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Advice - London Itinerary 1/1/23 - 1/6/23

Hello - we are a family of four visiting London January 1 - 6. My kids are ages 11 and 15. We will be taking Eurostar over from Paris, staying near Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens/Gloucaster Rd. I am trying to set a rough itinerary - it's all overwhelming trying to figure out how to put the puzzle pieces together and make the most out of our time. Here is where we are at so far. Can anyone give advice on the flow /order and anything key things we are missing? See my questions at the end :)

Arrive New Year's Day - Check out London Eye and take holiday bus Christmas light tour near Trafalgar Square

Monday 1/2 - Buckingham Palace, changing of the guard, Harrod's food halls for lunch, then visit either British Museum, National Library or National Portrait Gallery

Tuesday 1/3 - Tower of London, Tea at the Wolseley

Wednesday 1/4 - Churchill War rooms, Hyde Park winter wonderland

Thursday 1/5 - Harry Potter at Warner Brothers

Friday 1/6 - travel back home to California

Questions:
-What would be a good evening to book a show in the West End? My kids want to see Wicked
-Is it worth trying to fit in a day trip to Stonehenge/Bath? Or some other day trip?
-What other essential sights or cool London neighborhoods are we missing? Also - any tours you recommend?
-Parliament - it looks like it will be closed when we are there, right? (so can't see a live session)

Thank you!!

Posted by
369 posts

I would recommend Westminster Abbey if this is your first trip to London. For me it was a must see. It is gorgeous and very historic, where most of England's kings and queens have been crowned and where a lot of them are buried.

If you do a daytrip somewhere, you'll have to squeeze the things you've planned for one of your days into another day, or not see them. But it does look like you have some available time on other days for that. I did a London Walks tour that went to Salisbury and Stonehenge and enjoyed it very much.

Posted by
27450 posts

The National Portrait Gallery is currently closed for an extended period of building modifications.

I haven't watched the Changing of the Guard. It's possible the situation will be different in January, but there have been numerous comments on this forum about the need to get into position hours early in order to have a decent view. I'd think it would be especially problematic if your children are young and thus rather short. I believe Rick offers a different option for observing pageantry in his guidebook.

The Churchill War Rooms are quite close to Westminster Abbey. Buckingham Palace is also less than a mile away (but to the west). How practical it would be to combine any two of those would depend on how much time you anticipate spending at each one and your tolerance for remaining on your feet for much of the day. The Churchill Museum section of the War Rooms is a place where you can spend many hours. The War Rooms themselves take much less time, but the entry fee is quite high if you're only interested in the War Rooms section.

You haven't given us the ages of your children. The British Museum definitely has exhibits that would appeal to kids as well as to adults, but it is huge and it is often massively crowded. The entry line was 30 minutes long for me when arrived shortly after opening time on a Friday in September. I have no idea what it would be like in early January. If the local kids are out of school during your visit, I'd think you could be competing for space with them. At the least, you should spend some time on the museum's website to figure out what sections you're most interested in and how to get to them. That will save you some time. The Egyptian exhibits are usually the most crowded, according to a Walks of London tour guide.

Walks of London offers excellent, reasonably-priced tours, incidentally. You can check its schedule at www.walks.com.

Posted by
8659 posts

Westminster Abbey was the glaring omission I noted. January 2nd is a bank holiday. Keep this in mind as you plan. What will be closed? What might be busier than usual?

Tuesday the 3rd seems like it might be a good date for Wicked tickets.

Posted by
5144 posts

I would think Tuesday or Wednesday would lend themselves best for a theatre evening. And I don't think you have time for a day trip outside London. Westminster Abbey would fit nicely with the Churchill War Rooms, perhaps combined with Ricks Westminster Walk.

I don't know the ages of your children, but I'm not sure the National Gallery or Library would hold a lot of interest for them (much as I love both). The British Museum would seem to be a better fit, but you should do advance research to see which exhibits to limit yourself to. An alternative might be the the Museum of London, an excellent and very interesting museum that I think is often overlooked by first time visitors.

Posted by
15724 posts

Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens/Gloucester is a wide area and doesn't pinpoint much.

If you are near Gloucester Road, you are in easy walking distance to Museum Row-- the V & A, Science Museum, Natural History Museum. Depending on the age of your kids, they might like that.

Switch Harrods food halls to Wednesday and Churchill War rooms to Monday. Less backtracking.

Posted by
585 posts

Remember that the days are at their shortest, about 7 hours of daylight, when you are there .Changing of the Guard will likely be lacking colour in January as the guards are usually wearing dark greatcoats because it’s darn cold standing guard outdoors! One recommendation is to go to Wellington Barracks where the parade begins and follow it to the Palace. That way you see the guard, hear the band, and keep warm by moving! A closer option for lunch would be Fortnum and Mason, located in Piccadilly just up the Mall and handier for to the museums you want. A very superior delicatessen and also serve a great tea!. For day trips outside the city you could easily take the train to Hampton Court to see the Palace or to Windsor to visit the Castle. Kensington Gardens are always worth a visit, the London Eye offers great views over London but make sure it’s a clear day. Check out County Hall by the London Eye, there is usually skating in the courtyard in winter plus they have various exhibits etc going on all the time. Westminster Abbey is a must see - it’s where the coronation will take place in May…it may well be closing after Christmas to prepare for the coronation.

Visit Selfridges the great department store on Oxford Street, another great place lunch. Walk down Bond Street window shopping at the art galleries and jewelry shops. Liberty’s is another great department store specializing in fabrics and home furnishings from all over the world.

Posted by
122 posts

You sound like Harry Potter fans! I'm planning a somewhat Harry Potter themed visit to England and Scotland in 2023 for my niece and myself. If you're looking to see a few more Harry Potter sites in London, Harry Potter walking tours are offered by London Walks and Get Your Guide. After the Tower of London you could work in Leadenhall Market, home of the Leaky Cauldron (usually visited in one of the walking tours). There is also the Harry Potter Photographic Exhibit near Covent Garden. They serve butterbeer :)

It sounds like you have a magical trip planned! Have fun!

Posted by
4482 posts

Have you confirmed that Christmas lights will still be up on Jan 1? When we were there in 2014, windows we wanted to see at one of the stores had already been taken down on the 26th.

Posted by
3824 posts

I don't know how early you'll be getting into London on January 1, but....the London New Year's Day Parade is an annual parade through the streets of the West End of London on 1 January.

The Parade begins at noon, but most spectators will find a place to stand along the route by 11 AM or before. Here's the parade route:
https://lnydp.com/parade-location-timing/
Ticket holders are those who have bought places to sit in the metal risers/stands.
https://lnydp.com/ticket-information/
If you just find a place to watch and stand there, it's free.
Photos from previous years:
https://lnydp.com/gallery/photos/

The parade includes marching bands, troops on horseback, dancers from West End shows, the Lord Mayor of London hot air balloon (like those used in NY's Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade of Snoopy & other characters), London Chinatown Chinese Association in traditional costumes carrying a Chinese Dragon, and much more. Very colorful and festive.

We became aware of it because our granddaughter was one of the participants with her high school band a couple of years ago. You will see several high school bands from the USA in the parade.

It's not a "must see" sight of London like the historic sights, but I think your kids would enjoy it.

Posted by
3824 posts

Frank II made some excellent suggestions:
"If you are near Gloucester Road, you are in easy walking distance to Museum Row-- the V & A, Science Museum, Natural History Museum. Depending on the age of your kids, they might like that."

Each one of his suggestions would be a big hit with you and your children, I think.

The V&A is the Victoria and Albert Museum, dedicated to decorative arts and historic objects. They have a fabulous collection. Tapestries, medieval jewelry and clothing, paintings, a feast for the eyes.
I think you and your children would enjoy this very much.
Their cafe is excellent. Wonderful deli sandwiches, plate lunches, desserts, tea, scones, coffee.
Better food than you will get at Harrod's Food Hall.

Natural History Museum--another great suggestion by Frank II--Wonderful exhibits in a building with fabulous architecture.

Posted by
8886 posts

As far as other things to consider:

Check out London Walks www.walks.com to see if any interest you.
Definitely see Wicked or the Lion King
Visit Brick Lane
See the Shoreditch Wall Murals
Visit Leaden Hall market so the young ones can find the opening to the Leaky Cauldron.

If not afraid of heights try the Tower Bridge experience.
Walk across Westminster Bridge
Go See the Crystal Park Dinosaurs
Meander around Carnaby Street
Hamleys Toy Store
Jack and The Beanstalk Panto