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Seeking Comments for Trip to London & Southern England

Below is an itinerary for an early/mid April 2020 trip to London and Southern England for my wife and me. This is the last segment of our trip to Europe and it is preceded by stops in Paris and Madrid (see the relevant portions of these itineraries in the France and Spain sections of this RS website.

All recommendations and comments are welcome, specifically regarding:

Where to eat: Most specifically, recommendations for reliable fish and chips joints would be appreciated. We’ve pegged a number of other types of places already (Dishoom, Rovi, Tas, Masala Zone, Honest Burger, Bodean’s BBQ (to see how the Brits do BBQ), Black Friars Pub…), but any other recommendations are more than welcome.

Any major goofs I’ve made in the itinerary (i.e., “the museum is closed on that day, dummy”). I don’t think there are any, but I’m always capable of making silly mistakes.

Any “must-sees” since we’re “in (whatever) neighborhood”.

Saturday (April 4): Arrive St. Pancras from Paris via Eurostar about noon. Stay in St. Pancras area. Visit British Library, then Tube/walk to Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster. We simply must see the Houses of Parliament and the Thames on Day One! Twilight time is a bonus.

Sunday (5): Churchill War Rooms when it opens, then Apsley House (purchase English Heritage Overseas Visitor’s Pass) and then…Abbey Road—barefoot.

Monday (6): Natural History Museum (Darwin and Dinos!) and V&A, then a brief stop at Harrod’s (just because)

Tuesday (7): Depart on a train from Paddington (already booked to Chippenham) for three nights in Devizes. See the Caen Locks.

Wednesday (8): Wiltshire Museum (it has an emphasis on prehistoric England--prep for the next day Stonehenge visit), then tour the local Wadworth Brewery and drink some 6X! Wadworth still delivers their beers locally by horse drawn carts.

Thursday (9): Private tour ('cuz I don’t want to kill someone trying to drive on the “wrong side” of the road. Heck, I may kill myself crossing streets in London). We’ll see Stonehenge, Salisbury, Old Sarum, Avebury, and…?

Friday (10): Return to London Paddington at about 11:00, stay in St. Pancras area again. Visit British Museum.

Saturday (11): Partial day trip (train and bus) to Darwin’s Down House. Return to London and go to Borough Market.

Sunday (12): Thames cruise, then visit the National Portrait Gallery.

Monday (13): Day trip (train from King’s Cross, already booked) to Cambridge.

Tuesday (14): First thing visit to Westminster Abbey with verger tour, Jewel Tower, the Shard, central London

Wednesday (15) Tower of London at opening time, then walk across Tower Bridge and along the Southbank. Visit Borough Market again, then more of central London.

Thursday (16): 16:05 departure from Heathrow for home.

Thanks much for any comments and suggestions.

Posted by
24942 posts

Although you will apparently have a good amount of time for both the V&A and the British Museum, they are huge and you won't be able to cover all their collections. Spend some time with their websites before your trip so you can prioritize the things of most interest to you.

Many of the galleries in the British Museum are open until 8:20 PM on Fridays. Some of the V & Galleries (ground floor, I believe) are open until 9:45 PM on Fridays. I found the V&A areas intended to be viewed with the assistance of skylights (central part of ground floor) a bit dark after the sun went down--something to keep in mind if you're especially interested in what is on show there.

The British Museum is dealing with very heavy visitor loads these days. The Egyptian collection tends to be the most crowded, and the situation is worse on rainy days. The only part of the V&A where I've experienced crowding is the (exceptional) jewelry collection. It's fine when the museum first opens, but within about an hour the area gets a lot busier. If you happen to be especially interested in that part of the museum, you might consider going to the V&A first and being there when it opens.

Posted by
3698 posts

Sounds well-planned.
You may already know this, but when you go to the Tower of London, see the Crown Jewels first, before the crowds and lines form.
Safe travels!

Posted by
1075 posts

Abbey Road is a very busy street - just keep in mind that it can be difficult to find a moment for a pic when cars aren’t barreling down on you. Second a PP’s opinion about skipping Piccadilly.

Posted by
827 posts


This sounds like a great trip. A couple of ideas in addition to the ones you have received in the other posts.

  • British Museum: I have been there 5 times and the last time in December 2019, I decided to take a tour. Here are the links: My husband and I took the 90 minute tour and while I saw things that I had seen before, I learned a tremendous amount. In addition, our guide was an expert in Asian history. The in-depth knowledge and insights were well worth the money.
  • V&A Museum: One of my favorite places in London, look for special exhibits before you go. Again, the docent tour is excellent.
  • Restaurants: love Dishroom and Rovi. If you can at Rovi, sit at the bar. We have done table and bar and prefer the energy of the bar and the seats are comfortable. A short walk from the British Museum in Neal’s Yard/Convent Garden is the Barbary: It is a very small place specializing in small bites from around the Barbary Coast. The food here is delicious. The only seating is around an open kitchen.. Their Octopus and cauliflower are out of the world. If they have the Brussels Sprout order, even if you don’t like Brussel Sprouts (this one will change your mind). They have very little reservations and there may be a wait, but it is worth it.

As for fish & chips, if you are at the East End, try Poppies at Spitalfields: They have some other locations, but this area of London has a great market and bohemian vibe. If you are into curries, then the restaurants on Brick Lane are for you.

Have a great trip.


Posted by
1186 posts

Make a reservation for the Churchill War Rooms. It is very popular ( for a good reason) and the lines can be long. Since you know you want to go and when, then make a reservation so you will not be disappointed. And not spend time waiting in line.

I loved the National Portrait Gallery but if you want to make good use of your time ( just a suggestion), and you really want to go ont the Thames Cruise, I would do the go on the cruise and get off at Greenwich and spend time there. Lots to do and see in Greenwich and you already took the cruise so it would be a shame not to go to Greenwich, since your there already. . I would try to go to the National Portrait Gallery another day, maybe if a day it rains and you don't feel like walking around London.

My favorite museum in London is the V&A and it is huge! I would not try to see both the V&A and the National History Museum in one day, I know you picked it since they are close by each other. You will decide once your at one of the museums and see if you really want to go to another museum in the same day. I liked seeing Harrods and I liked going to the Food Hall inside. This year I am going back to London ( been several times) and going to Liberty London.

If you want to to really see London, go on the London Walks. They are 10 Pounds, you meet at a tube station, rain or shine but you just show up for the walk, no reservations, and for two hours someone walks you around and they are excellent tour guides with great story telling abilities. They have day time walks and pub walks at night and you go to three pubs and take a walk to each as the guide explains the area. All ages go on the pub walks. You get to see parts of London you may have not seen and pubs you would not have gone into. The first two pubs, you stay just enough time for a pint and they leave you at the third pub and always starts and ends by a tube station. I can't wait to go on more walks this year. There website has all the walks listed. I do believe they have one that includes Borough Market.

I too am going to the Aspley House and can't wait to see it. Going to London for two weeks to see a lot of things I have not been to and a few that I have been to. Going on four day trips and the rest to stay in London. I have not been to Cambridge but that is on my list for the next time I go to London!

May I ask, what hotel are you staying in? Thanks.

Hope this helps. Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
5032 posts

Bodean's? Don't bother, it's not very good. I'm partial to a bit of American style BBQ, I did a Texas BBQ road trip with a mate a few years ago in prep for starting a BBQ business (it turns out that most people prefer a cheap hotdog for £3 rather than a slow cooked brisket bun with homeade slaw, sauces and rubs for £6 and there's only so much loss you can take!). There are a few good American style BBQ restaurants in the UK but Bodean's isn't one of them.

As for fish and chips, the most authentic experience will be from a dedicated 'chippie'. Some are takeaway only others have a small seating area. I've eaten at some award winning ones and there's not a great deal of difference in most non award winning ones. The chips are important, they're not the crisp twice or triple cooked ones you'll find in restaurants or pubs and they certainly shouldn't be fries but they'll be pale and soft, maximising the ability to absord the salt and vinegar. Some visitors don't like them, they claim that they should be crisp like fries but that's simply missing the point and understanding of chip shop chips. It's an easy dish to get right, there's not a lot of variation in quality so I wouldn't put too much effort into finding somewhere that excels at it, the most important element is to eat it from a chippie not a pub or restaurant.

As for Abbey Road. It's probably the only zebra crossing in the UK that drivers ignore the requirement to stop such is the constant onslaught of tourists holding up traffic to take photos of themselves replicating the Abbey Road photo. To put it simply, the locals are pissed off!

Posted by
105 posts

I'll second Emma's choice of Blacklock. It's not 'BBQ' per se, but the steaks and chops are excellent. They also make a damn fine Old Fashioned 😎

For fish and chips in the St. Pancras area, try North Sea Fish.

Also, do look at London Walks. I've taken several, and never had a bad one.

Posted by
129 posts

Thanks to all for the comments and suggestions.

acraven: Sounds like swapping the order for V&A with the Natural History Museum makes sense. Sad to hear the British Museum's Egypt collection is heavily visited; that is one of the big focuses for us as well. We'll see some of the Egyptian stuff in the Louvre, but the Rosetta Stone is, alas, only to be found in London.

Pat: yep--crown jewels first!

Emma: Yikes, We didn't realize the Easter timing. Maybe everyone else will be in churches? ;«) Picadilly is "on the way" to the waterfront and is just a brief "must see" just like Times Square would be in NYC. We've no interest in lingering there. Tube to Picadilly, walk to Trafalgar, then down Whitehall to the river. We will be "kind" to the Abbey Road locals, the barefoot comment was intended as a cheap laugh and likely wouldn't happen even if there was zero traffic. It's just a spot these Boomers must see. I'm sorry to hear that Bodean's isn't very good. My hopes were actually high for it. OTOH, the Blacklock menu looks very good! Another odd thing we'll do is have a burger at Five Guys. They're one of the (few) best fast food burgers in the US and I'm curious to see how well they translate their operation to England.

SandyO: Thanks for the recommendations. FWIW, the only food not worth eating, IMHO, is liver. LOL

Ann: Reservations for CWR--yes. Also for Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. We will stay in a Premier Inn.

Jodi: Thanks for seconding Blacklock's. It's on the radar.

JC: Aaah, the Texas BBQ circuit! We did a BBQ mini-tour around Austin a few years ago. YUM! Which places did you visit/enjoy?

Posted by
5032 posts

Five Guys transfers pretty well.....except the price. I discovered it a few years ago on one of our annual trips to the US and I was impressed and it was a staple visit on every subsequent trip. I was excited to hear that they were starting up over here but what is essentially a good value fast food burger in the US is an expensive let down in the UK (the burgers are pretty much the same but for a similar price I can get better). As I've mentioned before, some of the best burgers to be found in the UK are in Scotland. The ones I've eaten there have surpassed any that I've eaten elsewhere.

As for the BBQ trip we started in Dallas where we started at Sonny Bryan's which I think was past its heyday and at another one that was so forgettable I can't recall the name.

A quick visit to Fort Worth saw us dining at Riscky's Barbeque, good but not great and it still baffles me why such poor bread is always served, cheap sliced white sweet processed bread, I have never experienced such poor bread at any restaurant throughout my travels except at BBQ restaurants in the US.

We then stopped at Lockhart en route to Austin where it was a choice between Blacks or Kreuz Market, we opted for Blacks and it was an excellent choice. The restaurant is nothing to look at (avoid using the toilet if possible) but the food was superb. I would have liked to have compared it to Kreuz and even Smitty's but we were passing through and we overindulged at Blacks.

In Austin we gave Franklin's a miss simply due to the queues, ate at a couple of food trucks whose names escape me and then found a great little restaurant that we couldn't pass up because the menu looked so inviting. Again, I can't recall the name but it wasn't BBQ. Then we hit 6th Street and everything went out of the window including any planned BBQ for the following day.

By the time we returned to Dallas I was a bit tired of BBQ and I was tempted by the rattlesnake chilli pie I saw at a restaurant we had passed previously (plus they served some unique and very good Texan wine) so we opted to eat there. The pie was very good, rattlesnake tastes a bit like chicken!

Red Dog Saloon provides good BBQ. I've only eaten at the Southampton branch but they have one in Hoxton and one in Soho, which is currently closed due to a fire. I will say however, with a complete lack of modesty, that the food that comes out of my smoker is better than any that I've eaten in the UK. Cooking a whole brisket to perfection is such a tricky task with so many variables that it doesn't lend itself to mass production for serving over a whole day, it's a bit like a Sunday roast. I don't know whether my brisket is going to be ready in 12 hours or 17 hours, it's done when it's done however Red Dog Saloon give it a good shot. I'd be more inclined to opt for the ribs as they're a bit more forgiving.

Posted by
129 posts

JC: Rattlesnake DOES taste like chicken, but the few times I've eaten it, it was mainly bony and hard to get a decent bite of just meat.

The places we visited around Austin were Franklin's, Black's, Salt Lick, and Cooper's (in Llano), plus a lesser chain the name of which escapes me. Black's was the best, imo (the beef short ribs!), but all were good. We don't normally do lines, but made an exception for Franklin's. Hey, the line itself was fun, what with gabbing with folks and drinking beer!

I'm also a BBQ fanatic and agree that home cooked beats most Q restaurants. As you noted, timing the meal can be tough with cuts like brisket and pork butt. That's where a so-called faux-Cambro can help. If you are interested in upping your game, check out the site . They cover it all--recipes, techniques, equipment. The faux-Cambro thing is discussed there too. It's free, though you can pay an annual fee of about $25 (USD) and join "The Pit", where you can swap ideas and tall tales with others. Its members are worldwide, with folks from places like Argentina, South Africa, Sweden, England, Scotland, Canada, and Norway. As an aside, the fellow from Argentina noted a week or so that the night sky was red from the fires in Australia!

Anyway, do visit . I think you'll find it worthwhile, no matter how good you are.

Posted by
5032 posts

Anyway, do visit . I think you'll find it worthwhile, no matter how good you are.

Thanks Willy, I've been frequenting it for some years and yes, it's a great source of information.

Be aware that for most Brits barbecue is not the same as what American's consider BBQ to be. For the British it means primarily burgers and hotdogs (there are those who take things a bit further and do something a bit more interesting and adventurous). I lost count of the number of times I was asked whether I sold burgers or hotdogs and in the end I relented and found a supplier of excellent German sausages (he supplied the German embassy in London so I thought if they were good enough for the German embassy then they were good enough for me and they were very good sausages). However most people, with the exception of those attending dedicated food festivalls, were more inclined to opt for the cheaper hotdogs that came 100 to a tin from the local cash and carry and contained who knows what. They were half the price of mine although they were half the size and mine came topped with our homemade Texan style chilli. I soon found out that many people simply look at a price and don't actually consider the product. Now I know why the local 24 hour burger van near me has made the owner a millionaire despite his burgers being amongst the worst I've ever eaten...they're cheap.

Posted by
5184 posts

As a kind of aside, the National Portrait Gallery will be closed after the end of June this year until spring 2023 for extensive building redevelopment. So not something to put off until another trip unless that one is likely to be more than 3 years away. Whether this might make it temporarily more crowded or not is a case in point. (Much of the collection is going on tour during the closure.)

Posted by
129 posts

Marco: The NPG became important after we listened to some audio courses on the history of England, on which I was rather weak. I mean, I knew the important stuff like Robin Hood taking from the rich and giving to the poor, or Henry VIII marrying the widow next door, or some fella named Disraeli inventing some gears..., but now being able to put faces on the names from the lectures has become important. The NPG took the place of a trip to Greenwich. Spending an entire day at Greenwich just became too "time costly".

Emma: So even in the context of a continuing conversation about say, Picadilly Circus, it stands out as a faux pas to shorten the place names? (I tend to do as much as I can to minimize typing as I have a tremor that results in many typos)

Posted by
1065 posts

"So even in the context of a continuing conversation about say, Picadilly Circus, it stands out as a faux pas to shorten the place names?"

Probably wouldn't be a problem if it's clear what area you're talking about, what would be a problem is if you asked someone for directions to "Liverpool Station" or "Gloucester Station" when you should have added Street at the end, you could end up quite a few miles from where you want to be!!!! According to "another" travel forum It has alledgely already happened (could be an urban myth though).

Posted by
8889 posts

Possibly an urban myth, but possibly true.

The story of an American / Japanese / Chinese tourist (choose your prejudice) who was walking around outside Stratford station looking lost, and then asked how to get to Shakespeare's house. He had asked how to get to Stratford Station.
Stratford is a district of East London where the 2012 Olympics was. It has a major station shown on the London tube map.
Stratford upon Avon is a town in Warwickshire, where Shakespeare was born.

And there are multiple "Abbey Road"'s in London. Only one of which has a station, "Abbey Road station". See here:

Posted by
70 posts

Better check the National Portrait Gallery. I believe that they are closed now for three years for refurbishment. If so, it's a shame you will miss it.

Posted by
4684 posts

The stalls at Borough Market will probably be closed by the time you get back from Down House, and it gets intolerably crowded these days on Saturday anyway. I would go on Wednesday as you suggest.

Posted by
129 posts

JC: The best face I can put on the crappy white bread that is popular at some BBQ joints is:

1) Tradition. It goes back to when (especially) rural America hadn't a clue what decent bread was, and

2) Crappy, inexpensive bread didn't add any "off taste" to the Q. It was just a way of making a sandwich without altering the taste of the meat.

Some habits are hard to kill! ;«)