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Is London really worth it?

I am in the planning stages of my next trip and settled on 1 week in London and 1 week in Paris. I have been to Paris on a short trip but have never been to London. I bought Rick's London guidebook, as well as the Lonely Planet London book. London is big and a little overwelming, so I bought Rick's England and Wales DVD. Now, after watching an hour of Rick in London, I have absolutely no interest in going to London. Has anyone gone to London with high hopes, just to be let down? Is London really worth the cost to get there, and the cost of lodging to stay there? Truth be told, I found the shows on Wales to be much more interesting to me. Just so you know, my intersts are: food, people watching, cobblestones, architecture, castle ruins, pubs. My interests are not: art museums, shopping, palaces, hords of tourists. Thanks for any insight you can give!

Posted by
1068 posts

The thought of having had the chance to go to London - and then NOT to have gone - makes my blood run cold. I can't imagine going and being let down. London is a glorious city. It's also a very do-able city. A fun city. A cozy city, even! That being said, it is a big city. It could probably feel overwhelming. Can you pinpoint what it was about Rick's London tour that turned you off? The things he said or the places he went that made you not want to go? You say you like food, people watching, cobblestones, architecture, and pubs. ALL of those are on offer in London. There are HEAPS of those things to see and partake of. You can have a wonderful time in London and never set foot in the Tate or the V&A or the National Gallery. You can NOT go shopping on the King's Road or in Harrod's. You can walk by Buckingham Palace and instead of looking at the hordes of tourists in front of it, pop into the Bag o'Nails and have a pint and a pie. My husband and I will be going back for the unpteenth time this December/January. We plan to take an overnight to Swansea and explore the coast a little, but also wallow in London fun. Go to a Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge. Spend time at a pub my husband enjoys, watching footie on TV and eating fish 'n' chips. Go to the theatre. Do some thrift shopping. Have a fiery curry someplace small and local on Edgeware Road. On the other hand, I love Wales soooo much I tend to get all giggly and excited when I talk about it, and there is MUCH to see and do in Wales. It's fantastic if you like ruins and mist-shrouded cliffs, adorable wee villages, sheep, luxurious green hills, etc. But I would not close my mind to at least a couple of days in London. Maybe start there and see if you like it, then on to a cozy B&B in Snowdonia?

Posted by
8293 posts

Rob has done his research and still has "absolutely no interest in going to London" so he shouldn't go. I have no interest in Poland or Alaska no matter what anyone says to persuade me so I see his point. Wales and Scotland may suit him more and perhaps the Cotswolds in England. It is possible to visit the UK and not go to London without being pilloried.

Posted by
4885 posts

I love London but why go there if you have no interest in going there? Go to Wales instead. Consider flying into Manchester instead of Heathrow, a much easier airport and closer to north Wales (food, people watching, cobblestones, castle ruins, pubs, maybe architecture not so much). The walled towns of Chester and Conwy (very different otherwise) are close to Manchester. Or endure Heathrow and take a fast train to Cardiff and go north from there. One consideration, though, is transportation. I expect you can see most of what you would want to in Wales using trains and buses, but a car would give you much more flexibility. The tradeoff is driving on the left, sometimes on narrow country roads. Many posts here discuss driving, and opinions are strongly divided (I tried it and would rather avoid in future). An advantage of London, if you consider it one, is excellent public transportation. But follow what interests you by all means. One less tourist among the London hordes is a win-win.

Posted by
3419 posts

When hubby planned our first trip to London, I was like- I haven't lost anything in London! But I went along with him to please him. We've now been more than 40 times, and I'd go back again tomorrow if I could. We arent' into art, museums, or crowds either. For people watching, you can't beat Leicester Square, the Tube, Covent Garden or the bridge near Parliment and Big Ben! London makes a good base to visit Cardiff, Swansee and that general part of Wales (easy train trips). It can be expensive, but there are ways to work aroudn that. To me it is well worth it. You could plan your trip so that you fly to Paris (that city totally bummed me- wouldn't return if you paid me), then Erostar to London- spend just a couple of days, then train to the area(s) of Wales that interest you (Cardiff is one of my favorite cities in Europe, and the Snowdonia area is beautiful). But if London really doesn't interest you now- no problem. You could just as easily catch a cheap flight to Cardiff from Paris.

Posted by
41 posts

Could you go for a couple of days to see how you like it? London has more varied architecture than Paris, plenty of pubs and now even great food. You might not like it but at least try. You never know. I've liked plenty of things I never thought I would. What about London do you think you'll hate?

Posted by
26374 posts

so you want to see (in London): food, - - whatever type, kind, cost or genre you want - plenty people watching, - - all sorts and loads of places to do it cobblestones, - - cobblestones if you want them (although not the huge ankle killers like you get in Paris) and regular pavement when you tire of them architecture, - - Tudor, Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, older, even older back to the Roman Wall, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, post war, Brutalist, modern, post modern; London has it all. Plenty architecture tours available too castle ruins, - - can't find that in London, sorry. Can I interest you in a real complete castle that has been in use every day since the Norman Conquest (Tower of London)? Or perhaps the Jewel Tower in Westminster? pubs. - - only a few thousand of every type conceivable. Thatched roofed ones are a little thin on the ground since the Great Fire of 1666 though. = = =
You don't want: art museums, you can avoid them; I do most days. I much prefer walking around shopping, everything is available but you can easily walk on by palaces, there are only a few and they are easily avoidable hords of tourists - sorry but we do get them from all over, even from Atlanta = = = But if it doesn't appeal, don't come. Go where it does appeal. After all, Johnson said, "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life". We wouldn't want to put you in that sort of a position.

Posted by
107 posts

Rob, I had similar feelings before my first trip to Europe; my plan was to fly into Heathrow and go due west, and avoid London completely; I had no interest in "big cities".. But because of other logistics I ended up "having" to spend 2 nights on both ends of my trip on London. Found a nice small-ish B&B hotel within walking distance of Victoria Station. And as it turned out the days in London were some of my favorite parts of my trip. If you enjoy, people, history, cobblestones, architecture, castle ruins, and pubs; I think London has a lot to offer. I'm no fan of the royals, so Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards didn't interest me in the least; BUT the parks around the palace are beautiful.. Tower of London, Hyde Park, Covent Garden, British Museum, the Crosswalk at Abbey Road, climb to the top of St Paul's Cathedral, the London Eye, The Globe Theater Replica and Museum; many interesting things to see and do with lots of people to watch, and almost NO shopping! And the tube makes navigating to all those different places pretty easy.. A solid week may be more than you'll want of London, but you could also do some day trips; Stonehenge/Salisbury, Avon, Cambridge, Dover, Bath.

Posted by
1891 posts

Agree with other posters, if you don't want to go there, try someplace else. I really enjoyed London on several trips there but really like Cotswalds better and Edinburgh much better than London but that is just my opinion. You could give it a couple of days and then maybe train to Edinburgh and then onto Paris, or a couple of days there and a few in Wales? Have you thought of other places in Europe, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, etc?

Posted by
4524 posts

I like London and can always find something to see and do there, but it doesn't excite or inspire me much. So don't feel bad if your research has left you cold. You'll spend a lot of time and money for your vacation, go somewhere that most interests you. To go somewhere in the UK, you will most likely pass through London, so you could spend a couple days there just to taste it. If you like it, go back someday. If you don't like it, very little time/money wasted...

Posted by
3696 posts

Rob... I love UK, but when I long to go back there it is most definitely not to London. While I have had fun there and do enjoy it, it's not where my heart is. If I were you, I would maybe spend one or two nights there (if you want to give it a chance) however, I would not feel bad if I landed and headed right out to the smaller towns and the Cotswolds. Given the choice... a week in the Cotswolds, or a week in London, I would take the Cotswolds any day. Rent a car, figure out how to drive it (an automatic helps) and explore the wonderful countryside and Wales and I think you will have a wonderful trip without tons of people all around.

Posted by
1878 posts

If you have no interest after watching Rick's DVDs, you should not go. Everyone is different; I really like London. Ran myself to exhaustion on the tail end of business trips just to get a day there in 2007 and 2010, after having not visiting on vacation since 2000. It was totally worth it. The Tower of London is a top five castle (not in ruins though) - maybe the best in all of Europe for the history alone. For me one of the major attraction of cities is art museums - London's are very good but for me, do not measure up to Paris, Rome, Madrid. Architecture and cobblestones, in general I would not go to London for those (or Paris for that matter, Eiffel Tower excepted) although I am sure they can be found in each city. There is great food to be had in both Paris and London for a pile of money, but since food is not a great priority for us it's hard to comment, except to say there is better value for great food in the French countryside. Pub and cafe food is fine, and not unreasonably priced, but not a reason to travel that distance. The pubs are pretty great in London though, even more so out in the country.

Posted by
4566 posts

Personally, London is my favorite city in the world. I spend a couple of days there every year and don't think I will ever get bored visiting London. But it is not my vacation. I think people should do what they want on vacation and if you are enthusiastic about Wales and not interested in London, I'd say go with your gut. I suspect that you will be either flying into London or home from London. Perhaps you could spend your first or last night in London and give yourself a full day to see London? If you like it, you can come back someday. If not, you've answered your question.

Posted by
11275 posts

Go where YOU want to go, and don't feel any "obligation" to see a place that you don't want to see. If Wales is what calls to you now, go there now. You may find that your desires change over time, and you may get a yen to go to London later. Or, as others have said, you may have to be there for logistical reasons (now or at a later time), and will get to have a taste that way. As you say, travel in general is expensive, and London can be particularly so; spend your money where you think you will enjoy yourself. For me, I've been to London three times, and have now officially given up trying to like it. It has everything I want in a city - museums, theatre, bookstores and CD stores to browse, etc. I still like all these things in London; I just don't like being in the city itself. I adore Paris and always feel comfortable there; I never feel comfortable in London (and I live in New York, so it's not just the size of the cities that informs these impressions). I read a thread on another board about someone who loved France, but was indifferent to Paris. Her friends kept saying to her, "how can you go to France and not spend time in Paris?" Her response was, "how can people spend time in Paris, when there's the rest of France to see?" And on my first trip to Italy, I focused on Milan, Venice, and Florence. People were scandalized that I didn't go to Rome, but I just wasn't interested at the time. However, after that first trip, I got a real desire to go to Rome, and made it the focus of my second Italy trip. I love Rome now; if I had gone on the first trip just because I thought I "had" to, who knows if I would have liked it then?

Posted by
2638 posts

OMG......is London worth it?? London is the most fabulous city in the world.
I think Nigel gave the best quote to answer the question.... Johnson said, "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life". This says it all.

Posted by
1161 posts

Rob, I agree with many here-London is fabulous, but if you don't think you will enjoy it, then don't go. However, I never think of London as big and overwhelming. I approach London as the group of villages it is. Each day I choose a specific area and do the things you enjoy-try the food, people watch, enjoy the architecture and especially the pubs! London is a great introduction to traveling across the pond as most people speak a similar language to us (hee hee). London is also a marvelous transportation hub and I have taken train day trips to Windsor, Hever Castle, Cambridge, etc. There is a wonderful book, Best Day Trips from London by Frommer which I have used. Last comment, I LOVE Wales and would certainly not discourage you from going there. If you love friendly people, castle ruins galore, little steam trains, small rural villages, it is the place for you. But you do need a car in Wales to get to many of the areas.

Posted by
14449 posts

Hi Rob. If you are planning a week in Wales instead of London (or elsewhere outside the London hub), based on your interests, it sounds like a much better fit. I love London for the museums (not so much art, but others - esp. British, Victoria & Albert) and the theatre. I expect you will find good food and pubs throughout the UK. As for people-watching, if you are in London, you are more likely to be watching tourists.

Posted by
11450 posts

The first time I went to London it was only because I had free accomadation by Sloane Square, very posh. Went because whole trip would only cost me 800 dollars ( and that was with airfare). I had previously had NO interest. I liked it way more then I thought I would , BUT , thats because I loved visiting all the museums( they are top notch!). I have now been 4 times. I do not like the food, I have only enjoyed a few meals there and they were all East Indian food! ( four visits, at least a week each, so yes, I have tried many things) I don't think most of London is "pretty" ( alot of the post war rebuilding is pretty freaking industrial ugly to me) The tube system is great.
Ease of visit, well no language issues so thats a given. If I was not into a lot of history and musuems I think I would rather visit somewhere else. Its a wonderful city, but it is not wonderful for everyone .

Posted by
26374 posts

if you are in London, you are more likely to be watching tourists. If you are at the Tower, or Westminster Abbey or Trafalgar Square or other tourist hotspots - yes, probably. Get off the beaten path, get out of the valley. Go people watching in Hampstead Heath, Hampstead, Regents Park, Green Park (to a very large degree), Shepherds Bush (don't use the Apple Maps in IOS 6 or you'll never find it). Go and have a beigel in Brick Lane, or wander Golders Green. Go to Whitechapel or Bethnal Green. Find yourself a corner in Victoria Station about 7:30 in the morning and watch the commuters flow like a river off the trains and down the plug-hole into the Tube. Or watch the evening rush of the tide flowing back out of the bowels of the earth and rushing like an overflowing river, complete with whirlpools and eddys, back onto the overfilled trains and back to the suburbs. Stroll Highgate, Islington, Belsize Park or Shoreditch. Walk the Thames Path. I bet your tourist count would be way down.

Posted by
2828 posts

Rob, If you are put off by the prospect of visiting London, then don't. After all, you are travelling for yourself. Just because a place is famous (or recommended by RS, for that matter) doesn't mean you are committing a crime if you skip it. Chances are that if you are already recalcitrant to visit a place, especially for half of your trip length, and then go because it is famous anyway, you will be wired for spotting the negative aspects of the place, and reinforce your perception of "why I shouldn't have gotten there".

Posted by
3037 posts

Hi Rob! I've been to London 3-4 time. I like London but I'm not passionate about it so it wouldn't be at the top of my list. You're smart to do extensive research to try to find the best fit. One option would be to spend less time in London (3 or so nights) to get an overview and then spend time after Paris in Provence. Castles, local markets, cobblestones, local bars/pubs, OR some other destination that fits your criteria. Have fun planningthe Atlanta group will meet again in November and you'd get lots of input!
Sharon

Posted by
5757 posts

YES. Variety of good food options, stellar people watching, cobblestones galore. Brilliant architecture (old and new. This spot alone should lure you to London, http://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/theblackfriarblackfriarslondon/). Or appreciating the difference between the Palestra building and Southwark Cathedral in Southwark. Or seeing how an old power station evolved into the Tate Modern.
Very walkable city and the best way to explore it. Stroll along the canals of Maida Vale and Little Venice or along the Thames embankment, wander through Highgate Cemetery. Saunter around the Hampstead Heath, climb up to Primrose Hill in Regent's Park, explore the Inns of the Court and Dickensian alley ways, (http://blog.lastminute.com/2010/06/08/walking-london-dickensian-alleys-and-peculiar-passages/). Great people watching at the Spittafield's tea dances, (http://www.spitalfields.co.uk/dspevent.php?name=TEA+DANCE#.UGcBJ0LA5UQ), or by just sitting on a Hyde Park bench. As far as ruins this is something you might enjoy http://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2010/08/20/visiting-roman-ruins-hidden-under-a-london-street/. LOVE London and with some research you can get far away for the madding crowds to explore and appreciate it. Then again if you truly don't wish to visit it, don't.

Posted by
970 posts

Wales is beautiful. Rent a car and go traveling. Food in London, if you're willing to pay and search it out, can be amazing. If you eat on the run,though, it's much the same as everywhere. Cobblestones are a rarity. And difficult to walk on. Every place I've encountered them they have been retained solely as a tourist attraction. People watching in London is better because there are so many more people. Few castle ruins in London. Wales is a better bet. I'd think London gets points for architecture. Pubs are everywhere.

Posted by
425 posts

Thank you very much for all the responses! What I was hoping for, and got, were the passionate comments from folks who know London. Thanks again!

Posted by
27 posts

Let me start by saying that I have been to London 3 times in the last 2 years, and have not been to the theatre, and actually I love the theatre, and have only been to one museum! Go to Bourough Market, and enjoy the cobblestone and pubs and quaint storefronts. Visit the churches, I never tire of the architecture one absorbs at the churches, and I love the lunchtime free concerts, my favorite is St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgor Square. Spend a day in Greenwhich and Blackheath, we had a couple great meals at the pubs in these two towns, wonderful. Spend another day in Richmond, and find Petersham Nurseries, open year round, and one of my favorite places, great tea room and lunch spot, they also have a Michelin Star restaurant. But it is a nursery, a shop, set next to a little church and a wonderful cemetery, I told my daughter this is where I want to end up! If you go out to Richmond, stop at Kew, see the botanic gardens and the charming town. Take a day trip to Bath, don't miss it! In the city of London visit China Town, St Pauls, The Tower of London, just wander, lots of cobblestone back roads. Westminster Abbey is wonderful, I liked it so much better the second time I went! I have to say, we went to the National Gallery on a Friday evening last December for an hour and a half, and it was fabulous, not crowded, the lighting was perfect, and we just stopped in as we had an hour to kill. A week just isn't going to touch the surface, and that is the truth! If this doesn't sound good to you, go to Edinbourgh and St Andrews, we took the train up there from London so we could see the English countryside, and then flew back to London. But a few nights in Edinbourgh, two in St Andrews and spend a couple in London. . .different options!

Posted by
14449 posts

Aw, c'mon Rob. Don't leave us in suspense. What are you going to do?

Posted by
425 posts

I'm sorry Chani! By the time I responded there were too many people making suggestions and too many pointed questions to respond to each one. Even though the videos turned me off, I looked at the suggestions and comments and realized that I at least have to give London a chance. I will print the responses and adjust my research accordingly. My original plan was to spend a week in each city without renting a car. I think I am going to change the London portion to about 4 days in the city, and 3 days touring the Cotswalds or portions of Wales. The little villages of the Cotswalds look right up my alley, and I believe I could spend half a day at Raglan Castle in Wales. Thanks again for the responses!

Posted by
9110 posts

Noooo! Raglan's not even in the top twenty. Little Chepstow is just across the Severn Bridge. Caerphilly is five minutes further than Raglan. Both are a heck of a lot better.

Posted by
425 posts

Ed, I would love to get your top 20 list!

Posted by
9110 posts

Rough order, but Harlech is on top since it only ranks with Chevalier which is a bit hard to visit: Harlech, Caernarfon, Chepstow, Caerphilly, Pembroke, Conwy, Beaumaris, Kidwelly, Aberystwythe, Carmarthen, Manorbier, Dinefwr, RAGLAN, Ludlow, Powis. Huh? Apparently I got excited and lied.

Posted by
2638 posts

If you go to the Cotswolds you should to Blenheim Palace, it's well worth a visit. You will love the Cotswolds. In Bourton-on-the-Water you should go see the model village....http://www.theoldnewinn.co.uk/model-village.html .....The Model Village is a one-ninth scale replica of the heart of the beautiful Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water, containing all the buildings from the Old Water Mill (now the Car Museum) down to the Old New Inn and the ford. The village was created by a previous landlord of the Old New Inn, taking local craftsmen five years to build, and it was officially opened on the Coronation Day of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the late Queen Mother) in 1937. It is fantastic!!

Posted by
425 posts

Ok, so someone please help me with logistics. Lets say I want to give London 3-4 nights and Wales 3 nights. I want as few hotel changes as possible, and do not mind renting a car for the Wales portion. I have my eye on Chester as a home base for Northern Wales. What makes the most sense as far as logistics? Do I do Wales first, then on to London and Paris? It appears that I can fly from Atlanta to Manchester with a layover in Frankfurt. I looked and the flights from Manchester to Paris and they are way expensive. Is Paris first, then London, then on to Wales and fly home from Manchester a better route? Thanks as usual!

Posted by
516 posts

Rob I just returned from a week in London after the previous week in Scotland, a trip I put together for my wife and her 88 year old mother. The highlight of the trip for me was supposed to be playing the Old Course in St. Andrews and I did it twice in two days. It truly was the highlight, but I have to tell you that I had no expectations of London and was pleasantly surprised. It is a world class city as is Paris and Rome that I visited, but like those two cities are different so is London. I expected stuffy Brits and found instead warm and welcoming locals. I expected lousy food but had quite a bit of variety. Everything you listed at the end of your posting in London and as big as it is, London is very easy to navigate with the subway (Tube). All of their major sites and most of the minor ones are easily accessible with a variety of public transportation. I'm a big fan of Rick Steves and have planned this last trip and one a few years ago to Italy using his DVDs, guide books and the wonderful people on the TH. While the GB guide book is very good, I do have to say that the segments on his DVDs about London were at best underwhelming and actually lowered my expectations. As a result I found myself constantly being surprised with really good things there. It is expensive, 1:1.65 for the pound vs. 1:1.32 for the Euro, but you will find everything you're searching for if you go there. I didn't really want to go to London but my traveling partners did, so I reluctantly accommodated them. Now only five days back I'm planning a return trip for next year. Good luck.
Jim

Posted by
5757 posts

Jim. love hearing you became a London fan. I never tire of that great city.
Constantly evolving and yet still the same since I first set foot on it's soil in the summer of 1972. Sounds like you had a great trip to the UK. Rob, I'd keep checking airfares on Kayak to London. Do London first, train or drive to Wales (could train to Bath and get a car rental there) and then consider driving to Manchester, dropping off the car and flying to Paris. One and a half flight. Or explore Wales, drop rental back in Bath, train back to London, spend the night then take the Eurostar to Paris. Lots of options and modes of travel. All depends on budget I suppose.

Posted by
1010 posts

My husband and I have gone to London for the past four summers. We have stayed there for 10 nights, two weeks, 8 nights and last June - for 10 nights. We will go back there again. I'm 65 and my husband is 71. We can't get enough of London, Bath, York, etc. We were in London in 1970 also. Everywhere you walk is beautiful. The architechture is breathtaking. I have never heard of anybody going there who didn't want to go back. I agree, it is the best city out of the European countries we have visited. Switzerland is gorgeous too. We didn't like all the smoking indoors though. Ireland is fantastic and so in England.

Posted by
515 posts

Rob, we loved London so much more than we expected. Loved the variety. Food? Check out Harrod's food court. Astonishing. And we thought food in general was quite good most places. People watching? Any of the parks, gardens, Trafalgar Square, theatre district, just wandering anywhere. Architecture? Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, St. Paul's, the crazy "gherkin" oh the list is endless...pubs everywhere. Other places that were fascinating...Churchill underground war rooms, Imperial War Museum, Cafe in the Crypt, etc. London is a beautiful city, modern and moving, but rooted in ages past. Great fun.

Posted by
515 posts

Rob, we loved London so much more than we expected. Loved the variety. Food? Check out Harrod's food court. Astonishing. And we thought food in general was quite good most places. People watching? Any of the parks, gardens, Trafalgar Square, theatre district, just wandering anywhere. Architecture? Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, St. Paul's, the crazy "gherkin" oh the list is endless...pubs everywhere. Other places that were fascinating...Churchill underground war rooms, Imperial War Museum, Cafe in the Crypt, etc. London is a beautiful city, modern and moving, but rooted in ages past. Great fun.