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London itenerary-- Possible to see all my must-sees in just 3 days?


May 3rd, 2013, 10:11 AM
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London itenerary-- Possible to see all my must-sees in just 3 days?

Hello all!

I've been to London several times (to visit family) and have already seen much there is to see myself, but now I'm taking my husband's family over to visit and have come up with a list of places I think they would personally enjoy or "must see". I'm just having trouble condensing it all into 3 days and would appreciate any input. This is likely to be the only time they ever leave the U.S., so I'm trying to make it memorable!

We'll be there soon, landing around 6:30 am on May 12 and leaving to go to the countryside on the morning of the 15th. Planning on dropping off the luggage that Sunday morning and heading out, despite the fact we'll probably be in a sleepy haze.

So here's the list:
-Buckingham Palace, Changing of the guards
-Trafalgar Square, National Gallery
-British Museum
-Big Ben, Houses of Parliament
-Westminster Abbey
-London Eye
-Kew Gardens (it would be simpler if I cut this, but it's mother-in-law's only request)
-Tower of London and stop by St. Paul's Cathedral
-See a show-- Phantom of the Opera?
-Oxford street shopping
Tiggywinkle18 is offline  
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May 3rd, 2013, 10:40 AM
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This is doable in 3 days although it will be a STACKED 3 days. Hopefully they'll be able to keep up. Some suggestions:

- You'll save time by pairing attracations that are reasonably close together. For example Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament should be combined since they're next door neighbors.

-Try to put some distance between St Paul's and Westminster Abbey... two large churches might run together in the same day.

-Save the London Eye for an evening when it's starting to get dark. The view is amazing and the lines will be a bit shorter

-When shopping on Oxford st have lunch at one of the food halls (Marks & Spencer, Selfridge's, etc) It's something that's completely unexpected to an American having good eateries in a department store.

-After the Tower of London consider taking a leisurely stroll across the Tower Bridge. I almost skipped this and was soooo glad we did. Great views down the Thames, of the castle, and the HMS Belfast as well.

-If they are noticably drained/tired or suffering from jetlag i would trim Kew Gardens and maybe the west end show from this list. If that's the case you can always suggest fish n chips at a pub w/ a round of pints or something. You can also see the guards at Horse Guards parade instead of fighting for position at Buckingham palace. This is also fairly close to Trafalgar Square

-If you do end up going to a West End show take the tube to Piccadilly circus where they'll be dazzled by the neon and activity.
tailsock is offline  
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May 3rd, 2013, 11:52 AM
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Tailsock has good advice (and is dead on about it being a packed 2.5 days). Is the changing of the guard a must? In order to see anything you'll have to get there early and spend valuable time standing around. The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower would be a great substitute, but I'm not at all sure you could get tickets so fast.

5/12 (landing day):
- Trafalgar Square (walk down the Mall to Buckingham Palace), Big Ben/Parliament (are you asking about going inside the Houses of Parliament, or just seeing?), Westminster Abbey, London Eye, earlyish night. This schedule has the added benefit of keeping you walking around and outside most of the day! You could do the National Gallery if you like (I actually prefer the National Portrait Gallery just behind it).

Kew Gardens, British Museum, West End show. I'm not entirely sure about doing the British Museum this day - it would be awfully rushed to do both it and the gardens - but I'm not sure where else you'd fit it in.

5/14: Tower, St Paul's, shopping, whatever you didn't get to from the other days. You won't find too much different on Oxford Street than you would in a US mall; just different chains. But then, I'm not an enthusiastic shopper!
jent103 is offline  
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May 3rd, 2013, 12:35 PM
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much though i love M&S, I'd go for lunch in Selfridges - a much more up-market experience, as i recall.


however, rather than going all the way up to Oxford Street, I'd head for Liberty's at the top of Regent street - it's far and away the most esoteric of the big stores and if your MIL wants to buy presents and souvenirs, that's surely the place to do it.

hope you all enjoy the trip!
annhig is online now  
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May 3rd, 2013, 03:51 PM
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Would skip the changing of the guards.

Would not skip the Cabinet War Rooms.


That's arrant nonsense about American stores.

Fortnum & Mason's food halls would probably top the others.

Unless the family likes ponderous melodramatic pseudo-operas, would strongly suggest a show OTHER THAN Phantom or Les Mis. You're going to be dragging the oldies across the largest city in Western Europe, don't book a show they're going to sleep through - book something fun.
BigRuss is offline  
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May 3rd, 2013, 04:51 PM
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I'd pass on any shopping along Oxford Street and opt for lunch at Fortum & Mason. Do you really want to spend your limited time shopping? Just browsing F&M might suffice.
historytraveler is online now  
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May 3rd, 2013, 05:59 PM
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I would really suggest that you split up into groups. Since Kew will take a good part of one day - and it's really your MIL who want to do it - I would let the others go see/do other things while only two of you go to see Kew.

It really makes more sense for the others not to lost most of a day on something that is of minimal interest to them.

And no - I don;t see any way to do all those things in the little time that you have.
nytraveler is offline  
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May 3rd, 2013, 06:39 PM
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I'd also caution against planning too much on your first day. Yes you have most of the day but may be absolutely bonked by noon. Perhaps do something in the morning, have lunch, then return to hotel for a rest going out again later in the afternoon
historytraveler is online now  
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May 3rd, 2013, 07:15 PM
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Check www.daysoutguide.co.uk for two for one deals on some of the attractions that you would like to see (Kew Gardens, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye, Churchill War Rooms). You will need to buy a Travelcard and print out the coupons.
lovs2travel is offline  
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May 3rd, 2013, 07:22 PM
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Can't you talk your MIL out of Kew? Will you be visiting anywhere else in England with gardens?
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
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May 3rd, 2013, 07:24 PM
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Sorry, I see you mentioned "the countryside." Surely you can find a fabulous garden to visit outside the city, and that would make your time there so much more manageable.

Also, I would suggest a planned itinerary in both the National Gallery and the British Museum. Otherwise, you could wander around forever.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
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May 4th, 2013, 03:30 AM
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yes, but Kew isn't just any garden. if tiggywinkle's MIL has heard of Kew she probably has very specific reasons for wanting to go there.

and we all know what it's like traveling with a MIL, or SIL, or.....
annhig is online now  
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May 4th, 2013, 07:25 AM
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I've been to Kew twice now on my last two visits and my appreciation for the place really stems from the history of the gardens and the extraordinary work they did and continue to do. The conservatories and landscapes are gorgeous, of course, as is the Marianne North gallery -- but with limited time, if your MIL is wanting to see pretty landscapes, as is mentioned above, if you're going to the country (the Cotswold?), then you will be spoiled for choice.

However, it does sound as if she's really enthusiastic about Kew, and it is a World Heritage Site -- so if you go, be prepared to give over at least 4 hours there (not including travel time to/from). If you click on my name, there's a trip report I posted where I wrote about my travel to the park and the walk to the main gate (if you go in the a.m.).

Also, I agree with the post above... if your MIL can go alone and leave the others to do their own thing, I would think that would be best. The gardens may not appeal to everyone.

Hope you have a lovely time!
ChgoGal is offline  
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May 4th, 2013, 05:36 PM
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After Kew, take her to the Maids of Honour Tea Shop across the road. It's great.
carolyn is offline  
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May 6th, 2013, 06:31 AM
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Kew Gardens is worth a visit especially if it is on someone's "must see" list. You could compromise by seeing if your MIL would be interested in making a switch to another outstanding garden in London that would be equally interesting and easier to get to in the short time that you have. The Chelsea Physic Garden is wonderful. It is on a smaller scale than Kew for sure but it may meet her need for a British gardening thrill. If, however, she is set on Kew above all else, then make time to do it.

I agree with others who suggest alternatives to the Changing of the Guards. If you go to the Tower of London, make sure you buy tickets in advance (I think you can get them at some of the larger tube stations). This will allow you to breeze right past the long admission line st the Tower itself. Don't omit the Yeoman Warder's tour when you visit the Tower.

I would also recommend you make use of your time by planning your visit to Westminster Abbey for Wednesday if possible as they are open late (close at 7, last admission at 6 pm). This will allow you to extend your day and do other things with more limited hours earlier in the day.
kevdoy08 is offline  
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May 6th, 2013, 07:47 AM
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There's nowhere on earth that compares with Kew. If someone specifically wants to see Kew, nowhere in the Cotswolds begins to be in the same league (unless her interest is entirely in the history of botanic gardens, in which case the one in Oxford predates it by well over a century, though it's had nothing like the same impact on the world). And the Chelsea Physic Garden, gem though it may be, is just a small suburban herb patch by comparison.

On the other hand, Kew really isn't that much kop if you just want to see lovely gardens. It's a UNESCO heritage site because it sort of invented modern botany, and was pivotal in the transmission of botanic knowledge worldwide. Think of it as a museum made up of (often) attractive plants and (sometimes) nice landscaping. It's not meant to be a spectacle - and it succeeds pretty well in not being that much of one. If the rest of the party aren't Kewmaniacs, there are likely to be prettier gardens, and if not certainly prettier landscapes, wherever they plan travelling to in the countryside.

Oxford St is just a standard British city centre shopping drag. Fine for sharp fast fashion, but no-one in history knowing what Kew really is has ever wanted to spend time in Oasis, Primark, Top Shop or New Look that they could be spending in Kew's Victorian greenhouses, conservation displays or immense collections of obscure cultivars. Few Americans over 25, frankly, appreciate or even get the charm of British fashion chains - and not that many under 25. Selfridge's succeeds quite well at bringing slightly more discriminating stuff under one roof - but it's still just a standard megacity department store.

Short of time, the Kew team should split from those keen on the shops. The shoppers can see pretty scenery or planting elsewhere in the trip.
flanneruk is offline  
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May 6th, 2013, 11:41 AM
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Skip the shopping and do Kew (my personal opinion - I love Kew)
semiramis is offline  
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