I'm travelling to London in April and will be there from Wednesday through Sunday, leaving Monday and have my must-sees planned (Churchill, London Transport, Imperial War and Museum of London, some parks) and some walking sightseeing. I've already seen the Big Attractions (the Abbey, St. Paul's, The Tower, etc.) and am looking to get some suggestions for things that other visitors have seen/discovered on subsequent visits, like Postman's Park or the 7 post boxes that don't have ERII's initials on them (I made that up), that aren't showy, but are interesting. I am not a shopper, but I do plan on seeing F&M because I was too intimidated last time, and I enjoy a good meal, but I'm not into food tourism.
Browse through the Timeout London website for lots of ideas: http://www.timeout.com/london/ Even though you've been to the "big" museums on previous visits, there may be temporary exhibits that may make it worth your while to visit again.
When I was in London in the late 1990s I took a very lengthy stroll along the Thames Path (south bank side). I can't remember exactly where I started but I ended up at the Thames Barrier, and along the way I came across all sorts of interesting things, in particular I recall the replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship, the Golden Hinde, and a pub called the Mayflower which actually had links to the Mayflower itself, hence the name, although I can't remember exactly what now... maybe the captain drank there? Anyway it was a lovely old pub with wooden beams and I had a pint on the terrace at the back, which directly overlooked the river. Next time I'm in London I'll definitely be doing that again.
Walk, cycle or take a boat along the Regent Canal from the Docklands to Little Venice. Explore Camden Lock market, then walk up Haverstock Hill Rd, to Pond Street, over to Fleet Road and into the Hampstead Heath. On the corner of Fleet and Pond is a Mark and Spencer. Grab a sandwich, a drink and some chips and picnic in the Heath if Mother Nature provides good weather. Try to find the Don Sahlin/Jim Henson memorial bench and enjoy the view, feed the ducks, people watch, see what match is being played. The Heath is huge. If you do all this late in the day you might check the Hampstead Observatory website to see if it will be open. It's free, fun, non touristy. Take the light rail explore Greenwich. Who knew a fan museum would be interesting? Lastly, explore the neighborhood where you are staying. Interesting sights await.
Miranda I'd second Ian's suggestion of walking the south bank of the Thames, although perhaps not going as far as the barrier. You can start at Embankment Tube, cross the river, and then walk downstream past the South Bank Centre, the Tate Modern, Shakespeare's Globe, and the Golden Hind. A slight detour behind Southwark Cathedral takes you through Borough Market and it's worth popping down Borough High Street to see The George Inn, London's only surviving galleried coaching inn. http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=92 Back to the river and keep going downstream past Hay's Galleria and Tower Bridge. Another 30 minutes or so will take you to The Mayflower. http://themayflowerrotherhithe.com/index.php The Mayflowere actually set off from here, and the captain is buried in the nearby church. A couple of minutes will then take you off the river to Rotherhithe tube station. Alternatively you can continue walking down to Greenwich. The whole walk, taken at a leisurely stroll, is under two hours. (It always takes us longer though as we tend to stop in the mentioned pubs!) Alan
I second the recommendation of the fan museum in Greenwich. Also Twinings at 216 Strand - have a cup of tea in the back of the shop.
James Smith & Sons store.....http://www.james-smith.co.uk/
The family started it in 1830 and still owes and runs it. They make walking sticks and umbrella's...it's a fun place to visit and even to buy an umbrella there.
I can do you way more than 7 with the initials of prior monarchs on them. I came across a George VI I hadn't noticed before, the other day. There are loads, all the way back to Queen Vic. Seriously though, one way we create walks is to have a look at the Blue Plaques book and find a few we haven't seen before and build a walk up about them. In addition to the old copy of the book we also use the English Heritage Blue Plaques search website. When going to F&M make sure the Queen hasn't popped in. She was there last week with Prince Charles' current wife and the Duchess of Cambridge. Pippa's sister looked good. Enjoy your stay...
Ooooh I like the idea Robin Z had of Jas. Smith - such a quintessentially English store. Good stuff too. Most of our brollies and walking sticks are from there. A seriously fun, cool place.
I do periodically enjoy window shopping in some of the "tonier' streetss, the Arcades, Jermyn Street, Bond Street. Fortnum and mason is fun, but a bit intimidatin as you say- their chocolate truffles are a treat (great gift for London hosts or friends) and harrods food hall. Kings Road, Chelsea; backstreets of "The City" some wonderful old pubs/eating houses
Thanks for all the great ideas! I plan on using some of them on this trip and looking into others for my next trip next fall.
By Churchill, do you mean the Churchill exhibit at the Cab. War Room? I'm assuming so.. Good choice.
I still have my umbrella from James Smith & Sons. And if something on it breaks, I can take it back to them to mend it. I might have to break it soon. Don't forget the cemeteries! Get reservations for a tour of the old section of Highgate. I saw Alan Rickman at F&M's one year. I told him I loved him. (I do) True story. He said "Thank you". Down in Southwark, five minutes from the Golden Hind is the Clink Museum. I found that very interesting...not the 5 minute walk part..the museum. One year we took a guided tour of one of the theatres. I think it was The Haymarket. You got to go on stage, back stage and sit in the Queens box.
Try a London Walk (www.walks.com) - they have some unusual themes and great guides. I did one based on Canterbury Tales and it went to very out of the way places. They also have day trips.
The Sir John Soane House is pretty amazing. You've never seen anything like it. Greenwich is also a great visit. Kew Gardens. The V&A Museum is pretty cool if you are into design. I also love hanging out in the Temple area, you won't even know you are in central London.
I do have some London Walks I want to take, and they recently added a Thames beachcombing one that interested me. One of my highlights last time was crossing the Millennium bridge and seeing a tire and wheel floating merrily along. I might need a new umbrella now.
I did the LondonWalks Thames Beachcombing walk on a Sunday morning in September 2010. Very cool. It actually had a fair amount of locals, including kids, because it was so different. It is led by a woman with a PhD in the subject of archeology/anthropology of rivers. You learn some things about the South bank and then you walk (low, low tide) along the rocky bank, armed with a plastic bag for your finds. After about 45 minutes of hunting, the group reconvenes for her to go over what people have found amidst the sediment and rocks. Mostly we found bits of discarded clay pipes (from the time when pipes were one-use only).
I really enjoyed walking under the Thames via the Greenwich pedestrian tunnel
We really enjoyed Benjamin Franklin's house on Craven Street - http://www.benjaminfranklinhouse.org. It's the only house still standing that he actually lived in, for more than 15 years before 1776. Others have mentioned Sir John Soane's Museum and London Walks. The Victorian London walk earned us a discount at the Old Operating Theatre Museum - fascinating. Last time we did the Chelsea pub walk, a very nice mix of history and Pimm's!