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Westminster Abbey, Tower of London and the London Eye

London like all other large European cities has lots to do and see. So you make a bucket list of what you want to see and then start to remove items as you realize that it won't be possible to do them all. I've been London a couple of times before and have seen various museums and galleries. But have not seen any of the above.

My thoughts about the famous London wheel is that it just an expensive way to see London rooftops so it is not a high priority for me.
I think the Tower is on probably my not to be missed list but would like to hear the thoughts of others.
And as I will be visiting York I will probably go to see the famous Minster. I am going on to Europe after the UK so have a list of churches, cathedrals, mosques and synagogues I want to take a look at this time round.

But am not ruling out a visit to the Abbey if I get the feeling that it is not to be missed. What do others think who have visited this great church and who have probably been to others scattered throughout Europe? I saw a lot of churches the first time I visited Europe and the memories are still comparatively fresh in my mind.

Posted by
1836 posts

The Tower and Westminster Abbey should definitely be on your not to be missed list. The Abbey has recently opened a new exhibit high in the rafters. This area has never been open to visitors before. I have been to the Abbey so many times and enjoyed it each time. For a great tour of the Abbey, sign up for the Verger Tour as soon as you get through the ticket area. I took one after about my 4th visit and learned so much.

Posted by
10344 posts

Many visitors feel that Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London are worthy destinations. Any London guidebook or website will give the reasons.

Posted by
8736 posts

Both very interesting and iconic London sites.

When is the trip? I ask only because of size of crowds.

Went to the Abbey in May once and could barely move the crowds were so huge. Like Sardines. Went last year in late November. Spent 2.5 hours because I could actually meander, read plaques, etc without my sight lines being obscured. The difference due to time of year amazed.

Same with the Tower of London. Last November got a little sprinkling of snow and was able to meander. Went first to see the Crown Jewels as that’s the “big” attraction then leisurely saw the rest of the grounds and armory.

Posted by
3800 posts

What Kent, Claudia and Laurie Beth have said.

The Tower of London is not to be missed.
Westminster Abbey is awesome, with the tombs of some of England's greatest king and queens.
I would do both. Get there as soon as they open for the smallest crowd.
Both the Abbey and the Tower are made more interesting if you have a keen interest in English history.
Or a keen interest in cathedrals and palaces.

Do make your own list for London that includes your own personal interests.

I recommend that you look at this website and see if several of these walks appeal to you. www.walks.com This is the London Walks company. They give inexpensive guided walking tours around London. Choose your subject; architecture, the Beatles, Victorian London, etc. Look at their walks--dozens of them to choose from.

Posted by
2609 posts

I visited the Abbey and Tower on my first trip to London and loved both--Poet's Corner was the part of the Abbey I loved most, and just a couple of blocks away is Churchill's War Rooms, not to be missed if you have an interest in WWII history. It's much more popular now so advance tickets are highly recommended. It really feels as though the war ended the day before and they boarded it up, one of the more compelling museums I've ever toured.

But the Tower, now, that's something truly magnificent--you come out of the Tower Hill tube station and suddenly there's a medieval fortress, surrounded by modern buildings and the Tower bridge and it just boggles the mind. Take the Yeoman Warder guided tour--they are quite entertaining--see the Crown Jewels, wonder what it's like to live in one of the little row houses with blue doors amidst all this fascinating history, see Sir Walter Raleigh's rooms and where Anne Boleyn was executed, and finally, to me, the best part is the ravens. 6 are out and about either in their enclosure or on the lawn, but mind any snacks you might be carrying because they are bold and will snatch them away. If you're lucky the Ravenmaster himself will be out telling stories about them or leading a tour. If you're really lucky like I was on my recent trip (where I spent 3 hours at the Tower just observing the ravens) you'll find one of their feathers as a souvenir. Definitely don't miss the Tower!

Posted by
3800 posts

Kudos to Christa for her enthusiastic report on the Tower of London.
I feel the same way about it. Spent 6 hours there on one visit.
The London Eye--I feel the same way you do about it.

Posted by
91 posts

Thanks for your replies. I will be in the UK for about 16 days before I go across to France. I am definitely interested in British history both distant and more recent. My maternal grandmother was English and descendants on my father's side came from Cornwall.
I like visiting churches so fitting in the Abbey would not be a problem. And I was definitely planning a trip to the Tower.

I have seen three movies recently about Churchill and have recently purchased the audio of the latest biography (50 hours) so a visit to the war rooms would be fascinating. And an escorted walk would be great. Once again London is a good city for walking as anywhere you finish up you can find a nearby tube station to return or worst case scenario grab a black cab.

Any other recommendations about not to be missed attractions would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
786 posts

We enjoyed Westminster and the Tower, echoing what others have already said. Hard to think of going to London and not see them.

We had not planned to bother with the Eye, and I hate Ferris wheels, anyway. But our son said he wanted to do it. This was on our first, jet-lagged day in London and we’d been on the go, dashing from sight to sight for hours. It was actually a bit relaxing to just stand in line for a little while with people who were just there to have some fun. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and the slow ride on the Eye was more agreeable than I’d expected.

Would I put it on a must-do list? Absolutely not. But, depending on the circumstances, it might be worth a whirl.

Posted by
6626 posts

Ditto what the others have said. We went on the Eye only because my daughter wanted to see it. If you don’t want to pay the price and get an equally good view, go to the Sky Garden. It’s free and you can get advance tickets online. It takes walk-ups beginning at 9pm nightly which is when we went. Only waited in line for 10 minutes at Westminster Abbey earlier this month.

Also visited York in December, and the Minster does not compare to Westminster Abbey, or many others I’ve visited throughout Europe (St. Peter’s, Santiago de Compostela, Burgos, Sevilla, Norte-Dame, Monreale, etc.). The alter was covered in scaffolding as was a portion of the exterior. The Shambles in York is fun to wander and the town wall is nice for a stroll. The Abbey ruin there is really only one wall, but a nice photo op. Not much to Clifford’s tower on the interior, so I’m not certain it’s even worth the nominal entrance fee.

Posted by
14076 posts

If you have an interest in Churchill and WWII, do the Churchill War Rooms early on in your visit. I picked up a neat book last time I was there that has some self-guided walking tours in areas that are Churchill related. I'll look for it in a bit and post the name. Anyway, I wish I had had it at the first of my last trip so I could follow some of the routes.

If you decide on any London Walks tours, the Westminster at War one was very good with some Churchill related stuff - of course they change by guide.

By the way....the bookstore at the War Rooms is pretty good. My brother picked up a book ( http://www.iwmshop.org.uk/p/25368/Somewhere-in-England---American-Airmen-in-the-Second-World-War ) and it fell open to the story of a P-47 pilot who flew in our Dad's fighter group. Very weird.

Agree with everyone else about Westminster Abbey and Tower of London. I think the thing that is different for me about Westminster Abbey is the notables that are buried or memorialized there. Stephen Hawking's ashes were interred there this summer - right near Isaac Newton. Can you flipping believe that? If you can work it in, do the Verger's tour here. You get to go in to the Chapel of Edward the Confessor which is off limits to regular tourists (creaky floor won't stand up to the traffic per the verger on our tour.)

Posted by
786 posts

By the way....the bookstore at the War Rooms is pretty good. My brother picked up a book ( http://www.iwmshop.org.uk/p/25368/Somewhere-in-England---American-Airmen-in-the-Second-World-War ) and it fell open to the story of a P-47 pilot who flew in our Dad's fighter group. Very weird.

Pam: That's very cool. My mom worked at the Republic Aviation plant in Evansville, Ind., where Thunderbolts were built. The P-47 was, of course, her favorite plane. She passed away 30 years ago, but awhile back I built a model in her honor of a P-47 flown by Francis "Gabby" Gabreski, the leading American ace in the European theater and my mom's favorite pilot.

What unit did your dad fly with?

Posted by
97 posts

Love love love both! I find British history fascinating so that definitely helps, but the rest of my family enjoyed them on our last visit and they are not as big of history buffs as I am. We spent about three hours at Tower of London last June and had to cut our visit short because we got there in the afternoon and they were going to be closing. Next time I will definitely get there at opening and take my time. Westminster Abbey was also extremely interesting. I really enjoyed the audio guide. When we went, the new area up in the rafters was not open, but that is on my list to try and do for my next visit. Both places were crowded when we went (in June), but doable. We bought tickets online ahead of time which saved a lot of time. Definitely do this for Westminster Abbey. You can bypass the entire line (go up to a worker and show them the tickets on your phone and they will let you right up to the front)... but make sure you buy them directly from the Abbey website. Other people had bought tickets ahead from somewhere else, but they were required to get in the long line with everyone else. We are visiting London again this March and plan to visit both places - I'm hoping for fewer crowds in March than we had in June.

Posted by
14076 posts

Stoutfella - very cool about your Mom. She saved my Dad's bacon a couple of times with that well-built plane. He was in the 404th Fighter Squadron. The story in the book I referenced was that the pilot had taken a shell THRU one of the propeller blades and still made it back to his base.

Posted by
31 posts

We visited the War Rooms in 2010. We thought it would take about an hour or so. We spent 5 hours there in early May and it was not crowded. I had read a short book about him and was fascinated by his life. I am sure it will be crowded like sardines after the movie. I am going on RS Best of England so we will see York Minster and Westminster Abbey. I rented a flat in Kensington for after the tour only to find out that the Doll's House in Windsor is closed indefinitely.

Posted by
32944 posts

There are special things to see at the Tower of London - well special to me anyway - beyond the Crown Jewels and the Ravens, great fun that they are and well worth going just for them - I love tagging onto a Yeoman Warder tour (I've been on many - maybe I can collect all the Beefeaters eventually) so that I can get back into the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula which has so very much history and character and is one of my absolute favourites (you can only get in on a Warder tour (free) or on a Sunday for a service). The Battlements walk is up and down and goes through some really special parts and gives unique views of the spectacular fortress.

I, as a member there, return over and over, but if you only can make one visit you need to prioritise and decide which of the 20 or so special things there makes you happiest and do those - you can't see it all in one trip.

In decades of visiting attractions in London I have done the wheel once. Fine enough and I still have the British Airways (yup, before BA) "flight guide" to the experience. I've never been back. If you want to see London from up high there are many free roof gardens and viewpoints, from the Sky Garden to the Tate Modern, to One New Change, to the godawful and ridiculously overpriced Shard, to the roof garden at SOAS, to the roof garden on top of John Lewis Oxford Street, to the Ally Pally, to Primrose Hill and many more. Those are my personal preferences and everybody is different so if the London Eye attracts you by all means do it.

Westminster Abbey is unique. Saw the Queen Mum there once (pure serendipity). Others have given some of its attractions so I won't belabour, but I'm a St Pauls lad, rather. Don't do one or the other, do both - they are very different.

Posted by
14076 posts

"I love tagging onto a Yeoman Warder tour (I've been on many - maybe I can collect all the Beefeaters eventually) so that I can get back into the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula which has so very much history and character and is one of my absolute favourites"

Nigel, this is exactly why I always try to do the Yeoman Warder tour as well. My only problem is they never give you enough time in the Chapel at the end...they are always rushing you out for the next tour. I would love to linger in there and maybe even have a tour of the chapel itself.

I remembered I was going to give the OP the name of the walking tour book. It's Winston Churchill's London at War Walk. It was 5.99 GBP. It is actually presented in 2 parts - you could do it all in one but I think dividing it in 2 segments would be better. I also see this listed on the US Amazon site for $33.38USD which is just ridiculous. I've just added this to my packing list for London next time I go so I don't forget. It's a small paperback size and wouldn't be bad to tuck in my small sized suitcase.

Posted by
15 posts

We actually did all three of these attractions (Tower, Abbey, & Eye) in one day. Three years later, we still talk about how fun that day was. The Eye is expensive and it would be last on my list of these three to do, but it is still worth it.

To me the Abbey is more than a church. It is more of museum to the famous people of England. At one point you are standing between Charles Darwin's grave and Sir Issac Newton's . The crypts of the famous Kings and Queens of England are a site to see.

Posted by
362 posts

We were in London in May/June. I would definitely say Westminster Abbey are must sees. So much history! And the abbey is breathtaking. We did them through a London walks tour and enjoyed it very much.

The London Eye was fun. We did it on a cloudy day so there was barely any line at all. The kids really enjoyed it. I would not necessarily call it a must see, but we had fun.

Posted by
91 posts

Thank you, everyone for your replies and your endorsement of the Abbey as a not to be missed visit. I will add a visit to the Churchill War Rooms as well as my planned visit to the Tower of London,