Last weekend, I traveled to London with Virgin Atlantic to celebrate their inaugural Seattle to London direct flight! We had a few days to explore the city, so we packed in a ton of activities! London is so sprawling that the adventures are endless. The last time I visited, we covered some ground (Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Shoreditch, Harrods, Borough Market, Piccadilly Circus — to name a few). So this trip, I wanted to explore some new-to-me spots!
Here is a super quick guide for if you’ve only got about 72 hours in London.
Getting to London from Seattle is convenient now that Virgin Atlantic offers a direct flight. I got to chill in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse beforehand, which was a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the airport. I lounged, caught up on some work, charged all my electronics, and ate lunch (had a bowl of ramen… and a couple drinks).
Once you land, you can take the Tube from Heathrow Airport to the city for £7, which takes about an hour. If your hotel is close to a Tube station and you don’t have too many bags, then I’d recommend that form of transportation. I’ve also taken a car from the airport, but it also takes about an hour because the traffic is so congested. Once in London, we mostly traveled by foot or the Tube because our hotel was so central. There are also taxis and Uber of course, but just know that traffic can take forever!
2:00pm – Check-In to Mondrian Hotel
This time, I stayed at the Mondrian Hotel in Southbank, which is right on the Thames River. It was gorgeous seeing the sunrise over the Thames every morning from my room window. The Mondrian was designed under the creative direction of Tom Dixon (I especially love his lighting and candles), so the space is stunning and luxurious. The hotel is central and walking distance to the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, London Eye, and more.
After freshening up from a day of travel, we headed over to the Soho neighborhood nearby.
4:30-8:00pm – Twilight Soho Food Tour
Usually, I don’t do food tours because I like to choose my own restaurants and go at my leisure. But with little time, I thought a tour would maximize the number of places I’d get to visit. I liked the sound of the Twilight Soho Food Tour because it takes you to 8 places throughout Soho and each meal is accompanied with a drink. Some outstanding spots: jicama shrimp taco at La Bodega Negra, gin at The London Gin Club, and dim sum and cocktails at Opium. I also learned so much about the area, which was fascinating! (The first photo features the apartment where Karl Marx lived at one point!)
9:00-12:00pm – Harry Potter Studio Tour
I’m actually doing a whole post about the Harry Potter Studio Tour so I’ll write more then! I’ll be sharing tips about getting there (it’s an hour out of London) and details of the tour. Long story short, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you should absolutely do this! Please let me know if you have any specific questions in the comments section below.
1:00pm – Afternoon Tea at Sketch
Of course, one must do afternoon tea in London, and if you haven’t been to Sketch yet, you must book tea at the Gallery in Sketch. I’ll also be doing a whole post on my experience here, so please let me know if you have any specific questions in the comments section below!
3:00pm – Shopping at Portobello Road Market
We didn’t get to visit Notting Hill last time, so I made sure we stopped by this time to admire all the candy-colored homes. The weather was absolutely beautiful, so we leisurely strolled around the neighborhood. We also shopped around the Portobello Road Market, though I found the crowd to be quite overwhelming. I liked when we popped out of the Market into the area of boutiques and bars, and people were hanging out and drinking in the sunshine. At one corner, a saxophonist was playing jazzy remixes to modern songs from Major Lazer and Rihanna and everyone was enjoying themselves and having a little dance party on the street.
6:00pm – The Shard
The Shard is the tallest building in London, so we went up during sunset to catch magic hour from a bird’s eye view. The highest level on floor 72 has a bar and turf grass, so people drank while waiting for the sun to set. It does get crowded, and I found the other viewing platforms on floors 68-69 to be a tad bit more bare.
I heard there are yoga classes on top of The Shard every Saturday morning, which would be an incredible experience! I didn’t have time on this trip, unfortunately, but next time!
7:00pm – Dinner at Sea Containers
I love staying at a hotel with good restaurants and bars, because sometimes it’s most convenient to eat in-house (plus, then you can drink and not have to worry about Uber-ing back!). We had breakfast at the Sea Containers Restaurant at Mondrian Hotel every morning because the food was so good, so we had to have dinner there.
You can order a set feast, which is reasonably priced per person. Our dinner started with bread and olives, ceviche (fave!), grilled octopus salad, and lamb meatballs. For the mains, we had the whole brill, a Mediterranean flatbread, and roasted chicken (fave!) with a side of truffle mac and cheese (fave!), blistered shishito peppers, and heirloom tomato salad. We finished with a trio of desserts: carrot cake, pecan pie, and chocolate lava cake. I totally think the dinner set is worth it – everything was delicious and we were so stuffed!
After, we popped over to Dandelyan Bar at the Mondrian where a DJ was spinning old school hip-hop. The cocktail program is sophisticated and modern. Case in point: I ordered an herbal gin cocktail, and it came with the “100” emoji printed on top!
10:00am – Thames Rockets
Again, because of the shortness of the trip, I wanted to do a lot of sightseeing at once. The Thames Rockets speedboat tour via the Thames River is basically the definition of that. The experience was even more fun than I had expected, as they weren’t joking when they called it a speedboat tour! During parts of the tour, they turn up the music, rev up speed, make quick turns, and follow the wake of bigger boats. Then later, they would slow down and explain some of the sights that you’d pass. Make sure you bundle up, as the winds could get chilly, though they give out big coats at the beginning of the tour.
11:00am – London Eye
After the Thames Rockets speedboat tour, we went right next door to the London Eye. The rotation takes about 30-minutes, and the views are incredible. You’re right above the Thames and get a closer look at the city from above, whereas with The Shard, you get a much broader view of the whole city. Book beforehand, so you can get a discounted ticket.
1:00pm – Sunday Roast at Blacklock
I really wanted to try a traditional Sunday roast, and I found Blacklock, which was soo good. From their menu, I picked the 55-day aged beef rump. The roasted meat came with Yorkshire pudding (something I wish the United States ate more!), duck-fat roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables, and bone marrow gravy (which was so amazing I could have drank a jug of it).
2:00pm – Shopping
Dover Street Market
To walk off the Sunday roast, we strolled over to Dover Street Market, which is an incredible museum-like boutique founded by Rei Kawakubo, the designer of Comme des Garçons. The store also features brands like Gucci, Balenciaga, J.W.Anderson to name a few. It’s a must-visit for any fashion lover, with 5-stories of covetable pieces housed within ever-changing art installations. You can refuel with a rose latte and pastries at Rose Bakery on the 5th floor.
The cute streets in London are endless. Seven Dials is an adorable neighborhood in Covent Garden that I discovered on this trip. There are lots of boutiques and shops, and nearby is Neal’s Yard, a colorful alley and courtyard that is so picturesque.
My Cup of Tea
We stopped in the darling My Cup of Tea to rest our feet from a day of walking. They served up matcha in traditional Japanese pottery bowls, and green tea was just what we needed to reenergize and hit the road again.
The Soho district is large, and even though I’ve been nearby to Oxford Street and Regent Street, I’d never visited Carnaby Street until this trip. There’s lots of shopping and restaurants here, and we had dinner at Jinjuu and drinks at a fun Underground-themed bar called Cahoots in Kingly Court.
I got to check out the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow Airport, which was a nice way to settle in before the flight. There was plenty of space to lounge, dine, or work, and there is even an outdoor terrace to get fresh air. I had coffee and breakfast at the Clubhouse before venturing out into the airport for duty-free shopping (got a Gucci souvenir ;)).
The inaugural direct flight from London to Seattle was quite a party. Virgin Atlantic invited British singer Raye to perform at the Upper Class bar in-flight! Here is the video of the experience (I was interviewed in it!).
Thank you to Virgin Atlantic for partnering with me on this trip! I had the best time, as London was a complete pleasure as always. I already can’t wait to return! You can see my other London travel posts or all of my travel posts here.