I spent a weekend in London in April 2013. The trip was motivated by the availability of low-cost plane tickets. Hence, for a round trip with Ryanair from the Warsaw Chopin Airport to Stansted Airport, I paid only 88 PLN (about 22$). The additional cost was connected with getting from Stansted to London. For this two-way trip with easyBus paid about 10$. Paying such a low fare for a weekend trip, seemed like a bargain at the moment of the purchase.
My departure was scheduled on Friday at 10:30 a.m., I had packed my backpack a day earlier. I decided to go with my smallest pack. I packed my DSLR, underwear, toothbrush, and cosmetics. My departure flight was scheduled at 7:10 a.m., hence I planned to spend the last night at Stansted airport. For this purpose, I also took my Lafuma sleeping bag. Moreover sleeping at the airport allowed me to save some money by skipping a night in the hostel.
Getting to London
In the morning I walked to the bus stop which is located near my apartment, and I started my trip to Chopin Airport. On my way there I had to change a bus once (from 401 to 175). When I got to the airport, I went through security and waited for the departure. When the gate was open, we had to walk downstairs and enter the bus which took us to the plane (usual Ryanair thing at the Chopin Airport). The flight was smooth, and I got to Stansted. From there the bus took me to the city of London.
When I arrived in London, I started my trip with the underground to the hostel. I booked the hostel located near Camden Town and called Palmers Lodge Swiss Cottage. After arrival, I have fallen in love with two things about it. The Victorian architecture (especially beautiful interior), and the sleeping rooms. I really liked the curtains mounted in each bed, which allowed for some privacy and better sleep. In my opinion, it has been one of the best hostels that I stayed in.
Each bed in my room had a drawer underneath it, which you could secure with a padlock. I unpacked some of my belongings, locked them, and I went sightseeing.
I left my hostel, and I went to the underground station. At the station, I bought tickets for my whole visit. The funny thing is, that I paid more for these tickets than I had for traveling to London.
After buying the tickets I headed to the City of London, as I wanted to see the St. Paul’s Cathedral. On my way, I passed the famous telephone boxes. The red boxes were introduced in 1926 as a result of a design competition that took place in 1924.
Further, I passed the Christ Church Greyfriars. This place used to be a Church but was heavily damaged during the World War II bombings of London. Now the ruins serve as a public garden. In my opinion, this place is really climactic, as the garden is surrounded by remains of the old church’s walls. I’ve spent some time there before proceeding with my sightseeing.
After a short break, I continued my tour. Further on my way, I saw the Central Criminal Court (Old Balley building) with a Lady of Justice statue on the top.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Finally, I reached St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is one of the best recognizable sights in London. The cathedral was consecrated in 1697, and it’s dedicated to Paul the Apostle. The building is 158 meters long, and 85 meters high. Though I have seen many cathedrals in Europe, the St. Paul’s still seemed impressive. In front of the cathedral, there is a statue of Queen Anne. There is also information about the weekly masses that are being held in the cathedral.
The Millennium Bridge
From the cathedral, I headed to the Thames River. After a short walk, I was at the river’s bank, near the Millennium Bridge. This pedestrian bridge was opened in 2000, but it was closed just after the opening due to lack of stability. It has taken nearly two years to make required changes, that have increased bridge stability.
From the bridge I saw the Shard which is the highest building in London, standing over 309m high. Further east I saw the famous Tower Bridge, which I planned to visit on the next day.
Next, I got off the Millennium Bridge and I took a walk along the river’s bank. As I was getting hungry, therefore I decided to find a grocery store. I did some shopping, and I went back to my hostel. In the evening, I did some reconnaissance in the hostel’s neighborhood. As I wanted to return to the sightseeing in the morning, hence I went to sleep earlier than I usually do.
The Palace of Westminster
I left my hostel at about 8 a.m. and I walked to the underground station. From there I traveled to the City of Westminster. I headed there, as I wanted to see the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, and other historical buildings in the area.
The Palace of Westminster is the home of the British Parliament. Both houses (House of Commons and the House of Lords) have their meetings there. Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock and is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower as well. First I admired the beauty of the Palace of Westminster from the riverside.
Next, I walked to the Parliament’s back, and I took some pictures there. I also saw one of the UK’s most important religious buildings – Westminster Abbey. It was formally titled the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster. This has been a place of coronation of the British (and earlier English) monarchs since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066. There were only two exceptions during nearly 1000 years.
Next, I walked to Trafalgar Square, which is located about 1 km walking distance from the Palace of Westminster. The square’s name is dedicated to the battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory over Napoleon’s forces that took place on 21 October 1805. On the square, there is a column of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died during this battle. The column is guarded by four lion statues.
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
From the square, I walked to St. James’s Park. I entered the park with the Mall road, which was decorated with British Flags. There were also barriers placed in some places. I’m not sure, but I think that it was connected with a London Marathon that took place on the next day. The park itself looked beautiful, it reminded me a lot about Lazienki Krolewskie in Warsaw.
I walked through the park and I stumbled upon changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. It was a pure luck, as I didn’t plan this. The spectacle was awesome and worth spending about 50 minutes there.
After the ceremony ended, I proceeded with further with the sightseeing, which I will describe in the next part of the story.