In addition to being a London enthusiast, I am also a big fan of Cirque du Soleil. And when I can combine this, it is of course completely amazing. Every other year, from January to March, Cirque du Soleil comes to London as the first stop on their European tour. The show is always performed in the Royal Albert Hall and not in the famous Grand Chapiteau, their own circus tent. Several times I have visited a show here. This year it was time again and they came to London with their new show Luzia. So it was time to go here again, now that I have the opportunity again. This year my parents went for the second time with me.
Below is a report of our great weekend in London from 17 to 20 January 2020.
Day 1: Travel to London with the Eurostar
Around half past eight we, my parents and I left by bus to Zwolle to take the train to Rotterdam. When we arrived there it turned out that this train was not running. So the route had to be adjusted. Then we went via Schiphol to Rotterdam. After some delay due to free-roaming sheep along the rails, nevertheless arrived on time at Schiphol. There we were able to transfer to the IC Direct to Rotterdam. This turned out to be a train with a surcharge. We no longer traveled during rush hour, so this only cost € 1.56. So luckily that wasn’t too bad.
In Rotterdam, took the next IC Direct to Brussels South / Midi, the departure point of the Eurostar to London.
In Brussels we went through the security check and passport control of both Belgium and Great Britain. There are separate queues for travelers with a passport and an ID card.
It looks like you are going by plane, just less hectic.
The Eurostar only went at 2.52 pm, so we still had more than an hour. Time to enjoy a nice Belgian beer.
The boarding of the Eurostar started 20 minutes before departure, which was very pleasant. I tried to take a picture of the front of the Eurostar, but this was not allowed by security. I was not allowed to go beyond the door of wagon 1. Why this was? No idea. Then I should take some photos in St. Pancras International Station.
The train is very comfortable and leaves on time. There is still a stop in Lille and Calais. Then it quickly goes into the tunnel. The Eurostar reaches a depth of 75 meters below the bottom of the sea. Pretty impressive.
From Calais to the tunnel it is all barbed wire. What a security. Pfff.
I myself expected that you would be longer in the tunnel, this was only 20 minutes.
After we left the tunnel, the first stop was Ebsfleet International, south of London. From there it was only about 20 minutes to St. Pancras. Where we arrived on time.
On the platform now had the opportunity to take some beautiful pictures. The area was also much more impressive. What a beautiful station is St. Pancras Station. What a relief with the desolate stations in Belgium. Now we had to go through customs, where we were not checked. And we had finally arrived in London.
On to the Underground. With the Northern Line we went south to London Bridge. Switched to the Jubilee Line to Canning Town. Here is our hotel, the Ibis Canning Town.
The Ibis Canning Town is a nice and comfortable hotel with modern rooms and a cozy busy bar. The location is perfect, it is opposite the station for the Jubilee Line (Underground) and the DLR (Dockland Light Railway), so a perfect base.
After leaving the stuff in the hotel room, it was time for a beer. Since the hotel bar was packed, it was apparently very popular with people who worked in the area, so we decided to go into town.
First stop was Piccadilly Circus. Up at Eros, so you have a nice view of the billboards that Piccadilly Circus is so famous for. This is actually a standard thing of mine when it’s dark, always check this place first.
From Piccadilly Circus we walked towards Leicester Square and we first had a bite at Angus Steakhouse. Here you can eat well at a reasonable price. We could get a table upstairs, which is better than the tables at the window. People can watch you straight on your plate.
After dinner we did take a look at the Lego store on Leicester Square. What a huge building they have there from Big Ben, a tube train and a 3d painting with all the famous sights of London. Awesome! The thing was that we could walk straight in and a day later there was a long queue front of the store.
Walked further from Leicester Square towards Covent Garden. A quick tour of the piazza. Then we thought it was enough for our first day. It had been a long day of travel, so we went back to our hotel. Just had a drink in the bar and then went to bed.
Day 2: From Tower Hill to Soho and Cirque du Soleil Luzia
After a good night’s sleep, the beds were great, let’s have breakfast. The capacity of the breakfast room left something to be desired. It was just not big enough. Had a great breakfast, there was plenty of everything present and it was continuously replenished. They had all the ingredients for a good English breakfast. Scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, mushrooms and tomatoes. Very tasty and a good hearty breakfast for a good start to the day.
It was a beautiful day, clear and sunny. Cold, but you can dress accordingly.
My parents had a wonderful view of the O2 Arena and the Emirates Air Line from their room.
So it seemed nice to us with to go on the Emirates Air Line . This is a cable car that runs over the Thames towards North Greenwich and of course also in the other direction. You have a magnificent view of the Docklands on one side and Maritime Greenwich and the Thames Barrier on the other. You can simply use your Oyster card or Contactless card to make the crossing. We used our Vistor Oyster card and this cost £ 3.50. This is the cheapest option. You can also buy individual tickets, but these are slightly more expensive. The Emirates Airline is only a 5 minute walk from the Royal Victoria DLR station, one stop away from Canning Town.
From the Emirates Air Line we walked in the direction of North Greenwich.
It has changed a lot since I was here the last time. Then it was a large open space. Nowadays almost this entire area is crammed with modern buildings. You pass the O2 Arena, which of course was already there, which you can climb via Up At The O2. There are various shops and restaurants in the area.
We have continued our journey via the Jubilee Line on the underground. You can also go with the Thames Clipper Riverbus. North Greenwich pier is also within walking distance and you could see it from the cable car.
Back in Canning Town we switched to the DLR in the direction of Tower Gateway. The advantage of the DLR over the underground is that you have a nice view of the Docklands. The DLR runs for the main part above ground.
From Tower Gateway we walked towards St. Katherine’s Dock . This is a beautiful marina with beautiful, expensive ships. The Dickens Inn is also located here, the story of which is that Charles Dickens regularly came here. Then over the lock, what St. Katherine’s Dock from the tidal influences of the Thames, we went in direction of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London .
We came across a small street food market at the foot of Tower Bridge, where it smelled incredible. But we just had a great breakfast, so we skipped this. The area around the Tower of London is one of my favorites to look around. It is a beautiful place, where you have many historical sights together. You can also do some people watching as well. I have seen most of the sights on several occasions in previous visits.
The intention was to taka a ride from the Tower of London with the Heritage Routemaster 15 . But it wasn’t in service yet, I should of course have known this, since I wrote this in my earlier blog post Sightseeing with the most iconic double-decker bus in London! Totally slipped my mind! Then just taken the regular line 15 with a “normal” double-decker. However, it was so full that you could not see much of the area. Volgende keer deze route maar eens te voet afleggen, want de route is wel heel erg mooi. You pass via Fleet Street, where all the major newspapers used to be located St. Paul’s Cathedral and some other beautiful churches and buildings.
When we arrived at Charing Cross Station we checked Trafalgar Square. Forget to take a look at the smallest police station in the United Kingdom. End of March I have another chance. Then we proceeded on the right along the National Gallery via St. Martins Place and Charing Cross Road. You will pass the St. Martin’s in the Field church, where concerts are also regularly given in addition to church services. Here you will also find the Cafe in the Crypt, a cafe in the crypt of the church.
Turn left at Irving Street towards Leicester Square where all major cinemas are located and were it is always busy. Had a drink on the terrace at The House of Mezze on Leicester Square. Enjoy the sunshine.
Walked through Leicester Court and Newport Place to Gerard Street. This is the main street of China Town. China Town, where it is almost Chinese New Year and all the decorations are already in place. A very colorful environment to look around. There are numerous Chinese restaurants and shops here.
We continued our way via Shaftesbury Avenue and Regent Street. All major flagship stores of all major brands are located in Regent Street. Turn right at Beak Street to Soho. A quick glance at the food court Kingley Court. I will have to go there for a snack next time. The most famous street of Soho is Carnaby Street, this is a nice shopping street with all kinds of shops and restaurants.
Because we also started to get hungry, we popped in at Five Guys for a burger. Five Guys is an American hamburger chain, where they keep everything very simple. You order which burger you want, make a choice from the toppings and whether you want fries and a soft drink with it. When your order is ready you will receive it in a paper bag, just as you will when you go through the Mc Drive. It doesn’t matter if you eat it or take out. But it was a very tasty hamburger.
Against my better judgment, taken a look at Oxford Circus and Oxford Street. As is well known, it is extremely busy here and there are no stores here that you will not find in other large cities. The crowds drive you crazy. So on the first occasion we went into a small street to escape the crowds.
We passed the White Swan Pub and felt like a drink. Nice pub and good beer. I have tasted a pint of London Pride here, very tasty. What struck me was that the beer that comes out of the pump tap is not nearly as cold as what we are used to. Bit of craft beer temperature, just a little colder than room temperature.
It was time to have a bite to eat, because we had to be in time at the Royal Albert Hall for a performance of Cirque du Soleil, Luzia. This was the main reason for this weekend. Earlier that day we had seen Steak & Co , on the corner of Irving Street and Charing Cross Road and since we are not averse to a good steak, we took a look.
Steak & Co is a chain of steak restaurants that serve their steaks on a hot stone. You can bake your steak as desired on this very hot hot stone. Very nice and especially a lot of fun to do. The quality of the steaks is good, definitely recommended. Downside is that it is very noisy and that they almost ask you to leave when you have finished your meal and are still enjoying your cup of coffee, because they want to sell the table another time.
After dinner it was time to head to the Royal Albert Hall. From Piccadilly Circus we took the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington. We came out of the station on the wrong side and almost went the wrong way. When we found the right direction again, we walked past the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Science Museum to the Royal Albert Hall, which, like many buildings, is currently under construction. We were well on time, which is very important at Cirque du Soleil. If you are not on time or have to make a sanitary stop during the show, they will only let you in again at a suitable time. You will then miss a part of the show.
Cirque du Soleil describes Luzia as follows:
“Luzia takes you to an imaginary Mexico, traversing jungles, deserts and urban environments, and incorporating an authentic tropical rain in the most spectacular acrobatics. There will also be visual surprises, including giant animals and mythological characters, in a show full of light and color. ”
To be honest, I never really got the story of any show I visited, but I love it. There is so much to see and hear. It is a show packed with music, acrobatics and comedy.
Our places were on the Circle R, the top ring. In my opinion not the best places, it was a bit too high up. You look directly at the scaffolding where all the acrobatic aids are attached. But overall you could see everything just fine.
My favorite places are Second Tier Box, which are private boxes for up to 6 people and you have the feeling that you are in a Muppet Show box just like Statler and Waldorf. But the last times I was here I unfortunately couldn’t get these places anymore.
After a great show I bought a program book and a DVD for the collection. It was time to go back to our hotel. Just a drink in the bar and then to bed.
Day 3: Changing of the Guard, Seven Dials and Covent Garden
After a good night’s sleep we were fully charged for a day of sightseeing in London. My mother wanted to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, so off to Westminster.
Traveled directly from Canning Town to Westminster with the Jubilee Line.
When you exit Westminster Station, you see the Big Ben right in front of you with the Houses of Parliament behind it. Unfortunately Big Ben was under construction, so you couldn’t see Big Ben in its full glory. Turned right in the direction of St. James’s Park. First you see Westminster Abbey on the left, also partly in scaffolding. Many famous people are buried here, such as various kings, Prime Ministers and others such as Sir Isaac Newton.
Via St. James’s Park you walk straight to Buckingham Palace. This park is not the largest park, but it is a very beautiful park with various animals. Pelicans, ducks and geese live here and you come across rather cheeky squirrels eating out of your hand.
The Changing of the Guard starts at 11 a.m. and lasts around 45 minutes. Make sure you are on time when you want to have a place in front of the fence at Buckingham Palace . This is because many people want to see this and it is therefore very busy. Also pay attention to your belongings, with so many people this is of course a perfect place for pickpockets.
The Changing of the Guard is not held daily, so always check the current schedule at Changing the Guards. If you’ve never seen this before and it’s a nice day or at least dry, definitely worth it. If it rains, I would personally do something else.
The change that we saw was not very special, it was a standard change with the regular marching bands. If you are lucky you can see an extensive change with a parade with cannons etc. Unfortunately that was not the case today.
After the Changing of the Guard we walked through Green Park towards Piccadilly. Green Park is a bit of a boring park and is not at all like the other parks in London.
On Piccadilly you will find beautiful buildings and the famous Ritz Hotel and the department store Fortnum & Mason. This is the department store which is in the painting with the red Routermaster bus that you can buy at Ikea. When coming from Piccadilly near St. James’s Street look towards the end of St. James’s Street, you will see St. James’s Palace. This was the residence of many kings until Queen Victoria came to power.
Just past St. James’s Street there are two shopping galleries on Piccadilly. On the left Burlington Arcade and on the right Piccadilly Arcade. We chose Burlington Arcade, I have to visit Piccadilly Arcade on another occasion.
Burlington Arcade is a very chic shopping gallery with very expensive stores. If there are no prices with the products on display, then you know enough. Don’t you? But a nice gallery to walk through and do a little window shopping.
At the exit of Burlington Arcade, turn right towards Regent Street. Just went to the Superdry Store, which is more of a mega store.
Walked from the Superdry Store via Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square to Seven Dials in Covent Garden.
Seven Dials is a lesser known part of Covent Garden. It is also a lot quieter here than on the Covent Garden Piazza. Seven Dials includes 6 streets that all end with the Dial, the sundial that is said to be the 7th “Dial”. You will find smaller shops in the streets, no mega stores. My goal was to take a look at the Away Store to look at a backpack I had seen online. And now that I am in the neighborhood … But € 195 for a daypack is a bit too much.
In Seven Dials, between Monmouth Street and Short Gardens, lies the colorful alley of Neal’s Yard, recognizable by the large box dangling in the air. Here you will find cozy eateries and shops, all of which pursue sustainable and ethical practices.
When we walked out of Neal’s Yard, we saw The Seven Dials Market across the street. The Seven Dial Market is a former banana warehouse, where shops and a giant food court are located. Now it’s the turn of the Covent Garden Piazza. Take a stroll around the Apple Market and the Jubilee Market.
The Apple Market is located in the central building of the piazza and here you will find mainly unique handmade products. You can buy anything at the Jubilee Market, opposite the central building and next to the London Transport Museum. It looks a bit like a big flea market.
In a previous visit I bought a nice clock on the Apple Market, which looked a bit like a Ninja throwing star. Didn’t think about anything and put it in our hand luggage. At customs at the airport all the bells went off. All employees had this clock in their hands to see if this was allowed on the plane. Fortunately, they realized that we just really liked the clock and were allowed to take it with us. We were asked to think about this a little better next time.
After seeing everything here and there was enough time left, it was decided to take a look in Camden at the Camden Market. The fastest route is from Holborn with the Piccadilly Line to Kings Cross St. Pancrass and then on the Northern Line to Camden Town.
Via the Camden High Street we went towards Camden Market . On Camden High Street there are mainly shops with vintage clothing, souvenir shops and tattoo shops. Various stores do have great facades. You will also find Poppies Fish & Chips here, one of the better fish & chip shops in London in the street towards the MTV studios.
Camden Market is a nice market with lot of different shops. The Stables Market in particular is a nice succession of shops. Also if you want something to eat, this is the place. There is a variety of eateries that serve dishes from all over the world.
Camden Market has been repeatedly the victim of a major fire in recent years. But you don’t see this luckily.
Now it was time for a drink, on to the pub. Opposite the Camden Market near the railway bridge is The Hawley Arms, a cozy pub where we could sit by the wood stove. They are very friendly here. When I asked for a different beer which I had never before and tod them what I didn’t like, they immediately let me taste various beers. The choice fell on the Camden Hells of the Camden Town Brewery. The Hawley Arms was also the pub which Amy Winehouse regularly visited.
After having a few pints in the pub, it was time to eat. Through the OpenTable app, which I also discuss in my post Best apps for your visit to London, I had reserved a table at The Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden. So on to the Underground and back to Covent Garden.
Camden Town Station is at regular intervals only an exit because of the large number of passengers who want to exit the station and you can no longer enter this station. You can then walk further to another station, Morning Cresent or Chalk Farm.
We chose Chalk Farm. This station enjoys some fame because the English band Madness took the photo here for their second album Absolutely from 1980.
On the way there you pass The Round House. Now a concert hall, where many famous artists have performed. There used to be a turntable on which locomotives could be turned around.
Followed the same route as on the way there, but then the other way around and so we were back at Holborn in fifteen minutes, a few minutes from Covent Garden.
The Ivy Market Grill is a nice and cozy restaurant. The food is great and the service very friendly and attentive. My choice fell on the Ribeye on the bone. I rarely had a ribeye this good. Because when I made the reservation using the OpenTable app could indicate if the reservation was for a special occasion, I had indicated that it was for my birthday. For dessert the waiter came with a delicious scone with a little candle on it. How thoughtful!
After an excellent dinner and a bit of walking around, we went back to the hotel after another successful day. Unfortunately the last one.
Day 4: Going home
The weekend was over and what a beautiful weekend we had. The weather was great, clear blue skies every day! A great show from Cirque du Solei, Luzia. And visited nice places.
With the Underground again towards St. Pancrass International Station. Since we had plenty of time we shot some nice pictures of Kings Cross Station and the St. Pancrass Renaissance Hotel. You will know this hotel from the Harry Potter movie “Chamber of Secrets”.
Now our time in London is really over and we go through customs at the Eurostar terminal to take the Eurostar to Brussels.
Bye, Bye London, till next time!