My Top Tips for Visiting Westminster Abbey

Glasses // Shirt // Jacket

Westminster Abbey is one of London’s most visited sites and with good reason. It’s historic, awe-inspiring and quintessential England – it’s truly one of my favorite places in London. While it’s frequented by millions of tourists, unfortunately many visitors don’t get the most out of their visit to the Abbey or simply stop for a quick selfie outside. I did a thorough tour in 2014 and walk by the Abbey at least once every day, so I wanted to share my top tips for visiting, straight from the mouth of a London local. Enjoy and be sure to caption an instagram with #WestminstagramAbbey or #WestminsterCrabby (Only true Mary-Kate and Ashley/Winning London fans will get that last masterpiece).

Getting There
The Abbey is located literally smack dab in the center of London. Westminster tube station is the closest, but Waterloo and Charing Cross are also very much within walking distance. Multiple buses serve the area, and I like how you can look out the window and get the lay of the land, however I’d get off a few stops before the Abbey and walk to the destination as the area is highly congested.  Also check beforehand and see if any events or demonstrations are scheduled for Parliament Square, as there may be road closures and unexpected crowds. Travel for London has an excellent Twitter account with updates (follow here).

Go Early
As much as I enjoy a lie-in and a late brunch of the waffle or eggs benedict variety, you’re going to want to set your alarm and get to the Abbey in its opening hours. It opens at 9:30 on most days (opening times here), so not too dreadful, but beat the crowds and queues by arriving in the morning. The surrounding area will also be less crowded, so better for taking photos in front of the Abbey, London Eye and Big Ben. Suck it up and down those Americanos! Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in an hour long wait with groups of school children and every other tourist in London.

Nope, that’s not the Abbey
Well I may sound like Captain Obvious, Big Ben is not attached to Westminster Abbey. It’s a common misconception, but that large beautiful building with the two towers, that yes does look a lot like Westminster Abbey, is actually the houses of Parliament. This is where the UK legislature is housed. So don’t make the rookie traveler mistake of mislabeling it in your insta photos like I may or may not have a few years ago #amateurhour

Big Ben and Parliament #notwestminsterabbey

Book the Verger Tour
There are two official tour options once you enter the Abbey – a self guided audio tour and the Verger tour. Please, for the love of travel everywhere, book the Verger tour. It’s only five pounds more than the audio tour and eons away in quality. You’re led through the Abbey by a very knowledgeable guide, and groups are kept to 10 people max – so very intimate. Best of all, you get to see areas of the Abbey like Edward the Confessor’s tomb, the Cloisters, and the Nave which are NOT open to the public and audio tours. VIP, baby!  The experience was one of my all-time favorites in London. For only a 5 pound price increase, you won’t be disappointed. Definitely book in advance here.

Budget Time to Explore 
Once the tour is finished, don’t rush outside to your next destination (likely the pub)! Explore the Abbey in all its grandeur and take your time to take in each nook and cranny. There are so many Harry Potter esque halls, courtyards, arches, etc. that will transport you through time or make you feel a little like a royal (or wizard). You’ve paid for admission, now get the most of it!

Forget Your Camera
Sad news for the photography or vlogging obsessed, but photography and videography are not allowed inside the Abbey. You can take plenty of snaps of the intricate and awe-inspiring exterior, but I’d leave the clunky DSLRs at home for this tour. You won’t be able to use them. Just take it all in and commit the stunning historical interiors to memory the old fashioned way.

See it from a new angle
While you’ll  want to tour the Abbey early in the day, I recommend returning at sunset, dusk and after dark to enjoy it from a new perspective – and with dope new lighting. Some of my favorite personal photos of the Abbey were taken just before nightfall. The street lamps give it that quintessential spooky London glow. Also be sure to explore and photograph the Abbey from every angle. It’s such an immense and detailed structure, so you’re bound to find pleasant little surprises and ways of enjoying it beyond the typical entrance shots.

Feels like Sherlock Holmes is bound to come running around the corner chasing a mystery.

Avoid nearby pubs
You’ll be smack in the middle of a major tourist zone, so any nearby pubs are usually overpriced, serve average (at best) food, and are prone to theft. Walk a bit further to the Covent Garden Area to the East or Pimlico to the West for better quality options or more local haunts. I love Cross Keys and Lamb & Flag in Covent Garden.

Want to see the Abbey for free?
Shhhh – want to know a well-kept little secret of most big churches in Europe? Want to see them for free? You may not get the entire tour and see every thousand year old relic and antiquity, but go to the Abbey for evensong, and you can take in all its glory without paying a dime (or pence).  Evensong is a daily mass and choral service, open to the public at the Abbey. The music is beautiful, and you don’t need to be religious to enjoy the feast of sound and sights. Simply line up at the Abbey’s West door 30 minutes prior and enjoy! A schedule is here, but evensong is usually at 5PM on weekdays and 3PM on weekends.

Enjoy your visit to the Abbey and let me know in the comments if there are any other London attractions or tips you’d like me to share!

Love traveling? Grab $35 in Air BnB credit when you create an account through THIS LINK! It’s free to you, and I’ll receive a credit when you sign up. Thanks and happy traveling!

DISCLAIMER:
This is not a sponsored post and all products were purchased with my money. Affiliate links are occasionally used when linking products. This gives me a small percentage of a purchase total through these links. This does not affect the price you pay for items through these links. All ShopStyle & AirBnB links are affiliate links.

Linking Up With:

Wanderful Wednesday hosted by Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World. Click on the button below to check out more great travel content!

Valentine’s Day in London

Happy early Valentine’s Day, internet friends! In honor of the much better Galentine’s Day holiday (if you didn’t watch Parks & Rec, you can learn more about the holy day here), I decided to take myself around London on a festive little date. As Tom Haverford says, treat yourself. Lucky for me, the city is adorned with its best red and pink glitz and is almost as charming as when it’s decked out for Christmas.

To start the day, I made a pilgrimage to a famously pink palace in Belgravia that was looking even more whimsical than usual (and a bit like Cupid threw up on it – in the best way possible)….

Right around the corner from Victoria Station in swanky Belgravia, Peggy Porschen is a cake and tea shop known for its insta-famous cotton candy facade. Wrapped in flowers and balloons, the shop looked St. Valentine-approved.

The selection of sweets was just as mouth-watering as the decorations.

Since Galentine’s Day only comes once a year, I settled on a strawberry champagne cupcake for breakfast. Leslie Knope would approve.

Pink Sunglasses

Sidenote: the roses on top are not edible. I may have given them a try, since I have no restraint with food. The rest of the cupcake, however, was entirely edible and entirely delicious. After literally licking my fingers clean, I strolled around Belgravia to discover any other decorated shops. They weren’t as over the top and candy pink as Peggy Porschen, but Neill Strain Florist and Jo Malone also impressed.

Leave it to a florist to nail extravagant romance.

Belgravia is pretty residential and full of quintessential London row houses that I can’t afford.  Sadly, I did not bump into any future first husband potentials while stalking the mansions. Before I could get too depressed by all the fabulous, over-priced real estate, I headed to Mayfair to scout out more of the V-Day spirit.

While there were plenty of chic storefronts that ALMOST made me want a boyfriend, Fenwick on Bond Street was the showstopper.

How fantastic are those balloons? Can I have them for my next birthday party? They also reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Up, which honestly tells one of the best cinematic love stories in its first 10 minutes.  It was the perfect fanciful stunner to cap off Galentine’s Day.

While it’s no Galentine’s Day, tomorrow I’ll likely be spending Valentine’s Day again with my two great loves: food and London. Hope yours is filled with lots of love!

Shop my Valentine’s Day favorites:

Love traveling? Grab $35 in Air BnB credit when you create an account through THIS LINK! It’s free to you, and I’ll receive a credit when you sign up. Thanks and happy traveling!

DISCLAIMER:
This is not a sponsored post and all products were purchased with my money. Affiliate links are occasionally used when linking products. This gives me a small percentage of a purchase total through these links. This does not affect the price you pay for items through these links. All ShopStyle & AirBnB links are affiliate links.

London Winter Essentials

Headed to London during the wintertime? I’m sharing a new video packed with my winter essentials and all the things that help me cope through the dark, cold days here in the Big Smoke.  Some things are a little bit frivolous, while others are must-haves, but they all get me through the London winter.

I link all the products in the video description box if you’re interested in a specific item. Also, feel free to leave me any questions in the comments! Happy to help you with your visit or move to the greatest city in the world.

PRODUCTS I MENTION:
Charlotte Tilbury Primer  // Lip Balm  // YSL Touche Eclat  // Nivea Creme  // Bliss Hand Cream
Kai Hand Cream  // Uniqlo Heattech Line  // Leopard Coat  // Pink Beanie (on sale for $4!!!)
Wool Socks  // Texting Gloves  // Boots  // Yogi Tea Throat Comfort // Emergen-C

Linking Up With:

Wanderful Wednesday hosted by Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World. Click on the button below to check out more great travel content!

Love traveling? Grab $35 in Air BnB credit when you create an account through THIS LINK! It’s free to you, and I’ll receive a credit when you sign up. Thanks and happy traveling!

DISCLAIMER:
This is not a sponsored post and all products were purchased with my money. Affiliate links are occasionally used when linking products. This gives me a small percentage of a purchase total through these links. This does not affect the price you pay for items through these links. All ShopStyle & AirBnB links are affiliate links.

 

How to Have London’s Best Afternoon Tea at Sketch

So you’ve seen the notorious pink velvet awash on every fashion blogger’s London posts, or maybe you read this article of London’s most Instagrammed restaurants. No matter how you found it, your heart is set on visiting  the glorious pink halls of Sketch during your next trip to London.

I made my first pilgrimage to this basic betch holy site back in December, and I’m happy to report that it lived up to the social media hype. Yes, it’s really that beautiful and pink, and it really was worth the 50 pound price tag.

In case you decide to make the chic visit to Mayfair during an upcoming London trip, I wanted to share my top tips for having the best afternoon tea at Sketch, so you get your money’s worth and take full advantage of the insta opportunity.

Book Well In Advance
Trust me, you aren’t the only tourist or Londoner to see Sketch on Instagram and want to high tail it to its candy-colored halls. This place is packed, especially on weekends and especially in the pink room (more on that soon), so be sure to book ahead, particularly if you’re in London for a limited amount of time. Reservations open one month in advance for tea on their site, so set a reminder to reserve your table on that date.

Book the Correct Room & Time
While the cotton candy velvet dreamland is Sketch’s most famous room, there are actually several different dining options in the restaurant, and all have very specific themes including The Glade, The Lecture Room and the Parlour. If you’re looking for the quintessential experience, book afternoon tea in The Gallery. Dinner is served there as well, if there are no tea reservations available. Afternoon tea service ends around 5:30PM, so book a late reservation from 3:30PM onward. You’re less likely to be asked to give up your table after two hours (there won’t be any more tea reservations to take your spot), and you’ll have a better chance of taking photos without random strangers crowding your pics.

Get Super Bougie
Oh you fancy huh? London is a fashion-conscious, dressy city to begin with, but you can embrace your inner diva even more during your trip to Sketch. Every patron seemed to don their bougie best (even on a Wednesday afternoon), so have some fun, channel your inner Caroline Stanbury or Princess Kate, and get a bit extra. I guarantee someone will be dressed more outrageously than you. Faux fur coat and Celine sunglasses indoors ? Don’t mind if I do! Don’t worry, they were removed post photo op.

Sunglasses // Faux Fur Coat (mine’s old, so I linked a similar style)

Don’t Miss Your Grand Entrance
Located right near busy Regent Street, the entrance to Sketch can be easy to miss to the untrained eye. Mysterious sculptures don the nondescript entry, and if you’re too caught up in the London people-watching you could easily walk right by. I love the whimsical “Alice in Wonderland” esque arrival, just be sure you don’t miss it!

The intriguing, non-labelled entrance, a bit more festive for Christmas.

Find Out What You Like And Order More
Yes, afternoon tea is expensive (starts at 45 pounds, depending on time of year), but luckily refills are included! The waitress kept offering my friend Riley and I more tea, sandwiches and cake, and we feared a massive bill at the end of our meal. When we found out that ordering more food and tea was included, you better believe I (a little too enthusiastically) asked for more coronation chicken, chai tea and glorified grilled cheese. You also can sub out food you don’t like (I’m not a huge smoked salmon fan) for preferred options, so don’t be afraid to make the request. The staff were very helpful and accommodating, and you should feel that you are getting your money’s worth.

I could drink gallons of their chai tea, especially out of the playful cups and pot.

Lose Any Photo Shame
Don’t pretend you booked this tea without Instagram in mind. You came to get some stylish grams, so you better embrace your inner Mario Testino and take advantage of the opportunity. I sometimes can get a bit camera-shy when I’m in public spaces, but at Sketch everyone is hoping to get those absolutely necessary pink photos to bombard social media, so you have nothing to fear. Plus, every detail is so damn photogenic! Snap away, lose any shame, and you’ll be the envy of Instagram.

Take A Bathroom Break
No, I’m not being a weirdo and reminding you to use the toilet. The bathrooms at Sketch are just a work of art that should be appreciated as much as the dining rooms. Men’s on the left and women’s on the right (it’s not labelled, and you don’t want to wander around the men’s side like I did). There are spaceship like pods, trippy lighting and even a selfie-mirror. Definitely take a tour. And said selfie.

Snoop Around
While you can easily spend hours poring over every piece of pink velvet or rose gold in The Gallery, make sure you enjoy a wander around the entire property. Each room is expertly themed and has its own cavalcade of fantastic details to enjoy. I felt like I could have spent hours more there taking in all of the delights.

 

Let me know if you make the journey to the pink palace – I can’t wait to see your photos! 

DISCLAIMER:
This is not a sponsored post and all products were purchased with my money. Affiliate links are occasionally used when linking products. This gives me a small percentage of of a purchase total through these links. This does not affect the price you pay for items through these links. All ShopStyle links are affiliate links.