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Considering London in February

Completely outside of all prior travel experiences.............
Making a solo journey to London in February with following thoughts............
- minimum of a week stay
- desire to travel inexpensively so will focus on private room rentals or similar accommodations
- willing to fly into least expensive airports and travel back to London to avoid high costs of London taxes and airport fees
- focused on visiting places with zero or low admission fees. Willing to allow my journey to be guided by this parameter versus "must have to visit" destinations
- seeking recommendations on neighborhoods to stay
- will rely solely on public transport with anticipation of lots of walking
- think I understand this will be a cold wet weather trip and associated impacts along with short days of daylight
- no plans to leave London
- hope to catch a game of football of any level so I can experience being amidst passionate fans

Anyone with similar trip experience whom can help guide me on planning this journey?

Thanks

Posted by
3547 posts

I did a one week solo trip to London a few years ago, but mine was the first week in April.

First of all, you need to think about overall value when thinking about where you stay. It needs to be close to convenient transportation links and sights that you can walk to. I suggest that you look at the Premier Inn website. They have multiple locations and even some "Hub" hotels that offer a discount for having a smaller room.

I picked a random week in February and it came back around 645 pounds at several hotels in this chain that are well located for 7 nights. (at current exchange, that is $910).

I stayed at the Premier Inn Waterloo Hotel and found the location was excellent for my purposes. I always felt comfortable walking in the neighborhood, the train station and tube line was literally two or three blocks away, and I could walk over along the Thames. It was easy to walk to destinations in Westminster and the others were just a tube ride away. Small grocery store was just across the way.

While there are lots of free (like the British Museum) sites available, don't keep yourself from doing something that you really want to do. I would always think that paying admission for Westminster Abbey and the Verger's Tour and for the Tower of London were worth the cost. You could spend several hours at each.

Posted by
5701 posts

Been traveling to my favorite city on the planet since Nixon was President. Many journeys solo.

Book at a Premiere Inn. If you want to save $’s and don’t mind a small space, book a Premiere Inn Hub hotel. The Westminster Hub is a good option for a first time visitor.

If you land at Heathrow and booked the Heathrow Express Tickets 90 days in advance it would be about 60 minutes from deplaning to the Hub. You’d get your Oyster Card from a machine at Heathrow, follow signage to the Express ( it’s about a 10 minute walk ( there are moving walkways) ). Express goes to Paddington Station where you would take a London Underground train to the St James Park station. From there 5 minute walk to the Hub.

You are close to St James Park, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms and the Thames. Via Birdcage Walk, 5 mins from the hotel it’s 10 minute stroll to Buckingham Palace, and 20 minutes to Trafalgar Square.

If you need more space then go for the Premiere Inn at County Hall. It’s across Westminster Bridge near the London Eye and Jubilee Gardens Lovely view of Parliament and Big Ben from that side of the Thames. Use Google maps and the Birdseye view to see how close all the sites mentioned above are.

Check Timeout, The Londonist and London Theatre websites a minimum of 4 months before you leave. You’ll find intel on exhibitions, museums, music and theatre offerings and any special event. If there’s something you MUST see that’s not free then book a ticket.

Remember the majority of London’s museums are free to visit.

It will be cold but not freezing. Some rain. Dress in layers. Cross roads with lights. Your brain should adapt to the traffic flow being opposite to the US but to stay safe cross with the lights. Resist the urge to jaywalk.

Know that pub lunches can be a good value and a solo female traveler can eat in comfort. Just because it’s a pub doesn’t mean you have to drink.

Getting to view a pro soccer match takes planning. You need to check match schedules.

Posted by
1205 posts

Marbleskies, I too have been to London as a solo traveler. The first time I stayed in the Victoria neighborhood in London where the budget B&Bs are located and makes a great base. The last time I went I stayed at the Premier Inn Westminster that was perfect.
I would spend the first day on a hop on hop off bus tour unless you have heavy rain. If so, then go to the British Museum which is free. It will be a full day, but you’ll see the top sights and know what places you would like to return to.
If you tour Westminster Abbey, rent the audio unless you know British history. I would also purchase tickets online for the Churchill War Rooms before leaving home. The Tower of London is another place you want to visit.
I also recommend visiting Covent Garden and going to the theater that evening. You can buy cheap tickets at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square west of Covent Garden.
I would purchase Rick Steves’ London guidebook and take his self-guided walks if you have time. His guide covers everything you need to know to make it a perfect trip.

Posted by
5091 posts

The 2 of us went to London in February several years ago. It was coolish but pleasant weather - I don’t recall rain, and we were outside a lot. This was a can’t-pass-up package special that British Airways offered, one time only. It was a ridiculously low price - I don’t recall the amount, but it included a pretty ritzy hotel and breakfasts. This was just a few days, maybe 4, but was a great getaway and turned out to be a great time of year. We spent an entire day at the Victoria and Albert museum (free, although a £5 note in the donation box is certainly appreciated), and the Tower of London another day. British Library Treasures, and British Museum, too.

It was back when the Oyster Card was just being rolled out. I remember thinking it sounded like something new, but lots of people were still using paper tickets on the Underground. You can now get a London Pass Visitor card https://londonpass.com/en-us/london-transport and turn it in for a refund of any leftover money loaded on the card, plus £5 for the price of the plastic card, too, if you don’t want it for a souvenir and don’t foresee keeping it for a return trip in the near future.

Although we’ve stayed in other parts of town the last few trips to London, our first trip in 1999 was just a couple blocks from Victoria Station. It was recommended by Rick Steves 22 years ago, but it was, frankly, a dump. We found a somewhat better place just down the block, and finished the trip staying there. From what MaryPat suggests, that could still be an affordable neighborhood. Online reviews, which weren’t prevalent in 1999, might now help you find a decent place from the start.

Think “ethnic” food for possible lower-cost options. Thai, or Vietnamese noodle bowls might be worth finding. There are places like Chipotle, too, although that might not give you as much of a London experience.

Posted by
84 posts

Don't. Sorry but....I have done it twice (visit in February). The first time I got lucky, the second time, not so much (I've made over 15 trips to London, over 150 nights). The issue with February is Half-Term. Otherwise known as Spring Break in the US. The city is loaded with British tourists as the kids are out of school for the week. Every museum, attraction , is buried in screaming kids. The main Half-Term dates for 2022 are Feb 13-17 pus the bookend weekends. And that is only 1 week. There is always a 2nd week (the public and private schools are on different schedules). The "other" week can be the week before or the week after the published week. You need to discover when that week will be. As above- my first Feb trip I missed both weeks of it, my last Feb trip in 2017, I arrived just before the start of 2 weeks of it.... 2 weeks of misery. Note that Museums are all fighting for dollars..and how do they get dollars...produce numbers...they want to report strong visitation thus they all clamor for the kids and plan numerous programs for them...quiet halls of art galleries are not so quiet. Oh, the above is a very understated statement of what it is like.

Posted by
124 posts

The last time I stayed in London, I stayed in Battersea right next to the park. It was just slightly out of center but my accommodations was right next to the regional rail and it was just a 15 min train ride into center with a train leaving every 10-15 minutes. If you want to keep your budget costs low, you could look into renting a private room through Airbnb instead of the entire place. My last room was $75/nt after fees and I saved money on food as I cooked half my meals since I had access to a full kitchen. The best way to go about this is to book from an actual local in their current home who is happy to share their insight about the city. I’ve had some great experiences doing it this way. Luckily London is VERY well connected via public transport so pretty much anywhere you stay you can get around easily to where you want to go via buses, trains, and/or the tube.

Also luckily, there are a lot of free things to do in London. Most of the museums are free and there are tons of markets and parks to explore. One of my favorite parks is St. James Park which is home to a wide variety of birds. There is also Camden town, Portobello Markets, and Borough Markets to name a few markets worth checking out. They are also a source of good cheap street food. Greenwich is a nice area to explore being the sight of the Prime Meridian, there are also parks, museums, and markets in the area to explore. It also gives you a wonderful view of central London.

I would also recommend seeing a show in London’s West End. It would be a good indoor activity and their shows are much more reasonably priced than our Broadway. Especially if you buy well in advance. There is also the option to buy discount day of tickets at the TKTS booth in Leister Square.

Posted by
4412 posts

Don't worry about which airport to fly into, the taxes are levied by the government and are the same irrespective of what airport you use. Just focus on which is closer and flight prices.

Posted by
19203 posts

The horrendous airport taxes are a major issue for those using frequent-flier miles, but I've always found the cost of purchased airline tickets into Heathrow to be very reasonable. It may vary with origin airport, but London's a cheap destination for me.

Posted by
31 posts

Great suggestions all. If it is nice weather, I would add to look at the free (with tip) London Walks tour. When you are alone it is nice to walk different areas with others, sometimes you might even connect up with someone to join for a meal you can also ask the guide for suggestions. Premier Inns are great value, but I would probably research a good B&B with a hearty breakfast for saving money. In February you might find good values. You can get by with having a good breakfast and only need to purchase one full meal each day. I have been in London in April and it was freezing and snowing and walking a few blocks wasn't fun, so you could have any range of weather. Being close to lots of transportation connection is important. Enjoy!

Posted by
1453 posts

Don't be put off by the weather, or people's perception of what it "might" be weather-wise.
There are so many things to do indoors in London, you could spend the whole week indoors.
And if the sun comes out and it's dry out, then you can walk through the parks, over bridges, etc to see what's around outside.
I would go any time of year.

Posted by
19203 posts

I'm not aware that London Walks offers "free" (tip-only) tours. The 2-hour city tours are very reasonably priced at £15 (less for seniors and children). You can be sure the guide will be well-informed and will not spend a substantial part of the 2 hours explaining the philosophy behind "free" tours in an effort to assure that he or she is adequately tipped. There's an extremely broad range of tours offered every day. The calendar posted on the website right now is for the summer. At some point in the fall, the winter calendar will be posted and you'll be able to see which tours will be offered during the period of your visit.

Since the city tours do not require reservation or pre-payment, you don't have to plan which ones you'll take ahead of time. You can wake up each morning and check out the weather, then just show up at the indicated starting point if you decide to do a walk.

Posted by
31 posts

oops, sorry you are right London walks isn't free. I have done so many walking tours, some are free and some are for tips, in the end they are pretty must similar price. I do find them all very worth while, especially when you are alone in a city.

Posted by
2716 posts

London Walks do not offer free tours. From their website:

"A London Walk costs £15. Or £10 for Super Adults (over 65s), students and people with the London Walks Loyalty Card. It’s £5 for kids 8 – 15 accompanied by their parent(s). Tinies go free. You can pay by card or in cash. Please bring the exact money if you’ll be paying by cash. Or you can pay by card. The guides all carry contactless card readers."

Posted by
5091 posts

Wow - we were in London last March, immediately before the Covid-19 shutdown. We did a number of London Walks. Their prices have gone up just since then, but the Pandemic seems to have had, and will likely continue to have, an inflationary effect. Still, it’s an in-depth look at parts of London.

London Walks tidbit: Did you know that everything marked Mews in London was once the access to stables? When horses stopped being used as main transportation, the stalls weren’t needed. Cars and trucks now have to fit thru the passageways that horses passed thru easily, but there’s less manure now.

Posted by
1133 posts

Always so grateful to this community for the comments and shared expertise.
I picked February cuz it seemed a natural for finding low values on flights and accommodations. Think I will expand to consider January and March.
BTW, NOT first trip to London but definitely desire to range beyond typical tourist experiences.

Please keep adding posts as they are helping define the potential of creating a great journey!

Thanks!

Posted by
2716 posts

Marbleskies, I think you are on the right track looking at January and March.
Our granddaughter went to London over New Years in 2019 to participate in a New Years Day parade with her high school band. They stayed for a week afterwards.
The weather was perfect that year. Crisp, cool, with blue skies and sunny the whole time she was there.
There are NO guarantees, however, about the weather in London. What was true for that time may not be true for next year, that's for sure! However, just saying it is possible to get perfect weather in the wintertime.

Another plus for going either in January or March is that pollen is not out yet. I suffer from allergies and find that traveling to London in cold weather is a solution for that. I'd rather have snow than rain during my visit, so I don't mind the cold. Of course, there will always be some rain during each visit--or maybe not. You just can't second-guess the London weather. :)

"seeking recommendations on neighborhoods to stay"--Bloomsbury, Covent Garden. Bloomsbury because you're right next to the British Museum. Covent Garden because of the amazing variety of cafes and restaurants around there or near there. Walk through Soho or Chinatown and pop into a restaurant that looks interesting.
Look at what's on the schedule, buy tickets and take in a show in the theatre district.

"will rely solely on public transport with anticipation of lots of walking"--Get to know London's city bus network. Pick up a map showing the bus routes at a tube station.

Good luck with your trip planning.

Posted by
5564 posts

I've been tacking weekends in London on to my work trips to Cambridge and have quite enjoyed exploring the city at different times of the year. I've done late February so must have missed the half term kid storm. :). I've stayed in the Paddington neighborhood. I've quite liked it. It's got great public transportation and has some good local restaurants and pubs. One time I took the boat to Greenwich and back which was very interesting.

Posted by
2916 posts

We are considering a one week+ trip to London in January. We’ve been in most seasons except winter. For this trip we’d be taking our oldest granddaughter who has a long break between fall and spring semester. She loves museums, music and cooking so I think a trip that focuses on the bounty of London’s museums, wonderful dinners with the possibly of a cooking class and evening plays/musicals might fit the bill for us for a winter break. We would probably look for a family run hotel in the Bloomsbury neighborhood where we’ve stayed before.

Posted by
30 posts

I've been to London solo during Christmas three times - so equivalent weather, short days, etc. It rained some, some days were merely overcast. I usually stay in the Covent Garden area which is not the least expensive - but I go to the theater almost every night so I like the convenience. Can't recommend a hotel because I used to use London Connections to rent a flat and they are no longer in business. If you aren't a theater lover other areas are less expensive. Most, but not all, of the museums are free except for special exhibitions. I generally take the tube, or walk (miles!). I have less experience with the bus. Favorite museums are the V&A, and the National Gallery - for me those are "must see". I've always flown into Heathrow, has been the most convenient for me to get from there into London.

Posted by
1133 posts

Please continue the excellent feedback as I am taking the time to research your input and creating a rough outline of opportunities. SO wonderful are all of you for taking the time to assist with defining the opportunities for this journey!
Thanks

Posted by
3547 posts

I've never found a price advantage from shopping around UK airports. If you want to visit Manchester, land there if you find a trans-Atlantic flight, and enjoy the city (easy to do). Ditto Bristol and other alternatives. Then fly home from London, arranging your flight itinerary using a multi-destination search function. This strategy isn't much costlier than a simple round trip and saves time.

Posted by
3547 posts

PS: National museums are free but their special exhibitions, which draw the crowds, often charge a substantial fee.

Posted by
5701 posts

Was in London in January of 2019. Stayed in Ealing at a friends flat near Ealing Studios. Weather was cold but not chilling. Mostly blue skies but a couple of days had early AM drizzle. Dressed in layers.

This is my second reply to the OP’s post.

Saw Hamilton, (trained into and out of London on TFL.) visited farmers markets, walked along the Thames Path.

Met up with Nigel and Carol and they took me to see Peterborough Cathedral as well as Eleanor Crosses.

Discovered the Booking Office restaurant and bar at St Pancras. Great find. Had tea with a dear friend there. Also discovered Foster Books in Chiswick.
Another fun find was the teeny Dr Expresso Caffetteria ( their spelling not mine) adjacent to the River Cafe. Up and around the corner Hurlingham Books. All three I would return to in a nano second. All by the Putney Bridge Station. It was from this area I began my stroll along the Thames Path to Hammersmith Bridge. Lots of dog walkers, parents with strollers, rowers on the Thames and meanderers like. Blue skies that day.

My point being weather in January that year wasn’t freezing or very rainy. Might not be the case in 2022 but no one can truly predict what mood Mother Nature will ever be in.

So many great museums, theatre matinees, shopping arcades, restaurants, cafes, pubs….never a problem to get out of the cold or wet weather.

As far as neighborhoods to stay Ealing isn’t bad.
15 minute ride on a TFL train ( covered by the Oyster card) from Ealing Broadway to Paddington Station.

There’s a Premiere Inn in Ealing. Also a Travelodge and IsBis hotel. Haven’t stayed in any of them so reading reviews on TripAdvisor would be wise.

Good Vietnamese food at Pho Saigon, Coffee and scones at Ginger and Moore. There’s a Wagamama, Bill’s and Nandos. Chain restaurants but all 3 quite good.

Pretty certain a number of rentals via AirBnB. In doing your research be sure to find out how close or far they are from the Ealing Broadway station.

Or see what rate you could get at the Westminster Premiere Inn Hub. It’s right in the heart of London. Would save you travel time as it’s within walking distance of Parliament Square, Churchill War Rooms, The Thames, Trafalgar Square, St James Park, Buckingham Palace. Small rooms but practical and a good price.

Yes it will start to get dark around 3:30-4pm but that means nothing. You’ll find lots of people out and about along sidewalks.

In planning your days know that most sites open at 10am and many close at 5pm. For instance Tower of London January hours are 9am-4:30pm. Make a list of what you must see, research hours, and plan each day accordingly. Many of the museums have no admission fee. Special exhibits will have a fee though.

Look for sandwich boards outside pubs, cafes and restaurants, that will list lunch specials, buy pre made sandwiches, or meal deals at Grocery stores like Tesco and Sainsbury… look for buffet meals at ethnic restaurants…

For same day theatre tickets check the Half Price Ticket booth in Leicester Square.

Get an Oyster card ( refundable deposit). Put 15 pounds on it . The Oyster provides access to busses, the underground tube trains. Depending on how often you use it you’ll probably have to top up but that’s so easy. All tube stations have machines.

Use cash but carry 2 credit cards. Get cash from a bank ATM. If you have one use a Capital One card. It’s the only CC that doesn’t charge a fee for cash withdrawals…although double check that is still true.

Yes London is expensive but with research and careful planning you can afford a week long visit without going broke.

Great city. Enjoy it.

Posted by
4536 posts

Prices of business type hotels in London are depressed at present and still are looking into next year as they presume run-of-the-mill business travel will not recover to former levels, and there is an oversupply in this sector. Central London hotels outside of the real prestige ones have not been so affordable for some time. At the more 'budget' end prices have not lowered so much.

Posted by
1804 posts

As part of your research do some searching on Youtube and you will find TONS of videos where people strap a camera to their chest and ... just walk. In just about every neighborhood, with only natural sound. I've seen all kinds of stuff all over London and it also has the benefit of being soothing (like a British version of Bob Ross).

Posted by
261 posts

Hi Marbleskies - London is fantastic on your own. Its one of those places that really has a sense of place. A few things:

First, dont be put off by the weather. Weather happens wherever you are, and rain happens in the UK (it is, after all, a green and pleasant land....) . Just watch the forecasts a week or so before your trip, prepare for rain (which happens in any season), and enjoy.

Second - if you want to see a football match, start looking now and plan that particular day of your trip around it. England is football-mad.

Third - London public transit is superb. It is also a very walkable city. As Claudia said, get an Oyster card. Put some money on it, and top it up as you go.

Third again - plan ahead (meaning, have a look before you go) a little and use the buses as well as the Tube, and sit on the upper deck. You get a better picture of the city up there.

Fourth - these days, my wife and I tend to stay in Islington when we're down in town. Back in the day, stayed in South Kensington because of location, proximity to the V&A and other museums, Harrods, et al.

Fifth - flying in: you dont save much (if any) hopping between UK airports these days. Pre-COVID, I had business colleagues that used to fly into Europe (usually Amsterdam, Paris, or Frankfurt at the time) and get a shuttle back to the UK. That would save a few beans. I dont know how that would work in the COVID world we live in, given all the testing requirements.

Enjoy your trip.

PS One more thing, there is a really nice champagne bar in St. Pancras Station called Searcys.
PPS Another place to check for sometimes cheap theater tickets is at the box office of the theater itself on the day of show if they have any day seats left. Midweek afternoon shows are also occasionally cheaper.
PPPS Thistle Hotels are a UK-based chain that are generally decent (at least the ones I have stayed in). There are two just north of Hyde Park, close to Tube and bus, on Bayswater Road (not far from Paddington Station)
PPPPS (last one, I promise) - if you like to cycle, consider renting a "Boris Bike" from one of the many Santander Cycles racks. Cost 2GBP to rent for up to 30 minutes, and you get as many journeys as you want in a 24 hr period. Rent a bike, ride to any cycle rack (there is an app to show you where) with an open space, dock, then repeat. With a little research before your trip, you could essentially cross central London for 2GBP. https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/santander-cycles

Posted by
12379 posts

I happy to see this as we are thinking of spending a few days in London on our way to Italy at the end of February 2022.

I saw Premier recommended to Marbleskies above, and thought I’d have a look, to compare with the place I booked for our stay.

Premier Inn County Hall, which is very well-located, offers a room in February (12/2 to 19/2) for a solo traveler for 108 GPB a night, thus 756 for a one-night stay, IF you pay in full in advance (it is refundable up to 30 days ahead of the booking date). If you want a fully flexible booking (cancel anytime up to the day before) is becomes 1057.

A studio apartment (with cooking facilities) at Marlin Apartments Queen Street is 103 GBP if you book the pay-in-advance rate with the “extended stay” discount. So 725 for the week. The “member flexible” rate, which does not require an advance deposit and can be canceled up to 24 hours in advance, is the same 103 GBP. Joining to become a member is free.

With the kitchen in the studio you can make some of your own meals, which can save a lot. And it is especially useful for people like me with dietary restrictions.

There are other Marlin apartment locations (and some may be even cheaper), but I like this one because it is very near St. Paul’s.

Posted by
19203 posts

Lola, I'm really glad to know about the Marlin apartments; I've made a note in case I find myself needing a place to stay in London other than in summer. I looked at a couple of the descriptions (Queen St. and Waterloo) and didn't see any reference to air conditioning. Is that correct as far as you know? The availability of air conditioning is a major factor in making the Premier Inns (often) a good deal. So many of the inexpensive lodging options in London are not air conditioned. I wouldn't travel to London in the July or August without having a/c, and I'd do some recent-weather research before risking it in June. I've done it twice in September and gotten lucky.

Obviously, a/c will not be needed during Marbleskies' February trip.

Posted by
12379 posts

Hi acraven—-I do not know if they have A/C; we haven’t stayed there yet and since we are going in February, I did not look for it. I might assume that if they do not mention it, they do not have it. But you could email them and ask—-they were very responsive to my questions about shower/tub combos when I booked last year’s trip (which of course we had to cancel).

I like both the Queen St. and Waterloo locations. I think I booked both last time—-one on our way to Italy and the other on the way back!