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Setting up Itinerary for London (5 days)

I have planned a solo trip on London starting June 5th (arrive in Heathrow at 6:00 AM) and leaving that Friday afternoon (arrive back in the States by late afternoon). I would like to get some ideas on how to spend the three full days I have there (I plan on spending one day doing a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath and possibly another day trip to Paris or a small village close to London).

Any ideas on how to spend three days wandering about the city? I'm interested in art, but not enough to spend hours in a museum, I really enjoy history and learning about the royal family, and would like to spend a some time in the Greenwich area. I plan on relying solely on public transit to get around and will be staying next to Hyde Park.

Posted by
692 posts

I haven't been in London for a long time, but I would say if you've only got three days, spend it in London and not on a day trip.

You could go to Kensington Palace, especially if you are interested in Queen Victoria.

Others will want to jump in, I'm sure! One thing I'll say is you get very good advice here.

Posted by
1921 posts

Decide what interests you, get a good map of London, and find out where those sites are located. Try to go to one general area for the day and see those sites in that area. Find out the hours and days sites are open and that will help you to decide which day to see what area.

Posted by
1695 posts

I spent 2 full and 2 partial days in London and saw:

Oxford Circus, Picadillly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Carnaby Street (did some shopping), Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, a tower built by Christopher Wren to commemorate fire victims, The Tower of London (including touring the Crown jewels), the Tower Bridge, a show (Billy Elliot), Hyde Park (including the Victoria and Albert monument and the Peter Pan statue), and Kensington Palace (was open for a special exhibit--pre Will and Kate), the London Eye (rode it), and Abbey Road, as well as doing a bit of other wandering around. I also stayed fairly near Hyde Park (closer to Paddington Station) and used public transit and walking.

I think it is doable to do a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath (a very long day), but Paris in a day seems a bit much, IMO.

What about Windsor Castle? I haven't been there, but I believe it is just outside of London.

Posted by
533 posts

I'd scratch the idea of a day trip to Paris. The Eurostar makes it tempting, I know, but it's a long day of traveling for not much time at your destination. Save Paris for when you can do it justice.

The great thing about London is that many of the best museums (including the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, and Tate Modern) are free. So if you do want to see some art, you could head to one of them for just a quick visit, without worrying about having to stay for hours to get your money's worth.

Is there a period of history that particularly interests you (medieval, Tudor, Georgian, Victorian...)? There are a lot of historical sights to be seen in London, so if your interests lean a certain way, that could help narrow it down.

Posted by
8870 posts

As the saying goes Art is in the Eye of the Beholder. Thus here's my take for a first time visitor to the vibrant city.

Use the internet to see what's on at The Royal Academy of the Arts, Somerset House, and the V and A. If you see something of interest then go.

Secondly and as a great way of introduction to London's East End sign up and take one of these fun and informative tours: http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/london-tours/walking-tours/london-graffiti-and-street-art-tour/ OR http://www.shoreditchstreetarttours.co.uk

As far as museums to see on your first visit I always recommend the Museum of London because it does a great job of detailing how the city you are visiting evolved. There's also information on the Royals.

For a historical perspective you can't beat the Treasure Room at the British Library. On display will be a Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, Handel's hand written Messiah, Beatles lyrics and the original Alice in Wonderland. I love this room and the library gift shop is great! Nice cafe as well. If you arrive by tube at Kings Cross don't miss seeing the large and I mean large statue in the adjoining St. Pancras station. If you decide to go to Paris you'll see it anyway as it's where you board the Eurostar.

The Tower of London is a must see for a variety of reasons. The history, the Crown Jewels, the Beefeaters, etc. Get there before it opens, buy your ticket and when the doors are opened head straight for the Crown Jewels. After your visit walk along the river path and snap photos of Tower Bridge. Then walk up to the glass covered Leadenhall Market Place. I find this area interesting because of the meld of old and new architecture. Especially the Lloyd's of London and 30 St Mary (what is referred to as The Gherkin which you can see from the grounds Tower of London, old and new). From here you could walk up to Spitafields' Market Place.

As far as seeing Greenwich: http://www.visitgreenwich.org.uk/how-to-get-here/

If you are into Photography you might enjoy seeing what's on at the Photographer's Gallery off Oxford Street. http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk Then you could meander around SOHO and Carnaby Street maybe even sticking you head into Liberty department store which for me was an "oh my" moment.

Obviously Parliament Square where you'll find the Houses of Parliament, Elizabeth's Tower housing Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. Quite lovely as dusk starts to fall and everything lights up.

I find both Portobello Road and Camden Lock markets much fun. Might not be others taste but my state of mind when traveling is mingling and meandering which is easy to do at both. I especially liked strolling along the Regent's Canal from Camden Lock Market to Regent's Park. OR go the other way toward the Kentish Town Underground. This whole area has undergone a huge gentrification in the last few years. Many wonderful cafe and shops now line Kentish Town Road. I stayed in the area for a few days last November and enjoyed the coffee and pastries from the tiny The Fields Beneath cafe near the Overground Station, dinner at Wahaca above the Underground station, dinner at The Oxford Pub. great lunch at The Grafton (which when I was there in 2012 was an old boozer (a dive) and is now an updated and well run pub with good food) Also dined twice at the Queen of Sheba which serves wonderful Ethiopian food.

Have a great trip and as already advised by many re think the one day sojourn to Paris. Stay in London and enjoy London. Save Paris for another trip when you'll have more than a few hours to truly experience it.

Posted by
824 posts

Two day trips to the countryside when you only have 4 full days in London would really hamper your London sightseeing. With less than a whole week, I wouldn't even consider going to Paris (that's a trip unto its self).

On arrival - Heathrow Connect to Paddington to check in or drop off luggage. Then, if the weather is cooperative, walk Hyde Park and St. James's Park to work out the knots from the flight and then find a pub for a nice meal. If you're a hearty eater, try a Sunday Roast - that'll set you to sleep.

One day - Museum of London, St Paul's, Borough Market (lunch) and the Tower of London. After The Tower, find a nice place for dinner then head to down to Jubilee Gardens for the London Eye.

Another day - The British Museum, and if you like Zoos, Regent's Park and the Zoo. If you don't care for the zoo idea, head back towards Buckingham Palace and visit the Mews then see Westminster.

I highly recommend Kew Gardens as well. It's easy (but a little time consuming) do reach via public transport but it should be stunning in early June.

If you are partial to Palaces, Kensington Palace is on the edge of Hyde Park and is worth a visit.

Windsor Castle is also a worthy visit but takes the better part of a day when you factor in public transport. The town of Windsor is also very charming and worth a stroll and a stop for lunch or dinner.

Good luck, and have fun.

Posted by
1243 posts

Great suggestions given here. I will be in London in July and will note some.

Check the London Walks calendar for the week you are there. On the Mon, Tues, Weds, there appear to be out-of-London trips to Cambridge, Stonehenge, and Oxford/Cotswolds. Anyone of them would appeal to me. I took the Salisbury/Stonehenge trip a few years ago. I would like to return to Salisbury when I have more time. Note these trips use trains so less time dodging traffic.

Posted by
161 posts

Don't go too far, Bath maybe, which would give you a railway experience through the countryside. As others have said, plenty to do in London, but if you haven't been there before-- or have-- enjoy no matter what you do. If you need a respite from the busy quality of the city, take the Tube to Kew Gardens (Richmond tube stop.)

Cleo

Posted by
7175 posts

Take a boat on the Thames to Greenwich on the Sunday of your arrival - a good strategy to combat jet lag.
Stonehenge and Bath indeed makes an attractive day out as a foil to the business of London.

Day 1
Buckingham Palace
Westminster Abbey £20 (for tourists)
Houses of Parliament
National Gallery

Day 2
Tower of London £23
Tower Bridge
St Paul's £15.50 (for tourists)
Tate Modern

Day 3
Borough Market
Covent Garden
British Museum

Friday, stay close to your lodgings before your flight and visit Kensington Palace & Knightsbridge.

Posted by
1921 posts

We've been to St. Pauls twice and both times we were happy to attend evensong and a church service, both for free!

Posted by
92 posts

Dear jennakalkwarf,

In my planning, I have scheduled two fun activities to mix with the museums and history of London. I will be taking a "Duck Tour" and horseback riding in Hyde Park. The hour's guided tour of Hyde Park will help with my jet lag on first day.

Here are the links:

http://www.londonducktours.co.uk
http://www.rossnyestables.co.uk

There are several stables which offer guided tours of the park. I chose this particular one as their competitor (Hyde Park Stables) could not accommodate my special needs.

As far as transportation, I have pre purchased all my tickets on line and will pick them up at a train station. Please familiarize yourself with options by reading the posts under "transportation" (middle pull down menu). There are extremely knowledgeable contributors who will gladly advise you. There are no embarrassing questions in this community.

My advice is don't over think it, stay flexible and wear comfy shoes!

Enjoy

TK

Posted by
6670 posts

The National Portrait Gallery will give you a lot of history, disguised as art -- portraits of notable people through the centuries, with useful information about them. And it's free.

Westminster Abbey has the tombs of most of the kings and queens, and many others. Not free, but well worth the price for a history buff. The audio tour narrated by Jeremy Irons was well worth the price.

Windsor has the more recent royal tombs and is where the Queen spends more time than anyplace else, as I understand. (I'll stand corrected by any of our UK friends though.)

I agree with others that a day trip to Paris would shortchange both cities in your time frame. Save it for another trip when you have more time.

Posted by
14 posts

All great suggestions! The Hop On Hop Off bus is fun - great views from the top!! If you are a war history buff - the Imperial War Museum is very interesting.