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First Trip to London - little time to prepare

Fellow Travelers, I have some free time unexpectedly and want to spend my time in London. I REALLY need help!
Hotel recommendation - I've heard the Citizen hotels are nice, although small budget, less than $150 p/n US
I want to be centrally located.

I plan on riding the HOHO bus to get my bearings. I know this is a shot in the dark, but I just want to experience London. Any and all ideas are welcome.


Posted by
3551 posts

Ck the chain hotels in your budget. Traveloge, Premier inn they have many locations in London. Your budget lodging is lean for London. The gd thing is a lot of museums are free which is very helpful with the buDget.

Posted by
1175 posts

Have you bought the RS London book, highly recommend that you do so. Have you looked at the England forum, there have been a lot of posts from people wanting to go to London to others that have been and one woman posted her wonderful photos of London. Take a look at that. Have you looked at the RS scrapbooks, they are excellent information and you can see what people did in London. Take a look at the RS London and Best of England scrapbooks.

We will need some more information as to what you want to see and do. When do you leave and for how long? Do you like museums, churches, and walking. London walks is wonderful and do go on their website to see when they give walks, and pub walks and see what areas interest you to go on their walks to see parts of London.

Have you looked at YouTube videos on London, they offer free videos including RS videos on London and give great information.

Do go on websites to museums and churches to check out the times and days they are open and the cost.

Please ask more questions in order for us to help you plan your trip.

Are you interested in art, museums, if so go to the Victoria and Albert museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Portrait Gallery, St Pauls Cathedral and St Martin in the Fields church.

Hope this helps to start your planning.

Posted by
1175 posts

I don’t think you’ll get Citizen M with your budget.

I don’t think the HOHO busses are worth it, you spend more time looking at bank buildings than seeing things of interest.

I would suggest one or more walking tours with London Walks, £10 and just show up, no need to reserve in advance.

Posted by
1238 posts

Get one of the travel passes which includes trains, buses and the river transportation and you can go anywhere pretty you don't need to be right downtown. Stay in a B&B further out. Depending on the day of the week you can visit a number of street markets with an assortment of food and great junk. The Parks throughout greater London have a lot of stuff going on. I like to visit old headstones! You can just wander around by the Thames River and see a lot of great Monuments and Statues. And I agree with a Visit to the British Museum, the V& A, and the National Art Gallery. If you have a special interest; you can probably find that, too. Bon Voyage!

Posted by
123 posts

I can bump my budget to $200 or more if need be. I need to be in a nice, clean hotel in a safe location. My interests are museums, theater, architecture, churches, cathedrals, bookstores libraries and markets. I'm flexible and just want to get a little feel for the city. My timeframe is next week, I know. I have an airline ticket I need to use and I have a seat both ways, plus I have time off work I need to use. Thanks

Posted by
156 posts

Why not use Hotwire? Are we allowed to use that word here?

Posted by
156 posts

Also when are you going? For how long? Have you traveled abroad before? What do you like to do when you visit a new city in the states?

Posted by
9996 posts

Try Premier Inns for budget lodging. Many locations.

Posted by
503 posts

London is our favorite city and we've been there many times. Highly recommend getting Rick Steve's London book to start. As for lodging, I just checked on and found a number of centrally located, nice hotels within your price range.
So, here are suggestions for what they are worth!

Food: Light breakfasts - Cafe Nero and Paul are two chains that do a good, light breakfast and good coffee.
Lunch: Pret a Manger is everywhere - good selection of fresh sandwiches, wraps and salads that are quick and reasonably priced. Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Sainsbury's all have a selection of "grab and go" items as well.
Dinner- pub food has gotten drastically better and is reasonably priced. If you enjoy Indian food, definitely try it in London. I believe Time Out London has a pretty good section on London restaurants to give you an idea of prices, etc., etc.

Transportation: A 7 day travelcard would probably be your best bet for using the tube, buses, etc., etc.

Sights: As others have mentioned, London walks are fabulous - check out their website before you go to get an idea of what might appeal and then make a note of the schedule.
Theatre: Leceister Square has several ticket offices that offer 1/2 price tickets for performances. Haven't checked to see what is currently playing, but unless it's a new show, you can pretty much get tickets for everything there.
Old Globe - if you like Shakespeare you'll want to see what is on offer!
Westminster Abbey - the Verger tours are very worthwhile but if a tour isn't your cup of tea, attend an Evensong service! We attend every time we're in the city - it's a sung service and the best part is the only people in the Abbey are those participating in the service. It's a unique way to experience the abbey!
Hatchard's - next to Fortnum and Mason this bookstore is a treasure trove!
Museums - you honestly could spend the entire week with them so you'll need to be a bit choosy! They will be busy at this time of year so I'd advise making them your first stop of the day. Check out their websites to get an idea of their collections and then note what you want to see and then plan your visit. Their cafeteria's are also a good choice for lunch.
Have to say I'm a bit jealous - love any chance to spend time in London - have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
123 posts

I have received great ideas for things to do. One more question. In checking, I've selected location as City of London, most hotels are 15-16 miles from Heathrow Airport. Is that far? How do I know if the neighborhood is safe? Thanks to all.

Posted by
11450 posts

Bloomsbury , Kensington ,
Earls Court , Hyde park - all
Good areas ( there are many more just nailing a few )

Premier Inn Kensington is walking distance to two good museums ( Victoria and Albert , and Natural History) and two tube stations .

Posted by
5473 posts

The City of London is the financial district. You would be better staying west in areas such as Bloomsbury, Lancaster Gate, Victoria or South Bank.

The regular buses with an Oyster Card are better than the HOHO buses IMO.

Posted by
3210 posts

You don't want to stay in the City. Being the financial district, it's empty after business hours. As has been mentioned before, the Premier Inn chain is a good, safe, clean choice (and they have absolutely heavenly beds). We like the Premier Inn St Pancras. It's a block from Kings Cross Underground station, which is on the Picadilly line; a straight shot to or from Heathrow. It's also right across the street from the British Library, and there are bus stops on both sides of the street.

You've gotten some excellent advice so far; the most important of which is to buy the RS London guidebook. Also buy a highlighter and go to town reading up and marking all the sights you want to see between now and touchdown.

PS I completely agree that the HOHO is a waste of both time and money in London.

Posted by
675 posts

If you love bookshops you must go to Daunts, is brilliant, beautiful and historic😀

Posted by
890 posts

Hi Debbie -

Passing through London on our way home the other week we stayed at the Premier Hub behind Kings Cross station. Price would fit your budget easily based on what we paid (£81 for a room for the two of us overnight).

The Hubs have tiny, but not uncomfortable rooms, and are ideal I would have thought for a solo traveller. While Kings Cross is not the most central location, the Piccadilly line (Tube) goes straight there from Heathrow, and it’s a five minute walk up the right hand side of the station to the Hub. Tube gives you access via Oyster and/or contactless debit card to the rest of London quickly and easily. A couple of minutes from the hotel is the massive building project that is Coal Drop Yards, but what’s completed is very nice, shops, restaurants, Regents Canal, great for a wander round.

Hope you find something suitable and have a great trip!


Posted by
890 posts

PS. If you choose a Travelodge, check back here for advice to see what folks say about it. For instance we spent a couple of days in the Central Aldgate East one which was fine, and spectacularly located opposite the Tower of London almost, but the entrance was down a slightly seedy back alley under the railway arches and the railway runs so close to the hotel that you can tell what the filling is in the driver’s sandwiches! We were OK as we got a top floor room on the furthest side from the tracks, so all we got was the occasional distant rumble, but on the wrong side lower down I could imagine it being a sleepless nightmare!

Posted by
959 posts

Hello, I am a fan of Premier Inn County Hall. Pretty sure it was the first hotel I stayed at in London a number of years ago. Great central location, walk-able to so much.

Posted by
1212 posts

As others have said, your best bet is a good guidebook. Rick's London guide is always useful to me and I've been to London many, many times. I would suggest you study the neighborhoods (I think of London as a collection of villages) and then choose a different one each day to explore. There are the biggy sites of course, but I enjoy just walking around, having an afternoon cream tea (not necessarily a fancy one), taking a themed London Walks, going to evensong at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's, taking the short river cruise from the Tate Britain to the Tate Modern and then walking across the Thames on the pedestrian bridge. Make sure you find a good fish and chips shop that offers mushy peas (look awful, but I love them.) I usually stay in the area around Victoria Station as there are so many transportation options, small hotels and restaurants. Be sure to get an Oyster Card. Theater prices are more reasonable and it is easy to check online what is playing. I am going in early October and have reservations for "Tina, the musical." The cafes at museums are usually really good with lots of options. There are SO many good museums in London.

Posted by
1791 posts

The regular buses with an Oyster Card are better than the HOHO buses IMO.

With either, there are places where walking is actually faster because of the traffic. If you need to get from Point A to Point B quickly and efficiently, especially if they are some distance apart, nothing beats the Underground.

Posted by
638 posts

Yes, look at the Premier Inn availability in London. But as also stated, the City of London is not the most desirable location for a leisure traveler, vs. someone who's traveling on business where being in the financial district is a plus. Neighborhoods I've enjoyed include Earl's Court, South Kensington, Pimlico (Luna Simone Hotel, but it's probably booked up for next week), and Bloomsbury, and my current favorite place to stay is a small B&B type hotel on Bayswater Road just across from Hyde Park and a few steps from the Lancaster Gate tube station. (I think it's booked up for next week but check for yourself; it's safe and affordable.)

Depending on your hotel's location, a good option would be to take the Underground (Tube) from Heathrow into London. It's the least expensive option but does require you to handle your own bags and most stations have steps. Although there are ways to minimize or avoid steps/stairs for specific journeys.

London's mass transit (tube, buses, more) is operated by Transport for London (TfL). Get an Oyster card and load it with enough for a week or so traveling. If you're taking the Tube from Heathrow you can buy the Oyster card there, and ask a staffer for help if you need it. The card, if you do the pay as you go (PAYG) thing, will automatically calculate your fares as you use it and once you hit the daily cap for the areas/journeys you're making it will not charge you for additional trips within that cap. I wouldn't mess with travelcards, just load it with PAYG funds. Most of the places that tourists want to visit are located in Zones 1-2 (the central area) of the TfL system. Most hotels are going to be within those fare zones too.

To use the Oyster card for Tube journeys, tap in at the station's entry turnstile, and tap out when you exit the station at the end of your trip. You also use the Oyster card on buses, but just tap in at the card reader when you enter the bus, and do NOT tap again when you exit the bus.

Other transport options from Heathrow into London include a coach (bus) service that goes to Victoria, trains that run to Paddington, taxis and prehired car services (those last two are rather expensive for one person, just IMO).

Once you know where your hotel is, feel free to ask about transport from Heathrow (and back again).

I agree, London Walks, mentioned above, is a brilliant way to see fascinating things in London and learn about what you'e looking at. I've taken more of their walks than I can remember over the years, and have never been disappointed.

London's my favorite city and I hope you have a good time there.

Posted by
2289 posts

If you love bookstores you might enjoy a visit to Persephone Books in the Bloomsbury area I exited at the Russell Square station and perhaps a 10 minute walk--lovely area with lots of Blue Plaques. I'll be there again next month and will add in a visit to the Charles Dickens House that's nearby.

Posted by
123 posts

Thanks everyone for the interesting and lovely ideas.

Posted by
6239 posts

Safe travels. Truly a wonderful city to explore. Never fails to intrigue and I’ve been visiting since the 70’s.

Have fun!!!

Posted by
988 posts

Hi Debbie, I went on my first solo trip to London last year and had a blast! It was my 5th visit to London so I was quite comfortable with the city’s layout and took the tube, busses, cabs or Uber as needed. Go for the HOHO bus but don’t rely on it for transportation. Get on as many loops as you can and just ride to see the sights. Do this on your first day if you can. I stayed in 2 hotels cause I did a 3 day trip to York in the middle of my stay. First hotel was Cherry Court by Victoria station. I liked the ease of being so close to a transport hub plus lots of stores inside the station so I can grab a snack and a bottle of water on my way back to the hotel at night. Second hotel was the Premier Inn Hub by Kings Cross that someone mentioned. I liked the Hub concept, the room and bed was perfect. What I didn’t like was the location because you have to walk along the road alongside the station to get to the hotel which is towards the back of the station. It was pretty deserted and quiet but i just didn’t like walking by myself for such a long stretch. I did it once and other time I just Ubered so I can be dropped off in front. I went to a show each night I stayed there so came back around 11ish at night.

I did a couple of daytrips. One with Evan Evans and the other with Rabbies. I liked Rabbies more because they use small busses with a max of about 12 people. I also did a couple of walking tours with London Walks. I found I stopped for tea almost every day. Just loved sitting there and people watched while I had my scone and clotted cream.

I would rethink your hotel location as others have mentioned. Stay somewhere more central than the city. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
429 posts

Not sure if you're in London already, but here are some more ideas for things to do.

  • Take one or two of the London Walks tours - don't have to book, you just show up and they are wonderful - we'll be doing this in early November.
  • Walk past Buckingham Palace and through St James Park.
  • Walk along the Thames near London Bridge, the London Eye and The Tower. Iconic views.
  • Many of the museums are free, so enjoy what you can - National Art Museum, British Museum, etc. There will be a list.
  • Go to a show/musical.!!
Posted by
270 posts

I recently stayed at Hub Inn Goodge Street. The room was small but more than I needed. I was there for 9 nights and loved it. You can walk to multiple tube lines in less than 10 minutes. Goodge Street Station is 3 minutes away.

Posted by
2882 posts

For years, whether in London solo or with family, I have stayed at the Cherry Court Hotel. It is a family run hotel, about 10 rooms, in your budget. The Patels are very helpful and charming.

I'd also suggest you pick up a guide book in addition to the Rick Steves book suggested previously. Rick is thorough with what he likes, but other guide books deal with all potential sights. I'm a Lonely Planet guide fan, generally, but haven't looked at the London/Britain book recently. The Green book is another good one for history and background. There's no need to panic. Get your air and hotel set and you can always study up on the way over.

Have a great trip!