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Four days in London! What are some must-see sights?

Four days in London! What are some must-see sights?

Aug 2nd, 2015, 09:47 AM
  #1  
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Four days in London! What are some must-see sights?

My husband and I are taking a three week trip to Europe in March 2017! We are planning this all on our own, so I am seeking advice now to get a headstart. Our first week will be spent in Ireland, we will then travel to London for four days and then to Italy for the remainder of our trip. Since my husband and I have never been anywhere in London, much less Europe, I have a few questions that will hopefully aid me in my planning process!

1) What are some key sights that shouldn't be missed? I know Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, etc. are all popular tourist sights, but are there any other London gems I should know about and not pass up while we are there? I know we can't do it all in four days but I really would like to see as much as possible and get a good feel of what London is like!

2) I also realize that London is massive and is comprised of many surrounding neighborhoods. Is there a particular neighborhood we should focus on looking to stay in that will put us close to most of the sights? We would like to be somewhat centrally located or at the very least, have easy access to rail or bus systems.

3)Tying into the rail/bus system question, would we be better off buying a rail pass for the duration of our stay or just paying for tickets whenever there is something we want to do or see?

4)Since this will be our first time traveling abroad, does anyone have any advice about accomodations? Would we be better off staying in a hotels vs. BnB's? A friend of mine recommended the website airbnb.com but I am not sure if that is the way to go since we have never been to London before.

Any other ideas or suggestions are welcome! We want to make this trip go as smoothly and enjoyable as possible! Thanks!
mrs_riehl is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 10:11 AM
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Is there anything in particular about English history that interests you? I've only been to London twice so I still have lots to see. Some sites will be repeated but here's the things that interest/or interested me.

Old history, The Tower of London for sure. It was just such a strange feeling to stand where Ann Boleyn, Lady Jane Gray, and Ann Howard met their fate. But there is much more than that. Westminster Abbey is another place and it is meaningful from many years ago up to today.

If you are interested in WWII then Churchill's war rooms are really interesting especially if you know about the blitz etc. The Imperial War Museum also has some great stuff.

If you want to take a day trip, Hamptom Court could be good and also on another note, I plan to hit Old Spitsfields Market next time I go.

I found the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert to be worth some time. You can research to see where you want to focus. Like all great museums, there is more to see and you ever will be able to in the time you have.

Fun time is hit Oxford Street or Covent Garden. Just fun places to wander when you are "historied out". An afternoon tea when you are tired and want a break is nice. My brother, SIL, and I had tea at Fortnum and Mason and it was reasonable (relative because it's all expensive) and was quite good. Lovely, quiet room. There is also a fun food hall at Fortnum and Mason and I got some fabulous blood orange marmalade. I almost cried when I used the last of it and was even willing to send for it but couldn't find on their website. LOL

Harrods food court is just mind boggling. It's worth a look for sure. I spent an hour or so LOL.

So, I hate to fall back on that "do some research" comment but you really have to check some places out on line to see if they interest you.

Also, check out London Walks. There are several different ones and there could be something that peaks your interest. There is a website.
crefloors is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 10:23 AM
  #3  
 
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There are a number of good city guides, for research now and to download or carry in your pocket as you go.

I'm particularly fond of the Knopf MapGuide series:
http://www.amazon.com/Knopf-MapGuide...opf+map+guides

But there are loads:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...on+city+guides
MmePerdu is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 11:05 AM
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One general comment...be sure to fly "open jaw", also called "multi city". In your case fly into Ireland and out of Rome or wherever you will finish your trip. This saves time and money in backtracking to your original destination. Check out "man in seat 61" to understand the rail systems better. It is unlikely that a pass would benefit you, but without knowing your itinerary yet, it is hard to say. Many train fares are cheaper if you buy them in advance. You need to make some basic plans before you worry about trains.
You might also consider reversing your trip to take advantage of warmer weather in Italy in earlier March and then enjoying more spring like weather in the UK a bit later.
jane1144 is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 11:15 AM
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I know on your long/helpful thread where everyone convinced you to plan this trip on your own . . . several must have suggested getting a guidebook(s)

>>1) I know Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, etc. are all popular tourist sights, but are there any other London gems I should know about and not pass up while we are there?<<

Now, Big Ben/Parliament are 'musts' -- but they are merely walk-by's and don't need to be scheduled. you will just see them in your wanderings. As for Buckingham Palace, it is quite far down any 'must see' list. Different people will have different musts (which is why you need a guidebook to make up your own mind. A typical list would include the Tower of London, St Paul's and/or Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the V&A, one or more parks, The Cabinet War Rooms, a gallery or two (from the National Gallery, National Portrait, the Tates, several others), Hampton Court Palace, etc.

>>2) I also realize that London is massive and is comprised of many surrounding neighborhoods. Is there a particular neighborhood we should focus on looking to stay in that will put us close to most of the sights? We would like to be somewhat centrally located or at the very least, have easy access to rail or bus systems. <<

Just about any neighborhood in central London will have easy transport so that really isn't an issue. And no neighborhood is close to more than a tiny few of the major sites. What IS more important is your budget and what sort of property you are looking for.

>>3)Tying into the rail/bus system question, would we be better off buying a rail pass for the duration of our stay or just paying for tickets whenever there is something we want to do or see? <<

You need to be clear about your terminology. 'Rail Passes' are for trains. In a quick 4 day stop in London you will likely not get on a single train. What you wil ride are the tube (Underground) and buses. For those you will want an Oyster Card (bought after you are in London) loaded w/ some pay-as-you-go ££ which covers all your local trips. (there is another option of paper travelcards which is a 'train' ticket but used on the Tube and buses and that qualifies you for discounted entry to places like the Tower of London. I won't confuse you w/ the details now - between your three new threads you have enough on your plate right now But after you get a handle on what sites you want to visit we can help you w/ the paper vs Oyster card strategy.

>>4)Since this will be our first time traveling abroad, does anyone have any advice about accomodations? Would we be better off staying in a hotels vs. BnB's? A friend of mine recommended the website airbnb.com but I am not sure if that is the way to go since we have never been to London before.<<

To get one thing out of the way -- airbnb doesn't generally have anything to do w. B&B's. It mostly advertises apartments and sublet rooms in peoples' homes. Airbnb, VRBO and other similar sites are fine -- but fo you and this first trip -- I'd recommend a hotel.

Now (real) B&B vs. hotel -- in London the difference can get blurry. MANY budget properties are 'B&B hotels' -- basic rooms w/ breakfast provided. There are some but relatively few actual Bed and Breakfasts in London. But there are (literally) thousands of hotels in London so we definitely need to know your budget.
janisj is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 11:33 AM
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". . . several must have suggested getting a guidebook(s)"

But did they recommend their favorite? Janis may be disdainful, but I hope you aren't, mrs_riehl. It never hurts, with so many guides around, to mention which we find particularly good, even we who may not need quite as much guidance these days. I've bought some real losers in my time.
MmePerdu is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 11:48 AM
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guidebooks: why I always recommend a trip to the library. You can get several and see which work for you.

For beginners, Rick Steves is often recommended. I don't care for his food or hotel recommendations much, but I think most of his sight seeing tips are good. His maps are very poor.

Fodors is good. Frommers, too.

I'm currently not happy with the Michelin Green Guide I have for Switzerland; I'm finding it hard to use and poorly organized.

I used to love Cadogan but haven't had one of theirs that I really like for awhile.

Others will hopefully chime in, but for beginners, I recommend Steves, Fodors and Frommers.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 11:51 AM
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Excellent point MmdPerdu!
For good overviews I have always liked the Frommers books.
You can also go to their website and see "suggested itineraries" for 2 days, 3 days, etc.
Personally, I would not miss the Churchill War Rooms.
RioD is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 11:55 AM
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I wasn't at all disdainful -- you posted a link to a large number of guidebooks. I followed up with a lot of (hopefully) very useful advice/information. The OP had a VERY long thread a couple of months ago and received a ton of preliminary suggestions/advice.

They have now decided they actually can do this trip independently . . . so lets help her and quit w/ the sniping.
janisj is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 11:56 AM
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Adding to tuscanlifeedit's information above, I love the Knopf MapGuides because they divide the city into sections, good for walking with the fold-out map for each district. They really are small enough for a pocket and and very lightweight but the fold-out maps are big enough to be useful and handily flip out then back again. I have a small library of them now.
MmePerdu is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 12:19 PM
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Another good map is the Streetwise series. They are laminated and you can order them on Amazon.
RioD is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 12:24 PM
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Streetwise maps and Knopf MapGuides are a very good combination.
MmePerdu is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 12:40 PM
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I know I'm asking a lot of broad questions that are hard to answer until we have a better idea of our itinerary but that's why I'm doing this now. I have over a year and a half to plan this and I want to do it right and feel as confident about it as possible. I am planning on picking up a few tour guides from my local library in the next day or so and believe me, I have been doing my research online. I don't want to get all the way there and have no idea what to do or how to go about doing it. I really enjoy history. I'd love to see Big Ben, parliament and more. I'm also interested visiting Bletchley Park as I am a big WWII buff. Not a huge fan of art museums or the like but that's not to say I wouldn't consider going to one either. And as corny as it sounds, I would love to visit the location 221B Baker Street, where the BBC show Sherlock is filmed. It's my favorite show and the fan girl in me can't resist going to see it (and before you comment, yes I know that isn't actually the real address!) Maybe once I get an itinerary nailed down I can come back and ask more specifics. Until then, I'm just looking for any advice or suggestions to get the most out of this once in a life time trip!
mrs_riehl is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 12:55 PM
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There are Sherlock Holmes walking tours. Google it and a variety of tours will pop up. Some are based on the books and some take you to film locations.
RioD is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 01:02 PM
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>>where the BBC show Sherlock is filmed. <<

They don't film an awful lot there -- they take the door off, replace it and film the exterior.

Some other locations would definitely include Speedy's Cafe near Euston Station and St Bart's Hospital (near the Barbican and St Paul's Cathedral). I've seen bits filmed along the Southbank like the river shore in front of the OXO Tower and under Waterloo Bridge.

(I'm seeing Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet at the Barbican early next month !)

If you are interested in WWII - besides Bletchley Park DEFINITELY visit the Cabinet War Rooms/Churchill Museum (same place) and the Imperial War Museum -- both would be musts (even ahead of Bletchley)
janisj is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 01:07 PM
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>>There are Sherlock Holmes walking tours. Google it and a variety of tours will pop up. Some are based on the books and some take you to film locations.<<

'Sherlock' and 'Sherlock Holmes' would mostly involve different walking tours/locations.
janisj is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 01:27 PM
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If you have a thing for Sherlock Holmes, consider the Sherlock Holmes Hotel on Baker St. I used to stay there in the 90's and it was very comfortable. Easy to find busses and Baker St. Tube Station is a short walk.

http://www.hotels.com/ho177781/park-...20jze17894.d.c

There is a little Fish n Chips shop at 123 Baker St that is decent. My favorite Fish n Chips is Seashell . . it burned down a couple of years ago and has been rebuilt.

http://www.seashellrestaurant.co.uk/

Getting around London is easy . . I like to ride the busses so I can see things, but if you need to move across town quickly, the tube system is one of the easiest in the world to use.

A buss ride down Oxford St, Regent St. to Piccadilly Circus ( which is no longer a circus ), to Trafalgar Square at nite is a great way to see a lot of the City. Try to sit upstairs at the front for a great view.

I like to pick up tickets to the Tower of London the afternoon before going there . . it can save hours of standing in line. The next day, you can bypass the line and go straight to the entrance of the Tower. When I take visitors there, we get there when it opens and go straight to the Crown Jewels . . it will get very crowded later in the day. . then walk about the rest of the site and cat h a Yeoman Warder ( Beefeater ) Tour . . they are very casual but informative

You can take a boat ride from the Tower to Parliament and see a lot of London from the river ( and rest the feets! )

Four days is not a lot of time for London, so you really do want to tailor your time to mat h your interests.
Rich is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 01:37 PM
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>>If you have a thing for Sherlock Holmes, consider the Sherlock Holmes Hotel on Baker St. I used to stay there in the 90's and it was very comfortable. Easy to find busses and Baker St. Tube Station is a short walk.<<

We are talking Benedict Cumberbatch era Sherlock -- not Basil Rathbone
janisj is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 01:51 PM
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When I first went to London, my boss told me "don't miss the London history museum." I might not have put it at the top of my first trip or overlooked it, but he was right! It is a very good city history museum, I think it's better than any other city I've been in. Of course you have to be interested in history (and museums, probably, to some extent but obviously it's not the same as galleries).

http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/london-wall/

I think it's good to go to things like that first as they provide a setting for your trip, more knowledge of the place.

I think B&Bs in London vary from more basic places, which are more common in the UK than many other cities, to places that are just like hotels, more or less. In that case, the term usually just means a small, perhaps family-run, hotel. You aren't really staying in a family's own home.
Christina is online now  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 01:55 PM
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I completely understand the difference for all the Sherlock /Sherlock Holmes.
Geez, maybe someone out there is interested in different ones.
I think it's nice to hear from a variety of travelers.

Rich, I've stayed there way back when also!
RioD is offline  

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