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London (and Paris!) in January - Itinerary Suggestions?

Partner and I are off to London on New Years, and will throw a few days in Paris in to our trip. I've been to each a bunch already (London way more than Paris), but it's my partner's first time to either (or Europe in general, for that matter). While some of our itinerary is already set, I'm eager to hear what suggestions folks here might have on things to see and do in either city beyond what's listed below. One of the things I love about this forum is I'll regularly see mention of things and places that would never have otherwise ended up on my radar, and I also know I'm the type to risk taking my partner on a carbon copy of a trip I'd done at some point in the past unless I solicit outside suggestions.

I'll skip listing out a bunch of things we like/don't like as I don't wanna paint suggestions in to a corner - the whole point is I'm willing to try out things that never would have occurred to me otherwise. If you are curious what our interests might be, though, I think it's easy enough to figure it out from already-planned itinerary items below. Thanks in advance!

New Years Day - Land at LHR at 10AM, head to our hotel (St. Pancras Renaissance - more on that later). My rule on the first day is stay awake, head out and about, and don't go to bed until it makes sense local time. This is new years day, though, so not expecting too many options on things to see and do beyond casually strolling about.

Jan 2 - Nothing planned. Maybe get our "Day 2" covid tests? There's a facility right inside St. Pancras. Have yet to decide whether I want to have an at-home kit mailed to hotel, or just go in person on Sunday or Monday. London Eye, perhaps, for sweeping views - weather permitting - of the city we're set to conquer?

Jan 3 - Harry Potter Studio Tour! We're actually staying at the St. Pancras Ren because the exterior stands in for Kings Cross in the HP movies; lotta Harry Potter going on with this trip. After the studio tour, we actually have a black cab tour of film location sites around London that'll take up the rest of the day, all booked through See More Taxi Tours (formerly Capital Taxi Tours), who I've used several times before for private half day and day tours.

Jan 4 - Up bright and early for the Eurostar to Paris. Arrive in Paris 11am-ish. Go to the nearest pharmacy to Gare du Nord listed as offering Health Passes to hopefully get that outta the way. Check in to the Hotel & Spa La Belle Juliette in the 6th Arr. Otherwise, no plans.

Jan 5 - Full day in Paris. Partner really wants to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Me, being afraid of heights, may remain on the 2nd level and offer his spiritual and emotional support for his ascent. Though I suspect I'll get dragged along (as an aside, London Eye has never really bothered me so long as I don't press up against the glass). This depends on weather, though. As with the London Eye, we'll aim to schedule this on what looks like the best day. Same goes for, perhaps, a Seine cruise? Early January on the open top deck of a boat on the river doesn't sound too appealing, but maybe weather will make it an option. Catacombs are a possibility, also. I also have yet to see Versailles, funny enough. Perhaps some shopping in some of the covered passages/galleries, as a refuge from cold.

Jan 6 - Nothing planned but the Eurostar back to London in the evening, around 7pm. All 3 days in Paris will involve, I'm sure, seeking out delicious breads, cheeses, and pastries. Once back in London, check in to Hazlitt's Hotel in Soho (apparently HP author JK Rowling's favorite in London, with signed first editions in their library!).

Jan 6-10 - nothing set in stone yet. Probably another tour with the black cab guide/friend; a West End musical is an option (we've yet to see Come From Away); the world's biggest Lego store is just off Leicester Square; I have some music sites I want to see in and around Soho.

Jan 11 - Fly back home. Tears and sadness.

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492 posts

My longwinded self ran out of room on the last post, but I'll just add in - I've yet to see the police box outside Earl's Court tube station and, as a devoted Dr. Who fan, really must. The partner also wants to eat at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant, but not one that is too stuffy or formal or expensive (thankfully). I never get tired of wandering around the Forbidden Planet store on Shaftesbury Ave. Curry will also be on the agenda. I'm also obligated to swing by F&M for some gifts for family back home (I've gotten something on every visit and, at this point, they're expecting it any time I go).

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1246 posts

Here are some ideas: Christmas Day Parade in the West End, West End Musical or Christmas Show, Christmas at Kew and a Cozy Pub. Paris Shopping.

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492 posts

Suki - Definitely a possibility! Funny enough, friends and I took the requisite pedestrian crossing/Abbey Rd photo back when I was a high school student visiting London many years ago. We were staying in St Johns Wood and just stumbled across the location, noticing it because of the crowds. Would be neat to recreate it again!

I do have a lot of music sites I want to see in and around Soho - the spot where Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album cover was shot; spot where Oasis' What's the Story (Morning Glory) album cover was shot; famous venues where bands like the Stones, The Cure, Queen played (or were even formed). Thankfully a lot of that can fairly easily be found just walking around Soho!

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492 posts

Thanks, Kathleen! Musical is likely. Just trying to decide whether I wanna go with something neither of us have seen (and take the risk!) or go with something I have seen but am reasonably certain he'd like.

Kew Gardens Christmas display def looks like something we'd enjoy and looks like it runs through our entire time there. Adding that to the list!

Posted by
1780 posts

London
• Westminster Abbey - and rent the headset unless you know British history.
• Churchill War Rooms – buy your tickets before departure.
• British Museum – well worth it and it's free. Enjoy a light lunch in the Cafe.
• Tower of London - afterwards walk over to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street (30-minutes) for lunch. Find the cave like seating area and warm up near the fire place.
• Victoria and Albert Museum.
• Day trip to Bath from London Paddington station (1h 30m).
Paris
• Orsay Museum
• Walk from Pont Alexandre III to Arc du Triomphe.
• Monmartre
• Take a vintage car tour of Paris one night: https://2cvparistour.com/

Posted by
79 posts

Check out Postman's Park -- near St. Paul's Cathedral. Numerous ceramic plaques are displayed which memorialize ordinary people who died trying to save the lives of others from over a hundred years ago. We read each one -- really fascinating. A bit quirky, but we really enjoyed it. :)

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4666 posts

I enjoy the St Pancras Renaissance, it's a fantastic building. Unfortunately the superb Gilbert Scott restaurant has closed down as a result of Covid alongside its accompanying bar that sold some amazing cocktails. I last stayed at the Renaissance in June this year and unfortunately Covid has had a negative effect on a lot of the service. Hopeully things will have changed by the time you arrive but if not I wouldn't bother having the breakfast. Oh, and in case you weren't aware, The Spice Girls first song video was filmed on the large staircase in the Renaissance!

Do visit the British Library which is next door to the hotel. It's free admission although some exhibitions charge a fee however the Treasures exhibition is free and is probably what most people visit for. It was pre-booked timed entry when I went in June however I booked our entrance there and then on the website via my phone as it was almost empty.

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492 posts

JC - Yeah the Gilbert Scott has been closed for awhile, though apparently they've entirely redone and relaunched their Booking Office restaurant? Or at least it reopens this week. We'll see how that is!

My one main concern is the lack of a Chambers Club, which offered free breakfast, snacks and such for those staying in one of their "Chambers Wing" rooms (which we will be). If it's closed - which it seems to have been for several months now, ostensibly while "under renovation" - that cuts in to the value of booking one of those rooms considerably. I was assured via email they offer a complimentary breakfast and alternatives for guests who'd otherwise have had club access, though no details yet on that. Perhaps I'll follow up to be certain!

And yes, you just know I'm going to recreate some of that Spice Girls video! Batman Begins also had a scene filmed on that staircase, though I won't attempt to recreate that! Will def check out the library also, as it's right next door!

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492 posts

Linda - I'd actually seen a segment about that memorial in one of the Joolz Guides videos (look him up on YouTube if not yet familiar - great stuff!). Sounds fascinating!

MaryPat - Definitely will have to do a 2CV tour - I've wanted to ride around in one of those since seeing Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown as a child! Seems like a quick little 2CV tour could be a great way to give my partner a quick once over of the city that first day we're there. Thanks! "Ye Olde Chesire Cheese" is speaking my language! And I think we'll definitely fit in a museum. Just have to nail down which (I've always loved the Natural History Museum but was there only a few years ago; haven't been to the British Museum in 7 or 8 years so I think we'll definitely try that one). And I could probably do the Churchill War Rooms once a week and never get bored, though I suspect he'll get bored quickly haha

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492 posts

cmwilson - I had absolutely no idea this was taking place, but we will absolutely be going now. Thank you so much for sharing!

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3681 posts

You sound like an experienced voyageur so maybe this suggestion is redundant. You might be able to fly into London and home from Paris using a multi-destination search function. Might save some money and probably will save precious time. If you are flying on points, I don't know if it's possible. The airline can tell you.
To risk further redundancy: You will need water-resistant footwear at that time of year, a good hat that protects the ears, and jaunty scarf and gloves. And expect the sun to be setting by 4 p.m.

Posted by
52 posts

In London during the Christmas/New Years season you might consider a "Panto". A UK holiday theater tradition great for all ages. Usually based on a fairy tale or similar story. Includes music, dance, jokes and the main actors being a man playing a woman and a woman playing a man. Here is link with more background.

http://thelaughingstock.ca/what-is-panto/

And here is a link describing some choices in London this season, a number of which continue into the first week of January.

https://www.timeout.com/london/theatre/christmas-pantomimes-in-london

Something that is not available in other places or other times of year. One year I saw Ian McKellen as Cinderella! Enjoy the planning.

Posted by
21067 posts

Although some airlines may not permit it, I have more than once booked a one-way frequent-flyer trip to Europe at half the round-trip cost in miles and then later booked a one-way return ticket, again at half the RT cost (30,000 miles at the time). With or without different European gateways, this is a way to get around the problem of having miles on multiple airlines but not enough for a round trip on any of them.

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492 posts

Update on this - We've canceled the Paris portion, and replaced it with 3days/2nights in Edinburgh. LNER train from Kings Cross to Waverly, and return.

Staying within the UK removes the additional testing/isolation requirements the Paris sojourn would have imposed.

Of course, all of this depends upon being able to go in the first place. Each new day that becomes a bit more uncertain, with omicron deciding to complicate things for everyone. We'll see where things are at in 3 weeks! Everything is still refundable/changeable.

I also went ahead and got Trawick insurance - don't need it for trip costs, but have it in case a positive test while abroad brings about quarantine costs.

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492 posts

Additional update as it contains testing info some might find useful:

Booked a Day 2 PCR test through Collinson Group, to be conducted at their testing center at St. Pancras. Since we'll be at St. Pancras anyways as our hotel is there and attached to the station, it'll be a simple walk on to the concourse to do the test. Collinson is offering a "Premium PCR test" that delivers same day results so long as you get tested before 6pm at one of their locations (which can be found at St Pancras, Heathrow, and various other major transit locations). Total cost was < 160GBP. Not too bad.

We ordered proctored lateral flow antigen tests for both the pre-departure UK test, and pre-departure US test. The kit comes with 2 tests, so one can be used before flying to the UK, other brought with us for use ahead of returning to US. Ordered through Optum for $70 each (so x2 since there's 2 of us), and Virgin Atlantic has confirmed they meet the requirements (as long as they're proctored/telemed, as these are).

Fingers crossed!

Posted by
6349 posts

I do hope you’ll be able to take this trip. keep those fingers crossed and remain vigilant regarding UK COVID travel regulations.

As your goal on day 1 is to stay awake might I suggest a walk along the nearby Regent’s Canal.

If weather is conducive I’d start at Granary Square and Coal Drop Yards ( easy stroll from the Renaissance) past the Gas Tower condos and follow the canal path all the way to the red painted Chinese Restaurant that’s on the canal. ( Sorry name escapes me )

From there leave the canal path and head to Primrose Hill to enjoy a view of London.

If looking for a good spot to rest, use the loo, eat and have a pint see if The Albert is open. Afterwards exit the Albert heading toward the Camden Town underground station. 20 minute walk

Hop on a Northern Line train and you’ll be back at the Renaissance in 10-15 minutes. Or stay outside stroll through Regents Park towards the East gate, exit and turn left. Believe thats Marylebone Street. Following it will take you to St Pancras and your accommodation.

That meander should quell any jet lag and promote a restful slumber.

Posted by
492 posts

Thanks so much for the suggestions, Claudia! With our original plans (what would have been a summer trip) we were looking forward to renting a little boat in the canal. Alas, wasn’t meant to be. But for sure we’ll make it a point to walk along it and see what we can along the way. Coal Drops Yard and Regents Park are definitely on the list, also! Thanks again!!

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5547 posts

You may have seen today’s Covid infection rate for the U.K. - 78,600 registered today compared with 59,600 yesterday, which in itself was far higher than a week ago. I am just watching the official government briefing on tv and things are not looking hopeful for the next few weeks. Just so you are aware……

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492 posts

Thanks for the info, Jennifer!

Trust me, I'm watching the news too closely haha. Staying so well informed on a continuous stream of bad news is probably as unhealthy as covid itself.

But I'm going to proceed with planning and preparing and looking forward to the trip until that moment I decide I have to cancel (if and when that moment comes).

At least for now, the hotels I'm scheduled to stay at are open, the activities we have planned are on schedule, the places we have tickets to visit are still planning on being open. So we'll see how things go!

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27723 posts

It is just as well that you cancelled your France portion - France has pulled up the drawbridge to travelling from the UK.

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492 posts

Nigel - Yeah, certainly seems to be the case. I'd been holding on to my Paris hotel reservation, and had left my Eurostar reservation in place. Was holding off on buying tickets for things like the catacombs or Eiffel Tower but technically hadn't canceled anything. I had mentally written off Paris, though, and was anticipating canceling while making plans for Edinburgh (train tickets, hotel reservation). Figured I'd hold on to both for awhile and hedge my bets in case something popped up that made one the clear favorite over the other. That moment indeed came this week, with the new France announcements. So I've officially canceled the Paris hotel reservation, and have pushed back the train tickets to late 2022 (the most Eurostar lets you do).

The trip happening at all looks a little less likely each day, but all my bookings by this point are flexible/refundable. It's like mission control for a space launch, watching the countdown, while being able to press the abort button if things don't look right when the time comes. I just have to make sure I press it in time, if needed!

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492 posts

Just a little update on the Eurostar situation - they were the one vendor making it difficult to get an actual refund vs. just free changes or vouchers. Today I got an email from them saying one of the trains (the return, from Paris to London) we'd been booked on was canceled for operational reasons. With them being the ones to cancel the trip, that made my entire journey eligible for a refund. So I requested that today. Problem solved! I'll take the trip eventually but would rather have the money back in my pocket until then! It's funny because we weren't going to be on that train anyways - I just hadn't gotten around to pushing it back to a later date because I was procrastinating and I was hoping perhaps they'd change their refund rules because of how difficult it is to travel between London and Paris now. Waiting turned out to be the right call, because if I'd just changed the trip to a later date I'd have rendered the trip ineligible for a refund.

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492 posts

Well, in a (not so) amusing twist, my partner went home to WI for Christmas with relatives and got exposed to COVID while there. Tested positive this morning. So… trip canceled. Part of me thinks this could be a blessing in disguise. Time to look at summer, I suppose. Thank goodness most everything was fully refundable, or at least flexible!

All this time the call was coming from inside the house!

Posted by
27723 posts

sorry to hear that.

Curious - "WI"? West Indies?

Posted by
9710 posts

WI to me would mean Wisconsin.

So sorry the partner tested positive. I hope they stay well in spite of it.

And darn on the trip cancellation! Well, you’ve got the research done and can have ready to pull out when it looks like a good time to travel.

Posted by
492 posts

Yup, Wisconsin.

And yeah, at least most all of what we’d looked forward to doing will still be on offer. Perhaps some new options will pop up, too!

One of the things I enjoy most about travel is all the planning and organizing that goes in to travel so here’s to another however many months of that. Haha. Staying upbeat!