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London 5/22-5/30 How early do I need to book site/event tickets?

The last time I was in England, it was January, precovid, and because of the time of year, we did not need to book tickets for things like Westminster Abbey or Tower of London in advance. We will be traveling with my father May 22-May 30th, and I'm not sure what pace he's going to be able to do once we get there, so it's difficult for me to book tickets in advance not knowing how he's going to do.

Post covid, and on the cusp of peak season, it seems that we will need to book tickets in order to avoid waiting in long lines. How early do I need to book tickets? Would It be a bad idea to book the day before or day of for places like British Museum, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Churchill War Rooms? I don't want to put us in a situation where we are having to wait in long lines, but I also don't want to book times stateside and then be stuck with an itinerary that's not doable for my dad. I also want to avoid booking outdoor tours on bad weather days, and we won't know the weather until closer to the dates we'll be there.

Thank you!

Posted by
1001 posts

Apart from the Churchill War Rooms I don't think it's necessary to book for any of the sites you have listed at all.

For the Tower of London the best advice is to turn up about 10-15 minutes after opening. You will then miss the queue of those who have come early but will still be early enough to see the Crown Jewels without crowds if you go there straightaway and then come back to join a Beefeater tour.

Posted by
7009 posts

It depends on the site and what you want to see. For example, if you just want to get into Westminster Abbey, you should be fine booking the day before. But if you want one of their tours, like the Hidden Highlights (which I highly recommend), you need to book those soon after they are released, which is at least a month ahead.

Posted by
8 posts

as others have said, you probably don't need to book to see the general collections (which is free) at our major museums, but you might want to try to book ahead for any exhibits that you want to see. For example, the Michelangelo exhibit at the British Museum opens 2 May and I suspect it will be sold out for popular days, so once your schedule becomes a little clearer, you could try to book those ahead.

Most museums will let you avoid that if you purchase an annual membership. It's more expensive obviously, but if you were going to see two exhibits it might not be wildly more expensive, and you can just walk in with no booking needed.

Posted by
2500 posts

if I'm not mistaken (and the UK folks can weigh in) there is a spring bank holiday in late May which could make things busier than usual, especially the weekend and the Monday following. If you really want to see something, I'd get tickets ahead. If you're worried about pace, only plan do one "big" thing a day. Maybe ask your dad what he's most interested in seeing and prioritize booking those.

Posted by
1001 posts

The late Spring Bank Holiday is on Monday 27/5 this year. That week pretty much all schools in England will have a half term holiday for the week, so there will be more local tourists about generally. However, I'm not sure that it makes a huge difference if you are just going to London. Many locals will either be off overseas or to the UK national parks and beaches. Some but not all that many will come to London, but I doubt it will be much busier than the weeks either side where there will be a lot of school parties in the capital.

I would be concerned if you were heading to Cornwall or the Lakes but probably not to London.