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Itinerary - two days in the city

Hello...we are planning three days in London which is an extension of a Paris-Normandy trip. We will be arriving in London on May 1 which is a Sunday, with plans to spend two days in the city, followed by a day trip to Oxford and the Cotswold. On the first day (Sunday), we plan to take in the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, a boat ride on the Thames, and perhaps catch St. Paul's Evensong (not sure how we will be able to see St. Paul's otherwise). On Monday, we plan to see the Changing of the Guard and tour Westminster Abbey and the Churchill War Rooms. We hope to take in other key sites by walking or other means. We're considering staying on South Bank, perhaps at Premier Inn County Hall as some of you have suggested. Is this near the pedestrian bridge? I have seen a notice that it is under renovation but still open. Does anyone know?

Would appreciate any advice on logistics, transport, tour guides, restaurants, or alternate accommodations. Thank you!

Posted by
5617 posts

Be aware that, although Evensong happens at 5PM the rest of the week, on Sundays it’s at 3PM. Maybe they should rename it “Afternoonsong!” Ii If you do go on your first day, you’ll be out of St. Paul’s by a quarter to four.

London’s an expensive place to eat. As so many Londoners come from someplace other than England, there are some great “ethnic” restaurants. If you’re not determined to have fish ‘n chips, jellied eels, or Pub Grub, there’s a lot of Indian and Pakistani places, Middle Eastern, Thai . . . a really cosmopolitan city, so lots and lots of options. Do you have a preference for a particular cuisine? Maybe you’ll even still be looking for more French food, after you’ve left France?

Posted by
27707 posts

I'm afraid you may have a problem on your Sunday May 1.

Are you arriving in London that morning from France, or are you waking up there?

The usual advice is to arrive at The Tower of London first thing in the morning to beat the crowds and have a decent chance of getting into the Crown Jewels exhibit (included) while it is still quiet. You stand on a moving travelator which takes you through the exhibit so if you are early you can often go out and back in again and get another ride through, That won't be possible if the quick to build up queue has already formed.

Then after the Crown Jewels, back down to the moat near the entry to catch a Beefeaters Tour (included) which then takes you with a degree of military drama (the Beefeaters are all long service ex-serving military women and men) through a number of stops, then you are free to wander the Crown Jewels (for those who didn't make a beeline there first), the White Tower, the Ravens and all sorts.

I worry that you may be late, maybe tired, arrivals. I worry even more that you have chosen the Sunday of the Early May Bank Holiday. The place will be absolutely heaving that day, mostly with families with kiddoes. It worries me that you might not have the most pleasant experience which would be a shame.

About the Changing of the Guard. Did you check that it is on on that day? Also, are you doing that because you want to or because you think you should? It is a very crowded very short event which needs you there well ahead if you want any chance to see anything, especially on a Bank Holiday...

In my opinion a better Changing of the Guard is the Changing of the Horse Guard in Horse Guards Parade. Shiny breastplates, horses, up close, no crowds - what's not to love?

I'd avoid the May Day far left and far right mobs attempting to bring down capitalism in the City single (or mob) handed. If you see trouble it is best to go the other way. Happens every year, although with us effectively at war with Russia now who knows if there will be pro-communism or pro-anarchy mobs this year. In addition to banks and jewellery stores as targets, often multinational places like McDonalds and Starbucks are in the firing line...

Posted by
11 posts

This is all very helpful info that we would have no way of knowing if it weren’t for this forum, The Viking cruise is a reschedule from 2021. We are tacking three days on the end which unfortunately puts us coming in on Sunday. We are taking the Eurostar over Sunday morning. Looks like the earliest departure is 9:30 am with arrival at 10:30 am London time. Fatigue should not be an issue since we will have somewhat adjusted to the time by then. The Paris portion is at a leisurely pace. We hope to stow our luggage and hit the ground running, but that is still mid-day which is less than ideal.

Will definitely heed advice on Horse Guard.

As for restaurants, just looking for basic standard fare. These three days are more about the sights. We will have had plenty of dining opportunity by then. We have two picky eaters in this group.

Thank you all for your advice—this is all so helpful!

Posted by
5106 posts

Premier Inn County Hall is in easy walking distance to Westminster, Churchill War rooms etc. it is an easy tube ride to the Tower of London. I think it is a great location for purposes. Have you made your reservations? I would get that taken care of at once. Premier Inn Waterloo is just a block away from County Hall if you need an alternative.

It is tough to arrive in the middle of a bank holiday weekend, but better to be visiting London when it is crowded than not to visit it at all…….

Posted by
11 posts

Premier Inn booked. That’s our thought—even tho timing less than ideal, better than no London at all!

Posted by
21026 posts

On occasions when you need to eat but have limited time, one of the places to consider is a Pret a Manger. It's a large chain so you will probably stumble on them from time to time. They have a cooler with a variety of sandwiches on different types of bread (not just the squishy supermarket stuff) and a nice selection of what I call "salad boxes" that usually include protein (chicken, salmon, falafel, etc.). I occasionally saw macaroni and cheese and a few other things kept hot. There are also sweets and pastries.

I stayed at the Premier Inn County Hall in 2019. There used to be a Pret on the back (river) side of the building that you saw off to the left as you walked back to the hotel over the Westminster bridge. It's not showing up on Google Maps now, so it may have closed. But there is still a Pret in Waterloo Station.

In the neighborhood there's also a Marks & Spencer (M&S) Food Hall on York Road about 1 block north of the hotel. It is also useful. I imagine that one has the little packages of cheese I've often bought at M&S, along with crackers, to have as a snack. They used to have four different kinds of cheese; it was great not to have to buy a large chunk of one kind.

London is dense with chain restaurants. It has been explained to me that real estate costs so much that it's difficult for an independent to make a go of it in the city. If you want a non-chain experience, you may need to do a bit of advance planning. I had a very mediocre meal when I stopped at a non-chain (as far as I know) place not too far from the Imperial War Museum. It seemed like a location that wouldn't be targeting foreign travelers, but the experience was poor. Believe me, the Pret salad boxes were a lot better as well as a lot cheaper. I know there are good options in London; I'm just suggesting that a short-term visitor who cares about food probably should plan ahead. For some reason I've had trouble finding interesting food by winging it in London but little difficulty in the rest of Europe.

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you—good advice! Appreciate your advice on winging it—that can cost a list of time in the long run. The salad boxes sound like a great idea!—will definitely look for these places.

Posted by
6333 posts

Prets are fine for salads or sandwiches. I often stop at one when I'm in London. Especially if there is a park close by where I can sit and people watch. I'll do this on the Thames Path as well where there are also benches. Enjoyable to watch all the river traffic.

The day you visit Westminster Abbey and the Churchill War rooms see if you can have lunch at the Two Chairman Pub on Darmouth Street. Close by and having been to London countless times over the years a pub lunch is something you should avail yourselves of.

When leaving the pub turn right, cross the road and take the Cockpit Steps to Birdcage Walk. Turn left and enjoy the stroll on Birdcage Walk past St James park up to The Palace. If the Union Jack is flying Queen Elizabeth is in residence.

Good advice regarding NOT wasting your time with the Changing of the Guard at the Palace. Horse Guards far more interesting.

Posted by
11 posts

I see there is a changing of the Horse Guards at 11am, and also an hourly change. Are these all the same? Also, an end of day ceremony. Should we plan for the 11 am occurrence? Trying to work out best schedule for the Abbey, Horse Guard, Two Chairman Pub, and War Rooms. Thank you so much!!!!

Posted by
2658 posts

It’s The Royal Standard that is flown when the Queen is in residence. It’s, red, yellow and blue.

Posted by
6333 posts

Thank you Robin regarding the flag. Obviously I didn’t know.

Posted by
1777 posts

If there is one disappointment in London it’s the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, skip it.

Posted by
11 posts

Ok…thanks for this great advice. Want to make best of a short time period!

Posted by
15 posts

is the "Changing of The Queen’s Life Guard" the same as the changing of the horses? The website states it occurs daily Monday-Friday at 11 am. Is that accurate for April 2022? Would it be possible to see the changing of the guard and the changing of the horses on the same day? This will be my husband's first trip to London and I'm really hoping he sees the best of London. Thank you

Posted by
6333 posts

csbpa You are hitchhiking on another person’s post. Not cool. This isn’t Facebook.

Post your own question .

Posted by
11 posts

Two Chairman—have lunch reservation! Plan to take Birdcage Walk to Palace as well. Thank you for this advice!

Any suggestions for dinner on South Bank (fairly standard fare)?