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1 week in London

Hi all,

We are a family traveling in early June from the US to London. This will be our first trip to the UK. There are so many amazing things to see in London, and we would like to obviously spend the vast majority of our time there. That said, we've thought about at least 1 day trip. Does anyone recommend the tour that goes to Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor? Seems like it would be a hectic day, but given our limited time I thought it may be worth it. We would love to see Stonehenge.

Any other day trips from London that you would recommend? We'd like a 5 days in London, but would be open to travel the other 2. We aren't planning a car rental.

Thanks,
Jamie

Posted by
5817 posts

Trying to do all three in one day is way too much even as an organised tour. You will spend most of your time on a bus.
Do you “honestly” have an interest in Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor? They come up as the usual suspects for day trips but I do sometimes wonder if it’s because people think they should rather than because they have a real interest.:-)

Windsor is a very easy trip from central London on the train. Bath is further away but similarly doable on the train as a ( long) day trip.
If you want to see Stonehenge you could look at combining it with a trip to Salisbury.

It will be easier to make useful suggestions for day trips if you let us know where your interests lie. Art? History? music? The countryside?

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you for the reply. You make an excellent point Emma. I would say history would be our main focus. So, to rephrase my question: 1 or 2 day trips of historical interest.

Thanks!

Posted by
128 posts

I would echo Emma's comments. There is a dangert of trying to cram too much into a day and ending up not having time to see anything of somewhere you've spent hours sitting in a coach to see.

Is Hampton Court on the list? It is a quick short train journey and is wonderful!

Posted by
3936 posts

Windsor is an easy 3/4 of a day trip by train from London. Bath would be a full, long day by train. I find York more interesting and not much longer by train. Stonehenge is reached by train to Salisbury then taking the bus. Stonehenge is small and disappointing IMO. I would opt for Windsor of these three. They certainly can’t all be seen properly in one day.

Great days out of central London include Hampton Court Palace, Greenwich (the Cutty Sark, the National Maritime Museum, the Greenwich Meridian, the Old Royal Naval College and an excellent market) or Canterbury.

Posted by
1398 posts

hey hey jamison
you are a family consists of who, how many, kids, and ages. if so, what are their interests? lots to see, do and have fun without leaving town. Plus you are in high season, busy & crowded, heat, grumpy/cranky people, lines. be prepared and wear comfy shoes.
aloha

Posted by
5149 posts

A few thoughts from a traveler who has been visiting London and other areas of the UK since the 70’s.

1.) June is peak tourist and locals travel time. Expect hordes.
2.) I disagree about Stonehenge. Everywhere in London are building cranes as older buildings disappear and modern ones take their place. Cranes are used to move materials for each story built. Cranes, tractors, trucks, fork lifts didn’t exist when Stonehenge was created. Like Machu Picchu, Newgrange, and the Pyramids it’s a marvel of engineering. If you want to see it, go. In fact take a look at www.walks.com. They do a great tour. An all day outing and since no one has yet to explain how those rocks were moved and erected I think it worth the time and effort.
3.) As noted Windsor is a good option. It’s an easy train ride from London.
4.) Hampton Court is another good option. You can use your Oyster cards for the train ride there.
5.) Portobello Road Market( Saturday is the main day) Spitafields and Brick Lane or Camden Lock Market
( next to the Regent Canal ) are all vibrant and quite the experience for first time visitors.
6.) Check the Tower Bridge lift schedule
7.) Definitely take in a theatre production. Check the Half Price ticket booth at Leicester Square for same day theatre tickets. Not knowing the ages of your children take a moment to review https://www.londontheatre.co.uk/whats-on for possible options. I throughly enjoyed Witness for the Prosecution at County Hall. It’s set in an actual courtroom. It’s been on for a while. I bought a ticket right at County Hall . Not cheap ( but that’s why one has credit cards). Secured a great seat: Stalls Row C X 55. The added plus is seeing Parliament lit up at night as County Hall is across the Thames from it. You are also next door to the London Eye and Jubilee Gardens. Lastly, you are also near the Graffiti Tunnel which is adjacent to Waterloo Station. An off the grid but enjoyable “ site to see “ especially at night.
8.) Depending on children’s ages Mud Chute Farm might be of interest.
9.) As your travel dates draw closer check Timeout London on line to see what one time events might be occurring during your timeframe.
10.) If you are going to the Tower of London arrive before it opens, get your tickets and immediately head to the Crown Jewels. After viewing them meander about the remainder of the grounds. Afterwards make your way ( Maybe 8 blocks) to Leadenhall Market. It’s the last remaining glass covered market and again depending on your children’s ages Leadenhall Market is where the Harry Potter entrance to the Leaky Cauldron is located.
11.) Visit the Museum of London as it does a stellar job of explaining how the city you are visiting came into existence.
12.) Imperial War Museum is interesting.
13.) Greenwich is a pleasant day out. Definitely take a River Cruise to get there.
14.) Check out the Mercado Mayfair for lunch
15.) Picnic in Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens

Have fun. So much to see and do. Great city!

Posted by
4048 posts

Do NOT do the one day tour that includes Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor.

You can do Stonehenge and Windsor in one day, but Bath deserves a full day.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you all for your help! Keep the suggestions coming. Ugh - didn't think June would be so busy. But hey, that's when we could go. Guess I should have looked at that ahead of time. We are very excited for this trip. Our kids are 12 and 14. I am currently reading "The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present..." by Rebecca Fraser. As an American, I find the history of England so fascinating, and am really enjoying the read. (I'm up to King John 1199-1216). So, to further refine my question: 2 bright teenage kids interested in history, and 2 days earmarked for day trips. Planning on 5 days to soak up London. We are staying in Greenwich. Thanks again for your travel advice.

Jamie

Posted by
38 posts

Dear Jamie,
Since you seem to enjoy history, why not stop at the British Library to see the Ritblatt Gallery? It's totally free and in less than an hour (though you may want more time) you can see the collection's greatest hits: everything from Beowulf, the Magna Carta, medieval illuminated manuscripts from most religious traditions, to poetry manuscripts from the Great War, and much more.
As for day trips, we went on a Bath and Stonehenge trip run by Evans Evans and, although it was a long day, we enjoyed it. Windsor and Hampton Court are easily done independently - both are terrific. Have you thought about Bletchley Park? That is also an easy day trip as is the Royal Airforce Museum at Hendon if you are interested in WW II history (just the underground and a 10 minute walk). Both of those have plenty to interest kids.

Enjoy!

Posted by
226 posts

Keep in mind Jamie, if you go to Stonehenge you can no longer walk around the rocks, instead you must view it from a distance with lots of people in front of you taking photos.
In London, I would take RSs self-guided Westminster walking tour. In May, he has a new Pocket London book coming out, you can buy an electronic version from his app. You can stop at the Churchill War Rooms, but purchase your tickets before leaving home or risk standing in a long line. You can then walk over to the West End and buy tickets at the TKTS booth for the theater that night.
Another day take the hop on hop off bus tour and get off at the Tower of London and also check out Tower Bridge. I would make this stop the only one because London’s traffic is horrific and it will take a full day to do this.
If you have a rainy day, visit the British Museum and have lunch in the cafe. This museum is is one of the world’s best.
Good day trips are Bath and York.

Posted by
41 posts

Hello, we drove by Stonehenge on our way to Bath. It was actually a pretty good view and didn’t need to pay or get off the highway. It was enough for us.
If your kids are into Harry Potter Oxford would be a great very full long day out. Take the train, good restaurants, lovely town.

Windsor is a closer town to London, castle, long walk, we enjoyed our day there as well.

Posted by
506 posts

At ages 12 and 14 your children can help plan the trip. Maybe get some books from the public library? Some of these are a little young for your children, but take a look at https://walkingontravels.com/childrens-books-london-with-kids/

If it rains while you're there, check out the Museum of London. It covers the history of London from the Ice Age to the present, with terrific displays on the Romans and medieval London.

Use the river as a resource. There are boats on a regular schedule that pick up at the Tower of London and drop off at Westminster, for example. Greenwich is a World Heritage Site reachable by boat and is rich in history and science. It makes a perfect day trip.

Hope this helps,
Marty

Posted by
253 posts

Windsor is a great place to go, small-town feel, historic castle, nice riverviews; and there's a green bus/coach that goes there from Victoria station. That same bus also goes to LegoLand in Windsor too.
Whatever is the most FUN for you all, and easy. Victoria station is also the place where the bus/coach leaves to go to Harry Potter studio tours too.
Have a great time.
-Alison

Posted by
5817 posts

With children that age get them on the internet deciding what they want to see The Timeout London website is a great resource for ideas in things to do.
Get them onto the BBC Horrible Histories videos on YouTube. They are great fun, especially the music videos.

See if you can sign up for a Mudlarking tour along the river. It's an amazing thing to do but not something you should attempt on your own if you dont know what you are doing.

The British Museum is always worth a visit if you can deal with the crowds Decide what you want to see before you go and dont try and do too much. Avoid the Egyyptian gallery unless you REALLY must see it, it's always bad busy

Posted by
891 posts

My favourite day trip was to Hampton Court Palace-Henry VIII's house. You didn't mention the age of your kids so I can't say if they'd get bored after awhile there though. My other favourite was Warwick Castle but I can't be sure if it's a good use of time for a day trip as we had a car and drove from the Cotswolds, but it is a spectacular castle for kids.

Posted by
4653 posts

June is not the school holidays in the UK, that is in late July and then all of August. There are quite a few foreign tourists, but not the local schoolchildren.

Posted by
5149 posts

Thanks Phillip. I did not know that as I’ve never visited the UK in June, July or August. I’ll amend my post

Posted by
1756 posts

Scottish schools break up at the end of June and return the middle of August