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London April 2018 Itinerary and questions

Hello all,

Planning a 7 night trip to London for April 2018 and was hoping for some feedback on my proposed itinerary as well as answers to some questions. I was in London for a few days for business a couple of years ago and was able to do a few of the big sites then (British Museum, Tower of London, Thames river cruise, concert at Royal Albert Hall, etc.). Most of my itinerary is flexible, just trying to get an idea of how much I’ll be able to do and what to group together so I can prioritize.

Day 1: Arrive in London from the U.S. Royal Albert Hall tour if it hasn’t closed for maintenance week yet, otherwise a London Walks tour or tour from RS book like Southbank.

Day 2: Kensington Palace, V&A, Harrods food Hall

Day 3: Harry Potter Studio tour and British Library treasures room (Library open late)

Day 4: National Gallery for Monet special exhibit, walk around West End and tea at Fortnum and Mason’s The Parlour (or Westminster Abbey for Wednesday Lates), Orchestra in the Age of Enlightenment concert

Day 5: Day trip to Windsor or Oxford by train, National Portrait Gallery open late if have time

Day 6: Walk around the City and Southbank (if not on Day 1), may go in the Museum of London and/or Shakespeare’s Globe, maybe London Walks Inns of Court tour

Day 7: Parliament tour and Westminster Abbey (if not on Day 4), see a play

Day 8: Morning free for anything I don’t get to earlier in the week, flight home late afternoon

I have the recently refurbished Trafalgar St. James Hilton booked. Originally planned to stay at the Conrad St. James, but was concerned about the number of people who said they experienced noise issues and that it’s in more of a business focused area. The Trafalgar with soundproof windows seemed like a better option, but interested in advice on either hotel.

Other questions:
- Has anyone been to Wednesday Lates at Westminster Abbey? Can you see most things? I’m thinking it would be a less crowded time to go and would be okay with not having a tour available.

-Is the Museum of London worth visiting for adults or more geared towards children? Would I be better off trying to do that and the City earlier in my trip, before seeing some of the other historical sites?

-Kensington Palace reviews are mixed at best, and it seems like parts of it are closed right now. Is it still worth doing? I’m torn between Windsor and Oxford for a day trip, removing KP would give me more flexibility to maybe do both or have more time for something else in London.

-If I want a smaller town for a break from London, would Windsor be the better day trip choice? I know the castle itself is very busy, but it sounds like the bus tour groups usually come in the morning for the changing of the guard and then leave, so I’m thinking I could wander around the town and Eton and go into the castle after lunch?

-Plays: Has anyone seen Witness for the Prosecution at County Hall? I’m looking at that and/or Julius Caesar at the new Bridge Theatre. Looking for an experience more unique to London, and it sounds like they are/will be staged in unique ways.

Appreciate any advice all of you have. Thank you!

Posted by
118 posts

I don't have any advice but I'm popping into say I'm looking forward to other people's replies and I'll be in town about the same time :)

Posted by
19194 posts

There's enough to do in Oxford, between wandering around the colleges and seeing the two fine museums (Ashmolean and Pitt-Rivers) that I don't think you'll be doing anything else that day. To me it's more than a one-day city.

Spend some time on the V&A website and pick a couple of sections of the museum you want to focus on. I think by the time I've seen the whole thing, I'll be up to about 20 hours. I imagine you know what I mean, since you've been to the British Museum.

Posted by
1586 posts

We have twice enjoyed visits to the Museum of London. It never struck us as "geared to children."

Posted by
2774 posts

Museum of London did not strike me as particularly geared to kids. My interest in visiting there was the Roman wall. You can see a very small fragment of the wall outdoors, without paying the museum entry -- but, the overall area (near the Barbican) is very built up and not very pedestrian friendly, let alone charming (NOT!).

When we were there in spring 2015 there was a huge, incredibly noisy construction project going on just south of the museum, but I would hope it's completed by now.

Posted by
4536 posts

If all things go to plan the Museum of London won't be at its present site for that much longer - it wants to move to a much bigger location at West Smithfield to bring a lot of artefacts currently in storage out on display.. Still needs to complete the fundraising though so it isn't going yet.

The branch of the Museum in Docklands shouldn't be overlooked either.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks for all the responses so far! Sounds like Museum of London is worth it (would definitely like to see the Roman wall!), and yes, I figured the V&A would be huge- will make sure I select some specific exhibits beforehand. Maybe I should start with V&A in the morning so I can spend more time there and less at Kensington Palace (or skip KP altogether?) I actually did a London Walks tour at the British Museum, which was great for the exhibits I was really interested in, but spent way too long at some more obscure exhibits that I was not that interested in. A good way to get a more manageable overview of such a big museum, though. And I got my favorite souvenir from the trip there- socks that look like the Rosetta Stone.

It does seem like there is a lot I would want to do in Oxford, which is why I’m thinking it might be better to do Windsor this time and save Oxford for another trip when I could maybe spend a couple of days there. I would also like to see Bletchley Park as well as other sites in and around London, so I’m sure I will be back at some point to see additional sites that I don’t make it to this time!

Posted by
19194 posts

Oxford is a bit too far from Bletchley Park for a day trip by public transportation (to me)--but that may not be what you were thinking anyway. Oxford does work well if you want to take one of the van tours of the Cotswolds that depart from Moreton-in-Marsh, which is about 30 minutes from Oxford by train. So, yes, leaving Oxford for your next trip might be smart.

Part of the V&A is open until 9:45 PM on Fridays. In September (and probably always) that late-open part is the ground floor. That might give you some extra time. But I found the light level a bit too low after sunset in the central part of the ground floor. It was as if the lighting designer assumed there would be supplemental lighting coming through the skylight. But when the museum is open after dark, you're stuck with just the sub-minimal artificial lighting. So if that part of the museum holds material of special interest to you, you might not want to postpone it until late Friday night.

For any London museum you hope to visit late, stop at the Information desk on the way in to find out exactly what sections will be open late. Do not assume that the entire museum will be available to you.

Posted by
18 posts

Oh yes, I meant I would like to do Bletchley Park sometime as a day trip from London, not directly from Oxford. Just not enough time to do everything in one trip! Very helpful tip about the V&A, I’ve been looking at which nights museums are open late but hadn’t thought about sections of the museum being closed or poor lighting. Thanks!

Posted by
19194 posts

It was only in the V&A that I ran into a significant lighting issue--probably because the other museums didn't have skylights. A younger person might be OK in that section of the V&A. I'm at the age when my eyes just need more light. Or large fonts on museum labels. I sometime fantasize about writing a letter to the International Society of Museum Directors (not that such a thing exists) on the subject of size and position of labels. (There is never a justification for mounting labels at ankle level!)

Posted by
1010 posts

My husband and I stayed at the Conrad St. James, for 3-1/2 weeks in August, 2016. We were there for a week and then went to the Cotswolds for one week. Then we returned to the Conrad for two more weeks. We are returning to the hotel on May 1 through June 1, 2018. We are using Hilton Hotel Points for most of the reservation. We enjoyed our visit last year. We also paid for the lounge area. The breakfasts in the Blue Boar restaurant, everyday, were outstanding. The hotel is very nice. Yes, I read about the noise level. We had three different rooms, while there. The best one was a junior suite. We are requesting a room on a higher floor, away from noise. I booked the room directly with the Assistant Manager, by using the hotel email. It is very convenient to the Tube and to Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace. It is true there aren't very many restaurants in the area itself. It is directly across the street form the St. James Park Tube.

Posted by
567 posts

Re: Kensington Palace. On our last day in London a few years ago, I said I wanted to be outside more than in another museum. We decided to go to Hyde Park and walk around. It led us to Kensington Palace so we went in and I really enjoyed it. It doesn't have the power of history like the British Museum and others, but it showed how the royals lived at certain times. It was not very crowded (which we REALLY liked). The section with clothing of the Queen, Princess Margaret, and Princess Diana seemed to have the biggest appeal, but we preferred other areas. Is it a must? Probably not. Is it interesting, entertaining and well presented? We thought so.

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello ABlue. Go to Windsor Castle. When I was there, persons who are not citizens of Great Britain could not reserve an admission ticket in advance. I suggest being at the visitors entrance to Windsor Castle at 9:00 in the morning, or earlier, to ensure that you can get in Windsor castle that day. Hundreds of people, if not thousands, are there each day. And that day also walk through the town Windsor, and allow time for talking to some of the local people. When you will be in the British National Gallery (of Art), plan to be in there two hours and thirty minutes. Walk into at least three rooms, in addition to the special exhibit. I liked the oil paintings by John Constable. It is four or five paintings in one room. And I put a high priority on walking through the Museum of London. Plan to be in there one hour and thirty minutes. I know that different people are interested in different things, but I recommend being at a big park in London, such as Hyde Park, for two hours in one day. Walk slowly across part of the Park.

Posted by
4777 posts

Looks like a good plan, geographically organized and well paced. Also good that you're willing to save some places, like Oxford, for another trip. Oxford would be a very long and tiring day trip, better to save it for another trip and give it at least a couple of days. BTW, some Cotswold van tours leave from Oxford so you don't have to take the train up to Moreton-on-Marsh.

Windsor would be a good choice and I think afternoon would be good for the Castle. It would be a change of pace from London but not exactly a "smaller town" -- it's very much part of the London megalopolis.

Westminster Abbey is one of my favorite places and I'd hate to miss walking through the aisles and checking out all the tombs and monuments. I'm not sure what "Wednesday Lates" is, but if it's the evensong service you won't get out of the nave. I'm sure that's a great experience if your only chance to see inside the Abbey, but there's a lot more to see there, and the audioguide is excellent.

As others have said, the Museum of London isn't especially kid-oriented. I think it's one of the best for understanding the city's history.

Posted by
26054 posts

Museum of London did not strike me as particularly geared to kids. My interest in visiting there was the Roman wall. You can see a very small fragment of the wall outdoors, without paying the museum entry -- ...

The Museum of London is free to all - no entry fee.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks all for the great suggestions and comments! I will probably move day 6 to earlier in the trip, so I can visit the Museum of London earlier on.

This is far enough in advance that Harry Potter studio tickets are widely available. Any advice on best time to go? I read one review that said it was quieter by mid-afternoon, others have said it doesn’t really matter since they only let in a certain number of people at a time. With timed tickets, I’m thinking late morning/early afternoon so I can take my time getting there, pick up a sandwich to bring with me along the way, and not be stressed about needing to get through rush hour crowds to be there first thing. I understand I can browse the gift shop before the tour if I arrive early?

I also will book the Monet special exhibit at the National Gallery in advance... any idea of how far in advance they sell tickets for special exhibits? Thanks so much!