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planning our own itinerary in London

My husband and I want to travel to London. He has very specific things that he wants to see (most related to the early church history.) The things that we want to see are not going to be covered in a typical guided tour of London. What is the best way to tackle this? We already have our list of things we want to see, but have no idea how to determine hours of operation, locations, how to travel between sights, what is the best utilization of our time and resources. Is there an easy way to begin planning for this trip?
Our list includes:
John Wesley house (in Islington)
Bunhill Fields
Smithfield (Lollard's Pit)
Metropolitan Tabernacle
St. Giles Cripplegate

And also includes a few typical tourist locations:
British Museum
Tower of London
Canterbury
London Eye
220b Baker St. Museum
St. Paul's Cathedral
Westminster Abbey
Parliament/Big Ben

Any guidance someone can give me would be appreciated.

Julie H

Posted by
211 posts

Do you mean the town of Canterbury? Because that would be a day trip via train outside of London.

As for the others, I would check the websites for each to find out when they are open. And the websites will give locations or have a "how to get here" page.

Having said that, the Tower of London, St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey are super popular places to visit so try to go when they first open or a couple of hours before they close. You can get reserved tickets for the London Eye but it's hard to predict when the weather will be perfect if you like to do take photos.

If you want to visit Parliament inside (not just look at it), check the website.

The British Museum is free but huge. Just pick a day when you feel like you can do lots of walking.

Posted by
1976 posts

I agree with what Lee said. How many days will you be in London? Will you take day trips on any of these days?

For help figuring out how to navigate London, read a few guidebooks and study the Transport for London website (www.tfl.gov.uk). Once you're in London, look at this website every morning for Tube closures and "planned engineering." They worked on at least one Tube line every day that I was there, and on the weekend it wasn't uncommon for one entire line to be closed. Buses will help you avoid the problem, though generally they are slower than the Tube because of traffic and frequent stops.

When you look at hotels, I'd suggest picking one that has good access to a couple of different Tube lines in case one is closed. I stayed at Vancouver Studios in Bayswater; that hotel is just a few minutes' walk from the Queensway stop on the Central line and the Bayswater stop on the District/Circle lines.

The Tube took me a couple days to learn. You have to pay attention to which direction you're going (northbound, southbound, etc.) because the system doesn't provide endpoints the way the Paris Metro or Chicago El do.

My strategy for visiting the Eye was to wait in line to buy tickets. The line was long but moved quickly (this was on a Saturday evening in September with great weather). After you buy tickets, then you have to wait in another line to get on the wheel.

For the Tower of London, my friend and I "lucked out," if you can call it that. This was the next day, Sunday, and it rained and was chilly. We just walked up and bought tickets. There was no line and the site wasn't even very crowded.

If you like museums, plan to spend a lot of time at the British Museum. I picked a few areas of interest (ancient Near Eastern art, Egyptian art, the Rosetta stone) and explored those in depth, rather than run around the whole place trying to see "everything."

Westminster Abbey and St.Paul's - check out their hours of operation, pick a good time for you, and stop in. I recommend the audio tour for both places - they're well done. In St. Paul's I climbed all the way up to the top of the dome; the views are fantastic.

Posted by
4 posts

Hi Julie! To plan what sites to visit and when for my trip to London in May, I used Google Maps (create your own map feature) to figure out where to go each day. Since I am not familiar with the area (this will be my first trip), I was able to put in every place I wanted to see and Google put pins on each of the sites. I was able to see what was close together so I could plan my day around a particular area. I was also able to select what area I wanted my hotel in based on this information. It also shows tube stations so you can get plan which line to take between each place on your list.

Also, take a look at the public transport site. I eventually figured out that with the Oyster card I can take the Riverbus to and from some of the places we wanted to go. Seemed a little more fun than always taking the underground!

Posted by
16832 posts

Plenty of good advice there. In addition to making your own Google map, any paper map of London that you buy here or pick up for free over there will have the major attractions and Tube stops marked.

Posted by
4664 posts

Most of the Dissenting sites you mention are fairly close together in the City or the Clerkenwell district just north of it, and can be travelled between on foot if you're fairly energetic. (I wouldn't say Wesley's House is in Islington, it's closer to the City than that.) The exception is the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which I'd never heard of but is at Elephant & Castle in South London. The quickest way to get there from the area of the others is to go to Moorgate and get the Northern Line, or to go to Farringdon and get a (less frequent) cross-London suburban train from there to Elephant & Castle.

Of your other sites, Canterbury is a town quite a way out of London that will be a whole day's trip. You can get there by a high-speed train from St Pancras station (using the same line as the Channel Tunnel trains), or a slower but cheaper route from Victoria station. Whichever route you choose, you'll be able to get a cheaper ticket if you book in advance at www.southeasternrailway.co.uk. SImilarly if you want to see the Lollard's Pit in Norwich you'll need to take a full day, and you can get big discounts on the train if you book in advance at www.abelliogreateranglia.co.uk. Although some web searching suggests that there's nothing visible to suggest the site's history except a plaque on the wall.

Posted by
5553 posts

Excellent advice from posters. Your trip will require research and forethought. Google maps will be a key element as will Internet searches. Many of the London sites can be seen in a day. Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the Eye are in the same vicinity. An easy walk between them, could even add Churchill's War Rooms and still have time to explore. Walk up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square or Birdcage walk to The Palace. When you use Google Maps be certain to use the Satellite view. Will help you visualize each site and their proximity to one another. Its also great for finding what tube stop is near your accommodation, location of ATM's, coffee spots, pubs, etc. The street view option is a fabulous tool. Learn how to use it. Pre planning and mapping out your daily itineraries will help you navigate the sites you are interested in visiting. When you arrive, buy a copy of Timeout magazine. Virtually everything and anything that goes on in London will be in the magazine along with opening and closing times and the closest tube stop. Finally, engineer flexibility into your daily jaunts , a plan B, just in case. Intriguing itinerary ! Have a great trip!

Posted by
970 posts

Most or all of the church-related targets you list probably have web sites.

The British Museum is very large. If you're like me, you could spend all day and want to come back the next day.

Queues at the Tower can be long.

Check Westminster Abbey's visiting hours.

Tours of the interior of the Palace of Westminster (Parliament) are available on a limited basis if booked in advance to non-UK visitors. Check Parliament's site. Otherwise, its outside-looking-in.

The Abbey is across the street from Parliament. While you're there, walk across Westminster Bridge and check out the South Bank. Good for strolling and people watching.

Posted by
767 posts

London has at least two Hop On/Hop Off tour bus companies. Many of the sites you listed are on that route. If you are feeling overwhelmed navigating public transportation, that is a good alternative to get you to each site. Or you could use it one day to go to a few sites and learn the lay of the land.