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Tips for a First-Timer Visiting the United Kingdom

The UK is among the world’s most popular tourist destinations. English-speaking, prosperous and full of history, it has a great deal to offer. But what should first-time visitors do to prepare for their arrival?

What is the UK?

This is one of those countries, like the Netherlands, which presents a few opportunities for confusion. Indeed, many of the natives might struggle to tell you exactly what the difference is.  There are actually three countries which comprise Great Britain: namely England, Scotland and Wales. A fourth comes in the form of Northern Ireland, to create The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The British Isles isn’t a country; it’s just the name for the landmass.

Public Transport

While the trains and buses don’t meet quite the same standard as set on mainland Europe, they’re still the easiest way for a new arrival to get from one place to another. Car rentals and taxis can be extremely expensive, especially if you’re traveling frequently. For example, the train from Eastbourne is a safe bet for those looking to head to Hastings to check out the battlefield and the beach.

Etiquette

When visiting any new country, it’s worth getting to grips with the local customs concerning etiquette. To begin with, the British know how to form an orderly line, and will take a pretty dim view of anyone attempting to push in. In the UK, the chance of any new arrival causing a serious commotion are fairly small; at worst, you’ll probably get a pointed tutting, or an “excuse me.”

The Currency

The currency is sterling. Notes come in fives, tens and twenties (and, very occasionally, fifties). You might find different sorts of notes if you’re in Scotland. These notes are legal tender everywhere, as Scottish people will never tire of telling you.

The Weather

The UK has a famously temperate climate, being surrounded by water. You won’t get extremes of heat or cold, and you can expect to be rained on at least once, even if you’re heading there at the height of summer.

City or Country?

The UK is quite a small country, especially compared to the United States. As such, you’ll find quite a lot of variety crammed into just a small area. You might use a city as a base of operations, and from there venture out into the countryside. London tends to take the lion’s share of the tourist traffic, but there are other places in the country worth visiting – and you may find that the cost of things in smaller towns is markedly lower.

When to Go

The UK provides plenty of distraction throughout the year. If you’re travelling in summer, then you’ll benefit from the traditional seaside and city breaks – though you should be aware that the prices will rise accordingly. At winter time, there’s more of an emphasis on indoor attractions. Some of the country’s outdoor adventures are best undertaken during autumn and spring. The countryside looks its best at this time of year, but you’ll still get a full day of sunshine.

Europe Insider Tips

9 Places You Must See On Your First Trip To London

Jolly old England’s capital, London is jam-packed with some of the most incredible historic relics of Europe, chic and modernistic buildings and quirky, cool neighborhoods. Truthfully, there’s way too much to see when exploring London for the first time. There’s no possible way to do it all and see it all! So, the question is… what shouldn’t you miss during your first trip? Today, we’re sharing 10 places you must see on your first trip to London!

Of course, keep in mind, this round up is stocked with historical classics and sights… be sure to cater your trip to London according to your interests (more on personalized travel can be found right here!). There’s no right or wrong way to explore a city!

Tower of London

It’s iconic for a reason! The Tower Of London is a must-see when visiting London for the first time. Its ominous history is something to behold too. What used to be the Kings and Queen’s place to send prisoners to ponder while awaiting their executions now has some regular, informative traditions… so if you can sneak in a free tour, do it!

P.S. After you’ve had your fill of historic beheadings of London, there’s no better place to fill up your stomach than Borough Market! It’s just a few minutes walk away and is stocked with some of the most delicious eateries in the city.

A Stroll Down The South Bank

A jam-packed jaunt down London’s South Bank will show you some of the city’s most beloved sights. Start on the west side and make you way east down the River Thames. You’ll see the gorgeous Houses of Parliament, Big Ben (who might still be under construction if you’re seeing London this year!), Westminster Bridge and you’ll have easy access to the London Eye, the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe.

Buckingham Palace

See if the queen is in while in her city! Buckingham Palace is a key sight to see, if you ask us. Try to arrange your itinerary so you can see the changing of the guards at 11:30 AM everyday (from April-July) and every other day (for the rest of the year). This ceremonious event lasts over a good half hour and will let you see a traditional side of British royalty you’ve dreamt of.

London Eye

The London Eye is one of the coolest ferris wheels in the world. You can comfortably see the city skyline sprawling in front of you. Be sure to make a reservation beforehand!

British Museum

This museum does not hold back in its amazing amount of artifacts from the ancient world! The British Museum is divided into the time periods of the human civilization and is truly a mecca of world history. Don’t miss the Rosetta Stone (yes the Rosetta Stone!), the Assyrian Lion Hunt Reliefs, the Parthenon Sculptures, ancient samurai armor and the Mummy of Katebet!

Sky Garden

London’s a huge city. But it’s hard to grasp that concept while you’re exploring it by foot. That’s why we believe the Sky Garden is a must-do when visiting London for the first time! The wide, open windows show visitors the city’s beauty. Come for sunset and you’ll be swooning!

London Calling: Five Perfect Days In Great Britain

Notting Hill

Made famous by Hugh Grant and Julia Robert’s movie, the Notting Hill neighborhood will show you the quaint, yet post side of London. And if you ask us, Notting Hill is best explored on an afternoon, dodging in between fantastic restaurants, unique boutiques and shops and popping into a market or two on the weekends! It’s a quieter side to the city that we adore.

Camden Market

This hipster paradise is the market of all markets! You’ll find everything here. From specialized food stalls, knick knacks, vintage and lots of live music… everything you could ever imagine in a market is in Camden. Just be sure to wear good walking shoes because Camden Market is a big, sprawling stretch!

The South Kensington Museums

There’s a whole set of incredible museums located right in the heart of posh South Kensington. Which ones are not to miss you ask? The Science Museum, Victoria & Albert and my personal favorite, The Natural History Museum. Each one has a special thing to offer! If you plan your itinerary in advance, try to schedule a late visit to any one of them. On certain days of the month, visitors can spend the evening perusing the galleries while listening to music and noshing on some bites.

A trio of world-class museums lie within steps of each other in this wealthy neighbourhood, their grand edifices proving an equal draw to the glories within. To see a more unusual side of the Science Museum or the Victoria & Albert, and mingle with some Londoners, try one of the monthly ‘Lates’ when they open their doors into the evening and offer music and food alongside the exhibits. Or take it one step further with a Dino Snores sleepover at the Natural History Museum.


Of course, this round up is just a starting point for your explorations in London. Be sure to check out our other London guides and blog posts. We have a ton of other recommendations for every type of traveler. Happy exploring!

Europe Food Instagrammer's Guides

An Instagrammer’s Guide To London’s Best Brunch Spots

5 Of London’s Most Instagrammable Brunch Spots

If there’s one meal us Londoners love, it’s brunch. Give us eggs, give us avocado, fry up some bacon, and we’re a happy lot. Luckily, the city does brunch pretty darn well. And for those of us who can’t eat until we’ve snapped our food from a dozen different angles, there’s plenty of options. From dramatic floral displays to food that looks like art, I’ve rounded up some of the city’s best spots to enjoy the perfect poached eggs and get that Instagram snap. Here are five of London’s most Instagrammable brunch spots!

Elan Cafe

Chances are you’ve already seen a photo of blogger favourite Elan Cafe on Instagram, if not several. With 6 locations ranging from Kensington and Knightsbridge to a spot in Selfridges, Elan’s USP is decadent floral backdrops and floor to ceiling pink decor, providing photo ops in every corner. The brunch spread is just as picturesque, with the usual egg and avo options as well as colourful striped croissants and pastel drinks. Head to their Brompton Road location for the classic flower wall, or try their new Knightsbridge spot on Hans Crescent for love heart adorned alcoves.

5 Of London’s Most Instagrammable Brunch Spots
5 Of London’s Most Instagrammable Brunch Spots
5 Of London’s Most Instagrammable Brunch Spots

Farm Girl

Notting Hill spot Farm Girl brings Australian brunch culture to West London, with a menu of healthy largely vegetarian options including açai bowls, porridge and oats, and of course, avocado on toast. I’d recommend the Berry Pancakes, which are made with buckwheat and buttermilk – they’re thick and squidgy, heaped with berries, coconut and candied pistachios. Oh, and they look great in a flat lay! Get there early and snag one of the pink tables in their outdoor patio for maximum Instagram potential.

5 Of London’s Most Instagrammable Brunch Spots

Feya

Tucked away just behind Oxford Street, Feya Cafe is an elegant spot for some post-shopping fuel, if you manage to nab a table that is. With peach walls and florals blooming from the ceiling, it’s a popular brunch spot for those of us who like to photograph their food before they eat it (guilty!). The food is worth snapping though – designed by Finnish food blogger Virpi Mikkonen, the menu is comprised of colourful vegetarian dishes adorned with bright flowers. Try the Rose Avo Toast which pairs a rose shaped avocado with beetroot hummus for a perfectly picturesque dish.

5 Of London’s Most Instagrammable Brunch Spots

Saint Aymes

If you’ve got more of a sweet tooth, Saint Aymes in Marble Arch is a picturesque spot serving up equally pretty pancakes and granola bowls alongside a selection of sugary treats. It’s claim to Instagram fame is the much-snapped awning of flowers that frames the exterior, however it’s just as grammable inside, with a flower wall and velvet sofas. If you’re feeling particularly luxe, splash out on one of their 24 carat gold milkshakes!

5 Of London’s Most Instagrammable Brunch Spots
5 Of London’s Most Instagrammable Brunch Spots

Aubaine Selfridges

Nestled away on the 2nd floor of Selfridges Department Store on Oxford Street you’ll find restaurant chain Aubaine’s most beautiful location. Draped in lilac wisteria with charming decor and plenty of natural daylight, it’s a gorgeous spot that feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of London’s main shopping thoroughfare. The breakfast menu ranges from French pastries to lobster benedict, and best yet, the friendly staff don’t mind you snapping away before you eat.

Europe Food

London Theatre Bars Perfect To Grab A Pint Or Cocktail At

A trip to the theatre isn’t complete without a drink in hand. If you find yourself with a few minutes to spare before a show, or if you just need a change of scenery for your post-work pint, check out these awesome, and often underrated theatre bars. These spots welcome all theatre-goers with open arms, but are also open to the public – whether you’re catching a show or not – so grab a mate, grab a drink and start your night.

If you don’t want your evening to end once the curtains are drawn, these bars are open late, making them the ideal place to hang out well into the night!

The Young Vic

An outdoor roof terrace and ample seating on the ground level make The Cut Bar at the Young Vic just the place to sip a cocktail, a glass of wine or a pint of craft beer. This theatre’s award-winning building is a perfect home to the bustling, airy space complete with delicious food and drink and a vibrant atmosphere.

The Bridge Theatre

The Bridge Theatre has possibly one of the most beautiful modern theatre foyers in London, and you just have to spend some time in the large café-bar area. The bar is stocked with local beers, great wines and classic cocktails. If you’re looking for a bite to eat to go with your cold drink, check out the rotating selection of cakes, signature doughnuts, and homemade ice cream.

The Globe 

The iconic Shakespeare’s Globe hosts Swan, a beautiful bar, restaurant and event space set over two floors, with stunning views of the River Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral. Swan is open all day serving coffee to cocktails and everything in between. Be a London tourist for the night by hitting these classic landmarks all while sitting with a drink in hand.

The Soho Theater

The Soho Theater is a vibrant venue that features new theater, cabaret, and comedy. Switch up your typical night out for a less classic stop (less classic than The Globe, that is) at the ever-buzzing Soho Theatre Bar. The bar doubles as a cooperative workspace and café by day and a high energy bar and hang out by night. Stop by for a coffee or a pint and try out some new theater – you may be surprised by the pleasant change of pace.

The Old Vic

In the mood for a coffee or would you rather stick with an alcoholic beverage? The bar above The Old Vic serves up coffee and unique cocktails. Pop in for brunch – hello, mimosas! – or seasonal dishes from the best London suppliers. Head upstairs before your show or pull up a chair and sit for a spell. The best thing: it’s open until 2AM on the weekends!

Tip: Pre-order drinks on The Old Vic Bar app and receive 10% off your first drink. Download the app for free from the App Store and Google Play.

Menier Chocolate Factory

This renovated factory incorporates all of the charm and history it once held with bare brick and timber beams. Grab a pint or try the pre-theatre set menu, which features themed meals that were made for the theatre stars themselves. Don’t skip out on dessert! You can’t visit a chocolate factory without indulging in a chocolate platter.

The National Theatre

The National Theatre is home to many bars, restaurants, tearooms and cafés, but The Understudy comes as the most acclaimed. The space has an outdoor, riverside courtyard and serves a range of draught beers, wines and cocktails. Free board games and a schedule of live music makes you feel like you’re at the theatre without even seeing a show.


No matter how you like to spend your Saturday night – at the theatre or grabbing a pint with your mates – London has plenty of bars and restaurants that will lead your night in the right direction.

Airlines

Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand

Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand

I always do my best thinking when up in the air. Swallowed by sky and clouds and the spanning oceans and sprawling landscapes below, I feel most in-tune with myself. Maybe because the time I spend in an aircraft is a pause in the craze-filled frenzy traveling full time can be. It’s my moment to sit and just be. Any flight, whether it’s a hop, skip and a jump from island to island, or a luxury craft filled with hundreds and multi-tiers of explorers, is “home” for a tiny bit of our life. It’s a recluse, a pod, a little quiet place to be still. So when we find an airline like Air New Zealand, that makes the experience of flying more serene and luxurious, it makes me so grateful.

Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand

Sometimes knowing I’m in for a long flight can send my anxiety into epic new heights. Upon booking my nonstop flight from Los Angeles to London, I can’t tell you how daunting the 10 hour flight felt. But when I was greeted by the welcoming faces of Air New Zealand’s attendants and settled into my comfortable (and ridiculously spacious) Business Premier seat, I knew my original nerves were not welcomed here. I was in for a serious treat – a relaxing experience – words I would not typically choose for a long-haul flight.

I mean, when your seat can convert into a memory foam flat-laying bed, not relaxing would be a sin! Kudos to Air New Zealand on this gem. Seriously, why can’t all airlines have Skycouches? 

Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand

Nestling into my space was oh-so dreamy. In between writing in my journal, I was able to catch up on the television shows I’ve been missing out on while sipping on New Zealand wine and settle into the ultimate relaxation-mode. Air New Zealand leaves no stone unturned when it comes to providing a list of New Zealand’s best wines (curated by seven leading wine experts). Give this girl a glass of refreshing white wine, some cuddly blankets and some tv shows to binge, and I’m as happy as a clam.

And I should mention, I was able to settle into my ultimate relaxation state while also devouring Chef Peter Gordon (the godfather of fusion foods) and Michael Meredith cuisine (known for his award winning celebration of New Zealand’s culinary traditions). I also devoured their CrossTown donuts and other refreshments while on board! Happy stomach, happy state-of-mind. 

Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand Airlines We Love: Air New Zealand

It’s in the air that I’m given the time and the setting to be still. It here in my long haul flight that I am able to dream, to set goals and intentions, to reflect on all the great experiences I’ve gathered and all that is yet to come. Thank you to Air New Zealand for setting off my trip to London on such a great note!

 

Trip sponsored by Air New Zealand.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. All opinions are my own.
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