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Something to do on arrival day in London

Hi,
My mom and I are spending a week in London this month- my 3rd time and her 1st time. Our package includes the 3 Day London Pass, but we arrive around noon our first day and don’t want to activate the pass until the next day in order to get 3 full days. By the time we reach our hotel, it will probably be 2:00 pm or so. We want to do something easy, as we’ll be coming off no sleep, but nothing that is included with the London Pass that we can see for free the following few days. I’ve looked at walking tours, but most seem to start in the mornings. I also don’t want to do anything “special” (Buckingham Palace visit, British Museum, Tea at Harrods) when we’re too tired to properly enjoy it. Does anyone have any suggestions for something free or reasonably-priced for a few hours in the afternoon? It will be a Monday, if that helps.

Thanks so much in advance.

Posted by
2791 posts

Our routine when arriving in London is to have a nice tea at 4 as dinner and then go to bed very early. We find tea to be very relaxing especially if there's a pianist and the whole experience screams "You're in London"!

Posted by
1044 posts

Take a walk on South Bank. It will keep you moving and outside and there are lots of interesting things to see.

Posted by
3478 posts

A long walk in a park with fresh air and sunshine will go a long way towards combatting jet lag. It's free, the people watching is usually great, and it'll also help you get oriented. After a couple of hours perhaps an early meal, some sleep, and you'll be good to go the next morning.

Posted by
500 posts

I would look for a nice walk / self guided tour in the area of your hotel, then find a pub for a good meal. If your plane is on time and you are landing at noon at LHR from the USA, plan on at least an hour to get through passport control plus your travel time to South Kennington. I would be inclined to think that you will get to your hotel more like 3 to 4 PM.

Posted by
3173 posts

Stay outside and avoid museums, churches, palaces. Fresh air helps you against jet lag.

Posted by
8249 posts

Depending on where your hotel is in South Kensington, you can head either for the River or I'd probably head for Kensington Gardens. Walk thru the Gardens to Kensington Palace (see from the outside), walk thru the Sunken Garden and head home. Tons of restaurants on Queens Gate street.

Posted by
9783 posts

Rick Steves' book has a nice self-guided walk through Westminster. You don't have to go into the sites to enjoy it and it is a fine overview.

Posted by
885 posts

My first night in London this May we went to the Skygarden. It’s free, but you need a reservation that can be made online. If you aren’t familiar it’s a building you go up in for a really nice view over the city. Inside there are bars and restaurants. After admiring the view for some time, we got a drink from one of the bars and went near the windows to have a toast to our first night in London. I thought that was a good way to start the visit.

Posted by
8249 posts

Oh, I just remembered a fun walk I did! It's from the blog A Lady in London and is a walk thru Kensington. I was staying at the Radisson Blu Edwardian on Cromwell Rd and the walk ends right beside the hotel. I walked about half of it backwards (the route, not me - too clumsy for that, hahaha!!) and then cut up to Kensington Gardens. I loved walking thru the small mews and cute back streets!

https://www.aladyinlondon.com/2017/04/self-guided-walk-kensington-london.html

Posted by
3222 posts

Possibly walk around little Venice and Camden Lock, or Covent Garden and. Carnaby street.

Posted by
11263 posts

Rick has various walks in his London book. The City walk and the Westminster walk are also on his audio app. If you download the app and the walks while on Wi-Fi, they can be played without any data connection.

I did the City walk on my arrival day arrival in April, and it worked very well. I didn't go inside any attractions, as for me, that worsens jet lag considerably.

Posted by
279 posts

I second the suggestion for having tea. The important point is having something planned. It can be pretty hard to make a plan when you are tired and jet lagged!

Posted by
136 posts

We did a walk from Big Ben - Westminster Abbey - Horse Guards - St. James Palace - Buckingham Palace - down the Mall - Trafalgar Square - Piccadilly Circus.

We got to see and take pictures of lots of things we were not going to get to go in and see using the London Pass. It was a fun walk, really felt like we were IN LONDON!

Have a great time!

Posted by
1009 posts

I would do a walk around your neighborhood or in a park, ie St. James, Kensington Gardens.

I would not do a guided walk on arrival day. I did a London Walks the afternoon of my arrival and I honestly don't remember anything about it other than I was so tired and my brain was fried from jet lag. I dropped out before the end. So yes, a walk through one of London's many royal parks would be my suggestion.

Posted by
179 posts

I agree walking would work well. But, one time when the kids were young enough extensive walking wouldn't go well we took a HOHO bus sitting outside. We got a good overview and could take short visits in various areas - Trafalger, Covent Garden etc.

Posted by
1682 posts

Yeah that's a tough call between an informal walk through a park or part of London versus a 2 hour guided tour. I agree it helps to stay outside.

An afternoon tea with a relaxing piano and my head would hit the table.

What works for us is to shower and take a nap of no more than 30 minutes, and then be a little cranky with each other. Get groceries, money, and basically just get ready to hit the ground running in the morning.

Posted by
5635 posts

Simple answer. Meander around your S Kensington neighborhood.

Locate the nearest tube stop, bank ATM, coffee spot, Pub, market, Pret a Manager and tourist trinket shop. Drop off your luggage, freshen up and then head back outside to explore.

At the Tube stop get your Oyster Card. At the bank ATM withdraw your pounds. Grab a coffee. At the market get some bottled water. If hungry grab a nosh at the Pret a Manager. Do a bit of trinket buying, postcards, magnets, etc.

Lastly if you have the stamina take a stroll over to Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park. Photo ops of the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial. I think your mother would enjoy seeing those. If you still have time meander over to the Lady Diana Memorial Garden adjacent to the Serpentine and then maybe a tea and scone at the nearby Lido Cafe.

Walk back to the hotel and enjoy a restful night.

Posted by
61 posts

I cannot say enough how important it is to stay moving and be outside! The first day is a killer, at least for us, but DH and I found that being outdoors and walking around was the absolute best thing for our first day (after an overnight flight). We popped into a Pret for lunch and I kid you not, DH fell asleep sitting at the table. As long as we were moving, we were fine. Walk around and get the lay of the land or see some exteriors, and once you’re able to get into your hotel room, a shower will help refresh you. Grab an early dinner and then go to bed early and sleep the best sleep of your life. You should wake up the next morning with your body clock mostly reset.

Posted by
1146 posts

As it is your Mom's first time I recommend you take one of the double decker bus tours that give her an overview of the city (just not at rush hour.) Sit on top to get plenty of fresh air! Then take a walk somewhere in the neighborhood you are staying. I disagree about going to bed early. Stay up as late as you possibly can, even if that is only 9pm London time, so you get on their time zone easier. I also recommend a strong coffee or strong tea when you first arrive to give you a jolt. Then keep repeating, "I am in London, I am in London." and have a great time.

Posted by
1682 posts

Agree with everything Laurie said. You don't want to necessarily go to bed early, lest you wake up too early. If you can hang in there until 9 or (maybe) 10 p.m. you will acclimate yourself faster to local time. It does help if you can take a short nap of maybe 30-45 minutes early in the day, but no longer. My wife and I are reconciled to the fact we're going to be a little grumpy with each other the first day overseas. One glass of wine will feel like three or so.

Is the Royal Mews inside info on the Royal family, or some type of daily update?

Posted by
8293 posts

Mike, google "Royal Mews" . I love the idea that it may be a source of inside info on the Royals. Right from the horse's mouth, as they say.

Posted by
519 posts

Thank you so much for all the wonderful ideas! Mom and I are waiting for our connecting flight to London in Chicago right now. Fingers crossed for a smooth flight

Posted by
519 posts

Thanks so much everyone! We ended up visiting St. Martin-in-the-Fields and attending a lovely prayer service, walking around a bit and are now getting ready for an early dinner.

Posted by
1044 posts

I respectfully disagree with the suggestion to take a HOHO bus. If you were sleepless on the flight you risk the HOHO bus to be a very expensive nap.

Posted by
519 posts

Thank you. We are actually going to do the hop on hop off bus tomorrow.

Posted by
22 posts

Depending on where you are in London, I always start at Hyde Park. It's a great place to start and relax, catch your breath in London, it's pretty easy to get to, whether you're walking, taxi, underground, etc. Hyde Park is free to enter, has great walking paths and you can stop and get drinks and light snacks at a couple of places in the park, check out the Lido Cafe which is along the Serpentine Lake, get a pot of tea and scones(when in London...). Have fun.