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4.5 days for London this June -Please help!

My husband and I and 17yr old daughter have never been to England. We have 4.5 days to hit the highlights. Staying near Hyde Park. Open to any experienced itinerary planners out there!
-We would like to do a day trip to Windsor and Stonehenge- company you guys recommend?
-Everyone says great things about London Walks but on their website the tours are listed by day and random topics- I dont see broader walks that include top highlights (ie Westminster, Tower of London etc)
-I see a lot of viator and tourguy tours but not sure if they are legit? Worth it?
-From what I have read our list would likely include: changing of the guard, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, British museum, Big Ben, river tour on the Thames, high tea somewhere, Buckingham and day tour to Stonehenge and Windsor....but again, open to suggestions
Thank you in advance!

Posted by
159 posts

Per Rick Steves, here are top London sites-- https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/england/london

At a Glance
▲▲▲ Westminster Abbey Britain's finest church and the site of royal coronations and burials since 1066.
▲▲▲ Churchill War Rooms Underground WWII headquarters of Churchill's war effort.
▲▲▲ National Gallery Remarkable collection of European paintings (1250–1900), including Leonardo, Botticelli, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Turner, Van Gogh, and the Impressionists.
▲▲▲ British Museum The world's greatest collection of artifacts of Western civilization, including the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon's Elgin Marbles.
▲▲▲ St. Paul's Cathedral The main cathedral of the Anglican Church, designed by Christopher Wren, with a climbable dome and daily evensong services.
▲▲▲ British Library Fascinating collection of the most important literary treasures of the Western world.
▲▲▲ Tower of London Historic castle, palace, and prison housing the crown jewels and a witty band of Beefeaters.
▲▲▲ Victoria and Albert Museum The best collection of decorative arts anywhere.

...
There is more for 2 triangle spots if you follow the link too.

For bath:
▲▲▲ Free City Walking Tours Top-notch tours helping you make the most of your visit, led by The Mayor's Corps of Honorary Guides.
▲▲▲ Roman Baths Ancient baths that gave the city its name, tourable with good audioguide.

And Stonehenge or Windsor-- of course, great stuff too! We took a tour for Stonehenge (which I can't recommend) but I am sure others have had better luck.

Sounds like you have great fun ahead of you!

Posted by
1919 posts

I was in London for the first time last October for six days and it was not enough.

It is a wonderful city. I suggest that you be realistic about what you can do and not do.

I stayed across from Kensington Garden and on my last day walked. to and through Hyde Park going towards Victoria Coach Station.

Hyde Park was beautiful and the area around Victoria Station was beautiful. You might consider taking a walk from Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens. You will walk through the Serpentine which includes Princess Diana Fountains.

I did get to visit the National Gallery and V & A. Across from V & A are museums that might appeal to your 17 year old. I believe that one is a natural History Museum.

If you have not yet done so, you should probably get Rick's Guide to London.

I do hear good things about The Tour Guy and am considering using them for an excursion in Barcelona.

Posted by
699 posts

London Walks is wonderful. You might check with them about a private tour. They can put together many ideas. Also their Old Westminster might be worth it as it does include a number of the must see sites in London. Otherwise, I’ve done 2+ in one day! You just need to be ready to put in the miles.

Posted by
298 posts

Let me echo Bostonphil's comments in not trying to do too much in too little time. You could spend a couple of weeks in London very easily.

London is easy to get around, and unless you find a walking tour that you really like, I'd say stick to DIY.

Westminster Abbey fits in well with other sights nearby such as the Houses of Parliament (including Elizabeth Tower/Big Ben), Buckingham Palace, Horseguards and (if war history is tour thing) the Churchill War Rooms. You mentioned high tea (normally called afternoon tea in the UK) - Fortnum & Mason is a good spot for this, also nearby. If you're thinking of doing any shopping, nearby also is Regent Street, Piccadilly etc. Fortum & Mason is great, as is Liberty.

Day 2 could be the Tower of London. Other tourist spots nearby include St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast. Not to mention Borough Market.

Day 3 could be the British Museum, although the V&A is my personal favourite. And with a 17 year old, you might want to consider some market shopping - London has great markets.

What not do do - in 4.5 days, you could probably manage one day trip. Personally I would suggest Windsor Castle (skip Stonehenge). You don't need a tour, it's an easy train trip. It's a 1/2 to 2/3s of a day in total, I would suggest given the queue to enter and then separate queues for Queen Mary's Dollshouse and St George's Chapel. Going on a tour and trying to do both would just be frustrating and too rushed.

Posted by
1 posts

If you enjoy theater, lots to see in London. Fun evening activity after a day of touring.

For Windsor, it's easy to take the train on your own and simply do a tour at the castle. We did this a few years ago with a 9 and 6 year old.

If you go to the British Museum, do use a tour guide. It's crowded and overwhelming.

Posted by
6 posts

You are all amazing! Thank you for the advice and planning tips!
I appreciate your time and effort
Keala

Posted by
27081 posts

London Walks used to offer a tour to the British Museum; I imagine it's still an option. Understand that the ground floor of the British Museum is usually extremely crowded. The Egyptian collection, the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone--that's just the way it is. A guide can't do anything about that, but he or she can help you navigate from one popular area to another. The London Walks tour lasts about 2 hours. It takes multiple days to really absorb the British Museum, so you should think about whether you want to spend 2 hours (plus your travel time) in what may feel like a mosh pit, seeing the exhibits the company focuses on, which might or might not be the things your family most wants to see. It will be a lower-stress way to see a bit of the museum than trying to see a lot of the ground floor by yourselves in 2 hours, that's for sure.

If you should decide on the DIY approach, I'd recommend booking entry online ahead of time (free/donation-requested); the regular entry line can take 30 minutes or longer. It appears the earliest entry times are most popular, but you probably will not have a problem getting tickets for later in the day shortly before you travel. A 10:00 AM entry would allow you a bit of time before the museum gets totally packed--that's one reason it's such a popular ticket. Folks in a position to know have told me the museum is busiest on weekends, holidays, Fridays and rainy days. The British Museum is one of several major London Museums that stays open late on Friday nights. It does get quieter after 4:30 PM or so, which makes late afternoon a good time to visit if you will have enough energy to tackle as museum as the day winds down. Unfortunately, the restaurants in the museum do not stay open later on Friday, so you'd be well-advised to plan ahead on the food front.

It may help you to know the upper floor of the British Museum is considerably less crowded than the ground floor. The museum's website (https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/galleries#lower-floor describes what's shown in each gallery, so you can figure out ahead of time what you'd like to focus on. There's a nice sit-down restaurant (Great Court) on the upper floor that offers both lunch and afternoon tea. A reservation would almost certainly be needed. Elsewhere in the museum there's a grab-and-go sandwich spot in the atrium on the ground floor and a pizzeria tucked away somewhere that I've never seen.

My tip for the Victoria and Albert Museum if you want to see the fabulous jewelry collection is to be at the door of the museum a few minutes before opening time and go straight to the jewelry collection. That should get you 20 minutes or so of peace and quiet, with the ability to more freely from one display case to another. Eventually, other visitors will filter in and your progress through the exhibition will be slowed. Jewelry is small, so crowding affects this section of the museum a lot more than it does in the other galleries.

Rick mentions some tours in his guidebook that might interest you: the Vergers Tour at Westminster Abbey and the Yeoman Warders Tour at the Tower of London. I haven't taken either one, but they draw positive comments here and the costs are reasonable. I am a big fan of London Walks, but most of its offerings are neighborhood walking tours with some historical information provided (accurately by licensed guides), rather than in-depth tours of a particular sight.

Posted by
277 posts

Keala, if you want a fun above ground transport from one area - say Westminster to the Tower Bridge area- consider taking a short Thames River cruise. We really enjoyed ours. If it’s a nice day, sit on top and you can see a lot of the iconic sites from a totally different perspective. We were fortunate that the company had a “guide” - he said he wasn’t technically a guide- that offered a funny and thorough description of the sites. It was really reasonable for the budget as well.

Posted by
4816 posts

In only 4.5 days you'll not be able to do all you would like. So, the three of you should sit down and each add the thing you most want to see and / or do. Then do it again several times and you'll have narrowed down the world of things to see and / or do to those that most appeal to all of you. Then you can start alloting time to the various things. Oh, by the way, one thing not mentioned yet is a trip to Greenwich and a boat trip back. Just offering a way to get to what all of you really want to see and do.

Posted by
6 posts

Well I have our intinerary narrowed down but it could use some fine tuning.
1/2 DAY- We arrive in London 2pm Monday. I decided NOT to do the Hop On/Off based on reviews and would walk through Hyde Park (since our hotel is near there) and do the V & A that afternoon.

DAY 2- Tower of London, beef eater tour. picnic on boat cruise to Westminster Pier and tour Westminster Abbey followed by the Westminster Walk. (per RS London book). We would miss the changing of the horse gaurd but I think I could squeeze in the Cavalry museum

DAY 3- Fun London Tour of the changing of the gaurd 9:40-11:35, Walk through St. James Park. Can I squeeze in the Royal Mews? Lunch, then Churchill war rooms then National Portrait Gallery

DAY 4- Windsor Castle. Be back for 5pm afternoon Tea at Fortnum and Mason. Is this cutting it too close ?

DAY 5- 2nd part of RS City walk to St Pauls Cathedral and tour the Cathedral/climb the dome. Lunch at Borough Market. Then the late afternoon/evening of the British Museum (since they are open later on Fridays and this is a Friday)

**Any changes or suggestions from you pros? Will the British Museum work late in the day. I had to squeeze it in somewhere. I dont have any evening plans since I didnt know how tired we would be but am open to any "must see" that we could do in the evening that I couldnt fit in elsewhere. We decided to leave out stonehenge. I sure feel like I am leaving out a lot but given our time constraints. How does this look?

Thanks for any advice!
Keala

Posted by
4309 posts

I think you're trying to pack too much into each day. I'm afraid your trip will be a blur and you will be exhausted by the last few days. If you go to Windsor first thing in the morning(will your daughter be up for that?), I do think you could have tea at F&M in the afternoon. Personally, I would not waste a morning on the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. We saw it on a tour many years ago and I don't remember a thing about it, so clearly it was not at all memorable. I have not seen the Changing of the Horse Guards, but based on RS guide, I would do that instead-maybeon the Tower of London Day if its not too far away(I don't remember its location, so another day may be better), skip the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace and do Westminster Abbey the same day as the Churchill Rooms. You may be too tired to do the Portrait Gallery that day and will your daughter even want to go there?

Posted by
866 posts

The Tower of London (best done first thing in the morning) and the St Pauls/Borough Market walk should be done together as they are all to the east of the centre. Westminster and Churchill War Rooms (book the latter in advance) are also best together.

Posted by
298 posts

Cala notes "instead-maybeon the Tower of London Day if its not too far away(I don't remember its location, so another day may be better), "

The King's Life Guard is mounted at Horse Guards (a building, not a regiment), which is on Whitehall, close to Downing Street etc, so not near the Tower. But I do agree with your observation- would make more sense on day 3, before lunch - it's right next to St James's Park. Walk across Horse Guards Parade, and through the archway of the Horse Guards building. Worth noting it's the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, so not the uniforms of Household Division infantry that you may be familiar with. But splendid nonetheless, and you will get right up close.

Posted by
6 posts

I was trying to follow the RS London in 7 day plan but take out what things I thought were less interesting so I could fit it into our 4.5 day schedule.

RS mentioned the "Fun London Tour" follows the changing of the gaurd procession so that you see more of it and arent just standing at the gate waiting. That was why I wanted to schedule that. Do you think we could do this tour (changing of the gaurd) with W. Abbey and churchill war rooms all on same day?

It sounds like the Tower in the am should be grouped with St. Pauls. Should I forego RS city walk tour and just do those 2 things together?

I am glad you think that Windsor and Tea will be do-able in the same day. We will lock that in.

Still trying to fit the British Museum in somewhere.

Keala

Posted by
866 posts

I don't know where the RS city walk tour goes but it must cover some ground between the Tower and St Pauls by definition.

Posted by
4309 posts

Keala, I think the British Museum is one of the best sights in London-it's a compendium of the history of much of the world. I like the idea of going on Friday with the late hours, but would want to get there early in the afternoon. Save some energy for all the walking at the Museum.