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London in 5 days

Hello, we (2 Adults, 1 teen) are planning a trip to England and Scotland the first two weeks of June. The first 5 days of our trip will be in London. I'd love some advice on the itinerary I've built. I am aware this is jam-packed and I've done my best to organize the trip in areas so we aren't spending a lot of time traveling back and forth across the city. I always plan this way knowing full well we won't see everything but will always have something planned in case something else falls through. We each pick 3 must-sees and hope for the best on the rest. I am planning on buying a London Pass and use the tube as much as possible. I love the idea of the hop on hop off bus but I keep reading about the traffic and don't want to waste time at a standstill in traffic. We like to walk as well. Some of these things are just walk by and see (Big Ben) and some we'd like to go in (Churchill War Rooms). 2 Adults like beer. The teenager is amazingly easy to travel with so no issues sitting at a pub with us people watching enjoying a refreshment so visiting historical pubs would be amazing. I have listed what I've found on trip advisor but am open to changes. We do have one rule when we travel, we must learn something and no fast food. So here goes:

Day 1: arrive from US at 9:30 am London time; drop bags at hotel (VSC); head to Kensington Palace, see the gardens, see Royal Albert Hall, dinner somewhere (suggestions??) and then early to bed.

Day 2: Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Museum of London, Lunch at Ye Olde Mitre Pub (found on trip advisor and looked interesting) Shakespeare's Globe, St Pauls Catherdral, dinner at Bread Street Kitchen, back to hotel.

Day 3: Royal Mews, Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Changing of the Guard, Churchill War Rooms, House of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, The London Dungeon (teenager will like this I think), London Eye, back to hotel and collapse into bed. We will need to eat at some point so suggestions here would be welcome.

Day 4: This one is my biggest concern as I'm uncertain of the timing. I REALLY want to see Hampton Court and Windsor Castle. We will leave for Hampton Court first thing in the morning. From there we will take the train (I believe I need to buy a train ticket as the London pass will not cover transportation from Hampton Court to Windsor Castle right?) to Windsor Castle, St. Georges Chapel, Eat lunch or dinner at Enzo's, check out the Windsor Royal Station and then head back to London and our hotel.

Day 5: Teenagers dream come true: Harry Potter Tour in Leavesden. Bought tickets. This is a planned all day event with maybe a visit to Trafalgar Square upon our return to the hotel. Dinner suggestions here?

Day 6: Check out and head to Edinburgh

So, what do you think?

Posted by
2589 posts

There isn’t a train from Hampton Court to Windsor, there is a shuttle that leaves Hampton Court at 12:45, you need to book ahead.. Google Surbiton Coaches, you can book on the website.

Posted by
5235 posts

First things first.

Forget the London Pass. Use the search engine on this website, type in London Pass and read all comments. It’s all about calculating costs about the places that are on the “must see list.”

Secondly check out the Days Out website for their 2 for 1 deals. Offerings change so keep checking back as your trip days approach. I’ve done Westminster Abbey with the 2 for 1 deal but in November not in the Summer months.

Everyone will need an Oyster Card. Forget the buy in advance Oyster. Instead get them upon arrival. Use a credit or debit card to do so at a kiosk located at a train or tube stations. You can get them at Heathrow as well.

What is VSC? Is it that your hotel? Is it in Kensington or Bayswater which are the neighborhoods closest to Kensington Gardens, Royal Albert Hall. Asking because that’s where you’ve listed on your 1st day.

Loads of places to eat in London. Do you want a place near where you are staying? If yes then please share hotel or neighborhood so we can suggest dining spots.

On the day you try to see the Tower of London and museum of London why not try the Lord Raglan Gastropub which is a 5 minute walk from the Museum.

IMHO the masses you will endure to try to see the Changing of the Guard is a total waste of time. Honestly you have to get there early to secure a great spot then wait and wait some more for something that is over in minutes. Instead go early to the Churchill War rooms and next door are the Parade Grounds for the Horseguards. Go there instead.

I’ve been going to London for decades. Feel free to PM me about off the beaten path spots or places most tourists don’t visit because they concentrate on the must sees.

Happy travels.

Posted by
2361 posts

I've been to London 7 times and I think we went to the Changing of the Guard on our first trip with an escorted tour. Clearly, it didn't make any impression on me since I don't remember it and have no desire to see it.

Posted by
1062 posts

"What is VSC? Is it that your hotel?"
Could be the Victory Services Club.

Posted by
7640 posts

If you are going in early June, then Buckingham Palace State Rooms will not be open to the public so you can just view from the outside.

Will there be an exhibition at the Queens Gallery that is of interest to you? If there is not an exhibition at Queens Gallery that is of interest, it is a small gallery and the exhibition is all there is, skip that and Buckingham Palace.

editing to add: OK, the current exhibition runs until May 3 and is on George IV. The next one is Japanese art and starts June 12. If that is not of interest to you or if it doesn't work for your time frame, skip it.
https://www.rct.uk/visit/the-queens-gallery-buckingham-palace

https://www.rct.uk/visit/the-queens-gallery-buckingham-palace

You've got that day pretty loaded. To me Westminster Abbey and Churchill War Rooms makes a full day.

Day 2 is pretty packed as well. Although many love the Museum of London, I'd opt for the Tower of London, walk to Leadenhall Market(The Leaky Cauldron scenes were filmed here) from Tower of London, then on to St Pauls. If you have time add in Museum of London. Going across the river to the Globe and back is going to take time. I've generally spent 4-5 hours seeing all there is to see at Tower of London but you may not spend that much time there.

Here is a route suggestion via Leadenhall. There are some really neat small pedestrian streets in that area you can duck in and out of. Googlemaps won't route you but you can get a real map and see them, lol.

https://goo.gl/maps/PJh5sN9WT7RqWtd56

I'd make a decision on Windsor vs Hampton Court. Save something for your next trip. Windsor is an easier trip - you can do it in a half a day. Hampton Court, to me, takes at least 3/4 of a day. There is so much to see.

Posted by
16770 posts

Your list of activities for Day 3 looks quite long to me, even if you skip the Changing of the Guard. The Churchill War Rooms require a pre-purchased, timed ticket. Although there are 2-for-1 deals, you have to buy those tickets at the site, meaning a great deal of time in the very long ticket line; therefore, taking advantage of that deal is not practical. The tickets are very expensive (about US $30 for those 16 and up; $15 for younger children) and I don't consider the CWR worth it if your only interest is in seeing the rooms themselves (bare rooms with the occasional typewriter, telephone, cot, etc.) In addition, I suspect there's an audio guide I paid extra for, but I'm not certain about that. What makes the visit to the CWR very worthwhile is the Churchill Museum section, which covers the great man's life in detail and will be of high interest to folks seeking to learn more about WWII in the UK. Those people will want to spend a lot of time at the CWR; I believe I was there for over 4 hours, and maybe more than 5. (That's consistent with the timing mentioned on the website.) So my suggestion is that only people with a serious interest spend the money and considerable time needed for the CWR and that those people allow about a half-day for the visit.

If you have a lot of interest in WWII but think $75-$90 is too much money, you might consider the Imperial War Museum instead. It's not as conveniently located, but it's free/donation-requested, and I think the suggested donation is the equivalent of about US $10, perhaps less. I found the IWM extremely interesting even though I don't care at all about seeing airplanes, bombs, etc. It takes more than a full day to see the entire museum, so one needs to visit in chunks or be selective. Basically, what I'm saying is that--though the Churchill War Rooms are definitely worthwhile for some visitors--the IWM is a larger, better, cheaper sight. For me it's not remotely a close call.

On Day 4 I think you may not be planning sufficient time at Hampton Court. I confess I have not been there myself, but this Trip Advisor thread supports my instinctive reaction. At the moment, the palace doesn't open until 10 AM. I have no idea whether the summer hours are any longer; there's no indication of that on the website. Best case, I think you're going to be looking for lunch before you've seen any of the sights at Windsor.

I think there's a 2-for-1 deal at Hampton Court Palace, which could work out OK as long as ticket lines there are not long (and I haven't heard that they are). Both parties need a train (not Underground) ticket to qualify, so you have to go through a staffed gate upon arrival; automated gates would swallow the inbound train ticket. You also need a Days Out voucher, available from this website. Blank vouchers are also available in the Days Out brochure usually on hand at train stations, but it can take considerable time to find one of those brochures, so I highly recommend printing out the voucher and taking it with you.

I believe Big Ben is still shrouded.

Posted by
5235 posts

Yes Elizabeth’s Tower which is mistakenly called Big Ben ( that’s the interior bell) is in scaffolding and will be till 2021 or longer.

In Dec (2019) the clock face was visible. Not there now so can’t be certain that’s still the case. Maybe one of our London based community members can offer more up to date intel.

Posted by
90 posts

I have to put a word in for the Churchill War Rooms, originally called the Cabinet War Rooms, a better name which I preferred. There is a regular contributor here who appears not to like this attraction, criticises the entrance fee and undermines the secret bunker section, there are not bare rooms with a typewriter, this is a full 1940s period and detailed restoration, there is a power plant room (Piers Morgan interviewed POTUS in this room) a cafe and shop as well as the personal Churchill museum section which was added later and was never part of the Cabinet Rooms.

The CWR entrance prices adult £23/concessions £18 are in the range for a quality attraction, lower than the London Eye, and have you seen what the tourist honeytraps Tussauds and Dungeons want to take from people?

Bletchley Park is £20.

The Transport Museum charge £90 per adult for hidden tours of Churchill's secret tube station Down Street, closed in 1932, these always sell out.

The Postal Museum and railway, charges an entrance of £16 for adults and you can return again.

Posted by
16770 posts

To each his own, Dennis. I stand by my opinion that if you don't have an interest in and the time for the Churchill Museum part of the CWR, the entry fee is very high. I'm not saying it's unreasonable at all; as a package, the price is fair by London standards. But an awful lot of tourists won't take the time for the Churchill section, and for them I think it's not a good bang for the buck.

How much was the entry fee before they developed the Churchill Museum section and before the recent movie that caused the surge in interest? I'll bet it was less than half the current fee.

Posted by
5817 posts

Piers Morgan and POTUS in the same room!. That's a door I'd like to lock.

I don't have an opinion one way or the other about the Churchill War rooms but I do agree it's a lot of money to spend if it's a site that you don't have much,if any, interest in.

I get the impression that its now on the 'must see" list but that many people would probably be better off spending time and money elsewhere. It's not a criticism of the place you could say the same about many popular sites.
Decide where you really want to go, not where you think you ought to.

Posted by
573 posts

I was at Hampton Court in November and spent nearly the whole day there and still only saw about 2ghirds of the palace and none of the garden. It truely is amazing, give yourself time there so you dont feel rushed.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all so much for the information. I very much appreciate all the feedback.

VSC is the Victory Service Club. My husband is a retired AF pilot so, you can imagine that the CWR is of great interest to him as well as myself. While our teenager may not be as impressed with Churchill as we are, but it's an opportunity to educate her on an important part of history so it's definitely in the top 3.

I will research where we are going v. the London Pass. I can buy it at Costco and a decent enough rate and it may be worth the 'skip the line' advantage at a few sites.

Thank you for the dining suggestions and the alternative plan suggestions! Especially the Leadenhall Market suggestion. I think we will do that instead.

We have to come back to London for one night before our flight out. I think I will plan on getting in earlier rather than later and maybe we can use that day to go to Windsor Castle instead of trying to do both Hampton and Windsor in one day.

Thanks again! I still have a lot of time and this information is going to go a long way in ensuring a successful trip of a lifetime.

Posted by
1017 posts

Check https://www.walks.com/. The advantage is that you don't need to book in advance but just show up and pay the fee. We took two walks last time we were in London and really enjoyed it.

Posted by
4468 posts

How much was the entry fee before they developed the Churchill Museum section and before the recent movie that caused the surge in interest? I'll bet it was less than half the current fee.

In 2002 before the Churchill Museum and other extensions the entry fee was £5.80. In 2006 it was £10.50, in 2011 £14.50, and in 2015 £16.35.

Mind you many paid attractions have had equally hefty price rises over a similar time. St Pauls Cathedral is now £20 but was £5.00 in 2002. These days though there are far more ways of getting into attractions and not paying the posted walk-up price.

Posted by
16770 posts

Thanks, Marco. That's what I figured. The CWR attraction is much enhanced by the addition of the Churchill Museum, but the original post indicated that there will be far too little time available to see the entire thing.

The 2-for-1 deals are great, but if ticket lines are so long that advance purchase of tickets is necessary for visitors from out of town, the 2-for-1 option isn't viable for the typical tourist at that site.

Posted by
1029 posts

I'm the type to be out the door at 8 and not be back until it's time for bed. I don't know your travel style and how much you do/don't like to linger when at a site but your day 2 will be an all out sprint. We spent 6 hours at Tower of London alone. Museum of London is worth a couple of hours at least.

If you do go to Leadenhall Market, check out https://www.latasca.com/ to eat.

For Hampton Court or Windsor Castle I'd choose one or the other. I haven't been to Windsor castle yet but loooved Hampton Court. We spent the entire day there.

Our favourite restaurant in London was http://www.sancarlocicchetti.co.uk in Covent Garden. Not that you don't have enough to do, but if you eat there, and you have some James Bond fans in your group, check out the London Film Museum across the street.

Posted by
7640 posts

"I can buy it at Costco and a decent enough rate and it may be worth the 'skip the line' advantage at a few sites."

Make sure the "skip the line" is actually skipping the line. The last time I went to the War Rooms (2018) the London Pass people had to stand in line with the non-ticket holders to get in, so no advantage there. I had purchased our tickets ahead and we still had to wait a bit after our entry time to be admitted. They only let a few in at a time so the facility is not overwhelmed. If someone has had a different experience with the London Pass and the skip the line at the War Rooms in 2019, obviously go with their experience!

The thing I like best about the War Rooms is that you are standing in the halls where Churchill stood/worked/smoked his cigars. That is so powerful to me and is not something you can get in a museum.

There is an excellent bookstore at the end so you may need to plan some time for this. My brother picked up a book on American servicemen in Britain in WWII and very oddly the book fell open to a story about a guy who was in our Dad's WWII fighter squadron. Quite shocking the book would open to that page.

Posted by
5235 posts

Now that I’ve learned about Where your lodgings are I will recommend two spots I dined at this past December.

Tudkin Flavors of Malaysia 2 blocks from Paddington Station and The Victoria pub at Stratherarn Place.

I will return to Tudkin over and over. The fresh mussels I had in a broth infused with Lemon Grass was extremely tasty,

The Victoria pub is gorgeous and one of the best Sunday roasts I’ve had during my numerous London visits. Hubby will like the beer. I like finding interesting pubs while traveling in London. This pub made me smile!

Both are easy 15-20 minute strolls from the Victory Services Club.

Be sure to check their hours on each of their websites.

Enjoy your stay in my favorite city on the planet.

Posted by
4 posts

We will definitely check out the Victoria Pub. We do have a jam packed schedule but like I said before, that's how I plan and then we always have something on our 'to do' list it's just a matter of if we can get to it. Musts are Tower of London, London Eye, Harry Potter, Hampton Court, Windsor Castle, Churchill War Rooms, St Pauls Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. If we get to see all of those we will leave London happy but wanting for more which is always how you should leave a vacation IMO.

There is no "fast track" for CWR. If it's really busy we will head over to the Imperial War Museum as suggested. This has been so helpful and had me editing our days so they will be more efficient. Thanks again to you all!

Posted by
5235 posts

Safe travels!

London is a wonderful city to explore!

Have fun!

Posted by
2589 posts

If you plan on going to Windsor your last day why don’t just spend your last night in Windsor, it’s a 15 minute cab ride to Heathrow.

Posted by
28 posts

Someone made a very good suggestions as to ending up in Windsor for last night accommo's as you are 10 mile then from Heathrow....Did you know that there's also a Changing of the Guards at Windsor Castle? Back in London proper, I prefer the "Changing of the Royal Horse Guards' ceremony to the hugely crowded one at Buckingham Palace. The 'Horses' add an extra element of elegance. Agreed that Churchill War Rooms needs proper time. Your Day 2 looks...very packed an d challenging. The Tour of Shakespeare's Globe was very worthwhile, but...lengthy.