Hubby and I are doing a whirlwind London visit over a weekend in late May. Staying near St. Pancras station, so thinking Oyster Card for transportation needs. Assuming sun will set late that time of year, we want to cram a lot into that afternoon and a full day Sunday. Not sure what we can fit in on Saturday afternoon. Thought about select British Museum exhibits, but then what? We're in our 70's, so not night owls, but it would be nice to see London sparkle at nighttime, but doing what? DH isn't up for the London Eye or any other height. Thought about maybe a Thames River trip to see Parliament, Big Ben, etc, from the water after visiting Tower of London Sunday morning. We're avid gardeners, so considering Kensington Palace gardens. I'd love some suggestions from more seasoned travelers. Thanks in advance.
You both will need a Oyster Card. Google London night tours there are several, there are several that last about an hour, they are on a double decker bus. The gardens at Kensington Palace are beautiful, after seeing the gardens you could walk through Kensington Gardens and into Hyde Park,
they are beautiful.
Big Ben (actually the Elizabeth Tower - Big Ben is just the bell) is shrouded in scaffolding for the foreseeable future.
If you like gardens, consider visiting the Columbia Road flower market near Brick Lane on the City /East End fringes. It’s only held on Sunday mornings.
If you have an Oyster card, sit at the front on a double decker bus at night and tour the West End around Oxford Street, Regent Street and around Westminster.
Arrive, unpack, freshen up and out the door.
It’s a Saturday in May. Crowds everywhere but If I was as pressed for time as you are and loved gardens I make the effort to see Kew Gardens!Check opening hours on their website. Maybe combine with your Sunday Tower visit. It’s about a 40 minute tube ride on the District Line from the Tower Hill underground station to Kew Gardens. Tower Hill station is across the road from the Tower of London.
I’m not a gardener so no clue regarding when roses bloom but Queens Mary’s Rose Garden at Regents Park is close to where you are staying. If you do chose Kensington Gardens the Kyoto Gardens in nearby Holland Park are nice. Walkable from Kensington Gardens. 10-15 minute amble.
Lastly the British Museum wouldn’t be my first choice on a Saturday in May ( unless in your interest of Egyptian history is avid.) Instead As you are staying near St Pancras consider the Treasure Room at the British Library. https://www.bl.uk/british-library-treasures.
As far as what to see at night time Jennifer is spot on. Sit up top in a bus where there are nearly floor rooms ceiling windows.
Traveling on a Thames River Cruise after your visit to the Tower is a good use of time, get off at Westminster and explore Parliament Square. Then stroll along Birdcage walk through St James park to the Palace.
Great city. Lots to enjoy.
The best nighttime sparkle is along the river, but in May darkness does not fall until quite late. If you are up for a late night river cruise, I suggest the following to include the best sights:
Take the tube to Tower Hill and walk past the Tower to see Tower Bridge, which is beautifully lit at night. Cross over the bridge and turn right, taking the Thames pedestrian path along the river as far as the City of London pier. Board there and ride to the London Eye pier which is right across the river from the Parliament buildings. Walk along the Thames Path a bit to admire the view, and then cross Westminster Bridge to reach the Tube station for the ride back to your hotel. Or better yet, take the bus to stay aboveground and enjoy the views.
The question is the timing. The Thames Clippers runs until 23:00 on weekends but you surely won't want to be up that late. There are 3 boats departing City pier after 9:30 pm and before 11 pm, so one of those would be good ( although 9:30 pm may or may not be twilight time).
For gardens on Sunday consider St. James Park and the Rose Garden in Hyde Park as well as Kensington.
Central London bus route map:
Keep in mind that things often close early on Sunday so if any shopping plans, keep that in mind. You’ll never starve, but there are also many restaurants that close early Sunday as well.
The Garden Museum is charming and interesting. When we were there five years ago the actual gardens were a work in progress, but I believe they are now more finished. Captain Bligh is buried there.
Another possibility is the Chelsea Physic Garden, which pre-dates Kew. The tour is very interesting, and the cafe is a nice spot for lunch. You can get there or back by boat to or from the Cadoganr Pier.
The bus mapI linked just shows some buses which serve the main tourist sights. As Emma says, you need the actualmspider maps from the TFL website to find the route and especiallybthe location of the busstops.
Wow, what fantastic information you've all given me! It has cleared up some of the confusion and offered many new possibilities I hadn't even been aware of, so I thank you all so very much. This trip is our 50th wedding anniversary celebration, so with your help I'm sure we'll have a lovely time. So kind of you all.
If you like flora and want to see London lit up at night, there’s nothing more chic than the Sky Garden
Haven’t been personally impressed with Kensington Gardens. I think Bishopgate Park is much prettier. But they don’t have Kensington Palace there.
The treasures room at the Library is a great idea. 60 minutes and you’re done. Lots of interesting things there. What time do you arrive? Portobello Road is fully open on Saturdays. That’s “nearish” to Kensington.
You could also consider the Wildlife Gardens in South Kensington. That would be due south of Kensington Gardens
Someone mentioned Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park - I live right by Regent’s Park so perhaps I am biased, but in my opinion that’s the best possible garden-related thing you could do in late May! Much much more beautiful than Kensington and just an entirely different feel than Kew (also much more central). Late May is peak time for the roses to bloom and there are I believe over a hundred varieties. It really is something. If you do decide to visit the rose garden, DM me and I can make some other suggestions for you in the area.
Thank you Kevin and Margaret for your wonderful suggestions. We'll add them to the mix and see what works out. It's difficult to estimate our arrival time since we're coming up from Southampton after disembarking from a cruise. We dock at 7 AM and hope to leave the ship by 9 since we're traveling light. It will be a long, busy day, and we're counting on adrenaline to keep us going! I can almost smell those roses in Queen Mary's Rose Garden, though; that would be hard to miss! Just sorry we're too late for Chelsea.