London, England. Home of High Tea, Queens and royalty, the West End theatre district, and of course Sherlock Holmes. I have wanted to visit London ever since I was a child and my dad and I ran around my neighborhood pretending we were Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, and my desire to visit grew larger as my passion for BBC television and theatre expanded. Finally this summer, I had the opportunity of a lifetime: Three weeks in London! But not just an ordinary three weeks, my mom and I tagged along with my dad, a piano professor at Goshen College in Indiana, and 45 Goshen College students for their May-Term course, “The Arts in London”.
Spending three weeks in London to immerse myself in the arts?! UM, COUNT ME IN!
By the end of the trip I had seen 15 arts events, mostly plays and musicals, along with incredible classical concerts. There is so much I could say, but I thought I would make my own guide to London, specifically for explorers who love the arts (and food). Here is everything you must see if you are planning a trip to London in the future!
PS: While I was on the trip, I made four video blogs for my YouTube channel for you to really get a feel for our experience. Those links will be provided below and also mentioned in my guide!
Top five performance venues in London:
1. THE GLOBE
Okay guys. Even if you don’t love Shakespeare, The Globe puts on breathtaking performances in their beautifully recreated open air theatre. I saw Romeo and Juliet, and it was one of the most moving theatre pieces I have ever experienced (see Vlog 2 for more). I also saw the comedy Nell Gwynn and laughed so hard I had a stomach ache! Tip, standing at the front isn’t bad at all and tickets can be as cheap as five pounds!
2. ROYAL DRURY LANE THEATRE
This theatre is the oldest on the West End, and one of the largest! 42nd Street is currently playing there, and it is an absolute spectacle containing the cleanest tap dancing I have ever experienced. This show was everything a musical should be, and the theatre is located in the beautiful Covent Gardens area complete with wonderful shopping and food. *Side note, every West End theatre is unique and they range in size... check out as many as you can!
3. THE NATIONAL THEATRE
Heard of the Tony award winning play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime? Well, the National Theatre is where it all began. This theatre is known for newer experimental works in all three of the building's beautiful theaters. I had the privilege of seeing their production of Angels in America with Nathan Lane, along with other famous West End and British television stars. This show will also be in WMU’s Department of Theatre season next spring!
4. ST. MARTIN IN THE FIELDS
This historic church has some of the most breathtaking concerts and acoustics in all of London. If you are looking to save a few pounds, the church provides free afternoon concerts at 1:00! We had the chance to see a string quartet for free, and we were blown away with the music and the number of people who came to enjoy the art. (See Vlog 1 for footage).
5. ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL AT THE SOUTHBANK CENTRE
This hall is located across the Waterloo bridge in the beautiful Southbank Centre, with a gorgeous view of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye. We saw the London Philharmonic Orchestra perform Beethoven’s Ninth and a concert featuring four West End stars sing a compilation of showtunes. This venue is huge, and definitely dress-up worthy! (Outdoor market mentioned in Vlog 3).
Top five must-try food stops:
1. HIGH TEA AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY (OR ANYWHERE)
Ever wanted to feel like a Queen? This is your chance! England is famous for their afternoon tea, an event where you order tea and a tiered tray of sandwiches, scones, and pastries, and enjoy the company of those you are with. We choose to have our tea at the National Portrait Gallery because the restaurant had a gorgeous view overlooking all of historic London! (See Vlog 3).
2. YE OLDE CHESHIRE CHEESE
One of the oldest pubs in London and the best pub for traditional English food such as fish n’ chips, bangers and mash, and steak and ale pie! This pub is loaded with history, and you will feel like you have stepped back in time once you’re inside. Make sure to try a Sunday Roast while you are in town, it's a tradition!
3. FARM GIRL CAFE
Healthy ingredients, lavender lattes, amazing presentation, and located in Nottinghill…can it get better than that?! This was our absolute favorite brunch spot, and although we waited in line for an hour, it was well worth it. If you’re like me and you love avocado toast, acai bowls, and nut butter, make sure you make the trip to this instagram-worthy cafe!
4. BALTHAZAR RESTAURANT AND BAKERY
Located once again in Covent Gardens, this French food stop would be perfect for a fancy more expensive, “treat-yo-self” dinner. However, if you need a quick lunch or dessert, stop by their homemade bakery next door! I must note that they serve the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted in my life.
5. HARRODS FOOD HALL
Yes. Harrods is indeed a department store…but did you know there is an entire floor dedicated to food?! Not only that, but ANY type of food you could possibly imagine. Make sure that when you make the trip to Harrods you do it on an empty stomach!
Top six travel tips:
1. BRING NICE CLOTHES
I was amazed by how well everyone dressed in the city. It was noticeably posh! I really enjoyed bringing along chic clothes and choosing my outfit every morning. You will really feel like you fit in!
2. LEARN TO USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION EARLY
One of the first things we did when we arrived in London was learn how to use the Tube (subway) and the bus system. It is actually fairly straightforward, and once you know how to use it, you can go see other parts of the city.
3. TKTS HAS THE BEST DISCOUNT TICKETS
This may be familiar to you if you have been to New York City, but the TKTS booth in the heart of the theatre district always has the cheapest discount tickets. We often got cheap tickets the same day we saw the show. If you aren’t sure, double check at the theatre, sometimes they have great deals as well. And don’t forget to ask about student discounts!
4. EXPLORE THE NON-TOURIST AREAS
After you see Big Ben and the changing of the guard, I highly encourage adventuring and finding special spots that don’t attract as many tourists. It will make your trip extra special and then you can recommend your findings to other travelers!
5. CHECK OUT THE PARKS
Being in the city is amazing, but make sure you spend some time in the parks too! It is easy to forget that such big beautiful parks reside within the walls of London. St. James Park was our favorite, and you can walk all the way through to Buckingham Palace. There is even a cafe along the way! (See Vlog 2 for more).
6. ENJOY YOUR COMPANY
Traveling to London is amazing enough, but it is even more amazing when you make special memories with the people you are with, whether they are family, friends, or strangers you meet along the way. And while you should take lots of pictures, don’t forget that some of the best memories are made when your phone is away and you soak up every moment of your trip.
That’s all from me! Here are links to my vlogs if you want to have a firsthand look into our trip:
|Vlog 1||Vlog 2||Vlog 3||Vlog 4|