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London in a Day

Hi, we will be pulling into South Hampton after a cruise of the British Isles. We will be in port very early so wanted to go into the city until our flight leaves in the evening.
Has anyone done this before and can give tips about how to get into London, where to store our luggage, what is the best way to see London in a day?

Posted by
5178 posts

Take the train to London. Pick one place you really want to see and focus in on that. You really won’t have time to do a lot more than that.

Posted by
5551 posts

The train station is just over a mile from Southampton Docks. Ensure you don’t take the cheaper but slower train into London which takes 2.5 hours. Most trains take around 1.5 hours. Travelling into London early in the morning on a weekday will be busy with commuters.

Are you flying out of Heathrow? To the USA? Check in time will be 3 hours minimum before your departure time and allow at least an hour to get out to Heathrow - take the tube.

I have never left luggage in London, so I can’t help with that point. What interests you? How many hours are you going to have in London? An alternative would be to head to Windsor which is nearer to Heathrow.

Posted by
1782 posts

You can take a train direct train from the Southampton Central station to London’s Waterloo station (2h). I’ve never stored luggage in London but it sounds like you have options.
If you don’t have a particular place in mind to see, download Rick Steves app and take his City self-guided walking tour. This is London’s birthplace 2,000 years ago and was one-mile long but you’ll pass plenty and be able to stop inside the Ye Old Cheshire Cheese tavern (walk around until you find the cave-like room that’s down a few steps and order a meal). Afterwards you’ll pass London Bridge before needing to collect your bags and go to the airport.

Posted by
27743 posts

I agree with Jennifer's advice - don't take the slow train mentioned in the post just above. Trains are as fast as 1:20 into Waterloo or a change is possible at Reading for a train into Paddington which is just a few minutes slower.

I wouldn't advise doing that train with the Reading change. It is best left to the commuters who don't mind cramming in (well, in my experience they do mind but they are used to it and stoical). Also Paddington will be of little use to you for your brief sojourn, unless you decide you want to leave your bags there (£££) to collect before a ride on the Heathrow Express or the Elizabeth Line.

Better to go into Waterloo and go from there, and then tube on to Heathrow (is it indeed Heathrow, more flights now are back at Gatwick, in completely the opposite direction??).

How early is getting off the ship and to the station? You said very early - what does that mean?

What time is your flight? What does evening mean? With 3 hours ahead for check in and security (and Heathrow has had long queues recently due to covid) and an hour from central London, what time do you need to be heading to the airport?

Are you on a weekday so might be competing with the rush hour (starts to wind down in central London around 7 or 7:30pm) or after it? Or are you on a weekend?

For the few hours that you will have, what 2 or 3 top things call out to you? Is this your first trip to London? Will you have cruise sized luggage?

Posted by
5178 posts

Quick question. Will you be doing pre-departure Covid testing on the ship or will you need to fit this in as well?

Posted by
60 posts

I would take the train from Southampton to London Waterloo. Waterloo has a left luggage service right there at the station called Excess Baggage. It’s not cheap (about £10 or £12 a bag) but it’s handy.

From there, head towards the London Eye on the bank of the Thames - very short walk, signposted. Right opposite you, the classic view of the Houses of Parliament.

From the London Eye pier you can pick up a Thames Clipper there for a quick river trip, or a sightseeing boat for a longer trip with commentary. https://www.londoneye.com/tickets-and-prices/general-tickets/river-cruise/ Both will take you down to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, those other classic London sights.

Or you could walk along the South Bank heading east for a really interesting stroll with lots of good things to see. Depending on how long you have, you could walk down to the Millennium Bridge, walk across to look at St Paul’s Cathedral.

From either St Paul’s Cathedral or Tower of London, you can catch the number 15 bus all the way to Charing Cross, from where you can have a quick peek at Trafalgar Square before crossing the river back to Waterloo to collect your bags.

Are you flying from Heathrow?

From Waterloo to Heathrow, several choices:

Cheapest is tube all the way - Bakerloo line to Piccadilly Circus, then switch to Piccadilly line and take it all the way to Heathrow.

Or Bakerloo line to Paddington, where you can pick up the Heathrow Express (much more expensive, a little quicker). Or jump in a cab to Paddington for the Heathrow Express.

You’ll need to leave an hour for the journey back to Heathrow, so this all very much depends on your flight time!

Posted by
331 posts

Just to confirm, the fast trains from Southampton central to Londown Waterloo pretty much run twice an hour on the 1/2 hour - are direct and take between 1:15 to 1:30. You should be able to get a seat releatively easily - the trains are busy but the tend to really fill up at Winchester.

Posted by
23 posts

Just to answer some of your questions...We pull into port at 6am, so my husband and I will be up early and ready to disembark when they open the doors.

Also a change in plans.... with all your input we have decided to delay our flight until the next day, so I think we are going to see London the first day and then go to Windsor the next day, see the castle and then head to the airport which is closer to Hethrow...so any input on that plan is helpful.
We have to have a negative COVID test when we get on the ship....do you have to get another one to get off the ship?

Posted by
23 posts

By the way, we travel light so we will both have a backpack and a rolling carry-0n.

Posted by
5178 posts

@bj at this point in time, you need a negative Covid test taken no earlier than the day before your flight to enter the United States. You will need to schedule this into your day unless this requirement changes.

Sometimes the ship will offer this as a service. However, if you are staying another night, you could not take it any earlier than the day you disembark.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks Carol, Have you done this before in London? If so where did you go to get your COVID testing?

Posted by
5178 posts

Yes, I went to a Randox test center
https://booking.randox.ie/covid-19-testing/

You can also do a proctored home test kit that you bring with you, such as the Binax Now. It must be proctored (observed) over the internet.

I have done both. The proctored home test and the testing center. They both work. We used the testing center across the street from Waterloo Station and I think that would be a good fit since you are arriving at Waterloo by train.

Posted by
5178 posts

It worked out to $44 each for testing after it was charged to my card. The results were ready about 30 minutes later.

You don't need to wait for the results since they email them to you. It takes about 10 minutes to do the test and then you are on your way.

Posted by
70 posts

Didn’t try to head to Windsor the same day as your flight. The castle doesn’t open until 10am and you need to arrive at Heathrow three hours before your flight, though I am assuming you have an afternoon flight. If that is what you are most wish to see, just go there after you drop off your bags at your hotel. Traffic is VEY unpredictable around London, and traffic jams are not uncommon. One time we just sat for an hour about 3 miles from the airport because of a car accident. Thank goodness we left enough time and the security lines were not bad.

It is much easier to zip somewhere in London in the morning if you have a later flight.

Posted by
11253 posts

Figure out what you want to do.

Figure out where you want to stay.

Then let us know and we can help with the specifics.

When is your trip?

Posted by
23 posts

In our one day in London we would like to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Bridge, Westminster Abby, other than that... not sure what we want to see. Do you all suggest buying the tickets to tour any of these? Also that evening we will be going to Windsor and not really sure where to stay. We already have tickets to Windsor Castle at 9:30 am. After that we might see a little of Windsor and then head to the airport to be there at 1pm. Flight is 4:00pm.

Posted by
13 posts

It reminded me of the trip I took to British Isles, it's heavenly.

Posted by
70 posts

You need to book tours to get inside Buckingham Palace or the Queen's Gallery and Big Ben is closed to visitors. Westminster Abby is really great, but again you need to book advance tickets. It is a 17min walk from Buckingham Palace to W.Abby. They you can take the Jubilee line up to London Bridge. Or walk 45min if it is nice weather. You can also check out The Tower of London and Borough Market, both very close to the Tower of London.

Depending where you are staying, The Regency Cafe near Westminster Abby is perfect for a hearty breakfast. It reminds me of the old US diners, fast service and huge portions. The best tea in London too! For more ideas for food around London, check out Eater.com and The Culture Trip.com I have found some fun and affordable places through them.