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Eight days in London (for repeat visitors)

We'll be in London for eight days in April. This visit is our third, and we haven't been since 2006 when we took a long trip in England. We're interested in off-the-beaten path ideas for places to visit in London, without returning to some of the major tourist sites we've already seen, some of them twice. So the "London in a week" lists in travel guides don't work that well. We want to just enjoy the city at a moderate pace. Our rental apartment is on Queensberry Place off Cromwell Road in South Kensington, right next to the Natural History Museum and the V&A. Already on our list: museums we haven't visited, Hampton Court, and a day trip to Oxford by train. We like: museums, history/historic houses, food, markets, theater, music, parks and gardens, interesting neighborhoods. We're not especially interested in shopping (except window shopping), but if it involves cheese or books we could be persuaded. This is a general question, I realize, but I'd love to hear random suggestions. Thanks.

Posted by
389 posts

Have you made it over to Greenwich on your previous trips? Plenty to see there. I think the Sky Garden might be new since your last trip. Do you like Stately Homes? Maybe head out to one like Osterley Park, Syon House or Ham House.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you! I forgot to mention that we like parks and gardens, and it looks like both of these are good options.

Posted by
1939 posts

Check out the offerings on London Walks (walks.com) and see if any of those pique your interest. They are wonderful, reflect your interests and do not need to be prebooked-just show up at the appointed place a few minutes before the appointed time and have cash in hand. Site will give you all the info you'll need. I have really enjoyed the several I have taken; most of them "off the beaten path".

Posted by
3222 posts

Days trips to Windsor or York are nice. From Cromwell rd, you can walk to Notting Hill and Hyde Park. Little Venice, Camden Lock, Coventr Garden, Liberty London and Carnaby Street are worth seeing. Other places I can think of have already been mentioned.

Posted by
3418 posts

If you haven't visited Kew Gardens yet, I'd strongly encourage you to do so on this trip. They are amazing any time of year. Additionally, the shop there is one of our absolute favorites- truly different things at reasonable prices.

For cheese, take a walk down to the Neal's Yard area (just outside Covent Garden not too far from Seven Dials). There is a great cheese shop there- Neal's Yard Dairy. You can sample the wares. Lots of 'local/British' cheeses and 'artisanal' crackers/breads/oat cakes, etc. When we stayed nearby, Hubby had to pick up a small piece of cheese and some crackers each afternoon on our way back to the hotel before going out to dinner or the theatre. Then he'd have that as his bedtime snack!

Posted by
921 posts

Depending on when in April and depending on how the spring has unfolded, I would be looking for bluebells in London or surrounding areas. Try a Google search if you are interested. I would also like to visit Windsor and Petersham Nurseries in Richmond.

Last visit, I took a London Walks tour of Marylebone, an area I had never visited. We went by hidden (to tourists) little streets; stopped at the Wallace Collection (free); and ended in Regent's Park. I then doubled back and visited a flea market being held in a local churchyard, and then on to Marylebone High Street - where there is a bookstore along with other shops.

So many possibilities.

Posted by
5307 posts

Yes, Kew Gardens if you have not been. I have been to London 5 times, several times staying in the Hammersmith area, and never realized until this last time the wonderful park area along the Thames from about Hammersmith station up to Chiswick. A couple pubs on the river along the way, not spectacular, but a pleasant afternoon.

I never tire of markets, print the list, hit one a day or so. you seem to have a handle on museums, every time I try to hit just one that I have not been to.

Since 2006 though, whole areas have changed. The East side where the Olympics were has developed, the Dockyards continues to grow, new buildings everywhere, the Imperial War Museum completely re-done; so many places you thought you knew are just new again.

Posted by
9806 posts

London walks has day trips to Oxford and Cambridge. Both are very good.

For Hampton Court, most guidebooks will tell you to go to Waterloo and get the train. Don't. If you are staying in South Kensington, take the District line tube to Wimbledon. From there transfer to the train to Hampton Court. It's the same train that started at Waterloo. Your Oyster card will pay for the journey. At Hampton Court station, the Oyster card readers are on the side of the entrance to the tracks. Don't forget to tap in and out.

Posted by
340 posts

Portsmouth is about a 25 minute train trip from London, and has a wonderful exhibit on the shipwreck The Mary Rose and of course the HMS Victory. Bletchley Park is great for WWII codebreaking history and has lovely grounds to walk about. I guess you’ve already been to Borough Market, but it never gets old!!

Posted by
3895 posts

We've been to London more than a few times (7 times since 08), so we've seen plenty of it. For lesser visited spots - we actually did the museum of London on our very first visit, and it was quite interesting. Last trip we hit Sky Garden - which was quite neat - make sure you watch for when the time slots open up online, as they can go fast. Trip before that we made our way to Greenwich and visited the Royal Observatory, Maritime Museum, and the Painted Hall. We've done Kew Gardens twice (1st visit and last visit) and you can spend a whole day there if you want to see every corner.

Posted by
8248 posts

Someone upthread mentioned Wallace Collection which I’ll second. Go first thing in the AM and get signed up for tge free tour. They have a lovely cafe area.

I also enjoyed Sir John Soane’s Musuem. Very interesting collection. When I visited there was a docent in one of thevrooms giving a talk and showing how the pictures were stacked on moveable wall panels.

Consider also Apsley House which was the Duke of Wellington’s stately home on the edge of Hyde Park.

While you’re in that area go across the street to see the War Memorials and continue a bit further in to Green Park to see the very moving memorial to the RAF WWII Bomber Command. Just recalling the bronze figures of a flight crew with the memorial open to the sky is a very poignant memory.

There is a new gallery open at Westminster Abbey which you might want to see. Did you do a verger’s tour there last time?

I’ve never made it to the Jewel Tower on the back side of the Abbey across from Parliament. This is not the Jewel House at the Tower of London.

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/jewel-tower/

Definitely consider the suggestion of Kew Gardens if you have a pretty day!

Posted by
340 posts

Emma, thanks for the correction on time to Portsmouth. I really should put on my glasses when checking my notes re past trips!!

Posted by
1044 posts

I enjoyed walking from Little Venice to Camden Market along the canal. It's about 2.5 miles.
I always get the feeling that I am seeing the city from the back side.

It's the same route you can go by boat.

Posted by
2624 posts

The Hardy Tree...this churchyard arbor is surrounded by hundreds of gravestones placed there by author Thomas Hardy.
St. Etheldreda’s Church in Ely Place open in 1878, oldest Roman Catholic Church in England.
Neal’s Yard....near Covent Garden.
Have tea at a green cabman stand...there is one but Temple Church (worth a visit), Hyde Park Gate, Enbankment Place and several other places,
Postman Park Garden, King Edward Street.....this is very interesting worth the time...nearest tube station is St Paul’s

Posted by
9783 posts

Toni and Paul beat me to it, but I will reinforce a trip to Kew Gardens. We went in October 2017 on our fourth trip to London and will revisit this May, a totally different season so certainly a different experience.

We liked London Walks “Little Venice” walk as it was another part of the city new to us. Also self-toured Hyde Park with a walk from the Italian Gardens to Hyde Park Corner with lunch at the Serpentine Kitchen. We have a book, now out of print, called “24 Great Walks in London.” Gave us lots of ideas. You can usually find it used online.

Another thought: Have you been to the Transport Museum in Covent Garden?

Posted by
12218 posts

Two people have mentioned the walk along the Regents’ Canal towpath from Little Venice to Camden Market and I will be a third. We love that walk. Start behind Paddington Station and you might see the bookstore-on-a -boat (used books), moored alongside the path in the basin. And consider walking as far as Kings Cross/St. {ancras area, which is past Camden Market.

I highly recommend this book which is a guide to the walk and the history, including the buildings and other sights you will see along the way.

https://www.amazon.com/Regents-Canal-David-Fathers/dp/0711233470

Other museums: when we were in London for three weeks recently, we went to the Science Museum (near the V&A) three times. Fascinating stuff. We also visited Kew three times in that space, traveling by train so we could avail ourselves of the 2-4-1 offer when we arrived.

If you haven’t done a backstage tour at the National Theatre I would suggest that:

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/backstage-tours

Posted by
4757 posts

Another vote for the London Transport Museum in Covent (not Coventry) Garden.

On a Sunday morning, visit the Columbia Road flower market near Brick Lane in the City. Afterwards, visit nearby Dennis Severs’ House, a unique trip back in time. Then head to the bombed out ruins of St Dunstans-in-the-East to see the garden.

For cheese, visit Paxton & Whitfield on Jermyn Street, royal warrant holders. Much more traditional than Neals Yard Dairies.

Spend an evening at Wilton’s Music Hall, the world’s oldest surviving example.

Wander round Primrose Hill then walk down to the Regents Canal and Camden Market.

Explore the underground tunnels of the Mail Rail with the Postal Museum.

Greenwich market and the Observatory can fill a day including a boat trip on the Thames.

Posted by
8248 posts

Hahaha....thanks for starting this thread and sorry for the additional post. It's always fun to see suggestions from others in case I've missed something. I have an ever-growing list of things to do some time!

I like Robin's suggestion of Temple Church. Check their website first because their opening times are more restricted than other churches.

http://www.templechurch.com/

Here also is a link to a blog that has some interesting self-guided walks. I did her Kensington Walk when I was staying at a hotel on Cromwell Road as it started just behind it! (Radisson which would be near your apartment). I just walked it in reverse and about halfway thru cut up to Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace. I loved the little mews she walked thru!

https://www.aladyinlondon.com/2017/04/self-guided-walk-kensington-london.html

Posted by
1866 posts

Hampton Court Palace was my favourite. Well worth the trip. If you're looking for an old pub, try the George Inn just south of London bridge. The current building dates back to 1676, the Original Inn dates back to 1542. Apparently Shakespeare and Dickens were known to tip back a pint there. If you visit in the evening, you can walk across London bridge and gets some great views and photos of the Tower Bridge all lit up.

Posted by
103 posts

I would add the Hatfield House in Hatfield which is a 20 - 30 minute train journey from Kings Cross so is a quick day trip. Beautiful home and lovely gardens which include a cafe and other out buildings/shops. Lots of history related to Elizabeth I. According to an article, much of The Favorite was filmed there. Once you exit the Hatfield Station, you cross the street and walk up the road to the estate.
I agree strongly with The Wallace Collection and Syon House recommendations!
Have fun!

Posted by
3318 posts

You might like Sir John Soane's museum. It's the home of a Victorian collector who absolutely packed his house with things he collected....which was basically anything and everything. He arranged it in his apartments by category and it's been preserved just as he left it. Worth a couple of hours of your time.
I also enjoy Hatfield House out near St. Albans...the family still lives there and has an amazing collection of historically important artifacts. The house itself has a great history and the gardens are also beautiful.
Waterstones bookstore in Bloomsbury is quite something - 5 floors of categorized sections that I could spend days in. Waterstones is a chain of bookstores but this particular location is pretty fantastic.
I highly recommend Highgate Cemetery out past Tufnell Park not far from Hampstead Heath - nearest tube stop I think is Archway on the Northern Line. It's London's version of Pere Laichaise (sp?) in Paris. Karl Marx, as well as many other famous names, are buried there and the cemetery is like something out of a movie. It's in a fabulous state of disrepair and overgrowth. Lots of little foxes run around and it's really fun to explore.
On the same day you could see Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath - it has a nice collection of paintings along with a lovely outdoor garden cafe - plus you can walk around on the Heath and enjoy the views over the city. On the way from the cemetery to the Heath you can walk past Holly Village...a fairytale group of houses that was built in the mid-1800s by a wealthy heiress with the help of Charles Dickens, who helped her design it down to the last detail. Super unique and not well known but worth seeing. The neighborhood you'll walk through is very nice too.
ALSO on this walk, a little out of the way but worth it, is the Lord Palmerston Pub. Small neighborhood pub that has fantastic food - I think it's considered more of a gastropub but it is completely off the tourist track. Beautiful fireplace nook and outdoor garden if the weather is nice. Another pub near the Tufnell Park tube station is the Tufnell Park Tavern...probably the best pub food I've had in England...again, a little hip and trendy but a total neighborhood place.
For a VERY different London experience head up to Walthamstow for their Saturday market. It's the longest street market in Europe but is probably also the most diverse. This area is a melting pot of every culture you can imagine and the market reflects this. You can walk around and then eat your way through all the ethnic restaurants on the high street.
Take time to go to Borough Market! Open air market next to Southwark Cathedral and the Thames - great place to walk around or eat. Go into the cathedral as well...it's beautiful.
Just a few suggestions from our extensive wanderings in London!

Posted by
9 posts

Your responses are absolutely the best I’ve ever received on a travel forum. I had begun to wonder whether my impulse purchase of tickets to London for my major birthday was the right choice. But what was I thinking? It’ll be perfect. I’ve been sneaking peeks at these posts on my phone over several busy days. This weekend I’ll read them carefully and do some planning. We leave on April 2, so don’t stop! Thank you so much.

Posted by
12218 posts

Emma, thank you so much for mentioning the Garden Museum. We were there in late 2015 when it was under development. Much of the collection was in place but the garden area was torn up and the café was not open. It is time to go back when we are in London this May.

For those who are interested, note that this is primarily a museum, not a garde,. The building itself, the deconsecrated church St. Mary-at-Lambeth, is lovely inside. The collection of tools and artifacts is very interesting, and there are many prints and drawings on the walls. There was a nice little bookstore area when we were there, with used books and journals as well as new.

All around the museum you will come across the names John Tradescant the Older and Younger. Father and son were royal gardeners and plant hunters. Gardeners who learn the Latin names of their plants will recognize the genus of flowers named for them, Tradescantia sp., commonly known as spiderwort. I would love to know the reason for that name; I know "wort" is old English for "plant" or "herb", but from whence cometh the "spider"? Many plants with "wort" as part of their common name are known for their healing properties or other herbal uses. Spiderwort is a beautiful little perennial well worth space in a flower border. Plant one to honor John Tradescant.

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/spiderwort/growing-spiderworts.htm

Although the Garden Museum does not make a big deal of this, it is interesting to note that Captain Bligh is buried in the churchyard.

The museum charges admission £10, but when we were there it was on the 2-4-1 offer list. Check as see if it is in April (I will be looking for May).

Posted by
126 posts

Oh you guys, I had just decided on a non-UK/London trip for later this year and reading all of these replies makes me question why I would ever do a trip without time in the UK/London. Four trips have revolved around London and the greater UK but this just reminds me of all the things that have been moved to the "next time" list. Really fun thread - thank you for the newest bookmark for my records! :)

Posted by
932 posts

Nelle, we, too, are taking our third trip to London for 8 days! Although a handful of sights still remain that we haven't seen, we will have a lot of time to explore, too. I've added several activities to my list based on this thread! Anita, thanks so much for the pub/restaurant recommendations. I've added those as favorites to my London folder on my computer!

Posted by
1866 posts

My wife reminded me of this, if you have any James Bond fans in your group, the London Film Museum has a Bond in Motion exhibit. Nothing earth shattering but it's a fun couple of hours. http://londonfilmmuseum.com/

Posted by
11263 posts

Look at the list of covered attractions on the London Pass. Even if you don't get the pass, it's a way to learn about less visited places that may interest you. That's how I found the Museum of Brands, Packaging, and Advertising, and the London Jewish Museum; both were very worthwhile, and as a bonus, took me to neighborhoods I wouldn't have visited on my own.

One Sunday, I started with a London Walks tour of London's old Jewish East End. This led me to the Old Spitalfields Market, which has all kinds of interesting food and craft stalls. I then walked Brick Lane to see the Brick Lane Market, and ended at the Beigel Bake (yes, that's how they spell it). All were fascinating, and any one of them could be a worthwhile sight by itself. You get well away from "tourist London" and see the modern city.

Since you like historic houses, you will be interested in seeing 18 Stafford Terrace: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/18staffordterrace/visitus.aspx. I saw it on the tour where an actress playing the "maid" shows you around - very interesting. There are some other tour-able houses nearby.

Chester, Manchester, and Liverpool are all worthwhile cities, and all are very different from London. Thanks to high speed trains, they can be seen as day trips, as long as you book far enough in advance to get Advance tickets (only those with a capital A are heavily discounted), or don't mind paying last minute prices (watch out - these are high). If you are going to Liverpool, you'll want to see the boyhood homes of John and Paul; to do this, you need to book way in advance, here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beatles-childhood-homes/features/visit-the-beatles-childhood-homes.

Posted by
13 posts

The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury is a charming place - one of it’s most well known supporters was the composer Handel and there are many items related to him there.

Also in that area, the British Museum. I’ve been a dozen times and always enjoy returning. And it’s free!

The Cabinet War Rooms are touristy, but interesting. As someone else posted, the London Transport Museum is great. And in my opinion, the best place in town for London souvenirs. The vintage tube posters are a favorite.

Little Venice is fun, seeing the canal with the narrowboats (that people live on) is interesting.

Do visit Borough Market in Southwark for fun shopping and eating. And to spot Bridgett Jones’ flat!

If you are an Arts & Crafts enthusiast, take the train from Charing Cross to Bexleyheath to William Morris’ home, Red House (designed by Phillip Webb). Lots of William Morris related items in the V&A and of course the William Morris Society, Kelmscott House in Hammersmith and the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow. My last trip to London was all about WM and the PreRaphealites, so I nerded out!

No way you can do York properly in a day trip. 2 days at least, so much to see and do there. Same for Oxford. But that’s just me!

Posted by
36 posts

I will support the Sir John Sloane museum as odd and fascinating. Temple Church (seen in Angles and Demons) is great and their boys choir is excellent if you can get to a service.

Consider visiting Charterhouse and do the tour. History runs from the Black Death (small museum has a skeleton from then) to today and includes where Elizabeth I first met her court.
http://www.thecharterhouse.org/

For a different day trip try Rochester - founded by the Romans who needed a bridge over the Thames (info in basement of cathedral); old cathedral (first built in 7th century); remains of a William the Conqueror castle; and Charles Dickens childhood.

There is the remains of a Roman amphitheatre under the Guildhall Art Gallery which is free.