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Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren

What to Do in the UK in a Week

See the Best of the UK and Ireland in Just 6 Days

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Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
The UK has long been one of my favorite places in the world. It's a place I keep going back to because there's so much to see and do, but that being said, I do believe you can get a great taste of the UK and Ireland in the span of a week by hitting three key cities: London; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Dublin, Ireland. In a travel package that can be won on the Hilton Honors auction platform by bidding with Honors points, Hilton has put together a six-night travel experience covering these three cities, including stays at some of its best hotels and personalized experiences in each of the locations. To find out just how doable it is to get a real, authentic feel for these cities in the course of a week — where a lot of the planning work is done for you — I went to each city so I could nail down exactly what you should do if you have a planned-out travel package like this one — or if you fly over there on your own.

Days 1 and 2: London

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Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
London reminds me a lot of New York with all the hustle and bustle, but it has a much deeper and richer history, dating back almost 2,000 years. It's a city I recommend everyone visit sometime in their lives, especially because it has such a vast mix of old-school architecture and charm, as well as so many up-and-coming neighborhoods where only the coolest of cool kids hang out. As someone who loves all things British and has ambitious dreams of someday living in London, allow me to share my love with you.
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The Conrad St. James is right in Westminster.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
Where to stay: When you're doing a whirlwind trip, I find that it's extremely important to pick a hotel carefully based on what it offers and where it's located. The Conrad London St. James, the featured hotel where we stayed, is conveniently located right beside an underground station, which provides you quick access to the Tube to take you wherever you want to go. The hotel has excellent food so you can grab breakfast before heading out for the day or enjoy a fine-dining experience at the Blue Boar Restaurant for dinner. Also, I have to throw this out there: I have never experienced a better hotel bed in my life. The pillows are like little heavenly clouds. Seriously.
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Afternoon tea at the Conrad St. James.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
What to eat: When in London, you have to experience food like a true Brit. A full English breakfast, including beans and tomatoes, is not to be missed. We were able to grab that every morning in our hotel restaurant, but you can find the same meal at a variety of places in the city. Also, afternoon tea is a longstanding tradition in England and is a must on any visit. If you do nothing else in London, make sure you have tea! The tea at our hotel was the usual small bites, delicious tea, and sweets, but the options vary based on where you go. Some people view tea as a snack, and some treat it more as a meal. All that matters is that tea is included.
If you do nothing else, make sure you have tea!
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Camden Market in Camden Town.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
What to do: There's no shortage of things to do in London. Through the concierge at our hotel and as one of Conrad's 1/3/5 experiences (unique ideas for things to do with one hour, three hours, or five hours), one of the things we did was a shopping tour on a small street in Belgravia, which we then contrasted with some of the larger shopping areas. Elizabeth Street, where we started, is a quaint little street that seems unimpressive if you're looking for it but is a pleasant surprise if you stumble upon it, according to our ever-knowledgeable concierge, John. He suggested we follow up that street with a trip to Harrods and other London retailers to get a real feel for how the boutiques stand up against the department stores. We also strolled through the popular sights, like around Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Parliament Houses. These are all beautiful buildings that are quick and easy to make a stop at to see and take pictures of. I also recommend traveling up to Camden to the Camden Market, which is a very cool area full of shops and stands that has a little something for everyone. Make sure to stop by the doughnut cart inside to not only see some of the prettiest doughnuts ever but to also pick up one or four to take with you while you walk. During the evenings, Covent Garden is a lovely place to spend time as it has a lot of pubs and restaurants and it's a great place to catch a show. London also has a fair share of stage productions that tend to run a little cheaper than Broadway, so you might be able to catch a show you haven't been able to see in New York. Hamilton is even opening in London very soon! And it's currently the only place showing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
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Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren

Days 3 and 4: Edinburgh, Scotland

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Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
On this trip to Edinburgh, I learned so much more about the violently fascinating history of the city and all its ties to Harry Potter — totally unrelated but both vital to the town. In a city split between the old town on one side of the railroad tracks and the new town on the other, there is an interesting dichotomy in architecture and businesses for visitors to experience. And in a city where J.K. Rowling wrote much of the Harry Potter series, it's easy to see where a lot of her inspiration came from.
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The refurbished Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
Where to stay: Like the Conrad in London, the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, known locally as The Caledonian, is situated centrally with easy access to everything. The red sandstone building sits next to a cemetery full of history and a short walk from the Edinburgh Castle. Not that I advise spending too much of your trip inside your hotel because Edinburgh is a beautiful city to explore, but if you stay here, you at least have to take a peek through the building to get a feel for the old-school decor, recently updated to more modern standards. It truly is a beautiful building.
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Flights of Scottish whiskey at the Caley Bar.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
What to eat: One word: haggis. If you don't know what haggis is, just hear me out when I tell you about it. Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish made from sheep's pluck, which is heart, liver, and lungs, mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt, and stock, and then stuffed inside the casing of an animal stomach. So . . . that sounds like something not wholly appetizing, but served with "neeps and tatties," aka turnips and potatoes, and some gravy, it is really, really delicious. You also can't leave without trying Scottish whiskey. We did a one-on-one tasting at the hotel bar with a whiskey expert. We went through a flight of iconic whiskeys and learned all about how they're made and the history of the distilleries — which is all part of this experience.
It's easy to see where J.K. Rowling got Harry Potter inspiration from in Edinburgh.
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The Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
What to do: Harry Potter fans: if you haven't been to Scotland yet, please do it soon. The Elephant House cafe is where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter stories, and like our tour guide told us when she took us inside to see the back of the restaurant's view, she can understand Rowling's inspiration. The back of the restaurant faces the Greyfriars Kirkyard, which is a cemetery where a McGonagal is buried and one Tom Riddell (sound familiar?). Also behind The Elephant House is a school that could very well be an inspiration for Hogwarts. Aside from the Harry Potter references, there is a lot of general history to learn about in Edinburgh. I recommend a walking tour of the city, which was organized through the hotel with the most amazing guide, Davina. She walked us through the old town at a leisurely pace and told us about all the sights. The huge advantage to a private walking tour, also, is that it's customizable, so it was easy for us to make a pit stop for some tea and haggis. I also recommend checking out the royal buildings, including Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. You can take a tour of the castle, which sits atop an actual volcano and opens out onto the Royal Mile, where at the bottom you can find Holyrood Palace — the queen's residence when she's in town.
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Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Beth Burke

Days 5 and 6: Dublin, Ireland

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Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
Dublin has been high on my list of places to visit for years, mostly because of my love of Irish music. On this quick trip to the Irish capital, I checked off all the boxes for things to see, eat, and do and even learned a few phrases in Gaelic along the way.
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The main entrance of the Conrad Dublin.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
Where to stay: The Conrad Dublin, the featured hotel where we stayed, is within walking distance of several pubs and sights you'll definitely want to check out, and it's just a quick drive from the airport. It's also right near St. Stephen's Green, a lovely little park. The hotel is also surrounded by residences with beautifully colorful doors, whose purpose, according to our driver, come from an old wives' tale. He said many, many years ago, a man came home late at night from the pub, because obviously, and he found his wife in bed with another man. He threw the man out of the house and then went to sleep. When he woke up the next morning, he realized he was in the wrong house and didn't realize it because all the homes looked the same and had black doors, so now everyone paints their doors different colors so they're easier to find when you come home from the pub. Whether this is true or not, the fact of the matter is that the doors are beautiful.
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Fish and chips are a must eat.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
Where to eat: Just like London and Edinburgh, fish and chips are readily available in Dublin and are highly recommended by me . . . and every other person I talked to in Ireland. We had our share of it at The Coburg Brasserie, and I've honestly never had better fish and chips. (Though our concierge, Marcin, insists on going out by the coast for even better fish and chips offerings.) Really, just pub food in general is something you should definitely aim for in Dublin, because pubs are everywhere, and they're such a staple in Ireland that a fair few of them are going to have an excellent selection of food and drinks.
Sláinte in Gaelic means cheers!
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Irish pubs are the place to be any evening.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Bonnie Burke For Bonnie & Lauren
What to do: There are two things I have always associated with Ireland: Guinness and step dancing. You can actually get both of those in one fell swoop at the Guinness Storehouse. You learn the history of Guinness and how it's made, all at the original brewery location from the 1700s, then get to drink Guinness in a bar on the top floor with 360-degree views. The place even has step dancers who come out for entertainment. Another thing I highly recommend is the Kilmainham Gaol, which is an old jail from the 1700s with a rich history and beautifully kept architecture. Across the way from there is the Ireland Museum of Modern Art, which rounds out a cultural afternoon, and that pairing is a convenient experience the hotel can set up for you — or if you go with this once-in-a-lifetime travel package, it's included. For the evenings, you have to go to a pub, obviously, and you have to find trad music, which is just traditional Irish music. When in Ireland . . .
Travel and expenses for the author and photographer were provided by Hilton for the purpose of writing this story. To learn more about this Hilton travel package and to bid on it with your Hilton Honors points, go to the Hilton Honors auction listing to bid before the auction closes April 11.
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