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Brothers Trip to London

Hello, all. My brother and I are in the VERY early stages of planning a trip to London (from Vancouver, Canada) in the fall/winter of 2025. I’ve been to London a few times previously with my wife, but this will be my brother’s first time. We’ll likely stay around 10 nights.
We’ll do most of our sightseeing in the morning, and spend the rest of the afternoon visiting pubs (we are very much interested in characterful or historic pubs).

We’ll want to see Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s, Tower of London, Churchill War Rooms, British Museum, Natural History Museum, and the National Gallery as well as Covent Garden, and Leadenhall Market. Outside of the ones I’ve mentioned, we likely won’t want to visit many other museums. My brother doesn’t have any particular interest in the Monarchy, so we may avoid the Royal residences. We’ll likely spend part of a day in Greenwich. The British Library is certainly a possibility as well. Is there something obvious that I’m missing?
We will likely want to do some walking tours (an historic pub tour for certain), and we are also interested in Ghost Walks, Jack the Ripper, Dickensian London, etc.)
We will also want to spend one day in Oxford (we both love Tolkien), and likely one or two other daytrips from London. (Either via rail or perhaps a coach tour).
In terms of lodgings, we’ll need 2 beds, a TV, coffee/tea making facilities. (We'll likely spend a bit of time in our room in the evenings) We’ll want to stay close to the tube, and in an area with good pubs/cafes and restaurants nearby. Our budget will be in the region of 225 pounds per night, give or take. We’ll likely be flying into Heathrow, so a hotel with easy transport to and from Heathrow would be ideal.
We’re both quite fond of Christmas, so we may take in something like “A Christmas Carol” at the Old Vic, if it’s worth it? If we come for the last week of November into the first week of December. Will most of the pubs, etc. have their decorations up? Or perhaps the last two weeks of November?
Our interests include cozy pubs, good beer, good food, history, tales of hauntings/ghosts, and we both share a love of British comedy, especially Fawlty Towers and Monty Python. I have an affinity for Real Ale, although craft beer is going to be sampled as well. We both love bookstores, and my brother is a music lover, particularly Bluesy rock. Are there any live music venues or Rolling Stones tours or something similar?
I have friends in South Croydon, and we could stay with them for a night or two, which could save some money. Getting to South Croydon from Heathrow might not be ideal, but would this best be done at the start of the trip? Perhaps stay there for a night, and then on to London the next day? The other fleeting thought I had was to stay in Croydon, perhaps travel from there to say, Oxford or Bath, spend a night there, and then check into our London base after that.
I know this is a bit of a ramble, but generally looking for advice on the following:
1. Generally, when should we start pricing flights/accommodations? Around this time next year?
2. Hotel Recommendations?

3. Recommended day trips that include Stonehenge? I’ve been, but my brother feels like he’d be missing out if we don’t go. Would rather tie this into a longer day tour to make it a bit more worthwhile.
4. Recommended haunted pub tours/historic walking tours/ghost walks?
5. Recommendations for Sunday Roast?

6. Rail Pass – currently $210 CAD for 3 days: Is it worth it? We are definitely going to Oxford, and perhaps Bath, Cambridge or Canterbury as well. I like the idea of the flexibility of not having to book the train for a set time.
8. Just generally any advice or recommendations is greatly appreciated. Sorry, this got rather longer than I'd hoped.

Posted by
454 posts

Here's a few ideas to start your planning.

Browse the websites of those museums and other attractions you might want to see and subscribe to their email newsletters. By looking now as to what is planned for the holidays 2023 you can preview what you might expect at that time in a later year.

Consider the fun English Christmas tradition of a "pantomime" its not what you might think. Here are some that are on this year. https://www.timeout.com/london/theatre/christmas-pantomimes-in-london and here is a good explanation https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/complete-guide-to-pantomime

You might also look at this online magazine. Looking now at Nov/Dec 2023 will give you some insight into what you might look into for 2025 that time of year. https://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do

Posted by
8626 posts

Christmas at Kew was a highlight of the Holiday Season for me. Kew Gardens puts on an amazing light show and is easily reached by tube and a short walk. It sells out, so start checking the website in summer.
https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/whats-on/christmas

I would look at the “two together” rail pass and price out your trips using that discount and compare to the other rail pass.

Bletchley Park is another great day trip from London. If you have interest in WWII history or computers you are likely to find this very interesting.

In the past, fares for Nov/Dec have been on sale in the spring and sometimes in the fall. However, nothing is guaranteed.

Right now you can find RT flights for this Dec at about $700 US

Posted by
14249 posts

"3. Recommended day trips that include Stonehenge? I’ve been, but my brother feels like he’d be missing out if we don’t go. Would rather tie this into a longer day tour to make it a bit more worthwhile."

You can do this trip on your own as a day trip. Take the train from Waterloo Station to Salisbury. The local bus company runs a shuttle out to the stones and back via Old Sarum. They pick up at the station in Salisbury and you pay the driver. At the end of the day you can spend some time in Salisbury seeing the Cathedral or just walking the streets at the city center.

https://www.salisburyreds.co.uk/stonehenge-tour

To me the bus tours from London are not good. They try to jam too much into a day usually including Windsor Castle and Bath, both of which deserve more time than the couple of hours or so that a trip of this sort allow for them.

Posted by
1003 posts

Adding to Pam's comment about a city trip to Stonehenge, you could also allocate some time in Salisbury to the pubs there as a contrast to London.

Posted by
4586 posts

TL/DR. Sounds like you guys need to sit down and watch some Youtube travel videos and find stuff that sounds interesting to the both of you. Or be willing to split up for a day.

Hotels are easily found on booking.com and tripadvisor, figure out how much you can afford. Rick will guide you to different neighborhoods (like Knightsbridge).

Posted by
6 posts

We will certainly be getting together in the coming months to establish a more cohesive framework for an itinerary, but planning and imagining the trip are part of the fun, I find, even this far out.

Reading my post back, it is rather rambling and much too long, apologies for that. Thanks to those that took the time to respond, some useful information to be sure.

Perhaps I'll ask some more pertinent, specific questions closer to when we want to start booking things. Thanks again.

Posted by
8870 posts

OP…..Been traveling to London in the month of November for a number of years. My favorite month actually.

Waterproof jacket, gloves. Comfortable shoes.

Research the Premier Inn chain.

Check the date of the annual and traditional
Lord Mayors Parade. Free and fun.

See a traditional panto.

Yes in late November Christmas decorations will be up.

Christmas at Kew Gardens is enjoyable. Book early.

Make it an overnight stay in Salisbury to enjoy a tour of Stonehenge.

Best pubs: The Grenadier, The Antelope, Seven Stars, The Blackfriar, Princess of Prussia, and The Lamb. If you get out to Richmond either the Angel and The Crown or The White Cross are worth your time.

Sunday Roasts: Hawksmoor, St John’s Tavern, and the Elderfield pub in Hackney.

Concur Bletchley Park is a great day out.

Posted by
899 posts

Pretty mad you've been to the Elderfield Claudia. Unexpected pub recommendation!

Posted by
27414 posts

For walking tours, start with London Walks: https://www.walks.com/. I think you'll find pub tours, a Jack the Ripper tour and quite possibly a ghost tour, in addition to a lot of historic tours (there's one on the Blitz) and walks focusing on less-known streets in a variety of neighborhoods. The walks last about 2 hours, and the price is an incredible-for-London 15 GBP per person--less if you're seniors. The guides are licensed, so you'll be getting accurate information. I think some are out-of-work actors who are great at delivering their information in a very engaging way. There are dozens and dozens of walks, varying quite a bit from day to day, but the schedule tends to follow a pattern, so you can see what they currently anticipate offering in December 2025. I'd consider the 2025 schedule a preliminary one at this point, but it will give you a decent idea of the breadth of options available during the holiday season.

In terms of sights, you might also consider the Imperial War Museum. You should buy your tickets for the Churchill War Rooms in advance, because there is sometimes a long ticket line, and it could easily be sold out if you showed up in the afternoon. I spent more than half a day there.

The British Museum, National Gallery, Natural History Museum and Imperial War Museum are all free/donation-requested. They are also large. It would be a challenge to cover every room in the National Gallery in one day, though perhaps it could be done. You definitely cannot cover the British Museum or even the Imperial War Museum in one day if you care about all the exhibits. It's nice to be able to visit places like that two times or more (it took me five trips to get through the Imperial War Museum and about the same for the British Museum) without paying a large entry fee over and over again.

The website theatremonkey.com is a very good source of information about London theatre. It will have detailed information on what's playing and sight lines at each theatre--very helpful when you're trying to select a seat. There will be links to the theatre websites, the best place to buy tickets online. It's too early to consider what might be running in December 2025, but with any luck there will be something like "The Play That Goes Wrong", which might be appealing. Note that plays may have tickets available 3 to 5 days in advance but then be sold out the next day; I guess I'm not the only person who tends to arrive in London and only then think about going to the theatre. Check well ahead of time, and if there's something you really want to see that's popular, don't wait until the last minute to buy your tickets.

A lot of us are fans of the Premier Inn hotels, but a room with two beds will have one large bed and one small one.

Posted by
8870 posts

GerryM….

As stated been traveling and exploring London neighborhoods since the 70’s. Not sure why its mad that I recommended The Elderfield…

I should have added a personal favorite, The Mitre, in Richmond on St Marys Axe. Worth the trek just meet the pub dog Sadie as well as enjoy Edgar’s pizzas.

Another pub I’ve enjoyed whilst visiting friends in Ealing is The Haven Arms. Been a couple of years been I suspect sweet Stella, the Labrador is still greeting customers.

Non touristy pubs would be the Griffin in Brentford and The Anchor and Hope near the Thames Barrier. Charlton is the train stop for the latter.

Posted by
899 posts

Claudia, 'tis a decent pub... The most neighbourhoodly of neighbourhood pubs. You're right, not so unexpected for a seasoned veteran of London like yourself. Give me a shout next time you're in E5 :-)

Posted by
8870 posts

Gerry M,

I shall.

Finding traditional pubs is a favorite past time.

Last find was the Jolly Gardners on Lower Richmond road.

Posted by
6670 posts

I'd second the recommendation of London Walks, and the recommendation to visit Stonehenge on your own via train to Salisbury. An overnight in Salisbury would make this easy, but you could do it as a day trip from London too.

Since you'll be eight hours off your normal circadian schedule, your friends in Croydon might not appreciate your company as much on arrival as they would after you've had some time to adjust. Nor you theirs, perhaps.

No way to predict what airfares will be like two years from now. I suggest you start looking at them through a search engine like Kayak or Google Flights about nine months ahead, to get an idea of schedules and prices, then keep checking back so you'll have a good idea of the market. I usually get flights four to six months beforehand, from the airline directly. Booking.com is a good way to find a hotel, or at least identify options, but you should do the actual booking on the hotel's website.

Posted by
14249 posts

"Reading my post back, it is rather rambling and much too long, apologies for that."

In spite of the rude comment from a poster above, I did not find your OP too long to read nor did I find it too rambling. I thought you gave a lot of good information. I'm not sure why people have to say things like tldr. If a post seems too not meet someone's criteria they can move on to the next post.

Continue posting whatever questions you have.

And, uh, a belated WELCOME to the forum.

Posted by
899 posts

My most recent find was the Canonbury Tavern. I stopped there for a pint and a cigarette when the weather was still pretty decent a few weeks ago. Canonbury is a great place to walk around. Such a quiet little nook with some beautiful streets and squares.

Posted by
910 posts

Croydon has excellent rail service to London bridge which puts you close to the Tower, St. Paul’s etc. and to Victoria station for access to the West End etc. Both stations have good access to the Tube and buses to reach other parts of the city. It takes about 30-40 minutes to reach either station from Croydon. Also has good service to Brighton if you find you are missing the Coast! You should have a look at Westjet flights into Gatwick for direct train service to Croydon on arrival; it takes about 20 mins on the Gatwick Express, slightly longer on other trains that make more stops.

Stonehenge may be a bit of a stretch to do as a day trip in fall/winter due to the shorter daylight hours. Perhaps take a couple of days away from London, go to Oxford and then do Stonehenge from there?

Have a look at the Premier Inns for hotels in London. Both the Waterloo and County Hall locations are convenient for Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Museum but there are plenty more throughout London. They are good value budget hotels.

Edit : Re Croydon train stations, there are three. East Croydon is the main station, followed by West Croydon and South Croydon. East and South Croydon are on the same line, stops are 3 min apart.

Posted by
6698 posts

Rail Pass – currently $210 CAD for 3 days: Is it worth it? We are definitely going to Oxford, and perhaps Bath, Cambridge or Canterbury as well. I like the idea of the flexibility of not having to book the train for a set time.

That is £124- £41 (and loose shrapnel) a day, if you want flexibility that sounds reasonable if doing Bath, otherwise not- Oxford £31.80 flexible buy on the day return, Bath £69.20 [after 1030], £95.40 [0930 to 1030], Cambridge £30.30 and Canterbury £39.30

Posted by
960 posts

With 10 nights I’d definitely get out of London for a few. If Stonehenge is high on your brothers list, maybe include that as a jaunt to Bath and/or Bristol. Bristol is a town that seems to fly under the radar, but I know several people who have visited and love it.

On the pub front, I highly recommend searching though this forum on the subject. I’m afraid I don’t know the username off hand, but there is an extremely well informed person here who has made some brilliant recommendations. They have even put together a few ad hoc pub crawls.

Posted by
7715 posts

Regarding beer, I could start naming pubs, but there are so many, but I have a walk that I do myself, or take first timers on that hits (among many other potential ones) a nice cross-section of pubs.
- St. Stephens (Across from Parliament, nothing special about the pub, but coming up out of Westminster station, it gives you a good stop to hoist a first pint in the shadow of Big Ben)
- The Red Lion, A Fullers Pub, good example of a Victorian era pub.
- The Harp, a well regarded pub, not really historic, but has a great selection of cask ales and cider.
- The Old Bank of England, wonderful interior.
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, old, old pub, historic on steroids, a Samuel Smith Pub.
- The George Inn, one of the few examples of an old coaching inn.
- The Mayflower, nice Thames side pub. There is also the Anchor closer to the Borough Market area.

If you want some craft beer, try the Bermondsey Beer Mile. Not so much a "thing", but starting about Tower Bridge Road as you walk down along the rail viaduct, there are maybe a dozen breweries plus craft beer stores, and food in the arches under the viaduct over the course of 1-2 miles.

Posted by
346 posts

Alan, I am such a travel novice, so I feel a bit shy in attempting to give advice. But, I will just share that I screwed up in my trip planning by not jumping on the cheapest airfare I saw about 10 months out from our trip. We went in the latter part of June, so price changes may not go up as dramatically in the off season, but I kept thinking the prices would drop even more and delayed my purchase. Unfortunately, in the end they never did and I paid about $500 more RT per ticket. I learned a big lesson! Just food for thought. P.S. I think it’s lovely that you are going with your brother- what a wonderful time you’re going to have!

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the great advice, all. Really appreciate it.

I'll circle back once we get closer to booking things.

Cheers,
Alan

Posted by
7715 posts

One more beer note: Fuller's is about the only traditional brewery in London, they do offer a tour and tasting, have not been on it (maybe this May), but they do quite a few cask ales, and it is an older brewery, so it might be interesting (See website, reservations required)

Posted by
8870 posts

If you are willing to travel a bit then do tube to Chiswick and walk to the small George and Devonshire pub which is part of the Fullers Brewery.

Discovered when I stayed at the close by Premiere Inn. There’s a well lighted underground path way to it from the hotel.

Posted by
7715 posts

I will second the Dove, it is a bit nicer when the weather is nice, and you can wander several pubs both up and down the river. I also find Fuller's pubs to have excellent food and always a good bet.

For a specific cask ale experience, on place I am planning on checking out is the Southampton Arms, well North, but they claim to be about the only dedicated ale and cider house. Judging from video and pictures, they have a whole row of engines, focusing on small producer and craft ales.

Posted by
8870 posts

The Dove in Hammersmith is lovely. Had a very tasty bowl of pumpkin sage soup there. Then walked along the Thames Path up past the then closed Hammersmith Bridge enroute to Putney Station to catch the Underground. Hopefully its still there and still open but the old musty bookstore Hurlingham Books is fabulous. Also see if the River Cafe is open.
Great traditional full English Breakfast!

Posted by
6 posts

These are all great responses, thanks!

Especially loving the pub and beer suggestions.

Yes, we will have a copy of CAMRA's Good Beer Guide (or at least the app) to help guide us.

I think we might well consider a night or two outside of London, perhaps in Oxford. We just have to weigh the pros and cons of packing luggage on and off the train, etc. (even if it's just a small suitcase each), rather than being comfortably settled at our London home base. Plenty of time to decide, but it's certainly something we've considered.