Where we stayed
We got a great deal with The Bloomsbury Hotel, which we booked through Low Cost Holidays. The hotel was also kind enough to give us a fabulous upgrade, so we were thrilled with our massive room and the heated floors in our gorgeous bathroom! We didn’t have any food in the hotel apart from breakfast, but that was really lovely; an extensive menu including lots of healthy options (which we didn’t opt for) and a lovely range of smoothies and juices. We did have a few cocktails there, and the manager in the residents’ bar was very nice, really good craic, and made fantastic cocktails. The staff were amazing throughout the hotel and during our entire stay; the whole atmosphere was brilliant. We will definitely come back and stay again soon.
What we did
We arrived in London City very early on the Friday and had booked to go on the Harry Potter World tour for 2pm. The Golden Tours bus from London (Buckingham Palace Road) takes about an hour and a half, so we booked the bus for midday. They show the first Harry Potter movie for the journey, which will make the time go faster, particularly for kids; but we were asleep for most of the journey, having been up since 5am so missed most of it! We did perk up when we arrived, of course. The tour was incredible, a short movie at the beginning and then into the great hall and all the magic that lies ahead of it, the actual guided tour is short and then you are left to your own devices. It doesn’t disappoint, as every set and costume is on display with fun and interesting explanations. Our personal high points were the self-cleaning pot in the Weasleys’ burrow, the Hogwarts Express and walking down Diagon Alley, although it’s hard to pick only three.
It’s well worth a visit for any Harry Potter fans, you could easily spend 3.5 hours there and there were families, couples and people of all ages from all over the world. The journey is long from London, you could alternatively stay in Watford, which is about 15 minutes from the studio. We chose to stay in central London because most of what we wanted to do was there. We would definitely recommend the Harry Potter tour; it is expensive though, especially if you’re including the bus from London. We paid £66 each for the tour and the bus. The shop and cafe are both quite pricey, which is to be expected but there is a great range in both, but it is a once in a lifetime experience and well worth doing.
On the Saturday, we took a trip down to Covent Garden, which was only a ten-minute walk from our hotel. We stopped in some of the designer shops like Charlotte Tilbury and Dior, but also had a look around the markets and craft stalls. There were also some amazing street performers that made us stop and stare and lots of lovely places for coffee; sort of annoying to pay £1 to use the loo but there you go!
We then headed back to The British Museum, which is free entry and was virtually across the road from The Bloomsbury Hotel. We spent about an hour in there and an additional 25 minutes having coffee; there wasn’t a great range in the cafe on the ground floor although kids do eat free. There was a much nicer eatery on the third floor, if we went again we would choose that. We looked around some of the Egyptian artefacts and mummies. It’s the largest museum in Europe and you could easily spend an entire day there. We would recommend giving it lots of time and making a proper plan because there is so much to see and tons of free talks and workshops. We were tired from Friday’s early start and late night so we cut our time at the museum short and we headed back to the Bloomsbury for a cheeky 4pm cocktail. We had this out on their newly refurbished heated terrace, which was fab, the cocktails were pricey at £12.50 each but exquisite.
Once we’d decided to go to London, we decided we had to go to a show, and we’re both such massive Lion King fans that it was a no-brainer. This was the absolute highlight of our trip. The Lyceum Theatre was only about 15 minutes from our hotel, but it was a night for heels so we got a taxi there and back; we had a proper London cabbie who kept us laughing the entire drive there.
The show was absolutely incredible from start to finish, it was both of our first times at a West End show, and we would have walked straight back in at the end and watched the whole thing again. Our tickets were at the pricey end of the scale at approx €150 but we were only 13 rows back from the stage and included an aisle seat (which is important) so the tickets were worth every penny. The show was 2 hours 45 minutes long including a 15-minute intermission, the drinks were expensive but not as much as we thought and the wine measure was hefty! We can’t recommend this show enough, if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s an absolute must.
Where we ate/drank
We didn’t have tons of time to spend on food and a lot of our eating was done on the run like Harry Potter World cafe and British Museum Café. That being said we were very well fed!
VQ was across the road from our hotel, a 24/7 place that had a pretty good menu and great cocktails. They were particularly handy for us grabbing a quick bite when we were on the run and the food and staff were lovely.
Hudson’s House was a good spot for us for drinks. We had a lovely dinner there one of the nights and the cocktails were always gorgeous – we tried a good few different ones.
As we mentioned, we did have a little late afternoon cocktail in the heated terrace of the Bloomsbury. The cocktails were superb of course, but the atmosphere itself was really nice out there too. We also went back the residents’ bar both nights for nightcaps and it had a lovely intimate feel. The staff were also excellent.
How we travelled
We were lucky to get a great deal from CityJet. We payed €109 per person for flights leaving Dublin at 7.30am Friday and returning on a 2pm flight Sunday. It’s not always the cheapest, but we would definitely recommend travelling with them if possible. A check-in bag is included, along with free food and beverages on board, and if you can fly into London City Airport, it makes all the difference. We were at our hotel within 45 minutes of getting off the plane, with DLR train and one tube change. The underground is so well mapped out, so easy to navigate and easy to get used to from the first use; we got Oyster Cards, which were the best option as we did so much travelling. Don’t forget you can get a refund of any balance on them but only at a tube station, the airport is too late! You can only buy and load the first £5 with a card at City Airport; also good to know.
Overall, we had a terrific time, we always do when we are together, lots of laughing and tons of fun. Everyone we met was so friendly, nice and helpful and while you would only really do Harry Potter tour once in your life (and you should) we would and hope to repeat the rest of this exact weekend all over again sometime soon!
We are heading to the Prince of Wales Hotel in Athlone next for a weekend in April and will fill you in on that soon.