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5 Day Itinerary for London

We'll be in London for 5 full days in June. I have put together an itinerary that includes everything on my "A" list of sights. We want to see a play at the Globe theater one evening, but I'm not sure when is the best night to go. I would appreciate your feedback and advice, and to know if I grouped sights appropriately.

Monday - Tower of London and cruise back to Westminster for photo op of Big Ben and Parliament.
Tuesday - Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square.
Wednesday - British Library for the Treasureroom, Abbey Road Studio, and the British museum (I have printed a map of the museum and identified the galleries we want to visit).
Thursday - The Churchill War Rooms and Buckingham Palace Royal Mews Tour
Friday - Victoria & Albert Museum and Kensington Palace or day trip to Windsor.

I would like to see the spectacle of Piccadilly and/or Leicester Square for some people watching if time permits, but neither of those are musts.

Posted by
13497 posts

The best night to go to the Globe is the night they are doing a play you want to see, and you can get good seats.

In June they will be doing Much Ado about Nothing, Henry VIII, and King Lear. There is a special event on June 18 ( a Henry VIII performance) to celebrate the theatre’s 25th anniversary that may or may not be of interest.

https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on/shakespeares-globe-25th-anniversary-henry-viii-2022/

Looks like seats for the regular performances are about 30-50% sold, depending on which gallery you choose.

Posted by
158 posts

Everyone who replies will have their own horse to sell you.

Theatre ... for June, your preferred nights might already be sold out. But I'm sure someone here will be able to offer a ticket service if you are intent on going.

Westminster Abbey ... look into a private tour guide. That place was a tourist zoo. But our guide was able to navigate us through some of the burials and save us a lot of time. Darwin, Newton, Kings, Queens, and some of his favorites. I am a firm believer in the adage "not all who wander are lost" but this is one place the Tour Guide saved us time and trouble.

At British Museum, private guide also saved us lots of time. His was a highlights tour. But, when you only have 5 days, it was worthwhile. So much fascinating stuff, I would have spent a full day.

Churchill War Rooms ... Well worth the visit. My 25 year old daughter, no previous expressed interest in the era, found it compelling.

Add Hampton Court as a possibility/back-up for Friday.

People watching ... as you wander subways, buses, and walking you will see plenty of spectacles. It seemed our walking or subway transfers took us to Piccadilly Circus quite often.

Have Fun!

Posted by
5490 posts

I agree about when to go to the Globe -- whenever they're doing a play you want to see. And you should know that the seats are hard wood, and only those in the last row have backs. I think you can get a cushion for an extra charge. The cheapest "seats" are standing room front and center (with the "groundlings"). I had a very uncomfortable evening there even in the back row, but the production wasn't very good either, so maybe I'm being too critical.

I think you need a timed entry for the Churchill War Rooms, or you'll be in a long line. This is so close to the Abbey, on the way to Trafalgar Square, that you might consider doing it that day. I'm sure a private guide would improve the Abbey experience, or any other, but I did just fine with the audioguide. There's also a Verger's Tour and another one for groups that might be worthwhile based on others' posts.

Piccadilly and Leicester Square are close to Trafalgar Square, maybe just stay in that area through the evening, when it's quite lively. Have a great trip!

Posted by
13497 posts

Adding to Dick’s helpful information on the Globe—-I do recommend you pay the extra £2 for seat cushions. Your ticket with indicate that, and you pick them up as you enter. We sat in the Lower Gallery and it was fine. The Middle Gallery is slightly more booked at this time, so it must be more popular. . . . But neither is sold out for any date I checked.

Be sure you buy tickets directly from the Globe ( link in my previous post), not from a third party.

Posted by
21940 posts

The Churchill War Rooms are excellent, but this info may be helpful to you: It is in two parts. It doesn't take too long to see the actual war rooms, though they can be crowded (I was there pre-COVID), which can affect the speed at which you move through them. The audio guide was good. The second part of the CWR is the Churchill Museum. You can spend hours and hours in there. I believe my total time on-site was between 4 and 5 hours, and I knew my travel mate didn't want to spend as much time as I did in the Churchill Museum section, so I was rushing.

The V&A is huge; you wouldn't be able to see the whole thing even if you spent the entire day there. (I have done the whole thing, but I've lost track of how many hours it took, over multiple visits). It's another place for which you should take a careful look at the floor plan and figure out a plan of attack. You sometimes have to do more walking than you would expect to get from place to place. If you want to see the jewelry collection (which is fabulous), I highly, highly recommend being at the museum at opening time and heading straight to the jewelry. I've done that twice, and on both occasions I had a good bit of time (20 minutes? 30 minutes?) almost alone, during which I could move easily from display to display at my own speed. But then other people began to arrive, and it got increasingly crowded so I sometimes had to wait to see something. That section is the only part of the museum where I've observed crowding sufficient to significantly slow you down.

Check to see whether you're interested in one of the special exhibitions (entry fee, usually substantial). Those often sell out.

Posted by
6795 posts

If you go to the Globe rent cushions. You’ll thank me later. Also double check weather forecast. Dress accordlingly.

Posted by
3086 posts

About this part of your question:
"I would appreciate your feedback and advice, and to know if I grouped sights appropriately."


Monday--Tower of London will take half the day or 3/4 of the day. There is no need to cruise back to Westminster that day for photos of Big Ben and Parliament, because you will be there the next day as Westminster Abbey is right across the street from them. Take your photos then.


Tuesday-- Westminster Abbey (half the day or 3/4 of the day), photos of Big Ben and Parliament, then do The Churchill War Rooms because they are just up the block from W. Abbey.
You will still have time to walk up to Trafalgar Square, have a look around, and people watch.


Friday - Day trip to Windsor.
If you want a day trip to Windsor, it will take most or all of the day. Move Victoria & Albert Museum and Kensington Palace to Thursday.


"I would like to see the spectacle of Piccadilly and/or Leicester Square for some people watching if time permits, but neither of those are musts."
A really good place for people-watching is Trafalgar Square.

I hope this helps.

Posted by
38 posts

I would do the Verger tour of Westminster. It was one of my kid’s favorites.

Posted by
47 posts

Thank you for all the advice! We might just check out TKTS for a play on the West End. I've had really good luck with TKTS in NYC. We both have bad backs, so maybe The Globe isn't the best for us. Should we just go tour The Globe on Tower of London day? I would like to see it. We will definitely be in the Big Ben/Parliament area more than once, so we can take photos whenever. As far as Piccadilly or Leicester, I view it as sort of like Times Square in NYC, you should see it once for the experience, but it's not a must do.
I would like opinions on whether or not Windsor is a must see, or would Kensington Palace and the V & A be a good substitute. We're going to spend the 1st week in Bath, the Cotswolds, Liverpool, and York, so I wasn't sure if a day trip to Windsor is worth the effort to travel again. I would like to see it, but staying in London is appealing, especially since we're staying in Earl's Court and will be close to Kensington and the V & A.

Posted by
6795 posts

Darla I think its up to you about seeing Windsor.

Kensington Palace is completely different than Windsor.

I use TKTS every time I’m in London. In days of yore available theatre was written on a chalk board. Now you can look on line. Ah progress!

With bad backs I’d tour the Globe as opposed to seeing a production. Then head to Borough Market OR meander along the Thames path to London Bridge cross back over the Thames and stop at the Sky Garden then stroll to Leadenhall Market ( if kids Harry Potter fans they’ll recognize it ad Diagone Alley) This is the last glass covered market in London. Its right next to the futuristic Lloyds of London and the nearby Gherkin
( St Mary’s Axe).

During your travel dates you see if there are tickets available here:
https://openairtheatre.com/

Personally I’d do Leicester Square and Chinatown.
Food at Joy King Lau in Chinatown is great. Went twice in November 2021. Plan to return again when I’m back in London this Summer.

On Tuesday you can add Covent Garden and dine at Dishoom or at The 7 Dials Market.

And to experience Piccadilly go at night when all the signage is lit. You’ll definitely experience London’s Hustle and Bustle then.

Cheers

Posted by
11 posts

We were just in London for spring break two weeks ago and maybe we are faster walkers but Trafalgar Square is about an hour or 30 minute stop at the most. We stopped there, took pics, had lunch outside and people watched - but it does not take a whole half day. We took pics and then moved on. I felt this same way about Piccadilly too - we looked around and then I suggest going else where unless your like to shop.
We also climbed to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral and my teenagers loved it and said it was the highlight of their time in London. We also watched the Changing of Guard at Buckingham Palace - but it lasted several hours (by the time we arrived early to reserve our space at the fence, watch the whole thing it was about a 930-1230 kind of time range. You could probably get there closer to the actual time at 11, but the place does fill out with mobs of people. It was definitely well worth it. But it did last a longtime for my 11 year old.
The photo op at Big Ben is also another 30 minutes next to the red phone booths right there at Parliament Square. If you are walking, you could easily walk from Parliament Square (Big Ben) toward Trafalgar Square.
We also toured Parliament and absolutely loved it - but they are only open for tours on Saturday. You need to book tickets in advance.
We pretty much saw everything on our list is 3 days (but I traveled with 3 boys ages 11-17) and we drove out to Stonehenge on our 4th day.

Posted by
2343 posts

I think your itinerary sounds great and includes all of my favorite things in London, and you've gotten the usual thoughtful advice from everyone, so I will just comment on seeing something theatrical while you're there, as I am just now planning my 8 days--in 3 weeks I will be there! I am too much of a planner to chance day-of tickets, but sites like TKTS or even just searching for "shows in London" will give you numerous options to research--I made notes and then went to the theatre websites. I think I have settled on Hamilton (love the irony of seeing it in England) at the Victoria Theatre, and The Corn Is Green at the National--favorite book and 1940s movie, the production stars Nicola Walker who has been in many PBS shows and I just love her work.

Posted by
3086 posts

"I would like opinions on whether or not Windsor is a must see, or would Kensington Palace and the V & A be a good substitute."
To help you decide:
The V&A is a museum filled with amazing decorative objects.
Kensington Palace is a palace where Princess Diana lived, but is surprisingly, not very impressive on the inside.
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest of all three places, the oldest part built just after 1066, and it's where the Queen lives when she's not in residence at Buckingham Palace or one of her other homes. Opulent inside and out.

In my opinion, the sights rate this way:
1--Windsor Castle. 5 stars.
2--V&A Museum. 5 stars.
3--Kensington Palace. 2 or 3 stars.

Myself, I would drop Kensington Palace and see the other two places. You could do a day trip to Windsor, and see the V&A Museum that afternoon upon returning to London. The V&A really deserves one complete day, but you may be running out of time in your itinerary.

Posted by
1430 posts

As a castle enthusiast, Windsor is what you think of as a castle and much better IMHO then Kensington. If you are a Princess Di fan, you might feel differently as that is where she lived. I loved the town of Windsor as well and popped into a cafe to have some tea and scones.

Posted by
47 posts

So many great ideas, thank you! I've altered my itinerary and added a bit:
Monday
Tower of London, then make our way to Trafalgar Square and visit the National Gallery. I discovered bus 139, so we'll catch that at Trafalgar and ride to St. John's Wood to see Abbey Road.
Tuesday
Harry Potter Studio. There are no tickets available, so we'll do a tour. Any recommendations? I was going to skip it since tours are so expensive, but I just can't miss it!
Wednesday
The British Library, then the British Museum.
Thursday
Westminster Abbey, the Buckingham Palace Royal Mews tour, and the Churchill War Rooms
Friday
Windsor Castle. Undecided whether to get there on our own or book a tour. Opinions or suggestions?
I would love recommendations for lunch and dinner places in the areas we'll be. We usually have a bigger lunch than dinner. I definitely want to check out pubs, fish and chip shops, Indian food, pasties, and whatever other cuisines that aren't common in Texas! We're staying in Earl's Court, so recommendations for there and neighboring areas would be great too. I appreciate the wealth of information I've received. Thank you!

Posted by
158 posts

I mentioned Hampton Court earlier. Still not on your list of possibilities? Like Windsor, it too is a short trip outside London.

It seems Windsor has more artifacts and interest because the Saxe-Coburg dynasty of today.
If you are interested the Tudor era, Hampton court has abundantly more interest.

It is basically a coin flip for us between Windsor and Hampton. Kensington was a distant 3rd on the list.

AS to the worth of the visits? Only you know. Will you be able to make a return visit in a few years? Or is it a one and done?

I noted you have not penciled in a walk over to Tower Bridge. You might put that down as a possibility for Tower day. Young-uns might find it interesting.

Posted by
2215 posts

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest of all three places, the oldest part built just after 1066, and it's where the Queen lives when she's not in residence at Buckingham Palace or one of her other homes.

The Queen no longer lives at Buckingham Palace preferring Windsor. She's become increasingly frail in the past 12 months. I doubt she'll ever travel to Balmoral or Sandringham again. We may see her in public during the jubilee but her public appearances outside Windsor are coming to a close.

Posted by
1700 posts

The British Museum is open late on Fridays. It currently has a special exhibit on Stonehenge which does require buying advance tickets, if that is of interest.

Posted by
47 posts

Hampton Court does look intriguing, but we're already doing 2 day trips out of our 5 days, and we'll have spent the week before traveling around England. I didn't include walk by type sites in my itinerary, but Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Parliament, and Buckingham Palace are all on my list. I think going through Piccadilly on the bus enroute to Abbey Road will be enough of that. I'll check out theater tickets at TKTS to determine if there are plays we want to see, but I'm mostly keeping evening plans open. We might want to just stroll through parks and neighborhoods. We're staying fairly close to Hyde Park and Kensington, but we might also check out Mayfair, Belgravia, or Notting Hill. If not walking distance, those places should be easy to access by tube or taxi and seem like they would be very pleasant. We aren't really night life people, so walking around beautiful places and stopping for an occasional drink is appealing. If anyone has suggestions for neighborhoods to explore, away from the bustle, I would love to hear them. Again, thank you!

Posted by
3086 posts

Here's a company that offers your Harry Potter tour.
Evan Evans:
https://evanevanstours.com/
Harry Potter Studio Tour:
https://evanevanstours.com/tours/london-tours/harry-potter-studio-tour-london/

Their Windsor Castle tours are combined with one or two other destinations, making for too busy a day.
You'd be better off to go to Windsor on your own, so you can spend half or three-quarters of the day touring the castle, then walk around the town for several hours before heading back to London.
Browse their tours to see if any of them interest you.

There are many good cafes and restaurants in the town of Windsor for lunch or afternoon tea.

Posted by
6795 posts

Richmond, nice high street, beautiful Richmond Park, Kew Gardens, Isabella Plantation. 25 minute train or tube ride from Waterloo. For food try the White Cross pub on the Thames Path or at The Angel and Crown pub. Its down the Church Court walk way adjacent to the Tesco.

Posted by
158 posts

OP, mention Tower Bridge as slightly more than a "walk-by". Depends on if you have any engineers in your party, but the Tower is still working on Victorian Era mechanics. The short tour was interesting. After the Tower of London we walked over to the Bridge then came back to catch a later ferry boat up-river.

Our extra neighborhood experience was Hampstead Heath. Good view of the city. You can even see where Keats lived. And there is the Kenwood House that has some interesting art pieces.

Posted by
6795 posts

@GoWest too bad you didn’t discover the Jim Henson bench in the Heath.

Posted by
158 posts

@Claudia, I would have sat on it and wondered about Puppets meandering around as I thinking about their history and what motivated them.

Posted by
337 posts

Regarding the Globe....if you still want to SEE the theatre, but not stay for a play, AND a play is "on" you can book a ticket for 5GPB to stand in front of the stage. Go...look...experience the crowd...then leave when you've had enough.

This has turned into my "plan B' for an upcoming trip as I believe I have over-booked myself for my first few days in London.