to work around them depending on the lighting conditions. Also, unless something has changed, no tripods are allowed on the London Eye, so keep that mind if you’re thinking about getting some night shots.

London Eye FAQ

Can you bring food into the London Eye?

Food is not allowed on the London Eye but you can bring bottled water.

If you need to bring a food or drink related item for medical reasons, contact them and they should be able to work something out.

Can I take my luggage on the London Eye?

Large bags or suitcases are not permitted onto the London Eye. There is also not a cloakroom facility at the London Eye. Instead, you’ll have to go to London Waterloo station for the nearest luggage facility.

Are there seats on the London Eye?

Yes. There is actually a bench in the center of the capsule, which is available on a first come first serve basis.

How tall is the London Eye?

The London Eye stands 443 feet tall.

Final word

Overall, it’s a bit pricey of an experience but when you factor in the great views that the London Eye offers I think that it’s worth the money for the majority of people who will go to experience it, especially if you double dip with the day and night experience.

London’s TfL Tries to Push Uber Out

London just announced that it’s not renewing Uber’s license to operate at the end of the month and is essentially trying to kick Uber out of the city.

Uber has been pushed out at least temporarily in other cities like Delhi, India and Austin, Texas but it’s never gotten the boot from a megacity like London. Uber has 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in London who used its app at least once every three months, so this could be a huge loss for the company. This could cause a domino effect and other cities could jump in to get Uber out, compounding the losses.

London’s Tfl (which stands for Transport for London) is the agency that oversees London’s subways, buses and taxicabs, and they had been on Uber’s heels for a while. Back in May they extended Uber’s license by four months while they considered whether the company was meeting the fit and proper threshold. And now they’ve officially declared that Uber was not sufficiently “fit and proper” to operate in the city.

Specifically they found that:

TfL considers that Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.

These issues include:

  • Its approach to reporting serious criminal offences.
  • Its approach to how medical certificates are obtained.
  • Its approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained.
  • Its approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London – software that could be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app and prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.

(Uber still has a chance to appeal and in the meantime they can still operate while their appeal is being heard by the courts of appeal which could take months.)

All of these findings come around the same time that Uber has been working to rebuild its reputation after many scandals involving things like sexual harassment and discrimination, rocked the company over the past year and resulted in the resignation of its CEO, Travis Kalanick. When you consider the scarlet letter Uber is still wearing and the competition it’s up against, the London Black Cabs, it’s easy to understand how London Tfl would not be in favor of Uber.

The Black Cabs trace their roots to 1634 and their drivers have to pass one of the most extensive tests known as “The Knowledge” that requires them to memorize around 25,000 streets and 100,000 landmarks. They are a large part of London’s culture and they also are primarily made up of native-born Britons while many Uber drivers tend to be immigrants.

So Uber, an American start-up with a blemished record comes into London and offers rates up to 30% cheaper than Black Cabs, hires a bunch of immigrants, causes more roadway congestion, and (allegedly) fails to meet several standards promulgated by the TfL that threaten the safety and health of their citizens. It’s no wonder why some interested parties in London would want to keep them out.

But plenty of people in London are fighting to keep the company alive in the city. A petition in favor of Uber has already collected over 500,000 signatures, making it the fastest growing petition in the UK in 2017. And many Londoners are speaking out against the decision to not renew the license, stating that less drastic measures could resolve the issues. And many others fear that ousting a leading start-up company could deter other innovative start-ups from bringing their business to London.

When I lived in the UK, I enjoyed using Uber as it helped me save money on several occasions. The London Tube is great for getting around the city and one of my favorite public transport systems, but it doesn’t run 24/7 and sometimes you need to haul a lot of luggage with you, which can be a pain on the Tube. Considering the prices of the Black Cabs, Uber is an asset for many.

While I’m not a fan of the culture of Uber’s past, I’m hoping that new leadership can right the ship and if that happens I personally hope to see Uber operating in places like London in the future.

Top 17 Tourist Attractions in London

If you’re coming to London it’s really hard not to be a tourist for at least a day or two. Even after spending months and months living there, I still enjoyed putting on my tourist hat and venturing to different tourists shops and attractions from time to time. However, London is absolutely full of tourist attractions. I had the luxury of time on my side when it came to trying out these attractions but if you only have one or two weeks then it can be a littler harder to narrow down your choices. Hopefully this list of MY top 17 tourist attractions in London can help you plan a little better, especially if you’re into the broad range of interests like myself.

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17. Hyde Park (Free-£)

Hyde Park, one of the largest parks in London, is a great place to go for a nice walk and get a little relaxation from the city life for a bit. Together with Kensington Gardens it encompasses 253 hectares (625 acres) and while a bit smaller than Central Park in New York, it’s still pretty easy to find some solitude in this park, at least momentarily. If you’re in the mood to expend a little bit of energy then consider renting pedal boats for about £10 on the Serpentine for an hour or so and enjoy the scenery from the lake. Check the events calendar to see if anything interesting is coming up and consider stopping by Speakers’ Corner, a traditional site of public speeches and protests since the mid 1800s.

Hyde Park
Hyde Park

16. The National Gallery (Free)

The National Gallery in London is one of the best places in Europe to see tons of renowned art work. Come here to see Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers (the most famous of the bunch he painted) and some other works of his as well. There’s also tons of Rembrandt and works from countless other famous artists like Johannes Vermeer and Titian. Apart from the art, the building’s architecture, both inside and out, is also a site worthy of a visit on its own.

Van Goghs famous Sunflowers

15. Big Ben and Westminster Palace (Free)

If there’s one thing you’ve got to see while you’re vacationing in London its Big Ben, right? Make your way to the Westminster Tube Station and step on out and bam! Big Ben is right in your face! Take a stroll across the River Thames on Westminster Bridge as you listen to the bell’s echo from inside the clock tower and feel like you’ve officially made it to London. This area is usually filled to the brim with tourists about 99% of the time so be prepared for swarms of people. However, I’ve found it to be relatively calm to visit it at night when far fewer people are around so consider an evening visit for a less stressful experience.

Big Ben London at night

14. The British Library (Free)

The British Library might not be at the top of your list but it should definitely be a strong contender for a place to see in London, especially if you’re even remotely interested in history. It’s free to get in and the place is full of fascinating documents like the Magna Carta, original Shakespeare print books, original music sheets from greats like Mozart and Bach, works from the Beatles, and even Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook. That’s just a small fraction of what there is to see there and if you catch an exhibit at the right time, you can see a lot of other cool stuff (we saw Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Declaration of Independence alongside an original copy of the Bill of Rights).

Sculpture outside The British Library
Magna Carta The British Library

13. Take a double-decker bus (£)

When you think of London these big red busses are probably one of the first things that spring to your mind. While you’re in the city you might as well take advantage of a great (and cheap) way to take in the scenery. (Go straight up to the second deck and try to sit in the front row for the best views.) Sure, you can always go for the hop-on-hop-off busses but taking one of the official red busses will allow you to get up close with some real Londoners and it’s a great way to people watch as you navigate through the busy streets of London. The bus fare is only £1.50 and they accept Oyster Cards, contactless payments, and even Apple Pay making it very convenient for tourists.

Red double-decker bus London

12. Watch a West End Show (££-£££)

London’s great theatre scene is one of the best in the world. There are numerous theaters available for you to choose from and countless plays to see like Wicked, Stomp, The Phantom of the Opera, and my favorite, The Lion King. I’ve actually seen the Lion King in both New York and London and I think that both are equally spectacular. West End shows are going to cost you a pretty penny usually but in some cases you can find reasonable rates for the tickets, all depending on where you want to sit of course.

The Lion King - Lyceum Theatre
The Lion King – Lyceum Theatre. Photo by Andy Roberts

11. Tower Bridge (Free-£)

To many, Tower Bridge is the most famous bridge in the world. It’s one of the many iconic sites around the city and is always a great place to take a few memorable photos. Built in the late 1800s, it was originally considered an eye sore to many locals but as time went on, the love for the bridge began to grow. Today, you can go inside the bridge and walk across the glass floor walkway for only about £8 — it’s an interesting experience and offers you a slightly dizzying view of the River Thames below and panoramic views of the London skyline. If you’re not interested in going inside the bridge, then try to plan your visit for a time when the bridge will be opening for ships to pass through, it only happens a few times a week so witnessing it is a pretty cool feat.

Tower bridge London
Tower Bridge London

10. Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio (££)

So if you’re not a Harry Potter fan then this option may not excite you much and there’s nothing I can really do for you. However, if you are a Harry Potter fan then you really can’t turn down the option of going to see the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour because it will blow your mind. This “studio” is more of a Harry Potter museum to me and it’s chock-full of thousands of props, amazing sets like Diagon Alley, and full of a bunch of inside info on the Harry Potter movies. Make sure to get you some butterbeer and maybe a chocolate frog or two before you leave but be weary of overpriced gift shop at the end! Tickets start at £25-33 for children/adults.

Diagon Alley Harry Potter London
Weasleys Dining room Harry Potter tour London

9. The London Eye (£)

London Eye

There are a number of options for you to get a great view of the city of London. You’ve got the Shard, Tower Bridge, The London Eye, and a great deal of other options around the city. While the “Coca-Cola” London Eye is about as touristy as it gets, I still give it the nod because of the great shots you’re afforded of Big Ben and Westminster Palace — I’m not aware of any other easily accessible views as good as this one, though they may be out there. A full rotation on the Eye takes about 30 minutes so you have more than plenty of time to take in and photograph your views, and if you’re feeling the need to splurge on champagne or chocolate, there are plenty of options for you to do so here. But if you just want to keep it simple, tickets start at about £20.

The Shard London

8. The Natural History Museum (Free)

The Natural History Museum is a perfect destination to bring the family to. But even if you don’t have kids, it’s still a great place to entertain yourself for a few hours as you discover fully assembled dinosaur remains, massive whales skeletons suspended from the ceiling, intricate displays of birds and creepy-crawlies, and get a taste of what a real-life earthquake feels like while standing in a quivering mini-market. And the best part is: the museum is free. The museum is home to over 80 million items so you don’t need me to tell you that there’s a lot to see here. Try to allocate between 2-3 hours if you really want to see a lot of it, though if you’re a science lover you might still need more time than that.

Outside Natural History Museum London
Dinosaur Bones Natural History Museum London

7. Westminster Abbey (Free-£)

This iconic building is one of the most beautiful structures in the entire city of London. The history of the site dates all the way back to the 11th century when Edward the Confessor founded it in 1065. Everything about the place has an almost scared feel to it. It’s been home to every Coronation since 1066, 16 royal weddings, and it’s where thousands of prominent British figures have been buried, including 17 monarchs. There’s a lot to see inside including St. George’s Chapel, the portrait of Richard II (the oldest surviving portrait of a British Monarch, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, plenty of other memorial sites, along with the stunning Gothic architecture. Tickets for tours will run you £20 for adults and you can book online.

Outside Westminster Abbey London

6. Day trip to Stonehenge (£)

If you’re coming to London for a week or so and you’re interested in doing a day trip there are more than plenty of options. There’s Oxford, Bath, and any number of small towns and villages you can check out only about an hour or two away. If you’re into “wonders of the world” type attractions then consider giving Stonehenge a visit. I’ve got some tips for visiting Stonehenge but the best word of advice I have is to do your best to read up on the history of the site and try to get yourself excited about seeing such a mysterious and legendary structure. Otherwise, you may fall victim to the “it’s just a bunch of rocks” mindset. Also, try to book an inner-circle private tour if you can spare the extra £ because your experience will be much more intimate with the “Henge.” Standard tickets start at about £15.


5. Fish-n-chips/Pubs (£)

This one is a given but you’ve got to try to make sure that you give yourself the opportunity to try some good ole fashion British fish and chips while you’re here. I tried at least a handful of places over the year’s time that I was in England and just about any pub I tried them at in London left me pretty satisfied  (the meat pies are always a solid option as well).

British fish and chips with peas

In addition to feasting on fish and chips do your best to try to experience one of the over 7,000 pubs in the London area. The pub culture is really something that sets London/Britain apart from many other places in the world and is a major part of London’s charm. You may notice that people are always at the pub, especially from about 4-7 when many of the pubs have lads lining the exterior of the pub because there isn’t any room inside. That’s how dedicated Britons are to their pubs.  Try your luck by just hopping into the nearest pub or check out some of the top pubs in London.

4. Catch a game at Wembley Stadium (££-£££)

Wembley Stadium is a brilliant stadium and one of the coolest venues I’ve ever watched a sporting event at. I didn’t manage to catch a soccer (football) game there but I did catch an NFL game and it was a really cool experience. Fans from all the different teams showed up and it created a unique sporting atmosphere. We were there to see the Dallas Cowboys take on the Jacksonville Jaguars but a lot of people were there just to rep their team (in full game-day attire). If you’re visiting in the fall and you’re an NFL fan, then I highly recommend you attending one of these games! (Just try to get your seats a little early because the prices can get a little high.)

Wembley Stadium

3. Buckingham Palace (Free-££)

Checking out Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard may be one of the most quintessential London things there is to do (for tourists, that is). When you visit the Palace, take a look to see if the flag is flying on top of the palace — if it is that means the Queen is home. If the Queen happens to be out and about then you can actually arrange a tour of the state rooms and the Queen’s Gallery for about £35. Not looking to drop the extra quid on a tour? Then take the free option and check out which days you can witness the changing of the guard ceremony, always starting at 11:30 am.

Royal Gibraltar Regiment Soldiers Take Part in Changing the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace
Photo by UK Ministry of Defence

2. The British Museum (Free)

The British Museum is one of the finest museums in the world and one of my all time favorites. And once again, it’s yet another free attraction in London! The highlights of my trip to the British Museum were seeing the Greek Parthenon marbles, the Rosetta Stone, and the Easter Island statue. Of course, there were hundreds of other remarkable exhibits including Egyptian, Roman, and Asian artifacts so whatever your appetite is for history it will likely be appeased here. This place is very busy during the day and on weekends, though, so try to plan your visit for early in the morning if you want to a little bit of time to enjoy the exhibits in peace.

British Museum
Rosetta Stone

1. The Tower of London (£)

The Tower of London is a must-see destination for anyone coming to London, even if you’re not into touristy destinations. That’s because there’s so much history in these walls that it’s hard to imagine not stopping by it for at least some time. If you pay to go in (about £20) you’ll have the chance to follow along on an official Beefeater tour as they take you by Traitor’s Gate and old execution sites. You’ll also get a chance to see the astonishing display of the Crown Jewels, which is a brilliant collection of crowns, sceptres, and spoons (Coronation spoons — they’re kind of a big deal). In addition to that, it’s a great feeling to just  walk along the castle walls like people have done for hundreds of years and ponder all the rich history of this site that dates back to the 11th century. If you’re planning way ahead, then look into booking a slot at the Ceremony of the Keys, a nightly ceremony that’s been going on every night for over 700 years! Not many tourists find out about the ceremony until it’s too late for them to book, so be sure to get on it if you’re interested.

Tower of London

Renting Pedal Boats on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London

The trend-setting Serpentine

Hyde Park is one of the best places in the charming city of London to catch a break and relax. One of the fun things to do in the park is to rent a pedal boat and boat around the Serpentine, which is a 40 acre man-made lake in the middle of Hyde Park that was created back in 1730 pursuant to orders by the Queen.

It was a bit revolutionary for its time, as most man-made lakes were long and straight while the Serpentine was one of the first man-made lakes designed to appear natural with its curvy shape.

Other places around the world took note of this natural design and soon hundreds of man-made lakes were popping up around the globe assuming more natural shapes. So when you’re paddling around the lake just remember that the Serpentine, like most pats of London, is rich in history and tradition.

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Prices per adult: £12 for one hour; £10 for 30 minutes

It obviously seems worth it to pay the extra two pounds for an extra 30 minutes but do note that they actually allow you an extra ten minutes to get back to the dock so the thirty minute option actually gets you about 40 minutes.

Because it’s only a matter of two pounds, you’re probably not going to worry about potentially choosing one option over the other. Just know that if you’re overweight or just big and don’t have experience with these boats you might be ready to head back by the time 30 minutes rolls around.

Pedal boats Hyde Park London

You rent the pedal boats from the gift shop/boat house on the northeast side of the lake. Thus one of the easiest ways to get to the pedal boats is from the Hyde Park Corner Underground station. Once you pop out of that station just follow the Serpentine Road until you see the little blue boats — you can’t miss them.

They have windows on the outside of the gift shop but they were closed when we were there so if you don’t see anybody selling tickets at those windows then just go inside the gift shop and they will take care of you inside.

One thing to remember is that you can only rent these boats from March to October, from 10am to sunset.

The paddling experience

I’m not going to lie, the paddle boats were causing us a little bit of trouble. For two pretty big guys (plus our heavy bag we had with us), I think we had our pedal boat loaded down pretty good so that we were making very little progress with a lot of effort.

We saw several boats fly on by us with smaller kids on them so I’m thinking that if you’re much lighter you probably won’t have any issues. It’s also possible that our boat was a bit broken because it felt like our pedal mechanism was constantly getting stuck so watch out for that.

Pedal boats Hyde Park London

Another thing to be prepared for is if you’re over six feet tall (I’m 6’1″) your legs may be a bit squished. It wasn’t horrible but having your kneecaps come up to your chin is never the most comfortable position. Also, try to position your shoes correctly on the pedals for the best experience.

If you’ve got a big foot (11 in mens or larger) then try to make sure that the metal rods on the pedals fit right into the middle of your shoe, otherwise you’re going to have a hard time making full rotations.

So aside from a little discomfort peddling around the boats and taking in the views is a nice way to relax. We didn’t see any fish but we did come across a lot of ducks and a couple of massive swans that I swear looked like they were standing 5 feet tall. Some of the ducks seemed to really enjoy tailing us while we peddled off.

Birds Hyde Park London
Birds Hyde Park London

I think we would’ve enjoyed our time on the Serpentine a little more if we weren’t worried about the weather. As you can see by the photos, some powerful looking storm clouds were rolling through and considering we had two laptops and my DSLR on us in the middle of this 40 acre lake, we got a little worried that we might get stranded in a rain shower.

That’s another thing – they didn’t have any lockers for us to store our stuff so try to plan that out ahead of time if you know you’re going to have bags on you.

Birds Hyde Park London

Overall, it’s a cool experience and fun way to relax in the middle of London. Personally, I found Central Park in New York City to be a bit more interesting to explore but Hyde Park is still a great place to check out. If you’re visiting London from March to October and looking for things to do then definitely consider spending 30 minutes to an hour pedal boating out on the Serpentine.

Looking for other ideas on what to do in London? Check out these London related articles:

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers: Finding Inspiration at the National Gallery in London

When I’m standing in front of the bright yellow painting of Sunflowers at the National Gallery, among a herd of other tourists jockeying for position in front of me with their obnoxious selfie-sticks swinging over my head and their camera flashes shooting off without any consideration, I’m honestly not even concerned about the frenzy. Instead, I can’t help but ponder the thoughts of optimism that went into the thousands of brush strokes that lay behind the protective glass barrier of this painting. Exactly 100 years before I was born, one of the greatest artists of all time was in a happy and hopeful state of mind as he was creating a bright masterpiece, and little did he know it would come just before a chain of events that would take him to his darkest, albeit most creative place, and ultimately bring about his own tragic demise.

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I’d been waiting for months to visit the National Gallery in London but it seemed like every time I tried to put it in my itinerary things happened that just kept me away. However, I finally made it to the Gallery last week and got to admire some of the best work from two of my favorite artists: Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Van Gogh was really the focus of my visit, however, and in particular the painting Sunflowers.

Sunflowers was the major painting I not only wanted to check out but had to. I’ve always found Van Gogh to be one of the most talented and inspiring artists of all time. To me, he’s that cliche creative mastermind who while artistically brilliant, struggles with dealing with his own depressive thoughts and destructive emotions. Why it’s always the most talented creative minds who seem to have to deal with these things the most, I’m not sure. I guess it just comes with the genius territory some times.

But within this somewhat cliched story is the story that starts with Sunflowers and later reveals the demise of one of the greatest artists of all time. The story is not only fascinating but also relatable and a bit inspiring to me.

Back in 1888 (exactly 100 years before I was born), Van Gogh moved to Arles, France, where he wanted to set up a community of artists with one famous artist, Paul Gauguin, as his mentor. It was a time of optimism and excitement for Van Gogh as he looked forward to breaking away from his loneliness, sharing his beautiful artwork, engaging with other artists, and learning a great deal from his anticipated mentor. I think of Van Gogh’s vision of this community sort of like those utopian-like thoughts we have sometimes about our futures working out in some ideal way that holds true happiness for us and where everything just works out perfectly. Of course those ideas virtually never work out the way we envision, but I think pretty much everyone can relate to having thoughts like that at some point in their lives.

Van Goghs Yellow House 1888
Van Gogh’s Yellow House, 1888

The sunflowers had special significance for Van Gogh and overall he painted seven different versions of them. In Dutch culture, sunflowers symbolized devotion and loyalty. The various stages of decay of the sunflower also represented the cycles of life and death. In addition to these symbolic meanings, the color yellow also stood as an emblem for happiness and optimism to Van Gogh and thus he desired to produce sunflowers as a gift to his new mentor, Gauguin.

Paul Gauguin 1891
Paul Gauguin, 1891

After Van Gogh moved to Arles, France things didn’t quite work out as planned. The community he hoped to put together never came into fruition and he instead found himself isolated and lonely, eventually falling into a depression. In May 1888, Van Gogh had rented his famous “yellow house” and though he was struggling mentally, he seemed to have channeled any negativity into positive energy that allowed him to produce artwork at a freakish pace. In fact during the late summer of 1888, Van Gogh reached a peak. During which time he wrote to his brother, “I’m painting with the gusto of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse [Provençal fish stew], which won’t surprise you when it’s a question of painting large Sunflowers.”

He also painted some amazing works depicting the wheatfields at the time but during this furious surge of creativity, it was all about the sunflowers for Van Gogh. In August, in just the span of about a week, Van Gogh completed four different variations of Sunflowers. The different versions utilized different colors like blue-greens and different quantities of sunflowers in the composition.

The third version of Sunflowers found in Munich Germany
The third version of Sunflowers found in Munich, Germany

However, it was the final one that he painted, the one seen at the National Gallery, that is the most renown. It’s known for its bold yellow-on yellow-on yellow, which was highly criticized by many artists of the time for being, well… too yellow.

Van Goghs Sunflowers found at the National Gallery in London
Van Gogh’s Sunflowers found at the National Gallery in London

By the late summer of 1888, Van Gogh had maybe given up on the idea of hosting an entire artist community, but he still desperately wanted the company of Gauguin, and the sunflower paintings were largely motivated by the desire to get Gauguin to follow through with his highly anticipated visit. Finally, after producing these paintings at a ferocious rate his desired soon-to-be mentor, Gauguin finally arrived to this little house in the south of France, where the last two versions of Sunflowers were proudly displayed on his guest bedroom walls. While the genesis for the sunflower paintings was born from Gaugin, they eventually took a life of their own and became a symbol and signature of Van Gogh as he even at one time claimed “the sunflower is mine.”

Unfortunately, the relationship with Gaugin didn’t take off like Sunflowers  ultimately would. Accounts are a bit mixed as to how these two came together artistically and personally. It’s clear that they worked together for a couple of months and Ganguin even painted a portrait of Van Gogh painting Sunflowers. However, their personal relationships with each other (which some speculate may have involved more than mere mentoring) seemed to conflict.

Ganguins The Painter of Sunflowers
Ganguin’s The Painter of Sunflowers

Whether it was a product of Gaugin not finding Van Gogh’s overall artistic vision very inspiring (as the National Gallery states) or other personality clashes and disagreements, the two artists had a vehement fall-out. The conflict drove Van Gogh into an even more unstable mental state and ultimately caused him to leave Arles, only a couple of months after the arrival of Gaugin. This departure made Gaugin think even less of Van Gogh and caused an irreparable rift between the two.

The rift culminated on 23 December of 1888 when Van Gogh confronted Gaugin with a razor-blade (some state it was the other way around) but eventually backed off. Instead of hurting Gaugin, Van Gogh famously mutilated himself by cutting his own ear off (though some think otherwise). Even more astonishing, he may have attempted to give his ear to a prostitute that night. The prostitute allegedly declined to accept the ear and reported Van Gogh to the police who later found Van Gogh and luckily were able to keep him from bleeding to death and tend to his emotional breakdown. Unfortunately, the demise of Van Gogh had already begun and it would only be a matter of time until he simply couldn’t hold on any longer.

Two months later in February of 1889 the people of Arles, France had Van Gogh locked up in an insane asylum for being a public menace. For months he was locked up without any books or any way of painting during which time he suffered great hallucinations. One could only imagine what an artist, which many argue is possibly the greatest of all time, felt without being allowed such a creative outlet for so long. Not only that, but who could imagine the type of hallucinations that would materialize in the mind of such a creative genius? Luckily, in May of 1889 he would eventually enter another mental asylum (voluntarily) where he would be allowed access to paints and a canvas and he finally was able to deal better with the hallucinations and manic depressive behavior.

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Not only did Van Gogh deal with these episodes but he also painted his most famous works ever during this period, including Starry Night and one of his most famous self-portraits (seen below). In fact, if you didn’t know, Starry Night was actually the view from his window in his room while staying in the asylum. According to the National Gallery in London, Van Gogh actually only sold one painting during this time and in fact during his entire life time [Fact also disputed.] The lack of success may have played a role in the depressive bouts that Van Gogh suffered but the more likely root of his symptoms was that he suffered from bipolar disorder (which obviously was not clinically recognized during his era). The down periods became too much for Van Gogh to overcome and despite being at the peak of his creative mind, he was often at his lowest point mentally. After only about a year after painting Starry Night, at age 37, Van Gogh shot himself and committed suicide.

Van Goghs likely last self portrait
Van Gogh’s likely last self portrait.

I’ve always thought it fascinating and of course tragic that some of the most creative minds of all time struggle with such deep mental issues at times. Even the ones we would least expect, like Robin Williams and plenty of other successful individuals, fall victim to mental illness and aren’t able to escape the darkness that comes along with battling depression and all of the manic episodes. One can only imagine what Van Gogh would’ve created if he had lived to old age.

Starry Night
Starry Night

It’s a bit morbid thinking about the tragic end to Van Gogh’s life but it’s also very real. Just about every time I see a Van Gogh’s work, especially any of the Sunflowers, I think about the human life cycle and the different stages that we go through. The ups and the inevitable downs. The victories and the losses. And how this painting, while likely not representative of Van Gogh’s last moment of optimism, represents someone looking ahead and working to a bright future, despite the dark circumstances surrounding.

I also think about those I know affected by mental illness and how important it is to go out of my way to do whatever little or big actions possible to show them that there’s always hope in any situation. To me, Sunflowers does what art is supposed to do to you: move you. And even as I’m writing this today it’s reminding me that I’m not doing enough to move others and play my part to contribute just a little more to other members of society who may need a little bit of help. The person next to you may not be wielding a blade and cutting off their ear right in front of you, but you never know what they might be thinking, and what kinds of extraordinary things they may be capable of accomplishing so long as they don’t lose hope.

Photographing London

London is one of the funnest cities to photograph for me. It reminds me of New York City in that it seems like at every corner you come across there’s another amazing photo opportunity that allows you to capture some iconic piece of the the London landscape. Here’s just a few of the shots I’ve taken around the city while exploring some of famous icons in London.

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Obviously when you first arrive you’ll want to photograph Big Ben, one of the most photographed places on earth. In case you weren’t aware, Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the tower, while the tower housing the massive clock faces in known as the Elizabeth Tower. One thing a lot of people don’t know is that you can actually go inside the clock tower and see the unique view of the inside the clock faces. You’ve got to have some political pull, but if you’re going to be in the UK long enough (6 months to a year) you can arrange this kind of tour.

To get to Big Ben head to the Westminster Tube Station and once you walk out it will be right in front of you. I recommend you walking across the River Thames for some of the best views of the palace and the tower. If you arrive there early enough in the morning you might be able to catch a perfect sunrise shot and even capture the reflection of Big Ben in the River Thames before the herds of boats make their way up the river and break up the occasional still waters.

Big Ben and Westminster Palace London
Big Ben and Westminster Palace

Don’t forget there’s Westminster Abbey right there as well. Try to capture it about an hour before sunset to capture the golden reflections of the sun like below.

London Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey

A bit further east you have Tower Bridge, which is always photogenic day or night. I like the views of it from just about anywhere along the River Thames.

Tower Bridge London
Tower Bridge
View of Tower Bridge from the Tower of London
View of Tower Bridge from the Tower of London

If you go inside the Tower Bridge glass walkway you’re given some pretty great views of downtown London and the Tower of London.

Skyline of London
Downtown London
The funky skyline of London

London is also great place to photograph at night — my favorite time to photograph cities because of the endless creative potential for playing around with light. You’ve got endless frames to work with while shooting the iconic spots of Big Ben and Westminster Palace along with the River Thames as well as the London Eye.

London eye at night
The London Eye at night

Perhaps what’s funnest to shoot are the double-decker busses that move continuously through the city. If you’ve never been to London these famous red busses are literally everywhere and it’s not hard to spot them. Simply wait at any street corner in central London and within seconds you’ll probably see one coming into view. They’re fun to photograph at night with slow-shutter effects because they’ll leave  all kinds of different colors and streaks behind as they move across your viewfinder.

Big Ben at night London busses
Big Ben at night

One shot I really liked was getting close to Big Ben and setting up my tripod in the middle of one of the protected curb islands in the middle of a busy intersection. A few of them have gating around them and actually have nice alcoves for you to set up your tripod so you’re not right in the middle of the busy pedestrian walkways or on the verge of getting hit by a bus.

Big Ben at night London busses

Another thing you’re going to want to capture are the phone booths, which like the busses, are scattered pretty much everywhere throughout central London.

Big Ben London at night

These are just a few of the many different shots you can get around London and I intend on updating this post as I get to photograph more of this amazing city so be sure to check back in the future for more shots!

London’s Newest Tourist Attraction: The Glass Floor at Tower Bridge

Last weekend Brad and I ventured to one of London’s newest tourist attractions: the glass floor walkway at the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Overall, it was a fun experience and for the relatively cheap price I think it was worth it. Here’s what you need to know to plan your own trip to Tower Bridge.

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I felt admission was reasonably priced, at least for London’s standards. Make sure that you book online to save a few pounds and if you’re a student or hold some other special status, don’t forget to claim your discount. There are no specific time periods to select for your visit but rather you just select a day and you’re ticket is good for a visit on that particular day. Here are the prices:

  • £8 per adult (if booked online)
  • £9 per adult if purchased on site

The entrance to the exhibition is at the northwest tower. To get there, make your way to the west side of the bridge and simply follow the sidewalk until you arrive at the Exhibition Center. The lobby is pretty small and I can only imagine how packed it gets inside there during peak summer hours. Still, the line went by pretty quickly and we were giving them my phone to scan my eTicket within minutes.

Once you arrive at the top floor but before you enter the walkway, there’s a short film presentation on the history of the bridge. It’s fairly entertaining and an interesting way to get some background information on the history of the bridge. Once that’s over, you’re ready to head to the walkway toward the glass floor.

In the walkway there are a lot of different interpretive panels on the history of Tower Bridge and other fascinating bridges across the world. A quick aside: these panels, and many others, claim that Tower Bridge is the most famous bridge in the world. I think that might be up for debate, however. Personally, I think that the Golden Gate Bridge is worthy of the most famous bridge title. Sure, that could be my West Coast bias coming into play, but I’d be willing to bet that Tower Bridge is often confused with London Bridge so much that the Golden Gate Bridge is more readily recognized by the average person. Regardless of who is really #1, however, there’s no denying Tower Bridge is still a spectacular bridge.

Tower Bridge London

But back to the point… the hall housing the glass walkway was a little busy for my liking. Not quite overwhelming but every section of the small glass walk was occupied pretty much at all times making it kind of difficult to really get the kind of photographs I was hoping for. And just when it started to thin out, more tourists poured in. I really think that the walkway would be a much bigger hit if it were much longer but I could understand how that could pose problems to both the structure and architectural integrity of the bridge. Despite dealing with the crowds a little bit, it was still an interesting experience just stepping out onto the glass platform.

Tower Bridge London

Once you step on the glass and are looking way down at the River Thames, the view definitely plays tricks with your mind. I felt a little dizzy and as if my brain was on adrenaline stand-by mode as I took my first steps onto the glass. It’s really cool to look down on all of the pedestrians walking across the bridge and to see all of the classic London taxis and busses making their way across. If you really wanted to make the most out of your experience then I recommend that you plan your visit for a time when the bridge will be opening. That would really make the experience a lot more worthwhile to me, as you’d have a bird’s eye view of Tower Bridge rising up right beneath you.

Tower Bridge glass walkway
Looking down at Tower Bridge from the glass walkway
Tower Bridge London
Glass walkway from under Tower Bridge
A view of the glass walkway from under the bridge.

It was pretty funny to see how different people reacted on the glass walk. On the one hand, there were people laying down carefree on the glass taking selfies and posing precariously. On the other hand, there were quite a few people who were actually too scared to even step foot on the glass. These people tiptoed on the outside of the glass to make it by as if there was nothing there to protect them from falling.

The view from the walkway of the Thames, downtown London, and the Tower of London were okay but not really phenomenal. The crossbeams and thick glass windows made it a little difficult to get great views of the city but there were good enough views to appreciate the city. I’m sure the views are much better up in the Shard or even the London Eye, but for a fraction of the price, these views were good enough.

Tower Bridge London
View of downtown London from the Tower Bridge Exhibition
View of downtown London from the Tower Bridge Exhibition

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After you make your way to the south tower there’s another film on the construction of the bridge you can watch. This film was mid-way through when we stepped into the room so we just continued on. To get out, you go through a number of flights of stairs and on your way down there’s some cool views of the interior of the towers as well as the city of London. Also, take some time to check out some of the min-exhibits set up along the way and don’t forget to look up to see some manican-workers perched up on the beams.

Tower Bridge London
Tower Bridge London
Tower Bridge London
Tower Bridge London

Once you make your way back down you can follow the blue line to get a glimpse of the engine room. Since we were on a bit of a time crunch (as always) we opted not to do the engine room tour and so I can’t give my review on that.

Overall, the glass walkway at Tower Bridge is a worthy tourist destination, if only because of the cheap price. The views may not blow you away but the feeling of stepping on glass over the bridge is moderately thrilling enough to warrant a visit. I’d probably mostly recommend this for those folks looking for a cheaper alternative than the Shard or the London Eye but it’s still a worthy attraction in its own right.

Getting From Heathrow Airport to London

So you’re wondering whether you should take a Taxi, Tube, or other express train to get from Heathrow to central London. Here’s a quick answer to your question: I recommend the Tube far and above any options.

The reason is that using the Tube from London Heathrow is ridiculously cheap and easy.

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First, it’s easy to find your way to the Tube as there are plenty of signs in the airport pointing to the “Underground.” You’ll take the elevator or stairs down a couple of levels and then you’ll arrive where the platforms are and where you can purchase your tickets or Oyster card. From that point, you simply follow the herds onto the train, jump on the Piccadilly Line and you’re off to Central London!

Using the Tube to get from Heathrow to London is also very cheap. An adult fare from Heathrow to Central London (during non-peak hours) only costs £3! Three pounds! And you thought London was expensive, right!? And even if you go during peak hours it’s £4.70. Now this does assume that you do a pay-as-you-go method by using on Oyster Card. Still, by simply buying your single fare ticket is only £5.70!

London Tube

Tube vs. Taxi

Compare that to a taxi where the going taxi rate for a Black Cab from Heathrow to central London is £45-85 (usually closer to the £80 than the £45). You can also look into private transfers from the airport.

So as you can see you’re likely to save on average about £55 by taking the Tube! With that said, the Tube can pose some problems.

The biggest problem is that if you’re lugging around tons of baggage it could be a pain bringing all of that stuff up and down stairs and trying to find room on the Tube. The Tube isn’t usually that packed when you first hop on from the airport (except for Sundays; avoid Sundays!) but it will virtually always get packed as you approach central London.

When I first moved to London I had to travel around with big suitcases and a duffle bag and it was pretty miserable on the Tube. Some trains have designated spaces to put your luggage but a lot of times these areas are taken up by passengers and you’re kind of just on your own in terms of finding room for your bags. When the Tube is packed and there’s hardly any room this can really suck (if you’re packing light, however, this is not a big issue). If you are the type of person that abhors these types of situations then I think the cab will be the better option for you. However, if you’re the very budget-conscious type then you’ll likely struggle to justify spending over 10x the amount of cash to get the same distance.

London Tube

Tube vs. Heathrow Express

Another option is the “Heathrow Express.” Upon arriving at Heathrow you’ll see signs and perhaps even people trying to sell you Heathrow Express tickets. This is an express train that runs every 15 minutes from the airport to Paddington Station. It take about 15 minutes to get to Terminals 1, 2, and 3, and 21 minutes to get to Terminal 5. (Terminal 4 is served by a shuttle from Heathrow Central). The Express Train is quicker than the Tube but also more costly. The cheapest rate is £21, so you give up a savings of at least £15. Also, you have to remember that you have to get around from Paddington to wherever your destination is and will have to incur further charges adding to your total cost. Thus, I choose the Tube over the Heathrow Express each time.

Tube vs. Heathrow Connect

There is yet another train option called the Heathrow Connect, which is a little bit slower than the Heathrow Express (30 minutes versus 15 minutes) but it is also cheaper. The Connect also runs less frequently at only 30 minute intervals. The Connect does not go to Terminal 4 or 5 and you’d have to jump on the Heathrow Express at Heathrow Central (free of charge). A ticket on the Connect costs £9.90 for a one way ticket and thus presents the second cheapest alternative for getting from Heathrow to the London but again you have the added costs of getting around on the Tube if that is necessary.

London Tube

The verdict

Therefore, with all things considered, I recommend the Tube above all other options. If you’re bringing tons of luggage with you then yes you may want to consider a taxi cab but if you’re a budget traveller then the Tube is the best option for you!

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