London Travel Guide

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I visited London, UK back in December to visit my boyfriend who’s currently studying overseas. It was my first time in the bustling city and I had such an amazing time taking in the sights (and eating delicious food!). The holidays are such a beautiful time to visit London – the streets are decked out with glittering lights and you can totally feel the festive spirit in the air.

This trip differed from other European vacations I’ve taken, since I actually knew someone who lives there. I spent less time hitting the tourist sights and more time exploring the city from a local’s perspective, which was a nice change.

That being said, you’ll probably find some of the typical London landmarks missing from this list – that’s because I didn’t have a chance to make my way to see them! Things that are still on my London bucket list (meaning I’ll definitely have to visit again) include: going for a stroll along the Thames, taking in views from the London Eye, and riding a double decker bus!

Here were some of my favourite parts from my trip in December and my recommendations for when you visit:

What to Do

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Visit local markets

London is known for its awesome markets, lined with stalls featuring local vendors, authentic food and fresh flowers. I visited Columbia Road Flower Market which was packed with beautiful blooms, as well as Brick Lane Market, which offered cool vintage finds and tons of affordable and delicious food options nearby. Spitalfields Market was a short walk away, where my boyfriend picked up a new coat!

Explore Covent Garden

Covent Garden is full of places to shop, eat and to spend the day exploring. For the holidays, the indoor hall was decked out with a huge mistletoe installation which was so pretty to look at. I recommend stopping for tea and macarons at Ladurée – the balcony upstairs also gives a great view of the street performers down below!

Hit the shops!

There’s tons of amazing shopping in London, from the busy tourist areas to vintage stores and the independent vendors at the market. Spend a day on Oxford Street (the busiest shopping street in Europe!) and hit up all the major stores. I love & Other Stories for simple pieces and jewellery, and Primark for a bargain that can’t be beat!

Spend a day in Chelsea

This was one of my favourite days I spent in London. Maybe because I’m a diehard fan of Made in Chelsea (anybody else?), but also because it was such a pretty area to explore, without the overwhelming crowds found in the more touristy parts of the city. Harrods is nearby, and here you’ll find the pretty pastel houses that are oh-so-instagrammable!

What to Eat

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Friends of Ours

Friends of Ours is a trendy little spot in Shoreditch serving delicious brunch items with a twist. We tried the Pork Belly Benedict (with candied & coffee cured pork belly!) as well as the Sweetcorn & Beetroot Fritters and they were both amazing.

Wahaca

A cool Mexican spot offering delicious tacos, tostadas, burritos and more, Wahaca is a fun place with cute decor to grab a quick bite. The prices are pretty affordable in comparison to the other restaurants in London, and you’ll definitely leave with a happy belly.

Peggy Porschen Cakes

This is a haven for anyone who loves anything cute, pretty and pink. Peggy Porschen Cakes serves up adorable cookies, cupcakes and desserts on pastel plates that’ll make you swoon. Snap a pic in front of their pastel pink doorway and spend an afternoon chatting over tea.

Sketch

Visit Sketch for an unforgettable experience! This was one of our special occasion meals and it did not disappoint. Sketch is an uber stylish restaurant (a celebrity favourite) featuring four different dining rooms, each with their own theme. We ate in The Gallery – full of everything rose gold and blush velvet and absolutely stunning!

Other Things to Consider

  • Watch. Your. Valuables. I got pick-pocketed while shopping on Oxford Street and lost my phone on my second day in London. Make sure your valuables are safely tucked away (an inside pocket of a jacket is ideal) or carry a purse that’s hard to get into.
  • Find time amidst your food adventures to try some local specialties: fish & chips and a full English breakfast are a must!
  • Pick up an Oyster Card (you can load it up with whatever amount you see fit) and take the London Underground to get around the city. The tube is easy to navigate and the quickest and most affordable way to travel. Walking is also a great option if you’re exploring Central London.

Happy travelling!

 

Barcelona Travel Guide

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Earlier in the Fall, I travelled to Barcelona, Spain with my boyfriend for a week. It was one of our favourite trips, filled with sunshine, good eats and amazing sights! Here are my tips for everything you should see and eat while you visit this beautiful city.

What to Do

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Take the HOHO bus

My mom is an avid traveller, and one of the first tips she shared with me about visiting a new city is to take a Hop On, Hop Off (HOHO) bus tour! Yes, it is the #1 most touristy thing you could do, but it also gives you a great overview of the city and the major sights. You can decide what you’d like to explore further and hop off the bus whenever you like! The HOHO is particularly handy at the beginning of your trip, when you’re trying to get the lay of the land and see what you’re most interested in.

See the beautiful architecture

Barcelona is well known for its beautiful architecture, particularly the work of Antoni Gaudí, a Spanish Catalan architect. La Sagrada Família is his most famous work, and the most popular tourist attraction in Barcelona. The stunning church draws in huge crowds every day of the week, so be sure to buy your tickets ahead of time online to skip waiting in line!

Another beautiful attraction by Gaudí to visit is the Park Güell. Here you can go through a stroll of the gardens, snap amazing photos, and take in breathtaking views of the city. This was one of my favourite spots to visit on our trip!

Stroll along La Rambla

La Rambla is a pedestrian street along the edge of Barcelona’s historical Gothic Quarter. Lined with tons of shops and restaurants, you can easily spend an afternoon walking along and taking in the sights.

Hit the beach!

Barcelona is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches! Spend a day soaking up some sun at Barceloneta (the closest beach to the tourist areas), or travel a bit further and visit one of the other beaches. We visited both Barceloneta as well as Platja del Bogatell, a smaller beach up the coast.

Be warned – it’s much more common at European beaches to go au natural – and for a timid girl like me, the sight was a bit shocking at first (but you’ll get used to it!). There will also be a lot of vendors attempting to sell you drinks and beach blankets.

Spectacular views at Tibidabo

Tibidabo is a mountain that overlooks Barcelona, offering up awesome views from the highest point in the city! To travel to Tibidabo, you’ll use the Funicular, a tram that takes you up to the top of the mountain. At the summit, you’ll find a stunning church and an adorable amusement park (instas anyone?).

Where to Eat

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La Boqueria

You’ll find the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria off La Rambla, a huge market home to some of the freshest produce and seafood in Barcelona. Get delicious juice for 1€ or sit down at one of the many bar style restaurants for the best meal of calamari, grilled fish and razor clams you’ll ever have!

Brunch & Cake

In addition to the traditional Spanish fare, Barcelona also caters to the trendy, modern food scene. Brunch & Cake serves up gorgeous brunch dishes including eggs benny and banana french toast. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported into a Pinterest wonderland when you sit down in this pretty space featuring white marble, wicker chairs and gold accents.

Taller de Tapas

While there may be more authentic choices for food in Barcelona, Taller de Tapas became one of our favourite places to eat while visiting. With multiple locations in the city, this restaurant offers an extensive menu featuring different Spanish tapas including patatas bravas and more.

Plaça Reial

Located just off La Rambla, Placa Reial is popular square in Barcelona with a number of great restaurants to choose from. Sip sangria on a patio onlooking picture-perfect palm trees and share an order of paella with friends. We tried Les Quinze Nits and Ocaña and loved both.

Other Things to Consider

  • It’s normal to eat dinner late in Spain – most locals don’t go for dinner until 9pm or later. We totally adopted the siesta lifestyle and napped from 6pm – 8pm almost every day!
  • Barcelona is notorious for pick pocketing – protect your valuables, especially in busy tourist areas and try to use purses with secure zipper closures.
  • Stores are closed on Sundays – if you’d like to get some shopping done, be sure to keep this in mind!
  • Tipping is not customary in Spain – leave a tip only if you had an exceptional experience or were very happy with your meal!

Happy travelling!