Please sign in to post.

Looking for Ideas in and Around London

My wife and I will be arriving in London after 8pm on September 18 we will be staying at an Airbnb until the 23rd when we depart via train to Belgium.
We are looking for ideas for places to see and go to. What day trips should we consider? What pubs should we go to that are not touristy so we can get a feel for what it’s like to be a local.

Thank you!

Posted by
3532 posts

Since you ate already on this site, why not start with the information it provides under the Explore Europe menu, left side of this page?

Posted by
166 posts

The Rick Steves London book would probably answer your questions better than anything we could offer but I would definitely see Westminister Abby, National Gallery and Trifalgar Square, The Tower, British Museum and shop at Covent Gardens. For outside of London trips I would spend a day seeing Hampton Court Palace and Kew Gardens. Hope you have a wonderful trip, I love going to London and if your a theater fan like me consider the Globe theater for a authentic Shakespeare play!

Posted by
5628 posts

Get a guidebook and decide what interests you. As far as pubs look at fancy a pint website and decide for yourself.

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you. Guidebooks are all fine and well. What I am asking for however are tips from people’s own experiences in and around London. Hope this helps to clarify things.

Posted by
911 posts

We had a great time as 'groundlings' at Romeo and Juliet in the Globe, elbows on the stage! Go to the Blackfriars Pub before hand for dinner, good food and good ambiance. Tower of London and the verger tour at Westminster Abbey are musts, and I would recommend picking out some London Walks. Hampton Court and Kew Gardens are a little ways out of the city, and we loved having our meal in the crypt of St. Martin's in the Fields on Trfalgar Square. Good food and a good cause.

Posted by
9767 posts

Kalzak,
You are asking a group of volunteers who do not know you to plan your very few days in London. We do not know your tastes, energy level, size of group, etc. A good guidebook is essential not only for you to decide priorities but as a source of info while you travel. For example, London transportation deserves some consideration, too much to try to tell here.

You will barely see the highlights on London proper in 4 days. Rick does have some itinerary guidance here https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/england/london-itinerary.

Pubs that may make you feel like a local are everywhere. Where are you staying?

Posted by
20 posts

Laurel,
I am not asking for anyone to plan our trip. I am simply asking for ideas from people’s personal experiences. What my wife and I do with said ideas will be up to us. We have the guidebooks. They are helpful; however I’m sure there has to other hidden gems as well.

Posted by
936 posts

I highly recommend some London Walks tours. No reservations required, just show up, pay, and get guided around an area or venue. I guess in London proper we most enjoyed our day at the Tower of London and ambling around Borough market. Look for the bubblegum art on Millenium bridge. I never did see it. We only took one out of town day trip and that was to Hampton Court. Awesome trip!!!

I've included a link to my trip report from last fall which rates the London Walks we took. Scroll down to the 4th entry. trip report

Posted by
6587 posts

Book tickets ahead to tour the inside of Buckingham Palace, a wonderful experience available certain dates from August to October. We added the gardens to our tickets.
Churchill's War Rooms , also buy tickets ahead. We found it so interesting to see where much of WWII history took place.
My favorite is Westminster Abbey. Tickets available online but we just walked in last year.
Day trip, train from Paddington Station, one change to Windsor Castle- it is imperative that you buy tickets ahead. Lines went way down the hill into town. Our favorite part was St. George’s Chapel where the upcoming royal wedding will take place.
Just walking around London and it’s neighborhoods is wonderful. Enjoy.

Posted by
50 posts

One of my favorite museums that I didn't get to on my first few visits to London is the Victoria & Albert Museum. It has beautiful pieces from all over the world and is free to enter. Another "must do" every time I'm in London is the British Museum (also free). No matter how many times I visit, I don't think I'll ever be bored with it. Borough Market is my favorite place to grab lunch from a food stand, and there are lots of local, atmospheric pubs nearby.

Posted by
12189 posts

September is our favorite time to be in London, our favorite city. There is a month-long festival to celebrate the Thames, with all kinds of events, including walks, historical talks, art installations, and other events all up and down the river (but mostly in London). The event calendar is just being built, so keep an eye on the website:

http://totallythames.org

As for pubs, it would help to know where you are staying. For good food, we like the Mitre at Lancaster Gate ( north side of Hyde Park). It is fairly large, with numerous rooms, and probably qualifies as a gastropub. Near Paddington, we once stopped in to the Sir Alexander Fleming and it seemed to be full of locals half our age. We did not eat, only drank, so I cannot speak to the food. But definitely not "touristy". Then there was a very atmospheric old pub near the Inns of Court and LSE whose name I cannot recall. We liked the look but we were hungry and the menu was so edgy we could not find anything to eat there.

Posted by
4364 posts

What pubs should we go to that are not touristy so we can get a feel for what it’s like to be a local.

You're in London, there are over 3,500 pubs to choose from! If I recommended a handful to you you can bet that you'll receive recommendations for a handful of different pubs from many other posters although how many are going to be located in the areas you're going to visit is anyone's guess.

What is it about a 'locals' pub that attracts you? Such pubs range from ornate Victorian affairs through to bog standard Wetherspoons and rough dives full of dodgy characters. Some of the nicest pubs can be touristy whilst there are plenty of 'locals' pubs that I would never set foot in. I tend to choose pubs based on their beer selection not by who is likely to be there however by choosing a pub that specialises in craft beer I know that it's unlikely to be frequented by the type who queue up outside Wetherspoons at 9 am.

Posted by
4740 posts

You want ideas what to see? If I had a free day in London, I would go bird watching at London Wetland Centre.

Most people working in London can’t afford to live anywhere near central London, which is where you are likely to be staying, so any pubs that you come across are more likely to be full of office workers or tourists than locals! Try any of the pubs on and around Marylebone Lane and have fish and chips at the nearby Golden Hind. Avoid Wetherspoons pubs.

Posted by
5628 posts

Oh so you just want to know about what others have experienced to see if you want to try it.

I’ve provided a lengthy London trip report in the trip
Report section of this website. Been going to London since the 70’s. Might find something of interest by taking a gander.

As far as a list of things to see and do:
Sir John C Ritblatt gallery at the British Library
Walk along the Regents Canal
Camden Lock Market
Portobello Market
Hampton Court
Durham Cathedral
The Globe
Theatre
Hampstead Heath
Highgate Cementary
Kew Gardens
Greenwich
Performance at Royal Albert Hall
Leadenhall Market
London Walks
St Brides
Westminister Abbey
Churchill War Rooms
Horniman Museum
Brick Lane
Fortum and Mason
Liberty
Crystal Palace Park

To name a few.

Look at Timeout London online as well.

Pubs: princess of Prussia, the grenadier, the Pride of Spitafields.

Posted by
107 posts

London is about walking and riding the tube. I'm 70 and my wife is 64. We typically walk around 10 - 12 miles a day doing this sort of visit. As avid photographers we tend to concentrate on cathedrals, castles, old buildings, that sort of thing. Museums are not really our thing, with the exceptions of the British Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Given that, our particular favorites in London and within a two hour train ride are The Tower London (the tour is good, but not mandatory) and Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Highgate Cemetery is really good, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park, Westminster Abbey (mandatory), the Houses of Parliament (Big Ben, you know) and the Jewel Tower, The Cabinet War Rooms (mandatory, and I think I sometimes see it listed as the Churchill War Rooms or some such), Canterbury and it's Cathedral, Dover Castle, The Isle of Wight.

It might or might not be useful to look at some of these photos and see if there's anything that strikes your fancy.

If you want to stretch your boundaries a bit you might look into some places in Wales.

The George is billed as the only remaining galleried coach inn. I rather liked it. There's also a pub called, if memory serves, The Lion and Crown or sum such, pretty much directly across the street from Big Ben. If you locate the statue of Churchill in front of Parliament he's pretty much looking at it (with a gleam in his eye some say :) )

Posted by
991 posts

Funny you should ask. My daughters and I have made a few lists on places we want to go/see next time we go to London,.

A ghost Walk or Jack the Ripper
Speedy's Café if you're Sherlockians. Or not
The Chislehurst Caves
Bletchley Park
John Soames museum
St Barts
Dennis Seavers
A bit of mudlarking
E London Mosque
The Foundling Museum
Evensong at Westminister
Tea at Claridges...wouldn't that be lovely
The Sherlock Holmes..my favorite pub
Rent bicycles and ride around Hyde Park
or Watch people ride around Hyde Park
Hampton Court for me the gardens this time
The Museum of London...
The Borough Market
The Imperial War Museum
Tea at a taxi stand..all of them are on my bucket list...only done two so far..
Platform 9 3/4

Posted by
991 posts

IMHO the OP got some answers that were a bit shirty. Anyone asking a question here knows they can buy a guide book or go on line, what they want is our opinions. We don't have to narrow it down to a persons budget or interests. Just tell them what we like or hope to do. Mebbe they'll do it first and tell us if they liked it. I've been to the UK 20 times and still read this site looking for something I haven't tried or a reminder of what I'd like to do again.

Oh, RobinZ and I also like the Swan near Lancaster Gate tube station...

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you for all the great tips and ideas for places to see and pubs to check out.
For the record, our Airbnb is near Finsbury Park. How long are pubs normally open?

Posted by
5628 posts

Shirty answers. Really?

No its the Scarlett O’hara Syndrome “ I always depend on the kindness of strangers.”

Or reading Cliff Notes or Wikipedia instead making time to research anything.

Their other post admitted first time travelers.

Hopefully they will have learned to get the Oyster Card as Finsbury Park isn’t close to the city center.

Posted by
103 posts

I would add The Wallace Collection (free and also has a great cafe) and visiting Greenwich to the suggestions. Your guide books will give you the Greenwich options. Best on a good weather day.

Posted by
4364 posts

How long are pubs normally open?

It really depends on the pub and location but for London, in busy places, I'd suggest 2 am is the average.

Posted by
20 posts

Claudia, we have the books and are researching. Like I said more than once, I’m just asking for tips and ideas from seasoned travelers. I’d say that would be over researching.
Also, we are well aware that Finsbury Park is a hike from city centre so yes, we are getting Oyster cards.
As far as not saying that we are first timers? My bad.

Posted by
4740 posts

Most pubs that I have frequented in London close between 11pm and midnight, often 10/10.30 pm on a Sunday.

Posted by
4364 posts

Most pubs that I have frequented in London close between 11pm and midnight, often 10/10.30 pm on a Sunday.

Maybe I'm going to the wrong sort of pubs!

Posted by
14 posts

I cannot tell you how much we have enjoyed London Walks walking tours. The guides are great, the walks are reasonably priced and we have learned so much. We have probably done a dozen of them over the past several years and never been disappointed. I would also say some other favorite places are Imperial War Museum, Borough Market, Churchill War Room. Easy but great day trips we've enjoyed are Windsor, Cambridge, Bath and Greenwich.

Posted by
26 posts

I like the Geffrey Museum in Shoreditch for a glimpse at life in London through the ages. It has rooms furnished as would have been typical of different "middle class" families from about Tudor or Stuart times until the recent past. That's not usually on people's top 10 lists, but it's an interesting place to visit and see a different bit of London from Westminster and Kensington. Easy to get to from Liverpool Station if you don't mind a little bit more of a walk. There's also a light rail station right behind the museum itself, I think. I've enjoyed eating at the on site café, too, for a light meal. They also have lovely gardens that are also styled by period.

Posted by
1187 posts

Just looked up the Geffrey as it looked like my type of thing but I saw that it is closed until 2020 for renovations but will continue to have outdoor events such as "London Cheese" for tastings.

Posted by
14 posts

Enjoyed the recommendations here! I'm heading to London again in a few weeks and appreciate the personal insights of other travelers. As others have acknowledged, guidebooks can only do so much for one's planning.We really enjoyed our walks through Hyde Park and along the walkways by the Thames (area around the Globe). Oh, and wrt an earlier post, I love both of these characters. Blanche DuBois (A Streetcar Named Desire) enjoys the kindness of strangers. Scarlett O'Hara depends on tomorrow being another day. I imagine both quotations will apply to my trip at some point!

Posted by
12189 posts

To Claudia's and Laurel's excellent lists I will add the HMS Belfast, which is moored by the South Bank near Tower Bridge. And the marina at St. Katherine's dock, near there on the Tower of London side. (We saw an amazingly ornate boat moored there, purportedly belonging to the Queen, but it was not a yacht. More like something used for river trips or ceremonies).

Walking across Tower Bridge is always fun, and the lower level is free.

Posted by
72 posts

There’s a pub in the Chinatown area called O’Neills. Gerrard Street and Wardour Street. Now: it’s a bit of a chain pub but the history of the place is incredible because it’s the former location of The WAG Club. The London equivalent of CBGB’s, where music genres got their start, where David Bowie filmed the video for Blue Jean in 1984. Everyone from James Brown to Mick Jagger, Grandmaster Flash to George Michael, popped in for drinks and a dance.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2016/jul/08/the-wag-club-london-could-never-happen-now

London is full of history. Some of it’s just a bit more recent. And with all the pictures of Elizabeth Tower (with Big Ben inside) clad in scaffolding and the displays at the British Museum, there’ll be an Irish named pub near a Chinese paifang arch that you’ll be able to tell people about. Want to drink where locals Londoners drink? How about where the famous local Londoners went for a drink!

Oh: and the Dumplings’ Legend restaurant half a block away? Used to be Lee Ho Fook’s. Yes, the one mentioned in Werewolves Of London.

https://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/lee-ho-fook-london

Posted by
5628 posts

Thanks for clarifying Vivian Leigh’s characters for me. The little grey matter seems to be evaporating at an alarming rate.

Posted by
88 posts

You will be leaving the day after we arrive on our second trip to London. We loved our first trip in September so much we decided to do it again for our honeymoon.

A few of my favorite things we did on our trip:

  • The walk we took through Hyde Park on arrival day to keep us moving and prevent jet lag was nice. I recommend a walk through a park on arrival day to keep moving and prevent jet lag.

  • Tower of London. It's definitely not overrated. There is plenty to see and so much history there.

  • Hampton Court Palace. Again really good bang for your buck. You can spend the better part of a day there and it's located on a lovely stretch of the Thames.

  • A day trip to Eastbourne/Beachy Head for a little walk up to the top of the cliffs to see the iconic "Cliffs of Dover" and the light house at the bottom. We had a nice lunch at an Inn at the top of the cliffs. I think this was my favorite part of our trip hands down. This is really Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters and not Dover but all of the travel/documentaries you see on TV call this the Cliffs of Dover. Same coastline.

  • We got what I thought was the best fish and chips I've ever had at this place called Johnny's Fish bar (142 Tanner St, London SE1 2HG, UK). It was a little hole in the wall takeaway shop a short walk across Tower Bridge. There wasn't really anywhere to eat but we just took our food to a park. I recommend doing something like this on your trip if the weather is nice.

  • If you are into theater check out what's playing while you will be there and take in a show. The great thing about London shows is that you can often wait outside the stage doors after the show to get autographs. We got autographs from Patrick Stewart and Damien Molony.

  • The walk we took through Hyde Park on arrival day to keep us moving and prevent jet lag was also really nice. It doesn't look like you will need to be preventing jet lag but it was a pleasant park.

-We don't drink beer so the only pub we went into while there was The Queens Arms gastropub for dinner (11 Warwick Way, Pimlico, London SW1V 1QT, UK.) I thought the food was excellent.

Posted by
4364 posts

A day trip to Eastbourne/Beachy Head for a little walk up to the top of the cliffs to see the iconic "Cliffs of Dover" and the light house at the bottom. We had a nice lunch at an Inn at the top of the cliffs. I think this was my favorite part of our trip hands down. This is really Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters and not Dover but all of the travel/documentaries you see on TV call this the Cliffs of Dover. Same coastline.

If the travel programmes/documentaries you're watching are referring to The Seven Sisters as the Cliffs of Dover I'd recommend you stop watching them, it's akin to describing the North West Pacific Coast as Newport Beach, what sort of educational programme refers to a place as somewhere else! It's also not the same coastline otherwise you might as well say Whitby is on the same coastline as Penzance.

That said, The Seven Sisters is a better choice for a visit than the Cliffs of Dover.

Posted by
62 posts

I heartily advise a day trip to Stonehenge. There are several companies (check on-line) that have multiple stops along the way (Oxford/ Bath, etc.). Additionally, you might want to take a day trip to Windsor Castle. You can easily get to Buckingham Palace in London by taking the Tube and getting off at Green Park.

Posted by
257 posts

Looks like you'll be near Hampstead Heath, great view of the city on that hill, I lived and worked at Pax Lodge, the youth hostel/world centre that the Girl Guides/Girl Scouts runs (right next to Air Studios). The pub on Rosslyn Hill named The George (one of many in the city) was really good. I found the Euston Flier Pub, across the street from the British Library (a must-visit) was excellent too. Honestly, I think the list of bad pubs would be way shorter than good pubs :) I don't know that I've ever been in one that I would have called "bad". :) They have had different styles, but been good all over. The one near Windsor Castle was great too.

Hm, stuff not in the guidebooks...., Globe Theatre was good, but my daughter dressed up, and it's an outdoor theatre, so in the evening it got cold (they gave us blankets, but I think we got lucky). Strongly prefer buses over Tube for 2 reasons, one is that I'd rather SEE the city instead of seeing a dark tunnel :) and because I have slight double vision and the Tube's escallators are super steep and super fast, so I love buses.

Anything you have a membership in here, that also might have members there, is worth looking in to. I belong to Mensa here, so I found out how to get access to the British Mensa calendar, and poof, I had local friends at a pub there super easy. Meet-up.com is also very active over there, so there could be special interests that would connect you to people there. I find there are different online calendars for things like dog shows and specialized things, & they are worth the time to track down. Even if I don't know if I could get to it, it's nice to have a few things listed on a paper that can turn into a spontaneous get together. Astronomy clubs can be great, a bunch of things are possible, there's evening presentations at Pax Lodge for scouting people, just a load of options when you look. The Chelsea Football club also has a ladies team, so it might be easier getting tickets for those kind of things.

Camden Market's OK, mostly the same stuff in many of the stalls, lots of flags on things :) but can be entertaining with the street performers on weekends and there is some variety of fashion and fun things. The Pax Lodge volunteers would go there to get the very popular scarves and things like jewelry.

I've gone 3 times, with my daughter twice, once for that 2 month stay to live and work there, and then another week to celebrate her Bachelors degree. I found that sometimes, when you have phones that definitely work there (can be a challenge), it's nice for travel partners to be able to go do their own thing for half a day. If there's disagreement on where to go, it's OK to do different things and then have lots to talk about at dinner that night :) My Google Fi phone promises that it'll work there, and at the same price as here. I'll report back on it after my next trip.

Windsor's excellent, and if you get your ticket validated, you can get back in for free another day. I did overhear that someone who wanted to get in later in the day, like after 3PM or 4PM, could not do it because they bought their ticket through some other service or web site, and not through their box office. They started to have a changing of the guard too. Found GOOD prices at shops and restaurants there too. Low stress, small town, and lots of history.

Would not recommend rides in those big tricycles with the carriage-looking seats in the back, the one we took hit at least one car from not stopping early enough. But maybe the rest of them are safe.

The best thing that we did was when something was really magical, we stopped and really took it in. Just watching the lights come up all over the city, including watching Big Ben light up, (may not be an option any time soon), from a bench on the Thames, was way better than a lot of high priced attractions. Find what's meaningful to you, and you'll have a great time!
-Alison

Posted by
361 posts

I would definitely recommend Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, and Westminster Abbey as they are all in the same general area and easily walkable. You can also taxi a taxi, or double decker bus down to The Tower Of London area, lots of shops and restaurants there as well as touristy souvenier shops. While your down there hop on a boat and take a ride on the Thames river. A nice day trip is Windsor to see the castle, the Chapel/ lots of bars, shops, restaurants there too, as well as a boat ride along the riverwalk area.
Happy Travels✨💫

Posted by
80 posts

Sorry but I have not read through all the comments. If I repeat others I am sorry. I love London, no matter what you do it will be awesome. British Museum and the Tower expect to spend at least 3 hours or more there. The London Walks are excellent so def check out their website and choose some of your interests; London is so congested you can walk by dozens of interesting sites without your realizing what they are; London Walks, you have to check them out.

Food and pubs, if you are staying somewhere, ask the locals. My favorite memory is going to a pub around the corner from my B&B and finding they did not serve food that day but a local came in with 3 medium sized dogs who lay about her feet as you visited with friends. This same pub another night I could not help but overhear a conversation with Mary and her 2 significantly younger male tablemates; one male would mention a very popular tourist destination (British Museum, The Tate, etc) and she would respond "I'm ashamed to say I've never been," with me screaming in my head "are you kidding me, I've spent thousands to get here" blah, blah, blah. But then later in their conversation she stated "but you don't understand what it was like here during the war..." but she didn't go into great detail, but the point is; sometimes the insignificant incidents in a trip end up being the things that stand out in your memory. This conversation encouraged me to research the war experience of London and when I returned in 2013 as I stood in front of St Paul's I tried to imagine that all the buildings within blocks of it were flattened with only St Paul's still standing and I was very humbled; thanks to overhearing Mary and her friends in 2007.

The point again is; enjoy. You are reading the guidebooks and RS provide great info. Pick what interests you and enjoy. Please consider having a little pocket size journal you can take out as you are sitting during the day and make some notations. Record the mundane, those are the moments of real treasure. Another memory of mine is watching an oriental older woman with her extended family waiting for the British Museum to open and she sat on the floor against a wall and in watercolor painted the entrance area with a monument on a pedestal as we waited to gain entrance. Again, it's the little things that will make the memories of your trip unique to you. Plan for your interests, take some notes and many years later you will have treasured memories. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
111 posts

I love love London... you have lots of good suggestions here. I’d like to cast another vote for London Walks. No need to book, really fantastic interesting walks.
Buckingham Palace is really interesting too and it’ll be open when you’re there.

Posted by
20 posts

Wow! So many great suggestions and tips! Thank you so much. We are so excited to be making our first overseas journey.😊

Posted by
126 posts

If you're looking for endorsements, I saw Witness for the Prosecution at County Hall in January and loved the performance and unique setting so much that I just bought tickets to see it again when I return in November. I was traveling solo then but can't wait to share the whole experience with my mom. (And now I know which seats are convenient for the WC during intermission!)

Posted by
736 posts

There is a thing called the "Silver Market." I'm planning a trip right now and this seems to be fun and free!

Posted by
18 posts

A guide book would help you decide on what you want. Hoping for the best travel experience for you both. :)