Solo Travels in London

During my time abroad, I quickly learned that my favorite way to travel was solo. Don’t get me wrong, travelling with friends is awesome and you shouldn’t only travel alone. However, I really appreciated taking a little bit of time to focus on what I wanted. My last two trips to London were the best. Since I did so much between those two days, I’ll just list the highlights.

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The front of Buckingham Palace, set against an appropriately English grey sky. 

Both days, I made the 10-minute walk from Paddington Station to Kensington Gardens. Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park form one large, consecutive greenspace, but I spent almost all of my time on the western side sightseeing in Kensington Gardens. When I first passed through the gate, I was greeted by the Italian Garden, a small space full of several water-lily fountains and a miniature Roman-style temple that made for a great Polaroid photo. The second day, I walked by the Italian Garden again to the Princess Diana of Wales Memorial Fountain. The fountain is a large ring that is designed to flow on its own and different sections of it make different sounds, such as water running over stones or a calm stream. At the opposite edge of the park from where I entered is the Albert Memorial. The memorial is a stunning Gothic Revival pavilion built over a gilt bronze statue of Prince Albert; the entire structure stands at over 175 feet!

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Just imagine hearing my gasp over this stunning architecture.

The first day, I managed to get a standing ticket to see Hamlet at Shakespeare’s Globe. If you don’t know what the Globe is, it’s a historic recreation of what a theater would have looked like during Shakespeare’s time. The building is round and open air, and my ticket meant I was in the “pit,” so I stood for the entire 3-hour play. It was pretty uncomfortable after the first hour, I won’t lie, but the actors were so good that I really didn’t mind. A lot of the roles were gender-swapped, meaning Hamlet was played by a woman and Ophelia was played by a man. I thought it was really cool, and it didn’t distract from the story at all. I love theater and I love Shakespeare, so it was a no-brainer: for £7.50 a ticket, I had to go.

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This case of severed bird heads at the Natural History Museum made for the perfect aesthetic photo.

The second day, I wanted to visit one final art gallery on my last day in London, so I hopped on a bus to Dulwich Picture Gallery. The gallery itself is very small, being just one long hallway and a few small rooms. However, it was free with my student ID and located near some other places I wanted to visit in South London. Full of many beautiful Baroque paintings from all over Europe, I spent quite a while meandering through the gallery and among the older patrons. (I think I was the youngest person in the entire place.) Part of the gallery is also a mausoleum, the final resting place of the gallery’s founders. If you ask a staff member, you can even see the inside of it!

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Just a small sample of the Baroque artwork hanging in Dulwich Picture Gallery. Notably missing: all of the silver-haired art lovers crawling the gallery with me.

From the gallery, I jumped on two more (very crowded) buses through Peckham before I walked almost a mile to Nunhead Cemetery, an overgrown and likely haunted Victorian cemetery. Of all the greenspaces I visited in the UK, this cemetery was the best place to go for an afternoon walk. I enjoyed roaming in the shade of the many trees and attempting to read the headstones that weren’t obscured by ivy or tucked away off any discernible path. I was even pleasantly surprised to come across a view of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the distance; the caretakers of the cemetery purposely cut back the trees so it remains visible.

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Many of these simpler headstones in Nunhead Cemetery lean to the side due to lack of proper care and funding.

Before I left for study abroad, I never would have dreamed of exploring a city as massive as London on my own, but I quickly got over my anxiety when I discovered how amazing it is to travel alone. On my last day, I guess I looked so confident on the tube that two tour groups asked me for directions, which was a nice little boost to my ego. It was nice to have a few days to myself, deciding what I wanted to do without having to compromise or miss out on anything. There wasn’t a moment I felt unsafe or uncomfortable; in fact, I found making my way through the city all by myself to be really empowering. In my opinion, everyone should try solo travel at least once in their life. Until next time, cheers!

 

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