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London - Help with Itinerary

Hello everyone! My husband & I are planning a trip to London & Paris next summer (probably early June) to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. 3 nights in London, 6 in Paris. I've been reading all the travel books & tips and have come up with the following tentative itinerary for London. We have never been there so its difficult to know what to see & how much time is needed for everything so if you could, please take a look & make any suggestions. TIA. Day 1 - Arrive Heathrow 11:15am (overnight flight from Detroit). Take Heathrow Express into London then Tube or bus to hotel (Premier Inn Southwark Tate Modern). Drop off our luggage then walk to Burrough Market and have lunch. After lunch, visit Tate Modern. Then head to the Globe for the tour or a show (not sure yet which). Finally dinner at a local pub close to our hotel. Day 2 - Tower of London & Tower Bridge at 9am. Buckingham Palace at 11 or 11;15 for changing of the guard. Then the Mall to Trafalgar Square. Lunch near St James Park. Then travel to St Paul's Cathedral. Last tour at 3pm & evensong at 5pm. Evening dinner boat tour on the Thames or the British Music Experience (don't think we can do both). Day 3 - Westminster Abbey, see Houses of Parliament & Big Ben, go to Abbey Road so we can see the white stripes on the road (LOL), visit Covent Garden & Harrods. Maybe V&A Musuem if there is time? Picadilly Circus at night. Day 4 - Eurostar to Paris!!! Thanks for any suggestions or help on this everyone. I really appreciate it since I have no clue if any of this is even doable!

Posted by
2634 posts

Hi Diana, I would delete the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace from your schedule. If you wait to get to Buckingham Palace at 11:00-11:15 you won't be able to see anything. I would suggest you go to Whitehall for the Changing of the Horse Guards, it takes place Monday-Saturday at 11:00 and on Sunday at 10:00am. You will be able to see there, I think it's nicer then the changing at Buckingham Palace.

Posted by
2714 posts

Whew! That is a jam-packed itinerary! Whatever brand of vitamins you are taking, I want some! On Day 2, you have "Tower of London & Tower Bridge at 9am. Buckingham Palace at 11 or 11;15 for changing of the guard." Many visitors spend two to three hours at the Tower of London. There is a lot to see. (We spent 5 hours.) You will not make the Buckingham Palace changing of the Guard at 11:00. You have two problems. One, the Tower of London will take longer than you think. Two, Tower of London is at the east end of London, while Buck Palace is at the western end of tourist London. Although the tube will whisk you across town swiftly, when you're on a tight schedule, it is best to do things that are very near one another. Factor in travel time across the city. You could use the middle of the day on Day 2 to go to Covent Garden. Great restaurants for lunch here. The key to seeing sights in London is to 1. look at a map, and 2. choose a section/neighborhood each day and see all the sights in that tight area. You don't want to be running from one end of the city to the other, back and forth, all day long. You could do Buckingham Palace (not long to see just the outside), Westminster Abbey, and Houses of Parliament all on Day 3, since they are all just blocks from one another. That would be very time efficient. Harrods (not long to do a walk through) and V&A Museum are west of Westminster Abbey and Buck Palace, so you could include them. Westminster Abbey and V&A will take the most time. Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, I assume you mean a look at the outside, so that will not take long. If you were actually planning to enter the Houses of Parliament, that would take some time.

Posted by
2714 posts

If you have not been to London before, I would suggest one of the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tours. Takes you all over the city, and your ticket is good for 24 hours. You just hop off when you see a sight you want to see more of, and then hop back on the bus when you're ready to move on. One advantage of this is that two of the sights you've named, Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus, are places every tourist wants to see, but if you're on a tight schedule, a glance is good enough. There's no point in standing around in these two places, unless you just want to. The bus allows you to see all of London without getting off the bus, if desired; a whirlwind tour. And includes a ticket for a boat trip on the river. Buckingham Palace, if you decide not to do the changing of the guard, is adequately seen from the bus. Congratulations on your 40th anniversary! Have a great trip!

Posted by
3319 posts

I think you've had accurate comments about your day #2. This has you zipping all over town and I would certainly leave out the changing of the guard. Not enough time for the Tower. Your first day seems a bit ambitious...remember that the jet lag will hit you mid to late afternoon. I think everything is OK but I would hesitate to see a play at the Globe that night. The performances start at 7:30 which will be the equivalent of about 1:30/2:30 in the morning to your body clock! With intermission the plays are about 3 hours long. If it were me, I'd take the tour, go to dinner, and go to bed. Then you'll have energy for the next day which is a very ambitious schedule. Picadilly Circus at night is fine but really, you just walk into the square, look at the lights, and that's it. Maybe go see the play on Day 3 instead?
We went to a play at the Globe this summer and I had to buy our tickets months in advance, the first day they went on sale actually. Get them early because they sell out within days of being offered. If you go to the website in late fall they will have a line up of their plays and you can see what day they go on sale. I set my alarm clock to remind me to buy them as soon as the clock struck midnight London time. Got great seats! Even the groudling tickets sell out so get 'em early!

Posted by
571 posts

Diana, I'm questioning whether there would be time to take the tour of Shakespeare's Globe on Day 1. Even assuming an on time arrival at Heathrow at 11:15 (which may not be the case), will you have checked baggage to reclaim after passing through immigration? Let's say you carry on and all goes well, you're on your way by noon/12:15. (Depending on other arrivals it could be much longer.) You hit the Heathrow Express right as it departs and you're at Paddington. A few minutes to get your bearings and find your way: It's already probably 1pm or later. About a 30 minute Underground ride, with a change, to get near your hotel and then time to check in. By the time you're walking to Burrough Market (short walk) it's close to 2pm and you haven't eaten. Find food, eat, walk to Tate Modern (10-15 min. travel) and maybe it's 3pm at least. How long to spend at the Tate? Surely at least an hour. Tours of the Globe run every half hour until 5 and the exhibition is open until 5:30. I think you'd have to plan to be there by 4:30 for a realistic hope to see it (provided the 4:30/5:00pm tours aren't booked up by the time you arrive.) All this is to say that your day of arrival is very tight and dependent on all other things going perfectly. If the Globe is important to you, you might want to reschedule it another day. Think in terms of the time to get between steps (all my estimates were found online)and give yourself a little leeway in case of late departure, or crowded immigration queues, etc. I think less rush might make you feel more relaxed for the rest of your time in London.
Matt

Posted by
1586 posts

I love both cities, but IMHO you might consider changing to London 4 nights, Paris 5 nights. You need more time to enjoy London, walk in some of the parks and along the Thames, and just soak up the atmosphere. The tourist area of Paris is more compact; you can probably do more sites there each day than you can in London.....Or you could take a late train to Paris on Day 4, freeing up more time for London that day. Your London hotel could probably store your bags until mid-afternoon.

Posted by
179 posts

I echo Keith's post - skip the Heathrow Express. In your case it really is a waste of money and an inefficient way to travel to get to Southwark. Take the tube, as Keith suggested, and change at Green Park. Cheaper and faster!

Posted by
149 posts

I also agree about the Heathrow Express. Unless you are staying in Paddington, it is not a convenient way to get to central London. Even if you were staying in Paddington, I would take the Heathrow Connect; it is half the price and only about 15 minutes slower. Definitely would not use Heathrow Express to get to a Southbank hotel. If you don't want to deal with the tube, for about the same price as 2 Heathrow Express tickets and 2 tube tickets, you could hire a car service, and get door-to-door convenience. Take a look at Just Airports: http://justairports.com/ I also agree with the comments that you are trying to squeeze in too much sightseeing. If you are scheduled to arrive at 11:15 AM, by the time you collect your luggage, make your way through customs and immigration, and get transport to your hotel, it could easily be 2:00 PM; later if your flight is delayed. Jet lag can be a bear on the first day, and your energy will probably flag sooner than you think. For that reason I echo the suggestion to take a day away from Paris and spend it in London, i.e., 4 nights London, 5 nights Paris. This will also give you more time to see the places you want to see without rushing from place to place. Have a wonderful trip, whichever you decide!

Posted by
697 posts

Thank you everyone for your replies & suggestions. I will def check into the other options for getting from the airport to the hotel. Sounds like the tube is easiest & cheapest so that's likely how we'll go. I am also thinking of adding an additional day in London to our trip so we can enjoy our time there without trying to jam so much into every day. I do want to relax & enjoy the city. As far as Paris, I went there in the spring with my daughters French class & we stayed 5 nights which was jam packed seeing everything we could so I thought 6 nights would be better than 5. However, our plan now is to rent an apartment for a week in Paris. I want to really enjoy our time there, with plenty of time to just have some wine, cafe creme or chocolat chaud in the cafes! Thanks again & if you have more suggestions, please keep them coming. I really appreciate them!

Posted by
908 posts

Diana, I'll echo the sentiment of not trying to go to the Tower of London at 9 and Buckingham Palace at 11. Er, no. Give yourself plenty of time at the Tower, and yes, they aren't that close to each other. For Buckingham Palace, it's neat to see the Horse Guards troop out in the morning. I'm forgetting the exact time, but if you can look it up and know where to stand (on the walkway opposite the north side of the Victoria Memorial where Constitution Hill meets The Mall), it's a great sight and a quick thrill if you want an option to the changing of the guard. If you have any interest in WWII history and haven't been there, I really liked the Churchill War Rooms. It was one of the my favorite things the last time I was in London. I also enjoyed the history of costume (fashion) exhibit at the V&A. Not near where you'll be, but anyone who misses walking through the older sections of Marylebone and the area between Baker and Oxford is missing a treat. Little known (I suppose) art museum that's neat is the Wallace Collection--looks like they have a lovely garden courtyard cafe as well.
Oh, so many things, so little time! Have a great trip!

Posted by
991 posts

Diana, I don't think the Borough Market is open every day so you may need a backup plan depending on the day of the week you arrive. Also remember that, stress-wise, a nice black cab can be more economical than the tube, and that the tube station is a couple of blocks away from the Southwark PI. Will you be taking very much luggage?

Posted by
181 posts

Diana,
If I understood your reply, it looks like you will now be in Paris for 7 nights. Are you taking that night away from London? Have you been to London before? It is a great city and deserves more time, in my opinion. If cost is the issue (rent in Paris is the same for 6 or7 days), I understand . But it seems like you'll be skinning down London a lot if you move a night to Paris and take it away from London. To me, both cities are exceptional. Have a great trip Tom

Posted by
5694 posts

Tweaking this itinerary. DAY 1: After arriving, going through passport control I'll surmise you aren't on the Underground until nearly 2pm. The tube from Heathrow with a change will take over an hour. Time wise you need to be thinking from 3pm or so on. Thus, your first day is a half day. So, Bourough Market (open till 5 or 6 depending on the day of the week) for a late lunch. Then see The Shard. It's there so why not? Then a late afternoon, early evening visit to the Tate Modern. Instead of seeing a performance at the Globe have your pub meal and get a good night's rest. Day 2: Up early (7am) and take the Jubilee Line to the Westminster Station. Exit and enjoy Parliament Square's photo ops (Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Thames and Westminster Abbey). Then stroll up Birdcage Walk through St. James Park to stand around for the Changing of the Guard at 11am. Once you've taken pictures of that and the Pallie, walk across Green Park to Piccadilly and follow it past Leicester Square toward Charing Cross rd. Take a right and down to Trafalgar Square. Take your photos and step inside the National Gallery. Lunch there or at the nearby Crypt of St. Martins of the Fields or keep walking into Covent Garden and dine there. Then walk back down Whitehall or take the tube back to Parliament Square and enjoy a late afternoon visit to the Abbey. Evensong there. Long day but with pacing and food stops you'll do just fine. Day 3 (Next post)

Posted by
5694 posts

Day 3. Another early start. Walk across London Bride to the Tower. First group in the doors. Afterwards walk to Leadenhall Market for lunch. From there tube to Knightsbridge to visit Harrod's. From here the National History Museum is close and enjoyable. Maybe a walk over to and around Hyde Park. Or if you must, a tube rides to get you to St. John Woods and see Abbey Road. From there tube to the British Library to see the Treasure Room. Globe theatre this night. As suggested 4 nights would be best.

Posted by
149 posts

Here's the website for Borough Market, with opening and closing times: http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/ Personally, I think the Changing of the Guard is one of the most over-rated tourist attractions I have ever been to. However, millions of tourists have enjoyed it over the years, so I hesitate to tell you to skip it. Take a look at the video, and it may help you decide if it's worth it given the limited amount of time you have in London: http://www.royal.gov.uk/royaleventsandceremonies/changingtheguard/overview.aspx I was going to suggest going to St Martin's in the Fields, but since your itinerary is already packed, I didn't do so. But since another poster suggested it, here's their website. It's right off Trafalgar Square: http://www.stmartin-in-the-fields.org/

Posted by
389 posts

I agree that the Globe may not be a good idea the first night unless you are VERY sure of how you react to jetlag. I have nodded off during even excellent performances due to jetlag. A performance at the Globe is a special experience and should be remembered.

Posted by
697 posts

I am taking all your concerns to heart in the planning of our trip so first let me say Thank You! Merci bien! I am retiring on February 1st 2014 so we can add time if need be. I am now looking for an apartment (or flat) in London to rent for probably 6 or 7 nights. I like the South Bank area so that's where I'm looking. Found one on vrbo.com but they haven't responded yet. A couple of others on airbnb but I'm waiting for the vrbo one to respond since I think I like theirs the best. So we'll be in London for about a week then Paris for a week. Thanks again for the suggestions of what to see.