Please sign in to post.

Time well spent in london

Hello, recently posted re london transportation and now back with more questions! Will be in London ,mid June Tuesday and leaving Friday. Arriving via train from York and staying near Earls court at hotel indigo Kensington at barkston gardens. Questions # 1. Am I making huge mistake if I do not do tower of london? Will probably see jewels when in edinburgh.
2. Recommended place for high tea that is very nice without breaking the bank. #3. Recommended city tour. #4 points of interest : Westminster Abbey, Parliament , Big Ben, Buckinham palace , St Paul’s cathedral and Briiish Museum. Was considering going to Kew Gardens but I think it may be too time consuming and I think have decided to do Kensington park /Hyde park instead. What would be most sensible order to see things in 2.5 days ina logistical sense. Oh almost forgot , would like to go to Din Tai Fung at 5?Henrietta in Covent garden! #5 is Oyster card practical for us to purchase and how does it work? Thank you Susan

Posted by
14163 posts

Here's information on the Oyster card:,London%20and%20some%20outside%20London.

You should get it at Kings Cross tube station when you arrive in London. Everyone must have their own Oyster card.

For a tour, consider one of the Hop On, Hop Off bus tours. They go past the main sights and offer commentary. You can get off at any stop you want and catch a later bus when you're ready to continue.

Posted by
25623 posts

Must-sees depend on your interests, so if you don't think the Tower of London is near the top of your list, go elsewhere. You don't have much time, so you have to be brutal! I've been to the Tower but not inside Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Buckingham Palace or St. Paul's. The first three are quite close together, but I'm not sure it would be smart to try to see them all on the same day; your feet might give out. St. Paul's is some distance away.

I think Big Ben is still covered up; it's being restored.

The British Museum is a huge place. You could spend your entire 2-1/2 days there, but no one would recommend that. What you need to do is go to the Museum website, read about its collections and decide how you want to tackle the museum. Do you want to see some of its highlights (which would probably mean a lot of walking and not a great deal of looking), or do you want to pick one or two of its collections and just see them? I will warn you that the entire ground floor can be really crowded; the Egyptian collection is the busiest. I was told by a guide that the museum is most packed on rainy days (naturally).

Posted by
13253 posts

I agree with acraven that if the Tower of London doesn’t seem to be of interest, skip it. HOWEVER, I’ll also say that it is WAY more than the Crown Jewels! To me they are just a tiny part of this historic royal palace and prison. The White Tower was started by William the Conqueror in 1066! Anne Boleyn was executed here and is buried under the floor of the chapel, St. Peter ad Vincula. Ravens! Suits of Armor! Defensive fortress! Watergate! ( can you tell I love it, lol)

Big Ben is viewed from the outside.

Westminster Abbey is wonderful. Download the app for the audio tour before you travel and be sure to take your ear buds. I’m sure they are doing timed entry but haven’t been to their website recently.

Agree with the advice about the British Museum. You should edit your wishlist here. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. The Sutton Hoo hoard is amazing.

During some times of the year you can visit the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace but it does not look like they open until July 22 this year. Otherwise it’s just a walk by from the outside.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
6942 posts

The Crown Jewels in London are a much bigger, dazzling collection than you’ll see in Scotland, There are so many crowns and other artifacts that you ride a moving walkway past them, to keep anyone from standing there too long. You’re welcome to get back on the walkway as often as you wish, to ride past the jewels as many times as you’d like. As mentioned, the Tower is magnificent in so many ways, but it’s not a cheap visit.

For Tea, the Fortnum & Mason store on Piccadilly street is the absolute epitome location! That’s where Queen Elizabeth went 10 years ago: You could have a less-pricey afternoon tea in their Parlor on the first floor, but how often do you get Tea in London? Put the money you save by not going to the Tower, and splurge for the big tea on the fourth floor. You can have as much tea (even different varieties) and scones, little cakes, and sandwiches as you desire. Fill up, and dinner may not be needed!

Posted by
6113 posts

I know lots of Brits that have never visited the Tower of London, so focus on what interests YOU as it’s your trip. You have a limited amount of time, so you need to be savvy about what to see and what to cut.

I think you mean afternoon tea - small finger sandwiches, cakes, scones and a pot of tea? High tea is more substantial, more like a hot meal. Many of the hotels such as The Ritz serve afternoon tea, but it’s very expensive. Many places these days serve afternoon tea, or you could just order a sandwich and a cake! Although it’s not a bargain, the cafe in the gorgeous Liberty store just off Regent Street is a happy balance. Other options without breaking the bank include The Tea Terrace in the House of Fraser store on Bond Street or Tea and Tattle book shop near The British Museum. Browns have several restaurants that serve afternoon tea, so one of their branches maybe convenient. You won’t want afternoon tea if you have a dinner reservation.

Taking a walking tour will pick up the main highlights. The British Museum is vast, so if you go here, do your homework and be selective about what you see, as you could spend your entire trip in here. At present, you need to book an entry time slot in advance, as there are no walk up slots. St Paul’s is several miles from the Buckingham Palace/Westminster area. If your time is short, you may want to consider visiting either Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s.

Kew Gardens will swallow pretty much a whole day including travel to and from there. It depends on your interests and the weather - if it’s a lovely day, I would sooner spend it at Kew than in the British Museum.

Posted by
847 posts

Although not a fan of Hop on Hop Off buses in your case I think they make a lot of sense. In fact my very first trip to London we did one and I'm still glad. I think you can get a two day pass, but if not, possibly book it two days. I think a lot of the things on your list - and on most "must see" lists - really should be seen but not necessarily "toured". For example, I can't imagine going to London and not seeing the Tower of London and Tower Bridge (right next to each other). Just the outside of the tower is amazing. The inside is too but that will take several hours and you can see the outside, and the bridge pretty well in less than an hour. But do at least go see them.

Big Ben and Parliament are also essential to "see" but not to tour (can't go inside Big Ben anyway). Same with St Paul's, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace also. That's located between St James Park and Hyde Park. You could stop there and see St James Park and Buckingham Palace and then take a walk through Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens. Be aware that's a long walk

Taking the HOHO Bus lets you "see" these and much more and you can hop off at the most interesting places and walk around for a while and then hop back on. I would try to "see" as much as possible the first full day and if you hit all the highlights then, the second day you can decide if you want to go inside anywhere.

Why do you want to go to the British Museum? Anything specific you want to see or have you just heard that it's wonderful. It is wonderful but even a very short visit there is going to take close to half a day that you don't really have.

Also what do you want out of "high tea". Do you want the experience of a fancy restaurant cause that certainly won't come cheap. You can go to any of tons of tea shops all over London for a cup/pot with some little cakes or sandwiches and believe it or not that is actually having tea in London. You don't have to go to a touristy experience (unless you want to).

Here's my London photos -

Posted by
972 posts
  1. If it was my first time, I would not do London without the Tower. Its a magical place.
  2. High tea is only for tourists. English people don't do that.
  3. HOHO bus tours are a good overview if its your first time. So is a Thames cruise from Westminster Pier downriver to the Tower or Greenwich. For a more in depth visit, you can't beat London Walks. So many options for themes that might interest you.
  4. Read a guidebook and decide what interests you. There is too much to see in London for us to guess what your interests might be.
  5. Never do London without an Oyster Card. Just buy one at whatever Tube Station you visit first, load GBP 20 or whatever you think you'll need on the card, then use it everywhere you go. One card per person. Make sure you tap in where you start, and tap out when you get off.
Posted by
3802 posts

The Tower of London was my favourite site in London, we spent about 6 hours there; far more to see than just the jewels. Someone else mentioned it, but London Walks is great for tours and has a very good one for Westminster Abbey. I've only spent a few hours at the British Museum but it wasn't my cup of tea, I much preferred the London Museum which has a chronological history of London.

Posted by
1313 posts

You've got a good list for 2.5 days! I would probably plan for 1 site each morning and another for each afternoon. Then take the remaining time to simply wander and enjoy the city with impromptu stops along the way between sites. I've been inside Westminster Abbey (historic), St. Paul Cathedral (beautiful), the British Museum (interesting), and the Town of London (picturesque) and would rank them in the order listed. The National Gallery on Trafalger Square is worth a visit if you like art museums and not too far from Big Ben/Parliament/WA.

Posted by
5822 posts

As stated, three places on you list are really close together, while Buckingham Palace is no more than a 15 minute walk away. Much of the clock tower is still surrounded with scaffolding, but based n some recent BBC video the clock now seems to be un shrouded. From Buckingham Palace Hyde Park is only another 10-15 minutes walk away. One can walk to see most of the places on your list without trouble. A few years ago when we were staying by the Gloucester tube stop and were unable to check into the hotel yet, we walked (in order) to Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Parliament and Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and ended at Trafalgar Square before taking the tube back to the hotel. We didn’t go into anyplace, just walked by, but it gave us something to do while waiting to check in.

The Oyster card machines are easy to use.

Posted by
8264 posts

Entry cost into St Pauls is high. Only you can decide if its worth it.

Parliament Square ( Parliament, Westminster Abbey Elizabeths Tower and Westminster Bridge ) are all close to one another. Take the tube and exit at Westminster. Signage will tell you which exit or simply follow the crowds.

Big Ben is the Bell inside the Clock…(tower is being restored but believe clock face is now visible though. The tower still in scaffolding)

From Parliament Square you can follow Birdcage Walk thru St James Park to the Palace. Easy stroll.
Remember Changing of the Guard occurs daily.
Check this website:

High tea as explained above isn’t what you want unless you desire a full on meal.

If its just tea, teeny sandwiches and sweets you desire then a pleasant affordable spot is The Strand Palace or

To do Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens properly tube to Lancaster Gate station, exit, cross Bayswater Road and enter Hyde Park via the Lancaster Gate and the Italian Gardens. Follow the river path to see the Peter Pan statue and onto the Diana Memorial Fountain. From there follow signage towards the Round Pond and Kensington Palace. Listen for the green parrots.

If you prefer a short cut. Tube to Queensway, exit, cross Bayswater Road and enter Kensington Gardens at the Princess Diana Memorial Play ground and stroll to Kensington Palace.

Posted by
2560 posts

Will you be making a huge mistake if you don't visit the Tower--to me, the answer is a resounding yes! Mind you, I am totally nutty about the ravens and thus have visited the Tower on each of my 3 trips to London (eagerly waiting to go again hopefully this year) on the very first day and spent several happy hours just observing them, but have also toured all the buildings and there's just something magical about it, especially when you come upon it for the first time and marvel at the juxtaposition of buildings from the 1100s surrounded by modern architecture. It's quite spectacular and not like anything else you will see in London. The Yeoman Warder tours are delightful as they all have a wonderful sense of humor, and there's an excellent cafe on site as well--you would probably need about 3 hours to explore the various buildings and have a tour with the Warders.

My personal favorites include the Victoria & Albert, British Library, Westminster Abbey and the Churchill War Rooms, and always Saturday morning at the Portobello Road Market. I have toured both Buckingham and Kensington palaces and enjoyed them enormously--Buckingham is only open when the Queen is not there, not sure of the status at this point.

Posted by
25623 posts

You'll have very long days with late sunsets during your trip, so lots of opportunities to walk around London neighborhoods in the early evening (or early morning for that matter). In 2019 I often walked 2 miles or more back to my hotel from my last sightseeing stop, just wandering down any street that looked attractive. I love doing that, but I do wear really comfy shoes.

Posted by
5822 posts

For clarification only, from “Big Ben is a tower clock known for its accuracy and for its massive hour bell. Strictly speaking, the name refers only to the bell, which weighs 15.1 tons (13.7 metric tons), but it is commonly associated with the whole clock tower at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament, in the London borough of Westminster.”

Posted by
2875 posts

I stayed at the Henley Hotel, next door to the Indigo Hotel, a few years ago, and liked the area.
V. convenient for Earls' Court Tube station just nearby.
Ask the hotel front desk if you can have a key to the private gardens right across the road.
They are a nice quiet place to sit if you need to do that.

Oh, and I believe you want "Afternoon tea", not "High Tea".,meats%2C%20fish%20and%20other%20heavy%20food...%20More%20

Scones and little sandwiches...yum!

Posted by
10346 posts

My favorites are Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms, and walking in Chelsea on Kings Road and Kensington on High Street..The Tower of London is much more than the Crown Jewels. Read up on it’s history!
Why do you want to eat at DTF in London when you have so little time there? They are wonderful but found in the western USA in addition to Asia. In London, go to a pub or two, or a fish and chips place for a more authentic London experience.

Posted by
44 posts

Once again thanks for the helpful input. I think I will do Tower of London , sounds great and the London walks are very interesting! Are there passes to get discounts . I have to look into Britain pass that might-include Edinburgh sites also. . We will already have been to Scotland for 9 days and 3 in York. I will have plenty of time for fish / chips which we love! Both of my kids have been to DTF and say it is amazing and I won’t be going to Asia again , so there it is. The hop on off bus sounds good for overall sightseeing, but the price seems crazy. With an Oyster card I can probably take the tube and buses if we can figure it out? Or just take an open public bus. I think the hop on off would cost 64 pounds for the 2 of us. Thank You

Posted by
6942 posts

susan, unless you’re over 65 or under 16, London Walks are a flat £15, no discount for your fist one. However, after your first Walk, you can purchase a discount card for £5, which gives you a £5 discount on your further Walks. Just show up with cash (exact change is helpful), although they do accept credit cards. For info:

For The Tower, you save a few £ by ordering your specific arrival date/time ticket ahead of time, and you can print your ticket at home, or go up to the Groups ticket office at the Tower and collect it there, . That’ll be over $40 per person for entry (nearly £30). There’s a cafe on the grounds, should you need a bite or some refreshment.

I still can’t stress enough, though, the exceptionalness of the Fortnum & Mason afternoon tea! Their Lemon Curd is exceptional, and we bought jars of it to take home and give as gifts. Besides Afternoon Tea (posh setting) and High Tea (basically an early dinner), Britain also has “Cream Tea,” which is a cuppa tea and some kind of sweet roll, which you can do anywhere. Cream tea you could get away with at home, with a bag of Lipton in hot water, and a Hostess Twinkie on the side, so when in London, go for a proper Afternoon Tea!

Posted by
234 posts

For afternoon tea, my go-to option for affordable but with excellent quality and in a charming setting with lots of character is Seymour’s Parlour, near Marble Arch. It’s £39.50 per person (more if you add champagne or cocktails).

Regarding Oyster cards, if your credit or debit card has contactless technology, or if you have Apple Pay on your phone, you can just use any of those to tap in and out of the Tube or buses, no need to add the extra work of buying and topping up an Oyster card. The same daily caps apply as do with the Oyster so no disadvantage.

Posted by
14163 posts

Cream tea you could get away with at home, with a bag of Lipton in hot water, and a Hostess Twinkie on the side, so when in London, go for a proper Afternoon Tea!

OMG---that's like saying don't bother having pasta in Italy. You can always have a can of spaghettios at home.

A proper "Cream Tea" is a good cuppa (made in a teapot), scone, clotted cream and your favorite flavor of jam.

A far cry from a cup of Lipton and a Twinkie.

I'll let others deliberate on which to put on first--the cream or the jam.

My favorite cream tea was on a cloudless Spring day, sitting just outside of Christ Church's cafe in Oxford. A perfect respite after a long day of touring in Oxford and before boarding the train back to London.

Posted by
5 posts

I'm with Frank on this one...
Not a day goes by when I'm in the UK that I don't get Cream Tea.. I love tea and I love scones and absolutely love clotted cream, which I put an obscene amount on my scones....jam last.

Posted by
6942 posts

… as I said, go for a proper Afternoon Tea …

Posted by
3 posts

I think the Tower is impressive and fascinating (with the jewels being the least interesting thing about it), but if you aren't that interested in English history, then skip it! You might watch a video about it to see whether you'd like to go in person. "Secrets of Great British Castles" has a good episode on the Tower.

Another option for afternoon tea is to have it on a bus that drives by the major sites:

WIth just 2.5 days there, I'd skip Buckingham Palace. The London Walks that others mentioned are very well done, as are the Look Up London walking tours (; I'd do one of those a day to see some different areas.

And I second what Margaret said about using a contactless credit/debit card instead of getting a separate Oyster card:

Posted by
5822 posts

As of a few days ago, only about the bottom third of the Elizabeth Tower/Big Ben is still covered in scaffolding. The entire upper portion is obstruction free, so you can get a good photo.

For afternoon tea, if you decide not to go to Fortnam & Mason, a couple blocks from it, and across from the Ritz, is The Wolseley. It may be a little more budget friendly, but probably not by much.

Posted by
74 posts

You did not get much advice about tea. A wonderful place to have afternoon tea is the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). But to go there you would need to leave something else off your list. I would substitute the V&A for the British Museum. I enjoyed it much much more. Next trip to London, l will be more likely to return to the V&A than to the British Museum.

Posted by
31572 posts

sorry to disagree with the comment upthread. scone - then jam - then cream. The only way.

Posted by
419 posts

Another place to consider for afternoon tea is the Pavilion Kensington Palace. They offer a traditional English tea for 34 pounds and you have a lovely view of Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens. You can book online in advance. Years ago we had tea in the Orangery there and really enjoyed it. The Orangery is closed for refurbishment now, but the Pavilion would be a very nice possibility.

Posted by
470 posts

£34 , must have seen you coming!
Thats much more than my weekly grocery shop!

Posted by
4100 posts

I'm a fan of tea at Fortnum and Mason. It is expensive, but business casual dress is ok and it will be your dinner that day. I've been to both Tower of London and British Museum on several different trips. Along with Westminster Abbey, they would be my 3 must sees.

Posted by
2690 posts

I am another one who can’t imagine going to London and foregoing the Tower of London, however, my sister didn’t like it and she’s a museum lover (don’t know what happened there). The British Museum knocked my socks off, I have never been more impressed with a museum than this one.
Walking along Whitehall is an easy street to stroll but no need to go inside the Parliament building. When touring Westminster Abbey rent the headset unless you’re fluent with British history. The Churchill War Rooms (plus museum) is another spectacular spectacle. The museum will keep you there longer than planned and you’ll still feel the need to return. I’ve been to London three times and visit each time and will again. With 2.5 days skip the National Gallery because that too is a full day.
London has the best hop-on hop-off bus tour there is. Why, because there are so many attractions that are fairly close by that you’ll see a lot if you spend the day on one. The problem is the traffic. If you do this, you’ll need to get off the bus to see Buckingham Palace. I wouldn’t stick around for the changing of the guard ceremony or venture inside.
One place I didn’t care for was St Paul’s Cathedral. I didn’t feel it was anything significant compared to the places mentioned above. I probably would have had more fun having high tea.

Posted by
44 posts

Thank You all for your great suggestions/tips. somewhere in my postings I remembered someone saying that one can share afternoon tea with another, is this correct? I am considering afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason or the orangery pavillion since I am hoping to go to Kensington park and High street. how do these two compare and is it not frowned upon to share afternoon tea ,or not even permitted. We will not have dressy clothes, what is dress code for F&M.I received directions for which tube to take to Hyde and kensington Park, is there a closer tube to return from Highstreet in Kensington and is it safe to wander in the early evening in these areas? looking forward to this trip and with your help London seems not as frightening as I originally thought! thanks Susan

Posted by
44 posts

hello , On a prior posting Claudia had given directions to hyde and kensington parks. after doing some research into the sites to see in the parks, i have "narrowed it down" to the rose garden in hyde park, serpentine art gallery, dianas memorial fountain ,italian garden ,albert memorial and Peter pan. I am wondering if this is too large an area to cover and how much time to allow for this. would also go to outside of kensington palace and gardens but not inside the palace. also is it reasonable to go to HighStreet at the same time. I realize if it is raining will probably have to cancel this all together. last; I went to the tfl site for journey planner. is this the best way for me to figure which tubes to take to go from point A to B. ? it suggested from earls court barkston st that I take the the. paddington line to lancaster gate station. would this be the best route . Many thanks

Posted by
8264 posts

Susan if you exit at Lancaster Gate station, the entrance to Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens is across Bayswater Road through the Lancaster Gate entrance. You can see the entrance when you walk out the station. Turn Right. Walk to the corner and cross Bayswater at the light. The Italian Gardens and Serpentine are right there. Walk into the park.
Follow the path next to the Serpentine and you’ll go right by the Peter Pan Statue. Walk on. After wslking under the overpass you’ll see the Diana Memorial Fountain. The Lido cafe and swimming area is right there. Easy stroll.

To get to Kensington Palace. Turn back around, go back under the overpass and you’ll see signage to Kensington Palace. Basically you’ll veer left away from the Serpentine.

If you have an iphone use Google Maps. You’ll see the route I’m referring to. Good signage in Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens. Use the Serpentine to divide Hyde Park from Kensington Gardens.

Yes it can all be seen at a comfortable pace. Just ride the tube after commuter “traffic.” So say 9:30 or 10am.

From Kensington Gardens after viewing the exterior of the Palance walk towards the Albert Memorial.
Walk out the gate. The Royal Albert Hall is across the road. Theres a stoplight and cross walk. Cross there walk past the Hall. Go a block to Queens Gate and turn left. Lots of Embassys on Queens Gate. Walk the long block to Queens Gate Terrace and turn right. Then 200 feet ( ?) turn right at the Queens gate mews and you’ll find the Queens Arm pub. Enjoy your lunch there.

Or another route which provides quicker access to Kensington High Street is walk on the path past the palace ( it will be on your right) and up to Palace Ave and turn left. This takes you out to Kensington High Street. Turn right and off you go.

EDIT: if you are riding the tube from Earls Court station take the District Line train ( green ) to Nottinghill Gate. Exit and board a Central Line ( red ) to Lancaster Gate. OR board a District Line train to Paddington Station, exit and walk a few blocks to the Lancaster Gate entrance. OR another route is Earls Court District Line to Queensway exit and enter Kensington Palace grounds from there. Sadly, this route always seems to have delays.

PS: There is NO Paddington Line. Below is a link from the Tfl website showing all the London Underground lines and there routes.

PPS: If Dr Who fans enjoy the large Tardis on the sidewalk outside the Earl’s Court station. If not Dr Who fans ignore what I just said.