I spent the summer of 2012 studying abroad in London, and it was an absolutely amazing experience! While I’m not sure if I got a totally “British experience,” I feel I’ve learned enough about the country as a whole to give you a few tips and must-do activities! Read about my most recent time in the U.K. on my solo Europe trip in 2015 by clicking here (does not include my summer abroad).
Warner Brothers Studio Tour (Hertfordshire)
I’ve read and reread the Harry Potter series more times than I can count, so this was definitely a MUST for my England adventures. At the Warner Brother Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, I was able to go behind the scenes of what is arguably the biggest part of my childhood. It was absolutely incredible and anyone who even remotely likes HP should definitely take the time to visit where the magic happened…literally. I tasted a butterbeer (which was actually gross, but I had to try it!), rode on the Knight Bus, walked through the Great Hall, and broke my camera from taking so many pictures (it overheated. RIP, camera). Just do it. Trust me.
West End Show (London)
As a big lover of theater, no trip to London would be complete without visiting Piccadilly Circus and seeing a show at the West End (or 10, as I did in my two-month study abroad period). While it’s different than seeing a show on Broadway (forget seeing anyone dressed up–jeans are the normal attire), it’s definitely a quintessential British experience. My all-time favorite show is Les Miserables, so if you have a chance, get tickets to see it. Otherwise, any show will do! See what tickets are on sale for a discounted rate at TKTS, or go straight into the theaters and see if there are any last-minute deals. But make sure you take one evening of your trip to grab dinner in nearby Chinatown and catch a fun show!
One of the most fun things I did was meet up with a friend who was visiting London and go to Harrod’s for a traditional High Tea. Though it cost a pretty penny, and tea is not my favorite of the warm beverages, it was yet another experience I felt was very British and something I just had to do. The food was exquisite (finger sandwiches, scones, and various pastries), the tea variety was plentiful, and there was a pianist scoring our afternoon. Overall, I don’t think any trip to England is complete without a high tea. And there are so many places that offer afternoon tea out there that don’t cost AS MUCH as Harrod’s, I’m sure.
Kew Gardens (Surrey)
The program I was on offered an afternoon visiting Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens, about a 40-minute tube ride outside of London in Surrey. Though it periodically rained throughout my visit (it’s England, what do you expect?), I am so glad I decided to join on this optional activity! The flowers were blooming, there were panoramic lookout points, and the scenery as a whole was just picturesque. My favorite part was the massive greenhouse, which housed thousands of plants and flowers. Just take my word for it and visit these gorgeous gardens.
Cereal Killer Cafe (London)
Strolling along Brick Lane, you could easily miss this place. With barely any signage, but a line almost always out the door, Cereal Killer Cafe is a dining experience you won’t want to miss! You can get any kind of cereal you can think of, create your own cereal mixture, or try one of their “cereal cocktails,” which combines cereals, toppings, and flavored milks to give you a bowl you won’t soon forget. The cocktail I chose was the “Lion King,” which consisted of Lion cereal (Lion is a popular candy bar in the UK with chocolate and caramel), coco caramel shreddies cereal, pieces of Mars bar, and a caramel flavored milk. This was definitely more of a dessert than breakfast, but hey, it was delicious and you should check it out for yourself!
Camden Market (London)
Camden Market is a bustling hub of shops, food, and people from all walks of life coming together to make one heck of an experience. Similar to the Israeli “shuk” concept, vendors come and sell their goods (most of which are the same from shop to shop) and you haggle down to get good prices. But what I love most about it is the food market, where you can get pretty much any cuisine that you can imagine. I got a Jamaican Jerk Chicken wrap with freshly squeezed lime juice and it was a delicious and spicy lunch!
The London Eye (London)
I’m sure you’ve seen this one in every single skyline shot of London: The London Eye. Overlooking the Thames River (pronounced like “Tems.” Don’t get caught sounding foolish!), this is one of the best ways to get a birds-eye view of the city. It moves really slowly, allowing you ample time for photographs. Definitely something to check out!
Haggis Adventures Tours
I spent a long weekend in Scotland with a friend during my summer abroad, and it was one of the most fun experiences of my life. I would say that Scotland is arguably my favorite place in the world, and a large part of that is due to our tour through the Scottish Highlands with Haggis Adventures. We spent two days driving around the Highlands with other young travelers from around the globe, seeing Loch Ness (sadly no monster sighting) and having authentic Scottish experiences (yes, we actually tried haggis…and didn’t hate it!). If you plan on going to Scotland for a period of time, check out this great tour company!
Edinburgh Ghost Tour
When we weren’t on our Highland tour, we were stationed in the mystical and wonderful city of Edinburgh (pronounced “edd-in-bruh”). My favorite thing that we did in Edinburgh was the authentic ghost tour. The city is known for its creepiness and the tour really does it right! While there were no ghost sightings, I highly recommend seeking out a spooky-centered tour during your visit!
Doctor Who Experience (Cardiff)
I spent a grand total of about five hours in Wales, not including the six-hour round trip bus ride, all for the purpose of visiting the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff. And it was totally worth it. I’ve been a Whovian (fan of Doctor Who) since 2012 and this was the ultimate experience. The interactive tour that lets you help the Doctor out on an adventure, seeing the costumes throughout the years, and viewing the sets was an unbelievable time. Definitely worth a visit for any fan of the series!
Everywhere in the U.K.
Located on pretty much every street corner in the whole of the U.K., Nando’s chicken is my go-to for lunch and dinner when I can’t figure out anything else to do. Specializing in chicken wraps, sandwiches, and plates, you can make a different order every time you visit. My favorite is their chicken sandwich with mango chili seasoning. The franchise is just starting to open in the U.S. and I hope they make it to L.A.!
See anything you like? Or maybe something you would like to add? Let me know in the comments or submit it on my contact page!
-Girl Traveling the World 🙂