London: A Few Final Highlights from My Favorite City

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London. Oh, London. More than any other place on earth, this is the city that keeps drawing me back in. And my trip after this past Christmas only solidified that love, so much so that I’m determined to make it a yearly tradition. I’ve written a ton about it already – about the colors of Shoreditch and the elegance of Claridge’s and the magic of a London Christmas – but there’s still so much more to discuss. Here’s the best of the rest.

In the past, I’ve always struggled to pick the right place to stay in London and, sadly, I’ve had some real duds. This trip, however, I aced it. I split my time between the Hoxton Holborn (centrally located, not far from many of the major sites) and the Ace Shoreditch (in East London, in the more “hipster” part of town). I loved both hotels, and not least because they both had great onsite restaurants and coffee shops. Case in point: the Holborn Grind, with Insta-worthy interiors and great coffee.

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My first hotel, the Hoxton, was near Covent Garden. On my first day, I made my way to the area and stopped into Neal’s Yard. I didn’t go for any specific purpose – I just sat on a bench and drank a coffee – but rather to admire the colors. It’s such a cheerful little courtyard.

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One of the original impetuses for my entire trip was seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the West End. I scored tickets on StubHub and made my way there. My verdict? I thought the plot was shaky (time turners? Really?), but the acting and production values were both so good. I loved how they incorporated bits of “magic” into the show – there were some really cool stunts. At a 5 hour plus runtime, the show is definitely a test of endurance but, overall, I’m glad I did it.

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The Harry Potter play actually happens in two parts: a show from about 2-5pm, and then another from 8-11pm (see what I mean about it being an endurance test?). So, in between, what to do? I popped over to the National Portrait Gallery; I’ve been a bunch of times, so I knew I wouldn’t feel any sort of pressure to see everything during the short timeframe. I love this collection – it’s particularly fascinating to trace the portraits through time.

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Another museum I made a repeat visit to was the Victoria & Albert Museum, which specializes in the decorative arts. There are a lot of interesting pieces at the museum, but my favorite of them all might be the beautiful Chihuly chandelier in the main entrance. Stunning!

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Though I’ll never quite feel fancy enough for Harrods, it’s always worth popping in. I spent most of my time in the food halls (which I wrote about here), but it’s fun to browse other areas of the store too, for at least as long as you can handle the crowds.

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At Kensington Palace, I visited the Fashion Rules exhibit, but also made time to wander through the beautiful gardens. Though obviously they are a bit subdued in winter, they are still beautiful nonetheless.

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The Design Museum recently opened in a new location and, after seeing lots of photos of it online, I knew I had to check it out. The space is so great: modern, open, energetic. I suppose it’s no surprise that a museum dedicated to design is so well-designed!

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I mentioned the food at Duck & Waffle, but the other reason to visit the restaurant is for the views. Perched atop a skyscraper in East London, Duck & Waffle boasts gorgeous vistas. I opted to visit at sunrise, and it was great to watch the sun come up over London.

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While walking through London, I stopped into St. Paul’s Cathedral. Truthfully, I hadn’t planned to, but it was really damn cold that morning and I needed a place to warm up. Not a shabby spot to take a break from the cold, huh?

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Borough Market is one of those places I just can’t help but visit again and again. On this trip, I made my way there pretty early in the morning. This meant that, for once, there was not the usual insane line at Monmouth Coffee, so I got to try it at long last. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty much just coffee. Good coffee, but coffee all the same.

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One place I wish I had spent more time at was the British Museum. On the day I was set to visit, I found myself unable to get out of bed, so my time there was a little abbreviated. Still, I made my way – speedily – through all the classics of ancient Greece and Egypt. Ah, well, I know it will all still be there next time I return.

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Of all the cafés in London, Peggy Porschen might just be in the running for the most adorable. It’s pink from the exterior down to the coffee cups, and it serves up some seriously adorable cookies and cakes. I was pretty full when I went there, so I limited myself to a cappuccino – but I’d love to go back to try some of the prettily decorated treats.

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One of the true highlights of my trip was a small group tour of Buckingham Palace. I had visited before in the summertime, when you can walk through on your own, with an audio guide. It was a great experience then, but the small group tour was something really special. For one, it was the group of 30 people and absolutely nobody else inside the palace – so you could really take in everything, unobstructed from tourist crowds (though, sadly, you couldn’t take photos). Our guide was so knowledgeable and, at the end, we were given a glass of champagne while still inside the palace. After, they personally escort you out one by one, across the Palace’s inner courtyard, and when you exit you find yourself face to face with tourists peeking their heads inside the gates. It felt so fun and special!

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And with that, I put this round of London to a rest. I already have a note in my iPhone labeled “Next trip to London” – so, you know I’m serious when I say I cannot wait to return again.

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