We have one full day (a Sunday) in London early September on our way from Wales to Normandy. We will be staying with friends in Limehouse. Our interests are the outdoors, military / history, but not art, shows or shopping! I am keen to see the Tower of London but have not been particularly excited about anything else I have seen under London Top 10 attractions etc. Keen to hear what others with similar interests have enjoyed seeing in London.
Sundays are a great time to visit Greenwich. You can see the maritime "stuff" and there is a great market. The park there is also lovely. The tower is good, as are all the other sites- you might like the War Rooms and similar places. London has many, many miltary and historic sites!!! Everything seems historic- roman ruins, etc!!!! Give London a chance.
If you like military history, definitely take a visit to the Cabinet War Rooms.
You should also try to check out the Imperial War Museum in London.
Kent - yes this is my first trip to London (or the UK or Europe). Perhaps "not particularly excited about anything" actually meant "overwhelmed and having trouble picking out 1 or 2 attractions above the rest" after reading the list of one hundred offers on National Rail's 2for1 webpage, plus their lists of free attractions and museums, and knowing that one day is not a lot of time.
ps The Cabinet War Rooms look awesome we will go there for sure.
There is a boat dock at the Tower of London. Boats leave from there for Greenwich. You could visit the Tower then take the boat to Greenwich. There are a couple of ways to return to London from there, boat or light rail.
Keep in mind that on Sundays, some places are limited to only being open for up to 6 hours.
Tower of Londons busiest day is Sunday so be sure to get there early!
Greenwich is super easy from Limehouse, just get on the DLR. The whole area is quaint and full of maritime history - a lot like my hometown of Annapolis Maryland (home of the US navy). You can hike up the hill through a nice park and stand on the Prime Meridian (which has a small museum that isn't worth stopping for given your time constraints), and as someone else mentioned there is a small public market close to the waterfront. I wasn't that impressed with the museums though, to be honest. If you are interested in seeing the area, get up really early and just wander around before anything opens and then head over to central London. September will still have plenty of tourists, so that might annoy you because it isn't a very big area.
My vote would be to prioritize the Tower of London and be there when it opens at 10am. I would do the guided tour that lasts about an hour, and just wander for another hour. You can have lunch at the fish and chips stand next to the ticket office which is surprisingly good, and then hop on the tube and visit the War Museum for a few hours. I really loved the Tower of London and we had a 7 year old child and my mother with us, so I think it has something for everyone. The War Museum has interesting collections from Churchill and is close enough that you can cruise by Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park on your way to dinner. Alternatively, from the Tower of London you could visit the British Museum, which I think is the best thing in London. They do have art, but also tons of historical stuff like the original Rosetta stone. They are open until 6pm, so in theory you could do all of this in one day if you are a glutton for sore legs and want a broader scope, but I'd chose the Tower plus one museum.
Thanks everyone for your great ideas, I am getting excited about London now!
There is an old British cruiser - HMS Belfast - moored near the Tower - worth a visit - it last saw action in Korea but was also involved in the Normandy landings.
The Imperial War Museum is also "just down the road" from the Tower.
If you are interested in aircraft, the RAF museum in Hendon (NW London - easy on the underground) is a "must do" if you have the time.
If you have the flexibility scheduling-wise, I'd seriously consider adding a second day, Chris. We live in a big city, and have traveled quite a bit, but London...there is simply SO MUCH to see that has nothing to do with "art, shows, or shopping." Touring the city's various (and enormous) gardens and visiting its sites/museums of military or historical significance would take a month, really.
I've been to London a couple of times, I definitely say you can't miss the Tower of London it was Awesome!! The Cabinet War rooms were quite interesting. The British Museum was very good too though I found I lost track of time and nearly missed my dinner reservation so if you only have one day it may be a stretch to do both it and the Tower. As to the outdoors there are lots of parks in London so your love of nature will be quite satisfied. If you enjoy plants I would recommend taking the Tube out to Richmond/Surrey and going to Kew Gardens. The gardens are gorgeous and the entry fee to the gardens, without palace admission, is reasonable. I was able to do both Kew and the Tower in one day and wasn't left exhausted by it. Hi Chris,
I spent two days in London and I'm not sure if you're with a family or anything but I thought the London Dungeon was a fun attraction; you might learn something too.
My girlfriend bought a small book on all of the "haunted" spots in London. I forgot the name of it, but walking up to the place where criminals on trial were held and then executed nearby was pretty creepy. Also some of the small side-streets on the south side of the Thames were pretty neat; I though walking past the "Clink" was pretty cool as well.
I know you're not into "art" but visiting the globe theatre (or the rebuilt version) was really interesting too and if you go on the tour you learn a whole bunch.
Finally, I would suggest walking past Parliament. It is so impressive (I thought much more impressive than Buckingham Palace) up close.
Hope that helps!
As someone who just spent a month in London, and visited a lot of military sites... there's no way I could choose, lol!
I'd agree with others on their wonderful suggestions - Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms are fabulous (I spent at least 4 hours there), as is the Imperial War Museum (again, 3-4 hours). I really enjoyed Greenwich, and spent most of a day there. For history, I'll always recommend the galleries even if you don't like art - even just the Tudor gallery at the NPG. A lot of fascinating history. Tower of London is nice FIRST THING in the morning - go in, straight to Jewel Tower. We got to go past multiple times, walk backwards for a better look. Unlike later, when the lineups went out the building.
Your one problem with Sundays is that a lot of places open later, not until 11 or 12. So, in planning, I'd be looking at opening times and scheduling around them.
Four of the high points of our recent trip to London:
Organized London walks.
Sunday services at St. Paul's Cathedral. A beautiful service and a chance to see the cathedral without payment.
On a Sunday, you can do three or four of the above. But I strongly recommend attending an actual service at St. Paul's.
If I had one day in London I would just sit down and cry. (not my quote) I would second the War museum it may open late 1 pm so an early bird could see other things first . The science museum gets a much higher rating in my guide book then in others book .
The architecture styles in London are varied and terrific. why not try "hop on and off double decker bus" tours, it is reasonable, efficient, and you will see the highlights easily. Just get off when something peaks your interest. With only a day in this fab city it is well worth considering. hopefully weather is ok altho bottom level is covered.
The two highlights of our trip to London was the Tower (which I realize you're planning to see) and Hampton Court Palace, where Henry VIII and Elizabeth I lived.
Those two sites took up the entire day. And that night, we went to a West End show.
Most topics have been covered very thoroughly, but if I had to chose two highlights of London it would be the Tower (at this point there doesn't seem to be any question you're going there), and Westminster Abbey. The Abbey has been the scene for SO much British history; I found it to be one of the most fascinating places I've visited. It has a self guided tour that is very informative and provides a lot of background information.
On a Sunday, you can walk through Speakers Corner in Hyde Park. It is a nice demonstration of English democracy.