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First time visit to London

We are two active travelers in our 60s visiting London for the first time. We'd like to do a walking tour and maybe a hop on/hop off bus tour, see Abbey Road, take a boat ride on the Thames. We'd also love to take a bus tour of Stonehenge and Bath. Can you recommend places to stay within distance of a majority of these sites? A small independent hotel with small fridge and microwave would be great, as well as B and B or private apt. Thanks for any input. We'd love to be near a park and yummy fish and chips, markets.

Posted by
5030 posts

Why do you wish to visit Stonehenge and Bath above any other places? Do you have a particular interest in either place or is it simply because that's what everyone else seems to do?

Stonehenge is not for everyone. Some are amazed by it whilst others are completely unimpressed. Do you have an interest in Neolithic sites because there are plenty of other sites that are just as interesting, certainly less crowded and for the most part are freely accessible. You can even rent a cottage from the National Trust that is situated in the centre of a neolithic ring.

Likewise with Bath. Yes the Roman Baths are amazing and the architecture around the city is fantastic but there are many other places in the UK that are just as interesting and attractive.

Reading through these forums I repeatedly see requests and itineraries for Stonehenge and Bath as if it's some checklist that needs to be ticked off when coming to the UK. With such a wealth of places to visit it just seems a shame that people are not even considering or acknowledging that there is more to England than London - Stonehenge - Bath - Windsor.

Posted by
13844 posts

None of those sights are next to each other but between the tube and the buses you can get to all the London sights easily.

Take a look at Nadler Hotels. Every room has a kitchenette with a microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker and kettle, dishes, cutlery, small sink. They supply coffee/tea. There are three in the London area. I'm a regular at the Nadler Kensington and will be returning tomorrow night.

The Soho and Victoria branches are probably closer to the action but I prefer the Kensington because it is in a residential neighborhood yet only one block from the tube and numerous restaurants, shops, markets on Earls Court Rd.

Warning....the rooms can be a little small.

Posted by
432 posts

Look at London walks website. They do 2 hour walks within London (including a Beatles walk with Abbey Road). They also do day trips outside London, including to both Stonehenge and Bath.

Have to agree with the poster above, Stonehenge very dull - but I know others feel differently.

Posted by
970 posts

Accommodations that are closer to a Tube station will make you happier than accommodations that are a long walk from a Tube station. You will be using the Tube every day, probably multiple trips per day. London is huge, so it's better to plan in terms of access via transportation rather than looking for some ideal location that's within strolling distance of everything you wanted to see and do. (Doesn't exist.)

Here is a PDF map of Tube routes. The majority of the places most visitors want to see are located in the central left area of that map, roughly bounded by the closed loop of route lines you'll see there. Staying elsewhere is fine but the Tube trips that begin and end each day will be longer.

Check out that entire Transport for London site for info on all the transport networks serving London. Their "Visiting London" page is worth a look.

You'll want an 'Oyster Card', a little plastic smartcard that you buy and use for access to the Tube and most other components of the London transport network. (You touch it to a detector.). The card begins with an initial value and each use deducts from the value. The cost-per-use is significantly lower than the cost of buying a paper ticket for the same trip and there is a daily cap on total cost. When the value of the card drops too low, you can add more cash to it at one of the machines that sell the things. The normal Oyster Card used by millions of Londoners every day is very likely a better bet than the 'Visitor Oyster Card'.

A similar thing called a 'TravelCard' also exists. The pricing and usage schemes available for each each, separately or in combination, can be confusing for folks who are not commuters going back and forth between A and B every day. My suggestion: Don't worry about it. Just buy an Oyster Card. If you'll be using it for a full week, starting with 30 pounds on the card is a reasonable ball park guess.)

Buses are ubiquitous and will almost always get you closer to your final destination than the Tube. (Also, many central Tube stations are quite large, requiring some long walking around inside to get to your train.)

You can leverage the Thames boat ride for transportation to say, the Tower of London and Greenwich. Westminster Bridge is a prime location for tickets and boarding. (On the Parliament side of the river.)

You can use an organized day trip for Bath and/or Stonehenge, or make you own way. Bath is an easy train/bus trip west of London. Arrive in the morning, explore, and return to London in the evening after dinner. Stonehenge is near Salisbury to the southwest of London. Many prefer Salisbury, and its cathedral, to Stonehenge. Buses are available in Salisbury that run to and from Stonehenge. Consider a train to Salisbury for the day, with a trip out to and back from Stonehenge sandwiched in. (Seeing Stonehenge is a bit of a rite, but, frankly, don't plan to stay all that long.) Bath train station is an easy walk from the city center. I recall Salisbury's as a longer walk, so I might take a bus or taxi from the station next time.)

What you're willing to pay for a hotel or B&B is decisive. Note that places that use the 'B&B' label in London are going to be more like small limited-service hotels that only serve breakfast. Very often older and smaller places will not have elevators. If stairs are an issue, check that out. Call the place, if you need to.

Traffic and pedestrian noise can be annoying at night for accommodations located on busy London streets. Use Google/Bing/Apple maps, especially street view, to see where a prospective hotel/B&B is located, as well as what's nearby.

Much, much good advice on this site, these forums, and in the books. Absorb as much info as you can and have a great trip.

[EDIT: London is very busy in summer, costs peak. Plan accordingly and book early.]

Posted by
2 posts

I am so appreciative of all of you wonderful comments. I feel like I have an insider's view . We'll be traveling in October, so I have plenty of time to do the research. Thanks again!

Posted by
660 posts

A 'pay as you go' Oyster Card is better than a Travelcard in almost all instances. Exceptions being monthly or yearly tickets, and you can save a fortune with Zone limited Travelcards if you rarely go into Zone 1. Otherwise, since Oyster always gives you the lowest fare, and caps your daily total, you can't lose... you just pay for what you use, up to a daily limit, and even a weekly maximum kicks in after a few days, so you really cannot lose.

If you paid 'up front' for a weekly Travelcard and didn't travel anywhere, that money is lost... do the same thing with an Oyster, you spend £0. All Oyster Cards work 'pay as you go'... all Travelcards are pay 'up front'.

The daily cap for unlimited bus/tube/overground train travel within Zones 1-2 is £6.60 a day... quite a bargain I'd say. Zones 1-2 are all the touristy bits.

Posted by
1065 posts

"A 'pay as you go' Oyster Card is better than a Travelcard in almost all instances."

Unless they want to make use of the 2 for 1 offers with paper travelcards bought from a National Rail station.

Posted by
3982 posts

I agree with jc that Salisbury>Bath, if you like cathedrals and there's also a nice little museum in Salisbury. I enjoyed my walk from the bus station to my hotel just past the Cathedral Close. I didn't go to Stonehenge-Avebury is on my bucket list. If you like palaces, there's Windsor. If you like castles, a day trip to Dover. Maybe a daytrip to Cotswolds? Check out the London Walks walks and day trips.