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Input on London Itinerary?

Hello - If covid is not an issue, I'm planning a solo trip to the UK in September, 2021. I want to get input on the London portion of the trip - I'm in great shape, love to be busy on a trip by visiting museums/historic sites, and be involved in outdoor activities.

Day 1 (Thursday): Arrive by 10 AM by train from York. Visit British Museum, Beatles store, Harrod's and Covent Garden

Day 2 (Friday):

a. Buckingham Palace, including changing of the guard and palace tour
b. Kensington Gardens
c. Kensington Palace
d. Victoria and Albert Museum (normally open until 10 PM on Fridays)

Day 3 (Saturday): Do Rick Steve’s Westminster walk, including:

a. Houses of Parliament
b. Westminister Abbey

c. Churchill War Rooms

d. Rest of day: Piccadilly Circus/Trafalgar Square

Day 4 (Sunday): Do the jubilee walkway from the London Bridge to the London Eye.

a. Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

b. Borough Market
c. National Gallery on Trafalgar Square
d. Evening: Play at Globe Theater, 6:30 PM

Day 5:

a. St. Paul’s Cathedral

b. Old Bailey visitor’s gallery
c. Tower of London
d. Tower Bridge
e. 7:30 PM: Jack the Ripper tour at Tower Hill tube station.

As far as lodging, I'm hoping to stay in the Vauxhall area, which seems central to a lot of sites. Thoughts?

Thanks,

Dan

Posted by
2907 posts

I think you’ve done a pretty good job of grouping things you’d like to see within some proximity of each other. On the other hand you may have too many things on your wish list per day. If you are prepared to drop a thing or two and recalculate for the remainder of the days it could be ok.

Posted by
5 posts

I am curious as to what type of memories are you striving to collect from these travels?

Answers:

Day 1 (Thursday): Arrive by 10 AM by train from York.
Visit British Museum and Covent Garden

Day 2 (Friday):

a. Buckingham Palace, including changing of the guard and palace tour
d. Victoria and Albert Museum (normally open until 10 PM on Fridays)

Day 3 (Saturday): Do Rick Steve’s Westminster walk, including:
b. Westminister Abbey
c. Churchill War Rooms

Day 4 (Sunday): Do the jubilee walkway from the London Bridge to the London Eye.
b. Borough Market
d. Evening: Play at Globe Theater, 6:30 PM

Day 5:
a. St. Paul’s Cathedral
c. Tower of London
e. 7:30 PM: Jack the Ripper tour at Tower Hill tube station.

Posted by
1190 posts

Look at National Trust list of properties in London; you can get an Overseas Visitor Touring Pass on www.nationaltrust.uk.org.
Look at English Heritage list of properties; they may have a pass, also, or are available in combination with other passes.
The Blue Shield properties list will be of historic properties used by famous persons; not all are open to view. Also the Historic Royal Palace list. The London Pass may offer some of these along with entertainment venues and transportation. If you review these lists it will give you an idea of what is available besides the popular tourist sites. A lot of the Museums are free. Some of the popular sites on your list require a timed reservation or advance online purchased tickets. Hopefully things will be open when you plan to go or be back to normal at least by 2022.

Posted by
4857 posts

Arriving in London from York at 10am is going to be a busy train with lots of business traffic.

Most Brits avoid Harrod’s as these days, as Selfridges has far more class.

Day 2 - I think the Changing of the Guard is a great disappointment and not worth hanging around for hours to get a decent view.

Day 3 - the Churchill War Rooms will take at least 2 hours and you will need tickets in advance. Personally, I would go midweek not the weekend. Piccadilly Circus/ Trafalgar Square is a 5-10 minute walk through.

Day 4 - much of Borough Market is closed on Sundays.

Day 5 - too much planned. You would be better starting at the Tower of London to avoid the worst of the queues. You are likely to be finished here around 2pm. Then grab lunch - say 3pm.

Vauxhall is ok, depending on which end of Vauxhall you mean. Some streets have better public transport than other parts.

Posted by
4763 posts

That looks like a well-organized ambitious itinerary, but will probably work for someone in great shape who loves to be busy. You may want to use buses for some parts of it, saving steps without sacrificing the street scenes -- for instance, between the British Museum and Harrods and then Covent Garden on day 1, Buckingham Palace and Kensington Gardens on day 2, the south bank and the National Gallery on day 4.

The train from York arrives at King's Cross, not far from the British Museum, and you can probably check your bag(s) at the station. But are you going to schlep luggage to you the Beatles store (wherever that is), Harrods, and Covent Garden before getting to your lodgings in Vauxhall? That's a lot of schlepping. Would a hotel in, say, Bloomsbury or South Kensington be more convenient? I don't know Vauxhall but it seems like more of a trek than you need to and from the places you want to go. And, regardless of luggage, you might consider giving more time to the British Museum, which has plenty to see for people who like to be busy.

I went to a play at the Globe and found the seating very uncomfortable. I got a seat in the last row so I'd have back support, otherwise I would have been on a bench or standing close to the stage. I appreciated the seatback, but it was more like a church pew than a theater seat. (It didn't help that the play wasn't very good, but hopefully you'll have more luck with that.)

Posted by
26010 posts

Welcome back, Dan.

Looking back at your previous trips I see that you have always traveled in a very compressed and hurried way - like 7 years ago almost to the day when we began working on your Austria and Switzerland trip which was also highly compressed.

What I haven't worked out is if you visit places hoping to learn and take in what is there or if you are an Insta traveller. Do you want just enough time for the photos in front of the important exhibits?

If the former I don't think you have a chance, no matter how fit you are. I know London like the back of my hand and I couldn't do it if I had to stop and look at things. If the latter, I think you have a good chance.

Or are you seeing so many things to try to get value out of a London Pass?

Neither of those styles is right or wrong - they are different.

I need to know because which you are will alter my answers to each day you have planned.

I remember your post a few months back where you asked for advice on grouping sights. I think your proposed itinerary demonstrates you understand that. Some of your days might need to be in a different order for best results.

Posted by
19160 posts

I agree with Jennifer about the Churchill War Rooms and would recommend getting a ticket for as early an entry time as you're willing to commit to. Otherwise, you may run into problems timing your other activities on that day to get you to the CWR on time. There are two parts to the CWR: the rooms where things happened, well described by the audio guide but not taking a great deal of time unless you get slowed down by crowding (which shouldn't be too bad because of the timed tickets) and the Churchill Museum part, which has a lot of audiovisual displays that can take a great deal of time. One could spend more than half a day at the site (I did), absorbing all of the information. There's a small cafe serving beverages; I'm not sure anything else is offered (check the website if it matters).

Given the tightness of the quarters in the Churchill War Rooms, it wouldn't be surprising if that site reopened later than some others in London. Should that occur, you might consider substituting a visit to the Imperial War Museum. That's another large site; it takes a lot more time than the CWR, so it's another place whose website you should check out ahead of time to strategize your visit. I've lost track of how many hours it took me to go through all the exhibits, but I made 5 visits there. Maybe 15 hours?

The British Museum is a a multi-day visit if you want to cover the whole thing. Since you won't have that much time, review the website before your visit to figure out what areas you most want to see and where they are. The Egyptian exhibit seems to be the most crowded; it's pretty typical for visitors to start on the ground floor of a museum and run out of time before they make it upstairs. Our London Walks guide said the British Museum is particularly busy on rainy days.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is also very large. Check the layout on the museum website before you go to avoid wasting time finding your way to your top-priority exhibits. Unless it has changed its policy (ask at the information desk when you arrive), only the ground floor has extended hours on Friday. That extra time is helpful, but the exhibits in the center area were designed to be viewed with some natural light, which will not be present toward the end of the extended hours, making them a bit dark (to me). It may be helpful to hit those areas first after the rest of the museum closes, then go to the other sections of the ground floor, which I think have more supplemental lighting.

If you like chocolate, there's an artisan chocolate stand at Borough Market that sells small bags of seconds (misshapen, etc.) at a give-away price.

Perhaps others will give their opinions about Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens. I've walked through part of the latter. They're perfectly fine, but on a trip of this length to London, that's not a place that would come close to making it onto my itinerary.

I wouldn't bother with Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square on Day 3, either. You probably won't have time, and you'll be at TC for the National Gallery at another point during your trip.

As already mentioned, many of the major museums in London are free/donation requested. Be aware that the requests for donations are a bit more in-your-face--in at least some museums--than they were even as recently as 2015. The signage normally gives a suggested-donation amount. (I always donate; I'm not a UK taxpayer, so it's only right to do so.)

Posted by
1173 posts

Dan: Are you planning to go inside Buckingham Palace to take the tour, or are you just interested in seeing the outside of Buckingham Palace. I ask because I bought the timed tour ticket to go to the Queen's Mews, the Queen's Gallery ( paintings on display) and then inside the palace to see all the rooms that are open to the public. This was a whole day event for me. You could go inside the palace but not spend a very long time ( I did spend a while inside, the docents were excellent and it is a self guided tour). The palace is massive and the rooms are huge and beautiful. I loved the tour and it was really worthwhile. Seeing the inside of Buckingham Palace is very impressive. This of course depends if the palace is open if for vistors due to the Covid-19.

If you are doing that, you will not have time to see the changing of the guard ( due to needing to go at your timed tour and should start out early for it). You will also not have time to visit Kensington Palace and see the inside of it. You could finish the day with going to Harrod's or Trafalgar Square or one of the nice parks if the weather is good.

Victoria and Albert is massive, allow time to see several galleries.

When I went inside St. Paul's I bought a timed ticket, do allow at least an hour to see the inside of the church. You may also want to go to the top of the dome, I did not.

Do go to the Tower of London first thing in the morning and head straight to the crown jewels. I went into every single tower and saw it all. I have been there about four times and the last time I saw it all. I have walked across the Tower Bridge so allow time for that.

Are you planning to go inside Kensington Palace, that is lovely. I went inside and again I had a timed ticket. The gardens are lovely and there is a large pond and walking around the outside of the palace is nice.

Others are right, do get a timed tkt for the Churchill War rooms and allow at least two hours to see it. It is full of information and it is really interesting. I have been there twice, years apart and it was good to see again. It is a very popular museum.

If your at the National Gallery and if there is time, St Martins in the Field church is right across the street to pop in and see this lovely church. Small, not a massive church. It also has the crypt where you can get lunch or dinner, cafeteria style but very nice.

If your play is at the Globe theatre at 6:30PM, leave time to get there from the National Gallery. It is on the other side of London. If you were attending a play in the theatre district, then it would be close to the National Gallery.

My point I am trying to make, all the things you want to see are amazing and take time to see. So you may not get to everything you want to see on your list for that day. I would recommend going on each website to buy timed tkts.

Oh, by the way around the corner of the National Gallery is the National Portrait Gallery which is also interesting.

Hope this helps.

Ann

Posted by
97 posts

Personally, I wouldn't worry as much about centralized lodging as lodging close to good Tube connections. I've stayed all over town. Last time, we stayed, for the first time, in Southwark, across the Millennium Bridge from St Pauls and it worked well for us. Walking along the Thames was delightful. I'd look at other night museum openings. I've visited both the British Museum and British Library that way. Some limits to the access but blessedly, no school groups. I'm not that fond of the V&A. (I jokingly call it Queen Victoria's garage sale.) I do like the Imperial War Museum for the insight it gives to WWI and the Blitz. I also like to visit Fortnum & Masons to pick up a nibble and snacks. It seems I generally come home with some quirky kitchen item. After the War Rooms, we dropped into the Banqueting Room at Whitehall. Best public bathroom in London. Plus, they had a lot of beanbag chairs scattered around the floor for looking at the ceiling. I'm afraid, I took a little snooze. If you're there at the right time in September, you might check if Buckingham Palace is open to visit this year. There's a narrow window when you can get tickets. It's lovely. As naff as it sounds, you might price out something like a London Pass. If you're going to hit a lot of places, it might be worth it. It's nice to be able to pop into the lesser places, like the Horse Guards or Banqueting Room without paying another charge. A Thames cruise can be a fun way to get from one place to another, Your itinerary sounds ambitious but good. By yourself, you'll be able to cover a lot of ground if your feet are in good shape. Don't forget to stop for a pint at a real pub!

Posted by
3222 posts

I went to a play at the Globe and found the seating very uncomfortable.

Agree and even having the last row seating to lean against the wall it’s not an experience I would repeat. When there are venues with good lighting and acoustics and comfortable seats, why see productions this way?

we stayed, for the first time, in Southwark, across the Millennium Bridge from St Pauls and it worked well for us. Walking along the Thames was delightful

Same for us and agree, although the tube connections aren’t great. We ended up mostly walking which a lot of people say is impossible in sprawling London— but most is walkable from here. You could buy your rail ticket from York to include all the way to Blackfriars in Southwark and then walk to your hotel without dealing immediately with the tube or having to pay to store luggage anywhere.

Edit: it is not cost effective to buy York to Blackfriars on one ticket, 2 tickets is much cheaper.

Posted by
19160 posts

The National Portrait Gallery is closed until spring 2023, per its website.

Posted by
1418 posts

I agree that the Jack-the Ripper tour is not as special as it sounds. You are walking thru modern-day London, so there's no ambiance. Also, after you have been walking all day, you are ambitious to be on a walking tour in the evening.

If possible, stay away from Westminster Abbey on the weekends. I'm sure it is always crowded, but found it almost impossible to walk through on the weekends, [in addition to the line to enter.] Perhaps attend Evening Vespers, [ even if you're not religious, it can be a worthy experience.] Do check its schedule, as it could be closed due to a religious event.

Good luck and have a great trip. We all hope to be traveling by the fall.

Posted by
3511 posts

On lodging: I find the Premier Inns to be a good value. Clean, comfortable- I know what to expect. I stayed at the Premier Inn Waterloo last time I was in London and found the location extremely convenient for my purposes. Less than 5 minutes to the trains and tube at Waterloo Station, a 10 minute walk to Westminster, and nicely situated just back from the River. There are quite a few Premier Inn properties across London.

Everyone has their own style and I tend to enjoy seeing lots of sights as well. Even so, I don't think I would enjoy quite as many sights as you have scheduled per day. One piece of advice that Rick gives that is good advice is to think of yourself as coming back another time. You don't have to fit it all in on one trip, you can leave something for another time.

Have fun dreaming and planning. One thing that may help to edit is to list the top 6 things you would be disappointed if you didn't see while in London and prioritize those. Then see what might fit around that list.

Posted by
980 posts

Looks like you have a lot packed into your schedule. I'd pick at most one important site each morning and one each afternoon and then fill the rest of your time exploring. BTW - the Sherlock Holmes Museum is essentially next door to the Beatles Store if that interests you. Enjoy London!

Posted by
96 posts

Thanks for all of the input everyone! I'll go through your comments and makes some adjustments to my itinerary - might be able to add another day in London and probably cut a few things out.

Dan

Posted by
3299 posts

As long as you’re flexible and not locked into a specific day to see a specific site, you’ll be fine. That is, those places that don’t require repurchasing a ticket. Flexibility allows you to see more or fewer places in a day depending on how you feel, and how long it takes to visit a site.

Posted by
19160 posts

If you have time to break away from pure site visits, I highly, highly recommend London Walks. In normal times the company offers a large variety of walking tours every day. They last about 2 hours, cost just 15 pounds and don't require advance booking. You just show up at the designated Underground station. I especially like the walks with a neighborhood focus, because they get you into back streets a tourist doesn't usually see. I love being able to have a tentative plan but remain flexible so I can respond to changing weather conditions.

Posted by
5688 posts

In regards to your daily itinerary plans, take time to research opening and closing times of every site on your list.

Let it be known to even see the Changing of the Guard you’ll spend a minimum of 2 hours waiting in order to get a viable viewing spot. It’s crowded and in all honesty pretty disappointing.

Suggest seeing the Horse Guards parade instead. Less crowded although far more popular than in years past now that RS has made reference to it.

Try to have a meal in the crypt at St Martins of the Fields on your “ Trafalgar Square “ visit. Behind the National Gallery is Leicester Square where you’ll find the 1/2 price theatre ticket office. Also a short bit away from Trafalgar Square is the Ben Franklin House Museum.

The food hall is Harrods is interesting but Selfridges is a far more interesting shopping venue. Liberty is intriguing. I always take friends there as it’s so different, especially lovely at Christmas time.

If your a foodie then change your Borough Market day to Saturday or hit the Maltby Market when you walk across the Tower Bridge over a weekend.

You can also add a visit to Leadenhall Market after you’ve visited the Tower of London.

As already suggested be first in line to get into the Tower of London on a weekend. Can look like Disneyland by mid day. Long lines.

I’ve been going to London for years. You’ll be surprised how much you can see in a day.

Get your timed entry tickets for Parliament, Churchill War Rooms, St Paul’s, and Westminster Abbey. Can do online.

Don’t miss seeing theatre. Walk along the Regents Canal path to Camden Lock Market. Visit Little Venice. Visit Greenwich and the Old Royal Naval Academy.

Visit Regents Park. Visit Hampstead and walk into the Heath. Climb Parliament Hill.

Lastly, nothing beats Saturday at the Portobello road Market. Get there by 8am.