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Westminster Abbey or British Museum?

Looking for some opinions on whether to see Westminster Abbey or the British Museum? I know both are impressive in their own right but I have limited time and I don't want to feel like I am cramming too much into one day. My party will be spending basically 1 1/2 days in London proper and I'm trying too pick wisely.

Day one, everyone should arrive in London by at least 3:30pm so I was thinking after everyone is settled we could see the House of Parliament/House of Lords, Big Ben, walk to some of the near by parks and grab some dinner. I originally wanted to go to Westminster Abbey this afternoon but I don't think it we would have enough time. Unfortunately, we arrive on a Wednesday, so Evensong is spoken and not sung. If we just happened to stick around for Evensong, would we see enough of the Abbey or do we need more time?

Day two, we will be starting early at St Paul's Cathedral, (which opens at 0830), The Tower of London, then taking the river ride down to Westminster Pier, which I'm guessing will put us around 2pm. That leaves the British Museum and Westminster Abbey, but I don't know we would have enough time to really see both since they close @ 5:30pm & 3:30pm respectively.

From London, we are flying to spend 10+ days in Italy and we will be seeing many museums there. At this point, unfortunately, I'm leaning toward skipping the British Museum in favor of taking some time at the Abbey since we will be spending lots of time at museums in Italy.


Posted by
2163 posts

My vote is for Westminster Abbey, truly a spectacular experience, and since you'll be seeing a lot of museums in Italy (different art of course) I'd say leave it for another trip--that's what I did. I spent about 2 hours at the Abbey, and my favorite part was Poet's Corner. From there I walked a couple of blocks and toured Churchill's War Rooms and Museum, probably one of the most fascinating exhibits I've ever seen and I highly recommend that if you have an interest in it and can work it in.

Posted by
703 posts

maybe its because the British museum was free to get in, and easy to walk around, but we enjoyed it thoroughly. or probably because it houses unique treasures from all over the world.
we were very surprised at the cost to enter the churches in London, compared to other countries.

Posted by
308 posts

It depends on you! I've been to London twice and have not been inside Westminster Abbey. The first time, I just ran out of time. For me, the British Museum was a must see for the Rosetta Stone alone. The second time, I had just spent a lot of time visiting the York Minster so I was not interested in another church.

Posted by
316 posts

my thoughts are as follows: skip St. Paul's and go to Westminster instead. St. Paul's is beautiful, but I prefer the history of Westminster.
Then you could still pop into the British Museum. It is free, and I don't know which month you're visiting, but I have found that only certain rooms are crowded, while others might only have a few people.
Whatever you decide will be great!
Have a wonderful adventure!

Posted by
1132 posts

We took a cruise on the Thames from Big Ben to the tower and that was all we had time for to not be super rushed. I would choose Westminster Abby over the British Museum, as much as I LOVE the British museum. We saw Westminster on a Walks of London walk, which also took us to see the Changing of the gaurds and a walk through Green park. Anything you choose will be a winner, must be tough to have to decide between two fabulous places!

Posted by
5689 posts

First, drop St Pauls.

Second in answer to your query, Westminster Abbey over the British Museum.

Day of arrival and after everyone has checked in and freshen up.

Take the tube to Westminster stop. Exit the train, Mind The Gap and follow signage to EXIT 1 which say Westminster Bridge.
Exit. River cruise docks will be in front of you as will the London Eye across the Thames. Westminster Bridge will be to your right. Turn right, look up, smile and begin your quick London visit at the top of the stairs.

From Parliament square (Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey) you have a couple of options for exploring on your first night in town.

Could walk up Whitehall past the Horse Guards, 10 Downing (which u really can't see anymore) to Trafalgar Square. Photo ops. Then continue on over to Covenant Garden where you can have a nice meal.

Follow Birdcage Walk thru St james Park up to Buckingham Palace, cross the mall into Green Park. Walk through Green Park to Piccadilly and follow it down to Piccadilly Circus (especially colorful neon at night) then into SoHo.

Day 2:

Tower of London first thing. Then photos of Tower Bridge, then walk up to Ledenhall Market Place (glass covered market place) near the futuristic Lloyd's of London building. Have a nosh. Then either walk or tube to Spitafield's Market and Brick Lane. Something for everyone in your group. Lunch.

Now if you are up for it take the tube (I believe the Central line) from Liverpool Street to the Holborn Station and walk a few blocks to the British Museum.

Great city. Your time there.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for all suggestions and commentaries. I'm looking forward to a hectic but exciting visit to London!

Posted by
1050 posts

My vote would be to see Westminster Abbey. it does not take nearly as long to see it as it takes to see the British Museum. Either way, you can't lose.

Both are great. With Westminster abbey, expect a line to get in. Once inside, you get somewhat herded through in a one-way only fashion. If you prefer to avoid "herds," go to Westminster abbey for a Mass. You won't get to walk all over, but you do get to participate in Mass in a stunning Church and hear a wonderful boy's choir. Or, visit the British museum for easy strolling around. P.S. My husband and I also really liked St. Paul's. Basically, you don't have any bad choices here.

Posted by
5563 posts

I went back to Westminster Abbey a couple of years ago for a third visit. I continue to be awed by the history that is present there and the beauty of the Abbey. I don't recall that I was hurried through my last visit. It was on a weekend. I got to see my touch points--Queen Elizabeth's tomb, Mary Queen of Scot's tomb, the Coronation Chair, Edward I's tomb, Poet's Corner--and then just admire the Abbey.

So, I come down seeing the Abbey.


Posted by
14 posts

I found the Abbey to be very moving and made one of my best prayers ever. It just seemed to flow through my brain and when I opened my eyes they were full of tears. Very moving experience.

Posted by
489 posts

Well, you just can not do it all in the time frame you've chosen. The British Museum has many wonders of the world.. If you do choose the British Museum very close is Harrods Dept. Store, a British icon in its self. If you have time to see all the floors,then please do, but please pop into to lower level and see the food courts. A true British experience!!!!! purchase something/anything and get a Harrod's bag.

Posted by
489 posts

Gosh, sorry, it was the National history museum, but Harrod's should not be missed.

Posted by
823 posts

I think you're trying to cram way too much into 1.5 days (which is really just one day and two evenings). It also depends a lot on where you are staying...

If I remember right, you cannot get into the Abbey's Nave from the chapel where Evensong/Evening Service is held. If you are arriving in the city (center) of London at 3:30pm and have yet to check-in to accommodations (in order to get settled in), you would be hard-pressed to get to any venue before they closed. I would recommend a nice walk in one of the wonderful parks (Hyde Park with Dianna's monument, etc) or head to the Queen's Walk along the south side of the Thames and maybe catch the London Eye.

I rather like St. Paul's but a better choice of Museum to pair with it would be the Museum of London.

The British Museum is HUGE and one can spend a week there and not absorb everything. If you do decide to go, pre-plan by picking just one or two galleries to see.

The Tower of London can occupy an entire day if you let it. I would plan on spending at least half a day and then sticking to a plan for targeting only what you want to see.

Across the river from the Tower of London (which I also would visit first-thing to avoid crowds) is Borough Market. This is a great place to have lunch but be careful or you'll be absorbed for several hours. In fact, I think my day might be Tower of London, Borough Market, St Paul's and then the Museum of London (if I didn't get side-tracked).

You may be over-romanticizing the water-bus trip down the Thames... The tube is much faster and you won't really miss much. And the "tour" boats don't make sense for that short of a journey.

Posted by
11450 posts

You are going to italy , you will most likely see more churches there than musueums . St Peters in Rome blows all other churches out of the water .

At the British musuem you will see treasures from all over the world. I wouldnt miss it, no way no how.

Posted by
8390 posts

If you do decide to go to Westminster Abbey, download the audio tour before you leave home. It was much easier to listen to it with my ear buds than listen to the larger, heavier audio guide they provide.

Posted by
72 posts

This is like Sophie's choice. Agh. But if you decide to do the British Museum - I concur with an earlier poster that you should pick the one or two galleries that most interest you. That said - the Parthenon Friezes (aka controversially known as the Elgin marbles) should NOT be missed. I really want these to go back to Greece but in the meantime the British Museum has done a very nice job with the presentation. I have been to the British Museum 5 or 6 times and I usually only go to this room.

Posted by
80 posts

If you do decide on Westminster I encourage you to go to the cafe and have a Pimms. Great memory maker from my trip in 2013, had always heard of them but never had one till at the Westminster Cafe. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
107 posts

Westminster Abbey would by far be my choice, even if it were not for the close proximity to Parliament, Horse Guards, and the Cabinet War Rooms. The Tower of London (which opens at 09:00) and Tower Bridge are also in close proximity to each other so that works well. St Paul's would be the stop I would hold till last in case time gets short.

Posted by
214 posts

check the British Museums schedule as it is open later in the evening on certain days.

Posted by
73 posts

looks like the BM is open until 8:30pm on Fridays only, so that would not work as a tack-on to the Thursday itinerary

Posted by
73 posts

We are heading to London after the Tattoo in Edinburgh in August of '17, so my take on it, based on our personal leanings(not having been to either St.Pauls or Westminster)would be prioritize Westminster over St.Pauls and look at the 1 hour or 3 hour set itinerary the British Museum offers on their website. Depending on where you are staying, that might determine where you start the day, but if you head out to your farthest point in the morning before things open, you might be able to fit the Tower, Westminster & British Museum into a hectic day. We cheated by fitting the BM into a Friday evening! The Tower & BM close at 5:30pm normally, so it would make sense to use one of those as the start and one as the end point with WA in the middle. Note; the Abbey has a nice looking cafe, Cellarium, in close proximity for a quick lunch too.