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London in Two Days

Hi Everyone -

I am heading to London next week. We arrive in the afternoon on Nov. 3 and we will depart EARLY in the morning on Nov. 6. This will give us two full days (Nov 4 & 5) in London. We will be traveling with 3 women in their 60's and 1 in her late 80's. All of them are spry and get around fairly well. My question is this: What would you suggest we see in the 2 full days we have? All of the women will want to see the most popular sites ie, B-ham palace, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey etc... And they ALL are set on going to Harrods! Thanks in advance for any advice!

Posted by
8236 posts

That pretty much uses up your time!

You can't go in to Buckingham Palace this time of year, but you can look at it from the outside. Do that after you have done Westminster Abbey as it is nearby and close enough to walk to. You might be able to work Harrods in that afternoon. If you want to move Harrods to tomorrow the Churchill War Rooms are in the area between Westminster and Buckingham Palace and are extremely interesting, in my view.

The next day you could start with the Tower of London (take the free Yeoman Warder tour so you can get in to the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula where Anne Boleyn is buried) and look at the Crown Jewels. Have lunch then maybe do St Pauls Cathedral and you are out of time.

If you don't want another church, you could do whichever interests you most - National Gallery of Art (right on Trafalgar Square) or British Museum (Rosetta Stone, Elgin marbles, Lewis Chessmen) or the London Museum or Harrods.

Posted by
544 posts
  • Changing of the Guard is 11:30 every other day. I think it's worth it.
  • The Cabinate War Rooms.
  • British Museum using the short walking tour in Rick's London book is execellent.
  • the Treasures Exhibit in the British Library.
  • A West End Show
Posted by
4741 posts

1st full day - you may still be suffering jetlag. Westminster Abbey tour, Parliament, take a riverboat trip, walk through the parks to Buckingham Palace.

Harrods is out of your way unless you are staying near there. I disagree that it's a must-see. Last time I was there it was catering more to the taste of its Middle Eastern owners than European tastes. Selfridges on Oxford Street is a better store and has a great foodhall and I agree with Emma that Liberty is a must.

Day 2 - The Tower, lunch at Borough Market, walk the South Bank and the National and Portrait Galleries before going to Leicester Square ticket booth to get tickets for a show.

Buses are a great way to get around and you see something of London at the same time. Avoid the tube at peak times unless you are prepared to be jostled by frantic commuters.

Posted by
7124 posts

Nov 4
09:00 Picadilly Circus
09:30 Trafalgar Square
10:00 National Gallery
12:00 #15 Red Bus to Tower Bridge
12:30 Tower of London
14:30 St. Paul's Cathedral
16:00 Tate Modern (closes 1800) **
19:00 Covent Garden for a typical London pub

Nov 5
09:00 Hyde Park
11:00 Buckingham Palace (Changing of the Guard scheduled for 'odd' dates in Nov)
12:00 St. James's Park
12:30 Westminster Abbey (Holy Communion - weekdays)
14:00 Houses of Parliament & Big Ben
14:30 London Eye (or Banqueting House, or Churchill War Rooms) **
15:45 No 10 Downing Street
16:00 Horse Guards (Four O’Clock Parade)
17:00 Shopping in Knightsbridge - Harvey Nichols (closes 8pm) & Harrods (closes 9pm)

** Drop these out of your schedule for a less rushed day.

Posted by
2624 posts

David has given you a good schedule. If you are not into modern or contemporary art, substitute the British Museum for Tate Modern on your day one. The British Museum is full of items from British history and world history. The Egyptian and Greek items are amazing. And they have the Rosetta Stone, a real prize for any museum.

Posted by
9 posts

I agree, David's itinerary is fantastic!! Any suggestions on how to squeeze in Hampton Court and maybe get rid of a few museums? Also, we will be staying in Kensington if that helps with the planning.

Posted by
2624 posts

Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace is very crowded, if you want to be able to see you will have to get there around 10am, the women might not want to stand and wait that long. There isn't any changing on the 4th, you would have to go on the 5th. Of course, you need to see Buckingham Palace, but with only two days I wouldn't waste the time waiting to see the changing. Instead, walk around the corner and visit the Royal Mews or the Queens Gallery it's open every day 10:00am-5:30pm.

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks for the info Emma. Hampton Court is an absolute must, we will have to sacrifice other sites in order to see it.....

Posted by
7124 posts

Nov 4
09:00 Piccadilly Circus
09:30 Trafalgar Square
10:00 #15 Red Bus to St Paul's
10:30 St. Paul's Cathedral
11:30 #15 Red Bus to Tower Bridge
12:00 Tower of London - external view only
12:30 Tube - District Line to Westminster, then Jubilee Line to Waterloo
13:00 Train to Hampton Court Palace (closes 4.30pm) from Waterloo Station
19:00 Covent Garden for a typical London pub

Posted by
2624 posts

Many of the tourist sights such as Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square (which are mainly intersections of traffic, except Trafalgar has the black lion statues and Nelson's Column), Houses of Parliament & Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace CAN be just drive-by sights if you are pressed for time, which you are. You are in the position of wanting to see a lot in a short period of time, plus include a trip to Hampton Court. To actually go into each and every one of the sights, such as the Houses of Parliament, would take a tremendous amount of time. Hyde Park, St. James's Park are great for a walk, but it's up to you if you want to spend time there. That's why, for some places you have heard of, a drive by and a good look may suffice for this trip.

In my opinion, a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour could be a very good idea for you. The buses do a 2-hour loop around the tourist sights, with narration as to what you are seeing, and the history of each sight. It is a fantastic way to get an overview of all of London in two hours. It will help you to see it all, get a glance at everything, pick the things you want an in-depth visit to, then spend the next two days visiting the sights. Your ticket is good for 24 hours, and during that time, you can ride the bus as much as you want. You can ride, hop off, go see a sight, hop back on and ride the loop awhile. This ticket also includes a boat ride on the River Thames. This is a great way to see the landmarks in London from the river.

John, with this new information: "Hampton Court is an absolute must", here is a new schedule for you:

Nov. 3--Only 1/2 day, or 1/3 day.
Arrive in London, get to hotel from airport, get checked into hotel, freshen up in room(s).
Get out for a walk or sightseeing, to avoid jet lag.
Buy a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket for each person. Do the two hour loop around London.
Do one quick sight, such as Harrod's.(Because the ladies want to see it.)
Take the river boat ride that comes with your HOHO bus ticket.

Nov 4
Use your hop-on-hop-off bus ticket to get across town to the Tower of London.
Get to the Tower of London first thing in the morning, to avoid crowds.
The Tower has a good lunch cafe when you are through with sightseeing at The Tower.
Take bus to St. Paul's.--If you have chosen not to buy a HOHO bus ticket,
then you will take the Number 15 bus from Tower to St. Paul's.
Then bus or tube to Westminster Abbey.

Nov 5
Leave for Hampton Court early in the morning. Take train out. It will take 1/2 day or 3/4 of a day to see it properly.
Hampton Court has a cafe for lunch.
Take train back to London.

Museums you may want to choose from that afternoon include:
The British Museum
The National Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The V&A
Tate
Tate Modern
Museum of London

***Pick and choose from this list which you want to see. Meaning, a couple of them, not all. If you don't like museums, don't go to any of them.

This would be the time to visit other attractions that are "must sees" for you, such as Churchill War Rooms.

Maybe some combination of David's list and my list will be helpful to you. Have a great trip!

Posted by
39 posts

Wow, Emma gave you a great suggestion on Hampton Court Palace and the National Portrait Gallery. I am making that a day's itinerary for us later in November. Liberty over Harrods any day if you are actually shopping. Harrods can be a great show.

Posted by
8236 posts

I so agree about putting must see sights at the beginning of the day, particularly if you are fully committed to spending the time to go out to Hampton Court Palace. It is one of my favorite sights, but it also is huge and requires a lot of energy. There is no way I would start for there after lunch. It is a bit of a walk from the train station over the bridge and down the long walk to the ticket booth and then the entrance. The Palace itself is huge although you can't go in every room. The Gardens are massive and you will want to spend at least a short time looking at them even if the weather is poor. (Oldest grape vine in the world or something like that??)

It is really hard to understand exactly how much walking you will do on a day trip like this what with walking to the rail station, walking within the rail station, walking to the palace, walking around the Palace, and doing it in reverse. Unless the Hampton Court is the top choice of the 80 year old, who may have the least chance of coming back, I would probably see other sights in London for a better use of time. I DO understand it is your vacation and everyone makes choices on what they want to do!

Everyone in your group probably needs to say what their #1 site choice is and then go from there in building a quick itinerary.

I do like Rebecca's suggestion for the HoHo on the first afternoon to get in the drive by sights.

Posted by
2624 posts

John, you're welcome!

To get to the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery that Emma spoke of, you will take the bus (or tube) to Trafalgar Square. The number 15 from Tower Hill will get you all the way to Trafalgar Square, and you will see a lot of sights along the way.

The large building on the north side of Trafalgar Square houses those museums. You can see the fountains, black lion statues, and Nelson's Column while you are standing in Trafalgar Square. Look to your right. That church spire is St. Martin-In-The-Fields. There is a very good place for lunch there, downstairs, called Cafe In The Crypt. All around the square are grand buildings. But you will also find hundreds of people standing, looking, and taking photos.

Posted by
7124 posts

Reverse your day on Nov 4 to be at Hampton Court for opening at 10am.
(3 hours at HCP would be a minimum but worthwhile I think)

Nov 4
09:00 Train to Hampton Court Palace (opens 10am) from Waterloo Station (check times)
10:00 Hampton Court Palace http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/planyourvisit/openingtimes
13:00 Train to London Waterloo from Hampton Court (check times)
14:00 Tube - Jubilee Line from Waterloo to Westminster then District Line to Tower Hill
14:30 Tower of London and Tower Bridge - photo stop only
15:00 #15 Red Bus to St Paul's
15:30 St. Paul's Cathedral - last entry 4pm for visitors https://www.stpauls.co.uk/
(Choral Evensong at 5pm would also be a possibility)
16:30 #15 Red Bus to Charing Cross (sunset is at 4:28pm)
17:00 Trafalgar Square (National Gallery closes 6pm if you want to dash in (free) for a Van Gogh)
18:00 Piccadilly Circus illuminations and Soho bar hop
http://www.timeout.com/london/bars-pubs/soho-london-bars
19:00 Covent Garden for a typical London pub
http://www.timeout.com/london/bars-pubs/covent-garden-pubs

Posted by
7124 posts

Emma, I know my schedule above is frantic, bordering on madness, but you could modify it along the way.
For example, head straight to St Pauls from Waterloo if you are running late from Hampton Court, as long as you are in by 4pm. Or, make your photo stop of Tower Bridge and then head to St Pauls for Evensong at 5pm, remembering it's a seated service.
Trafalgar Square would be in darkness by then, so check it out on the 5th after Horseguards, before getting the Tube from Piccadilly Circus to Knightsbridge for Harrods.

Posted by
7124 posts

You're most welcome John.
Good luck with it all - hit the ground running.
Hard to believe this is for next Wed/Thu.
Let me know how you go.

Posted by
7124 posts

John, if the more elderly member of your party is less sprightly then it probably makes a huge difference to the speed of things. I am terribly sorry for my swift timings which are based on a more average mobility. I am sure with all the suggestions you have received you will mould something that is suitable to your requirements.

Posted by
281 posts

Time your trip to Harrods to have lunch in their food court. Many foods you can not get back in the States.

Tower of London may take severval hours.

I try to take an Unseen Tour Walking Tour of London each time I am there.

Posted by
24 posts

Most of the itineraries suggested here are absurdly overly optimistic. Scheduling by the hour is insane. You're there for the experience, not in a race to see as many "sights" as possible. Also, any schedule depends on hotel location. The people suggesting these itineraries that have you running around for 8 straight hours are must be 20 years old. At your age, you may well want to come back to the hotel for a rest at some point in the day. This greatly affects scheduling.

Personally, I would skip the Tower Of London. It is extremely underwhelming, despite the hype. I also wouldn't bother with Harrods. It's just another department store. A bit bigger and fancier than most, but its still just a department store like at home, except for the food display. Ditto for Oxford Street. St. Paul's Cathedral is surprisingly plain. I'd certainly go there on a longer trip, but personally it doesn't begin to compare to cathedrals in Spain, France, etc. In short a short trip, going out of town to Hampton Court would be a big mistake. You don't want to run around too much. It's kill most of a full day. On the other hand, I would make the V&A an absolute must.

The best simple strategy is to divide each day into two sections, AM, PM, with possible down time in between. That gives you four slots, not counting evenings. I would start by devoting one slot to some kind of bus tour that takes you all around the city for a few hours. You can see a lot of the iconic landmarks in a short time. Places like Trafalger Square aren't really all that interesting and you can get to see them with a small cost of time and effort. You can also scope out anything that might seem of particular interest.

The V&A should be one slot. I've been around and it's by far the best museum I've ever seen. Be sure to have lunch their at their spectacular lunch room. Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament another slot for sure. A third possible concentration is British Museum, Covent Garden and John Soanes House, which is one of my favorite places in London. I'd go there over the British museum. For another, maybe Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens and I'm going to guess that the nice afternoon tea at the Orangery would work well for you. It is a beautiful spot, but it is also ala cart and quite cheap by London Standards.

Also, I would try to get in one of the "Walks Of London". They are great, cheap and you really learn about the place. They have them in the evening, so that might be a good option. If possible, look in particular for ones guided by Shaughn Seymour, an actor you've probably seen many, many times in various British shows like Poirot, Marple, Sherlock Holmes, etc.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you everyone for all of the suggestions. We are back home from our trip and had a fabulous time. On the evening of day one we went to Harrod's (the ladies LOVED it). Day 2 went to had Hampton Court and made it back into the city with PLENTY of time to explore and have dinner. Day 3 we toured Westminster Abbey (Prince Harry and Prince Phillip sighting!!), saw No. 10 Downing Street, Big Ben, Parliament, toured the Tower of London and The Royal Jewels and ended with Buckingham Palace. We did purchase the hop on/off bus pass and I can say that that was the biggest WASTE of money. We wasted hours in traffic and the buses DO NOT run on time! Next time we will ONLY use the tube and trains and taxis!

Posted by
7124 posts

I will telegraph Sir Christopher Wren to let him know St Pauls Cathedral is "surprisingly plain".