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London 4-day Itinerary/Feedback wanted

Hi Everyone,
We are traveling to London May 29-June 4th (we also have a 1/2 day on our way home) so we have 4.5 days in London. We are visiting from San Francisco with our boys ages 8 years and 10 years old. We are staying in Earls Court and we LOVE to walk! We are happy to walk 6-9 miles per day.
Day 1-
Buckingham Palace (Changing of Guards @11am)
Lunch (possibly picnic in St. James Park)
St. James Park-walk around
House of Parliament (See House of Commons in Session Wednesday: 11.30am-7.30pm; Westminster Hall Wednesday: 9.30am-11.30am & 2.30pm-5.30pm; House of Lords Wednesday: 3pm-10pm)
Westminster Abbey
Big Ben (no tours due to refurbishment)
Hamley-biggest toy store in UK
Day 2-
London Eye (10am-8:30pm)
Westminster Walk (Steves)
National Gallery (10am-6pm) [in Trafalgar Sq]
British Library (9:30am-8pm)
Maybe British Museum this day
Day 3-
Take boat from Westminster Pier
Tower of London (9am-5:30pm)
Crown Jewels-what time? pre-schedule?
Borough Market (10am-6pm)
Tate Modern (10am to 10pm)
Day 4-
National History Museum
Notting Hill-Portabello Market
Harrods-High Tea 10am-9pm - don’t take reservations
Princess Di & Kensington Gardens

We also want to do:
Also: Double-Decker bus tour, Harrods, High Tea, Thames walking path, Convent Garden SOHO, Fitzrovia, Bloomsbury, Hyde Park, Regents Park, British Museum, Churchill War Rooms, See Les Miserables (or another show)

Any feedback or changes are appreciated! We would like to plan each day/night out in advance.
Thanks a lot

Posted by
5197 posts

There's no National History Museum in London, there is the Natural History Museum which would obviously be very different to a 'national history' museum.

You're probably aware of this but I thought best to make clear just in case!

Posted by
8480 posts

You'll need to check dates regarding Borough and Portobello markets. For opening times.

Your from SF. Would you taken your children to see Beach Blanket Babylon?

Les Miz Is too sophisticated for 8 and 10 year old children.

Lion King, Wicked or Aladdin would be more appropriate.

Changing of the Guards is over rated. To get good viewing spots you'll need to arrive at least an hour early if not earlier. Otherwise you'll see nothing. Go to the Horse Guards instead and watch them ride up the Mall to the Palace. Then visit the nearby Churchill War Rooms.

If you don't want to wait in line yes pre book the Tower tickets and get there when it opens at 9am and go directly to the Crown Jewels. I'd also visit the Tower Bridge experience unless the children are afraid of heights. Then walk up to the glass covered Leadenhall Market and hunt for the door to Harry Potter's Leaky Cauldron.

See if you can do tea at The Orangery while you are at Kensington Palace. If not there try Beas of Bloomsbury while you visit the British Museum.

Posted by
7175 posts

Parliament will not be in session as the Queen has dissolved the current one in order for the election, called by Theresa May for June 8, to be held.

A tour would be your best bet and will be available on May 31 & June 1, 2, 3.
I took one of these in 2012, and found it fascinating, insightful and thoroughly enjoyable.
Don't delay as tours fill up though.

Posted by
26 posts

My husband and I were in London 5 years ago on the hunt for a doll for one of our daughters (the kind you have for a dollhouse). We thought Hamley's for sure; it really was more like Toys R Us, with all the same international brands (Barbie, Legos, etc.) There were a very few unique toys, but not enough to make it worthwhile. We went on a Sunday morning thinking it wouldn't be too crazy, but it was chaotic and hard to get around.

He ended up finding the perfect doll at Harrod's, which he said had a more fascinating selection of toys. It also has wonderful food halls that make for a good lunch-- quite an amazing selection! You probably could substitute that and coordinate with (or move) your Day 4 stop.
Hope this helps! We are taking our girls in July-- ages 13 & 15-- so excited!

Posted by
824 posts

Just some feedback...

What is your day of arrival and what is your real day 1 (first full day on-ground)?

Be sure to check the Guards Schedule to make sure the ceremonial COTG is scheduled. Also, in good weather, you may need to be there HOURS ahead of time to get a spot at the gates so you can actually see things. The view of the actual COTG inside the palace grounds is actually kind of boring, however. What you might want to do is go down to the Wellington Barracks and watch the guards stand Guard Mount and then follow them as they march to the Palace. There's also a delightful museum your sons may find interesting so plan to arrive a little early.

The British Museum is enormous. One could spend a week there and not see everything. Get on their web site and plan your visit because you'll likely see just one or two galleries in a couple-hour visit.

The Museum of London might be more interesting for the boys. It's just down the street (sort of) from St Paul's and pairs well with a trip to Borough Market.

The National Gallery AND the British Library in the same day with two pre-teen boys? Forgive me, but are you boys really into those things?

Kew Gardens is actually a pretty good spot to take kids because it has so much green space. It's also has some pretty cool interactive exhibits your boys might find interesting. You might want to check out the web site.

I'm not a big fan of the London HOHO buses. I just didn't find them all that useful or enjoying. As most of the city buses are "double-deckers", you'll have plenty of opportunity to ride top-side,

Earl's Court is a probably my favorite part of the city to stay. It's got really good transportation connections and Hyde Park, Natural History & Science Museums, and even the palace are all very walkable for the average person.

Posted by
654 posts

Thinking of your kids and their young ages I would consider the Museum of London and Greenwich. Greenwich has several attractions that might interest both you and your kids: the Cutty Sark, the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Naval College, the Royal Observatory, the Prime Meridian line, the Greenwich Market. Maybe a visit to Hampton Court? I'm not so sure that the kids will be attracted to all of the items on your itenerary.

Posted by
15544 posts

My thoughts are similar to the other responders. National Gallery and British Museum are likely to be dull for youngsters. The Museum of London is much better for kids (of all ages) and Greenwich too. The British Museum is usually a hit with kids, especially the Egyptian rooms. There are 30-minute gallery talks throughout the day every day, so check with the info desk when you get there. All are free and usually very interesting. You can have afternoon tea there in the upstairs restaurant (or grab something in the main floor cafeteria). I'm a little lost on dates vs. days. Not all Borough Market stalls are open on Tues/Wed or even Thurs. They have a website with lots of info. On weekdays, esp. Thurs/Fri, it is very crowded around lunchtime when the locals are on their lunch break, so better to plan to be there before noon or after about 1.30-2.00. You can have afternoon tea in lots of places in London, Kensington Gardens has been recommended here. Unless they've expanded, I'd skip Bea's of Bloomsbury. It's several blocks from the British Museum and they have only a few pretty small tables. Their scones are great, but if you get there too early, they aren't ready, too late and they're sold out. Their specialty is American-style cupcakes (somewhat of a British novelty, I guess) with tons of butter cream frosting. They mainly serve sweets. Other places will have more savory treats as well.

Look at the London Walks website. They are excellent and the guides are very good with kids.

Posted by
1396 posts

No way you are going to get all of that done on day 2. As stated British Museum is enormous. They have a wonderful audioguide for kids - I highly recommend it!

I agree with the other Jill about Hampton Court. Kids love it, and if you do go be sure to do the maze in the garden.

I think your boys will be bored to tears at Kensington Gardens.

I had a sister in law who lived outside London for many years - she has 12 kids. I've done numerous trips in London with her kids and my own. In my experience the kids most enjoyed Castles - including the Tower, Hampton Court and Windsor, Hamleys, Covent Garden (due to street performers), the theater, and for some reason the museum of London (which I didn't enjoy quite as much).

Hope this helps.

Posted by
216 posts

I am travelling with my 9 year old. We did other big trips to Europe when she was 4, 5 and nearly 8. I like your ambition!

Just remembered KidZania. In White City in a mall with a Lego store. You ave been warned.

My thoughts:

1. take into account jet lag. If you arrive in the morning, even if you get 6 - 7 hours of sleep on the plane, you might be ready to nap by mid-afternoon. Not recommending it but it's tempting! with my daughter she shows her tiredness by being emotionally labile and uncooperative. I would work in a playground on this day as that was always a cure when she said she was tired.
2. Book a tour of Westminster and Westminster Abbey
3. No way you will get much out of seeing the National Gallery, British Museum and British Library in one day. Unless you plan to do a "drive by" which is possible with the BL and pointless with the other two
4. Plan a Wednesday matinée show. The evening shows will be late and you need your early mornings to get to paces when the open. Les Mis is heavy but (SPOILER ALERT) they might like all the deaths. We saw Wicked. I liked it better than my daughter did. The themes of prejudice, authoritarianism and resistance went over her head but nowadays are very relevant. Kids are asking questions about these.
5. Skip Hamley's. nothing special. Many demonstrators trying to sell way
overpriced junk.
6. Definitely Covent Garden and Transport Museum.
7. I'm not sure what you want to see in Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury.
8. Skip doubledecker bus tour and take no. 15 bus
9. Forget Regent's Park. Unless you are going to the zoo which will take up 1/2 day.
10. If the kids are into Harry Potter, I recommend the Muggle Tour which meets at London Bridge station. You will see Borough Market
11. Climb the Monument (that's what it's called). Climb St. Paul's. we're into climbing things. It is an attainable goal, works off kid energy and there are nice views.
12. Skip Portobello Rd. unless you are into markets. Are the boys into rummaging around thrift stores r grocery shopping? If not, they might be bored. My daughter hates markets as much as I love them.


Posted by
8329 posts

Be flexible. The weather is a factor in deciding how far you want to walk and where. The Churchill War Rooms, St James Park, Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey are all very near each other, so try grouping them. The Parks are lovely, but they are just huge parks. Plan on a set amount of time in the Museum, and decide ahead of time which sections are a priority (the Egyptian stuff is in two places). The Crown Jewels can be done in 20 minutes during your Tower visit, shuffling along in a crowded single file.

Posted by
145 posts

We were in London two years ago with our girls who were slightly older than your now. A few comments from our experience:
1. We found the changing of the guard to be a big bust - none of us, even my 6'2" husband, could see a thing, and we got there early. I agree with Claudia above to try the Guard house instead if you really want to see that.
2. We loved the British Museum but it is HUGE - you can't cover it in several days. Go - but be selective.
3. The British Library was MY favorite - Jane Austin's writing desk! Original Shakespears transcripts! -- but the rest of my family could take it or leave it.
4. Tower of London -- LOVED it. Reserve ahead for first thing in the morning. Go straight to the crown jewels and check them out - incredible. Then circle back and get on a Yeoman's tour. HIGHLY entertaining and informative.
5. I would skip Parliament (and sounds like it's not in session anyway).
6. London Eye - we had every intention of doing this, but once down there, decided against it. The area close by is the only place in London that we felt uncomfortable and unsafe! It was teeming with obvious pick pockets and scammers. Even my kids felt it was "off" - I hope they have cleaned it up, but it was icky! I haven't seen too many comments like this so maybe we just caught a bad day?
7. Instead of Portobello Road Market - touristy, very huge, and probably boring for the kids - check out Camden Loch Market. VERY cool - best people watching anywhere we went in London, great food stalls. There is an ice cream shop that sells ice cream made with liquid nitrogen - delicious and fun!
8. I agree with comments above that your boys will be bored at Kensington. I also think you may want to reconsider tea at Harrods? Harrods was interesting -- very lavish displays. But it was packed!
9. I agree that your kids are probably a bit young for Les Mis. I was going to suggest Billy Elliot - it features an insanely talented boy singing and dancing up a storm -- but it is long and there is quite a bit of profanity. Better to stick to a kids show - Matilda, Lion King, Aladin, etc. Or look into whether there is a family friendly production at The Globe while you are there for a truly unique London experience?
10. Overall - I think you are trying to do too much. It takes longer to get around than you think and rather than race from site to site, you need to try and soak up the fabulous town!
My family will be back to London in June, too. Can't wait to go back - such an incredible city!

Posted by
37 posts

I managed to delete this while attempting to fix the formatting. Sorry for mucking up the thread. Other Jill had replied and mentioned me (re Hampton Court Palace) back when my reply came before hers. (Thanks, other Jill!)

Here's what I had posted before.

Ambitious agenda, Suzanne! As long as you are flexible, you'll have a great time. There will be lots of reasons for you to come back. It's wonderful that you're taking your kids.

Hampton Court Palace YES! Consider a membership if you are visiting 2 or 3 palaces – saves time and can save money. Get the audioguide at Hampton Court (included with ticket) and be sure to see the Tudor Kitchens. HCP is not in central London but it's a big place, lots to see indoors and out – a palace with history galore.

Consider London Transport Museum at Covent Garden.

Perhaps demote British Library in favour of more time at (say) British Museum or Natural History Museum, or a canal walk, something more active.

Restaurant in Sainsbury Wing of National Gallery may be another option for your tea. Suggest checking in there at the start of your visit to the Gallery to see.

Another option for tea might be a department store restaurant, as odd as that sounds. John Lewis in Kingston-upon-Thames could potentially be combined with Hampton Court Palace.

Or, when you go to Hamleys, you could also go to Selfridge's for tea – looks like their "Dolly's" restaurant has it.

Personally I would drop Harrod's (crowded, noisy, not sure kids would enjoy it).

However you do it, I hope you have a fantastic time in London.

Posted by
4684 posts

Borough Market is also uncontrollably crowded on Saturday most of the day.