The first week of October on one of my days in Paris I'll be taking the Eurostar to London just as a day trip. I'll be getting in around 9:00 am and leaving around 7:00 pm. This will be my first trip to London!!!! What sites should I see? I'm thinking... Tower of London, London Eye, Buckingham Palace, British Museum... what do I have time for? What should I skip? I welcome all ideas. : )
If you have the energy, you can cover a lot in a day in London. Since Buckingham Palace is closed to visitors in October, you will have to settle for an external view. What you have time for is determined by how long you want to visit each site. I usually spend only an hour at a museum, but others like more leisurely visits. Museums and the Tower usually have cafes, so you can take a break and not spend a lot of money and time on eating. I like to go to Trafalgar Square, visit the National Portrait Gallery, walk over to Leicester Square and on to Covent Garden. I recommend that you visit the British Museum toward the end of your day as it is walking distance from St. Pancras station. You must check in for your return trip to Paris at least 30 min before scheduled departure. There are opportunities for shopping and eating in St. Pancras. You might want to pick up something there for eating on the train. It might be worthwhile to buy a day pass for the Underground so you can zip around London and not spend the entire day on your feet. I like to ride in the top front row of the double-decker buses. The views are great from up there. If time is short, I would probably save the London Eye for another trip. Do you want to see Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's? Westminster Abbey is walking distance from Buck House, and not far from Trafalgar Square.
Swan has some good suggetsions. I tend to get "sucked in" to museums and think the Tower deserves five hours to see most of it. And about the same amount of time for the British Museum. My suggestion is to have both fair and foul weather plans. You'll be outdoors some at the Tower so if it's raining go to Westminister Abbey and the British Museum. On a nice day tour the Tower in the morning, then take a boat ride up the Thames to Westminister and walk through St. James Park to see the outside of Buckingham Palace. You can see Whitehall on the way and catch a glimpse of Number 10 Downing Street.
We did London in a day, and I think our train to Paris left at about the same time. The only difference was we started from our hotel that we had arrived into the evening before. Here's what we did: London Eye first thing - I think it opened at 10, but I could be wrong - getting there early meant there was not much of a line.Buckingham Palace from the outside. Took pictures.Westminster Abbey - did audio tour Met a friend for lunch - picnic in a parkTower of London tourUsed our Oyster card throughout the day to take bus, tube, and finally a ride on the Thames.On to station to catch Eurostar. Hope that helps!
Pay attention to where things are located so you don't waste time scooting back and forth needlessly. E.g., the Eye is on one side of Westminster Bridge, Parliament is on the other side (with Big Ben aka the Elizabeth Tower), and Westminster Abbey is across the street from Parliament. Even in early October, popular sites are likely to have lines. Specifically, the Eye and the Tower. On an 8-hour visit, I would not want to spend any time standing in a queue. The British Museum is huge. While most of the place is done up in standard museum dim grey, the lobby area is open, airy, bright, white, and very large. Might be worth a quick peek if you are in the area. Actually seeing the museum can easily take hours and hours. A walk along the South Bank of the Thames, (that's the side the Eye is on) is pleasant and provides a nice impression of the city. (Go north from the Eye.) You can only see so much. I'd make a list, in priority order, of what looks best, and go for it. Since your train back to Paris leaves in the evening rush, bear in mind that cabs in rush hour London are as tough to find as in any big city. The Tube back to Pancras might be SRO, but it will be there and it won't get stuck in traffic.
Book a trip on the hop on hop off bus. We did just that on our first trip to London on a long flight layover to Africa. Do some research so you'll know about the neat little places around Trafalgar SquareSt. Martin-in-the-Fields for cheap eats and a noon concert, Gordon's Wine Bar a couple blocks away, they have a website, and the National Portrait Gallery, just behind the National Gallery with a restaurant with super views. Hop off at Harrod's and don't overlook the sumptuous food court there. So many things and so little time. You will have to return to see part of the rest.
Rachelle - That's a loaded question, as there is sooooo much to see and do in London. Also, my recommendations would change depending on your tolerance for walking. Given that you have never been to London, you should at some point see Trafalgar Square, which is the heart of London. You should also make sure you do the Tower of London. Once you leave the Tower, you can walk across Tower Bridge, then along the south bank of the Thames all the way over to the Eye, where you can get a great view of the Houses of Parliament. A hop on, hop off bus tour is a great orientation to the city. If you go to the British Museum (which is fantastic), do a little research ahead of time and pick out specifics you want to see. The museum is massive (think Smithsonian), and you could quite literally spend days there and not see everything. Finally - the Eye is certainly a nice way to see the city as others have said, but if you can manage the climb, climbing to the top of St. Pauls is awesome. You can get to it once you leave the Tower by walking across Tower Bridge, along the south bank to the Millennium Bridge, cross over the Thames again and do St. Pauls.
Aahhh!!!! There's so much to see!! I'm making a list with the help of RS' London 2013 book. I'm thinking: Tower of LondonWestminster AbbeyBuckingham PalaceTate ModernBritish Museum There's no way I'll be able to fit everything in so that will just give me an excuse to come back! Thanks all for the great suggestions. : )