London Travel Review: Vibrant, Electric, Enchanting

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After a year of invitations from Angela Wendkos Jackson and Exclusive Events to visit London and experience the vibrant, electric, and pulsating culture that draws millions each year, I decided to jump the pond for a mix of business and pleasure.

The trip, scheduled for May 2019, was my first to Europe in nearly two decades, and as much traveling as I had done across continental Europe, London had always eluded me. From the moment I booked the flight direct to London Heathrow from LAX, I decided to use the trip to cultivate content, which meant immersing myself in the tourist culture.


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As a planner, once the tickets and accommodations were in place and travel itinerary set, it was all about familiarizing myself with the London scene and building a sightseeing plan. Soon it was time to depart and ten hours later a safe landing at London Heathrow.

The Coco-Cola London Eye Observation Wheel

All information was based on personal travel completed in May-June 2019. Any review of London would include a  list of sites and must-see attractions. No matter the area of personal interests or persuasions London has something for everyone.

Here is a list of favorites:

The Coco-Cola London Eye, situated on the Thames, the central and most well-known body of water running through London, creating a Riverbank Walk on either side. The London Eye, on the South Bank, an Observation Wheel, holds thirty-two pods and holds about a dozen people in each.

The Wheel slowly circles providing a bird's eye view of the sprawling city, the North bank, City of Westminster, Home to Parliament and the power seat of London politics. It receives approximately 3.75 million guests annually. Tickets can be purchased online with designated appointment times.

For more information: London Eye

The London Eye Observation Wheel

Tower Bridge

More than a century old, Tower Bridge, also located within walking distance from the Coco-Cola London Eye, is an iconic landmark, instantly recognizable the world over. For no other reason than photo op's or selfies, it is a must see on every tourists list.


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Tower bridge and London Bridge are not the same bridge. The Tower Bridge is open to the public and for a fee visitors can either visit the engine room, to see the scale of the mechanics required to operate the suspension bridge or climb the tower and walk across the glass walkways which provide a birds eye view of the River Thames from either direction.

For more information: Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

The Shard Observation Gallery

The Shard, an ultra-modern skyscraper, with a 72nd Floor observation deck, is the highest viewing point in the city offering breathtaking views. The viewing gallery spans three floors. Guest can sip champagne and enjoy the unparalleled sights. For more information: The Shard

Shakespeare Theater, Riverbank Walk, Millennium Bridge

As one who appreciates theater, also on my list was a visit to the new Shakespeare's Globe Theater. At the time of the tour, rehearsals for the evening's performance were ongoing, and silence was required by the tour guide.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

The renovated outdoor, in the round, theater, is a reconstruction from the original Shakespeare theater, which was destroyed by fire in 1655. Created to be a replication of the original theater, the seating is designed as wooden benches with a similarly authentic approximation to all details, including all aspects of design.

The Globe is located on the Thames River adjacent to Riverbank Walk and close to the world-famous Tate Modern Museum. While in the area take a stroll on The Millennium Bridge, a modern pedestrian suspension bridge connects the South Bank, where Shakespeare's Globe Theater is located to the North Bank.

For more information: Shakespeare Globe Theater

Parliament from The Coco-Cola London Observation Wheel

Parliament, Big Ben, Whitehall area

Across the Westminster Bridge, which is open to both foot traffic and vehicles, joins the North and South banks. Parliament and the seat of political power sit on the North bank. During my visit in May 2019, the Big Ben tower was being refurbished and was covered with scaffolding. Only the face of the clock was visible.


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There are tours available of the UK Parliament, House of Commons, House of Lords and Westminster Hall.

As a historian, the tour of Churchill's War Room, located in the same general area, was a must see. The line can be long, and entry is in groups of 15, as previous groups exit.

For more information: Parliament Tours

Winston Churchill War Room/Imperial War Museum

Also, a must see was Winston Churchill's War Room, an underground bunker located in the city of Westminster, near the Whitehall section and offices of Parliament. The entry way, which has been renovated, drops deep underneath the fortified granite treasury building.

Churchill's War Room is a maze of room after room, sleeping chambers, communication rooms, war planning, military strategists, mess halls, all recreated to replicate, with authenticity, the actual days of the London Blitz and the United Kingdom's involvement in World War II.

Inside Churchill's War Room Bunker

This sign greets visitors as they arrive "This was the global of information on the war. The Government's secret bomb shelter, an easy target that was never hit."

For more information: Churchill War Room

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

No visit to London would be complete without a visit to Buckingham Palace, the official residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. During the time of travel The Mall, the roadway leading up to the Palace from Trafalgar Square, was closed to traffic as the preparations were in rehearsal for the arrival of President Trump.

From July through October Buckingham Palace is open for public tours of The Queen's Gallery, the Royal Mews, and the State Rooms.

For onsite tours: Buckingham Palace  

For virtual tours: Buckingham Palace

The Changing of the Guard Ceremonies

The Changing of the Guard ceremonies are considered a must see and requires some scheduling as the ceremonies do not happen every day. For scheduling and to avoid disappointment check here:

The Mall

Trafalgar and Leicester Square

Trafalgar Square also a very recognizable landmark with its tall column monument dedicated to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Bordered by the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, both of which have no admission charge, the central square has become a mecca for street performers, artists, tourists, and people watching.

More than a century old, Trafalgar Square located in the city of Westminster, is also famous for the four lion statues that surround Nelson's column monument.

Trafalgar Square (L) and Leicester Square (R)

Leicester Square, which is maybe a five-minute walk from Trafalgar Square, is also named "Theaterland" and home to many of the city's movie theaters. Often used in film premieres, it is likened to Grumman Chinese Theater in Los Angeles with cement hand and footprints of many famous British celebrities.

Similarities to another famous square, Times Square in New York City, Leicester Square holds a famous M&M World candy store, along with a TKTS kiosk for same day discounted theater tickets, large neon advertising and is the gateway to the West End Theater district.

London's West End Theatre District

To travel to London and not take in the theater would be remiss on any traveler's list. With thirty-nine active theaters in the West End, even arriving without advanced tickets, the TKTS booth in Leicester Square provides a daily rundown of available performances.

The West End is vibrant, and alive with sights and sounds, as crowds descend on the area before the evening curtain. Looking forward to its return.

Currently, London's West End Theatre District is closed on lockdown until May 31, 2020.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Diana, Princess of Wales at The National Portrait Gallery

Museums are a plenty and there is no charge for admission. To name a few the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), Science Museum, and the National History Museum.

The National Gallery

For those who are eagerly awaiting a world with no travel restrictions. Planning services such as Viator offer passes for purchase, in multi-day increments, and provide deeply discounted or complimentary admission on tours, activities, attractions, and excursions a along with special gifts or souvenir keepsakes for many European destinations.


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With the United Kingdom still under lockdown it is imperative to wait, at this point, until the city reopens and a mandatory 14-day self-isolation upon entry order has been lifted. For US citizens passports must have a six-month window before expiration date.

Currently, the United States Passport Office is only operating on special needs and emergency travel only. Delays up to three months are expected at reopening on all non-essential services.

Along Riverbank Walk

As life gradually returns to normal, and all creatures great and small slowly begin to come out of their caves, travel to London, the vibrant, electric, cultural mecca of the United Kingdom, will once again be a destination for the masses.

Piccadilly Circus area

All photos property of Janet Walker.

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