First time to England. We'll be flying roundtrip US to London and have 8 full days in late November when the days are shorter (10 days total including arrival and departure days). We've done some preliminary planning and have some ideas about what we want to do, but welcome any tips and advice!
We need more information. Are you looking to stay in London only maybe with a day trip? Or would you be interested London and another UK city?
What are your interests m? Museums? History? Food? Beer? And who is the we? Adults? Kids? Mobility issues?
In November I'd be heavily biased in favor of London wirh its multitude of indoor sights.
If you are staying in cities then the shorter days and weather don't really matter that much.
Assuming you've not been to London before, then it needs three full days or four with a day-trip to, for example, Windsor or Cambridge. But don't fall into the tourist trap of spending all 8 days there. A first rate sight in Liverpool is preferable to yet another third rate museum in London. Instead, in addition to a few days in London I'd go to one of Britain's nicer cities, such as Edinburgh (not England admitedly, but an easy trip), Wells & around or York. Late November isn't ideal for gentle country walks, but from any of those you can take a trip into the local countryside which will be more interesting than the Cotswolds, which are nice but not uniquely must-see. And if lucky any walk will be good and bracing.
More about us... let's see... we think we'll spend about 5 full days in London but then we'd like to get a peek of a bit more of England. Maybe an over night in the Cotswolds/ or overnight in York/ or a couple quick day trips from London? All advice welcome to help us decide. We're a late 40"s couple, no kids, no mobility issues, not drinkers. We love history especially all things Plantaganet, strolling beautiful old streets and seeing different neighborhoods, food crawls to try all the local dishes, and a bit of low-end antique shopping,
Forget the Cotswolds at most times of year in my book, but particularly in late November when there will be no colour in the gardens and it’s dark early.
York is a much better option and has enough to occupy you for a couple of days by walking the walls, seeing the Minster, the Rail Museum and the Shambles. It’s easy from London by direct train lines.
It depends on where you have already been in Great Britain.
London deserves some time and you can do day trips to Canterbury, Cambridge, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Oxford, Blenheim Palace. York, take the train and at least one overnight. See the Munster and Railway Museum and walk the ancient walls.
I'm sure it's true that a great museum in Liverpool beats a third-rate one in London. But London has enough first-rate sights and activities to occupy all your time there, especially if you include a day trip like Greenwich or Hampton Court or Oxford or Cambridge or Windsor.
But London and York would also be a good plan. "Explore Europe" on this website has good listings of sights in each city, though your priorities might differ from our host's. The National Rail website can help you find trains and buy tickets.
If you're awake enough after an overnight flight to LHR, you could take the Piccadilly tube line from Heathrow to King's Cross station and get a train to York on your arrival day. That way you'd have just one hotel change instead of two for the trip, and maybe a nice needed nap on the two-hour train ride. But allow several hours between scheduled landing time and train departure if you buy the train tickets in advance (which would be much cheaper), to cover possible delayed landing, immigrations, baggage claim, getting to the tube station (there are two at LHR), and at least an hour on the tube to King's Cross.
If your interests include the Plantagenet period then this article may be of interest and provide some ideas. For a compact all rounder, two hours easy train journey from central London, York is the standout choice.
Expect the weather to be cold. Any pressinfg interests for these 8 days. I would suggest spending 7 days in London and one set aside for a day trip.
In Oct 2017 I went back to London, spent 11 nights, stayed in a B&B, two days were set aside for day trips, one was to Portsmouth. It did get colder as the days wore on.
Like most British people I only learned about the Tudors/Stuarts and the Victorians at school, so I am not terribly au fait with the Plantagenets - but I’m guessing maybe Richard III was the last of them?
You can see his grave and an interesting museum about the discovery of his body in a car park in Leicester, an hour and a bit from London by train. It’s not a tourist mecca but it’s an interesting and fun city that’s the most ethnically diverse place in the UK.
Don't overlook Paris, 2.5 hours away via the Eurostar for a day trip or better yet, a couple of nights. Eurostar tickets go on sale 6 months ahead of your travel date and are very inexpensive for a round trip. They get prohibitively expensive as you get closer to your travel date. Check out eurostar.com. It's city center to city center and a 20 euro taxi ride to most places in central Paris. Easy peasy. Late November might have Christmas lights and markets going on in both cities. You might think about delaying your trip until early December, if you haven't already booked your flights, to take in more of the Christmas offerings in both places.
But don't fall into the tourist trap of spending all 8 days [in London].
Strongly agree, spend half your nights elsewhere, more interesting and easier on the pocketbook.
I have been to London a couple times spending about 12 days total in London plus day trips from London. And here is my personal take yours will vary.
I personally would avoid day trips out from London, the travel time is just to long. If you are going leave London. Then leave London. But London is HUGE hand has HORRIBLE traffic. So on any bus day trip you will see 6 hours of the back of the guy in front of you and two hours of bath or Stonehenge or whatever. The POSSIBLE exception being Windsor but be sure to take the train and not the bus.
If you have never been to Europe before then I would suggest that if you can’t fill you entire trip in London with 1st priority places (and I don’t think I could fill 8 days plus the arrival day with 1st priority places) the seriously consider two days in Paris. Get the early morning train out and the late train back. Spend one night in Paris
So in no particular order
Westminster Abby (do the Jubilee Gallery it is very nice)
Buckingham Palace (just the outside at that time of year but still worth a few minutes)
The Tower of London and London Bridge.
The War Rooms.
The a train to Paris
The Eiffel Tower (Good a night as it is not called the city of lights for no reason)
The sad remains of Notre Dame
The Arc de Triumph
The “American tour” of the Louvre.
And many other museums and sites as you choose)
You can eat a reasonable dinner on the Eiffel Tower if you will settle for basically fast food. So that is two for the time of one)
Then when you are done back on a train to London.
Then pick up all those wonderful museums and markets in London.
You need to keep in mind that with the traffic in London you can be in Paris in about the same time it takes to get to Windsor castle if you take in the bus ride the walk and the time to clear security. And Paris is closer timewise to London the Bath is.
So really Paris is the easiest and fastest trip you can make from London. Yes this sounds rediculus but it is the case.
And Day 1 and day 2 in Paris will be pat day 7 and day 8 in London or any other “day trip” you will take and it will be faster too.
"The Tower of London and London Bridge."
Surely you mean Tower Bridge??
First, start by looking at lists of London attractions, and deciding which ones are your personal "must sees." For instance, I spend a lot of time in art museums, while others would consider that a complete waste of their London time.
Some things that are technically within the boundaries of London are better thought of as day trips, due to the time involved in getting there and seeing things. I'm specifically thinking of Kew Gardens and Greenwich.
Then, read about the day trip options from London. Some common ones include Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Windsor, Brighton, Bletchley Park (where the WWII code breakers worked), Stonehenge...
Finally, look into places that are better as an overnight from London (although they can be daytrips if you insist). York and Liverpool come to mind as my first two choices. Each of these have lots to do and are very different from London.
Which of these you see and which you don't is purely a matter of which ones call to YOU. In my multiple trips to London, I've never been to the British Museum, but I never miss going to the National Gallery. This statement will scandalize some - but it's my trip, not theirs.
On our first time to England we had a week and spent the whole time in London. Places that we enjoyed were the Cabinet War Rooms, Westminster Abbey, sitting in on Parliament, having tea at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens, and shopping at Herrod's.. Going to Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace can be done on separate days by train and are very worthwhile The theatre in London is fabulous. Often you can get half price tickets. We saw the Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, Mamma Mia, and Wicked. Ride the London Eye and take a cruise on the Thames to Greenwich and see the Prime Meridian. There is a lot more that we did not have time to see. On a second trip to England we took the train from Paddington Station and enjoyed the town of Bath for a day and a night. Best wishes for a wonderful time!
I personally would avoid day trips out from London, the travel time is
just to long. If you are going leave London. Then leave London. But
London is HUGE hand has HORRIBLE traffic. So on any bus day trip you
will see 6 hours of the back of the guy in front of you and two hours
of bath or Stonehenge or whatever. The POSSIBLE exception being
Windsor but be sure to take the train and not the bus.
This is baffling advice until you get to the Windsor bit. Oxford, Cambridge, Canterbury, Brighton: all just about an hour from central London on the train. Bath: 90 minutes by train. No need to go anywhere near the roads or bus tours.
I think Douglas was talking about tourist-aimed coach tours rather than travelling yourself by train.
Our first trip to London many years ago, was about that same length of time and in the same time period as yours. I believe we ended up with just a trip to Windsor as a 'day trip' because there was so much to do, but we don't stick to just a 'fab' list of tourist sites. London is loaded with history, art, people, cultures, architecture, levels of history back to before the Romans, etc. London is a city with millions of people. There are endless amount of things to do and see. Nonetheless, it's easy to plan a spur of the moment day trip to so many places there's no reason to re-base if you get antsy. You don't have to plan a day trip ahead of time, just keep an idea in your head, just in case. Make a list of possibilities and go from there should the mood hit you. On many trips since we've spent additional time in London with still much activity so I don't understand running through and just seeing the highlights. Get to know the city at least a little bit. Get several guide books for their recommendations. Get the London magazine when you get there and see what is going on at that moment and see what looks interesting to you, not to others.
I think Douglas was talking about tourist-aimed coach tours rather
than travelling yourself by train.
I’m sure you’re right, but he prefaced his comments with the bald advice: “don’t do day trips out of London - it takes too long.”
I just wanted to clarify that they only take too long if you ignore the good advice that most Brits and most guidebooks give, which is that there are plenty of destinations around London which make excellent day trips. By train.
I second the visit to Leicester for Plantagenet history! Definitely worth a visit is the the Richard III Visitor Center at Leicester Cathedral. The guildhall is also incredible for history buffs...and the Roman wall. You'll want to pre-book an East Midlands train from Kings Cross/St Pancras and leave earlyish in the morning so you can spend a good amount of the day exploring.
We planned our first England trip around Trooping the Colour but the other things we did in London, I'd highly recommend each one: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle, Harry Potter Studio Tour, Kew Palace/Gardens. We simply cannot wait to go back! Enjoy this incredible city and country!
Oops! I forgot we also went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kensington Palace, National Portrait Gallery. Would love to hit up the British Library, London Zoo, Natural History Museum, Churchill War Rooms and Buckingham Palace next time before venturing out of London.
Chester, York and Canterbury would be great for a day trip or an overnight visit. If your book your train tickets twelve weeks in advance you could save money.
We are going to Paris for 4 nights in the middle of our 21 days in England. We considered this one day by Eurostar thing, but decided that Paris was worth staying a few nights. For you, maybe one day might do it. Open the link and see what you think.
If you're a Plantagenet fan then the Tower of London may be of some interest, if for nothing else then to see how many be-headings and other deaths during that reign occurred in the Tower including King Richard III's rumored murders of his two nephews.