My mom and I are staying in Winchester for a week (visiting a friend) in mid-May, and would like to make a couple of day trips to London. With our limited time, we want to make the most of our days, but quality is more important than quantity. Our must-see's are Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Churchill War Rooms and possibly St. Paul's Cathedral (second to Westminster Abbey, though). We have already purchased Original Bus Tour passes (for only 17.50 GBP via special offer!), so want to incorporate the bus tour and the included Thames Cruise as well, possibly using them as transportation to the aforementioned sights. My question is, What is the best way to arrange our itinerary? I have Rick's London guidebook, and the first two days of his itinerary look nearly ideal for us, but I'm wondering how to get to the Tower by 9:00 that second day. An alternative could be to start Day 1 with the bus tour and get off at the Tower (but it would be afternoon before we'd get there), then take the Thames cruise back to Westminster. The second day, we could see Westminster Abbey and the Churchill War Rooms, and anything else in the vicinity. Any thoughts on which would be better, and why?
Beth, check the rail schedules from Winchester and then add another hour to get from the London station (Paddington, I think) to the Tower via Tube or taxi. It should be doable. Westminster Abbey takes precedence for me over St Paul's. Plus, it's across the street from Parliament. From there, it's easy to walk across Westminster Bridge (it's right there), gawk at the London Eye, and take a stroll up South Bank along the river. That's an evening possibility, allowing you to catch dinner at one of the places along the river, walk back across the bridge, catch the Tube at Westminster Station, and then get to the station for a late train back to Winchester. Hint: Always plan on taking the next-to-last train out of London, in case something goes wrong.
Thanks, J.C. - I just checked the rail schedules, and the most frequent/direct trains go to Waterloo, so that makes it easier. I also found a website that gives taxi fares and times, and it looks as though it's about a 15 minute ride to the Tower from Waterloo, so very doable to get there around 9:00 a.m. I think we'll take your advice about walking the South Bank a bit after seeing Westminster Abbey. Are there many places to eat along the South Bank? We aren't fussy - just want a pleasant place to have a casual dinner after a long day of sightseeing. And we'd be perfectly positioned to take the train from Waterloo back to Winchester!
At Waterloo, you would want to take the Northern Line to Embankment Station, then take the District Line to Tower Hill tube station. It is a 22 minute ride.
Thanks for the replies - we'll take those things into consideration!
Oh yes- absolutely. If you want to be in London for two days, you must stay in London over one night. Get to see the theater, stroll back to your hotel rather than rushing for the train. At least 2-3 hours less on the train and more in London
With a train trip of one hour each way and fares of up to £57 each, you might want to stay the night in London rather than make two day trips. Your rail tickets will entitle you 2 for 1 admission at the War Rooms (£14.95) and Tower of London (£18.00) through http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/
Hold on there Cowgirl! What days of the week are these runs up to London from Winchester, that of the Winchester Cathedral song fame? If its Monday to Friday you will be arriving at Waterloo, the busiest single station in the country, at the peak of the rush hour. Trying to get a cab there, at that time, and hoping it will whisk you to the Tower in rush hour traffic can be more difficult than you can imagine. (Or I'm a plonker and it will go smooth as glass.) If 'twere me I'd join the throng headed to the City on the Waterloo and City Underground railway. Remember, cheap tickets on the Tube don't kick in until 0930 (and you won't get cheap fares from Winchester until the train arrives after 1000). The Waterloo and City only goes one stop, to Bank which is connected to Monument through a tunnel where you could go upstairs and see where the Great Fire of London started and climb the Monument for a great view and sense of history or you could join the Circle and District one stop to Tower Hill. I'd walk it. Whichever way you go expect most of the entire population of London to be doing it with you. Of course, if its a Sunday or Saturday all bets are off, you can travel when you wish. Remember the construction on the Tube every weekend though. EDIT added: If you do use the Waterloo and City route and Circle and District outlined above, figure 16 minutes. Its 4 minutes on the Waterloo and City, 2 minutes for the one stop on the Circle and District and 10 minutes for the connection.
Arent some of those "City" extensions and stations closed on Sundays?. (Eg from Waterloo to Bank)?
Wow, Nigel - much food for thought, but exactly the kind of thing a "cowgirl" like me wouldn't know unless specifically told! Thank you - I think. Of course, we'd planned to go on weekdays, silly us :-) If we waited to travel until after 9:30, that would cost us a good chunk of the day. We'd originally planned to stay in London, then got a great deal on a longer stay at our lodging in Winchester, and now I'm loathe to give it up. Shoot - back to the drawing board.
Nigel - forgive my ignorance, but how early would one have to arrive at Waterloo to beat the throngs?
Not to be rude, Beth, just needed to pull gently on the reins. Winchester is fantastic place, but not what I'd think of as tourist commuting distance to London. If it is midweek, as you say, please do take account of the rush hour. London is wonderful place, for me especially the City and the bells. We travel up from Birmingham on Sundays, park in the City (too early for trains on Sundays) and sit opposite St Pauls as the bells are pealed, then ride Boris' Bikes around. Some would say Birmingham is too far, too, but we do it.
AM peak during the week is about 0730 to 0930.
No offense taken whatsoever, Nigel - I am honestly grateful that you brought the rush hour issue to my attention. Just wish I'd quit running into snags, is all! Planning a trip is really simple when you're staring at a computer - reality is another matter, and you saved me what may have been an unpleasant surprise. Ah, well, I suppose we could forego breakfast and take the 6:55 train ...
Beth, the South Bank isn't lined with restaurants, but you'll find fast food joints, pubs, cafes, and at least one Italian place. Of course, they're all there to cater to strollers and tourists, but who cares? If you make it all the way up to Borough Market when it's open (Google it, but usually not in the evening) you can munch your way through some really good food. The area immediately adjacent to the South Bank side of Westminster Bridge and the very nearby London Eye is usually crowded with tourists, with a cluster of fast food joints to cater to them. It's a quick walk through it all.
...Then again, the 6:55 would get us to Waterloo right at peak rush hour. We'll figure it out - at least we're aware to plan accordingly. Thanks, J.C., for your tips on the south bank. I think that will fit the bill when we need a bite before heading back to Winchester.
Beth, that train will be pretty full before you get on because as the 05:48 from Portsmouth Harbour it will have stopped 11 times before you and got pretty full. I don't know if you want to consider First Class to be more certain of a seat at that time - more money. There do not appear to be reserved seats on that train. After the stop at Winchester it stops twice more, including Basingstoke where I would expect the sardining to get bad. Instead of trying to avoid the crowds you could take the attitude that they will come and you will be part of them, just prepared for it and making the best of it. Do what your fellow travelers do and take a book or free paper (the Metro).
Yes, Brian, you are right. Waterloo and City is a City businessmen(women)'s line and does not run on Sunday.
Thanks Nigel - really good information. And I think you are exactly right that we should just accept the situation as it comes - and as part of the experience. Based on your replies, I think we'll start our days in the Westminster area (walking distance from Waterloo, I recall from a visit years ago) and work from there. If we start the hop-on/hop-off tour at Trafalgar Square, for example, we can just get off at the Tower in the early afternoon (again, dealing with whatever crowds we experience), take the cruise back to Westminster and depart Waterloo AFTER evening rush hour. The second day, we were planning to spend walking in the Westminster area anyway, so no need to worry about public transport crowds. Neither of us are big-city people, but both are really looking forward to seeing at least a little of London. Perhaps the commuting idea wasn't the best, but the appeal of going back to our quiet, inexpensive lodging at the end of the day won over, and if we have to deal with crowds on the train, so be it. When I initially posted this question, I wasn't even thinking about the train rides - I was mostly concerned with a doable two-day itinerary. But - that is why one asks questions on a board such as this, and I really appreciate gaining the insight of others' experience, so thanks to all who have replied.
Should have said with regard to our second day: "No need to worry about public transport crowds AFTER having arrived at Waterloo" :-)