Every time I revisit London, a wave of nostalgia washes over me. During my teenage years, I spent several summers here, participating in two-week study vacations organized by L’Astrolabio, a private company. These programs, designed for European students, offered a unique blend of learning and leisure. They were an opportunity to immerse ourselves in a new culture, socialize with peers from different backgrounds, and hone our English language skills, all while experiencing life in the UK.

However, my trip in August 2023 marked a departure from these youthful escapades. Now an adult, I was driven by a different purpose: to explore London anew and craft a practical guide for fellow travelers looking to maximize their experience in this iconic city. Through this post, I aim to share insights, helpful tips, and highlight the must-visit spots that enriched my week-long journey in London.

Arrival in London

After a long flight from the USA, I arrived at Heathrow. For international travelers, I recommend arranging your transport to the city center in advance. Buses are an economical option, and the tube offers a quick way to get around. I chose a bus to Waterloo Station, which was both budget-friendly and offered a scenic route into the city.

Waterloo is a great starting point for exploring. From there, I headed to my accommodation in Southwark, at LSE Bankside House. This area is ideal for travelers looking for affordable yet centrally located lodging. It’s close to major attractions and well-connected by public transport.

Exploring Southwark

Southwark has transformed into a vibrant mix of business and leisure. It’s a great example of London’s dynamic evolution. The area is full of dining options, from street food to upscale restaurants. For those interested in architecture, Southwark offers a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new buildings.

A walk along the South Bank of the Thames is a must. You’ll find iconic sights like the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe. These cultural landmarks are not only significant but offer unique experiences for visitors. The Tate Modern, for instance, houses an incredible collection of modern art, and the Globe Theatre provides a glimpse into the world of Elizabethan drama.

Borough Market Experience

Borough Market is an essential stop for food enthusiasts. This bustling market offers everything from fresh produce to gourmet foods. I started my visit with a coffee from Monmouth Coffee Company, known for its high-quality beans. The market is a great spot for lunch, with vendors serving dishes from around the world.

I recommend trying the variety of cheeses at Neal’s Yard Dairy, sampling the fresh bread at Bread Ahead Bakery, and exploring the array of international cuisines. The market is also a fantastic place to buy unique food gifts or souvenirs.

For those planning to visit, the market is busiest on weekends. I suggest going early to avoid the crowds and have a more relaxed experience. Also, many vendors offer samples, so don’t be shy to try new things.

Walking Through London’s History

London’s history is evident in its streets and buildings. The Monument to the Great Fire of London is a noteworthy site. It’s worth climbing the 311 steps to the top for a panoramic view of the city. The view includes landmarks such as the Tower Bridge and the Shard.

From there, I walked along the Thames, crossing the iconic Tower Bridge. The bridge is not only a marvel of engineering but also offers fantastic views of the river and the Tower of London. Speaking of which, the Tower of London is a must-visit for history buffs. It’s a historic castle that has served as a royal palace, prison, and even a zoo. The Crown Jewels housed here are a highlight.

The Allure of the Sky Garden

The Sky Garden, located at 20 Fenchurch Street, is known for its panoramic views of London. It’s a public space that combines a unique landscape with an observation deck. However, it’s essential to book in advance as it gets fully booked quickly.

If you don’t manage to get a booking, the nearby Walkie Talkie building has a public garden that doesn’t require advance booking and also offers great views. Both spots are ideal for photographers and anyone looking to see London from a different perspective.

A Tapestry of London’s Masterpieces

A walk through London is like a journey through time. Places like Cornhill, Bank, and Bread Street showcase the city’s rich architectural heritage. St. Paul’s Cathedral, with its magnificent dome, is a must-see. The cathedral offers guided tours, which I highly recommend.

The City of Westminster is another area full of historical and political significance. Here, you can visit the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. These iconic landmarks are not just tourist spots; they’re active political and religious centers.

For art lovers, a visit to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is essential. It houses a vast collection of European paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries. The gallery is free to enter, making it a great option for budget travelers.

The Magic of Theatre District

London’s West End is famous for its theatre scene. The area is alive with energy in the evening, with numerous shows to choose from. I recommend booking tickets in advance, especially for popular shows.

Soho, Chinatown, and Piccadilly Circus are vibrant areas to explore at night. They offer a mix of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. For a unique experience, try a late-night walk around these neighborhoods – the ambiance is electric.

Culinary Escapades

London’s culinary scene is as diverse as its population. From traditional English fare to international cuisine, there’s something for everyone. Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza offers authentic Italian pizza – a delightful treat for those missing a taste of Italy.

For a unique dining experience, head to Sticks n Sushi in Soho. The restaurant offers a fusion of Japanese and Danish cuisines, set in an elegantly modern space.

Another excellent choice is The Quality Chop House in Clerkenwell, known for its traditional British dishes and cozy ambiance.


My week in London was a blend of nostalgia and discovery. The city offers a unique mix of history, culture, and modernity. For anyone planning a visit, my advice is to balance your itinerary between famous landmarks and lesser-known local spots.

Public transport is efficient and a great way to see different parts of the city. The Oyster card is a convenient and cost-effective way to use the transport system. Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask locals for recommendations – Londoners are generally friendly and happy to share their favorite spots.

London is a city that never fails to surprise and delight. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or returning after many years, there’s always something new to discover. I hope my experiences and tips help you plan an unforgettable London adventure.