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May 25th, 2016, 08:21 AM
  #1
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Input on this 8 Day London Itinerary

Hello, Fodors Community. I had such a wonderful response to a recent question about my Paris itinerary that I'm here again to get your thoughts and valuable input about the London leg of our trip.

I am traveling in 3 weeks with my husband and 13 year old daughter. We will be in London for 8 days before spending a week in Paris. We've never been before. Almost the entire inspiration for the trip comes from my daughter who has been listening with delight to the BBC podcast, The History of the World in 100 objects. She is now very keen on visiting the British Museum to see some of these famous objects on display. She is also a history buff and we all enjoy history, art, architecture, and gardens.

A couple of things to note is that we are all rather introverted and sensitive. Crowds will be a bit of a challenge for us. However, we live in an inner city and we've traveled to big cities before with my daughter (NYC, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco) so we are fine with that aspect but standing in long lines and being in busy areas in the heat are problematic for us. I mean, who likes that, right? So we are prepared for the inevitable crowds but are also trying to minimize some of that, too, in the choices we make.

We are staying in an apartment in South Kensington. Here is a rough-ish itinerary that I am struggling with a bit. I would love input regarding how doable it looks, suggestions for changes in the way I've ordered activities, things you would add, things you would scrap, restaurants you recommend, little insider tips etc.

Day 1: Monday, arrive at 2pm after flying all night from the west coast USA. Check into apartment. Take a walk in Hyde park, find something to eat nearby in our neighborhood, get groceries. Go to bed early, But not too early.

Day 2: Tuesday. Tower of London, ideally arriving at opening. See Crown Jewels first and then do a Beefeater's tour. Eat. Maybe the 1 hour river cruise down the Thames to take in the sights. Debating on whether to do the hop on and off cruise so we can see more sights on this day but know we might not be up to it due to jet lag.

Day 3: Wednesday. Get off at Victoria Station and walk up to Buckingham Palace (not that interested in seeing the changing of the guard but if we did, we would probably catch some of proceedings at the nearby Wellington Barracks). Walk by St James Park and on to Westminster Abbey in the morning. Verger's tour there, if possible. Walk past Parliament on to afternoon tea at the nearby Royal Horseguards hotel. Walk over the bridge to see the views from the other side of the Thames and maybe do the London Eye.

Day 4: Thursday. Stonehenge via Salisbury. Take the train and then bus. I know many people do not enjoy Stonehenge but my daughter has her heart set on it. Seeing the Salisbury Cathedral and the Magna Carta is also of interest to us.

Day 5: Friday. Sleep in. Go to the British Museum during its extended evening hours that night (5pm-) in hopes to beat some of the crush of tours/school groups and weekend visitors. We will likely make time to pop downtown to see some sights and grab lunch beforehand. Oh, maybe pop into the British Library. And/or Bloomsbury Square.

Day 6: We have tickets to a matinee in the West End. Not sure what else we might add to that day. I'm a bit afraid of the weekend crowds.

Day 7: Sunday. This is Father's day so we will likely try to have a nice meal somewhere. Honestly, not sure what to do. The National Gallery and Tate modern appeal but for the crowds. Charles Dickens Museum sounds good, too.

Day 8: Monday. Maybe St Paul's and Tate Modern? Harrods? and/Or visit the British Museum again?

Phew. If you have read this far, thank you! I know there are a million things to do and I've missed so much but I don't want to overload either, considering our temperaments. Any and all responses most welcome.
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May 25th, 2016, 08:42 AM
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You're putting too much emphasis on the crowds. They're going to be present no matter what you do. The whole bloody city is crowded. This is part and parcel of London. The "heat" is relative - if you're from Fairbanks, London will be hot. If not, you're probably not going to have to worry about heat.

If you like history so much, go to Hampton Court Palace. You can do that on the Monday and roll the St Paul's visit into your Tuesday. You itinerary really isn't that stacked.

Add the Cabinet War Rooms to your itin for the Wednesday. And send hubs to the Imperial War Museum at some point.

Do the following:

(1) Go here and print out all the vouchers that interest you: www.daysoutguide.co.uk.

(2) Bring vouchers and passport-size photos for you and hubs to London.

(3) Purchase seven-day paper travelcards at a national rail station's manned ticket booth (like Victoria or Charing X or Waterloo, etc.). Do NOT buy Oystercards.

(4) Use vouchers to get 2 admissions for the price of 1 for you and hubs at the Tower, St Paul, Hampton Ct Palace, Cabinet War Rooms, and whatever other offerings are available. This is big money - the Tower costs about $35 each for you and hubs, save the cost of a good dinner.
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May 25th, 2016, 09:00 AM
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You're in South Ken, you should definitely visit the V&A (Victoria and Albert, arts and crafts, the most beautiful tea rooms around). And no reason to limit yourself to one visit to the British Museum, and good reason not to. The place is huge, and free. If your daughter is into history you should visit the British Library as well. Also free.
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May 25th, 2016, 09:05 AM
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Thank you for your reply, @BigRuss.

I know that there is no avoiding the crowds entirely, of course. However, from everything I've gleaned from guidebooks and online, we can "beat" them just a little bit by arriving early to certain sights or taking advantage of evening hours etc. That's all I'm trying to do.

We are arriving on Monday at 2pm, though, so Hampton Court is out for that day.

Churchill War Rooms are on my list but I forgot to add it. Maybe we can hit it after Westminster was my thought.

Really appreciate the recommendations regarding the voucher and travelcard. We were going to get the Oystercard so I'm glad you mentioned that!
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May 25th, 2016, 09:49 AM
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stupid site isn't letting me post again so will have to do this in bits . . .

"I know many people do not enjoy Stonehenge"

Ignore them

I would NOT do the Tower of London on your day 2. To get there before opening time you will have to leave the house pretty early and your body clocks will still be awfully screwed up from the jet lag. Do the Tower later in the week.
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May 25th, 2016, 09:50 AM
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cont.:

You wil be walking distance from the V&A museum so I'd probably visit it on day 2.
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May 25th, 2016, 09:50 AM
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cont.:

Do not do a H-o-H-o bus. They are very expensive and you'll spend much of it stuck in traffic.
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May 25th, 2016, 09:51 AM
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No Oystercard, no London Pass.

One word: Vouchers.

<>

Uh, didn't you list a second Monday? That would be the Monday I was driving at.
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May 25th, 2016, 09:51 AM
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Jeeze this is a pain cont.:

I would ABSOLUTELY try to squeeze in a half day at Hampton Court Palace. Your daughter will be in heaven: Tudor, Stuart, Henry VIII/Anne Boleyn, etc. etc.
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May 25th, 2016, 10:18 AM
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I'm not sure how you would define a crowd for this purpose. Living in London, I see a "crowd" as forty or fifty people or more clumping together when I'm in a hurryand I can't get round them - which really doesn't happen often. If you're bothered by having lots of people flowing more or less non-stop through streets and shops, then "crowding" might be an issue, but I honestly don't think you'll feel impeded or pressured with the kind of planning you're doing. The only "pinch points" I can see on your list where long queues might build up are at Westminster Abbey and the Tower, and you're planning for that.

Possibly Stonehenge might be an issue (I haven't visited since the new visitor centre and reception arrangements, but they're supposed to take care of issues like that) - and one important thing about Stonehenge is that it's part of a huge landscape of ancient monuments, and it helps to see it in that context as well. That makes plenty of room to spread out in and get right away from the tour parties.

If you're worried about the British Museum, bear in mind it's free to get in (so no queues to get in), and it's really quite easy to get away from temporary clumps of people. Same thing for the National Gallery and Tate Modern (Tate Modern is opening a new extension on 17 June, which may attract more visitors, but also offer much more space to lose them in).

As for heat... well, all I can say is it still isn't exactly summer-warm in London right now, so who knows what it'll be like in three weeks' time? We'll be lucky if it gets up to the high 60s F.
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May 25th, 2016, 12:07 PM
  #11
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Okay, these responses are immensely helpful. I'm taking notes and already planning to rearrange some things. And it sounds like I should add Hampton Court.

Yes, sorry, @BigRuss, I now see what you were getting at. I guess in my own mind, I had thought of reserving that last day for a more low key, open thing since we will be traveling to Paris the next day. I thought a day trip outside of London might feel like too much? But I'm rethinking things.

Also, appreciate the reassurances about crowds. It is definitely the queues we are most allergic, too, but I'm happy to hear that we can find respites from the crowds by wandering to less popular rooms in the museums etc. Thankfully, my daughter is into some of the more obscure items at the BM so once we knock off the Rosetta Stone and mummies etc, we can enjoy quieter pastures.

Please keep suggestions coming. Restaurants, other little insider tips or must see places....I'm so grateful for input from people in the know.
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May 25th, 2016, 12:14 PM
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Oh, and I definitely was not going to do the HOHO bus (traffic, $$ ugh!) and I really think taking the tube to various places is better for us. but I was considering hoho for the Thames River cruise. But maybe we should just bag the cruise, honestly....

Also, I'm actually relieved to hear the weather reports. And selfishly, I kinda hope the weather stays cool. We're from the Pacific Northwest and are those crazy people who much prefer overcast skies. But as much as I'd like to, I cannot control every aspect of this trip...least of all the weather.
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May 25th, 2016, 12:17 PM
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Thank you, btw, @janisj, for the thoughts about Stonehenge and moving Tower of London to a different day.

And special thanks to @patricklondon for the local perspective.
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May 25th, 2016, 12:24 PM
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I'm an introvert and can absolutely get overstimulated in big cities, but London feels different to me. I think it's at least partially because while yes, of course there are very crowded places (some Tube stations, as one example), London has tons of green space scattered all around the city. It's not that hard to escape to a little cityfied peace and quiet each day.

Another thing, as Patrick mentioned, is that because most of the museums are free, there's no queueing to get in. So yes, the British Museum will have crowds around the Rosetta Stone and the like, but you'll rarely if ever be surrounded by masses of people. And the advice to visit the museums multiple times, as convenient for you, is great. There's no way you'll see everything your daughter wants to see in one go, and thankfully, no reason to try. The one place you might run into packed crowds is in any special exhibits you visit - on my last trip the British Museum had a Viking ship installation, and I was visiting that section with a crowd of elementary school boys even on a Friday night. It was fun to see it with them, though.

I've never been swamped by crowds at the National Gallery (or the National Portrait Gallery, which I love) or the Tate Modern. Yes, the rooms might have a good number of people, but it's nothing like seeing the Mona Lisa or something.

Basically, London is the most introvert-friendly big city I've been to. Compared to somewhere like Rome, it's a dream!

FYI, I believe the British Library still has a copy of the Magna Carta as well (it did when I was there two years ago, and still has a section on their web site about it).

I was going to say the same thing janisj said about the Tower - move that to another day so you don't have to get up early the first full day you have. Some other random thoughts:

- With your interest in architecture, spending some time in the City would be fun - it's the area of London where I most see really old and shiny new architecture right there together. On my last trip I took a great London Walks tour of the area (walks.com - they're frequently recommended by Fodorites, with excellent reason).

- I think your loose plan is a good idea - there's no need to plan every minute to death, and you'll find things you want to revisit or hear about new things to do while you're there.

- If gardens are of particular interest, you might keep Kew Gardens in the back of your mind if you end up with a spare day. I wouldn't prioritize it over HCP or anything else on your list, but it is beautiful and certainly would be a nice respite from the hustle! It's a ways from central London, though, so would be a commitment. Regents Park has a lovely rose garden, and St James's Park is good for that as well.
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May 25th, 2016, 12:32 PM
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maybe do the London Eye.>

I'd do this right away if doing it - gives you a bird's eye view of all of London - signs in cabins explain all the major sights.

Also a Thames boat ride to Greenwich one way and train or tube back would be a neat way to see London from the river and trek up to the home of time - the Greenwich Observatory - cross from the eastern to western hemispheres.
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May 25th, 2016, 12:50 PM
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We are just back from London.

We spent a lot of time in museums and we didn't find them crowded, except for the Rosetta Stone and mummies at BM. No significant crowds at the V&A, National Portrait Gallery or a few others we visited.

However, midday traffic was horrendous. I would not take a taxi or bus in the middle of the day.

The most crowded place we visited was Fortnum & Mason. I didn't remember the crowds there being so intense in years past, but they were overwhelming this time.

We had great meals. I would be glad to recommend the restaurants we enjoyed if you mention your price range and food preferences.
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May 25th, 2016, 01:58 PM
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You did mention visiting Charles Dickens House. After many trips to London, I finally got there a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. There is a small but pleasant cafe there with outside seating in a garden if weather permits. Not a large menu but their cake was one of the best I've had anywhere.

Crowds will be a big factor at the tube stations during rush hours. I prefer to take the bus if time allows. An excellent website for public transportation through out London is www.tfl.gov.uk

If visiting Salisbury try to do the tower tour. There are several other wonderful sites within the Cathedral Close such as Mompesson House and the Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum which is more interesting than it might sound.
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May 25th, 2016, 02:13 PM
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Second the taking of buses instead of the Tube sometimes - especially for short distances as they can be quicker - stopping right by your destination and it takes time to descend into the Tube once you get to the station.

Sit on the upper deck up front right over the driver and take everything in.
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May 25th, 2016, 02:39 PM
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It's possible to visit Salisbury and Stonehenge in one day by public transportation from London. Some years ago, we visited both Stonehenge and Avebury as a day trip from London. We took the train to Salisbury and traveled by bus from there. If we had skipped Avebury, we could have spent some hours at Salisbury. However, I really liked Avebury better than Stonehenge, so I'm glad we didn't.

On a later trip, we spent several days in Salisbury, and visited Bath and Wells Cathedral from there.

By the way, you don't need to go to Salisbury to see the Magna Carta. There's a copy in the British Library, which is one of my favorite museums in London.
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May 25th, 2016, 02:52 PM
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Salisbury is so neat - take the popular walk just south of town for stunning views over meadows of the famous cathedral and its sublime soaring tower - a image that famous painters put onto canvasses - the most famous being Constable "Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows":

https://www.theguardian.com/artandde...e-meadows-tour
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