Best Traditional Foods and Drinks in the United Kingdom

Sausage Roll

As someone who is not usually a fan of sausage, it’s weird that I swear by the United Kingdom’s sausage rolls. But I do. Typically found in bakeries and breakfast shops, sausage rolls are comprised of warm , melt-in-your-mouth pastry wrapped around a soft sausage. It’s savory, tender, and delicious and makes the perfect bite for breakfast or side for dinner.

 

Scotch Egg

Commonly a picnic food, the Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg coated in sausage meat and breading and then deep-fried. Regrettably I have yet to try this classic dish with origins in 1738, but I’ve been told it’s not something to miss!

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Me with my first glass of Pimms in the Kings Head pub in London, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Pimms

It’s Pimms o’clock! This refreshing summer beverage is perfect for a drink on a patio and enjoying the sunny weather that doesn’t often grace the United Kingdom. The drink is made with a unique combination: Pimms liqueur, lemonade, fruit (examples include strawberries, orange slices, lemon slices, and cucumber slices), and mint leaves. It’s my favorite alcoholic beverage I’ve ever had, and I highly suggest giving it a try. Even if you don’t make it to the U.K., it’s quite an easy drink to make at home!

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Meat Pie from Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn in Nottingham, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Meat Pie

Though immortalized in the legend of Sweeney Todd, you may not want to think about that story while digging in to your first meat pie. Meat pies are exactly as they sounds; savory pies filled with meat. It was a staple dish in the middle ages and it’s popularity has continued into the modern age, though I’m sure they probably taste a lot better today than they did 500 years ago!

 

Tea

Tea is a symbol of British culture worldwide. Having an afternoon tea meal has been a tradition since the 1800s. Though ‘afternoon tea’ is considered a meal mainly served between 3 and 6pm, many Brits choose to drink tea all day long, rather than only indulging once a day.

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Traditional Sunday roast in a London pub, 2017. c. Leah Putz

Sunday Roast

If traditional is what you’re after, you won’t find much that’s more traditional than a Sunday roast. A standard Sunday roast is comprised of yorkshire pudding, greens and vegetables, roasted meat, and gravy. It originated as an after church meal on Sundays and dates back to medieval times.

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Fish and Chips in Windsor, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Fish and Chips

Fish and chips are synonymous with the United Kingdom, and for good reason. With hundred of coastal fishing villages, fresh fish easy to come by. The large piece of fish is traditionally fried and often served with homade tartar sauce and thick, savory chips (aka fries to Americans). You definitely can’t take a trip to the U.K. without trying this classic dish.

Top 10 Things to do in London for First Timers

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London Bridge from the River Thames, 2016. c. Leah Putz

River Cruise with Afternoon Tea

Taking a river cruise on the Thames is a great way to get another view of London, as well as learning a bit of her rich history. It provides excellent photo open opportunities as well as the chance to sail beneath the famous London Bridge. Book a tour that provides afternoon tea as well to get a taste of British culture.

 

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Tower of London, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Tower of London

Built in 1078 by William the Conqueror, ‘The Tower’ is one of the oldest buildings in London. From its perch upon the Thames, the Tower has witnessed history for almost 1000 years, from the murders of two young princes, to the imprisonment and beheading of a queen, and much more!

 

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Trafalgar Square, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is a large public square in Central London that is within walking distance of many major attractions, including Big Ben and Piccadilly Circus. There are many public sculptures, museums, and restaurants off the square as well, which makes it an excellent stopping point.

 

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Side Entrance of Westminster Abbey, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Westminster Abbey

Fans of the royal family can’t miss Westminster Abbey, where most recently Prince William and Duchess Kate had their nuptials. The Abbey is also the burial place of many well-known royals, including Queen Elizabeth I and her half sister Queen Mary (better known as ‘Bloody Mary’). The Poet’s Corner is also interesting to see as it’s the resting place of many of England’s literary greats, such as Charles Dickens and Geoffrey Chaucer.

 

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St. Paul’s Cathedral facade, 2015. c. Leah Putz

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral to see and climb one of the highest domes in the world. The cathedral has held the funerals of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, the jubilees of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, and the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

 

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View of the Houses of Parliament from the London Eye, 2014. c. Leah Putz

London Eye

The London Eye is one of the newest attractions on this list, having been just built in 2005. As Europe’s highest ferris wheel, the London Eye offers excellent and fare-reaching views of London.

 

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British Museum, 2014. c. Leah Putz

British Museum

Two million years of human history from all over the globe is housed at the British Museum. World-renowned artifacts held there include the Rosetta Stone, the pediment from the Parthenon in Athens, and much more!

 

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Buckingham Palace, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Buckingham Palace

What better way to take part in British culture than to see the home of the Queen? See the famous Royal Guards and tour the palace to get a glimpse of what life in the royal family might be like.

 

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Hyde Park, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is perhaps the largest and most well-known park in London. It’s home to the Princess Diana Memorial Walk, as well as numerous beautiful gardens. It’s also home to the Marble Arch.

 

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Tower Bridge, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Tower Bridge

Often mistaken for London Bridge, Tower Bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London. Built in the late 1800s, the Bridge has a Tower Bridge Exhibition to be seen in the engine rooms for a small fee, or you can stroll across the bridge free of charge!

Into a Magical Forest: Puzzlewood

Have you ever felt the desire to step into a fantasy land? Where magic and fairies and wonder seem possible? Look no further than a special section of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England known as Puzzlewood. Maze-like pathways were built into the forest in the 1800s, allowing tourists to witness the ancient trees and moss-covered rock formations that are unique to Puzzlewood.

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Pathway in Puzzlewood forest, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Upon setting foot in this enchanting forest, it feels like you’re walking into Middle-Earth, or some sort of magical fairy land. The twisted roots and trees, growing moss covered over nearly everything, and the centuries-old pathways make it a very whimsical place to wander through.

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Puzzlewood forest, 2014. c. Leah Putz

The best thing about the forest, to me, though, is the fact that it was often visited by my favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien. His descriptions of Fangorn Forest, the Old Forest, and even Mirkwood are a bit reminiscent of Puzzlewood, and it’s easy to believe that the Forest of Dean may have been an inspiration for him. I like to believe that because while inside Puzzlewood, it’s easy to imagine you’re in the depths of Fangorn Forest, half expecting an elf to pop out from behind a tree or an Ent to spring to life.

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Sign at Puzzlewood, 2014. c. Leah Putz

The beauty of the forest hasn’t been missed by Hollywood or the BBC, either. If any of my photos from Puzzlewood look familiar, it may be because you’ve seen it on film. The forest has been featured in Doctor Who, Merlin, and most recently Star Wars: the Force Awakens. After I had visited I made it a game to try to find Puzzlewood in the Star Wars movie (hint: when Rey and Kylo Ren are fighting there about halfway through the film) and in the Doctor Who episode ‘Flesh and Stone.’ I don’t blame directors for choosing Puzzlewood as a filming location- of my dozens of photos I took during my hours of ambling through the 14 acres of wood, I didn’t have a single bad shot.

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Puzzlewood Forest, 2014. c. Leah Putz

After about a two hour train journey from London to Lydney, and then a taxi from the Lydney train station, I arrived at Puzzlewood on a slightly rainy day in August, but even though the weather wasn’t ideal, the forest and the surrounding areas were still incredibly lovely. The entrance to Puzzlewood is adorned with an adorable cafe (called Puzzlewood Cafe) and farm animals including Highland cattle, ponies, sheep, ducks, and goats. There are also numerous outdoor and indoor play areas, making it a very family-friendly outing.

 

15 Things to do in London for Free

London can be expensive. In fact, I’ve heard it called the most expensive city in the world. However, there are countless things to do/see in London without spending huge amounts of money and still managing to make the most of the city. One couldn’t possibly put together a list of everything  to do in this vast and magnificent city, but you have to start somewhere. So, without further ado, here are 15 things you can do for free in London!

 
   15. St. Dunstan-in-the-East

St. Dunstan-in-the-East, a cathedral built in approximately 1100 A.D., has seen its fair share of turmoil. Throughout numerous repairs and rebuilds, the church survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 A.D. only to be nearly destroyed in the WWII Blitz of 1941. Only the north and south walls remained in addition to Christopher Wren’s tower and steeple. Rather than rebuilding yet again, the City of London made the brilliant decision to turn the cathedral ruins into a garden with a fountain in the center of the Nave. This site is one of the most striking and peaceful areas in the city and serves as a reminder that beauty can endure even after such destruction.

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Cathedral Window at St. Dunstan-in-the-East, 2016. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Sample Global Foods at the Camden Market

Exploring the numerous shops, restaurants, and markets of Camden Town is an adventure in and of itself. The market is open every day, and there are countless food stands featuring food and drinks from all over the world. A lot of the small stalls offer samples as you stroll along, and it easy to end up feeling like you’ve eaten a full meal for free after meandering through the markets.

 

  1. Explore Greenwich

The borough of Greenwich is renowned for its maritime history and its location on the Meridian line at 0 longitude. This area in the eastern half of London south of the Thames has a lot to offer. The National Maritime museum, established in 1934 offers free entrance and sits on the edge of the beautiful Greenwich park. At the top of the hill in the park is the Royal Observatory and marks the Meridian line. From this vantage point, you can see a wonderful view of Greenwich Park and the skyline of London.

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View from the top of the hill at Greenwich Park, 2016. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Chinatown

Located near Soho, London’s Chinatown is jampacked with authentic shops, restaurants, and culture. Grabbing a bubble tea and strolling through this area is a wonderful way to see a historical and rich part of the city, complete with a Chinese gates and a pavilion.

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Chinatown, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Piccadilly Circus

A good way to describe Piccadilly Circus is to say that it’s like the Times Square of London- complete with giant advertisements and an insane amount of tourists. Near this area is a plethora of tourist shops where you are sure you find the perfect souvenir to commemorate your time in London.

 

  1. Visit the many parks

London is full of green space. No matter where you are in the city, you’re probably within walking distance of a public park or garden, which can’t be said for many large cities in the world. Some of the most popular of these parks are Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, St. James Park, and Green Park. All of these parks, and many more, provide natural beauty and scenery to contrast the city landscape.

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Hyde Park, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Buckingham Palace

While it costs money to go inside Buckingham palace, it is free to admire the face of the Queen’s home, complete with a magnificent fountain and palace guards. I would recommend planning your visit to coincide with the changing of the guard, which takes place daily at 11:30 am during the summer months and on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday between 10:15 and 11:45 am during the winter.  This is spectacular to witness.

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Buckingham Palace fountain, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Southbank

Southbank is one of my favorite parts of London. Complete with music, pubs and history, a lot of what is amazing about London can be found in this area beside the river. One of the most well-known staples of Southbank is Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. The theater is unmistakable as it is the only thatched-roof building in the city after the Great fire of London. The theater is still active and you can see shows performed there in the traditional Renaissance style if you’re willing to pay the ticket prices!

 

  1. Delight in one of the many museums

One of the things London does best is its museums. There are too many to count, and almost all offer free admission. My favorite is the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is full of fantastic art and historical artifacts. The British Museum is also incredible and houses the Rosetta Stone and statues from the Parthenon in Greece among others. Some other honorable mentions are the National Gallery, the National History Museum, and the Museum of London.

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Natural History Museum, 2015. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square sits in the City of Westminster and is a tourist must-see. No matter which direction you face when in the center of this square you’ll be looking towards a major monument. In the center of the square stands Nelson’s Column complete with four guarding lion statues and a large nearby fountain. There are also four pillars that mark the corners of Trafalgar, each with a statue of a figure from British history, with the exception of the fourth pillar which is reserved for commissioned pieces.

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Sitting on the fountain in Trafalgar Square, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Westminster Abbey

Like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey also costs money to enter. However, the exterior is a romantic mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and, quite honestly, breathtaking. The architecture of the Abbey is incredible and worth visiting even if you decide not to pay the ticket price to go inside.

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Westminster Abbey, 2014. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Stroll along one of the city walks

London has countless paths that make for fantastic city walks. My favorite is the walk along the Mall stretching from Buckingham Palace through to Trafalgar Square. Another great walk is along Fleet Street, which is one of the oldest streets in London and makes its way to St. Paul’s Cathedral. As I said, there is a plethora of these walks to choose from, and they all offer a great way to see and explore the city.

 

  1. The Gardens of Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is most well known for being the London home of Prince William, Duchess Kate Middleton, and their two adorable tots. The palace is also known for its beautiful front gardens. The Sunken Garden was inspired by a similar garden at Hampton Court Palace and is complete with numerous flower beds and a pond. Surrounding the Sunken Garden is what’s called the Cradle Walk, which is a shaded arched walkway with window-like cutouts that allow you to admire the beauty of the colorful Sunken Garden.

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Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, 2016. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Parliament and ‘Big Ben’

The Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower (known incorrectly as Big Ben, which is actually just the name of the bell inside the tower) are possibly the most recognizable landmarks of London. If you’ve ever seen a movie taking place in London, or a poster of the city, or a photograph, the majority of the time you’ll see these picturesque buildings. Visiting this area is a good way to pinch yourself and allow it to really sink in that you’re in London!

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‘Big Ben’ and the Houses of Parliament, 2016. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Admire the city

Stop a minute and really take in the sites, sounds, and culture of the capital of the United Kingdom. London is one of the oldest and richest cities in the world, and it’s a privilege to be able to meander its ancient streets, see the sites, and discover what makes this spectacular city so amazing.